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Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Kieron Gillen

The British scribe jumps from god to god with upcoming runs on DARK AVENGERS: ARES and THOR

By Kevin Mahadeo

With his upcoming three-issue limited series DARK AVENGERS: ARES, British-born, awarding-winning writer Kieron Gillen plans on letting his arrogant side run wild.

A normally modest and kind person, Gillen admits to falling into the role of the conceited Ares rather easily for his upcoming project with artist Cary Nord, the first issue of which hits comic stands tomorrow, October 28. The series focuses on Ares as he trains a squad of soldiers in the art of war, an area Norman Osborn knew this particular Dark Avenger to be rather versed in. Gillen then continues his manipulations of godly affairs with the release of THOR issue #604 on Nov 4. The writer takes over the series from J. Michael Straczynski-who completes his run with an upcoming extra-sized final issue-for an arc with artist Billy Tan tying into the upcoming events of Siege.

Gillen took some time away from shaping the lives of gods to talk about his upcoming projects, the lessons to be learned from a God of War and his desire to continue writing the haughtiest characters in the Marvel Universe.


DARK AVENGERS: ARES #1 cover by Cary Nord
Marvel.com: You've got two projects coming up: DARK AVENGERS: ARES and THOR. I'm sensing a theme here-do you have a thing for mythological badasses?

Kieron Gillen: It's like very arrogant men from the ancient past is my forte it seems.

Marvel.com: Did you read a lot of myths growing up?

Kieron Gillen: It's one of those weird things where is it that you think you read it specifically or is it just stuff that you absorbed. It's like how every kid knows about dinosaurs. I read all the mythology I could get a hold of as a kid, but you get bits of the story in your head anyway. The myths are these big, resonant stories, like mental building blocks and metaphors for how we process the world. So, I knew all that stuff and then you go research more. But the thing with the myths is that a lot of it is contradictory. The continuity is really bad. Part of the fun is that I looked at one interesting idea and this other guy's interesting idea. With Ares, part of the interesting idea is looking at the idea of war across the ages. The idea of what the God of War is to the Greeks is different from what we consider war now in a western democracy.

Marvel.com: Is that one of the things you like about the character of Ares? That juxtaposition? Or is it that slightly misogynistic personality?

Kieron Gillen: [Laughs] He's not a nice guy. Anti-hero would almost be too strong. Ares is interestingly conflicted. He's a bad guy. He's done some pretty monstrous things. But in the last ARES limited series, he basically stormed hell to get his son back. That's what I find interesting and what I found as a way in for Ares. What I find interesting about Ares is this sense of failure. He wants to be a good father and I think that's a redeeming feature. Indirectly, I get into touching that. That sort of relationship is key to what I'm doing. That's the kind of human hook: him trying to be a better man than he has been. A lot of the story is about Ares' past coming back to haunt him.

Marvel.com: What else can you say about the story itself?

Kieron Gillen: There's one really big twist and that will be a real shame to spoil, but the basic story is that Norman Osborn says, "I've got the God of War and a new military organization. Let's put them together and see what happens. I'm going to get Ares to train some people and hopefully get some soldiers that come out from the other end." I think that's almost enough to get people to read it; Ares as the most evil and

DARK AVENGERS: ARES #1 cover by Billy Tan
malicious drill instructor of all time. That's quite fun for me.

Marvel.com: Ares seems like he'd be a very intense teacher.

Kieron Gillen: The lessons he tries to teach are indirect. It's more, "Don't listen to what I say. Listen to what I don't say." He's trying to provoke a reaction and he's trying to make you think a certain way. That's some of the stuff I concentrate on. Ares is so out of order. One of the first things he does is shoot a guy in the leg to set the tone. It's quite fun seeing that sort of guy who is more maniacal. The core drive to Ares, which I find likeable, is that he's not a character who talks a lot but it's not like he hasn't thought about stuff. It's just that he's fought a lot and doesn't need to think about it anymore. He knows what he believes and he doesn't like questioning himself. There's a didactical element to him. And he's got an awesome axe.

Marvel.com: You mentioned Norman Osborn earlier. Do the other Dark Avengers play a part in the story?

Kieron Gillen: In the end, since it's a new group of people he's training, they had to get enough room so you could empathize with them. I didn't want to just throw too many cameos in. But Osborn is in there and Osborn is in two of the most important scenes, I think. Someone else turns up, but I'm not even going to mention it because it's part of the twist.

Marvel.com: Shifting gears a bit, your THOR arc is coming up. We know the story focuses on Thor confronting Loki and Doctor Doom. What else can you say about what you've got planned?

Kieron Gillen: The first half literally picks up a few seconds after JMS's final issue, which isn't out yet. I'll be a bit cagey because I don't want to ruin the end of JMS's saga, but if you've read issue #603 you'll get an idea where it's going in that Doom has been experimenting on Asgardians. We pick up from there. Talking thematically for a second, in JMS's run, there is a lot of the relationship between these quite friendly humans in the city

THOR #604 cover by Billy Tan
in Oklahoma and the thunder god and the juxtaposition as they get used to each other. I'm kind of reversing that. We left off with the Asgardians in Latveria. The only real human they interact with is Doom. Despite it being Doom's world, he's the only human amongst gods. It's about the sort of Promethean jealousy of gods and facing the divine. And there's fighting. Lot of exciting fighting. But the fights are a metaphor. The BETA RAY BILL [limited series] I did started with Beta Ray Bill putting out a tidal wave, but that's a sledgehammer metaphor for the whole story on what can you do about nature and can you stop Galactus. So, that opening action sequence kind of talks about the whole theme. So, yes, it's an exciting fight scene, but it's also about other stuff.

Marvel.com: In the myths, both Thor and Ares are similar in that they're both these rough and tough warriors, but in the comics, they're very different.

Kieron Gillen: Basically, Thor grew up a lot. His experience with the mortals changed him in a way that it hasn't changed Ares yet. And he was a good king. When he was king of Asgard, the crown [rested] on his brow in a way that it doesn't quite rest for Balder, which is interesting. I feel quite sorry for Balder in that he's been thrown into kingship. In some ways, Thor's had his entire life to prepare. He's always known he was the prince, as opposed to Balder who's been a soldier all his life-a brave and incredibly noble follower and all of a sudden discovered he's a prince. That's one of the best [things] about JMS's run. He's really gone to town on the supporting cast. But, going back, Thor is a warrior and Ares is a soldier. Thor's nobility is very clear. The idea of keeping through this personal code of yours no matter what happens. It's a knightly virtue almost.

Marvel.com: You're doing a lot of work currently with the Marvel gods, but is there any area of the Marvel U you want to work on in the future?

Kieron Gillen: I'm enjoying the gods a lot. The work that got me known in comics was Phonogram, and I wrote a lot of gods in there. There's something about taking a pre-existing mythology and playing games a

THOR #605 cover by Billy Tan
bit. A book I loved was IMMORTAL IRON FIST. There was a great re-launch of a character and what Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction did in terms of recreating this history in a sort of larger structure, that's the type of game I'd like to play. It doesn't include any particular character. Also, I'd like to write the White Queen. White Queen is one of the [characters] me and [artist] Jamie [McKelvie] are big fans of. I'd like to do Hercules eventually. Namor. I could do a good Namor. Arrogant characters. White Queen. Namor. These are very arrogant people we're talking about here. I found Ares incredibly easy to write. You end up questioning yourself. Is this who you really are? Yes. You're a monster and you deserve to be squashed. So, Thor's going to come and beat me up or something for being mean. [Laughs]


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