Friday, December 19, 2014 • Morning Edition • "The CBR of comic book journalism."

The Outhouse Interview: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Written by Jude Terror on Tuesday, May 25 2010 and posted in Features

As the Thanos Imperative: Ignition one-shot hits stores, the Outhouse talks with Marvel Cosmic's Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning!


{nomultithumb}Welcome to another edition of The Outhouse interview, the interview that asks the questions that fanboys want to know the answers to. The interview is, of course, recorded live by the Outhouse podcast team, so sometimes grammar and punctuation must be sacrificed for conversational flow.

Our guests this time are the beloved, esteemed writers behind Marvel cosmic books like Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the upcoming Thanos Imperative, as well as a huge body of past work: DNA - Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning!

Andy: Hi there, guys.

Jon: Hello, Mr. Lanning?

Andy: That's correct. Hello, you can call me 'sir'.

(laughter)

Jon: You would prefer 'sir'? I can go with that. Anything you'd like, sir.

Dan: You can call me Dan.

(indistinct jokes here)

Jon: Ok Dan. Just so you know, we're recording and we do usually post this as a podcast. We don't have to, that's at your gentlemens' discretion. We're doing this mostly for the interview, but if you don't mind, we'd love to post it as an episode of the podcast. Again, that's up to you gentlemen.

Dan: That's absolutely fine. My only problem with that is that you used the word 'gentlemen' and 'discretion' in relation to Andy.

Jude: The other thing is we implied that people will actually be listening to it, and that's probably not the case.

(laughter)

Dan: Ah, there you go!

GHERU: Hey, my mom downloads all of these.

Jon: Just to tell you guys who we have on this. My name is Jon Salwen; I'm the host of the podcast when we have it on. We have Jude Terror, GHERU, and SuperginraiX. Yes, I know you're wondering if these are our given names.

(laughter)

Super: Our moms hated us. All of us.

Jon: And didn't give us a chance at all in the world.

Andy: That’s funny because my name is actually 'Spankmonkey1997'. I call myself 'Andy Lanning' when I'm online.

(laughter)

Jon: We're gonna jump right into the current things you guys are doing, because I know that we might not have you guys too long, and I want to get into the Thanos Imperative. I know that's what these guys want to talk about. But before we do that, I was going through my comic book collection recently (as us comic book geeks are wont to do) and I realized that I have a lot of your stuff, and I didn't even realize it for the longest time, I'm sorry to say. I love the Marvel UK stuff that you've done...

Dan: That's going back a ways.

Jon: I know you guys didn't work on all that stuff together. You did Digitech...

Dan: Andy was Digitech, and I was working on stuff like Knights of Pendragon.

Jon: And you did Darkguard with Carlos Pacheco...

Andy: Yes. That was his first English language work, essentially.

Dan: That was your first English language work? Which language did you work in first?

Andy: I was working in Eskimo.

(laughter)

Dan: That's a narrow, narrow market, those frozen comics.

Andy: Yeah, Inuit Man. Enough of that...

Jon: And then you jump onto Marvel Cosmic, with Annihilation and Nova, correct?

Andy: er, chronologically...

The Thanos Imperative: Ignition by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Dan: The start of that run on the cosmic stuff was definitely Nova. It was when the Annihilation event was happening, which Keith Giffen was in charge of. Andy Schmidt, the editor, asked us if we wanted to do a four-issue series to see if we could put a little life back into Nova as a character. We worked on that, we really enjoyed it. We worked with Ted Walker on the book, and from that, we got the ongoing, and that essentially led to us empire building, going up to the Conquest event, Annihilation Conquest; which then allowed us to move sideways into Guardians as well. I think Andy was about to say: chronologically speaking, we didn't move from Marvel UK into Cosmic.

Jon: Oh, no no, I have your Majestic stuff from Wildstorm...

Dan: And about five years on the Legion of Superheroes with DC. We have a long rap sheet of cosmic superheroes.

Jon: Yeah Legion Lost, I have those issues as well. But to focus on some of the more current work you're doing; when you were tapped to do Annihilation Nova, did you guys have in the back of your heads this plan to do what you're currently doing? I mean, were you thinking "Yeah, we're gonna hijack this from Giffen and run with it?"

Andy: Just to chip-in on that- what Dan said is Andy Schmidt tapped us to do the Nova. But prior to that, I guess about a year before then, we'd been talking about revamping Nova with the artist Chris Batista. At the time he was knocking it out of the park doing Rom: Space Knights, doing wonderful stuff on that, so we sort of had an aborted attempt to get Nova going at that time. I can't for the life of me remember why we never got any further with it. I think Chris ended up working back at DC anyway at the time, so I think that's actually the reason.

Jon: Now, I'm a New Warriors fan. I love that you guys treat the character with the respect you did, but I have to ask, why Nova? What was it about the character? You guys said that you were trying to launch something to revitalize the character even prior to Annihilation?

