Ed Brubaker is winding up an epic eight-year run on Captain America that has completely revitalized Marvel's FLAG-ship character for the modern era. After the Marvel NOW refresh effort, Rick Remender and John Romita Jr. will be taking over the series with a brand new Captain America #1. You can see the JRJR cover art right here, and you know it's going to be pretty cool.
How is Remender going to deal with following up such a well-regarded era of Cap? Well, here's some of what he told iFanboy.
There wasn’t enough pressure on me, so they wanted me to follow up the most popular run on Cap, ever. [laughs] I was like, “Yay. I need more pressure.”
It’s obviously an honor. It’s terrifying, given how amazing everything Ed did with the character is. It was just part of the reshuffling, I think. They were asking what characters I had some love for and thought I could do something with. You’re looking at the Marvel Universe, going, “Really? I can… I have to… What?” I was like, “I’d probably like a shot at Cap,” and immediately the other voice in my head said, “You’re going to follow Ed, dumb-dumb.” [laughs] The fear-ometer kind of took off at that point, but I still like the challenge, and I love the character, so I wanted to take a crack at it. It was something that everybody seemed to agree that they thought I could pull off, so off we go.
It’s invigorating. It’s a hell of a challenge. Obviously, anything John does, storytelling comes first, and that’s always a big priority for me, so it’s been a real perfect collaboration in that. I got the final pages from the first issue today, and it’s great. It’s a dream come true. We get on the phone and we talk stuff out. John’s free to, as anyone who I work with is, to rework panel structure and to jimmy around with the pacing. Doing it that way with somebody like John is the way to go, because ultimately he’s adding in beat panels and shifting things around and it’s smooth like butter. It’s absolutely fluid and dynamic. When the pages come in I still get that shock of like, “Wow, that’s John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson and Dean White showing up and bringing the game.” This stuff is stunning. I would say it’s akin to what John was doing with Frank Miller on Daredevil: Man Without Fear stylistically. It echoes that. It’s craziness.
In the tone of the thing, I decided to try and draw from the Kirby era of Cap where characters like Arnim Zola were created in the mad bomb stuff. All of these giant huge ideas, and a bit of sci-fi leaning as I am wont to do, that seemed perfect to me. To sort of emulate, as much as I could in my own voice, that era of Cap. So that’s sort of where we’re going. Seeing Johnny do that stuff, there’s nobody who could do Kirby and still be himself like Johnny. It turns into this, it’s like Man Without Fear mixed with all of the mad bomb Zola Kirby stuff.
Tonally, it’s very different. It’s a hostile takeover. It’s a complete shift from what Ed was doing and I loved what Ed was doing, but if I were to try and emulate that or to continue that tone, it would be Ed light. It wouldn’t be the same thing. So I’m leaning in to what I like to do, which is high adventure, sci-fi, with spy fantasy, with a heavy focus on the man under the suit. It’s very character-focused conflict stuff.
At the end of the day, it was more frightening to do that, but I felt like it fit the Marvel NOW! What they’re looking for is something that very much is hostile takeovers of the books, and creative juices flowing, giant shifts. This is definitely going to be a big change from what Ed had been doing.
One of the mandates I have to myself is, I don’t want to touch the World War II stuff. I think that that has been done, now, and it’s been done perfectly. To go back and to keep focusing on Cap in World War II at this point, again, would be following too closely to what Ed has already done. What I’m doing is spending a lot of time in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 20s and 30s, showing Steve grow up. The first arc is 10 issues, and it’s called “Dimension Z.”
I don’t want to give away too much, but a big portion of it is Cap dealing with Arnim Zola in Dimension Z. I’m trying to take Zola and do with him, what we did with Apocalypse over in Uncanny X-Force. Where we take what’s there, re-imagine it, build a new mythology and really expand Zola, and try and build Zola into a very, very big and important character.
The other half of it is going to be a lot of flashbacks to a young Steve Rogers growing up in Depression-era Lower East Side, and getting to know his family and his friends, and how this 98-pound weakling became such a tenacious, strong person; focus on the fiber and the integrity of who he is, and really develop that for the first time.
To me, without telling too much, the story that we’re telling in Dimension Z, in the first 10 issues of the series, is going to be an examination of the core of Steve Rogers, and how this son of immigrants, this kid who grew up on the Lower East Side in the Depression, became this person. It has a lot to do with his parents and his grandfather, and the neighborhood he grew up in, and the conflicts that he was thrown into. To tell exactly what it is I feel leads to that would be giving away a lot of stuff that’s coming up, but I will say that I wanted to show his very first character arc.
We take him from the age of four to about the age of, I think 11 or 12 and, in that span, hopefully define what it was that happened, and how he was raised, and the situations that he had to persevere through that then create this guy who had such a strong heart and such a noble spirit that, no matter what his physical limitations were, he was still going to do the right thing and fight against the bullies, and fight against evil to protect the innocent and stand for liberty.
The A story is capped in Dimension Z dealing with Zola and the other half is Cap growing up. To tell “Year One”, but to really tell it, it demanded five issues. It deserves five issues. It’s very exciting and I think we’ve got a really great story to tell here. I think that juxtaposing it against what he’s dealing with in the other half of the story really helps both halves. Instead of telling them in separate chunks, they’re inter-spliced for the first 10 issues so it really is kind of two stories being told concurrently.
The Green Skull is somebody that I want to seed here, and he’ll be popping up a little bit later. We get a taste of the tail end and sort of like a classic Indiana Jones style cold open, we get a taste of who the Green Skull is, and Cap dealing with the end of his first encounter with him, which I thought was a fun way of handling that.
He’s seeded here. He is someone who believes that humanity is the cause of all problems on earth and he wants to turn humanity into soil for plants. He’s got a chemical agent that can do that. We open with Cap dealing with sort of the classic 007/Indiana Jones cold open where he’s dealing with trying to stop that.
The Green Skull. "Seeding" the Green Skull story. THAT is a curiosity, and this is certainly going to be a change of pace from Brubaker – which, honestly, is kind of the only thing you can do if you're following that guy. Don't try to be him – focus on what he didn't, and that's crazy sci-fi. And a nutjob like Arnim Zola is getting the star treatment. You gotta like that.