By Kiel Phegley
With a credit list that ranges from the sublimely silly "Avengers turn into M.O.D.O.C." issue of MARVEL ADVENTURES AVENGERS to big ticket super hero action with SECRET INVASION: WHO DO YOU TRUST?, writer Jeff Parker turns out some of the most diverse and entertaining titles in the Marvel catalogue every month.
Parker's upcoming resume offers a wild collection of whiz bang adventure from the just-launched AGE OF SENTRY series exploring the Golden Guardian's forgotten adventures to October 15's Frankenstein fightin' MONSTER-SIZE HULK #1 and October 29's spooktacular GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #1. Early next year, fans of Parker's acclaimed AGENTS OF ATLAS series will finally be graced with an ongoing title for Gorilla Man and company, which will tie into the mysterious "Dark Reign" in surprising ways.
Parker gave us a look into all of the above including the secrets of keeping comics crazy, how to use old school continuity to your advantage and why he has to keep mum until SECRET INVASION takes a bow.
Marvel.com: Jeff, after reading the first issue of AGE OF SENTRY, I kind of feel like the Marvel editorial staff must have been sitting around going, "We need a book that's perfect for Jeff Parker to write…what could it be?"
AGE OF THE
SENTRY #2 cover
by Dave Bullock
I appreciate it, too. [Laughs
] What I'm interested in is starting in the next issue, little cracks start to come through the stories, and you start to get this weird second story happening, so I'm curious to see what everybody's going to say. We played it pretty straight in the first one, but then you're going to start getting some of the "Well, it's the Sentry, and he's crazy!"
Marvel.com: Is part of your goal in comics carrying out sillier kinds of stories and keeping the fun of them into modern comics?
That's a good way to put it. I think too many people throw out stuff because they don't want to acknowledge that comics ever did whatever they consider silly at the moment, even though in 20 years everybody's going to consider whatever they did as silly. And I think there's always a way to revisit it and put it in a new context that makes it work again.
Marvel.com: You're writing half of AGE OF THE SENTRY and Paul Tobin writes the other half. When you two sat down to do this, were there any specific comics you were looking to and saying, "This is what we're going for"?
We're specifically going to the early 60's. And that's the point of the Sentry. He's supposed to be this displaced hero. How do you make him feel a little more oddball. Marvel was a lot more like that in the early days when they were doing the monster stuff. They were very similar in the early days to what [the competition] was doing and then suddenly got [their] own identity when FANASTIC FOUR started taking off and also with Spider-Man.
But the Sentry—he's this hero from another world, and he's got a kind of classic origin where supposedly there's nothing tragic in it. It's always left pretty open what the Sentry's real origin is. We're not going to answer anything anytime soon. By the end of the series people won't really know what to think of the Sentry. [Laughs
Marvel.com: Is that part of what you'll revisit in every issue? In the first installment, we get a very wholesome "I'm going to drink this potion and stop a rocket!" but later we'll get different views on that same event?
Oh yes. By the time you get to the end of the series, you're going to get a very different possible explanation. But you'll see that as we do it, you can kind of pick the one you like, and then you can infer which is the one me and Paul want to be the real story. [Sentry creator Paul] Jenkins may still come out with something else. We don't want to step on toes or say, "No, no. This
is the way it is!" We just want to give another possibility. But the real stuff starts happening in issue #2, and it's kind of interesting because I think fans are either expecting it or dreading it, so I'm curious to see how they'll be reacting to it.
Marvel.com: Now, does Paul work with you right there in the Periscope Studio in Portland, Oregon with other creators like David Hahn, Karl Kesel and Kieron Dwyer?
No, but his wife, Colleen Coover works with us. Often, he'll often pop in and make a guest appearance. But he is in Portland like most cartoonists. [Laughs
] I see [writer Brian] Bendis riding around on his bicycle all the time. It's crazy. This is like the way I thought things were when I was a kid. "Well, all comics people are in one town"—which, of course was true at the time. It was New York then.
Marvel.com: It must be nice to work in that studio where if an editor is trying to find an artist for one of your projects, you can go, "Well Steve Lieber is right here…why not him?" And then you're working with your friends and it's easy to collaborate.
AGE OF THE
SENTRY #4 cover
by Dave Bullock
Oh yeah. [Coover is] also working [on] AGE OF SENTRY too. Sentry runs into Millie the Model in issue #3 or 4. [Calls across the room
] Colleen! Which issue is Millie the Model in? [Pauses
] #3. In the second story Paul collaborates with his wife, and the alien Manoo comes to Earth, and [there are] all kinds of romance hijinx involving the Sentry. The Sentry gets a lot of love intrigue in this series, too. Today I'm writing one where he runs into the Golden Age Sentry.
Marvel.com: With X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, the core of that book has stayed the same, but you've taken advantage of the position it holds in between Marvel Adventures and regular Marvel continuity by expanding out beyond the one issue stories. Are you trying to build some larger ongoing arcs into the book?
