Note: Adult language in the following story.
Some people just have ambition.
Not content with writing one of the best selling comics in the industry, namely "Uncanny X-Men," writer (and sometimes artist) Chuck Austen will be taking over "Action Comics" from DC Comics next March, as he revealed first to CBR News recently. Now, as many speculated, he'll be writing Marvel Comics' "Avengers," a series that's been blessed with some classic work and a high profile of late thanks to Geoff Johns. While he wasn't writing some major comic book icon, Austen found time to speak with CBR News about his upcoming run on Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
"It's all the major heroes of the Marvel Universe teaming up for greater sales. I mean, the greater good," laughs Austen. "My first issue is #77, which is due the first weeks of December, with #78 due out later in December.
"The main theme for my run is heroism. Heroism and stardom. What makes a hero truly a hero, and what makes a villain truly a villain? Tom Brevoort and I spent a lot of time thinking this out, and those were the themes I decided to go with, specifically heroism, with stardom as an undercurrent. That may change as I continue on into next year, but for now, those are the predominant themes.
"I want to explore the idea of how much are they really 'heroes' and how much are they just movie stars? Their lives are never really in danger, are they? They always win without a scratch or a scar, mostly. Are they heroes by definition, or by default? If you can't b hurt, how heroic is it to be Thor? Is he a hero, or a celebrity pro-wrestler?
"In other words, how heroic is it to go out and fight when you have all the power in the world? What is true heroism? Someone who performs a small or large act that may 'cause them great emotional or physical pain, or someone who's invulnerable taking on someone else who's invulnerable, or weaker? We use the term 'hero' all the time in this business. But are these people truly heroes if they can never be hurt? And if not, then what does make them heroes?
"Also, what's it like to be them in the Marvel U? To be the elite super heroes in a world that loves it's super heroes? To be the main attractions, the big guns? How private can their lives be? How much do they have to deal with as a result of being recognizable icons and symbols?
"The stardom thing fascinates me because I've always considered, if these people were real, and they were as in the public eye as they are, the world would hound them. There would be weekly gossip rags, there would be televisions 'tell-alls,' there would be paparazzi and groupies and all kinds of crap. Avengers Mansion is in downtown New York. Can't you imagine there would always be people hanging around? Folks just waiting to see the Quinjet land, or maybe catch a glimpse of Cap on the balcony? Tourists looking for a peek at Scarlet Witch? It'd be like the frickin' White House, for God's sake."
Fans know that Austen writes everything for Marvel Comics. Well, almost everything: "Well, it's a common misconception that I write everything at Marvel. I write 95 percent of what's at Marvel. Then there's Spider Man," laughs the writer.
"Actually, I only write two books for Marvel right now. I've turned down all other work, except Superman. I've never taken on more than four books a month at any given time, other than a brief period where I was helping out with 'Captain America.' Now I'm doing three, two for Marvel and one for DC, and that's plenty, and they're regular, so I don't have to take any more work, and I don't intend to. I want to be with my family. I want to have a life. And with sales up on 'Uncanny,' and regular fans and readers liking my work and picking up my books, I think I can feel a little job security for at least another year. So I don't need to be taking everything offered to me just in case I'm unemployed next month. The freelancer's curse. You can't say 'no.' Well, with three of the top books at the major two companies, I feel I can start saying 'no' and have been for a while.
"Now, as to how I got 'The Avengers.' Don't you read the Internet? I have pictures, baby. Compromising pictures of every major editor and publisher." He laughs. "I have cameras in all the hotels near 10th Avenue." More laughter. "Actually, I have a pentagram in my back yard and at midnight on the summer's solstice I got a bunch of chickens and ..." Austen cracks up.
"Yeah, heaven forbid I got this job on something like talent or skill. OK. For real. According to Tom and Joe Quesada, Tom went in to Joe's office to tell him Geoff Johns had quit. That he'd signed a DC exclusive. Joe was upset, obviously, Geoff's done well on the book, and people love his work. Sales are up, and sell-through is good. So they were lamenting who they would get to replace him. I had been up for some other projects at Marvel, and right there, Joe changed his mind about putting me on those other projects. Apparently he and Tom simultaneously said, 'Chuck Austen.' Tom swears to me he considered no other writer for the series, and loving Tom like I do, I believe him. So they called and offered it to me.
