Rodi and Choi Bring Their 'A-Game' to ASTONISHING THOR

Rodi and Choi Take On ASTONISHING THOR

Back in February, Marvel Comics announced its “Astonishing” line, inspired by the ultra-popular Astonishing X-Men. Like that title, the comics are meant to deliver stories that are in continuity, but not so entrenched in it that the uninitiated would be lost. The first new title from the line was the currently unfolding Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine, and come November, writer Robert Rodi (Codename: Knockout) and artist Mike Choi (X-Force) debut the five-issue miniseries Astonishing Thor, with covers from Essad Ribic. With a Thor feature film mere months away, producing new reader-friendly material featuring the character is pretty much a no-brainer.

Rodi hasn’t been writing comic books much in recent years — instead focusing on projects like his 2007 novel When You Were Me and last year’s nonfiction work Dogged Pursuit — but when he has, it’s starred the Asgardians. He wrote 2005’s Loki miniseries, and Thor: For Asgard, his collaboration with artist Simone Bianchi, starts in September.

Choi, though, is a newcomer to this side of the Marvel Universe, until now focusing on the X-Men family of titles his entire stint with the publisher. Newsarama talked to both of them via telephone to discuss early details on Astonishing Thor, the merits of sitting around in your underwear and how Choi didn’t want his art to look like “a regular person talking to a tiny person.” (Yes, that all relates to Astonishing Thor.)

Newsarama: What drew you both to the project? Robert, obviously you’ve worked with Thor and the Asgardians in Loki and next month’s For Asgard, but Mike, you’ve been off in the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe for the last few years.

Robert Rodi: Obviously, they like the way I do Thor. I have a facility for handling him and particularly for handling the tone of the series, the dialogue. And I love doing it. Loki, for me, was kind of a very intense character study. Kind of a Shakespearean thing — I wanted to do Loki as a villain like Iago or MacBeth. For Asgard is like a Tolkien-esque type of thing, this big sprawling fantasy. With Astonishing Thor, they wanted to do something set in continuity, big and cosmic. So it’s an opportunity to do the character from another entirely different point-of-view. I’m getting to play in the Stan and Jack sandbox, and that’s a hell of a lot of fun.

That’s what I love about Thor. You can do so many different types of stories — you can do fantasy, you can do science fiction, you can do superhero, you can do sword and sorcery. It’s wide open.

Nrama: He’s a surprisingly versatile character.

Rodi: Yeah, and this is a big space opera that we’re doing. But we’re using quite a number of the big Marvel cosmic characters. One of them will be left in a position very different from the way he came into the story.

Nrama: Could you let us in on some of the specific characters that will be showing up? The solicitations released recently mentioned Ego, The Living Planet.

Mike Choi: That’s what I’m excited about.

Rodi: I love working with Ego, I love the idea of trying to explore Ego as an actual living planet. Someone with his own biosphere, his own magnetic field. We’ve got a spin to put on him that I think will surprise everyone.

I haven’t been able to use any of the regular supporting cast of the Thor series, so I’ve had to draft up my own supporting characters. I’ve revived a bronze-age superheroine who hasn’t been seen in like, 30-years. We’re explaining where she’s been. It’s been a lot of fun. Ralph Macchio worked really hard to pull together a story that’s gonna knock people out, and I’m happy with what we came up with.

Nrama: So why is this miniseries an “Astonishing” title?

Rodi: It is in continuity, but the idea with the Astonishing books is that they want to attract new readers, off the film. It’s in continuity, but it has to stand on its own. I don’t want to use the same characters that Matt [Fraction] is using in the monthly book, because obviously he’s using them.

Nrama: The other new “Astonishing” title this year, Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine, has been one of the best received Marvel titles of the year.

Rodi: The bar is set pretty high. We’ve got to come in with our “A” game here. We know that.

Nrama: Mike, how’s it been stepping away from the X-Men side of things, and working on a more cosmic story?

