By Craig Tello
Prepare yourselves, True Believers--we’re making history! This summer, Marvel Custom Solutions and Upper Deck team up to revisit--and shed some new light on--the Kree-Skrull War!
Written by Sean McKeever, “The Avengers: Kree-Skrull War” is a 190-piece trading card set that, once collected, morphs into more than 40 pages of original comic stories--and, perhaps, the most innovative card series ever released.
Former INCREDIBLE HULK scribe and current writer of FEAR ITSELF: YOUTH IN REVOLT, McKeever composed five previously untold accounts from the massive Marvel crossover, expanding upon the AVENGERS story originally crafted by Roy Thomas, Neal Adams and John & Sal Buscema in the early 1970s. Across its pages, each assembled from nine cards, the revolutionary Upper Deck set presents Captain America, Thor, Vision, Nick Fury and others in short narratives set during the events of the intergalactic conflict.
In great anticipation of the hybrid comic book/trading card release in July, Marvel.com rapped with McKeever and Marvel editor Bill Rosemann to get the story behind the stories behind the story. And don't forget to read "The Kree-Skrull War" in AVENGERS (1963) #89-#97.
Marvel.com: Describe the overall process and motivations that brought this innovative card series/comic to life. What were some of the biggest challenges in producing it?
Bill Rosemann: When our good friends at Upper Deck approached us about collaborating on a comic that would be printed on collectible cards, you can only imagine how excited we were at exploring the storytelling opportunities this project presented. Once we began discussing creator and character options, our enthusiasm grew even more. The goal was to create all-new "untold stories" set during one of Marvel's key events. Looking at the various options, the possibilities that the Kree-Skrull War presented--both in terms of adventures and available heroes--were phenomenal. Captain
The challenge, then, was to assemble a creative team and tell stories that we felt the fans would accept on a quality and entertainment level that would be worthy of such a legendary pedigree. Could we create tales--given the rather unique project requirements--that would thrill loyal Marvel readers and card enthusiasts? In space, can you hear the cry of “Avengers Assemble”?
Sean McKeever: For me, the challenge was in keeping a balance between telling a good story and having each card be important in its own way. It was a really cool, sort of O.C.D. challenge for me, though, so I took to it with a lot of excitement. Coming up with different ways to lay out the page while keeping it in a 9-panel grid--and keeping it readable--was really neat to explore. A lot of times in the script I even made sure to point out in multi-card panels who and what dialogue shows up where.
Marvel.com: Of the entire Marvel library, why was the Kree-Skrull War the perfect story to expand upon?
Sean McKeever: It's an epic, sprawling tale with so many story elements and characters that it was just begging to be expanded upon. There were several plotlines we considered touching upon early on but never got to use! What we went with, in the end, were stories where we could delve into some more personal moments while still keeping the action ratcheted up nice and high.
Bill Rosemann: Not only does the Kree-Skrull War star a powerful and compelling line-up of classic Avengers (not to mention Captain Marvel, Super-Skrull and Nick Fury), but you just can't beat the setting. Two key Marvel alien civilizations at war, with Earth caught in the crossfire. Not only is the super hero pageantry on full display, but the Vietnam War and Communist Witch Hunt allegory presents a powerful artistic opportunity.
Also, the original story just happens to have a 20-page section where the main Avengers step off-stage to allow some crazy Rick Jones action to take the spotlight. So our window of story-telling was immediately apparent. Just where were Iron Man, Thor and Cap during those pages, and what did they do? Find out here!
Marvel.com: For fans who are unfamiliar with the Kree-Skrull War--and aside from the obvious “advanced alien races at war” element--what is the background of the story?
Sean McKeever: The coolest part of this story, to me, is how the story begins relatively small, with a lot of positioning and extra-terrestrial shenanigans that tantalizingly hint at a grand, cosmic scope. And when we learn that Earth isn't the target of these aliens' ire so much as a means to an end--a tactical prize to be taken as a stronghold in their intergalactic war--the scope becomes even greater than imagined, with the Avengers heading off into space and going up against alien kingdoms and armies and armadas! That continual building and layering of scale is great stuff.