Andy: We really, really, really love cosmic superheroes. And I think I particularly love Marvel's cosmic superheroes. One of the reasons for it, although we both have a great enthusiasm for superheroes in general, and it may have something to do with British sensibility, but ... place a superhero in a science fiction conquest, and something is really ringing truer for us because it's not a costume anymore. It's a uniform or a suit, it's affecting how, it's a matter of adapting to a cosmic environment. So it's an opportunity of playing around with science fiction ideas, which is one of the areas we work in. So one thing to do about Marvel, loving Marvel cosmic stuff, and being huge fans of Jim Starlin (we say that a lot but we really are), we wanted to do something with those characters.

Nova seems to offer a lot of those opportunities. He had a long-standing tradition in Marvel, he had a lot of fans; yet he was also, comparatively speaking, a blank slate. There was room for development there, room to develop the Nova Corps. There was room to develop everything about the Worldmind - the suit, the powers, the raiment of the corps, all of those things.

Jon: Well you guys made sure to first destroy the entire Nova corps, in one of the best single issues I've ever read of Nova, by the way. It was amazing when you guys destroyed that.

Super: I was wondering - was that your idea to destroy the corps before rebuilding it, or was that part of Giffen's plan?

Dan: When we were brought in, it was like Keith already had the broad brush strokes of the bigger story lined up, including his prologue event. But he consulted with us, basically asking us what we wanted him to do, and where we wanted the character left for us to pick up in our miniseries, which was brilliant. He then said to us, "And having done that, could you leave the character at the end of the book here and in this situation," so it was kind of like passing the baton around. So I think the idea was from Keith, because he needed a nice, big, 'Pearl Harbor'-type event to kick the whole thing off; and I believe at the time we said 'well, if you're gonna attack them, then let's just wipe the whole thing out so that we can get our cast down to one guy and rebuild the whole thing'. 'Cause what better way to rebuild it than to tear it all to pieces in the first place?

Andy: It was also an opportunity, obviously, for us to upgrade Rich Rider's raiment. It wasn't just the case of the last surviving member and he's sort of got this terrible grudge and he’s gotta go back and avenge them all. He becomes the custodian of something. It’s not about his personal security at all. It ups the ante very very much, which I think really played to his strength as a character.

I guess one of the things we wanted to do with him, and I think it's one of the things we did particularly when the ongoing series began, that the readers seemed to enjoy particularly, was to treat his character in the universe in the same way that he as a character was being treated in the comics industry. That is to say that he was a second- or third-ranked character. He wasn't an A-class, premiere division Marvel hero. So in the context of his story, Rich Rider had this idea that he wasn't a Captain America or a Thor, and he was aware of the pecking order; yet we had set him up with a power set that meant he really was up there with the best of them. It was really fun to explore that dynamic, and readers I think really responded to the idea that this guy deserved more respect than he was necessarily getting.

Jon: I think that's what readers actually responded to. You treated the character with a lot of respect - a character that hadn't been treated with a lot of respect, certainly in recent memory. You could tell that you guys really were fans of the character, and that came very much through in the writing, and that's what I responded to. Finally, somebody taking the character seriously. You guys did a great job of building his power set. I think what you said- making him one of the more powerful characters, but with a price to pay.

Yet even as you scaled back his powers, some of that was left in the reader's mind- that he is this really, really powerful character now, despite having a more toned-down set. I would love to continue talking about Nova all day long by the way, but I know that-

Jude: Unfortunately Jon, we have you for the entire day, but we only have Dan and Andy for a half an hour.

Jon: I know, so Guardians of the Galaxy. I wanted to see if anyone had any questions...

Andy: And guys, I don't know about Dan, but I can stay a little bit past a half-an-hour if you need me to.

Dan: Yeah, if you need us to.

Jon: I thought you guys were attached?

Andy: Only when we want to be.

(laughter)

Jude: Great, because we were hoping that you could explain to us what your plans were for the next 22 issues of Force Works if the book hadn't ended.

Jon: This is no joke; Super here cried when he found out the book was ending. He's probably the biggest fan of Force Works you will find, he really is.

I was a typical nineties kid, so anything with 'force' in it and I bought it. Cyber Force, Strike Force, Force Works, X-Force, I was there. I loved the play on words, the "Force Works" thing. I never got over that, I thought, "How clever."

(laughter)

The Thanos Imperative: Ignition by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Andy: We were incredibly proud and smug with Force Works. We sat back, threw down our pens down and said, "That’s it, day's work is finished now."

(laughter)

Jon: I don't think they gave you the run you deserved on Force Works, I really don't.

Dan: I feel like lots of the story lines out there never went anywhere... that's what you do in an ongoing book. You throw stuff out there in hopes that you'll get to it so that you've got that material, and when a book finishes, there are inevitably things that you never got to. That's how it works. You're not doing your job properly if you just tie everything up with a very very very neat bow, unless you're aiming for it. If it's got that ongoing feel, that's what Force Works was all about.

Andy: Yeah, we didn't get to tell that story where they teamed up with a raccoon and a talking tree in the head of a celestial and ended up saving the galaxy from threats in the other universes-

Dan: -because Marvel said that was stupid and would never work.

(laughter)

Jon: So with Guardians of the Galaxy, really, some of the wilder aspects, who takes credit for it? Like Groot, the celestial head, the talking dog (by the way, you really pissed people off when people thought Cosmo was dead. People freaked.)

GHERU: You guys were kidding before about Super crying, but I think I had tears coming down my cheek when Cosmo died. I was so upset with you...

