Jason Aaron is nearly as busy as he's ever been. Coming off a multi-year run of Avengers where the book released two issues a month, the writer is continuing his work on Marvel's flagship team-up spread out over two titles—Avengers and Avengers Forever come December. In addition to that, he has a King Conan mini-series on the way that'll further flesh out the stories he wrote when the character first returned to the House of Ideas.
Looking to the immediate future, the writer tells us it doesn't look like things will be slowing down. We recently caught up with Aaron to chat about anything from Avengers Forever to Johnny Blaze and beyond, with some major teases of the future even sprinkled throughout.
Keep scrolling to read through our full chat.
ComicBook.com: How are things going your way, man? Busy, I'm sure. You're about to launch a new Avengers book.
Jason Aaron: Yeah, I've got Avengers #50 coming up, but then that's been pushed back a little bit because of the printing problems. We'll have that, and then Avengers Forever #1, and then King Conan #1 all hitting bang, bang, bang. That will be a lot of stuff coming out around the end of the year. There's a lot of Ghost Rider stuff in all of that, too. Not the Conan, but the Avengers books. There's quite a bit of Ghost Rider stuff. They'll both be monthly.
Before I was writing, I don't know, 18 issues a year of Avengers usually, so now we'll just be doing 24 issues a year, two different titles, which will be two very different kinds of books, but it will also at the same time be different sides of the same coin. That's kind of part of all one big story that, just a bit down the road, will come crashing together.
Avengers Forever. Do you plan to write it forever, or how many scripts do you have done with it?
No, I don't plan on writing it forever. [laughs] Again, it's very much kind of everything I've been doing in Avengers really from day one. It's kind of all been building towards one big thing. Avengers Forever was always kind of a road marker along the way. I've known for a long time. Knew for a long time I would do the Heroes Reborn story that we did with the Squadron Supreme, and then kind of coming a bit after that would be Avengers Forever. That's sort of the last signpost before we eventually get to where everything has been building.
I know where it's all headed and know how many issues I've got. I know that I've said a couple things now. I've looked at this as not just, "Okay, I'm going to wrap up stuff I've been playing with in Avengers for now 50 issues," but these two books, in a lot of different ways, pull together threads from so many things I've been writing over the course of the last, what now, I think 16 years total at Marvel and about, I don't know, 12, 13 probably as an exclusive writer.
So you'll see things that reach back to my Thor run, to the Thanos origin book I did, to Wolverine solo stuff that I wrote for seven years, and to Ghost Rider, which was the first ongoing gig I ever had at Marvel. Trying to very much pull together all that stuff into the pages of these two books.prevnext
You bring up Wolverine and Ghost Rider, which were both smaller series earlier in your career. You've been doing Avengers forever and you did Thor for nearly 10 years. Jason Aaron is, of course, a big enough name now—so when do you think that switch flipped when you got comfortable pitching editors with these extended stories?
Probably with Thor, I think things changed, because I had, by that point when I got Thor, I had been writing Wolverine for probably about the same amount of time as I would write Thor, about seven years. But that was over the course of a lot of different books. I wrote a couple issues of the ongoing book. Then I had my own spinoff Wolverine book, and then a different mini-series. I started Wolverine and the X-Men. So I'd kind of been writing the character, but not like I was just writing Wolverine #1 through 55 or whatever. It jumped around.
In my mind, I was telling one, big, overall narrative, but it wove through countless different books—some solo, some team books. On the one hand, my Thor run is pretty much the same, right? My Thor run, you have got to kind of Google's somebody's web page to tell you in what order do you read this, because it also was over the course of a lot of different ongoing series and minis, which part of that's sort of the nature of the beast these days, right? How books get relaunched and changed and whatnot.
But when I started Thor, it was very much...I felt different. I think the confidence that I had been there at Marvel for a good period of time by that point. I felt like, "Okay, I'm just going to plan for what I want to plan for, and I'm just going to stay here and do it. Assume I'm going to be able to stay here and do it until they take it away, until I get fired or they tell me, 'You can't do this anymore.'"
That's just what I did. For the first time, I felt like I'm in a position where I can do that. I can plan for it to take me a long time to get there. It's going to take a long time to pay off. I'll be laying tracks for years before we get to where everything's been building, but I feel confident enough that I'll be able to stick around to do that, if it's good. If, of course, the people like it and it sells well. If it doesn't, then any of us are out the door. But I think that was the first time I felt that kind of confidence, I think.
