By Kevin Mahadeo
In the coming months, writer Brian Reed plans on committing a lot of murders—at least in the fictional sense.
MS. MARVEL #38, on sale tomorrow, April 29, sees the psychotic psychiatrist Karla Sofen, formerly Moonstone of the Thunderbolts and now Ms. Marvel of the Dark Avengers, taking center stage in the title after the shocking death of Carol Danvers at the end of last month's issue #37. Then in June, things go from sexy to cynical as Reed pens DARK REIGN: THE SINISTER SPIDER-MAN, a four-issue limited series focusing on Mac Gargan, the man once known as Venom now masquerading as Spider-Man. The two titles tie into the "Dark Reign" currently falling across all of the Marvel Universe, a direct consequence of Norman Osborn ascending into a throne of power following the events of Secret Invasion and forming his own team of villain-filled Avengers.
In between masterminding all the murder and mayhem, Reed chatted about the massive changes in MS. MARVEL, about writing a far more sinister and sadistic Spider-Man, and of course thigh-high boots.
Marvel.com: I know you've insisted, but is Carol Danvers really dead?
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As far as I know, yeah.
Marvel.com: What was it like killing her off? You've written the character for so long. Was it a blow to your heart?
It was a rough day at the office, sure. [Laughs
] It was something that was building up for a while once we knew that Dark Reign was coming and I instantly wanted to turn the book over to Moonstone. And I wanted it to feel like we weren't just ignoring our main character. As I started talking to editor Steve Wacker it became, "Well, why don't we kill her?"
It really became a question of how do we get her out of the way and not have fans going, "You had one page of Carol this issue and the rest of it is Karla. What's going on?" And the whole Marvel Universe thinks that's Ms. Marvel sitting in [Avengers] Tower, so let it be Ms. Marvel. Let's give you the citizen-of-the-Marvel-Universe experience.
Marvel.com: Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to miss Carol's thigh-high boots.
They are a wonderful piece of the costume. [Laughs
Marvel.com: Now, Karla Sofen is the new Ms. Marvel. What can you say about her as a character?
She's rather twisted. This is a person who went through school, became a psychiatrist, has this wonderful career, and then started talking her patients into killing themselves. That's a special kind of human being right there. [Laughs
] In the first issue we actually see her in a therapy session. The United States government declares that they want all of the Avengers to have psych evaluations, and Norman Osborn knows what a bad idea this is. So, he sends Karla in first to do the talking. We get to see a lot of who is Karla, how is she put together mentally, and why we do not want her to be Ms. Marvel.
Marvel.com: Like you said, Karla's a psychiatrist, albeit a twisted one. How did you prepare for this? Did you attend a psych session to see what it was like or to see how the doctor, patient dynamic works?
I actually have a family friend who is psychiatrist. I've known him for years, and I was able to draw from that. But I didn't go visit or anything.
Marvel.com: It would have been quite the session.
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"Doctor, I'm writing a serial killer who is also a psychiatrist. I thought I'd come by and chat." [Laughs
Marvel.com: Is it a weird transition to move from someone like Carol, who desperately wanted to be a hero, to someone like Karla, who, like you said, is a bit twisted?
Karla has this attitude that she's in the Tower, she is Ms. Marvel, so she's won—she can totally sit back and rest on her laurels. At the same time, she's this weirdly broken human being. We're seeing a lot of her psychosis get in the way. As she starts really taking on the job of Ms. Marvel, we start seeing her having to deal with it and going, "I really don't want to be here and I really don't want to be doing this." It's really writing the opposite of Carol.
Marvel.com: One character who will be appearing in the book upcoming is Deadpool—how has that been from a writing standpoint?
Deadpool is one of those characters that are hard to write not because he is hard to write but because it's hard not to let everyone else be funny while he's being funny. Everyone is playing the straight man to this one wacky guy. He's someone I wanted to play with for a while, and as we moved out of Secret Invasion and headed into Dark Reign, I wanted to pull out all the stops and bring in everybody, and Deadpool was that the top of that list. Deadpool will be doing some work for A.I.M., and A.I.M. has always been a recurring theme in Carol's life. Now that Karla's in the boots, she's the one that has to deal with A.I.M. coming back for Ms. Marvel again.
Marvel.com: By that standard, do people like A.I.M. and the general public think it's the same person in a different costume or do they realize it's a different person?
That's addressed a little bit. Mostly what's happened is that Norman Osborn told the world that this is Ms. Marvel and this is Wolverine and this is Spider-Man. Even though Carol Danvers is known, everybody knows the Skrulls were replacing people and everybody knows the heroes maybe weren't themselves for a while. I think we've got a public who is confused on who may be there, but they're told by the man they trust, Norman Osborn, that that's Ms. Marvel.
Marvel.com: Rebekah Isaacs is providing art for issue #38. What does she bring to the new Ms. Marvel?
She makes Karla feel safe, and that's a weird thing to say, but you get comfortable and you trust Karla looking at her on the page, which is great because there's
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some really dark stuff going on. To have this art that makes you go, "Oh, she looks like somebody I'd hang out with," is really nice. She could have come in and just drawn her with the sinister stare and make her look really evil, but instead she looks like the girl next door.
The preview pages for the issue are out, and there are these guys robbing an armored car. She comes in and kills them. She tells the cops that she [killed] them, and the cops are cool with it. What's interesting is that because of the way Rebekah is drawing her, you trust Karla. If she tells you that those guys needed to be dead, sure, of course they needed it.
Marvel.com: Let's talk DARK REIGN: THE SINISTER SPIDER-MAN. This book stars Mac Gargan, a character a little different that Peter Parker. How do you plan on presenting this?
We have to take a step back for this to completely make sense. With MS. MARVEL, I really took the attitude of maintaining the same storytelling style we've had since issue #1, so it stayed very serious. Yes, it's a bad guy in charge of the book, but we're keeping the same tone we've had. With SINISTER SPIDER-MAN, editor Tom Brennan made the suggestion that it be a fractured fairy tale. That was the moment I understood the book. The first draft I wrote, I treated like a comedy—a very dark, sick, twisted comedy, but a comedy. It's constantly finding the next unsettling, goofy-but-not-goofy thing for Mac to do. And since this is all building up to him declaring war on the new mayor of New York, J. Jonah Jameson, he starts doing some really horrible things. We see him murder people because he can. We see him stop a bank robbery by a guy dressed as a wolf, and when he bites the guy's arm off, he complains about the fur from the suit getting stuck in his teeth. Lots of weird, uncomfortable dark humor going on.
Marvel.com: How do you get into the mindset to write a character so overly vicious?
] Lots of coffee and beer. It's the chance to write the bad guy with no consequence whatsoever. Usually you write the bad guy and you have to think about how the good guy is going to stop them. When the first script got to [artist] Chris Bachalo, his first words were, "This man does nothing redeeming."
Marvel.com: So, it really is a free reign aspect in this to go wild?
As Matt Fraction pointed out, I'm the first writer in Marvel history who had been paid money to write the words, "Spider-Man is getting a lap dance."
] When I turned the script in on a Friday, I spent the weekend waiting to be fired. Monday morning I get a call from Tom Brennan and he said, "Well, it's an interesting peek inside your mind."
Marvel.com: You mentioned that this book leads to Mac going after JJJ. Would you say that's the mission goal of this limited series—to have Gargan face down Jameson for everything that's happened?
The first issue is very much a day in the life of Mac Gargan, and at the end of the issue he makes his mission statement.
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