War Rages Through The Decades in CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA


If you were to close your eyes and think up typical actions that Captain America frequently engages in, one of the top five is probably him getting attacked by — and promptly dispatching — a few dozen Hydra agents. The terrorist organization, first introduced in 1965’s Strange Tales #135, has been causing problems for the Marvel Universe in general and Captain America in specific for a good long while now, and that’s exactly what’s being explored in the upcoming five-part Marvel Comics miniseries Captain America: Hail Hydra.

The series, starting in January 2011, is written by Jonathan Maberry (DoomWar) and illustrated by a rotating team including Sergio Cariello (Dynamite’s The Lone Ranger), Tom Sciola (Godland), Phil Winslade (Howard the Duck) and Kyle Hotz (Annihilation: Conquest – Wraith). It starts in World War II with something called the “Lazarus Plague,” and ends up in the present day, detailing how Hydra has remained a uniquely persistent threat — y'know, the kind where two heads grow back if one is cut off — throughout the decades.

Looking at Maberry’s other writing credits — horror novels like Ghost Road Blues and grittier Marvel characters like Wolverine and Punisher — he might seem like an unconventional choice to take on Captain America. Except to him, that is. As Newsarama learned through an e-mail interview with Maberry, it’s an opportunity that the writer's been looking forward to for a long time.

Newsarama: Captain America seems like it might be an usual choice for you as a writer. Are you a Cap fan? Have you been looking for a chance to write him for a while?

Jonathan Maberry: I’ve been a Cap fan since the ‘60s. I jumped into reading Marvel in ’66 and by November of that year I was reading Cap. I also had access to some seriously battered copies of the Cap stories from the 1940s.

I have about ten million Captain America stories in my head, some of which have been cooking since 1966. When Marvel asked me to pitch some ideas for this project, I was locked and loaded.

Nrama: The series takes place through a number of decades in the Cap/Hydra relationship. What specific timelines do the five issues cover?

Maberry: We enter the story in 1944, as Cap and Bucky smash a lab where Nazi scientists are cooking up something very nasty. The story then picks up just after Cap has been rescued from the arctic ice by the newly-formed Avengers. Then we jump forward to the first era of Captain America and the Falcon; then to Cap’s Nomad days; and then to modern day. This allows us to see a big chunk of Cap’s personal and public development, his struggles to weigh idealism against patriotism, and the effect of being somewhat out of step with regular time.

Nrama: Which Captain America eras are the most fun for you to write?

Maberry: I have a special love for the ‘60s and early ‘70s Cap. I loved the Red Skull’s sleeper robots, the SHIELD tie-ins, and the friendship that developed between Cap and the Falcon. But the first issue, set during World War II was a heck of a lot of fun to write.

Nrama: The text also talks about "the Lazarus Plague." What can you tell us about that, and is it the throughline that ties the five issues together?

Maberry: The Lazarus Plague is something Hydra has been working on for decades, but it’s part of a larger project that has obsessed them for centuries. We see a part of Hydra’s past that goes back to ancient times.

Lazarus was a person brought back from the dead. Conquering death is the goal of the project. But this is not a plan designed for the betterment of mankind.

When Cap first encounters the Lazarus Project he thinks he and Bucky destroy it. Over the years he sees it rear its head again, and each time he believes he’s stopped it; but Hydra isn’t easily stopped. As Cap finds out.

The end-game of Hydra is a real killer, but details on that are filed under ‘spoilers!’

Nrama: Captain America is clearly a consistent character, but surely even he changes over the decades — since you series takes place in various timelines, in what ways does your take on Captain America change through the eras?

Maberry: Funny thing is, Cap has always been in a process of change while remaining in stasis. The one part of him that never changes is ethical viewpoint. He is a humanist and an ethicist, and a champion of “might for right.” Very Arthurian in some regards. At the same time, he sees how politicians and governments have used patriotism and loyalty as weapons and tools of manipulative statecraft. Cap wants to be a symbol, but at different times he has had to step back to prevent others from using him as a symbol for their agenda rather than as a symbol of the higher ideals of the American people. He’s put down his shield and even given it away at times because of this idealistic struggle.

Nrama: Sometimes Hydra can have the perception of being a looming, mysterious organization, but not necessarily a very immediate or personal threat. How are you portraying Hydra in the book?

Maberry: I’m giving them a makeover to show that they are an ancient and very powerful organization run by highly intelligent and patient sorcerer-scientists. They are not slaves to any particular political ideology: their values predate all existing cultures. Over the years, however, they’ve put on masks in order to blend in with different groups, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Nazis, the al-Qaeda, etc.

Because they are so deeply wired into to all world cultures, they’re almost impossible to stop. That’s a timeless concept, but in light of how modern terrorism works, it’s also very immediate and scary.

Nrama: Why makes Hydra an ideal opponent for Captain America, especially such an enduring one?

Maberry: It’s a clash between a group who are the ultimate cynics and users and the ultimate idealist. Hydra is all about covertly wresting control away from people, and Cap is all about freedom.

Nrama: Are we going to see all of the traditional Hydra characters — Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, Viper, Madame Hydra?

Maberry: Von Strucker is in the mix, but we’ll meet some new players, including the creepy Dr. Geist –who is descended from a long line of sorcerer-scientists and who heads the Lazarus Project. We also get to meet the Resurrection Corps, a team of neo-immortals.

Nrama: One of the biggest Hydra-related revelations in recent years was in Secret Warriors, where Nick Fury discovered Hydra had secretly controlled SHIELD for years. Is that touched upon at all in your series?

Maberry: I have no current plans to delve into that except in a quick aside. This is a different arm of the massive beast that is Hydra.

Nrama: The book has rotating artists. From your standpoint, what are some of the advantages and/or challenges of writing each issue for a different artist?

Maberry: Funny thing about that. Editor Bill Rosemann and I discussed a lot of different artists and what their styles would bring to the visual storytelling component. Once I knew who the artists were (and I am totally jazzed with all five of them), it flooded me with a lot of ideas based on what I knew about those artists. In a very real way, their artistic vision inspired new and exciting story elements in the scripts.

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