"My initial reaction was, 'I'd rather not.' My feeling about books like the Avengers is, you can't do much with the characters, because they're all the main characters of the Marvel U who have all the interesting character stuff happening to them in their other books, and I'm all about writing characters. If Cap gets a girlfriend, it's going to be in 'Captain America'. If Iron Man has an alcoholic breakdown and kills someone, it's going to be in 'Iron Man'. So when Joe called and asked, I told him my concerns, and he said 'No. That's not what we want. We want you to give Tony the alcoholic breakdown in 'Avengers.' Make it important, make it count. Make it interesting. 'Avengers' is not the second string book.'
"So what could I say? I took it, and I'm holding Joe to his word. So my first arc is 'The Alcoholic Breakdown of Tony Stark, and his subsequent murder of twelve innocent people.'" Austen laughs again.
Like the X-Men, the line-up that Austen chooses for his Avengers team will send some fans screaming and make others anxious to read what the writer has planned -- "Avengers" is a series where it's important to have the right mix of Spandex-clad do-gooders.
"Everyone's favorite line-up is the one they grew up with, generally," contends Austen. "So for me, it's Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther, Vision, Hawkeye, YellowJacket, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Quicksilver and Wasp, with several others thrown in for fun. Swordsman. The early George Pérez run with Beast, and the Western heroes. All great stuff.
"For my run, though, I'm using a lot of what Geoff did and keeping it. I'll have Janet Pym, Hank Pym, Iron Man, Cap, She-Hulk, Ant-Man and all the rest in a kind of rotating schedule.
"Basically I see the Avengers as an elite team that's on call. You take who you need to do the job. Some people live in the mansion, and some people do other things. Hawkeye will be a major player, as well as Falcon. But everyone will come in and out, at some point. How could I not do that? I love them all."
Further cementing the fact that Austen will indeed be swapping a lot of characters with each arc, when asked to briefly introduce readers to each of the core characters, he can't.
"Like I said, I plan to, at some point, use them all. In my first arc, I have Cap, Hawkeye, Jan, Wanda, Iron Man, and She-Hulk, as well as a surprise, returning Marvel super hero who hasn't been around for years, and was never an Avenger. The arc after that will have Thor returning. Then we'll swap out some other characters. WarBird will be a part. See, I'm forgetting some, already. But eventually I'll use them all. That's the fun of the Avengers. You have the entire Marvel Universe at your disposal. I even intend to use Power Man and Iron Fist, at some point. Maybe Ghost Rider. Woodgod," he chuckles. "3-D Man."
When writing "Uncanny X-Men," Austen's mentioned that Alex Summers, Havok, is most like him and CBR News wondered which Avengers character most resembled him.
"Of course it's Gyrich," laughs Austen, referring to the once slimy government lackey. "Or, actually, now it's Kang. Think about it. When you're writing the book, you have power over past and present, and all the heroes lives. You are a god. And an evil god, at that."
For a team called the Avengers, some fans have lamented the fact that the team doesn't do much, well, avenging.
"Oh, yeah [there'll be some avenging]," reveals Austen. "There will be some changes and tension in how jobs are handled in the post 9-11, post Gulf War II world. Are we proactive or reactive? Do we avenge, or do we strike before the need to avenge?"
Much of Austen's work in "Uncanny X-Men" has focused on relationships -- some romantic -- and it might lead people to expect an "Avengers" book that feels like a soap opera book instead of the "kick ass action" book that many fans would describe it as.
"It'll have both," explains Austen. "It will have some soap elements, because I love that, and most readers love that, as well, as long as it's balanced with action. But it's intended to be fun action with all your favorite characters working together and kicking major butt in big, incredibly super ways, so that will be key.
"But to me, the so-called 'soap' is an essential element. It means humanizing the characters, and making readers care. Use 'Ultimates' as an example. If you didn't see the relationship of Hank and Jan, you would never understand why she was with him when he tried to kill her. It's a sick relationship, but that's how it works. The abuser has their charm, and the abusee is always waiting for that person to go back to being charming, and pushing them to abuse at the same time. It's a sick relationship. And when Cap befriends Jan, with his being a 'soldier out of time' it makes sense that he would go out and kick Hank's ass.
