Marvel Comics' "All-New Invaders" know a thing or two about destroying military war machines. They originally banded together during World War II to combat the might of the Axis Powers' conventional and fantastic military forces. In the years following the war, the still-youthful original team members have taken on a variety of threats together and separately. In the opening arc of the "All-New Invaders" ongoing series, writer James Robinson and artist Steve Pugh brought the titular super powered band of brothers back to together during the All-New Marvel NOW! era to combat the might of the alien Kree Empire who targeted the team because of their knowledge of a device that could control divine beings.
In "All-New Invaders" #8, Robinson and Pugh will kick off a new arc that pits the group against a different and dangerous breed of war machine, a legion of cyborg super soldiers composed of almost every incarnation of Deathlok. How will confronting an army of cyborgs impact the team's android member the Original Human Torch (AKA Jim Hammond) and what role will his golden age sidekick Toro (AKA Thomas Raymond) and Marvel's "Inhumanity" storyline play in the arc? For the answers to these questions and more CBR News spoke with Robinson about the new story arc.
CBR News: James, let's start off by talking about Jim Hammond the Original Human Torch, a guy who will have a significant role in the upcoming arc and who you're clearly having a lot of fun writing both in "All-New Invaders" and "Fantastic Four," where he plays a supporting role. What is it about Jim that makes him so enjoyable to write?
James Robinson: It's partly my fanboy love of the fact that he's the very first Marvel super hero. I'm also very fortunate because, and all due respect to other writers who have handled him in the past, he hasn't had a lot of backstory given to him. So he's kind of a blank slate for me to make him into the kind of character that I envision him to be.
So it's fun to clarify and do my best to really distill what he is because it doesn't feel like we've been given a consistent vision of who the character is. At times he's been sort of an artificial human being and other times he's almost been depicted as a robot with human skin. I'm really making a point of stressing that he's an artificial human. The big example of that fact was that it was his blood transfusion that gave Jacqueline Falsworth, Spitfire, her powers. If he was just a machine he'd have anti-freeze running through his body not some kind of life saving blood like liquid.
As a writer, I have a reputation for having fun with long forgotten comic book continuity and bringing it into the present day. Obviously Jim Hammond is a character that's rife with that sort of material for me to mine.
I like the fact that, and it's already become a little bit apparent in both "Invaders" and "Fantastic Four," by making him an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. it's really put him in the middle of everything, which is really what a character like that needs. When you push a character off to the sidelines they never really take hold because people can't get invested in them. So hopefully people will begin little by little to respond to him especially now while Johnny Storm is lacking his powers.
The thing that resonates with me about him is the fact that he's a reluctant hero. He's a noble guy who accepts the responsibility that's been thrust upon him, but it's clear he'd rather go back to a simpler life like the one we saw him living in the small town during the first arc of "All-New Invaders."
It's harder to do this with somebody like Captain America who is in a bunch of other books, but I want to give characters, especially ones like Jim Hammond, an arc. What you're going to see is Jim embracing his role as the Torch and and also embracing the fact that he's human for all intents and purposes.
Everything is artificial, but it works, and that was something that was really handed to me on a plate quite brilliantly in the "Torch" maxi-series from a few years ago. So for instance, his body is trying so hard to be human one of the things we're going to find out is he's having to take acid reflux medication. He's starting to get some of the little things the human body does.
So his arc is that he's a reluctant hero, but he's also a reluctant human being. He's realizing that's a part of himself he's having to accept as well. As you'll see as things unfold, he still hasn't forgiven himself for helping destroy the Descendants A.I. uprising at the end of Rick Remender's "Secret Avengers" run. That's still haunting him. So his arc involves accepting who he is, what he is, and what the future holds for him as an artificial human and a super hero.
I'm also very happy with the two costumes we have for the Torch. I really like the design work that that Steve Pugh did on his redesigned Torch costume and we also have the S.H.I.E.L.D. battle suit costume, which is a variation on Steve Rogers' and now Nick Fury's Super Soldier outfit. I think both suits are really cool.
You mentioned Captain America, and I'm sure a lot of readers are wondering, given recent events in Cap's book, what kind of role Steve Rogers will be playing in future "All-New Invaders" stories and when you might get a chance to address those events in this book?
I will be acknowledging and tying into that with issue #11. All I can say is Steve Rogers will have more of an advisory capacity, and he won't be putting on his red, white and blue outfit and leaping into battle any time soon. So he'll still be a crucial part of the team, just not in the way he has been in the past.
While we're on the topic of team members I wanted to touch upon Radiance, the grand daughter of the World War II hero known as Golden Girl, who appeared in the "Original Sin" tie-in that ran through "All-New Invaders" #6-7. Is she just an affiliate and friend of the team who they'll run into occasionally or will she have a recurring role in the book?
A lot of work went into developing that character in terms of design and everything else, so to make her only a background character would be a waste. Plus, I really enjoyed writing her. Her chemistry with Jim Hammond in issue #7 was kind of fun. You'll definitely see more of her in the future.
You'll also see another new legacy Invader appearing in issue #9. I don't want to say any more than that.
Let's move to the plot and themes of the story that starts in "All-New Invaders" #8. At the end of issue #7 the Torch is confronted by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Derek Malloy who reveals himself to be some kind of malevolent A.I. being. What can you tell us about this story?
Malloy is not a large part of this next story. He's a teaser for an even bigger element that will follow this. There are things I can't say, but there is more to everything than you think. One of the clues I can offer is that Malloy is actually an advanced A.I. alien hybrid. What alien race he's from will launch the Invaders into everything that happens in the future for our team to some degree.