(laughter)

Super: Thanks for not actually killing him.

Andy: Tears of anger.

GHERU: It was a mixed emotion of "What a great story," and "They killed my doggy!" I was so mad.

Jon: How do you guys come up with Guardians of the Galaxy? It's a very eclectic cast that you guys have put together. So how did you put together the team?

Dan: I'm trying to remember. Andy and I work in a peculiar and arcane fashion. We get together on a regular basis and we basically...the word is brainstorming, but we talk rubbish at each other for quite a considerable length of time. Some of which pertains to the job in hand, and most of which has to do with things that just end up making us laugh hysterically; and out of which you can extract strands of ideas which I suppose neither one of us would have arrived at on our own. It's one of those transmuting things where you put two things together and get a third property you didn't know you were gonna get. I'm making it sound much more exciting than it actually is. We've both got other jobs. I'm writing other things in the course of the other days of the week, and Andy is an inker as you know, and if we carried on doing those things we would be driven crazy with cabin fever- like afflicts so many freelancers in the comic industry and elsewhere- so all along we've done it mainly because it's fun to do it. There are certain jobs we do together because it keeps us sane and it's a companionable thing, and its fun and it's an outlet.

So you were asking about Guardians, and as you were asking I was thinking, "You know what, I can't remember which idea came from which one of us". I can't remember who said 'severed celestial head' I don't know which one of us said 'Cosmo'. It was probably I said something like, "What about a dog in a spacesuit, like from the Russian space program?" and Andy said, "Let's call it Cosmo and let’s make him telepathic." I don't know if Andy's memory is better than that?

Andy: Absolutely. I can remember absolutely everything. I've got it all written down.

Super: He's taking it in the divorce too.

Jon: He's taking the dog in the divorce! Who gets the raccoon?

Andy: I'm taking the dog and the decapitated ancient god from space.

But you were asking about the lineup, and the lineup was kinda given to us. Because a lot of this stuff we were following in the huge and daunting footsteps of Keith Giffen, who put together Starlord's team in Annihilation Conquest. So again a lot of the lineup and the characters we were running with stuff that he had set up; which he then set up based on what we were doing in the first place, so I guess you can’t ever trace it back to who came up with whatever. It really is a nice sort of collaboration, and as soon as we were able to launch a book out of Conquest, to have a book and we were able to call it Guardians of the Galaxy, then things like adding Major Victory to the team - it almost started writing itself.

Dan: And there were some characters like Gamora and Drax who were such favorites. Mantis, as well, has become a real favorite. We just didn't want to drop them. There was a time were thinking 'is our roster too big, do we need to drop some and just have our favorite characters like Groot and Rocket?' and it was very difficult to let them go, so we tried to find different roles for them. And then again, as the book went a long it was fun to take a character like Jack Flag, who had no business being in a cosmic book whatsoever, and put him in there to say - yet again - look, this is the kind of dynamic where it's a cosmic book, but not a cosmic book that works the way you expect it to work.

GHERU: What I love about Jack Flag is the fact that he kind of has this voice of that non-comic book reader who you're trying to explain Guardians of the Galaxy to. He just stands there and says, "What's wrong with you people? How does this make any sense?" He has a wonderful voice.

The Thanos Imperative: Ignition by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Super: He's also the voice of the people that have the notion that cosmic books just don't work. Many people in the comic book fandom, they just won't read a space book. Then you have Jack Flag there who says, "Yep, I don't like being in a space book."

GHERU: Now I have a question that might be the most important question facing Marvel cosmic books today. Where's Wraith?

(laughter)

Dan: Well, I think he went out to walk the Earth.

(laughter)

Andy: He had stuff to do. He had a list, uh, he took the car. He has a list, he was gonna get some milk while he was gone, but he seems to...

Jude: In a related question, and this comes from the Outhouse: one of the posters on our message board insisted that we ask where Pip the Troll is?

Dan: Ah. Yes.

(laughter)

Andy: I think the answer to that question is that you can adore the work of somebody like Jim Starlin-

(laughter)

Andy: No, this isn't going where you think it is. If you slavishly take every single one of the members of the cast of a book like Warlock in his era, and just introduce them back into cosmic books one at a time, all you are doing is regurgitating and going through the motions again. What we're trying to do is to take these characters- we actually both really like Pip the Troll, but if Pip was in the Guardians, he would be overlapping the sort of roles that Rocket and Bug and Cosmo are fulfilling. Not exactly and precisely, but there would be an awful lot of overlap in that sort of Venn diagram of characters. So we thought it was much more fun to have Rocket, and Rocket be purely Rocket without that kind of dynamic there. Particularly when we were using Gamora and Drax and the various Adam Warlocks, and that kind of stuff in direct relation to what Jim Starlin has done - and Matriarch, that sort of thing. It was a matter of cherry-picking characters who weren’t necessarily favorites but who were most useful for the lineup as we had it.

Super: So going into the future and into the Thanos Imperative storyline, you're going in with two books that are going on hiatus?

Andy: Without spoiling anything, I'll quote back to what Joe Quesada said: as long as people want to buy these books, he's prepared to publish them; so that is the situation.

