Cowboys and Superheroes: Kesel talks Vegas arc in "Amazing Fantasy" #13-14

Fri, August 19th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

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Cover to "Amazing Fantasy #13"

Not all of the super powered action in the Marvel Universe happens in New York City- there are other corners that have their own problems with super powered heroes and villains, like the southwest where the super criminals don't always wear costumes but are just as powerful and twice as nasty. In October, writer Karl Kesel and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico take readers to this area and introduce them to man named Vegas, a new Marvel character who debuts in the pages of "Amazing Fantasy #13-14." CBR News spoke to Kesel about the Vegas story, which opens up a whole new section of the Marvel Universe.

The Vegas arc is set firmly in the modern day Marvel Universe in and around the area of Austin, Texas. "I won't apologize for it, it's a Western," Kesel told CBR News. "Except it's cowboys and superheroes. I handed off the script to Jeff Parker [writer of the 'Vampire by Night' back up story in 'Amazing Fantasy'] for his feedback. His reaction was what I hope a lot of people's reactions are. He goes, 'I was reading this and it was like there was this corner of the Marvel Universe I just didn't know existed but it's always been there.'"

Roaming this corner is a man named Vegas, the star of this two-part "Amazing Fantasy" story. "The best way to describe Vegas in broad terms is he's a very charming guy who has gotten by his whole life pretty easily," Kesel said. "He knows how to say the right words and give a little smile and wink and get his own way. He's a bit of a rogue. Brad Pitt's character in 'Thelma and Louise' is really what I see Vegas being like. He's not what I would call an evil person but Vegas would have probably walked away with the money just like Brad Pitt did in that movie."

Vegas' roguish behavior earned him a prison stint for an offense that is unspecified in the story, and, upon his release, he hooks up with a gang called the Renegades. Kesel compared The Renegades to the gang of villains in the vampire western film "Near Dark." "Instead of vampires make them supervillains," Kesel explained. "So you got this guy who has no powers who hooks up with a gal whose a member of the Renegades. Much like the band in 'Near Dark' what they do for fun is very different. He goes along with this. The implication is that he's never directly involved in anything horrific although there are certainly some horrific things that must have gone on and he just turned a blind eye to it."

However, Vegas' time with the Renegades ends on a night when they decide to raid a research facility where his sister previously worked. "His sister is involved in a certain weird scientific research project and the leader of the Renegades is very interested in this research," Kesel stated. "So they go and 'visit'. Things get out of hand as they often do when the Renegades are around. The scientific experiment explodes. Strange energies are released. Vegas's sister dies and he is left for dead."

"Amazing Fantasy # 13-14" signals the beginning of Vegas' quest for revenge on The Renegades. "The Renegades like the band in 'Near Dark are about five or six people," Kesel said. "The members are Rose Tattoo who was Vegas's girlfriend at the time his sister was killed. The Padre is the most important character in the first two-parter. The Padre is the first member of the Renegades that Vegas tracks down. Then there is a character that says nothing in the first two-parter. He's a man of few words and his name is Smith. Then there is the six gun kid, and he's actually my favorite character.

The leader of the Renegades is a man named Suicide King and yes, Kesel realizes how that name might look upon first glance. "There's a really good reason he's got his name. Like any good superhero or supervillain name it ties into his power," Kesel stated. "He's a very ruthless person. He has no regard for human life. There is a reference to something in the first part of the two-part story that indicates he's treated people pretty badly. Torture would be the word that comes to mind."

As he's traversing Texas on his quest for vengeance, Vegas runs into a Texas Ranger. "His name is Harlan Stone," Kesel said. "His nickname is Tombstone. He's the sort that you're going to pry his guns from his cold dead fingers. In broad western terms Tombstone is the sheriff and Vegas is the drifter."

Tombstone explains to Vegas the challenges that law enforcement faces out in this corner of the Marvel Universe, giving readers additional insight as to the uniqueness of this "world." "I do establish that there is a branch of the Texas Rangers that handle these super powered characters, who the Rangers refer to 'Anomalitos,'" Kesel said. " 'Anomalitos' are as they say, 'Super types without super tights.' These people just think it's pointless, silly, whatever to put on costumes, but they still have powers and it certainly doesn't mean that they aren't dangerous. They're known as a class as 'Anomalitos.' The really bad ones are known as 'Anomalocos'. The Renegades are definitely 'Anomalocos.'"

Kesel thought putting Texas Rangers, known for their slogan, "One Riot, One Ranger", into a comic would be a natural fit. "I'm shocked Texas Rangers have not been put in comics more often," He stated. "Texas Rangers are perfect for comic books. They're so larger than life. Their mission statement is to help out in situations beyond the scope of normal law enforcement. If they have to suppress a riot they send one guy."

The Vegas story might have super powered characters, but by no means is it your typical superhero story. "It's very dark," Kesel stated. "It's hard for me to say exactly how dark but I think it's darker than stuff I have usually done in comics in the last few years."

One of Marvel's most popular super teams makes a brief appearance in the Vegas arc, serving to remind readers that this story is firmly set in the MU. "We do have a cameo of the Avengers," Kesel said. "It's a quick one. Carmine, the penciler he's just so fabulously talented and that one panel makes me want to see what else he could do with those characters."

Kesel thinks even if people aren't really interested in the story, that they should pick up "Amazing Fantasy" #13-14 for Carmine Di Giandomenico's art alone. "He's so good," Kesel stated. "Carmine's going places.

"He's from Italy. When we started to look around for an artist for Vegas, Nicole Wiley sent out a one paragraph idea of what Vegas might look like to a number of different artists. Carmine from the beginning just nailed it. What is it about Italians that they seem to understand the American West? But they do. Carmine will admit as soon as he read about the character, his thoughts went to the Sergio Leone work."

If sales permit, Kesel, Di Giandomenico and Wiley would love to go back and tell more stories featuring Vegas and his particular section of the Marvel Universe. "The initial thrust of the plot beyond this would still be him tracking down the other members," Kesel explained. "There's something that happens by the end of this two-parter that sets him up in a certain direction and gives him a certain purpose in the Marvel Universe. So there's definite things we could do with that. I think that it would be really interesting to do some stories that mixes Vegas with some more mainstream characters. I think there are a lot of different things that can be done with Vegas and his corner of the Marvel universe is very unique. I'd love to explore it."

The following preview pages are from "Amazing Fantasy #13," scheduled to ship in October.

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