"That's called 'motivating the action' and Millar did it beautifully in that first arc. He also did it nicely with Bruce Banner becoming Hulk, and wanting Betty. So you need the relationship to motivate the action, otherwise the action is just meaningless fisticuffs with no emotional involvement for the reader. It makes the story more powerful."
As Austen mentioned, writer Geoff Johns' work on "Avengers" has been wildly popular and following up such a popular act has to be quite daunting.
"Oh, yeah. I called him up and told him I hated his guts for quitting and making me follow him," he laughed. "He's done such an incredible job. I love Geoff's work, and there's no way I can look good following him," he chuckled. "I've loved everything he's done with 'Avengers,' including the stuff people haven't seen yet. It just sucks to follow him, believe me."
But Austen has a plan for his first arc to signal the beginning of his run on the book and lay to rest any doubts that he can handle Marvel's Finest.
"Well, in the first arc, I have to deal with some threads that will spill over from Geoff's run. Stuff he and I talked about and I knew was coming, but wanted to deal with to make the runs seem more connected, and less disjointed. Things that will help me piggy-back on his greatness.
"The first issue will feel as though it doesn't connect much at all with Geoff's, but as the arc continues, we will see things wrapped up and dealt with in a reasonable way.
"To kick off my first arc, the Avengers have gotten a tip that the Wrecking Crew is going to try a major heist, and they have to run off, leaving some things dangling from Geoff's last issue. Then we get a couple surprises right off the bat, as some old heroes appear in new ways. It's going to be fun. I like using the old stuff in fresh and unexpected ways. There's one thing I'm particularly excited about concerning one of the old regulars doing things they've never done before, and it will catch people off-guard, but at the same time they'll think 'Hey, that's cool. Why hasn't this ever been tried before?'
"So, surprises, in the first arc."
With so many prolific creators having worked on the Avengers at times in the team's history, Austen has to find a way to make the book unique and jokingly says, his run will be more bland than anyone can imagine.
"Oh, it won't [be unique]. It's just going to be rehashes of the same old crap we've seen a million times," he teased.
"Honestly? Because things are going to happen to the main characters in this book that people will not expect. Things people will say should have happened in the main titles. Iron Man will have things happen to him that will have fans going nuts, and drive the Iron Man writer to drink. He'll call it research, but, hey. Captain America. Thor. And the secondary characters are in for a ride. Jan and Hank. Hawkeye. She-Hulk. Big stuff brewing. And this new, returning superhero, who will become a new member, and become fairly antagonistic toward some of the regulars for their old ways."
Austen's inspiration for this series is a friend of his and fellow "Avengers" scribe: "Geoff's run has really inspired me to do something unique," Austen reveals. "I'm going to try to stay with what he began and help it blossom. Geoff's great at what he does. Damn his eyes.
"I also liked Jim Shooter's run, because he pushed things. Not always in nice directions, but in powerful and interesting ones. I'll never forgive him for making Hank a spousal abuser. But I'll also never forget it, either."
This isn't the first time Austen's written a team of superhero characters and while "Uncanny X-Men's" formula may be successful, Austen doesn't plan to copy it for the Avengers.
The Avengers are very different from any other team books I write in one, specific way. In 'Uncanny,' the mutants are brought together by Xavier, and bond out of a common need for support in a world that hates them. 'US War Machine' has a job to do, it's dirty, and it ain't always pretty, or appreciated. The Avengers are loved by the world, mostly. In my first arc, we find that Captain American is not so loved outside the US. But he and the other heroes are heroes by choice. They bind together to fight a foe they couldn't fight alone, in theory. But they put on the suit, and people are generally glad to see them. It's a more positive book, whereas X-Men is inherently negative because they deal with hatred for what they are, constantly.
"As far as being different from other super groups? Hey, these guys are the best. This isn't Thunderbolts, or Defenders, or Champions. It's the big guns. Cap. Iron Man, Thor, All the rest. The Avengers."
To some fans, it's always seemed like "The Avengers" has lacked a focus and never had that spark of Fantastic Four or other classic super-teams. Austen admits to having some similar feelings as a kid, but loving the Avengers all the same because they're the Avengers.
"As a kid, I didn't care. It was all the big heroes, and that was good enough. But the logic fades as you get older. Why are these guys together? 'The Ultimates' deals with it much better. It's the inherent problem facing the marketing of superheroes, right now.
