Jason Aaron has been king of Avengers Mountain for over 30 issues, and in his own words, he's got a lot of Earth's Mightiest fuel left in the tank - his run is still just ramping up.
Following a Mephisto vs. Iron Man one-and-done story in this week's Avengers #31, Aaron will catch up with some of the core villains of his Avengers run so far - and set the stage for #32's introduction of the series' next big bad guy... Moon Knight.
But according to Aaron, Moon Knight - a one-time Avenger and mostly-hero now breaking bad - is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for his 2020 Avengers plans. In fact, Aaron tells Newsarama 2020's planned tales amount to "some of the biggest Avengers stories in a long, long time."
Newsarama got into the nitty gritty on his Avengers plans for this year, including what's up with Moon Knight, which new heroes will join the team, and even some hints at a rematch between the Avengers and X-Men.
Newsarama: Jason, you’ve enjoyed a lengthy Avengers run – 31 issues this week - with no signs of slowing down. How do you see Avengers now both as a title and as a team versus when you started writing this series?
Jason Aaron: That’s a good question. Like you said, it’s been 31 issues, but I’m still having a lot of fun - I’m not even close to being done. If anything it feels like I’m still putting all the toys on the table that I want to play with.
When I came into Avengers, I wanted to build, to explore all the coolest locations of the Marvel Universe, and bring in a bunch of cool characters – some of whom are classic Avengers that have been with the team throughout history and some that are brand new to being part of the Avengers.
I wanted to set up bigger villains too – not just the typical villain who shows up, the Avengers fight them, and they disappear. I wanted to set up ongoing threats and ongoing hotspots around the globe that the Avengers would deal with throughout the foreseeable future. And that could introduce concepts not just for the Avengers, but for other characters to deal with.
I’ve been trying to build stuff, going all the way back to Marvel Legacy #1 when I introduced the 10,000 B.C. Avengers who we’ve done the spotlight issues on between the bigger arcs, and that’s still building and building. We’ve seen some of the legacy characters that those primordial Avengers represent. They’re the beginning of the legacy, we’ve seen the modern day equivalent of those legacies come into play. We just had a new Starbrand born in our last arc, so now the Avengers have to deal with an incredibly powerful star-baby.
So I feel like I’m still building, still having fun. Still bringing in new ideas and characters I’m excited to have as part of the mix.
Nrama: We spoke back when Avengers launched, and you laid out some goals for the series and a roadmap for the stories you’ve been telling – some of which you just mentioned. How have those plans evolved as the series has rolled on?
Aaron: I’ve stuck pretty close in terms of the stories I wanted to tell, the characters I wanted to bring into play, in terms of the villains. I’m still having a lot of fun exploring all that.
The next couple issues are a part of that. #31 is a big part of that. It deals with Tony Stark stuck in the past, running up against the influence of Mephisto. We’ve seen Mephisto at work in different aspects of the Avengers timeline over the course of the series. We’ve seen him interact with and play a role in some of the origins of those prehistoric Avengers, and now we’ll see him butt heads with Tony Stark. We’ve seen Mephisto work in the present day.
Then #32 brings all that together as we focus on some of those bad guys who have been a part of the book. We touch base with Namor in Atlantis, the Red Widow and the Winter Guard in Russia, the new kingdom of the Vampires we established in Chernobyl.
I’m still having a lot of fun dealing with a world that’s full of trouble for the Avengers. And having a lot of fun with characters I’ve put on the roster. Blade is a character I’ve always loved – it seems a bit of stretch to put him on an Avengers roster but I’m having a lot of fun with that dynamic, so he’ll continue to be part of the book.
Robbie Reyes came in as a rookie who was used to being Ghost Rider on the streets of Los Angeles, now he’s traveling in space and fighting Celestials. It’s been a lot of fun taking him on that journey.
We’ll continue to bring in other characters too – the next big arc is a Moon Knight story that’s very much not Moon Knight showing up to join the Avengers. It’s basically the opposite – Moon Knight versus the Avengers.
