Sometimes, to chase down an evildoer you need to find someone just as bad. Secret Wars' Battleworld ruler Doctor Doom has recruited a group of villains from his own prisons in order to track down the man who almost toppled his regime - the Red Skull.
Although presumed dead, rumors of Red Skull being alive leads to the formation of this criminal kill squad cmade up of of the Winter Soldier, Magneto, Lady Deathstrike, Electro, Jack O’Lantern, and Moonstone. Series writer Joshua Williamson calls that line-up a "combination that would explode," and he and artist Luca Pizzari are taking the team into Battleworld's Deadlands to hunt the Red Skull.
Newsarama spoke with Williamson ahead of the book’s July 1 release to learn about the crew of villains that undertake this mission, along with the kind of surprises Williamson has in store for readers of Red Skull.
Newsarama: We know the villains that will be hunting Red Skull – Winter Soldier, Magneto, Lady Deathstrike, Electro, Jack O’Lantern, and Moonstone. Why choose these specific characters?
Joshua Williamson: We when started to put this book together I made a few different lists and really started to think about why to pick which characters. I tried to build a team that I felt could bounce off each other, be fun to write, and would be fun for Luca to draw. Some of the team have history with Red Skull like Winter Soldier and Magneto. Electro in the book is someone who worships Red Skull. Lady Deathstrike is a deadly assassin and someone I would pick to go up against an army of Zombies. Moonstone, because she is great and you can’t have a team of marvel villains without her. And Jack O’Lantern because I love that sadistic bastard and I knew Luca would have a blast drawing him. I wanted a group that felt like a combination that could explode.
Nrama: Obviously, any time you get a group of villains together, there’s going to be tension. How do these characters set aside their own agendas to work together?
Williamson: Because they all have a common goal. To be free. They all hate Doctor Doom and have tried to rebel against him. This is their punishment. They have no choice but to work together. None of them choose to go on this mission. Not really. They have no option but to try to survive… and that means not fighting each other.
Nrama: Is it a challenge to put yourself in the mindset of a group of villains? How do you make these characters people readers will want to root for?
Williamson: It’s always tough to get in the mind of a bad guy, but thankfully all of these characters have plenty of history to draw from. I just try to see their point of view. When they are an extremely dark character then it’s a bit harder, but then I just try their voices. I do it all the time on Nailbiter and Ghosted. Try to find the voice of the villains… and just listen. Sometimes that means going to some dark places.
You still find ways to make characters relatable. They are still the heroes in their own stories. Once you keep that in mind… find what they want… it gets easier. You just make sure that the reader can see where a villain is coming from. What their motivation is. And I think that with them against the Red Skull they are for sure the lesser evil.
Nrama: You’ve said before that Winter Soldier is out for revenge. Revenge for what?
Williamson: Red Skull killed someone very close to him. It’s hinted at pretty early on in Red Skull #1. I don’t want to give away too much.
Nrama:: Red Skull tried to lead a revolution on Battleworld and got sent over the Shield. What was he rebelling against?
Williamson: Doom. He didn’t like Doom’s rule, and he wanted to kill Doom so that he could be the ruler of Battleworld. So that he could enslave all of it’s citizens and create a world of tyrannical order that answered to him.
Nrama: You’ve mentioned that some people in Battleworld wear “Red Skull Was Right” t-shirts. Right about what?
Williamson: In Battleworld Doom is God. But the Red Skull didn’t believe that. Red Skull thought Doom was lying about the creation of Battleworld. And he’s not alone in thinking that…
Nrama: Does this version of Red Skull still have the mental powers of Charles Xavier?
Williamson: No. You’ll have to read to see what the deal is, but this Red Skull in Battleworld in this book is more of a force of evil…
Nrama: What does artist Luca Pizzari bring to the table?
Williamson: Luca has been amazing to work with. I’ve been saying this from the start that he brings an energy to the book. His designs of the characters and inks are terrific. For the start he got the tone of the book. We both shared this dark horror, black humor take on the project.
He’s very passionate about the storytelling in the art and adding nice character touches. He’s been amazing to work with. Hopefully we’ll work on something again after this is all over.
Nrama: Will we see this band of villains running into any surprise zombie characters in the Deadlands? What’s the main threat they’ll face?
Williamson: There are a few different surprises in the book. They have to encounter zombies at one point… and there will be other threats that I’m excited to share… but the main issue will be each other.
And their own souls that are being corrupted by the Deadlands. That is the biggest issue in the books. The lengths to which they will go to get what thy want. And how the legacy of evil left behind by the Red Skull can manipulate even the most pure of hearts.
Nrama: What’s the best reason for readers to pick up Red Skull even if they aren’t reading the main Secret Wars title?
Williamson: If you’re looking for a dark and violent story in Battleworld… this is the book for you. We wanted to make sure this could be read and stand alone but also could add to the bigger picture.
For fans of my creator owned work, Ghosted, Birthright and Nailbiter… you can expect the same level of twisted story telling that I do on those books. It gets pretty messed up.