"Are they for kids? Or are they for adults? Our audience is primarily 18 to 40 year old men, right? Primarily, anyway. And yet the stories are written for the youngest in the audience. Not in terms of content. The stories are better now than they've ever been. But in terms of censorship and approach and exposition. You have to fill-in continuity gaps, and expository dialogue to explain stupid things that only fans care about reading. Things you may have thought of, that the writer may know, and the characters may know, but that the continuity police will cry about if they don't see it shoe-horned into that exact panel. It's ludicrous, and jarring, and grinds the story to a halt for the regular reader and casual fan. That's writing down to your audience. My wife calls it 'writing for stunted 8 year olds.'
"And we do that in this 'superhero' medium. We 'dumb-proof' our stuff so the continuity police don't get mad, and then complain when intelligent people say our comics are for kids. Well, are they? Let's be honest with ourselves, here. Are they for kids or adults? Who is our target audience? And if it is all-ages, then why can't we do in the comics what they do in the movies? You can't show Wolverine impale someone. You can't have him say 'shit.' He did in the movie, but not in the comic. So right there, we've changed our audience. The movie audience expectations are the occasional swear word, and impaling. So are we shooting younger? It's certainly not shooting older to make it a rule that you can't say the word 'shit.'
"If we're going for a teen audience, what was the number one teen movie in America, last week? 'American Pie 3'? A film who's defining moment is a man having sex with an apple pie, and a girl who practices blow jobs on her clarinet. Who are we trying to protect in comics, here? This is what teens are going to see, alone and with their parents, and Wolverine can't say 'shit?' Can't use his claws to do more than pick his teeth? Can't have sex with a warm apple pie on his mother's counter? Okay, maybe we don't want t see that," he laughed, "Not that I think that's a bad thing ... but 'American Pie' was not a good movie, and the thought of Wolverine humping a pie and calling out 'I'm Canadian, and I'm the best at what I do, eh?' Just makes me wince. But it IS what we often claim our target audience is -- is going to see.
"Everything that we are, in this business, is about lowest common denominator, most prudish, most censorial fan. Every story has to be written as if it's a reader's first, a child's first, a deep South Christian child's first. Every story has tons of restrictions on it, to a level that other media are not held accountable. American television, one of the most restricted media in the world, is not as strict as American super hero comics. The Code may be gone at Marvel, but the same mindset applies. The stories have to be accessible to the most prudish sensibility on the planet. And yet our audience is adults, primarily. Men, primarily. It's bizarre to me.
"We need to make up our minds. Make them for children, or make them for adults. Trying to split them down the middle makes them for neither audience. We have a bunch of people in spandex, dealing with adult themes in juvenile ways and with a young approach. If this were real life, it would be more like 'Watchmen.' Personal difference. Anger, bitterness, competition, love, passion, intensity, and a sexuality that's right on the surface. I mean, I'm sorry, but if I were in a room with Scarlet Witch dressed like she is, and I were wearing form fitting spandex, I'd constantly be wandering around trying to face walls, or hide my crotch under tables.
"But that's never addressed. Because we're gearing towards younger sensibilities, or prudish sensibilities, on the one hand, and more sexually adult sensibilities on the other, as we draw these women in smaller and tighter outfits to appeal to folks who find 'Playboy' offensive, but find comics titillating, adults who are tired of children's stories, but don't want to admit they're horn dogs. Come on! We're all horn dogs! It's natural!
"We even draw the men with more realistic and heavily rendered muscles. So it's not just female erotica, here. We're not going to destroy our children!
"Richard Isanove told me the other day he really liked 'Eternal.' He said 'It's like stuff I used to read as a kid.' Richard's French, of course," he laughed. "But he's one of the nicest human beings on the planet. Not an axe murderer, got some wonderful kids and a nice house. He was not turned into Ted Bundy by reading material like the 'Eternal' growing up. By seeing a few naked breasts. Anyone heard of Page 3 girls? In the daily newspaper!
"So how do you deal with this stuff, in a realistic way within these ridiculous restrictions? How do you split that difference and make it work? God knows, really, but I'm trying. What I'm doing, is writing them as people I know, who react to the costumes as real people would. There's a line in my first issue where Hawkeye says, after seeing one of the female Avengers, 'I've had dreams like this.'
