Spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame.
When Jim Starlin hears about the success of Avengers: Endgame, he tells Newsarama it feels "surreal."
After all, the writer created the movie’s main villain, Thanos, and crafted the comic book story of his stone-studded Infinity Gauntlet.
His contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed. Eagle-eyed movie-goers might have noticed Starlin appearing in Avengers: Endgame toward the beginning of the hit film, sitting in a therapy session with Captain America. And the writer has been attending the movie premieres, just returning home from his time in Los Angeles.
But now? After watching the finished product and realizing that millions of people around the world have watched a story which he helped form?
He’s calling it surreal.
Newsarama talked to Starlin to find out more about his cameo in Avengers: Endgame, what he wishes they would have done differently, and what he suspects might be next for a couple other characters he created who are still around in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Newsarama: Jim, I was surprised to see you up on the screen. You’re a movie star! How did it feel to be part of the Avengers: Endgame story?
Jim Starlin: Well, I think it takes more than one line to make a movie star. Now if they make an action figure also of the old man…
You weren’t the only one who was surprised. I think everybody found out I’m good at keeping my mouth shut.
The cameo was fun. And I’d better not put too much into it. An ego in this business, it’s very easy to get punctured, so you shouldn’t pump it up ahead of time and then hand out pins.
Nrama: With you making a cameo, it feels like you were involved, but how did you come to know that Thanos and the Infinity Stones were going to be used as the narrative through-line of all these films? Did you find out when everybody else did? Or did you have more insight on it?
Starlin: Oh, I found out about two days before on the internet, that he was showing up in the Avengers end-credits. I wasn’t working for Marvel at the time, so there was no communication going on there.
So I was as surprised as anybody.
Communications started building after that between the movie studios and myself.
My cameo came about with me jokingly throwing out a Bugs Bunny line, saying, “Mr. Russos, I’m ready for my close-up.” And the next thing I know, somebody from the production company is calling up and going, "Yeah, we’d like to have you come down to do a cameo." And I went, "Oh, sure!"
Nrama: That’s fantastic. What do you feel like, maybe, is the one thing that Marvel really got right, that they captured in the film from your stories?
Starlin: Well, I never expected a carbon copy adaptation. I figured from past experience that you’ve got to go with the flow on these things.
But what I was surprised by is how closely they did try to stay to the original story on this, especially in the first movie.
I was going through there going … their scene, my scene, their scene, my scene, their scene, my scene. And they didn’t stay strictly to the letter of the character origin story, but they stayed to the spirit of it. It was all heading in the same general direction.
I have no complaints with what they did. In fact, I’m blown away.
The hardest part about going to these premieres is you have to go sit through the movie and then meet the director and the writers afterwards — Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Anthony and Joe Russo. And you’re just tongue-tied.
All you want to do is have a drink and sit there and digest it, and they want to know what you think of their efforts at that point. And I’m no good for another day or two, before I can become articulate about it. So it’s a little strange.
Nrama: So if you could have been in the production meeting back when they were first coming up with ideas, is there one thing you kind of wish they’d put in there? Or maybe that they hadn’t put in there?
Starlin: It’s the blue eyes. You know, I understand why they went with the eyes that you can see the pupils on, because it’s much better for emoting. But you know, my Thanos always had those yellow eyes, and when he got mad, they flared red. I kind of miss that.
That’s my one minor complaint.
Nrama: That’s pretty good if that’s the only one.
Starlin: Yeah, they even put him back in his uniform, in his armor, in the second movie. I was happy about that.
Nrama: Now that most die-hard fans have seen the movie - and if they haven’t, we’ll just say now that there’s going to be spoilers! - can you give your general reaction? Were you satisfied as a viewer?
Starlin: Well, I came in on the majority of the movie like everybody else. When I was down there on the set and Markus and McFeely and Joe Russo were really open with me about what they were doing with Thanos, I soaked up most of the Thanos stuff. So if they did tell me anything about what they were doing with the Avengers, it went in one ear and out the other.
So when I was coming in and sitting down, there were plenty of surprises for me.
