There's a new team of powerful A-Listers in the Marvel Universe, birthed from Secret Wars and pulling together members of every corner of Marvel's world. We're talking, of course, about A-Force - the all female Avengers squad led by She-Hulk and featuring Captain Marvel, Medusa, Dazzler, Nico Minoru, and newcomer Singularity. As A-Force moves into its second arc, co-writer Kelly Thompson takes over sole writing duties alongside new series artist Ben Caldwell.
A new creative team isn't the only thing in store for A-Force as the title rolls on. One of the team's key members, Carol Danvers, represents one side of the fight at the heart of Civil War II, a conflict that will touch A-Force more deeply than even the rest of the Marvel Universe. On top of all that, there's the Countess, a new villain hitting the scene, and oh yeah - Dazzler Thor.
Newsarama spoke with Thompson ahead of her first solo issue to find out what she's got planned for the top flight superteam, including which other A-List heroes - and villains - fans can expect as she starts flying solo. Marvel has also provided a first look at August's A-Force #8 cover by Paolo Siqueira and Rachelle Rosenberg.
Newsarama: Kelly, you’ve been co-writing A-Force with G. Willow Wilson since #2, and as of #5, you’re taking the wheel solo. What are your goals for A-Force moving into the second arc?
Kelly Thompson: Don’t expect a lot of changes in terms of voice or character, I think the key difference will be the art, obviously, as Ben Caldwell joins us. Additionally, now that the team has assembled and actually agreed to be a team they’ll be a little be more focused and as per the end of our first arc, we see them with a very clear mission – to clean up the mess that they may have inadvertently created by stopping Antimatter in the first arc.
Nrama: A-Force is in an interesting position in the Marvel Universe because it’s picking up threads that somewhat carry over from Secret Wars. What’s your approach to bringing in those elements? Will we see more parts of the Secret Wars story come forward as the series moves on?
Thompson: We’re a unique book in that we were born in Secret Wars and have found a way to become a book in “The Prime Earth” but one that had to forge a new path. Because of this we owe a lot to Secret Wars and will always be tied to it in a way, but it’s important we also stand on our own. Secret Wars left open some really cool doors that we’d like to explore, but at the same time with don’t want to tie ourselves too tightly to the past or feel inaccessible to new readers – so it’s all about balance. We have a sort of have your cake and eat it too scenario by exploiting cool opportunities left open by Secret Wars but in the mainstream Marvel Universe. I feel like issue five is a great example of us juggling those two masters and I think we kinda nailed it.
Nrama: In your first solo issue, the solicitation teases “the strangest ally ever” helping the team. Can you give us any hints as to who that might be?
Thompson: I suppose since the solicits for issue #6 already went out and revealed her on the cover I can go ahead and reveal that A-Force’s “strangest ally ever” is a magnificent and shiny Dazzler Thor. She somehow made it to Prime Earth from the old Secret Wars Battle World while fighting the big bad our ladies encounter in that same issue, the Countess. Sometimes you create a character like Dazzler Thor and you just know she’s going to be awesome and then an artist like Ben comes in and designs her and you realize everything is going to be soooo much cooler than you thought.
Nrama: Who is the mysterious Countess that’s going to show up in upcoming issues of A-Force?
Thompson: Countess, as mentioned, is a new character, someone that came from Secret Wars, but that we never actually saw featured in a story. So she’s someone completely new to readers. She’s pretty awesome and highly motivated to try to turn this new world into her own playground. She’s got a lot of power and isn’t afraid to use it. And again, she got the sweet Ben Caldwell design treatment so she has a killer costume sure to be the envy of superheroes and villains everywhere.
Nrama: Now that the roster is set, with the same core team as the Secret Wars series, will we see new members coming into the picture? What corners of the Marvel Universe do you feel the team should be touching that it doesn’t already?
Thompson: We are definitely going to see some fun cameos and guest stars. I’m hesitant to change the core team too much as it’s still early, but for our Civil War II arc (starting with A-Force #8) we will definitely have a guest star that I think people will find to be really fun. And the arc following Civil War II has a truly exciting A-lister joining the team temporarily. Someone I’ve wanted to write for a long long time. One of the great challenges for A-Force is letting it stand on its own and be weird and funny but also finding a way to wrap it into the Marvel U as something that’s not just considered “optional reading.” I’d like to see us doing everything from spy missions that maybe aren’t our obvious forte to visiting other planets and worlds. The sky is really not remotely the limit with this team.