Dan: It's a really nice opportunity to get a two-or-three-year run on a bunch of books and get to tell your stories out to the point where they deliver everything you were hoping they were gonna deliver. You can see this happening in the Avengers books where they have reached, successfully, a point they were heading for, and without taking the books away they're dismantling them and reordering them and shuffling them around again. You get the new market to jump on, you get new ways to use these characters, so just because these books are on haitus, doesn't mean these characters won't come back in different forms. It's just a matter of refreshing the way the cosmic books work.

Super: Speaking of how the Avengers books are running now, I see that Nova is gonna be on the Secret Avengers team.

Andy: I was just gonna say that, because with Dan mentioning the Avengers, who would have thought, if you'd told somebody three or four years ago that Nova was gonna be a member of the Avengers and everyone would be really pleased with that, they'd laugh at you, wouldn't they.

Jon: Probably.

Super: Did you guys get consulted on that? How does it work, where they take one of your characters and add them to the Avengers?

Andy: Well basically, because of continuity and the way that it works in the Marvel universe, I think once you've got characters like Wolverine, Spider-Man turning up in all sorts of other books, there comes a point where you just physically can't try to make sense of it all. You’ve got to suspend disbelief and say that this is Wolverine in the Avengers, it doesn't relate to him in the X-Men or whatever, or else you could just go mad trying to tie it all up. Sometimes it's nice to tie it up if there's a story point where they can crossover. That’s brilliant because it exposes people to the other titles and what other people are doing with them. So as far as Nova and the Avengers is concerned, yeah we've seen the scripts and we've made some suggestions and stuff, and for the most part, Ed's running with that whilst we're sorting out the Thanos stuff, because it can be very very problematic trying to segue, and to make perfect sense in the timeline that someone somewhere is drawing on a big graph on their basement wall.

(laughter)

Super: Which would be me, probably. Or RU.

GHERU: It's my mom's basement, OK? Leave me alone!

Jon: So could you sell us- well, not us because we're fans - but could you sell someone who might not be into the cosmic stuff yet on the Thanos Imperative? Give us a microcosm of what the event might be, and what can we look forward to?

Dan: Ok, well it's a six-issue series, so it’s nice, self-contained movie-size events. It's not gonna drag on for years and confuse you completely. Andy and I love the cosmic superheroes because it's a good blend of superheroes and sci-fi. Which gives you a certain credibility because they're no longer guys in tights, they're characters. They're aliens in uniforms. And one of things we've gone out of our way to do, I hope, is make sure this story explains everything you need to know, so if you've never read any cosmic stuff before, you've never read any of our cosmic stuff, you can still pick up Thanos Imperative issue one or the Thanos Imperative Ignition (which is story prologue that comes before it), and read your way into this story without being remotely baffled even if you're quite intrigued. You won't be remotely baffled by the nature of these characters. It's a huge cosmic war. It's got some absolutely stupendously huge events happening in it. It's got the great big galaxy-shattering, Asimov-scale event that you want to have there.

Yet one of the things Andy and I pride ourselves on really trying to do, is to make sure absolutely bottom-line that it's character driven. It's driven by the personalities of the people involved. So, cast of many, but focused on principle characters. The point is that you can burn the galaxy up once an issue for six issues, but unless you care about the people in that galaxy, it doesn't matter. It doesn’t matter how good the art is.

Having said that, the art is wonderful. Really great art. The prologue issue is done by Brad Walker, whose been the Guardians artist, great stuff there, and a wonderful segue book for those of you that have been reading Guardians regularly. We’ve got Aleksi Briclot doing the covers and Miguel Sepulveda penciling the series, it's just so dynamic, it really is, just amazing stuff, so there's panels where there's dozens of people doing dozens of things at the same time, just fantastic stuff.

I think it's gonna look great, and I think it's gonna be a very satisfying story. In relation to your other question about Pip the Troll, there are lots of elements in this story that perhaps you’ve seen in other cosmic events. Because that's like every cosmic event, it's like a game of chess. You see the same players with the same moves doing different things. We've tried to play things out in slightly different ways. Although characters are true to their own personalities, where we end up you're not gonna be able to guess in advance. And without giving much away, this is the first time Andy and I have utilized some of the big-hitters like Silver Surfer because we came into focus very much on Star-Lord and Nova as our heroes. This time we've got characters like... Quasar plays an important role. And I think obviously Thanos is such a cool character - he's one of the coolest characters in the Marvel Universe, and wonderfully ambiguous. Though he is a villain, he's also complicated really. You've gotta see it.

The Thanos Imperative: Ignition by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Jon: Well you have one of Thanos's biggest fans on the podcast right now, Jude Terror. He really is.

Jude: On the Outhouse, we have "top lists" that we do all the time where the posters will vote on their favorite characters, and Thanos is one of those characters that people want to vote as both top hero and top villain, even though Chris Mitchell, the guy who runs them, is dead set against that. If a character is in the top ten villains, he can't be a hero, but people want to put him in there anyway.

So can you guys tell us how the Thanos Imperative is going to end?

Dan: Yes, but we would have to shoot you.

(laughter)

Andy: It's going to end badly. For everyone.

