By Kiel Phegley
Though it launched amidst the onslaught of SECRET INVASION, the time-hopping crossover series AVENGERS/INVADERS defied trends and reignited fan interest in the 1940's super team it returned to the modern Marvel Universe. By focusing on an in-continuity meeting with ramifications for both teams, the 12-issue epic headlined by acclaimed painter Alex Ross proves with each new installment that Marvel's past remains influential on its present.
With the first volume hitting in trade paperback this June and the lynchpin ninth issue kicking off the series' final third on April 1, we tapped series co-writer Jim Krueger and interior artist Steve Sadowski for their thoughts on what it took to make the series matter from the start and what the return of even more Golden Age super heroes and villains means for the upcoming finale.
Marvel.com: There's a lot to talk about in terms of what's happened in AVENGERS/INVADERS up until now, but I wanted to start with a little bit about the collaboration between the pair of you and Alex. Jim, when you sit down with Alex to write a script, do you build stories around the most evocative images you can come up with for a set of characters with you worrying about exact execution, or is it more breaking out books scene-by-scene as a duo?
Jim Krueger: It's pretty much a discussion at the beginning of the series. Kind of a giant overview of everything. I then write that overview out. Then [there are] more notes and more discussion. Then comes an issue. I write a slightly more specific page outline for the issue. Send it to Alex and then Marvel. Get all their feedback. And then I write a script. The script then goes through the editorial process and Alex takes out most of my Spider-Man jokes. You see, I have a problem. I just want Spider-Man to be funny all the time. The worse a situation, the more and worse the jokes. While this is a problem, I am not ashamed. I make changes to the script. Then the entire script, approved by Alex, goes to Marvel. They give more notes. We all discuss the notes, and I do one polish draft on the script. It's a giant process.
Marvel.com: Steve, at what point do you come into the process to work what the others have cooked up? Do you have a lot of advanced notice on what's going on issue-to-issue and what Alex thinks visually about the story, or is it pretty much up to you to take the stick once the script is in its final form?
Steve Sadowski: I have a vague idea where the stories going, but when I get a script, it's pretty much like comic day to me in that I get to find out what happens next! They have given me some ideas of future locations and what not so that I can start my research/reference, but mostly my work begins with each new script.
Marvel.com: Over the first half of the series, you covered a lot of ground in terms of place and characters, bouncing from the battlefields of World War II to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier to Washington, D.C. What scene out of all the early conflicts between the Invaders and the newer Avengers teams became the "make or break" moment for you guys in terms of striking the balance you wanted to set for the whole series?
Jim Krueger: For me, my favorite moment of the early part of the series—and maybe the entire series—was when Bucky digs into his arm to get the explosives he has hidden there. It makes him bad ass but also shows that the idea was to both look at the future and the past, to foreshadow the loss of Bucky's arm as well as the fact that he would one day become Captain America.
Steve Sadowski: I never saw any of the moments as "make or break." There are a few scenes that seemed important to me in the sense of fleshing out the [characters] a bit more. The scene with Toro at his grave comes to mind, or Winter Soldier/Cap meeting his younger self. Those are the moments where I knew it wasn't just an "imaginary tale," and that the story had real relevance.
Marvel.com: While a lot of the Jim and Alex projects at Marvel in the past have been in their own corner of the universe, AVENGERS/INVADERS set out to synch up strongly with the current Marvel U, and seemed to be very successful for it. What did each of you do as writer and artist to match the feel of the modern Marvel landscape in your work? Was there some study of some of the current monthlies to match the tone of things in the wake of CIVIL WAR, or did you feel ready to tap into the zeitgeist of the moment from page one?
Jim Krueger: Well, I'm a giant Mark Millar fan, so I had read CIVIL WAR coming into this. Alex didn't want to do a project in which the first few issues focused on a villain or a conflict like you would expect from this sort of thing. So we were able to give some focus to Iron Man dealing with the fact that while Captain America is dead, he's still alive in this past team that got thrust to the future.
Steve Sadowski: I'm a huge fan of the Avengers comics these days, I read them all! I knew the tone of the period our series is set [in], so it was easy enough to find the mood of the story.
Marvel.com: In essence, the series really seems to be about the Invaders team confronting what to them seems a strange possible future while the current Avengers grapple with the burden of their own past. For Cap and Bucky, the change from past to present seems the most radical. Jim, was it hard finding an avenue for explaining to those characters some of the present without "spoiling" their future? Steve, what did you do to make the partners pop in a classic sense as opposed to the somewhat darker version of Cap in the modern day?
