CCI: "Avengers Origins" Explores the Past of Earth's Mightiest Heroes

Fri, July 22nd, 2011 at 8:58am PDT

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

In November, Marvel explores the origins of Earth's Mightiest Heroes

The Marvel Universe is a fantastic place where supernatural, cosmic and superpowered beings live, work and fight. But even the most fantastic places can be changed, especially over the course of a 24-hour period. Take for instance the day when five lone heroes first gathered to create one of the most distinguished and powerful legacies that the Marvel U. has ever seen.

That legacy is the superhero team known as the Avengers, a group that first came together when Iron Man, Ant-Man, the Wasp, the Hulk and Thor united to fight the foes that no single hero could face alone. Over the years, the lineup of the Avengers has grown and changed as a number of heroes stepped up and answered the team's battle cry of "Avengers Assemble!" These heroes come from a variety of backgrounds, but all of them possessed a certain quality of character that made them worthy to be considered one of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes."

This November and December, the unique qualities of individual Avengers members both past and present will be explored in a series of five weekly one-shots under the banner of "Avengers Origins." Comic Book Resources spoke with editor Lauren Sankovitch and the writers involved about the project, which was announced yesterday at Marvel's "Next Big Thing" panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

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CBR News: Lauren, what was the impetus for "Avengers Origins"? Was it inspired by the various "X-Men Origins" one-shots that were released a while back?

Lauren Sankovitch: With the upcoming movie and the high profile of the Avengers titles, it seemed a no-brainer to revisit a few of these classic characters in stories that would not only introduce them to a new audience, but be engaging and fresh for our veteran readers.
Our Sales department had come to us with the idea of developing a line of one-shots as easy entry points to the Avengers, much like we had done with the gorgeous set of "X-Men Origins" one-shots. Obviously we all have our favorite Avengers, and with this initial push we wanted to really get a sampling of characters from across the Avengers' history.

What exactly are the individual creators conveying with these stories? Is this the origin of a specific character, their ties to the Avengers, or both?

Sankovitch: I'll let the creators get into the finer details, but the very basic premise I went into each of these stories with is, why is this character worthy to be an Avenger? How did they get to be the hero, the Avenger, we all know and love today? For all of them, we'll get insight into their origins and some juicy character development along with a heapin' helpin' of action. Hank Pym vs. Godzilla the Mouse, anyone?

With a title like "Avengers Origins," we assume this is going to be a project that's very new-reader friendly. What will be the appeal for hardcore Avengers fans, though? Are these one-shots retellings of classic moments from the life of each character? Or are these all new stories that have to do with the title character's backgrounds and membership in the Avengers?

Sankovitch: Like I mentioned, there really is something for everyone here. While the fans may be familiar with the trials and travails of the characters over the years, we are delving deeper and expanding on those classic origins and really exploring the guts of each of these characters. And did I mention the punching? Because there will be punching.

How did you go about selecting the writers for these individual one-shots? Looking at the lineup, it seems like a list of fan-favorite and up-and-coming creators.

Sankovitch: I really wanted to get a diverse flavor for each of these books, and I've gotten that in spades with each of the writers involved. For many of the creators, they hadn't written the character before so there was a certain amount of excitement in building their world for the first time. We ran the gamut from grim to introspective to passionate to revelatory to downright wacky in tossing ideas around. Ultimately, I was very pleased with the distinctive tact taken with each book.

What about the visual look of the "Avengers Origins" one-shots? Will they be painted like the "X-Men Origins" books, or will each have its own unique look and feel?

Sankovitch: Diverse is the name of the game in terms of visuals, and boy, did we luck out. We've got both painted and classic pencil & ink artists on board, and they differ greatly in terms of style from book to book. Y'all are in for a treat, that's for sure.

"AVENGERS ORIGINS: LUKE CAGE" BY WRITERS MIKE BENSON AND ADAM GLASS AND ARTIST DALIBOR TALAJIC.

CBR News: Mike and Adam, you guys are huge Luke Cage fans and recently tackled the character in the Marvel Noir line. How does it feel to write a Cage story set in the main Marvel Universe?

Mike Benson & Adam Glass: We really loved "Luke Cage: Noir." It was so nice to strip down the mythos and recreate it in 1930s Harlem. It fed into our belief that Luke is a timeless character whose plight can fit into any historical content. So we approached this story the same way we did with the "Noir" take. What are Luke's basic wants and needs? And why is he so flawed? This last one is a big reason why we are so drawn to him. Luke's past drives his future, and unlike most heroes his past is very muddy.

At what point in Luke's past does this story take place? Does he have a relationship with the Avengers at this time?

B&G: This takes place in the beginning of Luke's journey and shows his progression as he learns about his powers and the responsibilities that come with them. So at this point he has no relationship with the Avengers. He's still trying to figure out what it means to be a hero and a man.

What type of action does that search lead to? And what allies and adversaries are involved?

