To celebrate Earth's Mightiest Week and the release of Avengers: Endgame, ComicBook.com has gotten in touch with several comics creators and professionals who are either currently working on a series featuring some of the characters of Avengers: Endgame or have made a major impact on the characters in some way.
Today we're featuring interviews by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Andy Lanning. DeConnick was the writer of the popular Captain Marvel series that refocused Carol Danvers and laid the foundation for her much bigger role in both the Marvel comics universe and Marvel Cinematic Universe. DeConnick was also the first female writer of an ongoing Avengers series when she took over Avengers Assemble in 2012. Lanning was one of the co-writers of the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy series that heavily inspired the Marvel movie by the same name. He also wrote Annihilation: Conquest and Nova, two of the Marvel series that heavily re-shaped the Marvel Cosmic universe.
The following interviews were conducted via phone and were condensed and edited for clarity only.
Welcome to Earth's Mightiest Week! From April 22nd to April 26th, ComicBook.com is celebrating the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far with a series of exclusive articles, lists, arguments, and more. If you'd like to check out some of our other offerings from this week, you can click the image above.
Kelly Sue DeConnick
ComicBook.com: What was the impetus for redesigning and redefining Captain Marvel?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: As somebody who grew up on Air Force bases, it was a little bit frustrating to me that her character was always portrayed as a "by the books" blind loyalist. That was not my experience of folks in the military, particularly not pilots.
I think the problem rose out of the fact that we just don't have a lot of cultural icons that are military women. We have a spate of cultural icons that are military men, and so we can easily grasp that people are as varied as their numbers in that regard. But who do you think of when I say military woman? Like Margaret Houlihan? Margaret Houlihan is a bummer.
Do you remember the Super Hero Squad? It was the Avengers for little kids, and so they kind of just reduced each character to their most basic elements. Carol was the killjoy. And so that's what we were up against, and that had not been what Carol was originally. Not at all. And it's certainly, first, vocation is not character. And second, that vocation doesn't even speak to blind obedience.
It was just like, "I don't want to read a book about this character if that's who she is. So let's see if we can adjust this without a needle scratch." So that was the idea: Let's give her a pilot's swagger and let's take her back to fundamentals and figure out what her engine is.
Do you think that giving her that swagger and a more self-assertive personality was why so many fans latched onto her? Because the Carol Corps formed basically right when Captain Marvel #1 hit bookshelves.
I think part of it was simply the really iconic costume. Jamie McKelvie did such an incredible job that people were cosplaying the character in the new costume before the book even came out. And then yeah, we were trying to do something interesting with Carol that wasn't just confidence or even hubris, but to show that real strength is vulnerability. So, she can be assertive and confident and even a little bit hubristic. But also, she acts too quickly and she knows it. Like, I have always felt very strongly that Carol isn't the leader that Steve is. And I think that's important to her character. I think Carol's the muscle. And I think there is something beautifully imperfect about her. Like, she has a quick temper. She has a terrible sense of humor, so many dad jokes.
You have these triads in a lot of our great contemporary myths - Hermione and Harry and Ron, or Leia and Luke and Han, or Kirk and Spock and McCoy. Steve, Carol, and Tony make a nice triad. Carol inhabits this place between the two of them. She's a soldier like Steve, but she's got the attitude that Tony's got. She's somewhere in the middle. Steve always gets back up, and so does Carol. But for real different reasons. There's a kind of piss and vinegar quality to her.
I think I just got lucky. All you can do is make something that feels honest. All you can do is make the thing you want to read or you feel is missing, the book that feels like it speaks to you, and then hope that the timing is right that it speaks to other people as well. And I had tremendous collaborators on the art side and in editorial as well. I get a lot of credit for Carol's success, and I super appreciate it, but I was very much part of a team. It wasn't my idea even to put her in pants. That was Steve Wacker. And in fact, I wrote him back and was like, "I can't tell if you're kidding."prevnext
So you actually appeared in Captain Marvel. You got to make a cameo appearance.
That was pretty neat.
What was it like seeing this version of Captain Marvel on the big screen, and going from re-imagining this character and then seeing it play through to that extent?
It was great. I was a little cynical going in. When I was asked to meet on the film I didn't have a lot of faith in Hollywood, to be honest. And I thought, "Oh, they're not going to listen to me, but I will tell them what I think because that's what I do." But I did feel very heard. And I did end up walking away feeling a little embarrassed at how cynical I had been, and with a tremendous respect for the folks involved. And I feel like everyone cared about the right things.
Can you talk about any of the suggestions that you made when you met with the producers of the film?
We talked a lot about some of the things I just told you. About what I thought worked with the character, what I thought the big mistakes were with the character, what I thought was really important. I told them how important it was to me that there be inter-generational friendships between women. How important it was to me that we be able to see women compete. What I felt was missing culturally.
