In Five Favorite, we ask Marvel creators to nominate their top picks from a chosen theme. This time around, we spoke with SECRET AVENGERS writer Ales Kot about Marvel spies and secret agents.
First Appearance: CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 (1941)
As Winter Soldier: CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (2004)
Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; Winter Soldier created by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting
The world thought Captain America’s kid sidekick Bucky died at the close of World War II, seemingly killed in the same explosion that hurled Cap into the icy waters of the North Atlantic. In truth, Bucky survived the explosion. The Russians recovered his body, patched him up with a bionic arm, and programmed him to become an assassin, the Winter Soldier. He’s since recovered his memories and his identity, and once again fights side-by-side with Cap.
Ales Kot: “A man with a torn up past and a bionic arm, striving to do good in a world he is re-learning to understand. It's all in that sentence. I hope I'll get to write a proper Bucky Barnes epic one day; something that takes him across the entire Marvel Universe, following wet works missions, finding himself bit by bit. Big thanks to Ed Brubaker for coming up with such a great protagonist.”
First Appearance: SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #1 (1963)
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Readers first encountered Nick Fury as a soldier, leading his ragtag team of Howling Commandos into battle during World War II. The Cold War turned him into a spy, and the leader of Marvel’s premiere espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick has dealt with more double-cross and deception than anyone in the Marvel Universe; now his son has followed him into the business in the pages of SECRET AVENGERS.
Ales Kot: “To me, there are two portrayals of Nick Fury that I come back to very often. First is Fury as written by Garth Ennis in PUNISHER MAX and FURY MAX. He is a consummate professional, a man straight from a Michael Mann film, a man with the weight of secret wars—and his greedy hunger for them—on his chest. The second one is the classic Jim Steranko Nick Fury, the swaggering, astonishingly capable super spy with a permanent cigar and a fierce attitude. These two portrayals are not far apart. I find that they complement one another.”
First Appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #52 (1964)
Created by Stan Lee, Don Rico and Don Heck
As a Russian spy, Natasha once served as an enemy of America, and a hyper-competent threat to the hero Iron Man. Yet within a couple of years of her first appearance, the formidable Black Widow defected from her Soviet paymasters and made a new home in the Avengers, using her extraordinary talents to do some good in the world. She’s been atoning for her past ever since.
Ales Kot: “I love how matter-of-fact Black Widow is about her job. She wants to keep her emotions at bay, which is interesting, because she's very perceptive and feels things quite a bit. That sort of sometimes schizophrenic approach creates a cognitive dissonance that projects into her life and creates a lot of extra struggle. At the same time, there's stoicism to her demeanor that is very appealing; she knows life a bit, she likes her humor black, she likes her coffee the same way. Having her as one of the main protagonists in my new SECRET AVENGERS run is a joy.”
First Appearance: MS. MARVEL #16 (1978)
Created by Dave Cockrum and Chris Claremont
Mystique’s mutant ability to physically transform herself to look like anyone else came in very handy during her years as a spy and undercover assassin. She put these skills to good use as a terrorist and agitator when she took control of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and made an attempt on the life of Senator Robert Kelly. Since then she has worked on both sides of the law, but she’s always been too slippery to pin down.
Ales Kot: “Number one: I love mutants. We are all mutants. We mutate constantly. We are not the same person we were yesterday and we are developing traits our predecessors didn't have. Number two: I love Mystique. She's a complex character, not a villain, not a ‘good person,’ she's a whole being. I remember reading Jason Aaron's 'Get Mystique' [in WOLVERINE] and Brian K. Vaughan's run [on MYSTIQUE] and being very happy someone gave her a proper stage. Number three: She's a shapeshifter.”
First Appearance: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 (1963)
Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
A Russian master of disguise, Chameleon served as one of Spider-Man’s earliest foes. While his half-brother, Kraven the Hunter, favored a visceral style of villainy, Chameleon used his sly wit and his ability to steal other people’s identities to excel as a master of corporate espionage. In recent years he’s taken a more sinister turn, taking the lives of the people whose identities he stole.
Ales Kot: “One of the sleaziest spies I've ever seen in comics. Gets anywhere. Cares about getting paid and nothing else, it seems. Has no problems with killing innocents. At the same time, there's such profound frailty to him; he's Kraven's brother, and Kraven was abusive to him during his youth, hence possibly the aim to use masks, to disappear oneself, in a sense. I also liked Fred Van Lente's focus [in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN] on Chameleon's tendency to ‘adjust’ the lives of the people whose faces he steals.”
Pick up SECRET AVENGERS beginning March 12!