B&G: This starts out as a very street-level story as Luke deals with prison, his past and as the old saying goes, "You can never go home again." Yet that's exactly what he does. And one of the cracks in his timeline that is never explored is, what happens after he breaks out of prison and makes his way back to Harlem? We deal with that and then his homecoming, which is bittersweet for him. Especially since his first instinct is not to become a hero. It's about getting money, power and revenge. It's only after an incident that he forever regrets that he changes his path. But as he moves forward we have some great fights with some iconic Marvel characters.

You're working with artist Dalibor Talajic, whose Marvel work includes "PunisherMAX," "Deadpool Team-Up" and "Hit-Monkey." Does this mean we can expect a story that plays to Dalibor's strengths: grit, and crazy, over-the-top action?

B&G: Dalibor was the perfect artist for this. He really captured the tone of this story, and we were lucky to get him. We love getting his pages. It's like Christmas morning. We can't wait to open the link and see what he's done.

Any final thoughts you would like to share about "Avengers Origins: Luke Cage"?

B&G: It's great to see Luke finally getting the respect he deserves, and we're so happy to be part of this "Avengers Origins" line. Everyone thinks they know who Luke Cage is; our hope is you know him that much better after reading our book.

"AVENGERS ORIGINS: ANT-MAN & THE WASP" BY WRITER ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA AND ARTIST STEPHANIE HANS

CBR News: Roberto, what made you want to explore the past of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne and their connection to the Avengers?

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: When Lauren Sankovitch called me about doing a one-shot for "Avengers Origins," the characters I immediately gravitated toward were Hank and Janet because of their tumultuous relationship, which I find to be both dark and compelling -- two of my favorite adjectives. In revisiting some of their earliest adventures, I was surprised by how, well, almost light-hearted they were, and optimistic, and I thought it would be cool to revisit their respective origin stories (which are, in fact, very tragic) -- with the knowledge, of course, of where their relationship would ultimately lead.

Since the title of the book is "Avengers Origins: Ant-Man & The Wasp," is it safe to assume that quite a bit of this story takes place in the past? Whose perspective is this story told from?

Aguirre-Sacasa: This is absolutely set in the past, and though we start with Hank, it is definitely a book about both Ant-Man and Wasp, so we get to Janet very quickly, within the first couple of pages, I believe. It was really important to us that we give equal real estate to both characters -- as opposed to, say, folding Janet into Hank's story -- so the choice was made, early on, to make their love affair the spine on which to build the story.

In terms of plot and themes, what is this issue about? Lauren hinted that there would be some crazy action coming in the form of Hank Pym vs. Godzilla the Mouse.

Aguirre-Sacasa: Absolutely. This is a love story, like I said, but it's also a sci-fi story, first and foremost, and a bit of an homage to "The Incredible Shrinking Man," with Hank Pym's first experiences at the micro-level not going exactly as planned. We actually run the gamut from mouse-sized threat to -- let's say giant, Lovecraftian monster-sized threat.
Thematically, it's about drawing out the parallels between Hank's origin (tied to the death of his wife) and Janet's origin (tied to the death of her father); it's about how these two broken people find each other and figure out, even tentatively, a way to help each other. It's about their needs to avenge and how they sublimate or enact those needs.

You're working with Stephanie Hans, best known for her sort of ethereal and almost dream-like painted style. Will the story have that kind of feel to it? Or is Stephanie doing something we haven't seen her do before?

Aguirre-Sacasa: Truthfully, I wasn't super-familiar with Stephanie's work before this issue, but I have to say: I am an instant and lifelong fan! It's just breath-taking stuff, great stor-telling, some nice weight to everything -- what I love most about it is how she can land the quieter, more relationship-y moments as well as the big, operatic, there's-a-giant-monster-on-that-bridge moments. She's a genius and a delight. 'Nuff said.

Any final thoughts you would like to share about "Avengers Origins: Ant-Man & the Wasp?"

Aguirre-Sacasa: Just that it's always an honor to play with these classic characters, even for a little bit, and I'm excited to get it out there for people to see and (hopefully) enjoy.

"AVENGERS ORIGINS: VISION" BY WRITERS KYLE HIGGINS AND ALEC SIEGEL AND ARTIST STEPHANE PERGER

CBR News: Kyle and Alec, the Vision is essentially an artificial being striving to be accepted by humans, part of a long tradition of storytelling going back to characters like Pinocchio and Frankenstein's monster. How much of the character's appeal come from that archetype? What are some of the additional elements that you feel make the character intriguing?

Alec Siegel: That archetypal nature is a big part of the appeal for me. The Vision comes in to the world unsure of who he is and what he's meant to be. Of course he's told what to do and think, but, like many of us, he begins to question that. It's that journey of finding himself on his own terms that interests me.
So in addition to the archetype, I have to admit a big part of what makes the character so interesting to me comes from a purely visual level -- the combination of density shifting, phasing and flash vision has always made for striking, memorable images over the years.

