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All-New Marvel NOW! Q&A: Nova

Gerry Duggan crashes Beta Ray Bill into the orbit of Sam Alexander, and balances outer space battles with real world problems!

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Nova #10 cover by Ed McGuinness

By Paul Montgomery

Life for Sam Alexander in Carefree, Arizona proves anything but.

With his father gone, Sam hopes to help his overworked mother put food on the table for his little sister without letting the lights flicker too much. Bread-winning can a tall order for any teenager, but Sam also shoulders the weight of the once glorious Nova Corps as their last surviving member, juggling mortgage payments with intergalactic strife monthly in NOVA.

The bills continue to stack up, but this February, Sam tackles one of them head-on when the legendary Beta Ray Bill comes calling. Gerry Duggan joins artist Paco Medina for NOVA #13, as the full might of Stormbreaker comes to bear against one very inexperienced young corpsman.

We talked to Duggan about Sam Alexander’s ongoing battle with his GPA, unrelenting bill collectors, and his dad’s old co-workers from beyond the stars.

Marvel.com: What’s next for Sam Alexander?

Gerry Duggan: He’ll be having quite a bit of adventure in space. Big adventures in space, I should say. But his feet are going to be planted firmly on the ground, and a lot of his problems are going to be very normal, earth-bound teen problems. We’re going to explore what happens when you miss as much school as Sam does. We’re going to explore, too, what happens when your father suddenly disappears. [Sam’s father] was the sole bread-winner. That’s really going to put the Alexanders in what is, unfortunately, a not so uncommon bind where they’ll experience some pretty difficult financial times ahead. I really like that form, what could be described as an old Marvel formula. There’s just as much trouble for the guy out of uniform as there is in uniform. In that regard, I always look back to [Stan] Lee and [Steve] Ditko and [John] Romita Spider-Man stories. That’s the fun part, is the inexperienced hero who has Sam Alexander problems and not just Nova problems.

Nova #10 preview art by Paco Medina

Marvel.com: This incarnation of Nova really does harken back to those definitive teen Spider-Man adventures and Peter’s domestic woes. Do you see this as filling that vacuum since the Spider-Man story transitioned away from those concerns?

Gerry Duggan: I think it was Mark Waid who said, “For Peter Parker to win, Spider-Man would often lose, and vice versa.” Only one of them could win at a time. Right now I’m scripting pretty far ahead and there’s a big battle in outer space, some cool cosmic guest stars. There [are] giant robots and new aliens, and it’s not just him flying home to go to bed at night. There are bills piling up at the door. He’ll have more responsibility around the house, but at the same time, his role as Nova will be more and more complicated. He has all these plates spinning. That’s the joy of writing an inexperienced young hero like this. You can’t always keep them going, and when they inevitably crash, that’s when a lot of the fun happens.

Marvel.com: Young romance often complicates that balancing act as well. Sam’s classmate Carrie saw right through his costumed hero act, so it looks like she’s part of both of those lives. What roles does she play moving forward?

Gerry Duggan: Yeah, I’m looking forward to having Carrie around with that dance that they’re doing. We’ll see how long they can maintain that. There’s also, pretty quickly, another girl he meets out in space. I hesitate to say that one is the Mary Jane and the other is Gwen. [Laughs] At that age, my steadiest relationships were probably with comic books and not girls, but I do remember those days fondly. The slightest little smile from a girl, or the slightest slight could send the day right down the [expletive] or straight into orbit. For Sam, he’s a handsome kid with a helmet that enables him to go anywhere, you know, he’s a good catch even if he might not know it.

Nova #10 preview art by Paco Medina

Marvel.com: So we’ll be seeing plenty of new faces, but how about some of Sam’s inherited friends and enemies? Even if Sam’s meeting them for the first time, will readers recognize any special guests?

Gerry Duggan: Yes, to both. The one I’m safest to talk about is Beta Ray Bill. NOVA #12 is what appears to be, for Sam, his best day as Nova. He finally gets to win one, only to realize that he’s scored on his own net. Something that Sam does causes a ripple effect which brings Beta Ray Bill into it. Bill and Sam together is a lot of fun. I feel like I’m on the right track. They’re a real odd couple. If there’s a common thread in the things I do it’s that idea of odd couples. Even DEADPOOL has Agent Preston. Right now, for a short time anyway, Sam has Bill. He could probably use some of that seasoning, some of the advice Bill could offer if he’s open to it.

Marvel.com: There’s obviously a heritage and history for the Nova mantle, but you’re also talking about NOVA #12, the twelfth issue, ever, for this character. Can you speak to settling into this at such an early stage in Sam’s development as a character, even if it’s not NOVA #1? Is that an odd feeling?

Nova #12 cover by Ed McGuinness

Gerry Duggan: It is in that it’s only issue #12, but Jeph and Zeb did so much with their arcs that I felt like when I sat down to write him I knew who Sam was. Even from Jeph’s first issue by itself. Those guys got him underway and I hope to continue with that they’d been doing while also bringing what I do. I’ve also been looking at these pages, these gorgeous pages, from Paco [Medina] and Juan [Vlasco]. It’s one of the best teams in comics, and to be invited into that? If you’ve been a fan of the series, I hope to live up to what are likely some pretty lofty expectations.

I’ve met them both Jeph and Zeb in the last few weeks and they couldn’t have been more gracious with their advice. That’s formed the cornerstone of my take. He wants to do the right thing even if that’s not usually how things turn out. In NOVA #12 he does a good thing for some not-great people. The consequences of that lead to the next three or four issue arc. Bill comes to Earth to confront Sam and once Sam realizes the gravity and seriousness of his actions, he leaves for space. And he leaves for space not at the best time for the family. His mom is out looking for jobs. They have mortgage payments and bills. These are problems I think everyone can appreciate now. Most of the people I know are working two or three smaller jobs to cover what once might have been one larger job with benefits. Even a couple years ago I was laid off from a job when I was starting a family. Those are things that keep you up at night. Luckily for Sam he can put on that helmet and forget, for a little while, those Sam Alexander problems. He’ll have Nova problems that will make those other problems seem a little more manageable.

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Marvel.com: How does Sam feel about his legacy as a Nova corpsman, both in terms of the countless warriors from across the universe who fought in the ages before he was born, but also as the family business he inherited from his absentee father?

Gerry Duggan: Sam discovers the ability for his helmet to ping on the helmets of deceased Novas. Finding some of those relics of the corps’ past is a little sobering. When confronted with the corpse of a dead Nova, things like that really bring you down to Earth. It’s fun to be a Nova, flying all around, but this is serious business. There is a great trail of sacrifice. That’s one thing all of these Novas have in common. Sam is the last, and everyone before him gave their lives for order in the universe. That starts to sink in. That’s a tightrope. This is meant to be a fun book; I want it to be a fun book. It has humor to it. If you can balance those flavors, that’s when you really have something. Sam understands the gravity of what he’s been asked to do. He learned from his father and those stories he’d come to think were just the ravings of his old drunk dad. Now that they’re real, what are the consequences of that? He could go into space one day and never come back. Where would that leave his family? He could start to second guess himself. Look for evidence of his changing attitude about what it means to be a Nova very early on.

Catch up on NOVA with the Marvel Digital Comics Shop and Marvel Unlimited

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