James Robin­son

Tak­ing the Fan­tas­tic Four back to the Bax­ter Build­ing

Comic Heroes - - Contents - By Stephen Jewell

He’s renowned for his abil­ity to breathe new life into vin­tage prop­er­ties such as the long-run­ning

Starman and The Golden Age but James Robin­son has mostly been as­so­ci­ated with DC over the past three decades. Af­ter his abrupt de­par­ture from the New 52’s par­al­lel uni­verse ti­tle Earth Two, though, the San Fran­cisco-based Brit has fetched up at the House of Ideas. His pre­vi­ous Marvel work con­sisted of a hand­ful of ti­tles in the mid ’90s – most no­tably a seven-is­sue run on Ca­ble and four is­sues of Gen­er­a­tion X – so he now finds him­self in fer­tile, mostly new ter­ri­tory.

Given the op­por­tu­nity to rein­vent World War 2 su­perteam The In­vaders in tan­dem with erst­while An­i­mal Man artist Steve Pugh, Robin­son has cho­sen to shoot them into space in­stead of fur­ther ex­plor­ing their his­tor­i­cal roots. And hav­ing taken over the reins of

Fan­tas­tic Four along­side pen­ciller Leonard Kirk, his dra­matic stint prom­ises no less than the fall of Marvel’s First Fam­ily. “I never re­ally felt like I was part of the Marvel world be­fore in the way that other writ­ers have been,” he says. “So what I’m do­ing now doesn’t feel like a re­turn so much as a fresh start and I’m en­joy­ing it very much.”

Comic He­roes: No­body was ex­pect­ing you to turn The In­vaders into an in­ter­ga­lac­tic epic. How did you come to em­bark on such a bold new di­rec­tion?

James Robin­son: “When I orig­i­nally talked to Marvel last year, The In­vaders was the first thing that they sug­gested. I could cer­tainly see why they would of­fer me that as I’m known as this guy who does Golden Age books. I’ve been fol­low­ing and en­joy­ing all the ver­sions of The In­vaders but I felt like I’d read ev­ery sin­gle In­vaders story fea­tur­ing Baron Strucker, HY­DRA or any other of those old tropes that we’ve seen them fight. I wanted to keep them to­gether and to come up with a sense of who Af­ter sprin­kling his star­dust on Starman in the 1990s, James Robin­son is bring­ing

his magic touch to the House of Ideas

There’s this whole sim­mer­ing caul­dron of Namor fans out there

they were as a team but also cre­ate new foes.

“It oc­curred to me that the mod­ern-day Marvel Uni­verse is con­stantly be­ing in­vaded: there’s been Se­cret In­va­sion, Mole Man ap­pear­ing out of the Earth’s core with mon­sters and An­ni­hilus in­vad­ing from the Neg­a­tive Zone. So by hav­ing that as the back­drop as the char­ac­ters face these men­aces, the ques­tion be­comes, ‘Who are the In­vaders?’ In the orig­i­nal book, it was them in­vad­ing Europe as they were fight­ing the Nazis and in the first arc in this book it’s them tak­ing on the Kree and ul­ti­mately de­cid­ing that to save Namor, they have to in­vade Hala, the Kree home­world.”

CH: With orig­i­nal Hu­man Torch Jim Ham­mond and the Win­ter Sol­dier amongst their ranks, the In­vaders are now rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters to their ini­tial 1940s in­car­na­tions…

JR: “That’s the fun of it. They’ve all changed. I never re­ally felt like Jim Ham­mond had much of a per­son­al­ity – pre­vi­ously people haven’t known what to do with him. He’s been con­stantly de­pow­ered and pushed to the side­lines, so I’ve tried to make him feel more like a real per­son. With the Win­ter Sol­dier, you get to see that there’s still a lit­tle piece of him that is the boy su­per­hero that was Bucky, but all the stuff that he’s been through since has

re­ally changed him. So do­ing the di­a­logue for some­one who has both sides like that has been a chal­lenge. As for the rest of the team, I’ve ac­tu­ally writ­ten Cap­tain Amer­ica a few times be­fore, while Namor has been the one that I just want to get right. There’s this whole sim­mer­ing caul­dron of Namor fans out there, who just love him and this is me giv­ing them the best Namor I can.”

CH: You’ve got a rep­u­ta­tion for bring­ing back ob­scure char­ac­ters – Ma­jor Lib­erty ap­peared in In­vaders #1. Do you have any other rare gems up your sleeve?

JR: “By far the char­ac­ter that most people want to see is Union Jack and you’ll see a lit­tle bit of him in #6 and #7. And then the next arc – which is ba­si­cally HG Wells’s

Mar­tians – goes huge on Union Jack and Namor. The story starts out in Lon­don in 1970 and it’s got the orig­i­nal Union Jack and the Free­dom Five, who ap­peared in one panel of In­vaders as the World War 1 su­perteam. So if you’ve ever won­dered what it’d be like to see the Phan­tom Ea­gle straf­ing an HG Wells Mar­tian walk­ing craft, you’re go­ing to find out.”

CH: With Fan­tas­tic Four, did you want to re-es­tab­lish the FF as a fo­cal point of the Marvel Uni­verse?

JR: “They’ve al­ways been front and cen­tre of the Marvel Uni­verse but lately it just seems like they’ve very much been off and away from ev­ery­thing. In Jonathan Hick­man’s run, so much of it took place in other re­al­i­ties and there was a lot of con­cen­tra­tion on Nathan Richards, the chil­dren grown-up and fu­ture ver­sions. Then in Matt Frac­tion’s run, they left for a year. I just felt like it was time to bring them back to Man­hat­tan for a while and have them deal with life in the Marvel Uni­verse, al­though there’s some huge cos­mic stuff that I’m also gear­ing up for. I just wanted to bring them back to New York to press the re­set but­ton.”

CH: Sounds like they’re in for a re­ally har­row­ing time…

JR: “It’s ba­si­cally about the fall and rise of Johnny Storm be­cause he loses his pow­ers early on. So you’ll see what a hero and a brave man he re­ally is when he no longer has his flames or the FF to help him. He has to rise to the oc­ca­sion and be­come a bet­ter man. So it’s ac­tu­ally a jour­ney of real tri­umph for him. But at the same time, he’s Johnny so he had that con­fi­dence and that smile.

“The other thing that I’m try­ing to do – which I’m bor­row­ing from Starman and also do­ing in In­vaders – is to have these emo­tional beats, where all the stuff that I’ve been plan­ning will pay off. And ev­ery­one, from all the kids to Doc­tor Doom, will have their mo­ment in the big pic­ture as the story un­folds. I’m very happy to slowly be­gin to make that hap­pen.

The In­vaders and Fan­tas­tic Four are both out now.

Above: Robin­son is breath­ing new life into The

In­vaders and putting the FF right back at the heart of the Marvel U.

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