Choi: Not only have I just been working with the X-Universe, I’ve really only had very limited experience working with various writers others than Craig [Kyle] and Chris [Yost], who I absolutely love, and that I’ve gotten used to kind of their shorthand, in terms of being able to hopefully foresee what they wanted or what they’d expect in the pages. Honestly, seeing Robert’s script, it’s completely different from what I’m used to, in a really good way. There’s so much — I’m not going to see freedom, because Robert’s still really specific in terms of what he wants — but the scale of everything is on a different level. I’m not saying I prefer one style over the other, but it’s pretty crazy.

I’ve never drawn a planet before. It’s always like, “draw a cityscape, with a hundred people in it.” Yeah, OK, I’ll do that just fine.

Rodi: I’ve given you lots of splash pages, though.

Choi: Which I love! Absolutely love. I looked through the script, and the first thing I said to Ralph was, “holy crap, I’m used to the eight, nine-panel pages.”

Rodi: I’m giving you some place to show off here.

Choi: I love it. It’s going to be great. It gives you a lot of chances to play with different scale. There is no pressure to make everything just a splash shot of Thor. Like Ego for example, I definitely want to show him as a planet — not as a ball in space. The guy’s basically as big as a planet, and Thor’s going to look like a speck.

Nrama: So, then is Thor a character you were a fan of previously?

Choi: I’m a huge fan of Thor. I got a chance to check out the Thor set a few months ago. I’ve actually pitched a couple of stories to Marvel and they were both Thor and Asgard related. One was actually a Loki story.

I’m also a huge fan of the cosmic stuff. Like Ego, I knew from Infinity Gauntlet a long time ago. The thing that I’m trying to do, is you know when you have a giant talking to a regular person, what you don’t want is for it to look like a regular person talking to a tiny person? You want to keep the scale. You want it to look like Thor is talking to a planet, not a soccer ball that’s talking to a tiny little insect. It’s totally a different thing than I’ve ever done before.

Nrama: Other then the scale and content, is your stylistic approach different for this project?

Choi: From an aesthetic point-of-view, I’m actually not going to be working with [colorist] Sonia Oback on this book. That’s actually the first in about five years. There’s a lot of flashback sequences that I can play around with, stylistically. The main point is I wanted to give it a really epic type of feel. You want to tell a great story, and you want it to be absolutely clear what the story is, and to really showcase what Robert and Ralph have been doing, but at the same time you kind of also want to make it artistic. Not to sound like a complete and utter pretentious douchebag, but I want to be an artist for this, not just a “comic book artist.”

I’m trying to put in some fine-artsy crap, as well, trying to tell the story as best as possible.

Rodi: I saw some of your layouts today, and I loved them. They’ve got some real energy.

Nrama: Robert, between this and For Asgard, this is your first Marvel work and your first comic book work in general in a few years. Obviously you’re a writer in many disciplines, but is it good to be back full-speed in the comic book world?

Rodi: It’s great. I’m having a good time. I took a couple of years off to write a couple of non-fiction books that involved a lot of traveling and a lot of research, but I’m glad to be back.

There’s been a little bit of overlap, because the book I just finished, I’m writing about the Palio, which is the bareback horse race that takes place twice a year in Siena, Italy. So I’ve been going there every couple of months. Lucca is not too far from Siena, and that’s where Simone Binachi lives, so every time I’ve gone over there I’ve taken the train and hung out with Simone for the day, and I’ve been able to watch the pages come together. It’s been great. I’m very excited to be back at Marvel and working on Thor, and I hope it’s a long relationship now.

Nrama: This is a bit preliminary and speculative, but other than Thor, what are some other Marvel characters you’d like to get a chance to work on?

Rodi: I’d love to do Doctor Strange. It’s kind of hard to say — they’re all good. I love all of them. I think I tend to gravitate towards the one that haven’t been able to make a big splash lately, then if they do make a big splash I get bragging rights. All the minor characters — I’d love to do something with, like, Fantomex.

Nrama: Well, he’s in the new Uncanny X-Force series.

Rodi: I think he’s a solo star, though. He’s a solo star and no one knows it but me.

Nrama: It’s cool to see your name on these upcoming projects after being away from the industry for a few years.

Rodi: I’m hoping this is a long run now, because I’m tired of traveling. I just want to sit in my office in my underwear and make up stuff for a couple of years.

Does this miniseries sound like a Tale to Astonish?

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