Heroes Con '09: War Stories - Ares Gets the Spotlight

He fights. He smells. He lusts. He’s Ares, the God of War, and he’s a Dark Avenger.

On top of that, Ares is still slightly misunderstood.

True, his introduction to the Marvel Universe saw him cast as a villain, but yet, Brian Bendis and Frank Cho put him on the side of the angels when they made him a member of the Mighty Avengers following Civil War. While not a “shiny-type” hero along the lines of a Captain America or Iron Man, Ares still stood with the other heroes of the Marvel Universe.

Until Secret Invasion.

Following the outcome of that storyline, and Norman Osborn’s shot that ended the Skrull leadership, Ares threw in with Osborn and his “Avengers,” the current stars of Dark Avengers. It was a move that caused his formers teammates to question him, as he was willingly associating with murderers, terrorists and other villains of all flavors. But through it all, Ares has remained a  steadfast ally of Osborn.

But why?

Answers are coming this fall. Starting in October, Kieron Gillen and Cary (Conan) Nord will take readers inside the war god’s head in the three-issue Dark Avengers: Ares minsieries. We spoke with Gillen to get his take on Ares, as well as what readers can expect from the upcoming minisieries.

Newsarama: Going back a bit before we get to your miniseries, Kieron, when Ares was first introduced as a member in Mighty Avengers, what was your take on his inclusion with the heroes? He struck many fans as being something of a...different choice...

Kieron Gillen: He's a good guy to have on your team, because if you don't, and the fight is good enough, he's just going to end up on the other side. And you don't want that.

What was Miss Marvel's description of him? A Thor and a Wolverine. He's a guy you can throw head-on at a genuine heavyweights with the attitude and – er – resourcefulness of Wolverine. Admittedly, he's not a guy who'll fight for truth and justice... but he is a guy who'll fight (and be okay with truth and justice somehow resulted from it). His grudges and motivations are always personal. He hates Hercules for personal reasons. If the personal doesn't come into it, he can almost be professional. Almost. Or at least in the vicinity of it.

NRAMA: He's been with Norman since Dark Avengers #1. In your view, what made him sign on with Norman, and why does he stay? Is it as simple as he's looking for the best fight he can find, or is there more?

KG: On one hand, it is as simple as all that. But on the other – that it is as simple as that says a lot about Ares. As hinted in Oeming's splendid Ares mini, he's fought in armies through all human history. Osborn or Stark make very little difference to him: they're just the latest in the line of humans in charge. If Osborn was deposed, Ares would be surprised if anyone expected him step down from the Avengers. He was just following orders. Totally legal orders.

He's a warrior and a soldier, not a conqueror. That's one of the things which makes him an interesting character. Whether he's a force for good or evil depends on which side he happens to be on. Defending an empire is of equal merit to building an empire to him – it's the actual conflict which is what attracts him. Combat is its own reward.

NRAMA: But still - he's a God. I think there's the desire for some to see him as almost buffoonish towards Hercules, but with the whole "god" thing comes a whole lot of intelligence and wisdom, right? He's no slouch or a buffoon, is he?

KG: He has intelligence, but it's incredibly directed and driven. A lot of traditional intelligence and wisdom is Athena's domain, which Ares stays well clear of because it stinks of surrender, cowardice and other assorted girly nonsense. Because of all that, it can come across as a little foolish occasionally, but that's really a misdiagnoses. Occasionally he acts in a way which could be considered foolish because he is philosophically opposed to what most people would consider good sense. He's the god of war. He doesn't think like most people.

NRAMA: So, foundation laid, how did you wind up on Dark Avengers: Ares? With this and Beta Ray Bill, you're certainly landing the eclectic mix of Marvel Heroes…

KG: It comes back to Mr Warren Simons. We were talking about wanting to do something after Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter, and he wondered if I had any ideas for Ares. I jumped at it, not least because the last Ares mini was one of my favorite short ‘00s minis. My way into the character... well, for my money, a lot of the narrative juice for interjecting a mythological figure into the Marvel Universe is either based around a sense of continuum to these ancient pieces of heroic fantasy or a mashing of the ancient and the modern, both heightening and commenting upon one another. For Ares... well, Thor's a warrior. Hercules is a fighter. Ares is a soldier. There's a difference. There's also a difference between what Ares considers the idea of a soldier – formed in ancient Greek myths – and what the modern world considers one. Throwing Ares into a modern military organization was the key inspiration for the story.

