San Diego Comic-Con 2014

SDCC 2014: Angela: Asgard's Assassin

Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans bring the newest Asgardian to light and life in her own ongoing series!



Spinning out of the events of Original Sin, Angela, an angel from the tenth realm has learned her true heritage as an Asgardian daughter of Odin. And she’s not exactly happy about it!

We had the chance to talk with writers Marguerite Bennett and Kieron Gillen and artist Stephanie Hans—who will also be joined by Phil Jimenez—to find out just what they have in store for Marvel’s angriest angel. Angela is still a relatively new character to the Marvel Universe so do you want to give her a brief introduction so people that may not already be familiar know who we’re talking about?

Kieron Gillen: Yeah, we probably could. Angela is a character who has relatively few stories published but has an incredibly complicated history. [Laughs] Conceptually is probably the better way to talk about her, especially as you get into specifics. The sort of line we use to describe her is “Asgardian Black Widow,” in terms of how she acts, how she fights, how she moves, even the fact that she’s somebody with a lot of red in her ledger. And specifically she’s obsessed with the concept of what she owes people and what people owe her. So that’s kind of at the core of it.

It’s recently known that she’s Thor’s sister, who was lost during an ancient war between the Angels, who are the people who raised her, and Asgard, who are the people who the Asgardians come from. And now that Angela’s being revealed to be the daughter of Odin and she’s been ostracized by her own people, the Angels, who completely despise the Asgardians and she also still hates the Asgardians so she’s kind of like a girl without a home. There’s a lot Ronin to her, a lot of Lone Cowboy when we meet her. Would that explain it, Marguerite?

Marguerite Bennett: I think so. She’s just terribly tied to her ideology, it almost supersedes her personality in a lot of ways, traditionally. And so now she’s gotten to the point where that ideology can no longer stand up under scrutiny with the revelation of her past and her birthright and so now she’s going to have to negotiate how on Earth she can bring these two separate identities to term and move forward with this really cool understanding of what she was meant to be compared to what she became.

Kieron Gillen: And she fights things.

Marguerite Bennett: And she fights things. And she has a sassy friend.

Kieron Gillen: She has a sassy friend who’s an important element to the story. Marguerite clearly has the same problem that I do, in that I do the deep character reading all very serious and then go, “Oh yeah, there’s action too.” [Laughs]

Marguerite Bennett: And there’s hitting! So the title of the book is ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN. You just said that she hates all Asgardians so is she assassinating them or working for them in some capacity where she still manages to hate them?

      Kieron Gillen: The mutability or various meanings of the actual title is certainly part of the book’s concept, is my best way of putting it. Her status quo is open when we join her and, as I mentioned the fact of Black Widow earlier, her background was as an assassin but she really isn’t one anymore. In that kind of spy thing. So her working out how to relate that concept, how she’s an Asgardian, because she is an Asgardian despite everything she might think and what she thinks of herself as a hunter. That’s what the Angels taught her. Really, when you see she’s hunting humans as well as monsters, there’s another word for that, you know? Angela is a unique character in that she came over to Marvel from another company. Stephanie, how are you handling working on a character with such a different design aesthetic?

      Stephanie Hans: I really doesn’t make any difference for me; it’s all in the attitude.

      It’s always the same for me, each time I get to work on a new character; I’m trying to let the reader see the person behind the costume. That's what I'm working on. Designs, colors, I don’t care; it’s only material. It’s the background that I look at first and that's what I try to bring to the readers. The book has both two writers and two artists, how are you on the art side juggling such a large creative team?

      Stephanie Hans: You know we all live in different countries anyway.

      In a way it makes things easier, at least for me. I really want to focus on my part of the book, which is to give the right painting to the script. Being one page or one hundred, you always do it one at a time. The more you think about the importance of a project, the more you feel the pressure when in the end for me it's always the same job: bringing a story to life and giving it flesh.

      From my point of view, I only have five pages to paint each month. We don’t know much about the plot.  Are there any details you can hint at as to what’s actually going to be happening in the book or is that still hush-hush?

      Kieron Gillen: We’re kind of keeping it quite tight. So the format of the story is Angela is basically on the run for reasons that become immediately apparent and she is trying to achieve something while she’s on the run. So it gives her a chance to interact with a lot of different people so by the end of the first arc we really get a sense of who Angela is vis–à–vis the Marvel Universe. This is how she interacts with Asgardians, this is how she interacts with Angels. This is how she interacts with the Guardians and the cosmic stuff. Here is how she interacts with the Earth. You get a sense of who she is and where she fits into the larger picture. There’s quite a bit of “Lone Wolf and Cub” in the first arc, with a pretty hard twist on it to be honest. But that’s a lot of the imagery that I had of her is this kind of solitary, really scary and tough. So that’s kind of what the first arc feels like. I think we kind of what to keep it under wraps what actually happens.