Then Avengers has been a bit different in that this is the first... Avengers #50 is about to come out. So this is the first time I've written that many issues in a row of one superhero book. I've enjoyed that part of it to where it has been just one consistent run. Now we're adding Avengers Forever to the mix.
You broke in by winning a short story contest with Wolverine, and that eventually leads to Scalped which eventually leads to Ghost Rider. Is Ghost Rider something, like a character such as Johnny Blaze, that you've been following your entire life? Was it a case of an editor reached out to say, "I liked your work on Scalped. Will you pitch me some ideas for these four characters?"
Yeah. It's kind of talked about before how I figured out pretty quickly in my early days of trying to break into comics that it wasn't... The path to success was not just to chase characters. I did plenty of that. I'd looked at the characters I'd most like to write or thought I had a good story for, or that any editor would return my emails about and send out pitches for those. So there was a lot of Punisher pitches and Captain America pitches. I remember in particular those two, which none of them ever amounted to anything.
I figured out pretty quickly that a better path was just to pursue editors, to seek out the editors that I thought I would connect with, that my sensibilities would be close to, whose books they edited that I seemed to most enjoy. Those two editors for me became Will Dennis at Vertigo, who I did The Other Side and Scalped with, which were my first two big books, and Axel Alonso at Marvel. So it became like, "Well, what books does Axel edit?" That's why I started to do a lot of Wolverine stuff. That's what led me to Ghost Rider.
I think Daniel Way was writing the book at the time, and he was coming off. Axel told me where they were leaving things and asked me if I had an idea for where to go from there. So I can't really remember what the pitch process was like. I think it was pretty simple. Again, it usually was with Axel. We'd just talk about this is what I'd like to do, and he'd just want to know the A, B, and C of it, the bare bones of it, which I got good at being able to giving. We were off after that.prevnext
Let's say Axel sent you an email saying, "Do you have any interest in Ghost Rider?" How long was it between that initial correspondence and the time you turned in script number one?
I think it was pretty short. Axel and I were already working together on Wolverine stuff. I was doing different Wolverine projects for him, so those were all public. But other things they were doing were an issue here, a couple issues there, mini-series, that sort of thing. Ghost Rider was the first time anybody had offered me an ongoing work-for-hire gig. But we already had a relationship, so I feel like that was a pretty quick process before I was writing. I kind of had an overall idea for what story I wanted to tell and the tone of the book. I was excited about the change they were making to his origin, where that would lead me, and the opportunity that would give me to kind of do some different kinds of Ghost Rider stories.
Like you asked me before, I was not really the world's hugest Ghost Rider fan. I had read some of the original book. I think there was an issue of that that was one of the first comics I ever bought. I read a little of the Danny Ketch stuff in the '90s but was never huge into that, so it was a character I liked and that I was interested in, but that I didn't... I don't know. It was the same with Thor. It wasn't a character that I was carrying a lunchbox full of Thor ideas. It was the same with Ghost Rider. To me, it's always about what feels right in that moment in time. Ghost Rider popped up, felt very right, felt like I had an interesting take on it and got to just run with it.
It's such an interesting thing, because it depends on who you talk to, but some people do chase the characters and have their sights only set on certain people. Here you are being so practical.
Look, I'm as big a nerd and as big a comic book fan as anybody, and I've got all the long boxes in my basement to prove it. But again, I felt like those are kind of things I figured out quickly, and trying to break in is that the human relationships in the equation were more important than just the character relationships and that you couldn't just chase after, "Hey, I'm the world's biggest Spider-Man fan, and I really just want to write Spider-Man, regardless of what the timing is and the situation." That didn't seem the way to do it to me.
So I've never really approached comics like that. I have characters that, as a fan, I've always had a huge affinity for, but I've never been walking around comics with a list that I just wanted to check boxes, with a few exceptions. Conan that I'm writing right now definitely goes against everything I just said, and that is absolutely a character that I've wanted to write since I was probably 12 years old and first discovered those stories. But for the most part, that has not been the way my career has gone.