"So that's how I'll try to focus it. These people are together for specific reasons having to do with more realistic, more real life needs and wants. Some of it is support. No one knows what they go through like other heroes. But part of it is a sense of place and a fight against loneliness. A need and enjoyment for hanging around with these others so much like them, and often so different . All wearing revealing clothing.
"Taking Joe's promise to affect these people's lives, I will make the book more 'Ultimates-like' and show them as a team who is always together, not as people who are occasionally hanging out between missions in their regular books.
"These people don't just hang around together to save the world, but often to save themselves."
Lest some fans assault CBR's Avengers message board screaming, "Austen's perverting the Avengers!" the writer says that the focus of the team and the series is the same as it's always been.
"The point of the series and the team, is heroism, and friendship. Captain America was found by the Avengers, and for a long time, they were the only people he knew, and the only people he could hang around with. He loves them, and even though he'll never say it out loud, he needs them. The same goes for the others, Wanda, Pietro, Clint, Jan and Hank, Sam, Jennifer and all the rest. They need one another, and help one another. And all of them feel a driving desire to do right in the world, from different points of view.
"It will be reinforced as we go through the arcs, and show that love and support they give one another, through trying and difficult times. There's a death in my second issue that has profound impact on some of the regulars. They must pull together to cope with that death, and the results of that situation."
If Superman, in Austen's "Action Comics," is about inspiration, and "Uncanny X-Men" is about family, then the Avengers are about both, at least to Austen.
"'Avengers' is about heroism, friendship and need. It's about needing someone you can call up in the middle of the night who isn't related to you, and often doesn't know you well, but understands what you're going through, and may come over and have sex with you, or just hold you, or have a beer with you and listen. This is obviously the subtext under the action/adventure stories, not the focus.
"If you know anything about making films, you've heard stories about 'on-set romances.' They're amazingly common. Not just with the actors, although those are the most high-profile, and most fitting to the Avengers as an analogy, but grips getting it on with set designers. Extras going off with associate producers. People come together to do something they love, and are amazed to find other, like-minded people who enjoy the same things, have the same backgrounds and experiences ... people who 'get' them. After years of being misunderstood, of being teased about their passion for film (or in our case, comics), being the butt of jokes about their love of the medium, here are people who understand, and are positive about the same passion. People who support and encourage through understanding rather than disabuse and discourage through ridicule.
"These are the Avengers. The most powerful heroes and heroines in the universe. Who gets them better than other, powerful superheroes? Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan get together and have a fling on the set, and people gossip about it. They can't believe she would fall for a guy like Crowe, blah, blah, blah. But it makes sense. Who else besides Russell Crowe or another movie star, is going to understand someone as known and powerful in the Hollywood actors lifestyle as Meg Ryan? You think she's going to be comfortable and happy with the bag boy at Ralph's supermarket? Hell, no. The bag boy may want that, and Meg may want it for a night or two, but it can't last.
"I married another writer. Geoff Johns has married a woman who is extraordinarily creative. As much as opposites attract, like works with like. My friends are creative. My environment is creative. I've weeded out the assholes who think I'm stupid or crazy because I love writing and comics. And now I'm successful at what I love, surrounded by like-minded people.
"The same with the Avengers. After a while, super-heroes would get tired of being with people who are always complaining about what they do. People who love them, but want them to quit superheroing. After a while, who needs it? Who needs the constant whining?
"Just thinking about it, a better analogy might be politicians. They were the geeks and the nerds in high school and college student council, and now they have power and control, and can stick their cigars anywhere they damn well please. Same with the superhero icon. They were geeks and losers who were handed extraordinary powers. But inside, they still need support and love and sex and all the rest. Why be around regular people who complain about your job and your hours when you can be with someone who gets it?
"People need support. They need understanding. They may gravitate towards opposites, but they're most comfortable with people who know what they're going through, and love it just as much.
"Now, ask me that question about soap opera again," he laughed.
Joining Austen on "Avengers" will be both regular pencillers, Olivier Coipel and Scott Kolins, and the latter spoke to CBR News this week.
"Great artists, both," Austen gushes. "I can't wait to work with them. I've loved their work for a long time. Scott's work on 'Thing' and 'Flash' has been tremendous. And Olivier's work on 'Legion' and Geoff's 'Avengers' was superb. But they've both only gotten better. Great, great stuff.