Hmm. Looking back at who I've written for Marvel – Bill, Dazzler, Sabretooth, Namor and now Ares - and it's quite a selection of self-confident-to-arrogant males. Plus Dazzler, rolling her eyes at everyone. I'm beginning to suspect my Marvel Editors think I've got some insight into the psyche of arrogant males. Is this psychoanalytical diagnosis in the form writing gigs? Hmm.

NRAMA: We’ll leave that to a proper doctor. But back to the story what's the scope of this miniseries? Will it revisit Ares' decision-making process that led him to Norman, or will it be picking up from the present and moving forward?

KG: It's specifically focusing on what other stuff Ares has been up to since he's been in a Dark Avenger while not actively being in the field. It comes from another of Norman's brainwaves whilst stocktaking. On one hand, he's got a genuine god of war. On the other, a new military organization in the form of H.A.M.M.E.R. What would happen if he let one play with the other? He's set Ares training a group of his troopers, hoping he'll get something magnificent out the other end and not particularly bothered if *nothing* comes out the other end.

The sort of vibe for it is like Generation Kill if instead of embedding a journalist, they dropped in a man who fought at Troy. And he's in charge. Imagine what Ares would be like as a Drill Instructor.

Yeah, that messy.

NRAMA: Not to get all writerly-technical on you, but how do you get inside Ares head to write him? I'm not asking if you beat people up, cause traffic jams and make countries strike out at one another, but as we’ve said, he's a god of war...what's his mindset like? What's his motivation for what he does? It seems as if he could be a considerable cypher - not very talkative, looks human, seems to act human, but has a completely different set of morals, goals and thought processes that aren't remotely like a human's

KG: I only beat myself up when writing. Well, mostly.

I actually found it worryingly easy to get into Ares mindset. You know what you said earlier about Ares having an intelligence? This is totally it. He thinks a lot, but he doesn't tell anyone what he's thinking or why he's thinking it. He does have a belief structure and is capable of discussing it – he just doesn't see the point of discussing. Talking is the sort of thing Athena does, while sewing a white flag or whatever. He's about action. One of my favorite things about the story is that because Ares is put in the position of actually training people, he's more verbal than he normally would dream of being. He has to play teacher.

And he's actually good at doing that, which ties into the one, totally admirable trait Ares has. He's a good parent. He's totally devoted to Alexander/Phobos. He separated himself from his pantheon to raise the boy. When he first disappeared, he waged war with a heaven and a hell. If Ares had a clue to where Alexander is now, he'd stop at nothing to get him back. He is, in his own twisted way, got an enormous paternal streak, and – through the brutality he treats his soldiers – we see flashes of that.

Apart from thinking about the nature of warrior, thinking about Ares' frustration of having a son missing was my way into the guy. That's very understandable. I said earlier that the idea of the story came from thinking about the changing face of war... well, that's the brains of the story.

Alexander being missing is its heart.

NRAMA: So where does this story pick up, and how do things get rolling? What' s Ares fighting against?

KG: We pick up with Ares in the middle of training his H.A.M.M.E.R. agents. Ares is having... well, fun. Fun for him anyway. Not for anyone else. Things turn messier when he decides to take his team out on their first mission.

That's all I'm saying on that, I think. There's a lot of action. It's Ares. There could hardly not be. He's not the sort of guy who sits around a nightclub and talks intensely about his favorite buzzcocks records.

NRAMA: And you've got Cary Nord...what was your reaction to finding out that's who would be drawing the story?

KG: Well, just as I was writing this mail, Mr. Simons mailed me a page and I mailed back an excitable string of expletives. I have that kind of reaction to Cary. He's just a brilliant action story-teller, capable of rendering these figures which marry both heroism and brutality. That sort of dichotomy is absolutely perfect Ares, if you see what I mean. And I'm not sure if I see what I mean. It's getting late and channeling the voice of an ancient Greek god of war is getting to me. I will have to go forth and slay someone if I don't stop soon.

NRAMA: Coolest thing you've given Cary to draw so far?

KG: You say the word “cool” and I think of one image from the first issue, which is literally playing with the whole concept of cool and... but that's one I'd hate to spoil. Ares casually firing a mini-gun at his own men while knocking back a beer or eight sticks in my mind is the coolest thing, I think. Well, at least the coolest thing on the first two pages.

NRAMA: End of the day - what do you want this mini to do for Ares?

KG: Give people at least another couple of dozen of reasons to love the axe-wielding quasi-lunatic.

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