(more laughter)

Jude: In all seriousness, we have a respectful readership at the Outhouse, but if you compare us to like Newsarama or CBR, I mean, nobody would even know.

Super: Your secret is safe with us.

Dan: Very last panel: Thanos grabs his ear, and rips off his mask to reveal he is none other than Pip the Troll!

Super: And it all comes full circle!

Jon: Super, you were right, you guessed it!

Super: Told you guys.

Jon: Can I just say, it's refreshing to hear you guys say that a story will be character-driven.

Now, I'm known as a DC criticizer.

Andy: I don't like where this is going...

Jon: No no, I mean in many of their huge events of late, they've killed millions of people in their universe, but it’s hard to feel for them because it keeps happening. Anyway, are there any other projects at DC... I know you guys have passed through there, Legion Lost... but is there anything DC-cosmic, maybe in the stuff that Johns is doing with Green Lantern, that you'd like to play with?

Dan: Yes, I'd certainly be happy to.

Andy: Dan and I are actually big fans of what he's done over there with Green Lantern and the Superman stuff. And likewise, we spoke to him when we were doing the Legion stuff and he was first getting his start as well. He's made them really interesting comics and characters to work on, whether you've got event fatigue or not. If someone's done that, they've succeeded. Whether or not you're getting bored or don't agree with certain things about the way that they're doing it. I think we are definitely attracted to the Green Lantern-kinda stuff because its an area we really like anyway. But he's made it incredibly interesting, he's done a wonderful job there.

Jon: Oh, I wouldn't criticize the stuff he's done within Green Lantern. I think it's the strongest stuff that DC's putting together. I'm talking about, in every Crisis that they’ve done, like Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, millions of people die around the world and they kinda shrug it off. They kill off a Teen Titan in every event... it just kinda happens, and it starts to become a little fatiguing. But the stuff he's done I've been quite happy with.

Now, how about on the opposite end. Suppose, hypothetically, this is going to be the end of Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova, but there are obviously a ton of fans that would follow you guys on any book that you go to, whether it be Marvel or DC; but let's say Marvel. Are there characters that you guys are dying to play with?

Dan: Absolutely. With absolute due respect to DC, because we've worked there very happily for many years, and would work there happily again because they've got some of the greatest characters in the world; Andy and I grew up reading Marvel comics, mainly because that's what was often available where we are in the UK. So we are Marvel fans. We feel an affinity to the Marvel Universe. So almost any of the great Marvel characters has such a sort of nostalgic childhood appeal to us that it's almost impossible to resist. Be it working on one of the big heavy-hitting teams, or some of the classic characters. It doesn't really matter. We'd be very happy.

Jon: Which corner would you say...the mutant corner, the Avengers corner, just to give us an idea.

Dan: I think, given our natural inclination and skill sets, would lean us towards characters like the mystical or magical or supernatural characters. So Dr. Strange or Thor, that kind of stuff, because they're not a million steps away from what we do in the cosmic books. Having said that, I think we also both very much enjoy the very hard-tech of something like the FF or even the X-books, where they're much more science-fictiony than super-naturally, or something very gritty. I'm hedging bets all over the place here.

Jon: So everything?

Dan: You go in with an inclination to say 'what would you naturally pair them up with', or would you deliberately go for a contrast to give us something completely different to do?

Andy: The thing there though, guys, is look at what we've already written at Marvel. We started out with a three-and-a-half-year run on The Punisher. Then we went to Force Works, which came out of the West Coast Avengers. We went over to DC and wrote Resurrection Man, which I guess was a groundbreaking title that nobody knows about.

Jon: I actually have Resurrection Man.

Andy: That's something we're really, really proud of. Because if you look at when that came out, and look at the kinds of stories we're telling now, that's like sci-fi/horror. That's our most TV-serial comic book we've written, I think. So it's one of those things, it's more of a challenge. We've done this before when we've said there are characters we love, and Dan wrote Iron Man for a while and War Machine. There are characters we love and gravitate towards, particularly on the cosmic front.

Just a quick aside here about one of the things that drew us to Nova, for Dan and myself. When we were kids, Nova came out and we got it from issue number one. So it has a very special place in our heart because it was a book we got to read from issue one, so I think there's always something very special about a comic that you love that gets a decent run that you've got the whole [series] from issue one through.

But all of that said, we love the challenge of writing characters who everyone would say, "Oh, that's just...". Look at Rocket Raccoon, Groot. Not the sort of character that you go, "I really want to write a Spore the Living Fungus comic" or something.

The Thanos Imperative: Ignition by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Super: Well you definitely surprised me, because many times when you take a character- like on Guardians, it’s the first time I actually enjoyed them. Like Mantis: I always kinda hated Mantis, but you got me actually kinda caring about her, and that she died, so yeah.

GHERU: I think I'm coming in from the exact opposite point of view. Most of these characters are characters I've never seen before. I picked up Annihilation because of Nova. At the beginning of this podcast, I was that guy you were talking about - you thought you had a Nova miniseries, and I was like "Nova's back, finally."

And now for the first time I'm meeting Rocket Raccoon and Mantis and all these other people. One time I met that stupid bug guy that you guys finally made interesting, but most of these characters, I'm the first introduction, and it's amazing to me what you've done with a talking tree who only says three words and a Russian dog...