I think they wrapped up those 22 movies in such a caring and precise way.
I mean, how they finished Captain America’s story arc off … it was really heart-touching.
I enjoyed watching Gamora coming back, and I really liked the line about how it was between Starlord or the tree. I got a big kick out of that one.
I’ve only seen it the one time, though. The thing about premieres, they’re either at the Dolby Theater, which is strange, or this time, they had it at the Los Angeles Convention Center. And both times, it’s hard hearing the movie sometimes. You miss a lot of dialogue. So I’m going to have to go off later on this weekend and catch it again. I know I missed a number of jokes, just because I couldn’t hear it.
Nrama: One of your other signature Marvel titles is The Death of Captain Marvel. I’m wondering what you thought of today’s Captain Marvel, Carol, both in the comic books and the movies?
Starlin: I don’t read a lot of comics anymore, and the Carol Danvers comic book version, I’ve seen maybe two or three issues of it. You know, Marvel doesn’t send out bundles anymore like they used to, and I’m 25 miles from a comic book shop, so I can’t really comment on that.
I really liked the movie. I thought Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson had some great chemistry going on there.
I wonder where they’re going to go with this, because they’ve made Captain Marvel the Superman - the 1950’s Superman of this particular movie universe. And those kind of characters tend to paint themselves into a corner sometimes, where you can go with them.
But they’ve been pretty good coming up with stories up to this point, so I’ll be curious what they do with it. But I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.
Nrama: We’ve also seen some of your original Infinity Watch in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Have you and he ever talked shop or anything?
Starlin: Only at an after-party for the second Guardians movie. I had a chance to chat with him and Zoe Saldana. It’s kind of interesting, because they’re both science fiction geeks. And I’m what I am.
And so I met them with Vin Diesel at the party, and the three of us - Zoe Saldana, James Gunn, and I - started really getting into it. And out of the corner of my eye, I watched Vin Diesel sort of creep away from us. It was like, ok, this is not my conversation, and he just inched away and disappeared.
Nrama: We saw an Adam Warlock teaser in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. You just said you talked to them after the movie. Was there any advice you gave them? Or maybe some hints you’d like to drop now about adapting that character?
Starlin: Oh, I never give advice unless it’s asked, and in that particular case, it wouldn’t have been appropriate to bring anything like that up.
But I might, in this interview, lobby for another cameo. But other than that, they’re going to do what they need. And they’ve had a break in there, with Gunn’s trouble with the studio and that. I imagine they’re going with a lot of what he had in his original script, but maybe things have changed with Endgame.
So it’ll be curious to see what they’re going to do.
My hope is that they’ll bring Warlock into it, and I suspect what they’ll do is have him as a villain the next movie, like he was in the comics.
He started off in a battle with Fantastic Four and Thor. Perhaps they’ll use him more and we’ll get one of my favorite characters in there, Pip the Troll. Warlock’s going to need to talk to somebody.
Nrama: I know you had a small bump in the road with Marvel a couple years ago. Things seem ironed out now. What do you think of the state of the publishing industry? Any thoughts on it?
Starlin: I have very few thoughts on the state of the comic business. I’m working with Ominous Press on a reprint of all the Dreadstar material, and we’re going to do some more newer stories now. But that’s about the extent of my comic book activity.
I think a lot of things changed over the years that the publishers may have been slow on adapting to. I can’t believe they’re still putting out the little pamphlet comic books. I think maybe they’ll need to concentrate eventually on the collections and digital and graphic novels, but I’m not the steering wheel on that particular one, so they’re going to do with they want.
Nrama: I assume you’ve seen how much this money is making. I know you say you’re not a movie star, but I think a lot of people have seen your face this past weekend.
Starlin: Yeah! I’m home at this point. In fact, I’ve actually got a little cold right now. But I’ve been watching the news, and they’ve been leading the news with “Avengers makes over a billion dollars,” and I’m going wow! I feel sort of divorced from that, but at the same time, not. It’s surreal.
Nrama: Surreal that it’s based on something you created?
Starlin: Yeah. I’m still trying to get a grasp on that reality.