We get to see men compete and stay friends all the time. They push each other and make each other better. When women compete classically in our culture, women are shown to compete in a way that's really disingenuous. Where it's like, "Oh no, I hope you win." And they're usually competing for the attention of a man or the approval of a man, and it's usually very manipulative and backhanded. That's just not my experience of the world or the very important women in my life and my female colleagues. That's not my experience of the world, and I've gotten kind of sick of it. And so it was important to me that we see Carol and Maria as competitive and still the very best of friends.
It was also important to me that we kind of deal with why does wider culture think that Carol's the first female Captain Marvel, right? She's not. And Monica was. And that's a thing. And Carol's not even the second. But she's a pretty blonde white lady. And that's a thing. And I feel like that got touched on in the film. It's subtle, but god, it's there. I'll take it. That's huge progress.
We just don't get that a lot. And so to be able to see that on something that is as powerful as the reach of these films, it's incredibly humbling. I feel like I'm stumbling for words here because I feel very lucky to have been able to have played a small part in that.
So changing topics, when I was doing some research for this interview, I found out that you were the first, or at least one of the first women to write an Avenger's ongoing series. Why do you think there's such a hesitancy by publishers to give female creators these prominent team comics like The Avengers or The Justice League, or even The X-Men?
I don't know. I think there were very few prominent women for a while there. And I think that had to do with comics having to come out every 30 days and people hire people that look like them. There's also some just back-asswards thinking. People have ideas about what women can and can't do, and they don't even notice it. So they'll have ideas they want to put the women on the books with women leads. Which, on the one hand, I appreciate that because if I read another female led superhero that starts with her eating a salad with her best friend or ice cream on the couch after a breakup... There is some real cliché writing that was happening there sometimes. And so to have women write women is great. But on the other hand, sometimes the female led books are the niche books. And so it's tough.
There's no simple answer here. I want to write the female-led books because I want to write about women because I think I have things to say. And I have ideas about what's been done poorly and what I want to do differently. But at the same time, I also want the status of writing the team books or the male-led books. I had an interview ask me one time if I was worried about being pigeonholed because I wrote all these female leads. And I think at the time I was writing Pretty Deadly, Bitch Planet, Captain Marvel, and Avengers Assemble or something. And I had written Ghost maybe too. And except for the fact that they have female leads, those are all incredibly different books. And so it was like, if those books all had male leads, it wouldn't occur to you to ask me if I was worried about being stereotyped writing all male leads.
I'm going to start asking male creators if they pigeonholed by writing male solo books.
Right. Or, Brian Bendis wrote the best Spider-Woman series I've ever read. And Brian is neither a woman nor a spider. So why is it assumed that men have this range and we've got to stick to what we know. I also resent deeply that the female led books are... I don't know if this still the case, but it was certainly the case fairly recently, that the female led books were sort of a drop down in prestige. And that pisses me off. And so one part of me is like, "No, we're going to write the ladies and we're going to elevate them."I don't know. I want to be able to write a lot of different things. So it's hard. Humaning is hard.
So do you feel that you have more Captain Marvel stories to tell, or are you happy with how you left the character?
Never say never. I think when I left the book I was like, "And I'll come back when the movie comes out." But I'm so slammed. I like Carol. I don't know that I need another monthly comic in my life right now. But I would certainly hope we're not done.
She's a great character. And you know, superhero comics are the longest ongoing continuous narrative in human history, and it's pretty great to have gotten to sew on that quilt. Very definitely an honor.prevnext
ComicBook.com: How did you first get involved with Annihilation: Conquest, which ultimately marked the start of the whole Guardians of the Galaxy revival?
Andy Lanning: Our Conquest storyline grew, out of the first series of Annihilation. Annihilation, as a miniseries event title, that spanned the cosmic books, came out before Conquest, and was the brainchild of Andy Schmidt, who was an editor at Marvel at the time. Andy is a huge cosmic hero fan. Loved the cosmic line of books at Marvel. About a year before Annihilation came out, Andy had reached out to me and Dan [Abnett] about potentially doing Nova stories. This was off the back of Dan and I doing Legion of Super Heroes at DC which we had been working on about three years on that.
Andy asked us whether we would be interested in rebranding Nova and had suggested working with a friend of mine, Chris Batista, as the artist on that book. So, we worked on the proposal and Chris did some character sketches and stuff like that. But at the time, it didn't go anywhere because there was no enthusiasm to actually do that series at the time.
Andy being the dogged-natured guy that he is kept knocking on Joe Quesada's door to ask about doing something with the cosmic books? And to shut Andy up or, at least, to stop him knocking on his door every week, agreed to let me do a cosmic event book. And that became Annihilation.
The cool thing about it though, is the fact that Andy could pick up the Annihilation series with Keith Giffen. Giffen is just like an idea generation machine. There's no such thing as a perpetual motion machine but there's definitely is a perpetual idea generating machine and that's Keith Giffen. Keith was putting together this giant construct to the stories of Annihilation, which basically had Annihilus attacking the whole galaxy from the Negative Zone and using Galactus as his energy source to do this. And Andy came to us because he not only had the spine of the miniseries they were launching but also individual miniseries that tied in with this.
