By Kiel Phegley
American Eagle. The Sons of the Tiger. Death Ninja.
For years, characters like these defined back issue bin obscurity, but whether you're talking about unknown villains or forgotten heroes, plenty of faces from Marvel's past earned a champion this year in Jason Aaron.
From his blazing run on GHOST RIDER to his acclaimed turn with WOLVERINE, the writer knows that the best stories don't always feature the same old struggles over and over again. This week, Aaron gives fans a new look into an unseen corner of the Marvel Universe with the premier of AMERICAN EAGLE: JUST A LITTLE OLD-FASHIONED JUSTICE, an exclusive digital comic with art by Richard Isanove available as part of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited
. We grilled the scribe on his newest project as well as his favorite obscure properties and how they're working their way into his work from WOLVERINE: MANIFEST DESTINY to GHOST RIDER.
Marvel.com: With Marvel's new Digital Comics Unlimited original story AMERICAN EAGLE: JUST A LITTLE OLD-FASHIONED JUSTICE, you were brought on specifically to write for artist Richard Isanove. Did you try and deliver a script that played to his strengths as a colorist for one of his first solo art gigs?
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Yeah, I think so. It was offered to me as it was with Richard attached [to do] an eight-page American Eagle story. And obviously I wanted to do something that showed off what he was capable of. He gets to do some gorgeous landscapes in there, and you get a little bit of action and some great character moments. So I think he got to show off a lot even though it's only eight pages.
Marvel.com: The villain in the story is Cottonmouth, and you've said that he is a character you've wanted to write for a while. Is that just from reading about him in CAPTAIN AMERICA?
Yeah. I guess that's where I knew him from—CAPTAIN AMERICA with the Serpent Society. And he's popped up a few other places like BLACK PANTHER, but I've always loved the group of Marvel snake villains. [Laughs
] But in particular, Cottonmouth I've loved more because he and I are from the same state. He's probably the only Marvel Comics villain from Alabama, which I think gives him a little bit of extra incentive. Plus, I think visually he's a great character. He's a guy
art by Richard
whose mouth can open super wide, and he bites people. That's his super power! To open his mouth and bite people!
Marvel.com: When you're a snake villain, there are only so many different powers you can get, so he seemed to pull the proverbial diamond out of the snake powers bag.
And there are tons of snake villains [at] Marvel. Tons of different men and women who popped up in the Serpent Society, and I'm actually using a few of them including Cottonmouth in another book I'm doing that hasn't been announced yet.
Marvel.com: American Eagle has only been in maybe a dozen books before now. Was that cult status part of the attraction for you?
Those are the kinds of characters I'm attracted to. Marvel's got a lot of great quirky characters, most of them spawned out of the 70's, and it's great when you can take one of those guys and give him a spotlight which otherwise he's not going to get. And American Eagle—if it wasn't for [writer] Warren Ellis, he'd still be languishing in complete obscurity because his first appearance was in an issue of MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE, and then he hardly popped up at all. He was in a few places here and there, a couple of MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS and a few other issues. And then Warren used him in THUNDERBOLTS, and I'm sure that most
art by Richard
people who read that had probably never heard of him before. What I was trying to do was spring him directly out of what Warren had done in THUNDERBOLTS.
And I liked the idea that he was just the lawman for this reservation, for the Navajo Nation. He's the go-to guy in terms of any sort of super hero-related crime. It was great to have a Native America character who's not just a guy in a headdress and playing off the stereotypes of most Native American heroes over the years.
Marvel.com: The first issue of WOLVERINE: MANIFEST DESTINY just hit recently, and it's interesting that in your first Wolverine story, you did a modern Western and now you're pulling Logan into a Kung Fu movie. What's the draw in mixing him into so many genres?
I think he's a character that you can do that with. Not every character can you take and plop him into any genre and make him work. Wolverine is a guy you can take and have him in a lot of different settings and setups. That was my goal with my first two Wolverine stories and any ones I do in the future—to make every one very different in tone and make it a different thing from the previous story to see how many times you can mix it up like that while still keeping that same character at the center.
Even the first story I did in [WOLVERINE #56] where he wasn't the center, he became a cipher through which the story was told, and we saw a story of the secondary character when Wolverine was trapped in a pit and the guy was shooting him with a machine gun. So he can also be used to tell the pretty little character story about someone who just happens to cross paths with Wolverine.
