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Tuesday Q&A

Wednesday Q&A: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning

The cosmic writing duo discusses the current state of interstellar affairs headed into THE THANOS IMPERATIVE

By Kevin Mahadeo

He's big. He's bad. He's back. And he's supremely pissed off.

He's Thanos, and come this summer, the Mad Titan looks to make a universe-shaking statement with THE THANOS IMPERATIVE, a limited series event set to send space-based shockwaves across the cosmos.

Orchestrated by writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, The Thanos Imperative kicks off with the IGNITION one-shot before spilling out into its own limited series. The epic picks up on and ties together a number of threads laid down by the writing duo over the past three years, but specifically follows directly from the events of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #24, which saw the return of Thanos in a huge and violent way. The character's rebirth as the avatar of Death signals a war between this reality and The Magus' dark gods from the other side of the Fault, a reality in which life prevails over death and runs amok.

Abnett and Lanning took some time away from planning the destruction of the galaxy to talk about the upcoming event, the return of Thanos and why the success of life means the death of us all.


THE THANOS IMPERATIVE: IGNITION #1 preview art by Brad Walker
Marvel.com: The Thanos Imperative storyline is something you guys have been building toward over the last couple of years. What's it been like laying the groundwork for this story and what's it like to finally get it out there?

Dan Abnett: It's a relief. We've been building towards this storyline since before we started writing GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY over three years ago, and it's undergone several drastic changes in that time.

Andy Lanning: We'd like to thank the guys at Marvel who have given us the opportunity and space to tell the kind of epic space opera we grew up reading in the late 70's and 80's.

Marvel.com: When you guys took over the space-based reigns of the Marvel Universe, Thanos had just recently died. You've mentioned in previous interviews that you didn't want to bring him back right away, but wanted to plant the seeds of his eventual return. Why did you decide on now? What made the timing perfect?

Dan Abnett: Obviously when we got the chance to play with the cosmic characters, Thanos [had] just recently been killed which meant he was off the table as far as using him in the overall story arc we were building. We always had plans to bring him back but wanted his return to be a major, pivotal cosmic event. This is Thanos after all; the Mad Titan, the guy who became a god and unmade the universe with the Infinity Gauntlet. If we were going to do his return justice, this story had to be big. It also had to feel organic; to grow naturally out of the story threads we were spinning out of the Annihilation War, then Conquest and finally War of Kings.

Andy Lanning: All the various plot strands seemed to culminate and intersect in the events following War of Kings, which offered us a chance to spin out a greater, meta-story through the INHUMANS and IMPERIAL GUARD limited series as well as in NOVA and GUARDIANS. Particularly in GUARDIANS, where we had first laid the groundwork for what became the "Cthulhu-verse," an alternate universe where life was the pervading state. And what better antithesis to a realm of rampant life energies than the ultimate avatar of Death, old purple puss himself.

Marvel.com: What's it like writing a character like Thanos? What's it like writing somebody so feared and dangerous?

Andy Lanning: Like we said, when we were given the "keys" to the cosmic universe, we were able to work with some of our all time favorite characters; we grew up reading the likes of Adam Warlock, Nova, Quasar,

THE THANOS IMPERATIVE: IGNITION #1 preview art by Brad Walker
The Silver Surfer, the Imperial Guard, the Inhumans. Thanos is such a mainstay to the cosmic cannon of characters, he's the epitome of the cosmic bad guy and now that we're finally get a chance to write him we're both excited like schoolboys and terrified beyond the realm of rational thought by the responsibility this entails. We just hope that we can do the character justice, introduce him to today's readers as well as show everyone what a great villain he is-one of all time greats.

Marvel.com: From what's been said about this event, it focuses on two sides: Nova, the Guardians and the other good guys versus Magus and his dark gods. How does Thanos fit into the equation? Is he the scale-tipper in this event?

