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Nova: Building a Human Rocket Pt. 3

Jeph Loeb launches Sam Alexander into his own world of comic book adventure!

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Nova #2 cover by Ed McGuinness

By Marc Strom

Now that Sam Alexander has his own ongoing series beginning with NOVA #1--now on sale by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness—fans will finally learn the origin of the young hero who first appeared at the end of 2011 heralding last year’s epic Avengers Vs. X-Men event.

The series’ opening storyline returns to Sam’s early days, before he first donned the Nova helmet and took up the mantle of Earth’s new Corpsman.

“We’re going to see him from the very first time he puts on the helmet, and it really doesn’t go that well,” says Loeb. “That journey from never being able to do something to being as good as you are at it as we’ve seen in Avengers Vs. X-Men or on ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ is exciting to me. You don’t always get to do that.”

As Sam learns how to use his new powers and sets out on the hero’s path, he’ll encounter things he never imagined he’d see, something which Loeb hopes will remind readers of the sense of wonder inherent in the Marvel Universe.

“It’s gotten to a point now when the Avengers and the X-Men go into outer space and they encounter the Kree and the Shi’ar, it’s just another day at the office,” remarks the writer. “It’s exciting, and it’s big time adventure, but there isn’t anybody left going, ‘Wait a second, there are aliens. These are people that actually come from another planet.’

“When Sam flies for the first time and breaks the atmosphere and looks back down at the Earth, it’s a ‘This is the coolest thing in the world’ moment. Having that kind of fun with your hero was something that came with [the concept] and really spoke to the legacy of being Nova. That’s the place that Rich Rider started out once upon a time. To be able to capture that and take it in a new direction is something that I really wanted to have the chance to do.”

Nova #2 cover by Ed McGuinness

Before becoming Nova, Sam had a life that didn’t extend past the edge of Carefree, Arizona, the small desert town in which he grew up, a location that Loeb chose for very specific reasons.

“We set out to create something that lived in the kind of Spielberg-ian world of movies that I had loved so much,” he recounts. “When we first started talking about it, the one thing that was [key to me] was the idea of how important the sky was, how you could live in a very small town and it kind of dwarfs you. If you grow up in New York, the world around you is made up of these gigantic buildings so you’re very squeezed in, but when you live out in big sky country, the possibilities for something out beyond your own backyard stares you in the face every day and every night.

Setting Sam’s origin in the Arizona desert will also help shape the teen’s reaction to some of the out-of-this-world environments he will encounter on his travels through the spaceways, according to Loeb:

“We first set out and started talking about maybe this was going to be [set in] Montana, because that’s so known for big sky country. But then we got to talking to editor Steve Wacker, and if you start looking at the pictures that the Mars rover is sending back, it doesn’t look a whole lot different from Arizona. I wanted to have Sam be able to have his mind blown constantly, but there were some things that would not be so incredibly freaky to him. So if he actually did go to the moon, it’s awesome, but by the same token, there’s something very similar to the world that he knows. Because environment determines so much about you, about who you are and who you’ll become.

“I started looking all over Arizona and I couldn’t believe that there was actually a town called Carefree that did exactly what we needed it to do. And the irony for this kid, of course, is, ‘Carefree! I’m never going to go anywhere except be in a town where the name of it is happier than I am.’”

Nova #3 cover by Ed McGuinness

Before Sam can become the hero saving the day in AvX, though, he’ll have to figure quite a few things out, and the journey won’t always come easy, in large part due to his absent father.

“He certainly doesn’t believe in himself,” Loeb notes of Sam’s mindset at the beginning of the ongoing NOVA. “He’s going to have to find a way not only to make it worth his time, but to dig inside of himself and find the ability it requires to become a Nova. A lot of that has to do with who his father is and how he sees his father. From the very beginning, one of the first things that I pitched to editorial was, ‘What would you do if your whole life you thought the last person you’d want to be like was your father, and then something happens and you can only hope that you could become half the man that you find out he really is?’

“I think that’s something that’s really relatable. Both as a son and as a father, we all find out things about our dads—sometimes early in life, sometimes late in life, [and] sometimes after we’ve lost them—that we never knew that can change our entire opinion about who they were and how that defines you. That’s so much of where we’re going with this book. This is not only about how he becomes Nova, this is [about] how Samuel Alexander becomes a man.”

Longtime collaborator Ed McGuinness joins Loeb on this adventure, and the writer proposes he will have a chance to stretch some different artistic muscles on this series than fans may not be used to.

“Working with Ed is like an honor,” exudes Loeb. “He’s an extraordinary illustrator, and we were so used to working on characters that are larger than life whether it was Superman or the Hulk or Cable. We’re talking about characters that could punch a building or move a planet, [so] I liked the idea of coming to him and saying, “Can we do something that’s quiet? And the main character is going to be skinny. And that’s going to push you, as an illustrator, in a new way.’

Nova #3 preview pencils by Ed McGuinness

“The other thing I knew that would appeal to him is that Ed has something like 17 kids. Most of the children in the state of Maine belong to him. As a dad I really wanted him to have the fun of being able to draw those quiet moments with [Sam’s] family, so we spent a lot of time talking about what kids are like at that age and what’s important to them and just little hand gestures you’ll see in the art. There’s a panel where they are all in the kitchen together and Sam is patting his kid sister’s head, and it’s one of Steve’s favorite panels because it’s so real.

“And real isn’t something you usually look for in Ed’s artwork, [which is so] larger than life. It actually explodes out beyond the page. We knew that as soon as Nova got into outer space and he was going to take on whatever he was going to take on out there, no matter how big it was Ed was going to rock that. But what was it going to be like when it’s stuck in a house or at a high school? And that, to me, is really the exciting part, from a storytelling point of view, of the journey that we’re going to see this kid on and how Ed has grown, again, as an illustrator.”

Rounding out the creative team, some of the top talents in their respective disciplines, all of whom Loeb can’t thank enough for their contributions to the series:

“I really need to give a big shout out to Dexter Vines, our inker, who polishes up what Ed does in a magical way and Marte Gracia, who we’ve never worked with before, doing the coloring. It’s one of the prettiest books, I think, that Marvel has done in a long time. And, of course, my good luck charms over at Comicraft, Alfred Deschesne and Richard Starkings who do the lettering and design. When you have that kind of all-star team behind you it really makes it fun to tell a story, knowing that the way it’s going to be expressed on the page is even better than I can imagine.”

Nova #1 variant cover by Marcos Martin

Most of all, Loeb looks forward to seeing fans’ reactions to the new Nova and his role in the larger Marvel Universe.

“It starts out very small, and it gets very very big,” he vows. “The first arc is just the beginning of a place where, hopefully, when you’re looking at the Avengers and X-Men and Spider-Man at the store, Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy become some of your regular reading. These characters are just as important as Spider-Man and Iron Man and Hulk. They’ll be defining what happens in the Marvel Universe not only now, but for years to come, and not only in comics, but in the movies and television and beyond. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great place to start.”

Get NOVA #1 now, and catch “Ultimate Spider-Man” “every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. ET inside Marvel Universe on Disney XD.

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