Remender talks "End League," "Fear Agent" and DC's "Atom

Wed, January 16th, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

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"The End League" #1 on sale now
One of the most talked about books heading into 2008 was "The End League" by indie fan-fave-turned-rising-star writer Rick Remender. Following the release of "The End League" #1 on January 2, response across the board from readers, retailers and reviewers alike has been anything but the doom and gloom message delivered between the pages of the superhero book teased by Dark Horse as a "thematic merging of 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'Dark Knight Returns.'"  

Plans are already in place to extend "The End League" beyond its initial solicitation as a bi-monthly series and expand its run to that of a monthly ongoing title. "It's nice to hear so many people are enjoying the book; the sales and reviews have been phenomenal," Rick Remender told CBR News. "It guarantees we'll be around for a long time to come. We have a plan in place to make the book monthly around issue #5 so I expect it to just build from here."

"The End League" follows a cast of the last remaining supermen and women, all familiar archetypes, as they embark on a desperate and perilous journey through a world dominated by evil, in hopes of locating the one remaining artifact that can save their world, the Hammer of Thor.

"The End League" #1 pages 1-2

"The battle between good and evil is long since over and evil has prevailed," Remender explained. "The entire world is now splintered into 'mafia style' territories ruthlessly controlled by eternally feuding super villains.  Human life is of no concern to the great majority of the new dictators of the Earth, as is evident in the squalid and decayed conditions in which the remaining populations exist. The motivation for survival is uncertain to those who still live, yet as with all life-survival remains the driving motivation. Earth itself has been transformed into a nightmarish prison, little more than a polluted, environmental muddle; the decades of superhuman war have sent the planet into a nuclear winter.  The only light in the night sky is the glow of the evil new gods as they struggle for dominance."

"The End League" #1 pages 3-4
Leading the way for the band of supermen and women trying to make things right is Astonishman. "Astonishman is your basic Superman archetype, a guy with way more power than any human should or could consistently use without consequence," said Remender. "Astonishman draws his energy from the core of the Earth and from deep fried burritos known as Chimichangas. If he is drawn too far from Earth, or from Chimichangas, he loses his powers. His known abilities include flight, super strength, sonic bursts, super-hearing, super speed and he can dance a tango at the speed of salsa."

The Green Event, the nexus point of the "The End League," occurred as a direct result of Astonishman attacking and destroying an alien ship at the bottom of the ocean in 1962. Astonishman released a nuclear missile in the ship, which detonated its power core and released a wave of radiation that knocked Earth off its axis. Three billion people were killed by the radiation while one in every thousand of the survivors would later develop superhuman abilities.

"The End League" #2 on sale in February
Astonishman was tricked into believing the ship was a communist nuclear facility by his arch nemesis and now self-appointed ruler of the world, Dead Lexington. "Dead Lexington is the highest intellect on the planet," explained Remender. "His body is dead, shriveled and smells like old newspapers. He is kept alive in a status tube and connected to numerous feeding devices. He has surpassed all emotions and only desires to create a perfect and efficient dystopia society. In the cities ruled by this evolutionary fascist, low I.Q. is a death sentence. All physical sports and activities have been regulated to not get in the way of studies. Robots are the workforce and the police. Nearly half of the world's super villains are under his flag. He helped orchestrate the Day of Annihilation. His arch nemesis, now that the super heroes are gone, is Chairman Doom, ruler of China."

The Day of Annihilation saw the supervillains of the world join forces to eliminate Earth's remaining do-gooders. Astonishman, accompanied by his fellow castaways, retreated to his Citadel of Seclusion where they remained hidden for 12 years.

The heroes have spent their time away in isolation focusing on survival and more importantly, searching for the Hammer of Thor – Mjolnir – which they believe can save the world.

Exclusive: In-progress pages for "The End League" #2

The concept behind the book, explained Remender, is "give super-human abilities to every one-in-a-thousand, and you'll begin to see the severe imbalance between good and evil within the human heart. Call me a pessimist, but in my mind had we superhumans among us the world would surely be reduced to a wasteland within months. I'm not a big believer in the good of humanity. Sure the current doom and gloom around us plays heavily into my bleak worldview but this mindset isn't a new one for me. I don't see much altruism in the average man's heart and never have. It's just not in our reptilian/monkey brain programming. It's all about me-me-me for the average Joe.