Jim Krueger: When stories like this get done in comics, everyone expects that in the end, it won't matter. The characters won't remember their future. Nothing will change. Part of the things we've been talking about in this story is working in such a way that the characters do change. And some of them will remember. Ironically though, many of these characters will, in the future, suffer from their own memory losses. Namor forgets who he is before Johnny Storm stumbles upon him. Bucky was reprogrammed by the Soviets yet clearly knows where the Invaders are going to be in this series. Toro and the Human Torch are now dead. As is the Union Jack who fought with the Invaders. Who's to say they don't remember this happening? Well, we are. We're the "who's." There will be more to this idea brought into the last four issues of the series.
Steve Sadowski: Well, for myself, I've always seen my heroes—especially the really patriotic ones—as very upright noble characters with little "darkness" in their body language. For all of the Invaders my thinking was just to draw them as "upright" as possible. These characters haven't yet been through the angst of the 90's! Wolverine or Luke Cage, you can give a darker more nihilistic feel, but certainly not Cap or Bucky or Toro, etc. At this point in time, although they are no strangers to action, it just doesn't seem appropriate to the characters.
Marvel.com: On the flip side, Namor seems the most unchanged by the years between events, although I think the modern Sub-Mariner is a bit more humbled after what's he's been through. Still, did you envision much of a change in him between the two versions or over the course of the series as much? How did the recent destruction of Atlantis in the Marvel U throw a curveball into your original plans for the story?
Jim Krueger: Interestingly enough, there were many curveballs thrown in. The destruction of Atlantis was one. So was the destruction of X-Men Mansion [as] I had had a giant mutant thing going on originally in act two that would have tied the Sentinels to the LMDS and created a much larger A.I. Rebellion. SECRET INVASION was a curveball with fans wanting to know where this fit. Plus, just having this many characters and the Avengers' [rosters] changing so much, another curveball. Really, this was all about juggling and hoping none of the balls got dropped.
Steve Sadowski: As far as the drawing of the two, it was a challenge to bring a little of that [humility] to the modern Namor without making him seem weak. The older Namor has definitely been through the wringer. Basically, I just amped up the bravado of the young Namor. The meeting of the two is one of my favorite scenes in the series so far, actually.
Marvel.com: It seems as though you guys have the most leeway with the Human Torch and Toro, and the Torch's confrontation over the S.H.I.E.L.D. androids was a real stand out character moment for the whole series. In what ways did the flexibility of the Torch help drive the clash of classic and modern?
Jim Krueger: Well, I'm most proud of the Human Torch stuff in here as it relates to the storyline that ran in the first two acts of the project. I wish there could have been a true A.I. rebellion. I think that's a giant story that needs to be told in the Marvel Universe.
Steve Sadowski: In my experience working on a few team books, its always most gratifying, especially for a writer, to work on a character that has the least "ties" to other books or events. Given that Torch is relatively free from public perceptions of what he should be, I think that's why he can have more shining moments to build on and to go forward with.
Marvel.com: In the upcoming final issues of the series, a lot of old school players get brought into the fray from recognizable heroes like the Black Panther to seldom seen guys like the Challenger. What's the draw in pulling out so many heroes from the woodwork? Does it merely up the ante in terms of the conflict, or are there some bigger metaphorical chords that generation holds in the story too?
Jim Krueger: It's really about embracing that era and all the heroes it had to offer. No one has seen issue #9 yet, so I won't give away how it is that characters like the Challenger and Electro show up. But the idea is to totally show the potential of that era and those characters. Plus, super heroes in the middle of a war-torn countryside [are] cool. It was cool in "Days of Future Past." It's cool in WWII.
Marvel.com: For Steve, what's it like to bring a whole other set of characters onto the page? Has the balancing act of playing with such a large cast been one of the tougher parts of the series? What have you tried to accomplish in the final art in terms of making the older characters and the newer guys stand apart from each other visually?
Steve Sadowski: Well, the more characters on a page, the more time it takes to draw them! It has been the biggest struggle for me, to give as many of the characters their "close ups," and to make sure everyone really gets a moment or two to shine. Visually, the older characters have such great garish costumes, I think they just pop off the page naturally. I think there's a certain element of design to the older characters that's missing in a lot of today's heroes. Updating or reinterpreting those old costumes for the modern era has been one of the most fun things for me!
Marvel.com: When all is said and done with this series, where do you hope to leave the Invaders and the rest of the Golden Age Marvel heroes? Was part of this book for you guys upping their status so more stories can be done in the future, or are the immediate reverberations you see in the series more strongly tied to the present teams?
Jim Krueger: I'm not going to talk about the future. But I am going to say that there will be changes to the status quo of the Marvel Universe once this is over. For those who thought that this series won't matter after this is over, there's an awful lot coming in these last few issues.
Steve Sadowski: Hopefully people will have enjoyed seeing the Invaders again, and perhaps opened a door or two for some of the other characters to have some light shone on them. I think there's a lot of untapped material there for further exploration—I know I'd like to read 'em!
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