I think Thor and Ghost Rider are two great examples of characters I didn't have a huge knowledge of, didn't have a huge pre-existing affinity for, but they popped up on my radar at the right moment in time, and I was able to figure out a connection to the story to tell with them that seemed to resonate and that was something different than what we had seen before, built upon what we had seen before with the character, but took them into a new direction.
I think even though Ghost Rider did not sell great, it got canceled, they kind of wrapped it up in a mini-series. It got a great reception certainly within Marvel and that people really liked it and I think very much opened the doors for me to do other things, and it got a big reception among fans, and a lot of people really responded to that take on the character.prevnext
How do you feel about the character after writing? I know you mentioned Captain America and Punisher, both of whom you've written so far in various titles. Did you start liking the character more? Are you Ghost Rider's stan number one now, or do you consider him among one of your favorites?
I don't know. For me, as a writer, I don't really have a list of favorites. I think they're characters that are easier for me to write at times. But also it's weird when, like for that brief period of time, I was sort of the Ghost Rider guy. Then that character since then has moved around to a lot of different other writers and creators. We've seen multiple different Ghost Riders in the leads of different stories. It's a different moment in time, right? I've written Johnny Blaze since then, but it's not the same Johnny Blaze I was writing back then. So it's hard to say. I have really nothing but fond memories of my time writing Ghost Rider, and there are times I like to hearken back to those stories in different ways. We will see more of that, but it feels like every time I've written the character since then, it's been a different iteration than what I was doing before.
Literally now I've been writing Robbie Reyes, for the most part, a very different kind of Ghost Rider in a lot of different ways. I do think in terms of the tone, the kind of dark grindhouse tone that my original Ghost Rider run had, I think we will see more of that tone at times in Avengers Forever with Robbie, which I think will be a bit of a change for that character than the story we've seen him in in the past, or I've written him in the past. That's really just about the evolution of Robbie as a character, as a person, as the Ghost Rider and what he's going through over the course of his journey through Avengers Forever.
Speaking of Robbie and speaking of Avengers, Ghost Rider is an Avenger now. Was it always Robbie that was going to be on the team? Did you pitch Ghost Rider and an editor said, "Robbie's kind of our flagship Rider at the moment, so it's going to be him in Avengers," or how did that end up happening?
I think in my mind, I had had Ghost Rider as an Avenger for years before I first started writing Avengers, because it's kind of come up. I'd been in a discussion before to write Avengers in the past, and just whatever... That first issue cover that was in my mind, there was always a Ghost Rider on it. I don't know if it was always who that Rider was, I don't think I knew. When I was putting together the roster, no, nobody ever told me, "Put this character on it, put that character on it." I think we all knew and agreed at the time that this would kind of be the book that would bring back together the original big three of Cap and Tony and Thor Odinson, which was the first time we'd seen those characters together in quite a while. But other than that, it was really up to me to fill that in.
I didn't want a cast that looked just like the movies. I wanted to mix that up. Ghost Rider, on the one hand, is one of those characters that I think usually functions best being off in his own corner of the Marvel universe doing his own thing, but I also liked the idea of making Robbie, especially who was the youngest, newest Ghost Rider, be the new kid on the block, right? Being the one who's kind of getting thrust into these sort of situations for the first time and hanging around with Captain America and Iron Man for the first time.
I think pretty much right away, I loved the idea of an Avenger who showed up in a car. His deal is that he drives a car. So going out to fight a 2,000-foot tall celestials or Doctor Doom or whatever, and he's the avenger who shows up to the party in a muscle car.prevnext
Man, it's a hell of a sight to behold. You ask most people about Thor comics, and they usually point out Walt Simonson or Jason Aaron, right? Do you feel like you have a certain ownership of that character? Obviously you're probably not breathing down Donny Cates' neck at the moment—or maybe you are—but do you feel like you have a sense of, I don't know, entitlement relating to the character?
No. I don't think any of us should ever feel any sort of sense of entitlement to those characters. I wouldn't even call it ownership. I think with something like Thor, maybe more so than anything else I've done, I feel like I carved my name in the character a little bit, right? Like carved out my story within this very long 50+ year narrative. I feel like I was able to make my mark, so I definitely feel proud and feel ownership of that seven-year period of stories, right? Which you can read in various collections and is there ideally forever, like exists as what it is and it's one overall narrative. I feel ownership over that.