It's a huge plot point that will also fold into the Deathlok storyline and the hunt for Thomas Raymond, which is also part of it. Let's not forget poor Toro. There will be hopefully a lot of things to intrigue and excite Marvel fans and Invaders fans in these upcoming issues.
I understand the "Inhumanity" storyline will also play a part in this as well. Is that correct?
Yes, it does. It plays into both Toro/Thomas Raymond and the new legacy Invader that you're going to meet in issue #9.
One of the things I think I've done pretty well in my two "Original Sin" tie-in stories is to make the story feel like it's part of a crossover, but also make it feel like something that readers who are just following "All-New Invaders" or "Fantastic Four" can enjoy. If you're just following one of those books shame on you! You should be following both of them, but if you're just following one of those books you don't need to read a million other things to keep going and be engaged with the series. I also don't want it to feel like because they're crossover issues you don't need to buy them or pay much attention to them, which is the other thing that can happen.
So I think I've done a pretty good job, if I'm allowed to pat myself on the back with the two "Original Sin" tie-ins. And I find with this book and also "Fantastic Four" in the future I will be referencing things going on in the Marvel Universe.
That was something I always thought was cool as a kid growing up. One of the things I think Marvel had the edge over DC on was that they weren't afraid to mention events in passing in one book that happened in another book. One example that just popped into my head, and I'm not sure why, was Captain America around the time he was about to become Nomad or had just became Nomad. My memory is a little hazy on that, but it's when he calls up Hank McCoy for some kind of advice. Hank is the blue Beast and we get an acknowledgement of what's going on in that world. I always loved that.
So even though there was no onus for me to include "Inhumanity" I wanted to do that. I want to make these books feel like they're part of a bigger world and not off on their own. Because A) I enjoy those kinds of stories. And B) I think it helps sales on the book. People feel like the books are part of the larger Marvel Universe and not something they can push off to the side or not pay as much attention to.
Right. You mentioned we'd see some of that with what's going on with Captain America. I also imagine we'll see some connections to what will happen with the Winter Soldier, his role in "Original Sin," and his new ongoing series?
Let's move to one of the main antagonists in this new arc, the Deathlok cyborgs. The solicits mention we'll see "every Deathlok cyborg ever." What made an army of Deathloks an interesting adversary for the Invaders?
I just really love Deathlok. Sometimes it comes down to that. At the time I pitched this idea to Marvel they were fine with it. The idea was that they're doing this new "Deathlok" series so why not give the other guys one last go? So they were fine with me doing it. I'm very, very grateful that they were so open minded and positive about these crazy ideas that I've had.
So that was the reason. Although there's been some in the past, I just wanted to write some scenes with Luther Manning and Steve Rogers together; two soldiers at different ends of the spectrum in terms of their life experiences.
You mentioned Luther Manning. Will we see Michael Collins as well?
Unfortunately he's the one Deathlok you won't be seeing.
From what I understand there might be plans for him elsewhere. Perhaps in the new "Deathlok" series...?
I can't really comment on that at all. I can only say so much.
Deathlok cyborgs played a part in the Descendants storyline you mentioned earlier. Will there be callbacks to that storyline in this upcoming arc?
Yes and no. While there's a sense of an arc for this three part storyline it also goes into issue #11, which is the 75th anniversary of the first time Namor and the Torch fought. So we'll be circling into that and that's when some of the Descendants plot line will be dealt with a bit more.
Can you offer up any more hints, teases or details about some of the other supporting players or antagonists we might see in this arc?
Before the end of the arc you're going to finally get a cameo from Union Jack and Spitfire. That will take us into another storyline in the future, which I've talked about. And like I said, there's one more legacy character heroine that we're introducing who's the daughter of a Golden Age villain.
The characters and the action in this storyline are all being drawn by artist Steve Pugh, who as of this most recent solicit cycle will have done 11 consecutive issues of "All-New Invaders" and will probably do more. That's a rare thing these days. How does it feel to be working with the same artist so consistently?
I've done a lot of that so I'm just glad that Steve is a great guy, a great worker and an amazing artist. His fight scenes with the Deathloks, and Hammond and Namor are amazing. So that alone is worth the price of admission. It's wonderful. Steve and I have developed a real rapport and I'm excited to do more issues of "All-New Invaders" with him in the future.
For me, the first story really showed Steve's flair for science fiction and high technology. It sounds like this next arc will be another story where that's on display.
It certainly is, and in the big arc after this there's even more of that. It's right up his alley.
Let's conclude by talking a little more about what's in store for "All-New Invaders" beyond this current arc. I understand a story involving Martians and Killraven is on the horizon?
Yes, I just saw the rough cover for issue #12. It will have people who are into that kind of thing just weeping with joy. The cover to issue #12 is the original Union Jack, Sir Steel from Freedom's Five, the Golden Age Iron Fist Orson Randall and the Phantom Eagle fighting H.G. Wells' Martians. So issue #12 takes place in 1917 in London and then we come back to the present from there and lots of things have happened.
If you haven't been reading "All-New Invaders" please try it. It will be tying in more and more to the bigger events of the Marvel Universe and to some degree some of the events in "Fantastic Four." So bear that in mind, give it a try, and you won't be sorry. The art is wonderful and the writing isn't bad. Plus, If you ever wondered what role Namor had in the Nuremberg trials you're going to find out.
The Deathlok storyline kicks off in "All-New Invaders" #9 on August 27.