Nebula is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most surprising breakout stars - but her history in Marvel Comics is even more complex and harrowing. And starting February 12, the classic comic book version of the character takes the spotlight in a limited series from Vita Ayala and Claire Roe.
As Nebula breaks out into her own solo series , Ayala will guide her down a rabbit hole to her past that delves into her upbringing, and her strained comic book connection to the Mad Titan Thanos - and a still unrevealed character from their collective history.
Newsarama spoke with Ayala ahead of Nebula #1's release to delve into the cyberpunk outlaw's motivations, status quo, and her place in the Marvel Cosmic wing.
Newsarama: Vita, many fans know Nebula from her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - and her history in comic books is just as varied and complex. What’s Nebula’s status quo going into this solo series?
Vita Ayala: Nebula’s status quo going into this series is that she is a villain. And a pretty gnarly one at that! My baseline for what she is not just willing, but happy to do, to get what she wants is to remember that not that long ago she resurrected literal boatloads of dead gods to terrorize the universe so she could force Gamora to fight her. Nebula is rough at best, unhinged and lethal at worst! Which is always a fun place to start...
Nrama: The solicitation for Nebula #1 mentions “one of the galaxy’s most feared bounty hunters,” and future solicitations make it sound like she’s on the run. What can you tell us about who’s after her and why?
Ayala: All I can say without spoiling anything is that, the person chasing Nebula is unrelenting. They are as ruthless and dangerous as she is, and what makes this more dangerous is that, it is not personal for them. There are no emotions to play off or get in the way of their mission. This is what they feel called to do.
Nrama: In the MCU, Nebula got substantial character arc that hasn’t been explored as much in comics. What themes are you bringing to this series that Nebula fans will recognize - and what sets the core comic book Nebula apart?
Ayala: What the team wanted to bring to the character that would be recognizable to people more familiar with the MCU version are those spots of humor and sympathy. Make no bones about it, Nebula is still a rugged piece of work, but we wanted to get at the core of 'why' here, to give people that (for lack of a better term) humanity they could relate to and hold onto.
But, the Nebula of the comics is very different from the Nebula of the MCU. Their history is different, how they interact with the universe is different, their motivations are different...what we want to carry over is the same feeling of connection, while maintaining the context of the character in the comics.
Nrama: We know another Thanos-related character will appear down the road as well. How does Nebula’s relationship with her “father” Thanos factor in to this tale?
Ayala: Their relationship in the comics is very different from that in the MCU, and I want to highlight that.
In the comics, Nebula makes claims of family ties to the mad Titan, but he rejects her. She is constantly trying to “prove herself” to Thanos by being more and more villainous, which has been a lot of her guiding light as a character up till now. We wanted to give a reason as to why she might do that here.
Nrama: One of the most striking aspects of the modern incarnation of Nebula is the way her cybernetics work – there’s almost a body horror aspect that’s even highlighted in Jen Bartel’s cover for Nebula #1. How does that idea come into this story and your vision of the character?
Ayala: I wanted to play with what it means to be augmented to such a deep and massive extent. It isn’t explicitly stated in the on page text, but one of the things that I have had in mind as I write is, what counts as being a part of you? What makes a person who they are, and how much of that is tied, not just to their physical body, but to their history? Do her cybernetics play a crucial role in making her who she is – the Nebula we know and love to hate – or is she who she is despite them?
I have thought of it less as body horror and more as exploring singularity. I am a cyberpunk lover at heart, and body-mod stuff is really appealing to me.
Claire Roe does an incredible job of really highlighting how the cybernetics organically fit into Nebula (as a body and as a character).
I think in the end, for me (I can’t speak for the rest of the team), the cybernetics are part of the Nebula identity, not because I think they are cool, but because of the way she interacts with them. They are not like clothing, that is optional, they are a part of how she views her own body in the world, even if she wasn’t born to them.
Nrama: You mentioned Claire Roe, artist on Nebula. She’s got a style that is right at home in a sci-fi fueled story. What makes her the perfect collaborator for this story?
Ayala: Listen, honestly, Claire is the perfect collaborator on any story!
But, yes, absolutely, Claire has this amazing flair for space stuff that makes this project an absolute joy to watch her work on. I am not completely versed in what her background is, in terms of how much sci fi she consumes, but if I had to guess, I would say a lot.
I can make references to specific stories/movies/shows, and she immediately not only knows what I mean, but she understands how to translate the vibe into our own story. She has a really incredible skill for knowing what elements – science stuff, realism, etc – work best together in a scene, and when to ignore any elements that would take away.
Also, I have said this before, but her acting and gesture work is so phenomenal! She grounds this bonkers cosmic tale in the nitty gritty through that. I believe the space ships and cyborgs and all that because the people feel real, the action feels impactful, and the environments have weight to them.
She is honestly one of the best artists working today!
Nrama: What’s your favorite thing that she’s drawn for Nebula so far?
Ayala: Anytime we get a close up on Nebula as she is sneering or being a jerk, I am so happy. There is also a page in the middle of the third issue involving Ballista Grimm (but not Nebula) that made me have to sit down for a long minute. [Laughs]
Nrama: Nebula is planned for five issues. What opportunities and challenges does a limited series format offer from the jump versus launching an ongoing series, as you’ve recently done with Morbius?
Ayala: I think the biggest challenge for a limited series is getting an audience to engage while it is coming out in singles. Just as you are finding your footing, in terms of people trusting your story telling enough to invest monthly, the arc is over. But, I understand that from their side too, because it is hard – you don’t know a book is happening, or you miss an issue, or you want to wait because it may be cheaper in trade. No shade for people who wait at all, just an acknowledgment that it makes it so that the creative team never really knows if people dug what we were doing. [Laughs]
In terms of opportunities, I am actually a big fan of short stories. Even with an ongoing series, I approach each arc as its own complete story. The difference with a mini is that I don’t have the space to wait on any elements, I only have the here and now.
With Nebula, there was a specific question/idea I wanted to explore, and I built around it. With Morbius, it was the same. And because I had more issues there, I then got to explore the next question/idea!
But I see that as a good thing! Swing for the fences on this story, and if you get another down the road, think of something else and do it all again!
Nrama: Can we expect more Marvel Cosmic stuff from you? Is there a particular part of that corner of the Marvel Universe that you’ve really connected with through Nebula?
Ayala: I absolutely adore cosmic and space stories, and I could write Nebula forever if given the chance. [Laughs]
If there is ever an opportunity for me to do more cosmic tales, I would love to!
Nrama: Bottom line, what’s in store for Nebula fans as she headlines this breakout series?
Ayala: Fun! This book has made me laugh out loud multiple times (all Claire’s brillance), and the action is so dynamic and hard hitting!
This isn’t a spoiler because it was on a solicited cover, but we get flashbacks to Nebula on the come up, and she is a real feral creature.
Honestly, if someone picks this up, they can expect a book that wants to show you the core of a character and what makes them tick, but wants to do it in a way that would have you roaring and stomping in your seat if it was a movie.