      Marguerite Bennett: Loose lips sink giant floating Asgardian space cities.

 Always a good idea to keep the readers guessing and waiting and wanting more!

          Kieron Gillen: I’ll give you a couple of clues. It kind of spins off some stuff I did in Asgard before. If people liked my JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY or Matt Fraction’s Thor, the kind of stuff we did together, there’s a level of elements that build from what happened in Original Sin. At the same time, it’s very much its own story. It’s kind of what I do in terms of plotting-wise. A little bit more meat on the bone.

 Without knowing much of the plot there any other characters, new or established, that you’re excited to get to draw?

          Stephanie Hans: I really hope I will get to draw the new Loki. I’m sure I can make him sexy.

 What’s the actual collaboration process on the writing side of things before it even gets to the art.

          Kieron Gillen: We’re still sort of finding our way, aren’t we, Marguerite?

          Marguerite Bennett: We felt that within each story we’re going to have a story that’s told by Sara, who is a new companion of Angela’s and who has known her for a very, very long time but has been lost. And so when Sara is reintroduced she brings in a knowledge of Angela and begins to tell these stories that are interwoven into the plot. They’re not backups, they are authentic and organic to the story as it functions and she spins out these legends and cautionary tales and dire warnings of the idea of who Angela was and how she’s known and the great myths that have sprung out of her wake. And then those myths are highlighted or destroyed by the actual actions that you’ll see Angela taken throughout the story and so just the idea of who she was supposed to be, who she was heralded to be, and who she is now and who she intends to become.

          Kieron Gillen: We kind of really lean into that artistically because Phil is doing the main story for us and Stephanie the myth/stories. So the fact that there’s such a difference between the art styles is something we’re trying to use as a technique. They’re both wonderful artists. The other thing is the higher level planning stuff we’re doing together, essentially. The execution is that I’ll be handling the main block of the story arc, at least for this first arc, and Marguerite is concentrating on other things. But we haven’t finished the first arc. We might change our minds halfway through and switch for an issue or something. Any co-writing thing is always, you make up as you go along and see what’s working.

 Artists are also story-tellers in your own right. Stephanie, are you contributing in any way to Angela’s story?

          Stephanie Hans: I think that's the interaction between the script and the drawings that makes a full comic book. The feeling of the stories would of course be totally different with any other artist and I think it already tells a lot about what you can expect from the book. I often compare the relationship between the drawing and the scenarios to the one between the colors and the line-art. The rule for a colorist is “the line always comes first.” The colors should never erase the line. That's the same for me. The scenario always comes first and my role is to make it shine. Of course knowing my work, you should certainly expect power and dignity because that's the way I love to draw women and that's certainly my main contribution to the storytelling and I'm pretty sure that's what's expected from me.

 And how do you feel that your artistic style works with Phil Jimenez’s?

          Stephanie Hans: Phil has a strong and solid style, very neat when compared to mine which is perfect to tell the main story. I have a more ethereal rendering which should fit the tone of the smaller stories.

 Is this your first time co-writing a book like this?

          Kieron Gillen: Oh no, I’ve done, maybe not ongoing, but I’ve done “Everything Burns” with Matt. I was co-writing with Fraction on my first UNCANNY X-MEN arc. I’ve just come off the back of the Original Sin thing I did with Mark Waid and there might be another one in there somewhere but I forgot it. Oh yeah, the “Exiled” [crossover] I did with [Dan] Abnett and [Andy] Lanning. So the weird thing is that it’s just different every time and you actually have to work at how it will work for you. When I was doing it with Fraction it was like we were sitting with a shared Google Doc and we were plotting it together, which was very funny because you just see us deleting each other’s work.

              Marguerite Bennett: [Laughs] Oh no!

              Kieron Gillen: It’s just like, “Nope! Not doing that, Matt!” “Yes, you are!” “No, we’re not!” You really do make it up as you go along. It’s never 50/50. The total amount of effort adds up to more than 100%, which is the most depressing thing. [Laughs]

     The way you keep talking about Angela makes her sound like she’s Punisher with a big sword and wings.

              Kieron Gillen: She’s not as sure about stuff. When she chooses the fight, she’s pragmatic and has very little joy in it anymore. She used to have joy in it and that’s one of the things with the character we’re trying to reconnect, why the hell am I doing this anyway? Yes, I’m the best in the universe, what does that matter?

