By Ben Morse
This April, the Journey continues.
Following up on their lauded recent run on THOR, writer Kieron Gillen and artist Doug Braithwaite return to the series when it reverts to its original title of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY with issue #622. In the same month that Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel launch MIGHTY THOR, Gillen and Braithwaite will steer the Thunderer’s mischievous brother Loki into Marvel’s next major event, Fear Itself.
We fired off as many questions as we could across the Atlantic to Kieron and he responded with more enthusiasm and insight than we could have possibly hoped for discussing the complexity of Loki, his artistic collaborator and who else will be taking this Journey.
|JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #622 cover by Stephanie Hans|
Marvel.com: How did the genesis of this book come about and how did you and Doug come to be the creative team behind it?
Kieron Gillen: Well, as my time on THOR was coming to an end, [editor] Ralph [Macchio] said that they were planning to do a second book in the Thor corner of the universe next year and they'd like me to write it. And I said hell yes. I may have been a little more coquettish in the e-mail, but I was thinking hell yes.
In terms of Doug, I was just getting ready to write the first script, when I bumped into Doug at the ever-awesome Thought Bubble con in Leeds in November. I asked what he was working on next. He said “Well, they've just offered me your JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY.” Which was perfect. I loved working with Doug on the THOR run, which germinated a lot of the thinking in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, and his classical style of art fit the almost European approach I was playing with. I wrote the first script with him in mind—by which I mean, with long apologies directed to him by name when I've asked for something particularly impossible to draw—and it's all enormously exciting. What we did on THOR had to be created at enormous velocity. It's great to team up again and do something where we've had a chance to step back and consider the big picture.
Marvel.com: Having gotten to play in the Thor mythos a few times now, what aspects of this world have you already figured out you really enjoy and which ones are you keen to explore for the first time ASAP?
Kieron Gillen: The book itself grew from the political/mythological approach which I'd started playing with in my final arc, “The Fine Print,” and in the SIEGE: LOKI special. The idea of exploring what happens behind the curtain on this divine stage. How do all these pantheons co-exist? What about the other magical creatures? What about the cosmic ones? I knew there was a lot more water in that well. I wanted a book which explored what it meant to have all these entities sharing the same stage. Not just in war-time, but in peace-time too, and especially the nastier stuff that's done on the quiet in peace-time.
I think that I discovered myself as a fantasy writer when on THOR. I've sort of been in denial about it for a long time, having a somewhat strained relationship with the genre which stretched back to childhood. I feel a little like the boy who spends all his time being spiteful about one girl, and is the last to realise what everyone else in the world already knew: that you're desperately in love with her, and you were born to be together..
|JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #622 variant cover by Art Adams
Marvel.com: What's the mission statement of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY and how does it both differ from and complement the new MIGHTY THOR series?
Kieron Gillen: The one-line to take away from this interview: If MIGHTY THOR is AVENGERS then JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY is SECRET AVENGERS. MIGHTY THOR storms the gates of Hell. JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY sneaks in the back door and ends the threat with a single strike. MIGHTY THOR doesn't know that JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY exists, despite Thor being in it. It's a mythological black-ops comic, with a rotating team organized by the most Machiavellian figure in the whole Norse pantheon.
Marvel.com: How are you finding Loki as a protagonist? What makes him differ from the typical Marvel lead?
Kieron Gillen: What I like about Loki is that he's both obviously different from what we're used to, but still with something that resonates with what's always been core to Marvel heroes.
What's the classic Marvel hero? There [are] several, but one is a conflicted figure who's been shaped by the mistakes in his past—Spider-man, Iron Man, arguably even Thor—another is a societal outsider, hated and feared but still saving everyone anyone—the X-men, Spider-Man again, etc. Loki's both of those writ large.
With the exception of Thor, everyone hates Loki. And rightly so. He's ruined their lives, time and time over. It doesn't matter that he died. He's back—as a boy, admittedly—but they won't be fooled again. Frankly, if Thor wasn't around, someone would have done what needs to be done with a knife in the night. But Loki has changed. Literally. He's someone else now. He's going to do what he wants to and has to, despite knowing that it's never going to change what anyone thinks of him.
But he's not someone who we can simply file as the “Misunderstood hero.” He's still the God of Mischief. Traditionally in Marvel, we've leaned towards the chaos-bringer part of the mythological forebear, but that was never the whole story. If you look earlier, we've got Loki as a trickster figure. Even when he's doing good, the boy's trouble. That's the Loki we've got here, which means that how he achieves his goals isn't going to be hitting someone with an enormous hammer.