Nrama: I’m glad you brought up villains – particularly Moon Knight. You’ve had some unorthodox villains in your Avengers run, but Moon Knight is a little different in that he’s pretty much always been a hero. How does Moon Knight get from a one-time Avenger in good standing to being at odds with the team?
Aaron: You’ll have to wait and pick up Avengers #33 for the answer to that, but it’s kind of all a part of what I’ve been building in the book. It doesn’t come out of nowhere – it’s an extension of the threats that are already arraying themselves against the Avengers.
I’ve never really written Moon Knight before – maybe in Original Sin was the only other time I’ve ever tackled him – so it’s been fun to dive into him in such a big way – having him come in and basically beat the s*** out of the Avengers right off the bat.
As for how and why, you’ll have to read #33. I’ll just say this is a story I’ve had circled for a while, it’s always just a matter of when to tell the story so it makes the most sense. I’m really excited to finally get to this one.
It’s also a perfect arc to invite artist Javier Garron onto the book. I’m thrilled with what he’s been doing on the series.
Nrama: It seems like he’s doing some almost horror type stuff – the Khonshu zombies and the mummies and stuff. Was he someone you had in mind when you were putting this together?
Aaron: Javier just fell right into place. He’s someone Tom Brevoort and Alanna Smith, my editors, had their eye on for Avengers for a while, and he brings a lot of energy and excitement to the book.
There’s a lot of new stuff in this arc. Like you said, it’s not just Moon Knight coming for the Avengers, he’s got a whole army of creepy moon priests and resurrected mummies. And once the arc gets rolling, it’s not just about Moon Knight versus the Avengers, it’s about Khonshu’s forces reshaping the world itself into a new age – the age of Khonshu. So Javier is basically redesigning chunks of the Marvel Universe, which is really cool.
Nrama: Traditionally, you haven’t been afraid to change or even break a character on some level – twisting them into a new iteration we haven’t seen. Moon Knight is a villain, Jane Foster became Thor. But those arcs play out over long threads – so will Moon Knight remain in Avengers for the foreseeable future? Is this the start of a new Moon Knight era?
Aaron: That would be great. I can’t speak for the future of the character going forward from this point right now. But you know, I never looked at this arc as breaking Moon Knight – it’s about celebrating different iterations of the character from over the years. We get nods to that right out of the gate.
It’s not about trying to reimagine Moon Knight, it’s like what I try to do for any character I bring into the mix. I want to show why I like the character, what I think is cool and exciting about them. And show it to you, not just tell it you but put it in action so you can see why the character is cool, and was probably cool for decades before I even came around.
I think that’s true of Moon Knight, and I hope this is something long time Moon Knight fans will dig.
Nrama: Going back to the actual Avengers roster, that’s been kind of a living thing over the course of your run – a concept you planned on going all the way back to the series launch. You said in a recent newsletter that your 2020 team would feature "the main, iconic Avengers you know and love and a few other folks you probably wouldn’t expect to see assembling alongside them." What can you tell us about who might come to the title this year?
Aaron: Issue #32 will have a signal of that. The ending of that issue points toward the next big arc we’ll be doing after the Moon Knight arc. It’s something I think will kinda surprise people in a way. But also it should make sense in terms of the bigger picture.
The roster is continuing to change a bit – I think it’s a period of transition. The Moon Knight arc is my first time using Donny Cates and Nic Klein’s version of Thor, which is a lot of fun. The Starbrand baby is gonna be an important part of the next big arc in a cool way. Even beyond that, we’re gonna see some other new characters come into the mix – but I can’t say much else about that.
Nrama: You’ve had a few series spin out of Avengers now – Agents of Wakanda, the upcoming Squadron Supreme. How does that part of the job of helming Avengers – sort of ‘piloting’ new characters or titles into the Marvel Universe - play into your overall plans?
Aaron: Both of those spin-offs came really naturally. I was really excited to set up Agents of Wakanda, and I’ve had a chance to use those characters in fun ways in Avengers and War of the Realms. Squadron Supreme is something I’ve set up and am continuing to build with, not just in the Empyre tie-in written by Mark Waid, but in the core Avengers title. That’s all kind of moving toward something else big on the horizon.