Kyle Higgins: More than the archetypal "artificial being that wants to be human" dynamic, the aspect that's always fascinated me is the why. To me, there's a very specific reason why the Vision wants to be human -- because he wants to be loved. So I've always been a big fan of the relationship between him and Wanda, because of what it represents. He may not be able to be human, but he can have a very human experience. And at the end of the day, isn't that what's most important?

There are now two Visions in Avengers history -- the original synthezoid created by Ultron and the Vision of the Young Avengers. They look alike but are different characters. Which Vision does your story deal with, and when does this story take place?

Siegel: We're dealing with classic, synthezoid Vision and his origin -- from the moment he goes "online" and his relationship with Ultron, to the first time he meets the Avengers (and the battle that ensues).

What aspect of the relationship between the Vision and the Avengers do you want to explore in this story?

Siegel: The Avengers represent a fresh start. A clean state. They're not as interested in who someone was as much as who that person can be. For the Vision, this is perfect. The very problem he's dealing with is his identity.

Higgins: Right. And while the Avengers initially represent a way for the Vision to obtain what he desperately wants, they ultimately come to represent something much more. So as far as what we're exploring in this story with the Avengers and their relationship, it's this change that is at the forefront.

You're working with Stephane Perger, a French artist whose done a variety of painted covers for Marvel. Each of these covers evokes a distinct sense of mood. What kind of tone will Stephane deliver with this story?

Higgins: One of the most important things to me with this story was that the Vision feel as dynamic and fleshed out as possible -- it's tricky, as we're dealing with very real emotions and feelings as they pertain to someone who is not human but is struggling with a very basic human desire. So in order to pull that off, we thought it paramount that the artist lend a gravitas to everything. The book had to feel very weighted and crafted -- and Stephane absolutely knocked it out of the park. The art is dark and moody, and when I look at it I can't help but feel bad for our favorite synthezoid over what he's going through. I think people are going to really dig it.

"AVENGERS ORIGINS: QUICKSILVER & THE SCARLET WITCH" BY WRITER SEAN MCKEEVER AND A CURRENTLY UNREVEALED ARTIST

CBR News: Sean, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are two characters that have undergone and endured many changes over the years. Which era of the characters do you find most intriguing?

Sean McKeever: Certainly the period I'm writing about is the most interesting to me. They're teenage vagabonds with no family or friends -- all they have is one another -- when they discover their mutant powers. It's this real bittersweet feeling of, "Wow, we have these incredible powers that make us unique! Also, we are now vastly greater outcasts than ever before!"
So now, wherever they go, they just don't feel like they belong. Even amongst fellow mutants, like Magneto and his Brotherhood, something just doesn't sit right with them. They don't even find the idea of siding with the X-Men appealing. What is it about the Avengers that leads them to feel they can fit in? That's really the heart of what we're exploring in this story.

In your opinion, which aspects of these characters have remained constant over the course of their tumultuous costumed careers?

McKeever: Wanda really came into her own and grew in confidence over the years, but her self-doubt is still quite apparent. With Pietro, I can never not see him as brash, smug and hot-tempered.

"AVENGERS ORIGINS: THOR" BY WRITER KATHRYN IMMONEN AND A CURRENTLY UNREVEALED ARTIST

CBR News: Kathryn, Thor is a founding member of the Avengers and considered by many to be one of the team's definitive members. Why do you think that is? Why do you think the character is such a good fit in a team of mostly mortal heroes?

Kathryn Immonen: Thor is, in so many ways, defined not just by responsibility but by heritage and lineage. He comes from an ancient culture of fealty and duty (also the kind of crazy, idiosyncratic and mercurial behavior you expect from gods who are clearly taking -- let's call it "the long view"). So for him to want to be part of the continuity of service that is the Avengers seems natural. They're like the Princess Patricia's of the Marvel Universe. But aside from that, Thor's not only been, basically, remanded into the human custody of Blake but, by virtue of his birth, he couldn't escape the compassion he feels for humanity even if he wanted to.

At what point in Thor's history does your story take place? How would you describe his temperament and personality during this period?

Immonen: The origin of Thor is, in a lot of ways, the story of the origin of his hammer, Mjolnir. We're really having a look at how the very human journey toward humility and compassion is also the journey towards godhood and worthiness. If anything, the core for this one-shot is us embracing Thor's younger self and the pride and brashness that eventually results in his banishment and the formation of his "relationship" with Blake. Also, thunder, lightning and hammers to the head.

Thor is a character who is literally of mythic proportions, which means that even a Thor one-shot can be a gigantic and earth shattering story. How would you describe the scope and scale of "Avengers Origins: Thor"?

Immonen: Really, I'd say it's a tale told in contrasts. With Thor, you've got timeless, archetypal family drama and relationships played out against a cosmic backdrop of nine worlds and giant magic trees and gold pigs and the dwarves who make them and evil chicks wearing the most insane headgear. It's an amazing place to play, but at the end of the day, you've got two brothers who can't get away from each other and a chosen son who seems determined to simultaneously live up to and defeat his father's expectations.

TAGS:  cci2011, marvel comics, avengers origins, avengers

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