(laughter)

Jon: That, by the way, was hilarious, when you find out that there is actually an entire language in those three words.

Super: Or is there? Because Max is pretty crazy.

GHERU: But the most impressive thing, in my opinion, that you guys have done is making Darkhawk interesting.

(laughter)

Gheru: In my entire life- and I'm a New Warriors fan from back in the day, I even got all that stuff where he's crossed over with Spider-Man - and I never in my life would have thought a Darkhawk miniseries or Darkhawk and Nova would become must-read books. It's just, if I remember correctly, at least the week I read them, it was Guardians of the Galaxy #24, where we found out who was in the cocoon (Jude Terror is the only person who says he knew that, but he's a liar). In Nova we have The Sphinx, Nova, Darkhawk, and Namorita. In this one week, two great comics that I read at the same time that just shocked and amazed me, and I loved both endings.

My long-winded question here is; how far out-of-the-way did you guys go to convince people that it was Adam Warlock in the cocoon? 'Cause again, when Thanos popped out, I know I was not the only person shocked. It was a wonderful buildup, but how far in advance did you plan all the swerves?

Andy: Should we tell 'em Dan?

Dan: Go on, then.

Andy: The truth? Can you handle the truth guys?

Jon: Probably not, but I'd go with it anyway.

Andy: Ok, the reason that worked so well is we didn't know who was in the cocoon.

(laughter)

Dan: To elaborate on that truth slightly, we knew that we wanted to set things up from the beginning of Guardians that were interesting things to play with. Not knowing how long the book would last, not knowing where it would go, we wanted to deliberately seed it with interesting things, which meant that we could really build our story as it went along, with really solid foundations that we could at least adapt and obviously the cocoon was in there from very early on. It was an obvious thing to put in there because the cocoon was part of the story, we knew it was gonna go into the stuff with the Universal Church and the matriarch and all that kinda stuff, and essentially, what we did was we had different candidates for who would eventually be revealed, depending on where the story went. By the time we got to the point where we realized that we were actually gonna get the chance to do a big Thanos story, that's when we locked in and said, right, that's what we're headed for. But we could keep it up to that point quite nice and flexible, which means that we weren't unnecessarily and subconsciously betraying what we were doing by overdoing it, because it's very easy to sort of accidentally give it away.

Andy: There is a point where one of the characters touches the cocoon and a pair of eyes flash up and say something like "who dares disturb me" or whatever, and that is actually Thanos.

Jon: So at that point you had decided.

Andy: Even then though, we still kept it slightly ambiguous if we wanted to change it, but in our minds we'd locked it down at that point.

Dan: We’d always wanted to do a Thanos story, you see, and Keith had done such a brilliant job of killing him in the original Annihilation event. We knew it would be very very weak and wishy-washy if we just brought him back too quickly, so we knew we had to leave it some time to build up to it. When we had actually sustained the book for long enough that we felt we could do it dramatically and people wouldn't just complain, we had the architecture in place to deliver him. If we hadn’t got to that point, we would have done something else with it.

Andy: And again, once we'd made that decision it was gonna be Thanos, we went out of our way to really heavily hint that it wasn't Thanos, it was Magus or Adam Warlock, because we're evil and cruel like that. Also though, there's no word of a doubt, we toyed with the idea of Pip the Troll being in there.

(laughter)

Andy: We really seriously did. Seriously.

Jon: Oh my god. The repercussions... the internet might have cracked in half, had the cocoon opened and Pip the Troll came out.

But I have to ask you guys, you spoke about your writing style, especially when you're writing an ongoing, and the idea of seeding it with these things, and that you were Marvel fans. Who would you say are influences on your style of writing, that you've picked this up from? Is there any particular one, or a group of guys that you'd say that, you know, this is what influenced the way you guys tend to work?

Andy: That's very funny actually, because I don't think we've ever been asked what our influences are in terms of comic writing.

Dan: No, and I also don't know that I know anything about the way any other comic writers write. Apart from Jim Starlin who I've already mentioned, my other big, big, big-deal comic, as far as I was concerned when I was growing up, was Chris Claremont and John Byrne on the X-Men. It was fantastic.. Chris Claremont's storytelling, and the way he wrote stuff, I imagine writing it almost like an ongoing soap opera, with characters moving in and out. I imagine that his mental process is the way that Andy and I approach something like Guardians. But I don't know for sure, because while I've spoken to Chris, I’ve never asked him that question. I don't know whether that's how it worked in his mind, whether he seeded stuff and see if we could use it later. I assume he did, because he was so successful at it, but maybe he had the most brilliant plan ever known.

Jude: Chris is a repeat guest on our podcast. We have a 2-hour interview with him where he talks about that actually, so you’re right about that. I'll send you a link.

Jon: I was wondering when you guys said that you were Marvel fans and back in the day and about seeding stuff in your storylines. I think Chris Claremont has to be one of the best examples of that, both with Byrne and all the other fantastic artists he got to work with. There was always something and then he'd refer to it two years later, 'remember when I dropped that hint way back in the day? Now that character is back.' So I was wondering if he was an influence on you guys. It’s nice to hear that he was.

