ClanDestine first debuted at Marvel in 1994, a superpowered family created by Alan Davis, with origins dating back to the 12th century of the Marvel Universe.
Following an original run of 12 issues, the characters have returned in several subsequent projects, including 1996's X-Men/ClanDestine and a 2008 ClanDestine miniseries. Though existing as their own entity mostly separate from Marvel continuity, the clan is interacting with some of the publisher's most iconic superheroes in a major way this summer, with three annuals written and illustrated by Alan Davis — July's Fantastic Four Annual #33, and August's Daredevil Annual #1 and Wolverine Annual #1.
Newsarama talked with Davis — who's also working on The Mighty Thor and Journey Into Mystery crossover "Everything Burns" this summer — via email to learn about how this story came together, get his thoughts on returning to his creations, and how he's balanced his busy Marvel schedule in recent years.Newsarama: Alan, it's been a few years since your last ClanDestine story. What got the ball rolling with this series of annuals? Why was now the right time for you to return to the characters?
Alan Davis: Marvel contacted me in 2006 to ask if I would be interested in reviving the ClanDestine. The series had always had a small but loyal following who lobbied for a return, and I guess someone in power agreed.
This resulting 2008 ClanDestine five issue mini-series didn't sell well enough to warrant a regular series but there was enough enthusiasm that it was suggested the characters should be introduced to a wider audience through some sort of crossover with the mainstream. I had previously resisted any suggestion of releasing the Clan into the Marvel Universe — possibly to the detriment of the title — but, after having so much fun with the five-issue series, decided I couldn't say no.
Nrama: The comic book industry is a very different place now than they were in 1994 when ClanDestine first debuted. Obviously, it's a concept that has been around for centuries in the fictional world — how well do you think ClanDestine fits into the current comic book climate?
Davis: I really don't know. Even in 1994 the ClanDestine was intended to swim against the mainstream tide. Superficially, the ClanDestine celebrates many of the best superhero clichés but the basic premise avoids the familiar "group dynamic" clichés and has a more individual substance.
The ClanDestine aren't a team or group. They are an insanely dysfunctional family, some of whom are centuries old, and, crucially, none of them have any interest in being heroes or saving the world — except for the teenage twins who hero worship Spider-Man. The stories are fast paced and densely plotted, but I'd like to think that anyone with an open mind will find them entertaining.
Nrama: Since they are your creations, how natural is it to pick back up with these characters? Has your perspective on them changed at all in the interim years since you've last worked on them?
Davis: I've not made any conscious or deliberate changes. Each of the various appearances have been concurrent in real "Marvel" time despite any developments in the greater Marvel Universe — which isn't really apparent except for costume variations. In 1994 I plotted more than two years' worth of story and I've followed that as closely as possible despite a decade break or new formats.
Nrama: This current story stretches across Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Wolverine annuals. What made these characters (and Doctor Strange, it appears) right for the story?
Davis: Once the format had been decided Tom Brevoort gave me a list of available titles to choose from. Many of my original (1994) plots included cameos by mainstream Marvel characters so, to a degree, I just changed focus to make characters originally intended for a cameo, within the ClanDestine book, the star of the story. This reduced the Clan's role within the annuals but it hasn't altered the key events or outcome of the story.
Nrama: And is it fair to say that the ClanDestine are essentially co-stars of each annual, along with the titular heroes?
Davis: That might have been the original intention but I didn't want to write three individual stories, each requiring a similar introduction of the established ClanDestine "group," so I devised a story arc that has three individual chapters but also works as a single epic tale.
The Wolverine book is perhaps the closest to a team-up because, as the final chapter of the trilogy, it builds upon and resolves developments from the Fantastic Four and Daredevil books, which are both completely stand-alone stories.
Nrama: Obviously FF, DD and Wolverine are all important — which ClanDestine characters are central to the story?
Davis: Vincent, who has been referred to but never seen plays a big part in all three books. Other members of the Destine family make appearances across the three books but not always as they have previously appeared because the story jumps around in time — and dimensions.
Nrama: To whatever extent you can speak to this, where do we find the ClanDestine characters when the story picks up? Has a lot changed for them since their last appearance?
Davis: No. The story begins just days after, and as a results of, an event at the conclusion of the five-issue ClanDestine miniseries. But, as I've already mentioned, it's how that event impacts on the Thing, Human Torch, Daredevil and Doctor Strange rather than the ClanDestine.
Nrama: You've been very busy at Marvel lately, in what's one of your most prolific periods in recent memory — just wrapped a Captain America arc and soon moving on to The Mighty Thor, which is being released concurrent to the ClanDestine annuals. This is also the first thing you've written and drawn for Marvel recently — how has it been working on both sides of the page, so to speak?
Davis: It may seem prolific because of the way titles appear in print. I actually finished the Annual plots, with near full script, in 2008 and had penciled the FF and DD annuals in 2009. I had agreed to work on the annuals in tandem with other commitments but there were so many — Avengers Prime, Dark Reign, Young Avengers, X-Men: Schism and numerous covers — that it has been a long slow process.
Nrama: And what can we expect from your upcoming Thor issues?
Davis: Everything and everyone. So far the only character I haven't drawn is Don Blake!
Nrama: You've done a lot of noteworthy work on Marvel and DC superheroes over the years, but ClanDestine stands out as arguably your most famous creation. How important has it been to your career over the years?
Davis: I don't know about most famous. My experience suggests there is a broad spectrum to readers preferences. Some folk are DC fans and regard The Nail and Another Nail as my best work. Killraven bombed in the US but won awards in Europe.
The slightly curious thing about ClanDestine is I've yet to meet anyone who actually read it that didn't like it. The worrying thing however is some fans admit to reading ClanDestine as a guilty pleasure. Surprised that they enjoyed it so much. We can only hope that these clandestine ClanDestine readers decide to go public and spread the word.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!