Assembling the Avengers

Assembling the Avengers Pt. 1

Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman gives a sense of scope and what he hopes to accomplish with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!

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Avengers #1 preview art by Jerome Opena

By Paul Montgomery

Many writers have summoned the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for cameos in adventures throughout the Marvel Universe, but it takes a special somebody to truly lead the charge of the Avengers. Over the past eight years, Brian Michael Bendis rallied them through disassembly, thrust them into secret wars and invasions, cast them in New light and cloaked them in Dark shadows. He ushered them into an Age of Heroes.

Now, it’s time for an even bigger spotlight.

Incoming AVENGERS writer Jonathan Hickman has designs on going global with the team in his debut storyline “Avengers World.” From there, the scope only broadens. The Avengers as a franchise and as a team have likely never been bigger than they will be as a part of Marvel NOW!

We spoke to Hickman about the tremendous task of assembling an all new AVENGERS at this unique place in the series’ history in this, the first of a three-part discussion.

Marvel.com: “Avengers World” seems like it’s the biggest shakeup for the team since “Disassembled” back in 2004 when Brian Michael Bendis took the reins. He’s been the show-runner for almost a decade, and in that time, he’s made them into a brand again. Is that a tough act to follow? Do you look at it in those terms?

Jonathan Hickman: Well, of course I do. I consider [Brian] a good friend. He’s one of the people who’s directly responsible for getting me in over at Marvel. The amount of professional respect I have for the guy is superseded by my personal appreciation of the man, but just speaking professionally, Brian’s killed it on that thing. If you look at just how pivotal he’s made that book, and just how important—just look at the big money-making events that Marvel has done over the past couple years, the past decade, whatever. Look at how many of them are Avengers-centric and how a lot of that stuff came from what he was doing and all that. Yeah, it’s a really tough act to follow, but that’s why you accept the gig. That’s why you get up in the morning. You want high expectations, you want people to be excited about what you’re doing, you want to be on the biggest books, and you want to have the biggest audience and the pressure and all of that stuff comes with it. Following Brian is part of that. I couldn’t have bigger shoes to fill.

Avengers #1 preview art by Jerome Opena

Marvel.com: What’s the biggest difference, do you think, between a Bendis issue of AVENGERS and a Hickman issue of AVENGERS?

Jonathan Hickman: [Laughs] Well, stylistically we’re obviously different guys. Here’s my whole perspective on all of that: If I came on the book and tried to be Bendis-like, then that’s obviously recipe for disaster. Why do that when they could just have Brian stay on? My goal has been to make it something completely different but not entirely divergent from what has made it successful, and so that kind of logically leads you to a place where you want it to be the next evolution of the progression that has been going on. From just being the Avengers, to being the big Avengers franchise, to becoming what we’re calling quote unquote “Avengers World.” So, the difference would be scale, the difference would be velocity, the difference would be a little bit different thematically, but the Avengers remain the Avengers.

Marvel.com: With a slight shuffling of the roster, right?

Jonathan Hickman: Less Luke Cage and Jessica Jones and stuff like that and more kind of powerhouse characters—not that Luke Cage isn’t that. You get the point.

Marvel.com: Can you sum up your own intentions for the book in light of how the gig was pitched to you?

Jonathan Hickman: Well, there was a movie. The movie did well. And so it’s kind of a no-brainer that those characters would be in the book. It’s also no secret that Spider-Man and Wolverine have been Avengers for a while, and they’re some of our bigger characters. Everyone thought it would be a good idea to keep them in the book as well. And I was not opposed to any of those things at all. I mean, I wasn’t drug kicking and screaming to include those guys. I’ve always wanted to write Wolverine, and I’ve always gotten a kick out of writing Spider-Man. Other than that, everything seems to be well-received, and everybody seems to understand how I work, and they know the plan, and they know that I’m going to stick to it to a certain degree. So no, I don’t think I’ve had any negative experiences with Marvel anyway, so I’d certainly chalk this up as yet another positive experience.

Avengers #6 variant cover by Daniel Acuna

Marvel.com: You’re coming off of a really healthy, really ambitious run on FANTASTIC FOUR and FF, and now that that’s on the books, does that experience inform your plans for AVENGERS in any way? Any part of that process you want to repeat or even avoid?

Jonathan Hickman: Well, I’d like to do better. You always want to do better. What that run afforded me is everyone at Marvel understanding how I work, and so when I tell them that two years from now this is going to happen as the culmination of all of these other things, they get it. Everyone at editorial gets it. So maybe it’s gotten me a little bit more latitude. They’re entirely different books, definitely entirely different dynamics, but I think that I became a better writer doing FANTASTIC FOUR and I expect to continue to get better on AVENGERS.

Marvel.com: Do you have a favorite era of AVENGERS historically? Do you have any interest in resurrecting anything from a past run, aside from characters and situations? Anything thematically, any motifs from past AVENGERS runs?

Jonathan Hickman: This is kind of the opposite of what I did with FANTASTIC FOUR, what I’m doing with AVENGERS. A lot of FANTASTIC FOUR was going back and looking at old runs and seeing what worked and what didn’t work, and taking the good stuff out and reintroducing it. The goal, though, was to make the franchise really relevant again. This isn’t the same thing. The Avengers are more relevant than they’ve ever been at any point in the history of the franchise. It’s stronger now than it has ever been. Going back and looking at a bunch of old stuff, regardless of how fond I am of it—and there’s certainly stuff that I really really like—I think it’s the wrong move to try and revisit old territory. I think that would be a mistake, and so I’ve intentionally gone the other way. We’re going to try very hard to not revisit old concepts. We won’t be doing a Kree-Skrull War II. We’re not going to revisit all that stuff. The idea is to stake out new territory, but it would be a logical progression of everything that’s led to where we are right now. So I guess the answer’s kind of no, but plenty of old stuff to like, obviously.

Marvel.com: Ok. So let’s talk about what “Avengers World” is then, instead of what it isn’t. You talk about scale and scope, how big is “Avengers World”?

Avengers #4 cover by Dustin Weaver

Jonathan Hickman: That’s where we start. The premise of the book is that the Avengers need to get bigger, and they need to be able to handle not [just] global threats in the sense of there’s a revolution in Latveria that Doctor Doom is leading and it could spill over into all of Europe—what I mean [is] there are threats to the entirety of the planet is kind of the scale of what we are talking about. And so, that’s where we start. We’re moving towards Avengers Universe, where you see why you need a team with Hulk and Hyperion and Thor and all of these incredibly powerful characters. You see why the team has to be constructed that way, because of the stuff that we’re building towards. Again, the point of this is not your typical kind of international events that require the Avengers to globe-trotting and all that kind of stuff. We start out bigger than that and grow from there. [Laughs] That’s the best way I can describe it in abstract.

Marvel.com: So at the start at least, the Earth is the overall setting, and that’s the hub of it. Does that stop being the case at some point?

Jonathan Hickman: I would say that we very rapidly get to a place where the Earth is the most important planet in the universe, and that’s something that’s echoed in AVENGERS and in NEW AVENGERS as well.

Tomorrow, Jonathan dissects his AVENGERS cast!

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