Some would say Earth's Mightiest Heroes require Earth's mightiest creators, and at Marvel Comics that means writer Jason Aaron and Ed McGuiness are on the job. The all-star creative team will relaunch Marvel's flagship series this week with a new Avengers #1, and they're bringing back a version of the Avengers that's a lean, mean, universe-saving machine centered around the core trio of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Thor Odinson.
Newsarama spoke with Aaron ahead of Avengers #1's May 2 release, delving into the rest of that all-killer, no-filler roster, his plans for the characters at hand, and how the prehistoric Avengers factor into the title.
Aaron also divulged some secrets about what other heroes might join his team, the nature of the Dark Celestials, and his future at Marvel after renewing his exclusive contract this year.
Newsarama: Jason, this Avengers relaunch has obviously been in the works for a while. How did this concept for the team and for the book come together?
Jason Aaron: At some point I was asked if I wanted to do Avengers and I said “Yeah absolutely.” Things had been lining up storywise to reunite the big three of Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Thor Odinson. We knew where those beats would be happening and that those characters would all be getting back to their old selves around that time, so it made sense to put them all together on an Avengers team - something we haven’t seen for quite a while now.
Nrama: What were the principles you were keeping in mind while crafting the rest of the roster?
Aaron: The rest of the team just kinda filled in around the core three. This is my roster, this is my team. I handpicked them, took the list to Marvel and said these were the characters I wanted, and it gelled together pretty easily.
Since I started planning to write Avengers I knew I wanted a Ghost Rider on the team, so when we started putting it together I realized Robbi Reyes, the most recent Ghost Rider, was the right choice to put in. He’s the one guy on the team who’s a fresh face, a new guy who doesn’t really know these other Avengers. He’s never really been a part of anything like this, on this level before.
Black Panther was obvious. If anything, I think the traditional “big three” of the Avengers is pretty much, at this point, the big four. I think Black Panther belongs on the Avengers. And Carol Danvers is not too far away from that either. Just as Black Panther has become an important figure in the eyes of the rest of the world thanks to his movie, Carol’s not far away from that as well.
And, having Black Panther on the team opens up Wakanda as a destination, a very important part of the Marvel U. I like Carol’s Alpha Flight connection, since they’re the main defenders of the Earth from extra-terrestrial threats. I’ve definitely had some fun playing with those Alpha Flight toys.
I wanted a Hulk on the team, too. We talked about Bruce Banner, but I was really more interested in Jennifer Walters. We pick up the threads of where she’s been at lately, but also take her in a kind of new direction where she’s not really the kind of Hulk we’ve seen before.
And then there’s Doctor Strange, who I just stepped away from writing. I had to step away from Doctor Strange cause I knew Avengers was coming down the pike. It’s fun to throw him in the mix on this time.
Nrama: The Prehistoric Avengers from your Marvel Legacy #1 one-shot are also going to be a big part of this title. How much focus are you going to give that side of the coin? Will we get to see more of stuff like the romance between Odin and Phoenix?
Aaron: We’ll be exploring those characters as the series goes on. They’re a part of this first arc, but they’re not here just for the sake of this first story. They’ll be back again and again. The Dark Celestial threat has its roots in one of their adventures. A threat they faced 1,000,000 years ago comes back to haunt the present day Avengers.
There’ll be more and more of their story as the series goes on. Those characters, between the major arcs of the book, will get standalone issues. The first of those, #7, focuses on the prehistoric Ghost Rider. The very first Ghost Rider, the one who rides a wooly mammoth. We’ll learn more about those characters – how they met each other, where they came from, and some of the things they got up to together.
And I wouldn’t be surprised to see more familiar elements of the Marvel Universe popping up in those stories.
Nrama: You mentioned the Dark Celestials. They were first mentioned as the “Final Host” in Marvel Legacy #1. What can you tell us about them?
Aaron: You know, I don’t think you need to know too much going in. You could go back and read Marvel Legacy #1 and some of the seeds are there. But you can also pick up Avengers #1 and dive right in with that.
The Celestials are those giant, armored, thousand-foot-tall space gods we’ve seen before. They were created by Jack Kirby back in the pages of Eternals, and we’ve seen them show up on Earth dvarious times over the years, different hosts of Celestials. There are stories about how the Celestials came here millions of years ago to tinker with life on Earth. Some gave rise to humans, some gave rise to all the craziness you see around the Marvel Universe.
Part of this story is finding out maybe that’s not the way it all happened. Maybe there’s more to this story than what we’ve seen before. It’s all kind of brought in motion by the arrival of the Final Host, the Celestials that have finally come to end the Earth once and for all.
Nrama: Getting back to the present day team, you mentioned before that She-Hulk would undergo some evolution in this volume of Avengers, including some possible changes to her powers. What can you tell us about where Jennifer Walters is headed as both a hero and as a Hulk?
Aaron: The most obvious change you can see is in the way she looks, which is something I really wanted to do. I love the way Ed McGuiness draws the Hulk, and I wanted to see more of that with She-Hulk. In the past, Hulk was always this big, monstrous totally inhuman looking character, while She-Hulk looked more human, like a bodybuilder painted green.
