Marvel’s latest “Next Big Thing” conference call with the comic book press features writer Jonathan Hickman and executive editor Tom Brevoort talking Avengers and New Avengers, and based on the art revealed thus far (click for a bigger version of each cover), it looks like the first details of the December-debuting new volume of New Avengers are set to be revealed.
Keep refreshing for live updates from the call.
Thing getting started now — Hickman, Brevoort and Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso are all on the call, along with Marvel marketing’s James Viscardi.
Viscardi asks Hickman the coolest thing about writing Avengers so far. “The coolest thing is that I’m writing Avengers,” Hickman replies. “It’s a special book. I’m getting to work with a small brigade of Marvel’s best artists.”
The first three-issue arc of Avengers, Hickman discloses, is called “Avengers World.” “The Avengers have to become something bigger, something more, in order to do what it is that they’re supposed to do. We open with them facing a threat that is larger and different than anything they have faced before. Very quickly, we see the back story of how Tony Stark and Captain America have been quietly building this contingency plan for this inevitable day which is where we basically start off in the first issue.”
On the expanded Avengers lineup, Hickman says it was agreed upon that the roster should “look more like the world.” “What people have seen so far are the biggest and most iconic characters that everyone knows or has some familiarity with,” Hickman continues. “As we reach #7 and #8, the book is populated with new or revised versions of established characters.” There will be about 24 characters on the team in total. “By the time we get to 22 characters on the book, 12 are either female or minority, and we feel like we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do, which is a book that looks like the world.”
Now time for the New Avengers lineup announcement: “It’s the Illuminati that [Brian Michael] Bendis and company introduced. It’s about the guys that very quietly and secretly run the world. It’s thematically much different than what’s going on in Avengers.” Hickman says the Avengers are the “ideal Avengers,” while the New Avengers “live in the world as it is, which is dark and apocalyptic. We’re pretty excited about it. The books will work together in tandem, you don’t have to read them together, but if you’re reading both, they’ll be lots of little things that kind of echo across the books. They’re two sides of the same coin, with radically different stories.”
The full roster: Captain America, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt (“back on Earth,” Hickman says), Namor (“despite everything that’s going on”), Black Panther (who, Hickman notes, originally declined Illuminati membership). “Even though some of them don’t like each other and don’t get along, they have to save the world.” Mr. Fantastic and Beast also appear to be on the New Avengers covers released today by Marvel.
When prompted by Alonso, Hickman says he wants to take the Avengers books in a “completely different direction,” with a much bigger scale, while staying true to the core concepts. “Take something from an A game to an A+ game.”
Brevoort adds that he sees the core Avengers book as “almost the Aaron Sorkin Avengers. Not in terms that they walk and talk a lot, but they’re built around this idea of big ideas and big idealism. Whereas the New Avengers are closer to the real world, and what goes on behind closed doors. These are the clandestine Avengers.”
Hickman says that his Avengers pitch probably could have gotten pitched “as is,” but if his Fantastic Four run hadn’t worked out, there was no way he could have done New Avengers, which he predicts to be the “sleeper hit” of Marvel NOW!.
First question, from us: What are the challenges in balancing such a large cast in Avengers, especially with multiple new characters? “We thought a lot about this, how to make something like this work. Just thinking of a structure with the rest of the guys We have a monthly ongoing Hulk book, and a Wolverine book, and a Captain America book… We have all of those books. So if you write a book about the Avengers, and it’s a team of all of those guys, really you limit yourself and what you can do in terms of character development. Structurally, we’re going with three issue arcs that are really big stories.” Hickman added that means the characters who will only appear in Avengers will be a focal point. “I’m not worried about it, I think we have a really smart plan to address it. The writing, at this point, feels like we’re accomplishing it.”
Next question, from iFanboy: Villains? Hickman says he’s “making a lot of new bad guys,” but there will also be updated versions of traditional Avengers enemies.
Next question, from IGN: How does Hickman compare Avengers to his Ultimates run? It’s a lot different, Hickman replies. “One of them felt like I could do whatever I wanted beyond any repercussions other than how it affected the story, and here, it’s not that way at all. And obviously the characters are different. It feels like two completely different jobs.”
Next question, from Kotaku: If the team has some lesser-known characters, what’s the strategy for meeting expectations? “We’re going to put Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine and Spider-Man on it,” Brevoort pointed out. Hickman says he’s not worried about it.
Next question, from io9: What motivated Hickman to include Sunspot and Cannonball? Hickman says he’s always liked them a lot. “Cannonball and Sunspot are, at least chronologically, younger characters,” Brevoort adds, which he says is always a good thing, but they’re also established Marvel characters who have earned their place.
Next question, from CBR: Does Hickman have similar goals as he did at the onset of his Fantastic Four run? “I have a responsibility to the company to sell a lot of copies, and I have a responsibility to the fans that they enjoy the sh*t out of it,” he replies. “I enjoy the fact that we’ve got killer artists, that always helps.”
Next question, from me: Are Beast and Mr. Fantastic, who appears to be on the covers, also part of New Avengers, and is that Hyperion on the cover of Avengers #4? Yes and yes.
Next question, from iFanboy, concerns the tension between the New Avengers members? “It’s always been a loose affiliation,” Hickman says, adding that it’s not a “cheery” story, and that issues like the ones between Namor and Black Panther will definitely be addressed.
Next questions, from IGN: Do either of the books pick up anything from Secret Warriors? Eden Fesi is in Avengers, and readers will learn more about how his powers affect the Marvel Universe.
Next question, from Kotaku: Does Hickman’s work on Fantastic Four and FF segue into these books? “If you’ve been reading the Fantastic Four books for the last six months or so, I’ve been dropping hints like crazy about the stuff that’s coming up,” Hickman says, especially with Black Panther, Reed Richards and Black Bolt.
Next question, from io9: Does the book touch on how the Avengers are viewed post-Avengers vs. X-Men? Brevoort says that’ll primarily be dealt with in Bendis’s final Avengers arcs, and that the Marvel NOW! series are meant to be more of a clean slate.
Next question, from CBR: Do the Avengers book have anything to do with returning to old-school Marvel ideals? “It would be strong to say that I don’t care about that, of course I care,” Hickman says, “It’s really not the point. The point is an entirely new direction, and entirely new adventures that are the logical next step of everything that’s happened in the Avengers before. It’s a new day kind of thing.
Last question, from Marvel.com: Who will the lead the Avengers? “Cap is in charge, of course,” Hickman says. “And he has two vice captains; Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers and Iron Man, Tony Stark. For bigger things, it splits into three fronts, with each one commanding the sub-squad. In New Avengers, they all think they’re in charge.” Brevoort says that in that book, “they’re all captains, with maybe one foot soldier, who’s conflicted about what he should do.”
To wrap up: Avengers #1 and #2 are both out in December, and the first two issues of New Avengers are out in January.
That’s it! Thanks for reading.