Over the character in general, no. It is weird, having done it a couple times now with Wolverine and Thor, it is weird when you're the guy in charge of that character, in some sense, for the number of years, and then you wake up the next day, and you're not. That the still continues on. It'd been through very many creatives before it ever got to you, and it goes off onto new stories. It is an odd experience to go through that, but not ever like, "Oh wait, what are they doing still publishing Thor or Wolverine stories? I thought they would quit when I quit," but not in that sense. Not in an ownership sense or, "How dare any creator change this thing that I did?" I made it very clear to Donny Cates, who I'm a big fan of in general and a big fan of what he's done with Thor, he was a big fan of my Thor stuff.
When we were talking about stuff, and I think made it clear to him like, "Dude, tell your story. Take anything you want and that you need for what I did. Anything you don't want or don't need, don't feel bad about setting it on fire and burning it to the ground. Don't be precious about it. You're not going to burn up all the copies of my book. My book will still be there, right? Like my story is there. It exists, and you have to do whatever you need to do to tell your story."
Then it'd be the same when Donny passes it off some day to whoever comes next. We're all just part of this big chain. I think you have to feel proud and happy to be a part of that, right? And it's another step to say that you were... Then it's another step to say that you were maybe, in some people's eyes, a significant part of that, in terms of their reaction to your story or whatever. So I just look at it that way. I'm still just happy every day I get to get up and do this job and work on characters like this and get to have the chance to carve my name on that mountain.prevnext
At this point in your career, how comfortable are you with pitching? Do you have a near flawless pitch rate? Do you do whatever the hell you want to do on your books?
Pitching has never been my forte, I will say. It's difficult for me to write a pitch. It's difficult for me to write an outline without just writing the whole thing. Then it's like I don't want to write the whole thing until I'm writing the whole thing. So I've struggled over the years to find that line of how to be productive writing out outlines and pitches. I have always been happy to be in situations where I could avoid doing that. So if it can be a conversation that we have or whatever, and I don't have to write out a pitch document, I feel happy to do so.
But I feel like I have been able to get better at that part of it. Going to the Marvel retreats is part of that where we all have to pitch things in that room. So I think I've been able to do well pitching in that room a couple times. One was my Thor stuff I think from the very first retreat where I pitched the Thor: God of Thunder story with Gorr the God Butcher and I got a really great reaction to that. I felt good about it. And the Jane Foster stuff, I was pitching that in the room. Some of it, again, comes from seeing those stories so clearly in my head before anything existed on them. Those beats were clear, those moments were clear, the motions were clear, characters, especially the Jane story, because that had been living in my head for years by that point before we got to the point where we were actually doing it.
Then another one, a pitch I did at one of our most recent Zoom retreats or actually the last two Zoom retreats I've done it and got a great response to that for a thing that we can't talk about yet, but it will be coming next year. It's a thing that feels similar. I can see those beats, see the moments and the emotion of it, how that pulls us all through until the very end. So I think when I have that, when I can articulate that, I can do okay giving a pitch, but it's just hard for me sometimes to capsulate that in pitch or outline form, especially if I'm trying to write it, because then I just want to... I don't want to write the thing until I'm writing the thing. It may always be like that, but at least on those rare occasions, I'm able to put together a decent pitch.prevnext
You brought up Gorr, we'll end up seeing him in a few months on the silver screen. When you're writing characters, do you ever write with actors in mind?
No. I don't think I've ever done that. Maybe there were a couple times in Scalped where I'd reference specific actors as examples of the face I was thinking of for something, but generally no. Certainly with work for hire stuff, no, I'm never thinking of what this could be after it's a comic. I don't think I think about things that way, in terms of any comic I've written. It's very much that book is the be all, end all, right? It's about making the book the best it can be. Then if it becomes something after that, great. If it never does, that's great too. The point is still to make a good book.
So no, I don't think we had any of those thoughts in mind when me and Esad [Ribic] were working on God of Thunder and talking about the God Butcher or any of that sort of stuff. We were just trying to do the biggest, best Thor story we could imagine. But yeah, now I'm excited. I'm excited to see what Taika [Waititi] does. I'm a huge fan of his. I think Jojo Rabbit was one of my favorite movies of the last few years. It's my son's favorite movie ever. To have Christian Bale playing that character is super exciting, and to see Natalie Portman coming back and what they're going to do with the Jane Foster stuff. Yeah. I'm excited. It's a different thing. I've never seen my stuff, Marvel stuff adapted in quite a huge way. Yeah, I'm excited to see where they go with it.
