By Kiel Phegley
Even the deepest, darkest secrets can only be kept for so long.
For the Marvel Universe, the shadowy secrets behind its true origins took 70 years to come to light, courtesy of Eisner-winner Ed Brubaker and his long-standing artistic partner Steve Epting. Today at New York Comic-Con, Marvel announced that the pair would spend 2009 leading the charge of the company's 70th anniversary in the form of an eight-issue series titled THE MARVELS PROJECT.
"It's a modern day retelling of the origin story of the Marvel Universe," Brubaker explains. Taking place between 1938 and 1942, the comic centers on the unknown connections between Marvel's biggest Golden Age heroes and how their creation still impacts Marvels characters today. "What I'm trying to do is tell the story in a way where it feels like it fits with the Marvel Universe and ties into the Marvel Universe that exists today."
THE MARVELS PROJECT features Captain America, the original android Human Torch and Namor, the Sub-Mariner in significant roles with multitudes of semi-forgotten Marvel heroes along for the ride including the original Angel. However, rather than rehash the scenes fans already associate with these characters, the writer promises that he and Epting will unveil hidden threads in the whole Marvel Universe by looking at the true powers behind the super powers.
"My main mandate to myself in this project is to try to tell the definitive version of this story and bring it all together into one big epic that all makes sense being in the same book," Brubaker continue. "Something that feels like one story instead of just going, 'And here's this guy's origin. And this guy's origin too!' I want it to feel like a story that makes sense.
"You've got this pre-war America as the setting for the whole story, and it's really interesting," he adds, explaining that the real life intelligence community built by president Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave him an outlet into a bigger story involving America's super soldier arms race with the Axis powers. "One of our opening scenes is FDR getting a secret intelligence briefing on a yacht, and it's about the experiment that's creating the Human Torch. Basically, the Nazis are closer than them [to creating a super powered solider], and that's one of the reasons why the Human Torch is allowed to be leaked to the press. The guy who created the Human Torch doesn't even know that the shell company funding his experiment is actually run by the government. He thinks he's trying to create artificial life, and he's really working for the government."
With sinister experiments, attempted assassinations and the secret project that gives the series its name all swirled into one story, Brubaker and Epting find themselves in the kind of realistic milieu that marked their success on CAPTAIN AMERICA, but to Brubaker the most important element of his spy-filled story stands the fact that all the elements were in the original books waiting to be mined.
"I'm trying very hard not to tread over ground that's been tread over 100 times before and trying not to look at it as a giant retcon but instead as a reinterpreting of this whole era as if it's a legend being retold in a way," the writer says. "This is about the science race to create super humans. That's not even something I'm bringing to it. It's just something I'm highlighting because if you look back on what is referred to as the canon origin of the Marvel Universe, it is a big espionage story."
And while working on the limited series will keeps Epting from contributing to the interiors of CAPTAIN AMERICA, Brubaker promises that the artist will prove as passionate about the Golden Age heroes as he has anything in his career, especially when it comes to laying down the definitive look of characters long in limbo.
"Seeing Steve redesign the look of these old characters is cool," Brubaker professes.
"I think it's going to be a really, really cool project. I don't think I've been as excited about any project I've worked on at Marvel except maybe the first issue of [CAPTAIN AMERICA] I got to write. You look at these icons, and it's amazing to be able to go back and tell this story. This is a story that has never been told, and we're going to tell it. The closest you can get is that first issue of MARVELS, and even that is approaching it from a completely different point of view and story structure and tone."
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