The Thanos Imperative: Ignition by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Andy: I think any writer who's writing anything that’s got long-term dramatic possibilities, there's several tricks that they use. There are ones where you get to focus on a character or characters for a period of time and then they disappear or go to the background again and then come to the fore, and then there are big things always coming on, like the murder of somebody. So there are templates. As much as comic writers are fans of comics, we're also big fans of great written TV. Things like West Wing, like ER, going back in the day, Hill Street Blues, stuff like that, which were just wonderful examples of how to do that sort of storytelling. I think you'll find most comic writers are big fans of ongoing serialized TV drama as well.

Jude: So are you guys fans of Lost?

Andy: Lost has actually lost me.

Dan: And me, unfortunately.

(laughter)

Jon: What is this podcast's obsession with Lost? May I ask this?

Super: I've never watched it.

Andy: I've watched the first five episodes and that's all I've ever watched of Lost. At the time, I bought, they divided the first season up into two DVD box sets, and rather than getting the whole one, I bought the first one, and I ended up giving it to my friend who's now absolutely obsessed with it, completely hooked, whereas I drifted away and never came back.

GHERU: This is why you shouldn't have friends. Someone is always stealing your stuff.

Jude: That's funny, related to Jon's talk of our obsession with Lost and my obsession with Chris Claremont, we asked Chris that same question after he talked about the same thing with the episodic TV storytelling, and he had the same experience as you guys with that show.

Now speaking of the kind of obscure, unexpected characters that you guys bring in, I have a couple of questions from readers on the Outhouse forum. Do you guys ever think about bringing back Century?

Dan: Yes, we've thought about that, yeah.

Jude: And can we ever expect to see the Sleeze Brothers brought into the Marvel universe? These are real fan questions here.

Andy: That is a very fan question. How long has it been since the Sleeze Brothers? I doubt they're ever gonna make an appearance in mainstream Marvel. But there is a link, if you go on the Sleeze Brothers wiki page, there's a thirty second animated thing that was put together a few years back that I did storyboards and character designs for, but it never went anywhere. There was a possibility of an animated show based on it, and if I remember rightly, they may be appearing in the back of Elephantman because Richard Starkings, who was our editor on it, and funnily enough Dan was my other editor on that book, that’s how Dan and I first met in the early days, he's gonna reprint some of that stuff in the back of Elephantman if I remember rightly about the Sleeze Brothers.

Jon: There ya go.

Andy: It's gonna be recovered as well by the wonderful Greg Wright. And Century, we definitely toyed with trying to get him back in as far as Guardians is concerned. It hasn't happened yet, but that doesn't mean it won't because we liked him, don't we Dan?

Dan: Yeah, we certainly did.

Jon: He should have been in the cocoon.

Andy: We've even got action figures of Century.

Jon: Is there some trepidation for you guys since you've been given the chance to work on this whole corner of the Marvel universe- and I would assume you were given a great deal of leeway to do what you've wanted because you weren't playing with Captain America so to speak- to kill off characters, is there some trepidation that if you guys were to move on to something like the Avengers that editorial might hamper the kind of stuff you might want to do?

Dan: Well, yes there would be. But we have had experiences doing that kind of stuff. You're just aware that you've gotta be respectful of the material and not do anything completely ridiculous with the character. I don't think we'd run around blindly and break everything and then cry.

(laughter)

Super: What would be your greatest hits from the last two years? What are you most proud of having accomplished?

Dan: Goodness me!

Jon: It must feel good to hear people say "Nova" and have them attribute it to you guys, given the long history of the character.

Dan: That would be high on the list, yeah.

Andy: Absolutely, absolutely. I think, like I said, the fact that Nova is being used in an Avengers book and ranks high on the list of characters people want to see more of... And just the whole thing with making a talking raccoon, a talking tree, and a telepathic dog interesting, I think, you know, you couldn't be happier than that, could you.

Dan: No, not at all. No.

GHERU: Another question from the Outhouse that I'm gonna paraphrase a bit: assuming you guys do have more time on Guardians of the Galaxy, how exactly are you gonna write Wolverine and Deadpool into the team?

(laughter)

Andy: Hang on, we had one, didn't we Dan? The Guardians... a comet comes trailing through and lands on a planet, and inside it is just a skeleton with claws. So that was Wolverine written.

(laughter)

Dan: I think there doesn't have to be a reason for Deadpool appearing, does there?

GHERU: Not at all. He's in space right now. Guardians and a Deadpool Corps crossover, that would be awesome.

Jon: I have to wonder, with something like Guardians of the Galaxy, I know it hasn't burned up the sales charts, unfortunately, given the quality of the book from start to finish, but has there been any talk at all of animation? It seems like Guardians would work great with Marvel's new partnership with Disney. It would be kind of kid-friendly, if you take away all the people you kill, and the unbelievable violence in the books, you know, then yeah, very kid-friendly?

(laughter)

Jon: I mean, you say talking raccoon to a Disney executive, and a walking tree, I don't understand how you don't have a show yet.

Dan: He's definitely a shoe-in. That's one thing a Hollywood producer can definitely get his head around. Trees that talk, I'm with you.

(laughter)

Jude: It worked in Lord of the Rings.