Do you have your suit picked out for the red carpet yet? Surely you're going.
Yeah. Maybe I'll just, I don't know, I'll just bring a hammer or something, viking helmet.
You mentioned that you don't chase characters too often. In Avengers alone, we've seen the Avengers fight Dracula. Then you made Blade an Avenger. Then you brought Boy-Thing and Man-Thing into the mix. Then you go to Moon Knight and Khonshu and that whole stuff. Then you have Squadron Supreme. It seems like you have carte blanche to do whatever you want with that title. Are there still some characters maybe you're not necessarily pitching, but you have a pretty heavy interest in writing someday?
Yeah, for sure. I think at some point, you'll see me probably transition away from doing as many ongoing monthly books. I've kind of been doing that gig for most of my career in one form or another, one book or another. I think you might see me take a break from that to do focus on sort of projects with a specific beginning, middle, and end point, which is one of those is the book, a mysterious book I alluded to earlier that we'll see next year. So I'd like to do more stuff like that. Some of those will be about characters that I already know, that already have a story I'd like to tell with.
Yeah, I think in my now 16 or so years at Marvel, I've written a lot of characters. There's not a lot of characters that I haven't had the chance to pack at least an appearance here or there. There's still several that I haven't been able to do full-on big stories with. So there's still plenty of possibilities. There'll be more characters I'm writing for the first time in these stories that are coming next year in Avengers and Avengers Forever, that long list of characters popping up that you referenced like it's going to get longer. Especially with Avengers Forever, we're talking about a book that balances the multiverse. So there'll be a lot of other characters added to that list of ones I've written. But yeah, definitely still others that I'd like to tackle down the road. This next year especially will be about figuring out what the next stage of my career looks like.prevnext
Future Career Moves
Speaking of future careers, you've been Marvel-exclusive for quite some time. I'm sure you're in the midst of a deal, but even recently, we've seen some long-time Marvel guys...I mean, Matt Rosenberg's doing some DC stuff now. I think even Chip [Zdarsky] is doing some Batman stuff. Do you have a desire to go non-exclusive, or are you pretty happy just doing strictly Marvel stuff?
I have been happy the whole time I've been at Marvel. Every time I've re-signed an exclusive, I was always happy to do so. Never any thoughts about leaving, not being happy with what I was doing, not being excited about the work I was doing. Still feel that way, but down the road a bit, like once I'm not under an exclusive anymore, who knows? I think not just will I be in a different place in my career and things I think I want to focus on and do will be different, but I think the industry has changed so much, even over the course of this most recent exclusive of mine that I'm finishing up. Some of it will be about looking around and seeing what opportunities I want to pursue.
I think I grew up as a DC kid. DC books were the ones that first got me into comics, like New Teen Titans was really the first book I fell in love with. I have one DCU issue to my name, the Penguin one-shot I did with Jason Pearson, which I'm really proud of, but that was kind of my one one-shot. So yeah, some day, are there boxes I would like to check and opportunities I'd like to pursue? Absolutely. I can say that in other places outside of just Marvel and DC. So yeah, I think there's a day when you'll see me doing stuff other places. That doesn't mean that it would be the end of me doing things at Marvel either. For me, it's just about, like I said, kind of pursuing what opportunities feel right in the moment.
Then that changes from time to time and year to year. As I change and the industry changes, I'm still in the midst of figuring out what those are, and especially I think the last two years have given all of us ample opportunity to reassess so much, right? Kind of forced to reassess daily life and how you live it, and what's important to you, and where things go from here, and really to reset everything, whether you wanted to or not, right? We all had to do that to varying degrees. I've had to do a lot of that myself.
Coming out of that, it does make you look around and re-decide what's important to you, what's important to me going forward. That's been an ongoing process for me certainly this last year. That'll extend into next year, emerging from that and looking around, and deciding the fuck do I want to do now?
This interview was edited for length and clarity. Avengers #50 is currently set for release on December 1st while Avengers Forever #1 is expected to hit the shelves at your local comic store on December 22nd.
What other characters would you like to see Aaron tackle? Let us know your thoughts either in the comments section or by hitting our writer @AdamBarnhardt up on Twitter to chat all things Marvel!prev