Battleworld citizens who defy the will of Doom are sent to the Shield, and once they’re there, their fates lie in the hands of Kieron Gillen. Gillen’s Secret Wars tie-in Siege shows what happens to those who are sent to the unenviable post atop the barrier that separates the civilized parts of Battleworld from the untamable evils that lurk beyond.
Gillen talked with Newsarama about the ins and outs of Siege before the series drops on July 8, bragging about his “berserk” series artist Filipe Andrade, the perils of life on the Shield, and what he means when he says Siege is Nextwave as a tragedy.
Newsarama: Kieron, Siege takes place on the barrier known as the Shield. What lies beyond the Shield?
Kieron Gillen: South of the wall are those that are fundamentally ungovernable. The Perfection of the Ultron. The Zombies. The Annihilation Wave. They fight each other. They try to break North. They probably take two seats on the train. They're bad to be around, which is why we've got this big ol' wall between us and them.
The question is much more "When Doom is omnipotent, why the hell doesn't he just destroy everything down there?" Lots of reasons. Relevant one...
Because the Shield is a punishment. It's a Sisyphean task designed for a certain (no pun intended) brand of trouble-maker. If they let the wall fall, billions die, and then Doom pushes them all back behind the wall again, and rebuilds it.
As the subtitle of the first issue puts it: we can't ever win. We can't afford to lose.
Nrama: There are obvious comparisons to draw between the Shield, and the Wall of Game of Thrones. Is that something that was an intentional influence?
Gillen: You'd have to ask Jonathan Hickman. The world-spanning Shield guarded by all these troops was part of his original concept. I just ran with it, and the population of Battleworld.
Nrama:In some of the covers we’ve seen, the Shield has a similar texture and appearance to the body of the Thing. Can you comment on that at all?
Gillen: I certainly can comment on that. My comment is "No comment."
Man, these are a bunch of short snippy answers. I'm not even in a bad mood. Sorry I can't say more.
Nrama: Tell us about the characters of Siege. Who will we see walking the Shield in the series?
Gillen: It's a grab bag of characters I think are interesting and chaotic. In many ways, it's a greatest hit reel. I've got Abigail Brand as the long-suffering commander. I've Leah Helmaiden, who is the handmaiden from Journey Into Mystery, aged to her twenties, and deep in her dual-sword chainmail-evening-gown Conan period. I've got Magik, and her enormous juggernaut of a colossal steed. I've got eight limbed Leondardo Da Vinci: The Vitruvian Man. The Endless Summers clones, left over from Bar Sinister. The cell-bound identical robot UNITs. I've got 1602 Lady Kathrine Bishop. I've got Miss America Chavez. And Kang! The! Conqueror!
Also, as many alt-dimension cameos as I can cram in. Generally new characters. Part of the concept of the book is my hymn to the glory of the Marvel Universe, and that involves making stuff up. We make up a lot of stuff here.
Nrama: Who is your favorite character of the bunch to write?
Gillen: Never admit you have a favorite. The characters may hear and stop talking to you.
I'll go as far as saying the one I'm glad I managed to squeeze in - Kang. Kang is one of my favourite villains, and one I've never even written for a panel. As such, taking him out for a spin has been a joy. I even get to write another couple of my favorite villains along the road too. I'm basically collecting all the villains.
Nrama: The Siege solicits mention Abigail Brand as the leader of the Shield. She’s a character that’s very familiar to you, from your work on S.W.O.R.D. Is this the Abigail Brand we’ve seen before? How has Secret Wars changed her?
Gillen: She's similar, but nearly a decade older. I saw her late twenties/early thirties during S.W.O.R.D. Here, she's 39. She was always hard, but now she's bitter. Her origin remains the same as in the MU, but warped to fit into Battleworld. Of course, it makes me smile that we've never actually done Abigail's origin in the Marvel Universe, so I'm writing an alternative take on her origin story - a story which only the few who know Joss Whedon's background actually know. Riffing on stories we haven't told and may never actually tell may be a theme for the book. The two UNIT droids are one of them too.