Jon: Exactly, it's Lord of the Rings with Alvin and the Chipmunks then you throw Starlord in there.. that's like printing money!

Jude: You guys have been very gracious and you've stayed with us for double the time promised...

Jon: Thank you very much.

Jude: Would you mind if I asked you one more awful fanboy question?

Dan: Go on.

The Thanos Imperative #1 Cover Jude: These come from the forums, and I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a Webmaster if I didn't try to get them in. Have you heard this before? The 'real' Alpha Flight went into outer space at the end of their series and ended up on the planet Plodex, and left duplicates on Earth. Have you heard this theory?

(laughter)

Dan: No...?

Jude: Ok, I'm gonna read it word for word: "At the end of their series a while back, the real Alpha Flight went off into outer space to deal with something and left a version of themselves plucked from the time stream on Earth. A lot of people say this. This has been going around since Alpha Flight were killed a while back in Bendis’ book. Can you guys bring Alpha Flight back by finding them on Plodex in Guardians of the Galaxy?" That's the question.

Andy: Yes. And then we're instantly gonna kill them again.

Jude: A perfect answer. Thank you.

GHERU: Hmm, I think I heard a rumor on the internet that Thanos is gonna blow that planet up. Have Thanos go to that planet and blow it up, and don't even reference that Alpha Flight was ever there.

Jude: That would tie up loose ends, it would.

Andy: How are we spelling Plodex?

Jude: P. L. O. D. E. X.

Andy: I think when a planet explodes; it makes a maple-leaf shape.

(laughter)

Super: Excellent.

Andy: Not that we've got anything against Canadian super-teams, obviously.

Dan: We're having fun.

Jude: You've set back international relations...

GHERU: Yes, because nobody wants the Canadians mad at them. They're so dangerous.

Andy: You said that, not us. We want to go to the Montreal Comic Convention.

(laughter)

GHERU: Now going back to your affinity for cosmic stuff and television programs, I can just imagine the two of you having a great voice or doing a really interesting Dr. Who episode. Have you ever been approached for that? Have you ever done Dr. Who?

Dan: We've not worked on the TV show, but I've written a couple of novels. Three or four of what they call audio-books for the BBC, which actors like David Tennant have read, so we're quite close to the Dr. Who frame.

Andy: Yes, I’ve written several dirty limericks, which involved Dr. Who.

(laughter)

Andy: "There once was a plucky young Dalek."

Dan: No, "there once was a Dalek who was plucky... As long as"... no I won't go there.

(giddy laughter from DNA)

Jon: I hate to say it, but I keep trying to get into Dr. Who, but I can't get into it. I've tried many times, over and over. I love the concept, I dunno. Maybe if you guys wrote a comic about it. I like Christopher Eckleson, but he only lasted a season. I'm a big fan of his work, think he's a pretty good actor. But it didn't grab me.

You've been listening to the Outhouse Podcast. We'd like to thank our guests today, and my co-hosts, Jude Terror, GHERU, and SuperginraiX. And again our ESTEEMED guests today that we were lucky to have and talk to this long, we are really thankful guys. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Please, if you have anything, Marvel, whatever, that you guys are doing, Marve, DC, WildStorm, it doesn't matter, and you'd care to push for the readers that we have on the Outhouse, we'd love to have you back. It's been an absolute joy to have you guys on.

Dan: No problem, mate. Thank you.

Jon: Remember guys, the most important lesson learned from all this is that if you are gonna have a writing team with somebody else, your initials must be cool. DNA. That's the lesson to be learned from all this. Others try it, it just doesn't work.

Andy: I had to change my name from 'Spankmonkey' to make that work.

Jon: That's dedication to your craft, and if you don't have that, you'll never make it in this business.

Again, thank you, please, for everyone out there who has been enjoying Marvel cosmic, as you've heard our guests tell us today, it’s gonna be fairly reader-friendly, though I'm sure you'll be rewarded if you've been reading for longer, please check out the Thanos Imperative. I can't wait to read it. I think it's gonna be great. I hope you guys all pick it up and support what's been an absolutely fantastic run on Marvel cosmic, and hopefully, not the end of it all with Thanos Imperative. I'm hoping for a new number one. I hope that's what Marvel's going for. We know those sell. With a gold foil cover. That’s the key. Or rub on blood, where you rub it and the blood disappears, that's gold!

GHERU: You're missing the selling point, the hologram.

Andy: We've done one of those.

Jon: So again, you've been listening to the Outhouse podcast, thanks for joining us, and we hope to have you on again.

Andy & Dan: Thanks very much.

THE THANOS IMPERATIVE: IGNITION ONE-SHOT IS IN STORES THIS WEEK!!!

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About the Author - Jude Terror


Jude Terror is the Webmaster Supreme of The Outhouse and a sarcastic ace reporter dedicated to delivering irreverent comics and entertainment news to The Outhouse's dozens of loyal readers. Driven by a quest for vengeance, Jude Terror taught himself to program and joined The Outhouse. He instantly began working toward his goal of forcing the internet comics community to take itself less seriously and failing miserably.  Ironically, our webmaster, whose website skills know no end, has very little understanding of social networks or how they work.  Regardless, you can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, but would probably have the most luck just emailing him.

 


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