Secret Avengers #14 arrives on January 15th, which will wrap up Ales Kot’s run co-writing the title with Nick Spencer. The book has never been more intriguing as it’s been during current arc, How to Maim a Mockingbird. Along with Mr. Spencer and artist Butch Guice, Mr. Kot created a loving tribute to Jim Steranko and the world of Marvel espionage with a tightly plotted story featuring Marvel’s most amazing spies. Before Kot hits the ground running on the All-New Marvel NOW! Secret Avengers #1 and launches his new Iron Patriot series (both arriving in March), we find out what were some of his inspirations behind his current run with Spencer and working in the Marvel Universe in general.
Den of Geek: How did you get this gig? Did Marvel contact you?
Ales Kot: I was already talking to Marvel about something else and then…continued in answer two!
What is your relationship like with Nick Spencer? Have you been looking for a project to work together on?
We first met on a sinking cruise ship. There was one last empty boat and we were the last two passengers. The ship was going down. We both jumped and missed the empty boat. Then we fought for survival and two weeks later agreed to never see each other again.
But then Nick called me. I just moved to New York and he knew I needed more money to buy drones. I have a drone fleet guarding my castle. Don’t judge me.
Or, alternately, Nick just asked if I would be interested, we talked story and eventually decided to collaborate.
Or there’s a completely different version. Or both of the above are true.
What is your process with Nick? Does one of you script and the other plot or do you both wear the dual hats?
Nick & I plotted the storyline and I am writing the scripts. It’s all rather simple.
The book says Avengers on the cover and certainly has its share of Avengers character, but thematically the book has always seemed as much like a SHIELD comic. What legacy do you feel the book follows?
Secret Avengers is a superhero spy thriller. It follows the legacy of the great Jim Steranko, of Nick Fury, of the many secret wars and operations… and it also follows the legacy of the entire Marvel Universe. Everything is possible.
As for the core of the comic? It’s a superhero spy thriller that descends into the psychedelic and paranoid. But, as Joseph Heller wrote in Catch-22, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
As for the legacy of the past issues, #1-11 – there is a lot of story and we are going to get to the bottom of it now. How to Maim a Mockingbird is where S.H.I.E.L.D. and A.I.M. clash on multiple levels at the same time. This is the endgame.
Tell us about working with the great Butch Guice. How do you script for an artist like Guice?
Working with Butch is a dream come true. I write without defining the amount of panels on the page (for the most part) and I encourage Butch to change things, to throw in his own ideas on design… when writing action scenes I go very loose, describing the entire page as a short piece of prose or a poem of sorts. I take each script I write as a love letter to the artist – the story needs to inspire us first and foremost in order to become truly engaging for our readers.
The black and white pages Butch turns in are beautiful. I do wish this comic would come out in a black and white version as well. The chiaroscuro play is astonishing.
Who are some of your key players on the team? Do you plan to shake up the cast or play with an established group?
Maria Hill is the leader. She’s effectively in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D – and Secret Avengers are under her command. Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Patriot, Mockingbird, Taskmaster, Phil Coulson.
As for shaking things up – oh, most definitely. Someone will get shot in the head fairly soon.
Let’s talk about some of the individual team members… Your arc is called How to Maim a Mockingbird. Can you tell us where Mockingbird fits into the contemporary Marvel Universe?
Mockingbird is a scientist and a superhero. She’s very intelligent, street-smart, competent as a spy and quite excellent as a superhero. She’s also undercover and in the midst of the entire A.I.M. operation, which means she’s got to watch out.
How about Hawkeye and Black Widow? The characters are probably more prominent now than he has ever been. What’s your take on Clint and Natasha?
I don’t have a take on them. They just appear in my head and start talking. I believe that’s due to the stories featuring them I read since my early age. They just… exist. I observe the situations and write them down.
Taskmaster seems to be the wild card of the team. How do you fit in a seemingly immoral character into the mix?
Morality is a construct. Morality is fluid. Maria Hill condones extrajudicial assassinations for the sake of “greater good,” which is a rhetoric that served dictators and killers for centuries. The Taskmaster seems pretty honest about who he is, and I respect that.
Then again, maybe I’m just lying here, swaying you so you don’t see something coming. Who knows, right?
Nick Fury Jr. seems to be something of a blank slate compared to the other established characters, what do you hope to accomplish with the new Fury?
The answer lies behind the big door marked “SPOILER TERRITORY.”
Phil Coulson is the most prominently featured Marvel character on television; any pressure in writing a character that will soon have an unprecedented amount of exposure?
Not at all. I embrace it.
Any concepts of characters from SHIELD or the Avengers’ past you would love to get your hands on?
About a thousand. I also want to invent new ones. It’s all about finding the pieces that fit the best. And as a matter of fact, there is a character from SHIELD’s and the Avengers’ past coming into play in #12… creeping up on everyone, ready to pull some strings. And there will be more.
There seems to be a Steranko vibe to this story. How has he influenced you?
We exchanged sex stories on twitter about a week ago. That was fun. But you probably don’t mean that kind of influence.
Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a classic that remains hugely influential. Steranko is one of the key comics scientists of the past fifty-or-so years and his creations remain a huge source of inspiration. The way he treats sequence in comics, the tricks he invented to move time, the spatial magic… Steranko changed the way I see comics, the way I think of comics. There are ways of creating stories that are simultaneously experimental and commercially successful, and his work is one of the many examples that prove it.