She also was together with Hank McCoy on Battleworld.
What happened to him is certainly a reason why she's bitter.
Nrama: You’ve described Siege as “Nextwave as a tragedy.” Can you go a little more in depth in that comparison?
Gillen: Please, my work has no depth.
Nextwave was Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen throwing ideas at the page with great velocity and joy. I actually suspect Nextwave was one of the formative works that gave a glimpse of the 00s of superhero comics. In a particularly bad year, every issue made me happy, for 20 pages. That's not a small thing. It is a grand celebration of the energy and lunacy of the Marvel Universe.
Siege is trying to do that, but with an underpinning sadness. It has this grand contrast in tone between the lightness and playfulness of the riffs, and the utter horror of the situation these people are trapped in. It's a tone I suspect is most similar to my Journey Into Mystery, but pushed into the manic stage. All these characters are doomed. All these characters are brilliant. You will love them you... wait, I've segued into the pitch of The Wicked + The Divine.
Ideas + Joy + Infinite Tears + Making Out = Siege
Nextwave was a love song to the Marvel Universe. Specifically, Walking On Sunshine. Siege is more like Hey Ya!.
Nrama: Is Siege an idea that Marvel brought to you, or did you pitch it to them?
Gillen: At the first retreat where Jonathan was talking through Secret Wars, I just pitched it in the room. Jonathan described it in bare strokes, and I immediately jumped down the world building hole, doing the whole "So, why have this wall anyway?" It wasn't actually called The Shield in the original presentation. I just ran havoc all over it, and Jonathan has been wonderfully accommodating. And that the Shield is key to the whole larger story made me think there was room for a tie-in which provided some meaningful parts to the larger picture. I was so on fire I actually wrote my first draft of the opening scene when I was sitting in the room, y'know?
Nrama: You’ve mentioned online that you’re going to be taking a break from work-for-hire. Does that mean you won’t be writing anything at Marvel post-Secret Wars?
Gillen: I didn't say I would be taking a break from work-for-hire. I said my schedule is so frenetic that I just don't have any space for any new Marvel Universe projects. It's not that I'm taking a break from Marvel per se - I'm still writing Darth Vader, which is - shall we say - far from a low profile WFH book. I saw this bottleneck in my schedule approaching, realized that there would be a hiatus, and thought that it'd be fun to do something to mark the occasion. Life being the way it is, it could be the last book I write for Marvel. As such, throwing a party seemed lots of fun. Of course, being me, it's very much a None More Goth party.
Nrama: Obviously, the Shield plays a very important role on Battleworld. With the Shield touching multiple Battleworld domains, how does Siege tie in to Secret Wars at large?
Gillen: I've written this like I've written all my big crossover books. It'll read by itself as a single entity. It'll give important elements that enrich the core book. It's what I've strove to do on all my marvel crossover work - something which actually stands alone, and also rewards the symphonic-writing approach of a crossover. If you followed Journey Into Mystery or Uncanny X-Men, you'll know what I mean. In that original presentation for Jonathan, I saw a place to really provide something of worth to the crossover in terms of development, as well as adding to the worldbuilding.
I like to try and serve multiple masters at once. It makes life harder, which makes things more interesting.
Nrama:: Judging by the solicits, Siege will see its fair share of character deaths. Can you drop any hints as to who will kick the bucket?
Gillen: They're all doomed.
Nrama: What does Filipe Andrade bring to the table, art-wise?
Gillen: He's basically berserk. I talked earlier about Stuart having fun on the page in Nextwave? That's what Filipe does. The energy is 100% key.
Nrama: What’s the best reason to pick up Siege even if you’re not following Secret Wars?
Gillen: Did you even see that ludicrously-me Hey Ya! analogy before? If you've ever loved my superhero work, you'll want this. Siege is me to self-parodic levels. It's a party. You're all invited. You'll have a ball.