The new Nick Fury and Agent Phil Coulson — both familiar to the audiences of Marvel Studios films — are at the head of the new volume of Secret Avengers, debuting in February 2013 from the creative team of writer Nick Spencer and artist Luke Ross. It’s the subject of the latest Marvel “Next Big Thing” conference call with the comic book press, and we’re on the line, covering it live — this page will be updated continuously, so keep hitting refresh. And for brand-new interior art from issue #1, head over here.
“In the Marvel Universe, there’s a new S.H.I.E.L.D. that’s been constituted under the watch of Daisy Johnson and Maria Hill,” Spencer says. “They’ve brought in a new field agent in Nick Fury, formerly known as Marcus Johnson, and a new advance man, Phil Coulson.” The new S.H.I.E.L.D. is putting together their own Avengers team, and re-employing the technology used in Secret War — “Which is to say, all of these new Avengers will be given memory implants so they have no knowledge of their involvement on the team,” which is the “work around” for having a team deal with such sensitive classified information.
“We’ve got a new Iron Patriot, obviously the Hulk, the Winter Soldier will be a big part of the book, although not on the team itself, as well as some other fan favorites like Mockingbird, and others I can’t talk about,” Spencer continues.
“I already love writing Coulson,” Spencer says, adding that he’s trying to bring the “amazing voice” that Clark Gregg has brought to the Marvel Studios films. “Taskmaster gets some good time in issue #2, and I found him to be a lot of fun to write.”
Spencer calls establishing the new S.H.I.E.L.D. an “honor” for him, as well as developing the new version of Nick Fury.
Marvel marketing’s James Viscardi asks how many Helicarriers will be lost in the series. Spencer says that will be addressed by issue #3.
What does Luke Ross bring to the book? “Enthusiasm, above all,” editor Lauren Sankovitch says, also praising his design work on the series.
First press question, from us: What has it been like writing a more active Nick Fury, and what’s his role on the team? “This came directly from Tom, and immediately it just made so much sense to me,” Spencer says. “A big part of the thrill of this new Nick Fury is that he’s in the field, he’s on the missions. He’s the guy that’s on the ground with the team, and that’s a contrast to what we saw from Nick Fury Sr., especially over the last decade. A lot of times Nick would come in, and he would sort of deliver some exposition, but he was a background guy. It’s fun to have a Nick Fury that’s in the thick of it. It’s also fun to be writing a Fury that, this is all new to him. This whole world is fresh to him, and he’s still learning the ropes. Getting to write that journey is a blast.”
“In terms of his role in the book, you could sort of think of Nick as essentially the Captain America of Secret Avengers,” editor Tom Brevoort added. “He has a different approach, but as far as being that spearpoint, and the guy that leads in the front of the charge rather than back in HQ, he’s very much that character, and you see that right off the bat in issue #1.”
Next question, from Word Balloon: How “real world” will the mission be, and how much espionage versus superhero? Spencer says he’s still looking for that “perfect balance.” “The mix and match of that has been really cool for me to play with,” Spencer replies.
“While every issue that these characters are on is a character, every one of these missions happens within the Marvel Universe, and against the context of the Marvel Universe, and there’s no mission that you could pull out of that context and just play as a Bond movie, or Mission: Impossible,” Brevoort says. “All of these adventures are fairly intrinsically linked to elements and aspects and characters of the Marvel Universe that don’t exist in other genres.” Brevoort says they’re looking to do something of the “modern, 21st century equivalent” of the Silver Age Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
Next question, from CBR: In what ways were Spencer’s previous Secret Avengers issues “instructive” to this run? “I had a lot of fun doing those stories, but those stories came with a very specific mission statement: I wanted to tie into Fear Itself as closely and as cohesively as possible,” Spencer answers. “I also knew when I did those issues that Warren was coming in after me, and as soon as someone tells you ‘Warren Ellis is going to be following you,’ you just try not to mess anything up on the book. This assignment was a world apart, and it’s my book now, and I needed to put my stamp on it.”