"Everyone has an agenda, and most everyone has a selfish motivation behind his or her actions. If you randomly bestow super powers on our population you'd give these flawed minds the power to inflict their agenda on the world. There are few among us who would stand up to the task of managing the great responsibility that comes with this great power. Sure, there would be pure hearted and ethical men and woman who would try to sway this.

"The End League" #3
"But I believe the sheer numbers of the corrupted would overwhelm them. This realization gave birth to the world of 'The End League.' It's also a timeless super hero staple, the last heroes up against the dark hopeless future. 'Day of Future Past' was my favorite 'X-Men' story so that feeds into this a good bit as well."

Astonishman is joined in the End League by Soldier American (a super-sized soldier created by Albert Einstein), Blur (the fastest human alive), Mother Hive (an Oracle-inspired telepath), Prairie Ghost (a living ghost who is slowly dying), Brother Occult (a spirit medium who communicates with elementals, demons and deists from other dimensions), Divinty (the daughter of Zeus), Arachkid (half-spider/half-man), The Blue Gauntlet (a pacifist powered by an ancient alien parasite), Grimwood (a spiritual born of earth) and Black (a hero driven by his own intensity).

"Soldier American is the only living being who knows about Astonishman's hand in the green incident," noted Remender.  

Using the legendary Norse god and his hammer as a muse for "The End League" goes back to when Remender was first introduced to comics.  "For me it's a love for Walt Simonson's 'Thor' run from when I was a kid," the writer said. "My mom had always read Greek mythology to me as a kid and my first exposure to Norse mythology was the 'Thor' comic. It's really interesting stuff and there is a large cast of great characters to draw from. Thor is not the only Norse God in the cast. Someone we've met is also secretly from Valhalla."

Rick Remender's "Fear Agent" #18 on sale now
The Portland, Oregon-based writer further revealed that future issues of "The End League" would shed light on some other dark figures from the team's rogues' gallery. "In #2, we get to meet Dead Lexington and Scarecrow Sinister. Scarecrow Sinister is capable of possessing others, a power that comes into play in later issues changes the entire direction of the story. It's an underrated ability. The Smiling Man is a big character in #3, everyone is going to see the obvious nod to The Joker and The Jester but there is a big reveal in the wings. He's not at all who or what he seems."

Well beyond the first five-issue arc, Remender and Dark Horse have big plans for "The End League." "It's a huge hit, so we've begun planning out production on the next two years' worth of stories and as I said, we'll also be going monthly this summer," said Remender.  "I've got the first five arcs written, or at least fully outlined and ready to be scripted."

When asked how "The End League" would end, Remender said, "I've got about thirty-five issues to get through to arrive at the planned ending. But it could still grow from where I leave things if I was still interested in keeping it going.

Pages from "Fear Agent" #18
"The sales have been amazing, so we may see some tie-in and spinoff books," continued Remender. "I could see doing some of the origin stories as their own set of minis."

A big part of those amazing sales, says Remender, is the work of the book's artist, Mat Broome. I've always known, in order to make a superhero-team work outside of Marvel or DC, it was going to need an artist who blew the nipples off of anyone who saw it," explained Remender. "Well, as fate would have, Mat Broome blows nipples off for a living. When Mat contacted me about working on a project with him, it seemed too perfect. I gave Mat my outline for 'The End League' and he loved it. It was a chance to design amalgams of all of his favorite characters and make them his. We brainstormed for a few months and Mat got to work on designs. Each is better than the last. Mat can do superheroes on a level comparable with any modern great. With his long time inker extraordinaire Sean Parsons and his incredibly talented wife and colorist Wendi at his side, Mat has produced a style that is sure to turn heads and remind the industry what a powerhouse he is.