Nrama: A-Force obviously has an all-female cast, but it’s also got women involved at every level of the creative team, all the way up to editorial. With the industry and its fans pushing for more women and more diverse voices to be involved in comics behind the scenes, is that a purposeful ethos that the A-Force team has tried to maintain?
Thompson: Diversity, and especially female voices in comics, are obviously important to me, but if there’s a specific directive to put women on this title it’s above my pay grade. It makes sense of course for female creators and editors to be involved on A-Force, but pigeonholing A-Force in that way then also sorta suggests women don’t need to be involved or shouldn’t be involved on male led/starring books, and that’s obviously not true or good. As far as I’m concerned, writing women is the same as writing men…you’re just writing people.
Nrama: You’ve got Ben Caldwell joining you with #5, taking over for Jorge Molina. How has your relationship with Ben developed since you’ve been working together, and what does he bring to the book that makes him the perfect fit for A-Force?
Thompson: I’ve known Ben personally and been a big fan of his work for a while now, so we already had a bit of a relationship, but this was the first time we worked on comics together and that’s always a learning process. Much to our letterer Cory Petit’s chagrin my approach with Ben was to do a bit less with the dialogue initially so that I could give Ben room to cut loose and get as creative as possible and then I went in and added a lot of stuff back in once Ben had worked his magic (I’m sorry, Cory!!!).
Ben is indeed just about the perfect artist for me (and for A-Force). He’s hugely talented with storytelling and expressions…so every joke lands even before I make the characters say anything (huge bonus for me, obviously). His pages have such life and energy to them, and he’s second to none when it comes to character design and giving characters individual bodies and faces and even unique body language. It’s wonderful to see all of those elements come to life so vibrantly in Ben’s hands. A-Force #5 looks unlike any other superhero comic book in my opinion…and that’s a pretty cool thing.
Nrama: I hate to ask you to play favorites, but I’m going to anyway. With so many great characters on the team, who’s been your touchstone? Which member of A-Force has been your window into the Marvel Universe?
Thompson: Well, writing She-Hulk is a dream come true. I love her voice and sense of humor, and I probably have to say she’s my favorite of the bunch but it’s a tight, tight race! I’d already written an alternate reality version of Carol (in Captain Marvel & The Carol Corps) but it’s been really fun to get a chance at Prime Earth Carol. But honestly, they’ve all surprised me a lot. I never expected to love writing Medusa and Dazzler so much for example, but I quickly found things I adored about both of them – in Alison a real humanity and vulnerability that I didn’t expect, and with Medusa, well, the bitchy bored “better than you” thing is just always fun. Nico’s sharp sort of dark sense of humor is awesome and her power set is by far the most fun for getting creative. From a practical point of view Nico and Dazzler are definitely the most rewarding to write because they’re not in other books and so they’re the least restricted – I can tell more important and emotionally resonant stories with them because other creators aren’t also doing something with them.
Nrama: This is your first solo writing gig for Marvel. Now that you’re steering the ship, can we expect more Marvel work from you coming up?
Thompson: I do actually have something else coming up it looks like, but it’s too soon to talk about it or I’m gonna get in trouble. Don’t get me in trouble!
Nrama: Beyond the Countess, what lies ahead for A-Force? What’s coming down the pike that you can tease us with?
Thompson: First up is obviously Civil War II. There’s no way, with our cast, that we weren’t going to get drawn into it – Carol is obviously the big co-star of Civil War II and both Medusa and She-Hulk are poised to play big roles too. But I think we’ve got a really great A-Force story that ties directly to the event but will also stand on its own nicely. Because of the intricacies of Civil War II the ideas behind the event really pull our team apart – so what we’re doing is a very personal and emotional gut punch of a story for these ladies who were sort of just getting started as friends and as a team, you know? After that…well, that super cool A-Lister I mentioned will be showing up for what I hope will be sort of an unexpected adventure for our team.