Brevoort says that this series is, in a sense, a synthesis of what he liked about Spencer’s works — including Thunder Agents, Jimmy Olsen and Morning Glories — that they weren’t able to capture at Marvel before.
Next question, from Marvel.com: Why would S.H.I.E.L.D. want to employ a new Iron Patriot? “I’m really excited for this story,” Spencer says. “I think how the person gets there is the really exciting part of it.”
Going back around, another question from us: Even though the team doesn’t remember their missions, are they joining the team voluntarily? “I saw in the initial announcement, that was one of the things that maybe didn’t come across,” Spencer says. “Every member of this team signed up for this of their own volition. They agreed that this was the way to go. Obviously, after they agreed to it, they forget that they agreed to it, and when they’re not on mission, they don’t know about it. The S.H.I.E.L.D. that I’m writing does a lot of shady things. They work in a lot of grey areas. But it’s important to me that, at the end of the day, they understand why. And they do them for a safer, better world, and that doesn’t start with forcibly brainwashing people, if they can help it. Everyone signed up out of their own free will, but why they signed up for it [is a question]. And they’re not starting over from ground zero with each mission. When they hear the keyword, they remember that they’re part of the team, and they remember at least some things about their previous missions. S.H.I.E.L.D. is in their heads pretty deeply. But there’s still character development that happens within the team, they’re not all strangers each time they meet up.”
Next question, from Word Balloon: Are the other Avengers team aware of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s squad? “That’s a long-game thing,” Spencer says, but the initiative is not (at least initially) known by anyone outside of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Next question, from CBR: What’s Spencer’s take on Taskmaster? He has a unique role, the writer says, which will come to light around issue #2. Taskmaster was also the last addition to the cast during the planning stages. “He’s got some history already with Nick, which was a big draw for me. It was fun to bring somebody else in, who’s been part of his early adventures already. The chemistry between the two of them has been a lot of fun for me to write. I like ‘gumming-the-works’ characters, and Taskmaster is sort of that, for us. He’s the guy that’s kind of there for the paycheck, and that makes for some fun storytelling.”
“Effectively, he’s a contractor,” Brevoort adds. “He’s a great wildcard character to have in the mix.”
Final question, from Marvel.com: Will there be any cross-pollination between Secret Avengers and Indestructible Hulk, since both heavily involve Maria Hill? “Yeah, definitely,” Spencer replies. “It’ll definitely make getting Hulk in this book a lot easier,” Brevoort says.
“As we get into the long-game stuff in the book, so much of it comes from Maria,” Spencer continues. “All of this is part of Maria’s vision for what S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to adapt to these new threats in the Marvel Universe. Over in Avengers, you’re saying Cap and Iron Man saying ‘we need to get bigger,’ and in this book, you’re seeing S.H.I.E.L.D. say the same thing. Everything is escalating, and she’s deciding that S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to get more control, and the Hulk is a huge part of that.”
“In terms of the Hulk itself, his use on the team is very judicious,” Spencer says. “He’s the cannon. He’s there to be the bomb when they need it. A lot of people are asking — ‘How is Hulk on a stealth team?’ He’s not employed when it’s time to sneak around, but when it’s time to blow things up, Hulk is there.” “He’s also a distraction,” Brevoort adds.
Viscardi asks how big S.H.I.E.L.D. is now. “This is still a new S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Brevoort answers. “They’re probably smaller and scrappier than they were in the heyday of [the original] Nick Fury. The job is still global. It’s a big job, with a bunch of people who, while they’ve got some history here, are just kind of starting out on it.”
“This S.H.I.E.L.D. is throwing a lot of Hail Marys, to make up for ground that they’ve lost,” Spencer says, revealing that they’re taking “bolder steps,” and the new Secret Avengers is just one of them.
To recap: Secret Avengers #1 is out in February, from Nick Spencer and Luke Ross. That’s it, thanks for reading! More Marvel coverage all week.