That stuff all came naturally. 2019 was a very busy year for me between Avengers, War of the Realms, Thor, launching Valkyrie – I didn’t have time to focus as much on what could or could not spin out of Avengers. Now going into 2020, I’m pretty much focused exclusively on Avengers. The way my schedule has pared down, I’ve been able to spend the last few months working exclusively on Avengers, planning some things out for down the road, looking at what I may or may not want to spin out of the book myself.
That’s where I’m at right now – I’m 100% dedicated to Avengers for my Marvel work.
Nrama: You brought up Empyre, which the Avengers and their history are a huge part of. There are Empyre tie-in series, like the Mark Waid written book you mention, but how does Empyre affect the landscape of the core Avengers title?
Aaron: The last retreat we were at, Empyre was the big topic of discussion. I can say there are some big moments for members of the Avengers coming up – so I think you will see ramifications from that story spread out through a lot of books, including Avengers. Even though I’m not writing that tie-in, I think it’ll definitely shake things up.
Nrama: You and X-Men writer Jonathan Hickman are both college football fans. I live in an SEC football town myself, so I have to ask – with you as the de facto head of the Avengers line, and Hickman leading up the X-Men line, what does a clash between those two teams with you as the ‘head coaches’ look like?
Aaron: That’s a good question. Usually I’d talk s*** about Jonathan Hickman whenever humanly possible – especially in matters of college football - but I guess I’ll say something nice about him. I hope he doesn’t read this [laughs].
I got to be in the room when Jonathan very first started talking about his X-Men plans, and watched them grow and develop over a couple years as we were building toward House of X and Powers of X and I think everybody who heard the story initially knew it was something really exciting and really special.
It’s been very cool to see the response those books have gotten, and how Jonathan has come in and revitalized the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe - which I appreciate both as someone working in the Marvel Universe and just as a fan of the X-Men, and someone who’s worked on the X-Men over the years.
Jonathan’s plans are continuing to unfold, and as we all know Jonathan’s plans tend to stretch forward in terms of years, not just a few issues, years worth of storyline.
We’ve seen such a profound shift and change in terms of the X-Men’s place in the Marvel Universe, I think you have to know that change is gonna be reflected not just across all the X-books as we’ve seen, but it’s gonna bleed out into every corner of the Marvel Universe at some point or another.
Newsarama: It sounds like you’re hinting that the X-Men and the Avengers will come face-to-face over this in the near future.
Aaron: As long as I don’t have to be in the same room as Jonathan Hickman unless it’s absolutely necessary [laughs], I am down for the X-Men continuing to be a big part of the Marvel Universe.
Hopefully I don’t have to buy him dinner again. I had to take him out to a nice dinner the last time his Clemson Tigers beat by Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m not still bitter about that…
Nrama: One could hardly blame you if you were…
You mentioned Jonathan Hickman laying out years-long plans, but that’s also something you’re well known for. You just wrapped a monumental Thor run with King Thor and you said yourself you’re not slowing down on Avengers – is this the start of a similar long-haul for you with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? What’s coming down the pike?
Aaron: Thor was a big part of my career at Marvel – seven years. I started with Wolverine and the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe, and then I shifted over to Thor, which has defined my work at Marvel for a number of years. Now that the book is closed on Thor, for right now I’m solely focused on Avengers and making that the next part of my career at Marvel.
And that includes picking up threads I laid down all the way back into books like Ghost Rider, my first ongoing series at Marvel, and the stuff I worked on with Thor. You’ve seen bits of that already, and if you read King Thor #4, there are some teases in that for things to come in Avengers. I’m very much looking at Avengers right now as a way of tying together everything I’ve done at Marvel up to this point., all the way back to when I started at Marvel in a big way in 2007.
If you want a tease of what’s to come, I’d say there’s some stuff that’s very much brand new, and there’s some stuff that will harken back to a lot of what I’ve done in the past and a lot of the characters I’ve used over the last ten years. All of it coming together in what I think will be some of the biggest Avengers stories we’ve seen in a long, long time.