James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s Squadron Supreme hit big by killing Namor, one of Marvel’s oldest characters, in its first issue. Now, Namor is on his way back, and Robinson is teaming up with artist ACO in July's Squadron Supreme #9, a Civil War II tie-in issue.
Squadron Supreme #9 is also a spotlight issue that focuses on Warrior Woman, revealing some key secrets about her identity, and turning her into what Robinson calls an “A-Grade” villain on the power level of Thor or the Hulk.
Newsarama talked to Robinson about Warrior Woman’s turn, Namor’s role in Squadron Supreme moving forward, and what these two stories will mean for the rest of the team.
Newsarama: James, let’s talk about the return of Namor. Squadron Supreme #9 kicks off an arc entitled “Finding Namor” - which is brilliant, by the way – that brings back Namor after his apparent death in Squadron Supreme #1. What can you tell us about “Finding Namor?”
James Robinson: I came up with that title, by the way [laughs]. I should clarify that Squadron Supreme #9 ties into Civil War II, and it’s a prelude to “Finding Namor,” which is an arc that starts with #10.
Nrama: So #9 sets the story up, but it’ll really start in the following issue.
Robinson: Yes. It’s a really cool moment, a really cool visual. I’m very excited about all the pieces. I’ve been setting this up since day one. I wasn’t allowed to kill Namor without a plan to bring him back. This is the thing that I’m always fascinated by in comics. People get so upset like this is something that’s never happened before. When you kill off a character as big as Namor, it isn’t like killing D-Man or Traithlon, or one of those lesser-known characters. It’s Namor. So they react like I killed him off and he’s not coming back. Well, of course he’s coming back. And when I killed him I had to have a whole plan to bring him back. So this was always the intent.
Nrama: When Namor returns, will he continue to have a presence in Squadron Supreme? What’s his role moving forward?
Robinson: I don’t want to say too much, but the intention from day one, literally when this was being pitched at the Marvel summit, was that the death of Namor would lead to him becoming an absolute major part of the book.
Nrama: Speaking of characters that have been in Squadron Supreme since day one, now that we’ve started to get to know these characters, you’re shaking things up. Squadron Supreme #9 is a standalone issue with a spotlight on Warrior Woman. What can you tell us about the issue’s revelation about her identity, and how that impacts the team moving forward?
Robinson: She is part of how the issue leads into the “Finding Namor” arc. The idea is to give Marvel an A-Grade villain who – a female villain – who can fight the Hulk to a standstill. Marvel has really fantastic villains, but if you think about it, there isn’t currently a major league, ass-kicking female villain in the Marvel Universe. Obviously there are super-powered female villains, but nobody who could take on Thor or the Hulk. So this was always my intention, was to have Warrior Woman to come into that role, and to set her up in a unique way.
I should also clarify things about Warrior Woman’s involvement with Modred the Mystic and why he’s so important for her. People who have been following my Marvel work since I started writing for them again with All-New Invaders and Fantastic Four, I do love peppering it with B-Grade characters. And what I love about those characters is they bring their own kind of personality. So with Modred the Mystic, I’ve had a lot of fun with his dialogue and his interactions with Warrior Woman. It’ll also explain what the cabal of aliens is and how their goals have actually been subverted by Warrior Woman, so Squadron Supreme #9 will answer a lot of questions that, if you’ve been following the book since day one, will pay off for you.
Nrama: How does the revelation about Warrior Woman tie into Civil War II, and what is the Squadron’s role in that conflict?
Robinson: I have to be careful because I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about Civil War II. When you go to the Marvel summits you learn so much stuff, and from day to day I’m not sure what’s safe to talk about. Unless Axel Alonso himself tweets something, I don’t mention it [laughs].
Civil War II is a series about the polarization of the superhero community. And it’s also a book that will, along the way, give revelations about the Marvel Universe, too. All I can say is that one of those revelations involves Warrior Woman and Namor.
Nrama: Let’s talk about something that might be easier to get into in detail. You’re working on Squadron Supreme #9 with ACO, for his first Marvel work. He’s fresh off of DC’s Midnighter, a book with a real violent streak. As we’ve seen in the way they handled Namor, the Squadron isn’t too shy about violence themselves. What makes ACO the perfect partner for this standalone story about Warrior Woman?
Robinson: It felt like the right place to give [series artist] Leonard Kirk a little bit of breathing room so that he could do “Finding Namor” without missing any deadlines. And then this amazing artist came along, and I was like “Wow, this is fantastic.” I was sort of thrilled by his style, which feels very European. But at the same time, there’s clearly a little bit of Jim Steranko in there, there’s a little bit of Geof Darrow, it’s just really fantastic. So that was really it. When you find a really good artist, you just have to jump on them and write a really good story for them, and with this Warrior Woman solo issue, I think I have.
Nrama: Warrior Woman isn’t the only one who’s got some big character moments coming up. We know from advance solicitations that Doctor Spectrum is going to have a confrontation with Black Bolt, and she’ll learn some things about his role in how she got off her homeworld. What can you tell us about that relationship moving forward and how it plays into the book?
Robinson: That relationship, and her interaction with Black Bolt and also Medusa, if you saw that beautiful cover that Alex Garner did for #8, all of this will begin to change Doctor Spectrum’s view on many things, which in turn will have a very important effect on the events of “Finding Namor.” I really love Doctor Spectrum, and I’ve had a lot of fun building on her world from the little bit we saw in Jonathan Hickman’s Great Society issues of New Avengers. The fact that Dr. Spectrum was included in the Squadron was Tom Brevoort’s suggestion. However, that obviously gave me the task of determining why she was included. I resolved to involve Black Bolt as she also views him as responsible for her world’s destruction. So these issues delve into her past a little bit.
I love her world. One of the things she wrestles with constantly is that her world is kind of perfection. Her Earth’s whole ancient back story is that Moorish culture, the Moors invaded right through Europe – Spain, Catalonia, Italy – they were all over Europe. So in this world, that cultural expansion continued, along with Egyptian culture and stuff like that. So as a result, her world is a more perfect world, and a much more racially integrated world. So she’s come to this world, with all its petty racism and hatreds, and all the imperfections we know in our world, and she has to struggle with this question of whether this world is even worth fighting for. This story delves into some of that with her past, and one of the other things we’ll get at is, her costume at the end of it will be ever so subtly changed so that we’ll see her face so that she isn’t a character that hides behind a full mask anymore. You can see her face, you can see more of her personality. And her very racially diverse ethnic make up. Literally every race you can think of is how I regard her in terms of who she is.
Nrama: Let’s talk about Nighthawk. The Squadron’s Nighthawk is going to come up against Kyle Richmond, the Marvel Universe’s Nighthawk. What separates these two characters, and what’s their relationship like moving forward?
Robinson: To tell you anything about that would ruin all sorts of things. So I can’t tell you anything about that, except to say that I’m very happy to be the one to show that meeting, and I can’t wait for people to read it. It’s gonna be great.
Nrama: Looking ahead to “Finding Namor” and the Civil War II tie-in issue, what can fans look forward to from Squadron Supreme? What’s the big takeaway from all this?
Robinson: The big takeaway is that this book will continue to be off to the side of the Avengers world, and you’ll see it coming in and out of that. It’s a book where you’ll never know what to expect, because I’ll do the other thing, and there are plans for a crossover with another one of the Avengers books after “Finding Namor,” and then a major arc to follow that that I think will excite fans and make it clear that Squadron Supreme is a book they should keep their eyes on.