              Marguerite Bennett: The Punisher comes from a place of self-righteous anger where with Angela it’s balancing the scales, its people getting what they deserve. There’s no room for pettiness or revenge in her but there’s also no room for mercy, necessarily.

              Kieron Gillen: It’s one of the scary things about Angela is she’ll make sure the debt is repaid whether we like it or not.

              Marguerite Bennett: Stannis Baratheon [from “Game of Thrones”] comes to mind.

              Kieron Gillen: She doesn’t always like living by this code and that’s the problem with having a code and there’s some of the most interesting parts of the character. I referenced the Punisher occasionally in my pitch document in terms of how she acts and other people definitely view her like the Punisher in terms of, she walks in the room and people worry as in, “Why is she in the room and how the hell can I leave the room?” But when you get to know, she’s got sort of a sidekick, that’s one way of phrasing it. Sara, who’s an Angel and one of Angela’s only friends and there’s kind of a dark history between them and she’s kind of, it’s not quite the same, but she’s kind of Gabrielle to Xena, is an easy way of explaining it. So you get to see different bits of her through it but no, there is something cold and threatening about Angela but there’s enough of other things to make it not just “Scary Blank Lady” book.

              There’s got be a reason or it’s just this grim woman who kills people. [Laughs] There must be another reason for people to read the book or that would be tedious.

              Marvel: We’ve been increasing the number of books with female leads. Is it exciting to be part of a trend to increase character diversity in comics?

              Stephanie Hans: What do you think? [Laughs]

              As a woman, of course I am always happy to see the comic book industry trusting their readers to be interested in female lead stories. What’s even more interesting is when these characters are not that easy to love at first sight—at least not in a very “womanly” way.

              What’s important there is that first of all, it’s a good story. And that’s all that should matter.

              Kieron Gillen: Yeah. It certainly is for me. I try to keep my cast at least 50/50 even when I have a male lead and my UNCANNY X-MEN team was explicitly half men/half women and one robot, now that I think about it. And GENERATION HOPE, Hope was the lead, but it’s the first time I’ve ever done a solo lead female character. So that’s very appealing, that certainly attracted me to the book.

              Marguerite Bennett: Oh, I’m completely stoked. I don’t really have anything eloquent to put in at that point; it’s just going to be lots of fangirl cheering at that point.

              Kieron Gillen: She’s a new character to the Marvel Universe so finding a way to really integrate her into the universe—there’s no point in having a super hero character that does the job of another character in the universe. The worst they can be is a copy. You can’t have a character do Iron Man’s job because that’s Iron Man’s. You can’t have a character be the smartest man in the room because that’s Reed Richard’s job. That’s when you’ve got set universes, you need to work out a place where they can be powerful, interesting, and new. With Angela, that’s what our job is, to make this very distinctive character and that’s a very interesting way to make it work, I think. I may be rambling.

     So uncharacteristic for you, Kieron. Will this be a good book for people who haven’t really read much Angela before?

                  Marguerite Bennett: Yes, it’ll be very accessible.

                  Kieron Gillen: Yeah. It’s ANGELA #1. If you can’t start reading ANGELA #1, you’re in trouble. While it builds on some stuff that came before, this is as fresh and a new start for any character I’ve ever tried to write.

                  Marguerite Bennett: The secondary stories are definitely going to help integrate any kind of backstory or any necessary information so we’re going to make it as fun a process as possible for new fans.

         Anything else readers should know to get excited about the book?

                  Stephanie Hans: It’s a good story, I mean it.

                  Marguerite Bennett: The only thing that I will add is the most intimidating thing about this project is coming up with something worthy to have Stephanie draw it. More so than any fan pressure, that is the number one thing I’m worried about.

                  Kieron Gillen: Say what you like, this book will beautiful. [Laughs] You don’t need to care about the writers. The art alone will make this look incredibly classy so I just have to live up to it.

                  Who cares about the writers?

                  Marguerite Bennett: We’re professional liars.

                  Kieron Gillen: I’m a fairly unprofessional liar.

                  Marguerite Bennett: You’re a professional fan fic writer, that’s what all my business cards will say.

         I don’t know if Angela, with her moral code, will take too kindly to professional liars.

                  Marguerite Bennett: Watch out, I might not be the co-writer for very long!

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                  So happy Marguerite moved over to Marvel she is too smart and gifted for the other company which DIDN'T stand up for her work and contribution. So let Angela loose....bloodbaths begin :)