Pages from "Fear Agent" #18
"Mat and I come from very different schools. Mat was one of the bigs working with guys like Jim Lee, Alan Moore and Warren Ellis while I've been doing mostly black and white indie books up until a few years ago. So we bring two separate things to the table, an independent sensibility and the chops of an A-list mainstream artist. It's worked out well and each issue gets better as we go."

Remender's earlier works include "Captain Dingleberry," "Black Heart Billy" and "Doll and Cretaure," while Broome mainlined with the slightly more recognizable "Batman: No Man's Land," "WildC.A.T.S.," and "X-Men."

"Fear Agent" #19 on sale in February
And while "The End League" is generating the most news for Remender at the moment, he says he also has big plans for his other Dark Horse book, "Fear Agent," in 2008, as well. "There is some big stuff coming up this summer for Heath Huston. We just had a big meeting about the Fear Agent plans for the next year and I'm very excited," said Remender. "Hatchet Job takes some pretty wild turns in the next few issues, focusing on Mara and her motivations for handing humanity over to the Dressites. Lots of dead characters coming up and a cliffhanger no one will see coming.

"The next arc sees the return of Tony Moore and basically we go Sci-Fi Western for six issues. Heath Huston finds himself marooned on the desolate Planet West. A stranger in a strange place peppered with gun slinging robots, venomous mutants and buxom cowgirls. It's high noon in dead space."

Remender says fans of both series will definitely see some comparisons in not only the books' characterizations but in their mood and pacing too.   "I guess I'm a bit bleak in my worldview. That and I always tend to make sure Earth is in a state of shit," quipped Remender. "I like post-apocalyptic stories, what are you gonna do? I like hopelessness. It brings out the grit inside a character. Might as well get right to it and see how someone reacts when faced with a stacked deck and insurmountable obstacles. In my shitty opinion, that's the good stuff. Unlike most books of this nature, these characters are all dealing with the prospect of real extinction that's always waiting around every corner."

Exclusive: Pages from "Fear Agent" #19
But misery does love happiness, and now that Remender is the new ongoing writer for DC's "The All-New Atom" as of issue #21, he will have some sunshine in his otherwise cloudy days. "It's a great series and a very fun character to explore. I'll be taking it in a high adventure, sci-fi direction with art master Pat Olliffe bringing it to life with inker extraordinaire John Stanisci," said Remender.

"I love the character. The idea of shrinking down so small that you begin to find microscopic worlds and sub-atomic sentient life, it's like being The Silver Surfer but instead of the cosmos you're in the expansive microverse. It's endless fun.

"When I first got the job, I was talking to Matt Fraction on the phone and he insisted I read up on the Silver Age stuff by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane. Michael Siglain, my editor, sent me the collection of the 'Showcase' issues and I loved them, Fraction was right. They are insanely fun. I hadn't looked through them since I worked in a vintage comics store in the early 1990s and I'm glad I did. I've used them to build on what [former series writers and creators] Gail [Simone] and Grant Morrison built and feel very good about what we've put together." 

Remender's run on "The All-New Atom" begins with March's issue #21
Asked for a tease on what's to come for Ryan Choi and/or Ray Palmer in 2008, Remender was short (pun intended) and to the point. "Can't go into it yet," said Remender. "DC has big plans for The Atom and I can't go spoiling them."

In closing, Remender teased one more forthcoming project that is the complete opposite of "The All-New Atom," both literally and figuratively.  "I also have 'Gigantic' up next with artist Eric Nguyen. It's a new super hero book I'll be doing at Dark Horse. It's an Ultraman-type character in my take on the film 'The Truman Show' focusing on a brainwashed alien superhero deposited on Earth to be the spotlight of an intrusive, around the clock television program being filmed without his knowledge and broadcast universally," said Remender.

"Visually, we're focusing on a modern spin on the big dynamic power of Jack Kirby, merged with the scale of a 'Godzilla movie' and sprinkled with 1950s' sci-fi kitsch. 'Gigantic' will tap into what makes comics fun, big visually exciting pages and destruction on a scale never before seen while also serving as a reflection on America's consumer-based culture and the secret price paid by both the audience and the actors for a life filled with the endless distraction of entertainment."

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