Remender Guides a Superpowered Banker with ONE MONTH TO LIVE

ONE MONTH TO LIVE Gets Digital Release

Heroic Age: One Month to Live isn’t a typical Marvel Comics miniseries. Though the story features many of the publisher's iconic superheroes, it stars a banker named Dennis Sykes. Its five issues will ship weekly starting on Wednesday, penned by four different writers. And the title of the comic gives you a pretty good clue on the likelihood of readers seeing the main character after this series concludes.

These unconventional elements are precisely what attracted Rick Remender, writer of the first and last issues, to One Month to Live, depicting the journey of Sykes from normal guy to superpowered being — an experience that may cost him his life.

“It’s a unique story in the Marvel Universe exploring things that we all can relate to, an examination of mortality, somewhat akin to ‘The Death of Captain Marvel’ but with an everyman bestowed powers. I don’t think we’ve seen this specific kind of approach taken in a superhero book,” Remender told Newsarama during a phone interview. “The focus was to tell a human story more than anything else, while also telling something that felt like a big classic Marvel tale.”

Remender realizes that the nature of One Month to Live might make it a hard sell to some fans.

“I think there is a mentality that stories need to ‘matter’ in the ongoing continuity a lot more than judging something based on the inherent value of it,” Remender said. “I hope people will get past that way of thinking and try this out. A good story is better than one that moves forward continuity. In my opinion.”

Dennis Sykes gains the power to manipulate matter in typical Marvel Comics fashion, but it comes with a “very rapid, mutated strain” of cancer that leaves him with a rather bleak prognosis. The broader themes of the project hit home for both Remender and One Month to Live editor Steve Wacker.

“This was a concept that [Wacker] had come up with after dealing with some personal issues,” said Remender, praising Wacker for pushing him out of his comfort zone as a writer. “My dad’s a cancer survivor, so I’ve recently dealt with having my life turned upside-down dealing with the disease as well and wanted to explore the effect it had on me.”

Noticing that the usual depiction of these types of events is to portray someone’s life as perfect until being shaken up by catastrophic news, it was important to Remender to present a more realistic take. Sykes is the adopted father of his niece, whose mother was killed by a drunk driver and father died of an ailment years prior.

“When my dad’s cancer was diagnosed, I was in the middle of five different jobs — writing three comic books, penciling a comic book, and working full-time as a storyboard artist at Electronic Arts,” said Remender, who created Sykes. “My wife was sick as well, there was just too much to deal with, and all of a sudden my dad had very aggressive cancer. It seemed unfair, it seemed like it was insurmountable, so it was important that Dennis dealt with the same kind of chaos, perfect storm of garbage, we all end up dealing with at some point.”

Another important aspect of Sykes is that, despite living in a city that Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers call home, he’s lived a rather mundane existence before acquiring superpowers.

“Dennis has basically been planted in the same neighborhood in Queens, where his father lived, in the house that his father bought in the late ‘60s,” Remender explained. “It’s kept him from experiencing life — Dennis hasn’t really done much. He hasn’t seen the rest of the world. He took a job as a banker to pay the bills, and he’s sort of counted down the days since. He spent most of his time doing what he’s supposed to do, and that was provide.”

Remender’s issues, starting and closing the series, are more “grounded” than the middle sections, which see Sykes encountering some of the more fantastic elements of the Marvel Universe, including a trip with Wolverine to the Savage Land in issue #4. The writer compares One Month to Live to his Dark Horse series Fear Agent, in that they both have high adventure with human drama at their core."

“He ends up in some traditional, big action situations — he ends up going against Ego, the Living Planet, helping Spider-Man deal with Mr. Negative and Hammerhead,” Remender said. “He ends up meeting with the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. He basically wants to make his mark, and he’s not sure how to do it, the heroes help him.

Remender writes issue #1 with Andrea Mutti on art, and #5 drawn by Jamie McKelvie. Issue #2 is written by Rob Williams with art from Shawn Moll and Koi Turnbull, issue #3 is written by Stuart Moore and illustrated by Shane White, and issue #4 is written by John Ostrander, with Graham Nolan on art.

Remender said that using multiple writers in one miniseries was key in getting different perspective on these vital days in the life of Dennis Sykes.

“The other writers, without talking for them, they’ve all had similar experiences,” Remender said. “When we got on the phone, they all had terrific suggestions and insights, it became a really wonderful collaborative process at that point.”

As a testament to the unique appeal of the project, One Month to Live will be released digitally through Marvel’s online platforms one week after the print comics debut, an uncommonly narrow window for the two distribution methods.

“They’re only pushing their new books digitally that they feel are the kind of books that can be read by a wide audience and enjoyed,” Remender said. “It feels nice that they think we made something here that has potential broad appeal.

At its root, One Month to Live is a story meant to be relatable to anyone, not just superhero comic book fans.

“He’s sort of an everyman. He’s sort of like any of us in this situation,” Remender said. “We all think we have 70 to 80 years to mess around; Dennis realizes he’s only got 30 days. It boils down to him discovering what is truly important to him, and what kind of mark he wants to leave on the world.”

Which is, for Remender, perfectly in keeping with Marvel’s storytelling.

“I think one thing that makes Marvel Comics work really above and beyond and always has been sort of the charm, is that they are closer to the real world,” Remender said. “The characters are damaged and relatable.”

What would you do with superpowers and ONE MONTH TO LIVE?

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