After teasing the post-"Fear Itself" status quo with a series of images throughout the week, Friday afternoon Marvel held a press conference call with writers Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker to discuss the publisher's Next Big Thing, the ominously titled "Shattered Heroes" branding. Also on hand to moderate was Junior Sales Administrator James Viscardi, as well as SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort.
Viscardi began by noting that the "Shattered Heroes" banner replaces the previously announced "Battle Scars."
Brubaker, joining the call late, joked that he'd accidentally dialed into DC's "New 52" call. "52 new series, 52 conference calls!" He also joked that his new take on Catwoman reveals that, "for starters, she's a man..."
Getting back on track, Viscardi mentioned November's "Fear Itself" #7.1, 7.2, and 7.3, which begin new directions for three major heroes.
"The general tenor of it, without getting too much into the end of 'Fear Itself,' 'Fear Itself' was in every way a war," Brevoort said. Though heroes survive, "They're all going to have to deal with choice they made, things they had to do." 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3 focus on Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, respectively.
"It's a chance to do the character work" that is often difficult to include in the event itself, Fraction (who will write the Thor and Iron Man Chapters) said.
"I like to think of these points as 'jumping on points,'" Brubaker joked, with Brevoort adding that "They're ranked in order of importance, and Ed's comes first!" Fraction exhaled, "Son of a bitch!"
#7.1 "is my chance to do what everyone's been complaining I haven't been able to do, and that's deal with Bucky's death in 'Fear Itself,'" Brubaker said. "This is where I get to set the stage for the next year of 'Captain America,' and for secret things we can't talk about yet."
Brubaker acknowledged that it's difficult to have the regular series running concurrently with the event, but "this is where we get that impactful moment."
"The Thor story is a chance to narrow the spotlight down to Thor and his immediate circle," Fraction said. "I was cautious when putting together Fear Itself to not have 1/3 action and 2/3 people standing around talking about what just happened." He added, "hopefully you'll be interested to see what happens next."
#7.2, Fraction said, is about the revelations about Asgard, "and the truth about what their history really is, in the wake of the Serpent."
For the Iron Man issue, Fraction said, "I really enjoyed having Tony and Odin yelling at each other, the two biggest egos in the Marvel universe, so this is kind of the second half of that." It will also deal with all that Tony has given up.
"I'd just like to point out that in my issue, Steve Rogers punches Nick Fury," Brubaker added. "Matt's sound more interesting than mine otherwise."
In addition to "Captain America," "Thor," and "Iron Man," the new "Hulk" series by Jason Aaron will be under the "Shattered Heroes" banner.
Fraction praised Aaron's book, saying he's "just the right kind of crazy" to follow Greg Pak's acclaimed run.
Brevoort added that the new "Defenders" will be under "Shattered Heroes," joking that it's "pretty good, maybe not as good as Aaron's 'Hulk,'" with Fraction quipping "It's a solid B."
"Avengers," the 12-part "Fear Itself: Fearless" (formerly just "Fearless"), and "Battle Scars" (now minus "Fear Itself" branding) will also fall under the new banner. "It will be a fairly broad marketing initiative that will touch all corners of the Marvel universe."
Responding to the first press question, Brevoort noted that it's significant that each 7.1-3 issue is written by the core book's writer, giving Brubaker a chance for his characters a chance to react "in his idiom." He noted that casual readers of the core books are almost certainly aware of the events of "Fear Itself," and will want to find out what happens next in the "point" issues.
"They work as both endings and beginnings," Fraction said. "I suspect if you know nothing other than there was a big battle, and this is the day after the shooting stops, you'll be able to pick up from there."
"All of us have been through this before," Brubaker added, noting "Captain America" #25 shipped right after "Civil War," which saw the demise of the lead character. "We know how to do this without dropping the ball."
"Battle Scars" will be an espionage-focused book, Brevoort said, and will include Captain America, Taskmaster, Daisy Johnson, and others the editor was careful not to name. "It's a bit of a travelogue," Fraction added.
There was next some banter about the new Hulk's mustache, which Brevoort joked was a reaction to complaints that the Red Hulk didn't have one. Fraction joked, "Stay tuned for our 'Hulk: The Detrimmining."
Asked about Thor's status, Brevoort noted that Tenaurus will be the new God of Thunder, suggesting "there are changes in Thor's world," but would not say more.
Fraction noted that, hyperbole aside, comics "should be changing constantly," and Tenaurus will be the face of how Asgard has changed.
On the spectrum of plot-based banners like "Dark Reign" and tone-based banners like "Heroic Age," Brevoort said he saw less difference than was suggested. "'Dark Avengers' became that spine book" for "Dark Reign," but was not designed that way. "I don't think there's a spine story to 'Shattered Heroes.'" Instead, the characters will be dealing with the fallout from their actions.
"It's the reconstruction phase--it's the story of how the Marvel heroes get back up after they've been knocked down," Fraction said. "It's the story of how they remain undefeated, even in defeat."
"I think the advantage of the Marvel universe is that it's always been more character-oriented than plot," Brubaker said, so that aftermath moments make a lot of sense. "This has been an earth-shattering event for all these characters, so to act like nothing happened the next month would be just wrong."
Fraction noted that, after killing Bucky, "my first instinct was to open the next issue with a funeral for Bucky," but decided that didn't make sense because the heroes couldn't "push pause" on the war. "These are the stories we've been eager to tell."
Brevoort noted that "people want to know, how does Cap feel about the fact that Bucky is dead, again?" "By the end, they'll want to know, how does Thor feel about this thing that just happened, how does Tony deal with what he's done," and so forth. He noted that another strength of Marvel is that "every time we do one of these things, the landscape is different at the end," even though sometimes it might look superficially similar. He added that there was strong reaction to the post-"Civil War" special in "which is basically Tony and Cap talking to each other," because fans were invested in the questions addressed there. "This is the red meat for Marvel fans."
"Shattered Heroes" will follow alongside "Schism," the X-Men event, Brevoort said, both of which "set up the dominoes" for the Marvel universe's new status quo. Fraction added he was "stripping away the X-Men stuff" from his "Shattered Heroes" stories, because "it felt redundant" because it was already covered in the X-Men books.
Brevoort said that Stuart Immonen will draw "Secret Avengers" #21, the sixth of six Warren Ellis issues. That, though, will follow after "he's taking a break" to celebrate his wedding anniversary.
A plot thread from "Fear Itself: Hulk vs. Dracula" will "lead to the need for a new incarnation of the Defenders to come together," Brevoort said. "It's just the first thread begins to quickly unravel the sweater of the Marvel universe."
"The Hulk needs a favor," Fraction added, "and he goes to the last guys in the Marvel universe he feels he can trust—or the guys in the Marvel universe he still feels owe him something." The mess they clean up creates the team's mission statement, "what they are defending against."
"You and I are both working on books that come out next year right now," Brubaker said to Fraction. "I'm jealous that you got to announce your secret stuff."
"You'll be seeing a lot more of Valkyrie," Brevoort said about rising characters, as well as Daisy Johnson, SHIELD, and the new character in "Battle Scars."
Brubaker joked about a "Werewolf by Night Nurse" pitch, which would be about a woman who works an an ER beset by werewolf bites.
Brevoort teased that, by "Fear Itself" #7, Captain America might "be using something very different from a shield."
Shadowy Character from "Battle Scars" "definitely has history," Brevoort said, but would not go into details about this character's prior role in the Marvel U. "People will recognize him when he comes fully into the light."