With Marvel Comics incoming Marvel NOW! relaunch of major titles – including a new start for the "Avengers" franchise under Jonathan Hickman – fans have been asking for weeks whether the "Avengers Assemble" ongoing meant to tie to the blockbuster film would continue past its initial arc from Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. Today, the publisher made it official that writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Stefano Caselli will guide the book from issue #9 on in their latest Next Big Thing conference call.
Director of Communications Arune Singh led the call alongside DeConnick, Caselli [who unfortunately lost the call moments in] and Editors Lauren Sankovitch and Tom Brevoort.
Sankovitch said that the move was the next logical step for DeConnick after well-receieved run on "Osborn" and launch for "Captain Marvel." She added that the writer's involvement would be good "to get some lady power in the Avengers lineup." Brevoort said that the lineup will focus on classic members of the Avengers team with three-to-four issue arcs with a tight focus on quick adventure stories. "Basically, it's all about making a big impact in a short amount of time."
DeConnick revealed the lineup as Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Woman, Captain America and Captain Marvel. Of the last she said, "I had the option to pick...and if I'm deciding, I had a slot for this character as well." She said of the tone of the book, most of it came from her viewing of the "Avengers" film and what it did to her as an audience member. "I managed to keep it together until that point where Iron Man came onto screen while AC/DC was playing...that's the moment I'm going for – that rock anthem, bouncing up and down in your seat moment."
"I'm interested in them as celebrities," the writer added, saying that looking at the characters in a public life while engaging with 21st Century media and how they view their role in moving towards the future.
When questions opened to the press, DeConnick was asked whether she would use any of her villain cast members from "Osborn" into the series. She said she had one in mind, but it was still pending Marvel's approval.
DeConnick also said that the lineup would change arc-to-arc and that Black Widow would return to the book after the first arc, but for now it was Spider-Woman's time. "I really like Jessica Drew and how broken she is," the writer explained.
As for how the team will follow Bendis and Bagley, DeConnick joked that she wouldn't want to stack her writing against Bendis, but she could probably beat him up in real life. "We have a similar love of a kind of bantery dialogue. I have been a fan of Brian's for many, many years...since long before I knew him. He has been a direct influence on my work, but I am writing my 'Avengers' book."
The writer also noted that the challenge of a team book with such an iconic ensemble cast was more of a strength for her as she loves a novelistic approach to comic writing that allows for multiple points of view throughout a story. Without having to focus on one character all the time, like she does in "Captain Marvel," DeConnick can explore more story possibilities.
Asked about the inclusion of non-movie characters like Spider-Woman and Captain Marvel and whether non-traditional comics readers would be able to get into them, Brevoort argued that despite complicated in universe back stories, those characters had simple, recognizable hooks that anyone could understand and related to in a matter of moments. He left the possibility that other even more obscure Avengers could appear at some point who would be understood in context that they're standing next to Cap, Iron Man and Thor. He went on to say that with Hickman's upcoming "Avengers" run, with an 18-member team having been built any cast member can step in for a specific story if needed.
DeConnick admitted that as of yet, she doesn't have an overall personal mission statement for the team and how they act in the world so much as she has been building relationships for the cast amongst themselves. She cited loving to work on the differences between competing super geniuses Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Brevoort chimed in saying that the theme permeating the core Avengers books and how it relates to "Assemble," this series would be "The Aaron Sorkin book" where the cast is always bouncing off each other in order to get the world saved. DeConnick joked that there would be lots of "Walking and fighting" as opposed to "Walking and talking."
The question of which villains would appear was delicately sidestepped as DeConnick didn't want to spoil the secret of the first arc, but she did promise cameos by Spider-Man, Wolverine and Scarlet Witch.
Brevoort said that the "Avengers Assemble" title's initial mission statement of being divorced of continuity in the mainstream Marvel U would be a little looser moving forward. In general, the book will be self-contained so that movie fans can pick up stories, but if, say, Captain Marvel's ongoing had a major event that impacts Carol Danvers life, those effects can be felt in "Assemble."
"The voices in my head are the movie voices for Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and [Captain America]," DeConnick said of her conception of the cast, nothing that her Spider-Woman would fall well in line with Bendis' take on the character. "That is the level of humor, the level of charisma that I'm hearing in my head."
The first story arc will feature a kind of "Amazing Race" set up where the Avengers have to split into smaller sub teams and cross the globe in competition with each other. DeConnick said that Spider-Woman and Hulk would compete against Thor and Iron Man over the arc.
The writer joked when asked about being the first woman to write an ongoing "Avengers" book that "I'm just looking for ways to put more pressure on me" and that she was also the first DeConnick to write the franchise. On more serious terms, she noted that she always watches to see what trends are for women in the industry and ways to make them not feel peculiar in their love of this kind of material. "This is a thing that is near and dear to my heart. I've always had an interest. I read superhero comics growing up, and I think the hero ideal is as important to my daughter as it is to my son. I don't want her to have this idea that if this is interesting to her that it's somehow peculiar...those things are very interesting to me, but I don't want to represent all women in comics...particularly because I blow things some times," she laughed saying sometimes it's good for your reach to exceed your grasp with hopes that if it does, people won't say, "There. Women can't write comics." Brevoort added that the distinction was a nice factoid, but DeConnick's gender didn't factor into her hiring. Her talent did. He also nodded his hat to Ann Nocenti for writing "Avengers" stories in the past.
Brevoort wrapped the call noting that the book would not necessarily keep the cosmic milieu of the first arc for its entire run and would instead go wherever they wanted it to – maybe to space, maybe across earth and maybe anywhere else in the Marvel U.