SDCC 2011: Abnett and Lanning Solicit VILLAINS FOR HIRE


The latest incarnation of Marvel’s Heroes for Hire series has only ran for nine issues as of this month, but come November, it’s already time to bring on the bad guys.

As announced at Thursday afternoon's "Marvel: Next Big Thing" panel during Comic-Con International: San Diego, Villains for Hire will take the place of Heroes for Hire on the company’s publishing schedule, keeping Misty Knight as a main character, except — as the name so clearly implies — dispatching villains working for a price rather than anyone with those with more altruistic intentions. The co-writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are sticking on the book with this new development, joined on art by Renato Arlem.

Abnett and Lanning — answering collectively as DnA — gave Newsarama a little more insight about what leads to this switch, exactly which villains will be making themselves available for hire, and the inherent fun found in writing the morally deficient. 


Newsarama: Dan, Andy, the obvious question that comes to mind regarding Villains for Hire is whether this shift was always part of the plan since the <>Heroes for Hire launch last fall — or did the inspiration for this come somewhere later along the way?

DnA: We had always wanted to do a villain version of the H4H set-up, it offers so much potential for action and drama, but we wanted it to grow naturally from the story and character arcs we were developing. The image of the Heroes for Hire logo with “Heroes” scrawled through and “Villains” written over the top has been with us from the start it’s great that we’ve got to this point in the story arc that we can tell this tale.


Nrama: Then, of course, there's the other obvious question, the juiciest one and quite possibly the one you'll want to hold back on the most: What villains will be a part of the cast?

DnA: There’s Stilt Man, Tiger Shark, Crossfire, Nightshade, Speed Demon and Bombshell — who are revealed on the #0.1 cover — and Misty’s new arch-enemy, The Purple Man. We have other surprises along the way that we won’t reveal just yet!

Nrama: And given that, I imagine we're going to see some familiar Marvel heroes in the book as well, right?

DnA: A few familiar faces will turn up but the focus of this story is the villains, we’re hanging out with in the criminal fraternity. V4H is a dark refection of H4H — we’re in the Mirror Universe where Misty has a scar and Paladin a neat little goatee!


Nrama: Misty Knight remains the focus here, as she was in Heroes for Hire. What qualities of the character make her a good choice for the focal point? And are there other ties from the previous series in Villains for Hire?

DnA: V4H is a natural extension of the story we’re telling in H4H, the book has been re-named for the duration of this story arc as Misty is forced into recruiting super villains for a very special mission as she is forced to confront the Purple Man, who proves he’s a very deadly foe indeed!

Nrama: Comic books starring villains have historically had a bit of a tricky time finding an audience, for whatever reason. Does that notion affect your approach at all?

DnA: Not really, we wanted to explore the concept of Heroes for Hire from the villainous P.O.V. and are having a great time seeing where that notion is taking us. It’s really interesting to spend some time with characters who aren’t constrained by the usual heroic moral standards, it’s offering up some really great dark humor and gritty action sequences. After all, everybody loves a bad boy, right?


Nrama: Also, in the book are the villains seen as the protagonists, perhaps even presented in a sympathetic light — or are the villains still very much the "bad guys" here? (Hopefully that makes sense!)

DnA: The villains here are seriously dangerous dudes. There’s no honor among thieves — they’d stab each other in the back at the drop of a cowl. Misty's forced to keep her wits about her when dealing with these guys and she finds herself immersed in Marvel’s criminal underworld which is no walk in the park!


Nrama: Renato Arlem is on art for the series. I don't think you guys have worked together before, but he did illustrate one of the Annihilation tie-ins. Do you feel sort of a kinship with him due to the shared cosmic-gone-street level experience?

DnA: We were aware of Renato’s work from what he did on Annihilation: Silver Surfer and have been blown away by the pages he’s turning in. He’s evolved his style into a fantastic blend of gritty realism and dark, film noir with awesome storytelling and great kinetic action sequences. It’s like he’s channelling Alex Maleev and Al Williamson and making a style that’s distinctly his own. We’re blown away with what he’s doing.


Nrama: Is the plan for the book to go long-term with the new concept? Given the nature of the concept, it sounds like it may be something like a closed-ended ongoing with a definite stopping point in mind, but that may be totally off base.

DnA: Villains for Hire will run for six issues in total; including a 0.1 issue, which acts as a prologue of sorts. We’ll see who’s left standing at the end before revealing any future plans… 

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