EXCLUSIVE: Rick Remender on Avengers & X-Men AXIS, Captain America & More!

And now for the second part of our giant-sized Rick Remender interview where we talk about his work on Marvel's blockbuster Axis event, making Sam Wilson Captain America, film adaptations of his work, and much more. 

Now getting into your Marvel stuff a little bit, what's it like working on Axis? I know you're wrapping it now, but this must have been a king hell bastard of a project to put together. I'm curious, now that you're coming out the end of it, how was it as an experience being at the reigns of a big event?  

I think its more utilizing what I've learned in the last five years of writing superhero comics at Marvel. Its a lot of the things I learned doing X-Force and an Avengers book, and learning how to write team books and how to structure them while trying to create character arcs and heart while still having big bombastic fights and fun ideas. Its a balancing act, and I've done enough of it now that Axis was not that dissimilar from writing X-Force or Uncanny Avengers or Secret Avengers. Structurally those books were very similar, and I learned a lot from those and that comes out in Axis and I'm very proud of it. The joy is that I've always felt like I've been in my own little pocket at Marvel. I've just gone off and done my thing, and this story comes out of all that.

I've talked about it at a number of retreats and definitely developed it as I was pitching it to the room. Right before I was ready to start doing it a lot of other editors and people in the room thought that, hey, that would make for a good story to be a little bigger and I liked that idea so I pushed for it to be something bigger. It started off as one thing and then became another and then another. I had so many ideas for it that it became a nine issue thing that I'm really proud of. It's got a lot of heart and a ton of fun and a lot of big bombastic action and I think fans of my stuff will be satisfied by it.

Good, I'm glad to hear it.  What's it like taking this kind of Marvel Universe-wide story to the room with lots of people involved? Do you think the story benefited from the other guys in the room bringing their own perspectives or critiques to story?

Well, a lot of it I did myself, but there were only a few people who had a say in it. I cooked up the Iron Man beats with Kieron Gillen when he was still on the book and came up with the EXTREMIS angle. Jason Aaron and I talked through a lot of the Thor ideas I had so they could work with his plans and fit into place. Gerry Duggan has been really great about springboarding ideas. Then Tom Brevoort and I go over it and he gives notes and I'll rewrite. Those are the key players in terms of those who had any say in it and helped me with it.

I find that I am just in my own corner and this is just the end result of a lot of pieces that I started in Uncanny X-Force and moved into Uncanny Avengers while tying into Avengers Vs. X-Men, so its a continuation, or the finale, of the Avengers Vs. X-Men because it comes right out of that story, as well as a tying up of some loose threads of my Uncanny X-Force run. I think in that case it'll be satisfying to fans of mine who have been reading my Marvel work for four or five years, as well as for people who have been following the greater Marvel continuity. If we can service both of those audiences and tell a heartfelt story with a lot of huge exciting superhero comic book ideas, ideally that will all happen.

I'd love for some twelve year old kid to buy this and enjoy it the same way I enjoyed Secret Wars and enjoyed when I was eleven or twelve. That's the dream, any way.

That is the dream, isn't it? I work at a comic store here in San Francisco, and we had a kid come in really excitedly asking about when Falcon will become the next Captain America. It's great to see and it's cool to have kids excited about it.

It really is. Sometimes I'll turn to the internet at 3:00am to see what people think about this, and I'll end up reading some vitriol from some fans who are just trying to recapture that taste of what it was like to be that twelve year old, and I would like to service them and I always have themes that are interesting and political or philosophical to give people who are adults something that is satisfying to them as well, but I think that for me the ultimate goal would be to really excite the hell out of a twelve year old and have them come back every week with baited breath, incapable of waiting for the next chapter in the way I went to 7-Eleven hunting for Secret Wars when it was coming out.

I think that we're seeing more and more kids come back and that is the kind of audience I would like to service with my Marvel work, even though I do tend to go a little dark, but that was the kind of stuff I was drawn to at a young age, stuff like Alan Moore and Frank Miller.

With the news that you'll be making Sam Wilson the new Captain America, I'm curious how the reaction has been from your perspective, because I know there has been a lot of press for this.

Yeah, its been great. The first issue is mostly all drawn by Stuart Immonen, and this is without a doubt one of my favorite things I've ever worked on. When people see how his powers combine and how Sam works and how the new Nomad fits into it all and how Steve Rogers fits into it all, it'll be great.

I'm reinvigorated. I think that I'm as excited writing this if not more than I was writing Captain America#1, and that's usually a good sign when I'm feeling this excited. The pages come in and I spend literally hours looking at these pages Stuart has done and its the work of his career. Its impossible to say how exciting it is to see that guy's work come in. His storytelling is so fluid and his action so perfect, and the angles he chooses are so inspired.

Sam Wilson has so much heart. I spent weeks and weeks digging through canon for what's in his background, and I'm taking bits and pieces of that and fitting it into a narrative that's in continuity but gives him a clean origin so we can all find out who Sam is and why we care about Sam and what he wants, and what this new Captain America is all about, and I think we've hit it.

That sounds great. I'm definitely looking forward to it. Just a couple more before I let you go. I'm wondering what you can tell us about any of the film adaptations of your optioned work?

The one that is currently moving forward is Night Mary. That is with NBC/Universal Productions and they are getting ready to put the pilot together, and so we're doing casting and that kind of fun stuff.

Night Mary I wrote in 2005, and its one of my favorite books. It stars a really wonderful female lead named Mary Specter who can walk in other peoples dreams, which it turns out, is not so great. She works in a sleep disorder clinic and ends up discovering one of the patients is a serial killer.

That one is currently moving, and I've got motion on something else I can really discuss yet. Last Days of American Crime is still moving. From what I understand, the way things are going for the other Radical stuff, Oblivion and Hercules were the first two on their slate and Last Days of American Crime I'm told is the third film, so we're supposed to start getting to work on that now Hercules is wrapped.

As for Fear Agent, that option has lapsed. I've moved to LA and I've been shopping it, and we have a number of very interested parties so we're trying to find it the right home and the right direction for it.

Have any of your new Image books been optioned?

None have been optioned but there is exciting motion on one of them, and we'll know more soon.

With the movement on Last Days of American Crime, do you think we'll get a reprint of that book any time soon?

The plan right now is to do a deluxe oversized hardcover at Image next year. We're still sifting through contracts, but that looks like its a foregone conclusion.

Are you doing any writing outside of comics?

Not right now, no. I had to turn down a video game job this year and a few other things just because the comic stuff is a lot, trying to juggle both the creator-owned and the Marvel work. Its incredibly fun and I'm a comic book guy first and foremost so I don't mind turning down other jobs to focus on the comic book work. I love comic books more than anything and when a good comic book comes together, nothing makes me quite as happy.

I'm curious to know what it is you reading, listening to, and watching these days that has you excited. Anything you'd like to recommend?

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I'm literally writing thirteen hours a day so I don't have much time [laughs]. The last great thing that I read was The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple which I really loved. Dungeon Quest by Joe Daly. Battling Boy by Paul Pope was inspired and wonderful.

For music its all instrumental, mostly. Kurt Vile has been on heavy rotation. His last two or three albums are amazing. Vessels is wonderful. Balmorhea is one of my favorite bands to write to. Hammock I also like a lot to write to. It's all stuff that is reminiscent of Mogwai in that its very cinematic and operatic but forward thinking smart instrumental. I like stuff with a little more stones, like Pelican's new album which is also great to write to. Isis too, they're incredible.