Bill Rosemann: I'm with Sean. What begins as a quirky mystery slowly unfolds into a clash of galactic cultures that threatens not just Earth, not just multiple cosmic empires, but the entire Marvel Universe itself. The growing threat, the cosmic elements, the political metaphors, the important connections of Marvel continuity that writer Roy Thomas intricately layered, the amazing art by Neal Adams and John & Sal Buscema…it all adds up to a historic and jaw-dropping event.
Marvel.com: Does a Marvel fan need to read the Kree-Skrull War in order to enjoy this unique trading card set?
Sean McKeever: Absolutely not. As important as it was to make sure everything fit in its proper place in the original story, it was also important for just enough of that story to be conveyed in the new material so that no one's left scratching their heads. Of course, I think that once people read these five stories, they'll want to go out and check out the collected edition and marvel over where all the pieces fit.
Marvel.com: As far as you can tell, why hadn't an idea like this been executed sooner?
Bill Rosemann: Because no one was brave or crazy enough to attempt it! But no one is as brave and crazy as the creators at Marvel and Upper Deck!
Marvel.com: Could this product be considered A) a trading card series for comic fans who exclusively read the books, or B) a comic book story for trading card collectors?
Bill Rosemann: Both! Whether you come to this project as someone who wants to read these previously untold stories, or a collector of great trading card art, this has something for everyone. It's a trading card set, it's a great cosmic epic…it's both great flavors fused together by a red-hot blast of laser-gun love.
Marvel.com: Who are the highlighted characters and how were they selected? What role do Marvel's heavy hitters play in the card series stories?
Sean McKeever: Cap, Thor and Iron Man are central to what makes the Avengers what they are. They're the true core of the team, in my mind. So, of course, they're a big part of the main story, with Vision being there at the emotional core. Here's an android whose come to realize he's in love, and that the one he loves--the Scarlet Witch--has been captured by the Skrulls and is in mortal danger.
Because this is a story about war, I wanted to take a moment to look at Captain
Marvel.com: How many sub-stories does the card set boast and how do the stories being told within this series affect the ultimate result of the Kree-Skrull War story?
Bill Rosemann: The full card collection includes five different stories. Cap, Thor and Iron Man star in a 20-pager with art by Manuel Garcia [“The Sacrifice”]; Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch star in an eight-pager with art by Andy Smith [“The Debt”]; Nick Fury leaps into the spotlight in a super-spy six-pager by Allan Patrick [“The Fall”]; Cap gets a second story with art by Fabio Jansen [“Soldiers’ Honor”]; and Super-Skrull brings it home in a four-pager by Carlos Paul [“Power”].
Our maestro behind the entire event, who not only connected each story to one another but also to the original event--while also making each tale a new-reader-friendly, stand-alone chapter--was superstar Sean McKeever! How he danced between the established raindrops of continuity is a sight to behold. As for their impact on the existing event, they don't alter the events of the Kree-Skrull War, but they do fill in the gaps that readers may have always been wondering about, while also providing some hard-hitting emotional moments for some of your favorite characters.
Marvel.com: Generally speaking, what is your perspective on trading cards, particularly comic book-based card sets? How did that perception evolve with this project?
Sean McKeever: Back in the '90s, I went gaga over the Warriors of Plasm #0 card set, so when Bill asked me if I wanted to be a part of Marvel's first card set story, it didn't take any arm twisting whatsoever! I think it'll be great fun for card collectors, for comic collectors and for Marvel completists alike.
Marvel.com: What makes this presentation something that Marvel fans will not want to miss?
Bill Rosemann: Not only does this card set include great writing and art, but it also expands upon a key moment in Marvel history--a story that showed how the heroes of yesterday connected to the legends of today. The original story was a trailblazing example of how to tell a sprawling story that connects heroes from various corners of the Marvel Universe, and we hope the unique format is another example of how trailblazing Marvel and Upper Deck can be.
Find this history-reshaping series from Upper Deck in stores this summer, collecting the 190-card set for the complete stories by McKeever, plus bonus insert cards featuring cover art by Harvey Tolibao and variant cover art by Paul Renaud, just to keep things that much more interesting. Read "The Kree-Skrull War" in AVENGERS (1963) #89-#97. Special thanks to Bill Rosemann and A.J. Fierro.