Marvel.com: He's a character who's very much in the vein of someone like the Man with No Name.
And those same kind of sensibilities translate well to something like we're doing in MANIFEST DESTINY. Obviously the stories that work well in Westerns and Japanese samurai cinema translate back and forth, so I think Wolverine flows easily from that gritty story we did in "Get Mystique" to this wacked out Hong Kong, Chinese, Kung Fu drama we're doing in MANIFEST DESTINY.
Marvel.com: You pulled another curveball on readers by bringing back super obscure 70's characters the Sons of the Tiger into the series. Did you read their original appearances?
I was already a fan of those DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU magazines, which is where the Sons of the Tiger first appeared. Pretty much all of their appearances were in that magazine. They popped up a few times, and one—Bob
Diamond—popped up in POWER MAN AND IRON FIST one time, and they teamed up with Spider-Man in MARVEL TEAM-UP. But those DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU magazines were just great. They had Shang-Shi stories and Iron Fist stories, and the Sons of the Tiger were followed up by White Tiger. Plus, each issue would have reviews of different Chop Sockey movies of the time. They talked about Jim Kelly and Bruce Lee and the "Kung Fu" TV show.
So definitely when I started working on this series, I knew I wanted to work in some of those martial arts heroes from Marvel's past, and those were the first guys who came to mind. I don't think they've been seen in a while, but they will be popping up again in the present—a lot in the last two issues of the mini series
Marvel.com: You're continuing to deliver a lot of big changes on GHOST RIDER, from bringing back a lot of villains and characters from the 90's to introducing whole new pieces of the Ghost Rider mythology. Marvel has already started to use some of your stories as fuel for more projects in the form of the GHOST RIDER: DANNY KETCH limited series. Would you like to see more projects spinning out of these ideas?
I think that'd be great. I'd love to see that. Simon [Spurrier] is actually introducing another international Ghost Rider in that DANNY KETCH series too. But hopefully it's something that people can play with and have a lot of fun with. But the idea that Ghost Rider is a legacy character…I didn't create that. That's
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something that's been around that never had really been explored. We'd seen a few Ghost Riders here and there from the past, so I wanted to draw that to the surface as well as the idea that if the Ghost Rider is supposed to be God's divine wrath on earth, it didn't make any sense that we'd only seen American Ghost Riders. I thought expanding that world-wide with Ghost Riders of different cultures and religions provided a really cool opportunity.
In the issue of GHOST RIDER that came out last month, we met a Tibetan Buddhist Ghost Rider. In the next issue, we meet a couple more international Ghost Riders. After that, we meet a couple more and get different teases of ones as we move forward. But that doesn't mean that they're all going to survive the experience. [Laughs
Marvel.com: You fit a lot of different characters and ideas into each issue without losing focus of Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch's stories. After their big upcoming fight, are you going to keep Danny around as part of the book, or will it veer off somewhere different?
Danny won't be going away. He's hopefully a part of the book for the foreseeable future. Even after I'm gone, I'm hoping he'll stick around as a permanent part of the book, but in terms of how the dynamic turns out between him and Blaze over the next few months, we'll have to wait and see. But he's definitely back for good.
Marvel.com: How will Blaze and Sara's relationship evolve as you move forward? Is he ever going to accept her in the role of Caretaker?
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If you go back to the previous Caretaker and his relationship with Ketch, they never got along so well. They didn't seem to trust each other or really see eye-to-eye on most things. It always seemed like Caretaker was dangling a carrot in front of Danny's eyes and then snatching it away. I want to keep some of that dynamic with the current relationship. They're not going to be buddies, and it doesn't look like it'll turn out with them being lovers. She's a nun and still clinging to her beliefs and everything she's grown up with. But all of that together creates a lot of tension in the relationship. It'll be fun playing with that moving forward.
Marvel.com: And just as you've kept Zadkiel hidden for most of the series, it's never very fun to reveal all the secrets really fast, is it?
Sure. We will be seeing more of Zadkiel in the next issue coming out, and we will be getting more answers about what his real part is in terms of the Ghost Rider history. So there will be more answers, but I'm not looking to nail everything down in a tidy A, B and C origin story. Ghost Rider's history is kind of convoluted, so it's impossible to make everything fit together nicely. You've just got to have it make as much sense as possible and keep moving forward. That's what I want to do: tell new stories that play off of things from the past but still take things in a new direction that's fun, exciting and fresh, hopefully.
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