Andy said to me and Dan, "Do you want to revisit Nova?" Unfortunately, Chris Batista was no longer available to work on it, so we got Kev Walker, a UK artist and a friend of ours, as well, to draw that series. What was brilliant about it was the fact that Giffen said to us, "This is where Nova is at the beginning of your story and this is where I want him at the end of the story. What you do between there is up to you." And that starting point was really fascinating and a great provocation because Nova's on Xandar. Xandar has just been destroyed and Nova's one of the only survivors.
Dan and I did the miniseries with Kev, which ended up with Nova having the Worldmindand becoming the Nova Prime and depositing him back into the main continuity story. Keith had Star-Lord be a protagonist in the main story as well. So, the foundations for the Guardians of the Galaxy book began to coalesce out of this. We had Drax reinvented as the knife-wielding berserker. He was also Nova's mentor and trainer in our storyline. The cosmic universe was sort of revitalized by that entire run.
Off the back of Annihilation, we were invited by Andy to continue Nova as an ongoing series. Things started to sort of build a head of steam. Andy then moved on from Marvel and Bill Rosemann became our editor on the cosmic books. We would spitball ideas with Bill and came up with the notion of Annihilation: Conquest, which had the same format as Annihilation - big cosmic event book, which had six issues to it and four other books off the back of it.
We were able during the course of that to repay the favor to Keith and get him to write one of those books, which was Star-Lord. Keith put together a sort of "Dirty Dozen" style team in the book. And that team he put together included Star-Lord, Rocket and Groot, and Mantis, and Captain Universe as well.
History repeated itself as of back of Annihilation: Conquest, we got another ongoing comic book, which turned out to be Guardians of the Galaxy. Bill asked what characters we wanted in that book and because of the story that was woven in Conquest, it was all about Peter Quill. So, it was a team Quill would put together based on his angst and survivor's guilt of the Conquest. So the whole idea was he was going to do a sort of proactive group to go out there, kick ass, and take names.
Bill was like, "What do we call this book? "Is it Fantastic? Is it the Revengers? Is it the Cosmic Avengers?" And Bill came back and said, "Hey, why don't we call it Guardians of the Galaxy. No one's doing anything with Guardians of the Galaxy. It's a great name. It kind of suits their purpose."
What were your goals when you launched Guardians of the Galaxy? Did you have an end goal in mind there? An "Endgame", so to speak?
We had plotted out a year's worth of stories. There were certain things we had to reach. We had to tie into Secret Invasion storyline, which was brilliant because it meant we could bring the Skrulls into play in our series. We also tried to end with the Vulcan stuff - the War of Kings stuff. So there were a lot of potentials for crossovers.
But it was always this idea that they were a dysfunctional group. They were always arguing, they were kind of snarky. God bless him, James Gunn picked up on that and really amplified it in the movie. And also do it as a fun, adventurous, cosmic-based story, with the emphasis on fun.
Then during the course of it, we introduced elements from the wonderful continuity that we got to play with. We got to play with Star-Lord and Warlock's continuity. We got to play with Rocket's continuity, Groot's continuity, and even the Guardians' continuity, because eventually we brought them back into the series.
Ultimately, the thing that drove us as fans of cosmic stories, as really big fans of these characters is "What would I want to read?" You do it for selfish pleasure. If someone was telling me this story, would I get a buzz out of it? Imagine, as a cosmic fan, would you get a buzz out discovering that Ultron has taken over the Phalanx and is trying to rule the universe? Yeah! That's kind of fun. Even to answer the one that Keith did. Keith was like, "What if the Annihilus used Galactus as a battery to power this invasion of Earth?" Hell, yeah! I want to read that. That's where the spark always comes from.
Were you happy with how you ended your Guardians of the Galaxy run?
Yes. Yes. Very happy. We got tell and actually finish all the stories we wanted to setup. There were a couple of hanging chads. I would have loved to have told the story of what decapitated the Celestial to make his head the base of Knowhere. Something cut his head off.
And also, we seriously examined the notion of actually doing that cosmic Avengers book. We even had it to the point of view of having Guardians become the Cosmic Avengers and having an Avenger do a tour of duty with them. I would loved to have seen Spider Man in a cosmic adventure. And seen Wolverine, The Thing, all of the Avengers characters you get to drop into space and have fun with.0comments
Why do you think the Guardians have resonated with so many fans, both, in terms of the comics and in the movies?
I can take a punt at the movies. The comics is a difficult one because I'm too close to it. In the movies, it's down to what James Gunn did with his interpretation of the book. We were really lucky enough to have a sit down and talk to him about what he was doing. And he was quite upfront saying, "I've written my movie. What I wanted to do was stay true to the spirit of the comic book." He's quite a fan. He likes comic books. He basically said, "Look that was really great read. I really enjoyed the comics. There was a sense of adventure and fun about it I want to have in the movie." He totally nailed it. He also nailed the relationships with the characters, that slightly dysfunctional bickering.prev