At C2E2 two weekends ago in Chicago, Nick Spencer hinted that a rather big-name writer would be coming on board Secret Avengers following his Point One installment of the series and three Fear Itself tie-in issues. As announced Saturday afternoon during Marvel's "Cup O' Joe" WonderCon in San Francisco, it turns out that writer is Warren Ellis, he of Transmetropolitan, Authority, Planetary and Nextwave fame.For Secret Avengers, Ellis is revisiting the Global Frequency and Fell formula, with every issue being a done-in-one story. He's being joined by a variety of artists, starting with Jamie McKelvie (Phonogram, Generation Hope) in August's #16. Newsarama talked via email with both creators for more information on Secret Avengers — and some colorful commentary from Ellis. Newsarama: Warren, you're obviously pretty selective with the work-for-hire stuff you take on — what attracted you to Secret Avengers?
Warren Ellis: Ed Brubaker made me do it. Ed's a Hollywood guy now, and knows all kinds of scary people. If I hadn't taken the gig, I would have lost my LA privileges.
Nrama: And for this run, you're doing a series of self-contained, one-issue stories, similar with what you did with Fell. Why was that the right approach for this book?
Ellis: Well, Ed told me that one of the big influences behind the books conception was my Global Frequency. Which was a series of self-contained single issues (that predates Fell). So, I thought, I sort of remember how to write those, so let's take Secret Avengers all the way back there. I dunno if it's the right approach, but it's the one I'm using. It should contrast the book nicely with the other Avengers books. Since I started responding to this interview, Marvel's commissioned Naked Avengers from Bendis, but that opens with a six-issue arc entitled "Avengers Disrobed," so we're still good.Nrama: Jamie, you're re-teaming with Warren Ellis (who you worked with on an Osborn back-up), and noted on Twitter a few weeks ago that an Ellis script was making you go blind, so it sounds like something had a profound effect.
Jamie McKelvie: It's mostly because... well, you'll see when you turn to page 4 of the issue. You know how Warren used to joke "I can write 'double page splash, aliens appear over LA' in seconds and it will take Bryan Hitch three days to draw it?" That. It's great, though, when you're challenged it makes you get better.
Or curl into a ball crying.
Warren is great to work with. His scripts are very entertaining, and he knows how to write an action scene. I can pretty much see exactly what the page should look like as I'm reading the script. And, like I say, he's willing to push me so that I can grow as an artist.
Sorry, that was a bit hippie, wasn't it?
Nrama: Warren, a big part of the appeal of Secret Avengers is the unique lineup, with characters pulled from throughout the Marvel Universe. Are you going to be sticking with the lineup we've seen in the book so far, or maybe making a few alterations?
Ellis: Sticking with the lineup: there was nothing in Ed's run that was broken, after all. The one thing I am doing is, because of the self-contained single issues, using fewer of the overall cast per issue. Think of the entire cast as a pool from which people can be drawn per mission.
Nrama: Though your first issue is still about four months away, can you comment at all on the nature of the threats the Secret Avengers will be facing? Sounds like we're talking large-scale, global threats.
Ellis: Who told you that? Who's lying to you? Give me their names, Albert. I will deal with them. I am not like the others. I am your friend.
Also, Bendis just started writing Large-Scale Global Avengers. So I have to have the Secret Avengers beating up prescription drugs abusers outside pharmacies while disguised as a KISS tribute band now.
Nrama: OK, I'll forego any hackneyed Secret Avengers-as-KISS members jokes, and instead ask this: are there any characters from the lineup that you're especially looking forward to writing? Given what you did with, say, American Eagle in Thunderbolts, I think it's clear that you have the ability to pull a lot out of unexpected sources.
Ellis: What I will say is that Ant-Man is bullsh*t. Ed's all, "wow, you're not using Ant-Man! Ant-Man's so cool!" Which was Ed's way of saying "use Ant-Man or it will be the worse for you." But someone has to stand up to Ed Brubaker's evil And Ant-Man is a "superhero" of the size and essential usefulness of an errant blob of snot. Ant-Man is bullsh*t. Say it with me.Nrama: Jamie, are there any Secret Avengers characters you've found uniquely (or surprisingly) fun to illustrate?
McKelvie: I actually had a great time on all of them. They've got such different personalities, body language, and so on, that they each presented a different challenge. I've drawn two of them before — one of them only briefly — and it was nice to be able to work on and develop how I draw them.Nrama: A widescreen, action movie-type comic is a little different than what people might expect from you, Jamie, given quieter comics like this month's Generation Hope #5. So is this assignment you changing things up a bit?
McKelvie: Yes! I've been pegged as the guy who draws emotion and body language, and that's cool, because those are two very important aspects of telling a story with images. But this issue is kind of crazy full of action, punching, explosions and so on. And I loved working on it, so much fun. I don't want to spoil the issue but it's very, very different from what people might expect from me.Nrama: And with all this Bendis talk (fairly inevitable in any Marvel interview; essentially obligatory in one about an Avengers title) it brings to mind that he happens to be writing a comic book starring one of the Secret Avengers (Moon Knight, natch). Can readers expect some degree of interaction (however subtle it may be) between the two titles?
Ellis: Not so much. I've read the first couple of issues of Bendis' Moon Knight, and... well, you'll see why there won't be any real interaction between the two titles. Also, Bendis has co-opted the character for Large Hadron Avengers.
Nrama: Are you planning on using established Marvel antagonists in these stories, or is it more about establishing new threats, like what Ed Brubaker has done with the Shadow Council? Or, y'know, possibly more likely, a mix of the two?
Ellis: We all have to do what Ed says now. He dresses like one of those old-time Mafia dons from Godfather 2 these days, and talks about "dipping his beak" a lot. If I were to create new characters, he would say "this is not the act of a friend" and the next morning I'd wake up with my kid's horse's head in my bed.
So, yes, I'm still using the Shadow Council. But it amuses me to fold some old Marvel history in there too. I just hope Ed doesn't notice. Ed is very powerful. I think that, when he dies, some two hundred years from now, he will become some kind of destroying angel and Criminal will become the new Bible. I am hiding this warning to the world in this interview in the hope that he does not notice.
Nrama: If you can talk about it at this point, is there a finite number of issues you're on board for?
Ellis: Right now, just six issues. Which is why I'm not sure why I'm doing this apparently endless interview. Basically, I have a lot of different things on the go right now — most of which haven't been announced yet — so I said to Tom, I'll do six, and if I haven't completely screwed up the deadlines by that point, then I'd love to do another six.
Nrama: On the first issue, you're working again with Jamie McKelvie . How has that collaboration been?
Ellis: As far as McKelvie goes... incredibly talented, but, you know, everything Gillen ever said about him was true. Terrible person. And Gillen, Fraction, me, we all have to work with him, like this brilliantly-gifted disease circulating around us. Like herpes that can dance and sing. Can you imagine that? "It's herpes! But it does such beautiful renditions of 'Gaudete'!" Horrible. This is how I have to live, Albert.
I just got an email from Brevoort about Herpes Avengers. I have to go now.