I like the idea of taking her in that monstrous, inhuman direction, kinda that classic, cool Hulk. Making her a different sort of Hulk in her own right. She looks more like the bigger, more savage Banner Hulk, but this is now what we’ve seen in the past. This is a whole different thing.
These Celestials really unleash something inside of her that we haven’t seen from a Hulk before, so we’ll see not just a different physique, but some changes to her power levels and also different powers in and of themselves. That’s gonna grow over the course of the series.
Nrama: You’ve said elsewhere that Doctor Strange occupies a rotating spot on the team that will change every so often. How deep does that bench go? Any big surprises or personal favorites you’d like to tease?
Aaron: I’ve got a list. Strange is around for the first arc, but has to go off to deal with his own business. We don’t fill that eighth slot right away, though.
Initially I settled on seven members. Seven seemed like a good number. I’ve done team books before, and it can quickly get out of hand. You wind up not being able to give everyone their moment. So for the most part we’ll be sticking with seven. I threw Strange in there cause I wanted another person with a connection to those prehistoric characters – we had the present day Ghost Rider, so we added the present day Sorcerer Supreme to the mix. Don’t be surprised if you see some more of those present day versions of the prehistoric Avengers show up moving forward.
I think you could also see the occasional classic Avenger in that spot. But as far as the next character to fill that role, that will be somebody who has never been an Avenger before.
Nrama: You’re working with Ed McGuiness on Avengers. The two of you working on a flagship title like this seems like a no brainer. What’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for the story so far?
Aaron: I think it’s his designs for the Dark Celestials. He plays on those classic Kirby Celestial designs, but these are new Celestials, new characters. And they’re all pure Ed – he kinda had free rein to come up with whatever he wanted to. He designed them, he named them, they’re great.
He’s a guy who’s overflowing with ideas. He’s perfect for a story like this cause he loves comics, knows so much about comics. He has so many classic heroes and villains that he gets excited about. Fortunately, a lot of our favorite heroes and villains overlap. When I was telling him some of the villains we’ve got coming up down the road he was really excited.
And how we’re tweaking Hulk’s powers was also Ed’s idea, so he brings a lot of imagination to the table beyond just being able to draw big, kickass superhero fights better than anyone else.
Nrama: Given you’re shipping 18 issues a year, will Ed be rotating with other artists? We’ve seen him solicited as the artist at least through #5. Will he be back after that?
Aaron: Yeah, he’ll be back. Sara Pichelli is drawing #7 with the prehistoric Ghost Rider, and then after that David Marquez will come in starting with #8 to do the next arc. But Ed will be back.
Nrama: On that note, is a long term Avengers run in your plans? You’re not known for quick, short runs. Can we consider this the start of your next Marvel epic?
Aaron: I hope so. I like that you say that. I did Wolverine for a long time over a couple different titles, and Thor is kinda the same way. For me it feels like one long story but at this point I’ve written a few different Thor #1’s. That kind of run is harder to do these days given the way titles change and relaunch, and it becomes harder to justify keeping the same creators through relaunch after relaunch. So I just circled the wagons with Thor and laid down roots and said “I’m gonna be here for a while,” and thankfully no one’s making me leave. I still get to tell the end of the story I’ve been telling for six or seven years now.
I feel like it’s the right time for me to take on Avengers. In terms of my career, it feels like the next big thing for me to do. The same way with Thor I tried to do a lot to explore Thor’s corner of the Marvel Universe, his unique setting with these ten wondrous realms. I’ve been doing a story that goes to all those realms. But with Avengers, the setting is the entire Marvel Universe so I want to play with all the toys I haven’t gotten to play with yet.
This should be a book that takes us to all the incredible locations of the Marvel Universe issue after issue. I’m trying to show all the hot-spots around the globe Who are the biggest troublemakers? Where are the biggest threats going down? On Earth, in space, everywhere, we’re gonna go there.
This doesn’t feel like a book I could have done at Marvel even five years ago. I’ve had to work up toward this concept. I just re-upped on my Marvel exclusive so I’ll be here a few more years, and I’m hoping Avengers will be the main focus of that time period.
Nrama: You’ve got a reputation as a master of foreshadowing what’s coming down the road in your stories. We know the Dark Celestials are at the gates – what can you tease us with about what’s coming in the rest of your first year on Avengers?
Aaron: You’ll see more of those prehistoric Avengers. By the end of this first arc, we’ll tease a little bit about what’s coming next. Thor #1 will also kinda hint at some of that stuff. I will just say the second and third arcs are very much about taking the Avengers around the globe and exploring the biggest trouble spots all over the planet.
Things are set in motion thanks to the Celestial attack, because of the formation of this new team of Avengers, because of their new headquarters which debuts in #8, a lot of these things put a lot of people around the Earth on edge. We’ll see a lot of villains, especially ones we’ve seen in the past, some with a fresh coat of paint and some new ideas. We’ll see four or five major groups of villains over the course of the next couple arcs.