As the general public continues to learn about the incoming film, Marvel Comics #1 franchise in the four-color medium remains "The Avengers." With multiple titles and teams to its credit, Earth's Mightiest Heroes continue to top the sales charts, and today Marvel is celebrating the franchise with their latest "Next Big Thing" call featuring franchise captain writer Brian Michael Bendis and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort.
Bendis started by announcing a new crossover between the two main Avengers titles. "We're dubbing it 'The HAMMER War' for now. It's the return of Norman Osborn and the return of the Dark Avengers. It sets up a pretty large scale, multi-tiered war for the Avengers," said Bendis, noting that Osborn's new plan for HAMMER will overwhelm the numbers of the heroes currently in the rosters for both the Avengers and the New Avengers.
"The story starts in 'Avengers' 16.1," the writer continued, praising the jumping on point issues. "This one we have Neal Adams drawn. What a personally amazing thing for me, and I want to thank Tom for making this happen." Brevoort noted the issue would also be inked by legendary Avengers embellisher Tom Palmer.
Bendis related that "When Neal came on board, I immeadiately called him and said, 'What would you like to draw?'" and Adams' response was "I want to draw your best script." Bendis took it upon himself to cram the issue full of things Adams has never drawn, which coincidentally included most of the New Avengers cast. "I gave him a big Iron Fist piece, and he really drew Iron Fist in that Neal Adams way...the whole piece came together great."
The big story kicks off when Osborn's release from prison finds him confronting a willing group of followers that fans may not expect. "The plan is that Hydra, AIM and the Hand have all decided to pull together under his banner...they all see the world a similar way, and they want it taken care of. They're working together under Osborn's leadership," Bendis said, noting that characters like Madam Hydra and Gorgon may not be totally trustworthy.
The combined might of those Marvel organizations will allow the new Dark Avengers to contain stand-ins for all the biggest heroes from Thor to Spider-Man and one Iron Man-like character that's beyond "Anything Tony Stark has ever seen."
The story – which falls in the wake of "Fear Itself" – will also see a lineup change for both Avengers teams, particularly the New Avengers where aside from the already announced Daredevil, Bendis will add two characters who are "as classic as classic Avengers as you can imagine." The story will see Steve Rogers calling the shots on how to keep the teams together in the face of the big threat.
While the story will take place both in "Avengers" and "New Avengers," the war will take place on two fronts so each team won't have to meet up necessarily to fight the threat. The New Avengers will face the Dark Avengers while the Avengers will take on new threats born of the new HAMMER's technological team up.
Asked what the draw was to creating psuedo-Avengers teams for the heroes to fight – including the just-announced Revengers coming to the "New Avengers" annual – the writer explained "The whole point of the Avengers is to fight something they can't fight themselves," Bendis said, adding that "Particularly both the Revengers and the situation with HAMMER are not guys trying to rob a bank and go mwahahaha. They have a specific point of view like Doctor Doom or Magneto." The writer pointed that Wonder Man will have a very specific argument to make against the Avengers. He added that villains like Wonder Man and Captain Ultra are pretty top notch fighters, and that the Revengers overall will be a definite threat. "Specifically The Revengers are all people who were Avengers one way or the other...they're all people who could agree with Simon's pitch." Brevoort added that overall, the mark of who would make the team would be that they were heroes in their own mind.
The question of what has changed for Norman Osborn since Dark Reign prompted a discussion of what's interesting about his mental imbalance. "He's surrounded by people who don't care about Norman's mental state," Bendis said. "Other people will hitch a ride to that crazy because so much success comes out of it...it's character who will help him help himself." Brevoort added, "There were a lot of people who believed his point of view...and in his absence, that movement has continued to grow and find its feet."
Bendis added that the change in the public will impact how the heroes are seen as well. "The Avengers are there sometimes when something bloody and disruptive happens, and some people could get sick of it. The media turns pretty quickly...and I think we're going to see more about how the public views the Avengers and Steve Rogers as a leader. Steve kind of came in on a white horse, but is it really any better now?" said the writer. "A lot of that is what Norman is going to be feeding on."
There will be some crossover as well with Spider-Man's world playing off the Goblin tattoos that have been seen in "Amazing Spider-Man" and other books. "That is going to be coming right into each others' airspace," said Bendis while Brevoort confirmed he'd been discussion Norman with Dan Slott, saying that whenever the former Green Goblin is out of prison, a cloud hangs over Peter Parker's head as he waits for the villain to make a move.
The writer also spoke on how with some events, Marvel tends to put the big villain away after a major story ends, but "With Osborn, there was a lot more to explore." He knew that he would jump back to the character as soon as Kelly Sue Deconnick was done with her "Osborn" series.
Bendis also confirmed that he'll use some of the "Secret Warriors" characters coming up, including Daisy Johnson showing up in next week's "Avengers" #17.
He then compared the teams of Avengers, saying the New Avengers is more like a family while the core Avengers is like an appointment..."That's where Captain America has called you, and you report like a soldier to the building. Between the two teams, there's going to be a lot more coming and going and 'Whoever's around, we need you.' With that will come a lot more team-up duos and trios going on separate missions together."
Asked if a team up between Hydra, AIM and the Hand would make for a story that can't be topped, Bendis joked that "That's tomorrow's problem" before saying that he's made even bigger plans for next year to tie in to the "Avengers" film, so it's not too much a worry. The question of how long the Avengers and New Avengers teams would stay separate in the face of the new HAMMER, the writer said they would cross over by the third act of the story, but "Truthfully, like 85% of the people that read these books read both of them. So you want to give them a reward for sticking with it. As for the other people, you don't want to torture them, but you want to give them something cool that says, 'You haven't seen this.' There's going to be a lot going on in the books, and if you're strictly 'I'm only going to buy Avengers' you'll still get cool story."
The writer confirmed that the Ultron hints he's laid in the book are for later on in the project that will be drawn by Bryan Hitch, and he confirmed that several issues of that series are completed so it can ship monthly when it hits.
As for Wonder Man, Bendis shied away from calling him a villain. "I don't see him so much as a villain. I see him as someone who's stepped back, taken a look at his life and said 'I've made some huge mistakes, and the Avengers is one of them." He said he's not going out of his way to destroy Roy Thomas' cast of Avengers and that he has big plans ahead for Wonder Man.
The artists for the crossover will be Daniel Acuña on "Avengers" while John Romita, Jr. works on other projects and Mike Deodato on "New Avengers" returning to the Dark Avengers world he helped create. Brevoort confirmed that for now, the Secret Avengers team will remain as solo stories by Warren Ellis, but next year it will begin to thread back in to the other Avengers series. Bendis said that the crossover will, however, see some tie-in with his own "Moon Knight" series.
Bendis wrapped speaking on the "Avengers" film and how it will impact the franchise in comics. "This is the start of a year of what I think is going to be a really tremendous run of Avengers stories," he said, noting that the whole staff have rededicated themselves to telling big stories only Marvel Comics can do to make 2012 "The Year of The Avengers."