By Kiel Phegley
While Ed Brubaker's run with CAPTAIN AMERICA has delivered more than enough espionage action in its first five years to last a lifetime, the writer and his collaborators won't stop with issue #600. In the second part of our Q&A with the writer, Brubaker reveals more of his plans for this summer of Captain America, from his long-awaited team-up with legendary artist Gene Colan to the next major arc on the series which brings Bucky
Barnes back into conflict with the crazy Cap from the 1950's and how today's America influences all points in between.
Marvel.com: Looking forward on the book, you've got #600 hitting, which looks back on so much of what you've already. Past that are you looking to start up with a new string of subplots and story points moving forward as a kind of new #1?
Oh, God no. [Laughs
] That'd be like re-launching "Lost" now. We're deep in. I mean, I'm trying to keep things as new reader-friendly as I can, but when you have a huge story that we've been telling this whole time and the ongoing drama of [CAPTAIN AMERICA], if anything issue #600 ups the ante. I think it puts some new pieces on the table and simplifies some stuff because the Skull's people all got wiped out and Lukin's dead. So it's a simpler plot, but the end of #600 really launches our summer Cap stuff, which is going to be a huge thing. It really does build on everything that's come before. I'm even using characters from the Young Avengers.
I think what I'm trying to do most in #600 is show how the absence of Steve Rogers is still affecting the entire Marvel Universe and what the original Captain America really meant to all these people. Now that Dark Reign is here, you get to see all of that. Thankfully, I said "yes" when [Brian] Bendis asked if he could move the Avengers into Bucky's house, though for some reason he keeps saying it's in the Bronx, and it's not. It's in Brooklyn. [Laughs
] But I get to use the Avengers here and there, and that's one thing I've been wanting to do with the book more—include the "Captain America Family" a little more. Bring the Falcon in and bring Sharon in, and now the Black Widow is Bucky's girlfriend and lives at the house. There's a much wider family, and I'm trying to build on that. It is fun. It starts to feel a little more like a team book. You can do whatever you want then, a whole issue focused on Sharon Carter or a whole issue focused on Bucky. I really like that. It's a much broader canvas to tell these epic stories on.
Marvel.com: With CAPTAIN AMERICA #601 you are teaming with one of your favorite artists: Gene Colan. How did that come about?
It was originally done to be an Annual or something at some point. I don't think we ever really knew what it was going to be, and now because of #50 being oversized and #600 being a massively oversized issue, I think they just thought it made sense to have that month's [issue] be the Gene story. At one point, we were just going to skip that month to make room for everything else, and then we realized we had the special issue done. It's an oversized issue, and I think he might have expanded it a few pages. It's beautiful. It's something Gene's been working on for two years or more. I've seen all the art, and some pages of it are as good as anything he ever did. I think he's pretty much officially retired from
doing any extended comic stories at this point, so this is his last comic. That was a really huge deal for me as a lifelong Gene Colan fan.
He's the reason I like DAREDEVIL. I mean, there's Frank Miller too, but the reason I read the Frank Miller DAREDEVIL was because of reading Gene Colan's DAREDEVIL when I was a little kid. And his Doctor Doom story [from ASTONISHING TALES] was the reason that I liked Doctor Doom and thought he was this Shakespearian character. That story he and Gerry Conway did about him trying to save his mother from Hell I somehow read when I was like four years old. I always saw that as being a really key thing about Doctor Doom: the fact that he was just a guy trying to save his mom. The ultimate momma's boy. My whole [BOOKS OF DOOM limited series] was all spun out of my memory of this eight-page story they did in the late 60's.
Marvel.com: So is #601 a timeless story about Steve or a modern Bucky story?
It's a World War II story. It has some modern day stuff with Bucky and Nick Fury [as] the bookends. And it has some revelations to stuff going on in modern comics, but I asked Gene, "What do you want to do? I thought we could do a World War II story." I figured he'd like that, having been in the army back then. [Laughs
] He was totally into that. He was like, "I want to draw rain and darkness and crumbling buildings." I said, "I'm seeing it already!" I geared it towards him, and it's kind of a Captain America horror comic in some ways. It's really messed up.
Marvel.com: What's part of the plan for the book for #602 going on?
