By Ben Morse
Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have spent the past several years braving the sub-zero cold of Marvel’s vast cosmos writing titles like NOVA, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, WAR OF KINGS and THE THANOS IMPERATIVE, but that hardly made the bitter chill struck their native England last week any easier for the British gents collectively known as DnA to weather.
Fortunately, Abnett and Lanning have some hot Marvel assignments keeping them busy, most notably HEROES FOR HIRE, the new ongoing series they pen with art by Brad Walker which kicked off earlier this month and already has fans buzzing about its eclectic cast of street level heroes and vigilantes as well as issues #1’s surprising last page reveal. DnA have also been chronicling a massive epic featuring two of Hollywood’s current heavy hitters in the IRON MAN/THOR limited series, currently halfway through its four-issue run and featuring the work of artist Scot Eaton.
Marvel.com managed to pry the writers away from the fireplace long enough to talk about the transition from outer space to the mean streets, their love for Misty Knight, what the High Evolutionary’s up to and more.
Marvel.com: We’ve been talking for months since the announcement of HEROES FOR HIRE about you guys adapting back from the cosmic material to the more street-level stuff you did earlier in your careers; now, with the first issue out and the next couple scripts in the can, how did the process take?
DnA: It was a blast. We deliberately wanted to do something as far from cosmic as possible, just for a refreshing change of pace. As you said, it was the Marvel street [characters]—[specifically] The Punisher—that we debuted on all those years ago with HEROES FOR HIRE cover artist Doug Braithwaite. Actually, the tight, character-driven dynamic, with an ongoing storyline and individual adventures is very similar to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. The location and the style of action is great fun to do for a change. And [we love] plotting the twists and turns.
Marvel.com: In the first issue, the focus character shifted multiple times, with Misty Knight as the unifying element. Will this be the standard format for the book? Will characters recur outside of Misty?
DnA: It’s essentially the standard format, but Misty isn’t the only recurring character, and some of the ‘guest heroes’ will definitely return. The interaction may grow. There are some surprises to come.
Marvel.com: Building on that last question, how did you guys come up with this concept and format, which definitely stands out from your typical team book?
DnA: It just seemed like a great way of getting great characters together into a book without ripping other titles apart, while avoiding the clichéd “team up” thing. We liked the notion that ‘for hire’ was a rather more conceptual, non-literal idea that meant something different to each character.
Marvel.com: The first issue featured our heroes up against an Atlantean drug dealer and mostly non-powered hoods; will these be the typical threats in the book or will we be seeing costumed super villains as well? Are you tempted to throw in a cosmic level bad guy to mix things up, or would that never fly here?
DnA: The threats may often be ‘real world criminal’ things, but always with a Marvel Universe twist. Villains? Oh yes. Cosmic? If we can make it work as a real curve ball.
Marvel.com: As mentioned, Misty Knight is really the central character of this book. Now that you guys have had a bit to familiarize yourself with her and get inside Misty’s head, who is she to you as a character?
DnA: We researched her carefully, and drew the set up directly from her immediate recent continuity, as you will see. We like her because she seems like a very real, grounded character as marvel heroes go; and she knows everyone.
Marvel.com: That said, the last page of issue one revealed that Misty is a prisoner of the Puppet Master and her actions are not entirely her own—what exactly is going on here?
DnA: You will see. There are worlds within worlds within worlds...
Marvel.com: In the fallout of Shadowland, where do you see the place of Heroes For Hire in the larger Marvel Universe, both in terms of the team and the book?
DnA: H4H has happened to clean up the mess after Shadowland. They are street level, not big hitters like the Avengers; Hard working, unappreciated, essential, but determined, versatile and absolutely prepared to get the job done.
Marvel.com: What’s ahead for the remainder of this first arc and beyond?
DnA: Opening up the Misty mystery, hero. And then revealing new mysteries to come. With awesome guests. If you were on the first cover, you’ll have been in the book by issue #6.
Marvel.com: Stepping over to IRON MAN/THOR, it’s certainly got to be a bit of a jump to go from the more under-the-radar characters you guys have become known for like the Guardians of the Galaxy and the cast of HEROES FOR HIRE to two of Marvel’s most visible characters, both movie stars and Avengers. How do you adjust your style and approach for a shift like that?
DnA: There is a sense of taking a deep breath and not getting overawed when you’re writing the likes of Iron Man and Thor, especially with an artist like Scot [Eaton]. But it’s also very “cosmic” in scope and dynamic, so that was comforting to us. It’s a huge, big hitting old school story.
Marvel.com: What is it about the dynamic between Iron Man and Thor you guys feel is appealing and interesting?
DnA: Founder Avengers, old friends, both awesomely powerful for entirely different reasons, and a little out of step at the moment; a lot of blood under the bridge.
Marvel.com: With the High Evolutionary showing up, this is a character you guys had your hands on way back in Annihilation: Conquest. Will we see a continuation of his agenda from there here or is he up to something completely new? What do you guys dig about this character?
DnA: He’s just awesomely cool: a great look, a great idea, and not really a villain at all. He just forgets the little people sometime, and they get hurt. This follows on from his ambitions in Conquest, but this story shows a lot more about the inner man, the positive side of his dreams.
Marvel.com: I also wanted to talk some cosmic stuff with you guys, but you know what, let’s wait a couple days…
To be continued!