That was more me badgering the editors more than anything and going, "I'm about to lose my mind doing these done-in-one stories. Can I please break them up?" We started off in the second issue of the regular series as a two-parter. It's so much easier to write a story when you have four or five issues to do it rather than get it done in one, [though] that's the way SENTRY works. There we're only doing half-issue stories, but we're doing the Silver Age thing of cramming three or four good ideas into one story where as nowadays, you'll take six issues to tell one of those ideas. But it works for the X-Men, too. They're young and it's supposed to be fun and open to new readers.
Marvel.com: And it's different than, say, Fred Van Lente's WOLVERINE: FIRST CLASS where he's fitting in to the past continuity so specifically. With the original X-Men, there were a number of years where they weren't published so you have plenty of room to fill in gaps and create new, fun stories by doing things like bringing Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in more often.
That was one where I said, "Hey, these guys should have been friends."
I wish I had Karl Kesel as an advisor the whole time because right away when we talked about doing an issue, he said, "How about Medusa? There was that period where she was running around with amnesia. Maybe she can run into the X-Men?" Karl is like an encyclopedia. It's easy for him. It's like turning the page in his head. So then we did the Medusa story, which actually fits into continuity pretty well because she runs away in the Wizard's flying saucer from FANTASTIC FOUR, but then she shows up and she's trying to hotwire one of Johnny's cars. It's like, "What did you do with that flying saucer?" [Laughs
] So that gave us an excuse to explain where she went for a few issues, and also I get to use the flying saucer in a story that Michael Cho is drawing in the special coming out in October. I've got Cyclops and Beast flying around in that thing.
That [special] is going to be really fun. We've got Dean Haspiel and Nick Kilislian doing stories. Kevin Nowlan is improving my pencils again for a few pages. And Roger Langridge is doing a two-pager that's just so brilliant I don't want to tell anybody because I just want them to read it, but he's doing an Edward Gorey take off that's just wonderful.
Marvel.com: And that book really lends itself to more quirky talent coming in that we never see do Marvel books.
I'm glad we've occupied that position and made it more indie friendly, which strangely enough the 60's X-Men really lend themselves to because they were kind of indie at the time. They were odd. They weren't like other heroes. Like you said, they did have trouble trying to establish them for years, and finally when they got into the UNANNY version it hit with the public. But you can tell Stan Lee wanted to make it work because he had this great idea where he didn't have to explain origins anymore—he just had mutants! [Laughs
Marvel.com: Your MONSTER-SIZE HULK special hits in a few weeks, but it's hard for me to ask anything about it because, well…it's Hulk versus Frankenstein. What more is there to say?
] That pretty much says it all. "Hulk. Frankenstein monster. The end." It's the older version and the modern version together. It's surprising that they never ran into each other before, now that I think about it.
Marvel.com: Marvel has had its brushes with classic horror in the past with things like TOMB OF DRACULA, but is there a Marvel version of the Frankenstein monster you could draw from?
He had his own series. First it was MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN and then they switched it to FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER, which makes it hard when you're trying to track down those back issues. They did a very faithful adaptation of the [Mary] Shelley book originally, and [artist] Val Mayerik did most of the issues. But it was a pretty fair run in the late 60's and 70's when Marvel was interested in doing horror. And I stuck pretty close to stuff they established, like you meet Victoria Frankenstein who's the last descendent of the Frankenstein family. She's taken it as her responsibility to take care of the monster now, so her manipulations bring Bruce Banner into contact with the monster. It's pretty much me wanting to do a Halloween special, which I'm also doing with X-Men, so if you're looking for something that last week of October that's going to just get you in the mood, [those] should do it. The X-Men special is all a tribute to 50's sci fi movies.
Marvel.com: The AGENTS OF ATLAS ongoing is a ways off yet, but when you announced it you noted that it would be playing off the post-Secret Invasion Marvel Universe. Does that mean you'll be fitting with this "Dark Reign" banner?
Yeah. We're directly involved with it. It works surprisingly neatly into it, but I can't tell you [more]. Obviously you saw the solicitation for the DARK REIGN: NEW NATION issue is classified. It's like, "Who's in this special?" Everybody assumed Agents of Atlas were in it because my name's on it, [so] I guess I just let that one out. [Laughs
Gosh, I'm trying to find a way to talk about it without ruining it. I could get in a lot of trouble. I don't want [Executive Editor Tom] Brevoort showing up at my front door. [Laughs
] All I can say is that everything they do is involved in the new status quo for a while. And I've seen people online saying, "Agents of Atlas should hang out in their own corner that doesn't have anything to do with crossovers." But I think they're going to find that it's a lot of fun watching this group you wouldn't think is involved with all this stuff be directly involved with it. It creates an interesting energy, and [they do not have to] act any differently. It works.
Marvel.com: You can't spoil anything at this point, but in the first limited series, it seemed like you put a lot of pieces in place in order to pull the rug out from everyone in issue #6. Are you taking this time in prepping the new series to fit in similar mysteries?
Yes. Some stuff we hinted at dealing with in the limited series is going to be brought up. And there will be an online story coming up that's going to set up a neat confrontation in the modern day where we're going to tell a story from the 50's and then revisit it about halfway through the first year. I'm really looking forward to seeing that, and I wish I could say who's in it. But again…Brevoort. Front door. I've really got to keep my mouth shut.
Check out more from Jeff Parker on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!