Dan Abnett: Thanos is the ultimate antithesis of the dark gods and Magus. They represent the "Cthulhu-verse," a universe that's out of control. It's bursting at the seams, like a garden that's so overgrown at the height of summer it's verging on cancerous. Thanos embodies death and decay. He's the harbinger of entropy, not so much the scale-tipper as the natural balance to a realm that's out of kilter and therefore a very important piece in the puzzle. Unfortunately for our heroes, he's also very much his own man and does not appreciate being dragged back to life chained to an indestructible body and expected to carry out the objectives of a bunch of heroes that includes the guy who killed him.

Marvel.com: Although a lot of characters play into this story, it mostly focuses on Nova and Star-Lord. What about those two characters made them ideal as the eyes into the world? Is it the human aspect of the characters?

Dan Abnett: Absolutely. Peter and Rich have been the ideal [point-of-view characters] for the readers during our previous events. Their human perspective on the vast cosmic canvas helps us get a personal take on major universal crises and they become the reader's touchstone to events that otherwise can become so huge that they have little meaning on the human level. Rich and Peter give us an entry point that makes these cosmic epics relatable and their reactions offer us a chance to explore and explain concepts and situations in a new light.

THE THANOS IMPERATIVE: IGNITION #1 preview art by Brad Walker
Marvel.com: How do the Inhumans and the Shi'Ar factor into this story? With both their limited series ending, will their story be told in the main event title?

Andy Lanning: Both the Inhumans and the Imperial Guard, as representatives and leaders of their respective galactic empires, will be front and center as the story unfolds, though we will be focusing on a core group of heroes with specific missions and actions, which will include characters from both groups.

Marvel.com: What other character will readers be seeing in this title? Anyone that you're really excited about bringing in and writing?

Dan Abnett: We don't want to spoil any surprises but you can lay money on a certain shiny cosmic dude and his omnivorous boss arriving to the party.

Marvel.com: I wanted to talk about the artists, Brad Walker and Miguel Sepulveda. What about these guys style do you like? Readers have seen Brad's work on GUARDIANS, but what about Miguel made him ideal for the main limited series?

Dan Abnett: Brad's art has really evolved during his run on GUARDIANS. he's gone from bloody good to really bloody awesome and his work on the IGNITION prologue book is only going to add another superlative to that description. Miguel's art is more moody and [has a more] visceral feel to it.

Andy Lanning: Whereas Brad's clean, chiseled, classic approach has a Silver Age feel to it, Miguel is using techniques that give his art a gritty, contemporary feel. It's great to see him cutting loose with some mind-blowing sci-fi craziness after his realistic, real-world stint on THUNDREBOLTS. We've been very fortunate during our run to work with some extremely talented artists. It's made much of our stuff look far better than it should and we're very grateful.

Marvel.com: As a last question, this event looks at the concept of life versus death, with life actually being the bad thing. This is a pretty cool

THE THANOS IMPERATIVE: IGNITION #1 preview art by Brad Walker
twist on what we'd expect. Why'd you guys decide to take this approach, with life without death being a dangerous and bad thing?

Dan Abnett: When we decided to run with the "Cthulhu-verse/Cancerverse" idea, it seemed like a cool twist to play against expectations. Normally everything decays and dies and entropy wins. The eternal struggle is to somehow stem this tide and reverse the natural order.  The image of the garden at the height of summer kept coming to mind. How in its total fecundity it's just as creepy as a desolate wasteland. We thought of the "life universe" as something that is over-grown and over-ripe, bursting and oozing, choked and tangled and this led us to think of the Ancient Ones and Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. Images of tentacles, pseudo-pods, multifaceted eyes and insane geometries sprang to mind and this seemed like an ideal fit, especially as we'd hinted at this in the very first issue of GUARDIANS.  Once we started to toy with this notion, it was clear that Thanos and the importance of his cosmic status as avatar of Death would be a key role in the story.

Andy Lanning: It seemed in keeping with the reversed threat that Thanos would end up on the side of the heroes-sort of. And that was too cool an idea not to try to run with. Let's hope we do it justice and that readers enjoy the series. It's been over three years in the making and is the culmination of all our cosmic work so far.


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      Really looking forward to this. Sure hope DnA stay around for more cosmic goodness and Nova and Guardians continue.