And if someone does need hitting with an enormous hammer, well, he's got friends or people-who-owe-him who can bring the hammerage.
|Thor & Loki|
Marvel.com: What are we going to learn about Loki and his death in this initial arc?
Kieron Gillen: Everything.
Well, almost everything. 95% of it. The book's called JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY after all, and there [are] always a few cards up all the participants' sleeves.
But Loki's death is the first mystery of the book. “Why did he do it?” is what the first issue is about, with young Loki discovering exactly how he came into existence and the reasons for his older, wicked self doing everything he did. I'd worked all this into my THOR run, but as a buried subtext, and I view the first issue of JOURNEY [as] the sprouting of that dormant seed, which then immediately blossoms into what the book itself is about.
I'm totally going for the melodramatic metaphors in this interview, aren't I?
Marvel.com: How does this title tie into the Fear Itself event?
Kieron Gillen: Closely. As I said earlier, it's a black ops book. Loki's first self-appointed task involves doing something no-one else would think of doing. He gathers his team for this purpose, and then goes and does it.
No-one will ever know how important and essential it was. Except Loki, his team and the readers, assuming any of them survive.
Marvel.com: With upcoming arcs, will Loki continue as the focus character, or will the spotlight be spread around?
Kieron Gillen: One of the books I reference when talking about JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY is Sandman. Loki's the lead, but isn't necessarily going to be in every story, though the long-shadow of his short-form probably will be.
As for Tyr, well, suffice to say I have plans for the man who rocks one of the finest moustaches in Asgard. Though I suddenly find myself wondering how in the nine realms he manages to keep it in such fine shape when he's only got one hand. There's a mystery that probably is going to need a 12 issue maxi-series to properly investigate.
|Thor by Doug Braithwaite|
Generally speaking, you shouldn't be surprised to see anyone from the mystical, divine or cosmic side of the Marvel Universe to turn up. In the short term, I'll give you Tyr, Hela, Mephisto, the Disir and [Beta-Ray Bill]. And it's been a long time since we've seen Surtur, isn't it? I wonder what he's up to.
Oh, and some new characters too. As if I could help myself.
In short: anyone who Loki can get dirt on.
Marvel.com: How closely will you and MIGHTY THOR writer Matt Fraction be working to coordinate your books?
Kieron Gillen: While each book has its own [lead] character and can be followed by itself, we've coordinated extremely tightly. We know each others' long terms plan. We know how they dovetail and how they feed into each other. And we've both working on a separate-yet-complimentary extremely long term climax. If all goes well, they'll hit together and will reduce people's heads to red-spray.
Marvel.com: Getting back to Doug, what does he bring to this book?
Kieron Gillen: As I said earlier, there's something really classical about Doug which I think suits the book. It's essential to creating the book's character. Matt's Thor has leaned towards the cosmic side, thanks to [artist Pasqual] Ferry's hyper-vivid approach. It makes sense: it's a book which reaches out towards science-fiction and the future. Conversely, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY is about how the past—specifically, about how the shadows of the past fall on the present and what we're going to do about that. Doug's art resonates with that; the obvious craft just adds authenticity to the gods, and adds to its almost historical feel. This is stuff that happened.
In short: with Doug, you always feel like they're real people. Real people who happen to be gods, demons and similar, but real people nevertheless.
He also rises to the occasion whenever I ask for some enormous panorama of the fantastical, which always pushes me to work out something even more impressive to draw next time.
|JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83, the first appearance of Thor|
He also draws one mean Magpie, which is oddly important for this book.
Marvel.com: Finally, what does the actual title JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY mean to you, both in terms of its legacy as one of the first Marvel titles as well as how it embodies what this book will be about?
Marvel.com: I love that we're starting with [issue #622]. The industry uses so many number ones. We use that improbably large number. For me it's kind of an initial statement of how unusual the book is.
That said, even if JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY was an entirely new title, I'd love to have started it with #622, to show that it has a history and that its fictional past is as solid as any of the other comics that have actually been published. The past that Loki discovers is just as real as anything else in our world. We have 621 issues of mystery to journey into. Who knows what we can find? And, of course, to a new reader that's exactly what the number says. However, to those who understand comic history, it puts it in this important lineage. I love that dual meaning—and it's a book which is extremely interested in the concept of dual meanings.
Be sure to pick up JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #622 this April and also check out our chat with Matt Fraction about MIGHTY THOR!