Star War: Giffen talks "Annihilation"

Wed, December 14th, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

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Cover to "Annihilation: Prologue"

Many Marvel stories take place on Earth and in or around New York City, but beginning in March readers will learn how vast the Marvel Universe truly is with the launch of an event titled "Annihilation." A prologue issue, four four-issue mini-series, and a concluding six issue mini-series make up the event. These books will have readers roaming all over the cosmos with a multitude of Marvel's cosmic powered characters. CBR News spoke with the man whose writing the bulk of "Annihilation," Keith Giffen, for the inside info on this epic tale of cosmic war.

"Annihilation" was birthed out of Marvel editor Andy Schmidt's love for Marvel's cosmic characters. "He likes these characters and sees untapped potential in them," Giffen told CBR News. "He came to me and said, 'What do you think about getting all these cosmic characters together and doing something big and bombastic?' We started bouncing ideas back and forth and the ideas eventually worked themselves into the framework of 'Annihilation.'"

Giffen shares Schmidt's love for Marvel's space faring characters. "I've been reading this stuff since Starlin was first playing around with the idea of Captain Marvel as a cosmic character and reworking Warlock," Giffen said. "Back then that hadn't been done yet. He was doing a totally unique take on cosmic characters and that's what we're trying to do here again."

Readers examining the promotional image that Marvel released for "Annihilation" will notice the presence of Drax the Destroyer, a cosmic powered character that Giffen recently put his own unique stamp on. "'Drax' was done months before 'Annihilation' was even brought to me," Giffen explained. "But we are using 'Annihilation to pick up where I left off on 'Thanos' and 'Drax.'"

Much to the Destroyer's chagrin and many readers delight, when Drax appears in "Annihilation," Cammi, the pre-teen girl from the "Drax" mini-series, will be right by his side. "Cammi is one of my favorite characters. She's this hardcore little girl that you just know she was on her way to prison," Giffen said. "She's there and she's so much fun to play around with."

The "Annihilation" prologue kicks off the epic inter-galactic saga, "It's 42 pages long and it's the first step in irrevocably altering the cosmic landscape," Giffen said. "If you care about the cosmic characters, you'll definitely want to pick up 'Annihilation' because they are all going to be touched in one way or another."

"The 'Annihilation Prologue' sets one the characters off on his path," Giffen continued, "We touch base with all of the characters that are in their own mini-series, but it hard focuses on one character and pretty much changes his world."

Four four-issue mini-series spin out of the "Annihilation: Prologue." "Super-Skrull" by writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach and artist Greg Titus; "Nova" by writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and artist Kev Walker; "Ronan the Accuser" by writer Simon Furman and artist Jorge Lucas; and "Silver Surfer" which is written by Giffen and features art by Renato Arlem.

Giffen promises that his "Silver Surfer" mini-series will have a huge impact on the character. "Yes even the Surfer is going to go through a big change," Giffen stated. "Half of fandom is going to go, 'Yes!' and love me and the other half is going to go, 'You son of a bitch! You never should have been allowed near the character!' That's the story of my career."

Once the four mini-series concludes, the coda to the epic tale begins in the six issue "Annihilation" mini-series written by Giffen with an artist whose name Marvel is currently keeping top secret. "The six issue mini-series is where we go in and wrap things up and do an insane amount of damage," Giffen explained. "By the end of 'Annihilation,' there are certain things that have been part of Marvel's cosmic landscape for awhile that are gone."

While the conflict in the series will be brutal and result in a number of casualties, "Annihilation" will not be filled with pointless deaths. "There are characters that die but, they die because of their redundancies," Giffen explained. "It's not like, 'We haven't seen this character for awhile, let's kill him.' It's more like, 'We haven't seen this character for awhile, can we make him cool? What can we do with this character? How can we fit him into this new overview? Is there a way of jacking up the power level or giving him a personality quirk?' If we can't, nine times out of ten we just put them aside and say, "Maybe later.'"

"Annihilation" will find some old characters perish, while some new cosmic powered characters will arise. "I think when you have a project like this, telling a big story, you're really obligated to leave stuff behind for the stuff you take out," Giffen explained. "If you're going to do away with something or somebody, you've got to give something back. So, there will be new characters, new concepts and new situations introduced. There will also be old concepts and situations so radically altered they might as well be new."

To drastically alter the face of the cosmos, Giffen pits Marvel's cosmic characters against an ominous, colossal threat. "It's called 'Annihilation,' not because we're doing the word game (first 'Decimation' and then 'Annihilation'), but because that's the thrust of the attack," Giffen said. "They are facing the kind of menace that can wipe a solar system clean of life and resources in a matter of days. It's like a blitzkrieg attack the width of two entire star systems just coming at you huge, vicious and overwhelming."

The characters in "Annihilation" will find themselves caught up in the midst of this intergalactic war and like the old saying goes, "War makes for strange bed fellows." "It's like any war," Giffen stated. "You've got your heroes who rediscover what made them heroes. You've got your heroes who find out their not as heroic as they thought. You've got your villains who realize they have a lot at stake, too, and you've got your villains who pull a Benedict Arnold. The characters find their way into the story and not always in the way you'd expect.

"It's a story about a war that was brought to us," Giffen continued. "To use a World War II analogy, the foe is like Nazi Germany in terms of strength and the entire Marvel cosmic universe is the Sudetenland. Heroes flying into combat in a V-formation ain't going to cut it. They have got to think their way through this."

In addition to telling a good, sprawling space story, Giffen and the other "Annihilation" creators wanted to capture the element of the fantastic which made the cosmic characters special. "[Editor] Andy Schmidt's mandate was, 'Let's get that sense of wonder back. Let's make these characters cool and cutting edge again,'" Giffen explained.

Giffen has been having a blast writing "Annihilation" and his fun has been amplified by the response the project has been getting from his fellow creators, some of whom aren't even involved in the project. "JMS [J. Michael Straczynski], when he heard about this, not only did he support it wholeheartedly, but he said, 'Here, use the Silver Surfer,'" Giffen said. Even though he had his own thoughts about the Surfer, he was willing to let us involve the character. Not too shabby."

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Giffen is also pleased by his artistic collaborators response to "Annihilation." He offered high praise for "Annihilation: Prologue" artist Scott Kollins. "His art work is really gorgeous," Giffen stated. "He's giving me everything I need and taking it one step further. I've been a fan of his art since 'The Flash,' but damn! Why isn't this guy firmly locked onto the Wizard Top Ten list? I'm talking top five. He's producing astonishing work."

All Giffen asks of readers is to give "Annihilation" a chance and he and his fellow creators promise to deliver a tale that is exciting and respectful to the characters involved. "It's not a dump on. We're not going to crap on your favorite character. That said we're not going to play paddy cake with them either," Giffen stated. "We're not saying these characters have gotten old. We're trying to do something with them that hasn't been seen or done before. We want to give them a new feel."

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