S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Melinda May has a very specific nickname: The Cavalry – a nickname she earned after taking on a seemingly impossible rescue mission. That nickname provides the titles for Agent May’s first solo comic book, The Cavalry: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary Special.
Agent May is just the latest S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to make the jump from TV to comic books with brief appearances in other titles leading up to this. But now, writer Jody Houser is giving Agent May her first spotlight along with veteran artist Luke Ross, and she’s pulling out all the stops to show why Agent May’s reputation as a badass is well-earned.
Newsarama spoke to Houser ahead of the issue’s September 30 release to find out just what she’s got in store for Agent May’s solo debut, touching on her role as a mentor to younger S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, the tragic story behind her nickname, and, oh yeah, cyber wolves.
Newsarama: Jody, you’ve done a lot of anthology work, including a story in Avengers: No More Bullying. What’s it like having a full issue to tell your story?
Jody Houser: It's great to have the room to let the story breathe a little. I love writing shorts and they teach you a lot about how economize space and focus on the most essential elements of a story. But there's a lot to be said for having the opportunity to dig in deeper, and I've written enough full issues now that I'm feeling pretty comfortable with it.
Nrama: Melinda May is the central character of in this issue. She’s almost brand new to the comic book world, but she’s a fan favorite on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. How do you capitalize on that popularity while still maintaining your own voice?
Houser: I remember a comment from Mark Waid where he said the key to writing a character is to figure out what you love about them and work from there. I always liked that take because it automatically makes the story you're telling personal. I think with a character like Melinda May, knowing how much she means to fans is also an important thing to keep in mind. You never want to lose what it is that makes a character really resonate with fans.
Nrama: Agent May has seen her fair share of crazy stuff since she was introduced in comic books. What’s she going up against in The Cavalry?
Houser: Going off the idea of May on the show training Skye/Daisy, I thought it would be fun to have her step back from some of the craziness she's been dealing with alongside Coulson in the comics and have to focus on keeping a group of new S.H.I.E.L.D. recruits alive. Since the name of her issue is the nickname she earned under less-than-pleasant circumstances, the rumors that have spread about her and what she's accomplished play a role as well.
Also, there are cyber wolves.
Nrama: What exactly are “cyber wolves?”
Houser: They're pretty much exactly what they sound like.
Nrama: You’ve previously written Orphan Black, which is obviously a property with a lot of intrigue and suspense. How do those sensibilities come into play with The Cavalry?
Houser: It's funny because unlike Orphan Black, where the comic book was meant to be very grounded in real world science and fit the show continuity, I wanted to differentiate The Calvary from the show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since it is the 616 version of the character. So I ended up writing a more action-oriented story and tried to make it feel very specific to the superhero comic medium. In a sense, it's almost the opposite of what I was doing on Orphan Black.
Nrama: Artist Luke Ross is no stranger to Marvel’s espionage world, having a long history with characters like Captain America and the Winter Soldier. What does he bring to The Cavalry?
Houser: Luke has a good feel for the world and has more experience telling stories there than I do. It's great to have a collaborator you can trust to make sure the story looks and feels like it fits into the larger universe. Between his art and Rachelle Rosenberg's colors, the book looks fantastic.
Nrama: What sets Agent May apart from the rest of Marvel’s espionage crew? Why highlight her with her own special as part of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s 50th anniversary?
Houser: It's sad how rare it is to have an older female character right in the center of the action, so I've always loved that Agent May stands as proof that the heroics don't have to end when a woman hits 30 or 40 or even 50. I also think the fact that she's such a recognizable character and yet has almost unlimited potential as to who she can be and what she can accomplish in the comic book universe sets her apart.
Nrama: What’s coming up next for you? Can we expect more Marvel work in your future?
Houser: I'm currently working on Max Ride: Final Flight for Marvel, which is a lot of fun. I have some other things in the works too, one of which should be announced before New York Comic-Con, so keep an eye out!