Talking to Rick Remender about comics is remarkably like talking to any other enthusiastic fan. He’s excited by fresh concepts, amped about the cool moments, and hopeful that things work out in the way that he envisions them. Of course, the primary difference is that he actually gets to write the books that he’s discussing. Already a fan favorite writer and artist for a variety of creator-owned books, new dad Remender fairly explodes in the Marvel Universe later this year with a number of projects. As revealed at the Pint O’ CB panel, one of the biggest spins out of Marvel’s top-selling title, New Avengers. If you’ve been following the book, then you know that stalwart Marvel hero, Jericho Drumm aka Brother Voodoo, just ascended to the role of Sorcerer Supreme. Drumm’s adventures will play out in the new title, Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural, with Remender and a top-secret artist at the helm.
Remender laughs when I spring the first question on him: do you have to have a PhD to be the Sorcerer Supreme? “It seems that way, right?”, he asks, before explaining that “ pure heart and altruistic purpose” cut to the core of what the Eye of Agamotto was looking for in terms of selecting a successor to Doctor Strange. Of course, Drumm was a psychiatrist, and Remender points out that “The majority of people who become doctors or psychiatrists have some desire to aid humanity.”
Still, even if Drumm loves to aid people, the character himself hasn’t always gotten much love outside of Fred Hembeck. And that’s fine with Remender. He says, “I love writing stories about underdogs.” He goes on to say that “the supernatural world [of the Marvel Universe] is kind of shrugging their shoulders at this guy and going “Really? That’s who they got?” For his part, Remender always saw deeper potential in the character. “In a What If? three years ago, I turned him into Sorcerer Supreme and he led the X-Men.”
The magnitude of taking this perennially second-stringer and elevating him in power and position wasn’t lost on the writer. He says, “I literally took a week off of work and read the shit out of everything I could find to write the pitch because I wanted it so badly.” The hard work and thought are evident as Remender explains some of the conceptual angles. He notes, “[Drumm’s] got some very awesome unique gifts that really elevate him above Strange as Sorcerer Supreme AND Houngan Supreme . . . all of a sudden you hoist him into A+ level bad assery, he’s been slingshoted to the top of the line, to the top of the game . . . You’ve got Dormmamu, Dr. Doom, Clea . . . looking at him, going “Really?” The supernatural world says, “I don’t think so . . . that’s gotta be a mistake."
Part of Voodoo’s rise includes membership in that most prestigious of heroic clubs, The Avengers. As the title of the book suggests, Drumm will now be a reserve member of that mighty team. Remender finds the new status quo to be extremely exciting. When asked about the many and sundry chances that Dr. Strange series were given, he allows that there may be a better chance for this book with a clean slate. In fact, the new book is definitely going to hit the ground running. Remender explains, “There’s horrible darkness coming from the supernatural world. There’s a reason Jericho was chosen; there’s a reason behind this beyond [what we’ve seen] . . . in other parts of the Marvel Universe, vampires are taking over London, Marvel Zombies are creeping in, there’s Dormmamu, Limbo, The Hood resurrecting people . . .there hasn’t been a central supernatural book for this to be categorized and take care of in.” And what does that mean for Doc Voodoo himself? Remender says, “First day on the job, he’s going to overextend himself.”
Some of that comes from a basic difference in the personalities of Strange and Voodoo. Remender says, “Whereas Stephen was sort of meditative, Jericho is a very passionate, proactive character . . . He’s sees ( a threat like Dormmamu) as “I’m gonna go to the Dark Dimension and make sure he doesn’t do it again” . . . This is not what the dark heavy hitters are expecting from him . . . he starts coming for THEM.”
Appropriately enough, the book is set to launch in that witchiest of months, October. Remender’s ready to go, and so will be the Doctor. Remender says, “The first thing he does is set up a watchdog tower full of scrying stones to keep a watch on all the relics, all the monsters in the Marvel Universe . . . it’s so much fun; people are going to love the shit out of this.”
And even as the book is heavily steeped in Marvel lore, Remender says that shouldn’t dissuade the uninitiated. He says, “It’s so new-reader friendly, there have been so many versions of Jericho Drumm, but we’re taking the core.”
Remender’s enjoying getting into the mood; he laughs as he says, “[I’ve been] listening to death metal [as I write].” Remender also equates one aspect of the book to the mythos of another Avenger; he notes, [The book has] got a Thor-esque aspect in that there’s an entire cast of voodoo gods, there is sort of an Asgard version of the voodoo god lands .” He goes on to explain the almost limitless possibilities for the supporting casts and potential antagonists. Remender clearly has a game plan. The number one task? He asks himself, “How do I make this as much fun as possible?”