"They're both brilliant artists with a good feel for story and character. And fantastic draughtsmen. I love Scott Kolins' attention to detail. I think that is going to be critical in making the world of the Avengers, the backdrop of a New York that is used to super heroes, come alive and be real in the readers mind."
Of course, as Austen jokes with CBR News, it wouldn't be his "Avengers" if it didn't piss off some fans, so look for Polaris -- from the X-Men comics -- to begin an affair with Captain America in a strange place.
"IN Iron Man's armor. With Iron Man in it," laughs Austen, hoping EVERYONE realizes it's a joke. "I'm trying to tell unexpected stories with these cool characters, and bring in readers who may have given up on super heroes some time back. People have a long term history with these characters, and they get riled when they are changed or messed with.
"I touched on this in our last interview, but there's this book, 'Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tales,' by Marie-Louise von Franz. She talks about how people become familiar with a story, a fairy tale, and then get agitated when the familiarity is messed with. When it's changed around from its original form. The longer they've been around, the more comfortable and the more familiar these fairy tales have become, the less the audience wants them to be changed. They may be bored with them, but they don't want them altered.
"If you have kids, and I know you don't, Arune, but anyone who does, knows how agitated a kid becomes when you change the fairy tale from what's familiar, from the way you told it last night or the way 'Mommy tells it.' They get upset and say 'you aren't telling it right.' I've already equated super hero fans with arrested children (myself included), and I think this also fits, and maybe it goes back to your question about why the fans react so strongly to my online comments. I'm screwing with their fairy tales, and with the fantasy medium they have invested a lot of time and money in, and spent a lot of time convincing themselves are 'super heroes are for grown ups.'
"But honestly, here's the situation. I was hired to look at these books and see what I could do to bring them up in sales, and to reach a wider audience. That's what they're paying me to do, as crass and commercial as it sounds. To that end, I look at the concept to see what worked in the past, and what might work again in the future, what didn't work in the past, and what might be better off being changed. If I don't think I can do it and enjoy it, I pass, as I did for so long with Superman.
"Fortunately for me, Geoff had done a lot of that work on 'Avengers' already, and he's made 'Avengers' great, and potentially very fun for me. All I have to do is not screw up what he started. I also try to apply standard storytelling principles to the material I write, because this stuff, in order to sell, needs to be accessible and entertaining to people unfamiliar with the 'visual language' of comics.
"So it will piss off fans ... because there are an awful lot of fans out there who do enjoy my work, as I proved numerically, already. But I will piss them off by showing these characters, these 'Avengers' as people, who sometimes fail, and sometimes succeed, who make mistakes, and try to correct them, by making them human when for too long they've been beyond human, beyond accessible, making people care, and then running the characters through an acid bath called life. Life as a super hero."
CBR News also jokingly asked Austen who would win -- his X-Men or Avengers in a battle royale -- but the writer hinted it may not be such a hypothetical question.
"It will be a battle to the death. You'll see it by next summer."
Austen's also a big fan of "The Ultimates," Marvel's continuity-free revamp of the Avengers and explains why it connected with him.
"I've really enjoyed it. The first arc was brilliant. It's like an Avengers movie. Everything is so motivated, from Banner's decisions, to Cap's beating the crap out of Hank Pym. Very real and very powerful material. Millar took old concepts and updated them nicely in strong, believable ways. I wish it was more frequently on the stands, though, as everyone does, and I think it's a little lost in it's story, right now. Too much David Eicke and not enough story, for my tastes. But still amazing. Hard to live up to, again. Damn these talented men for making me look bad."
For those who can't wait to hear what's next in the pages of "Avengers," Austen reveals a little bit more.
"As I said, we will see the return of a hero. A major one. We will see the betrayal of the Avengers by one of their own. We will see the return of some major villains, such as Scorpio and all the other astrological signs, and an even bigger villain, someone completely unexpected. Lots of relationship stuff will go in unexpected directions. Vision, Scarlet Witch. One of the bigger regulars gets a new relationship, and that's going to be so fun. It's hard to say much more without giving away things that Geoff is doing, and I don't want to do that.
"I guess the big thing to recommend what I'm doing, is that everything is possible, because I've been given the go-ahead to alter my main heroes, and make it stick. Don't think, 'oh, it won't be Iron Man, because he's got his own book.' Not the way to think. Think unexpected. Think fun. It's going to be a good ride."