It’s easy to think of the Avengers as the most popular superhero team in comics, but that has not always been the case. In fact, the series has fallen from grace on several occasions. It is currently in what may be regarded as its highest state of popularity thanks to the record-breaking feature film, knock-out fan favorite cartoon but there have been high sales figures from the comic book since the title was rebooted in 2004.
Since then, the Avengers have been a big hit with readers and it looks like the Marvel NOW! series will continue that trend. If you are unfamiliar with Jonathan Hickman’s work for Marvel (previously he raised eyebrows with the Nightly News and several other remarkable comics), you really should seek it out. From Fantastic Four to SHIELD, he has shown an unprecedented grasp of what makes Marvel characters and their world work.
For the Avengers, he appears to be bringing his A+ game…
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.”
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.”
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.”
The Avengers have to become something bigger, something more, in order to do what it is that they’re supposed to do.
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 question, 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.
Avengers #1 and #2 are both out in December, and the first two issues of New Avengers are out in January.