The next arc starting in #602 is called "Two Americas"—or possibly "Two Captain Americas." I'm not sure yet. It focuses on how in issue #49 and some in issue #600 we get flashes of the Cap from the 50's, the bad Cap. The guy who was such a Steve Rogers fan that he became Steve Rogers and Captain America. He was always one of my favorite bits of Captain America history, so to be able to have resurrected him during the "Death of Captain America" arc was always my plan. Sadly, it was at the same time they were doing [AVENGERS/INVADERS], so we had like four Captain Americas running around. [Laughs
] But it worked anyway. He becomes a more prominent character in the book with his struggle to find the people he became Captain America for.
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I'm trying not to put politics in the comics necessarily, but it's hard when you're doing a comic called Captain America not to reflect the world around you to some degree. I'd been planning this story for six months and suddenly there were all these tea parties everywhere. Since the tide has changed in government and the Democrats are in charge, the people who were in power for eight years are out in the wilderness, and they feel like they don't have a voice anymore. And we've got this '50s Cap who doesn't know what he's going to do. As I was planning this story, Obama won, and people start having tea parties and carrying signs that say "Obama is a Nazi" and it's like "Oh God!" So I'm dealing a little with the disgruntled part of America in this storyline. It gets to both sides of it because I'm trying to be fair and balanced. [Laughs
] I never set out to mock people...well, I do in life, but not in my work. I think whenever you're writing a character you have to try and see their side of the story sympathetically. So this 50's Cap as a character is someone who I've always seen sympathetically because his viewpoint is not mine, but I can get into his head and see where he's coming from.
Marvel.com: And he's a character you've been attracted to for a long time, since the start of this run, right?
He's just a cool character because he looks almost exactly like Steve Rogers except for some scarring now. And he's literally from that 50's conservative part of the world. He looks around at the country in #600 and we show his point of view on what the world has become since he's been out of it. He becomes more of a player, and Tom [Brevoort] and I talked about that when I started on the book. We thought they shunted him off so quickly after that Steve Englehart story, and when they brought him back it was just to have him be this different character called the Grand Director who was just a pawn of Faustus and didn't really have much going for him. Tom and I were thinking that was a huge squandered opportunity. You've got this guy who was stronger than Cap who looks like Cap who thinks he is Cap—why would you not use this character? So I saw an immediate opportunity with the changing tide in the country. There's a place for him now.
It's the beginning of the next huge story line in #602 that builds to a lot of stuff coming together with Bucky as the new Cap and bad Cap wanting to be Cap. And it gets into the vibe of how America feels right now where we're in this deep recession and people are terrified it'll be a Depression again. And we've got two guys who are both Captain
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America who were born during the Depression and saw that as their childhood. I thought that would be an interesting thing to juxtapose. During the election John Edwards kept hammering this idea of "Two Americas," and I thought, "I should use that in a story." [Laughs
Marvel.com: Well, politics seems to be such a bigger part of pop culture these days that it's almost impossible not to make that a part of a story you tell.
I think maybe it's the Internet. It feels a little stronger now. I didn't intend with issue #34 where Buck becomes the new Cap which was always going to focus on Red Skull and Lukin making their final move—that was always about corporate monopolies and how there are so few people who control so much of the resources of the world now. Looking at how they control vast amounts of wealth and the media, and that was always going to be the story line. They were going to engineer the collapse of capitalism, put in their own candidate for president and try to buy America. It was a nod to an old [Jack] Kirby story called "The Man Who Sold America." It was like, "What if the Red Skull tried to be the man who buys America? Because it's clearly for sale." And I wasn't really intending to make it feel like a political story. I just wanted it to make it like a John Le Carré espionage story or "24." I wasn't trying to make a deep political statement. I'm talking about stuff that anyone reading any newspaper or reading the Internet for news knows about. I'm not breaking stories here or being some hardcore left winger to point out that people are getting evicted from their homes or the economy is going to hell. That's just what's happening. Then, suddenly we're getting calls from "Rolling Stone" because I guess we're the #1 pop culture thing for the year. And I was like, "Really?" [Laughs
] But I'm very against the mixing of art and politics. I just want to tell cool stories.
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