First things first, you bought it, right?
If you haven’t had a chance to pick it up, get to your local comic book store NOW and grab your copy. If you prefer to read your comics digitally, you can pick it up on ComiXology. Go ahead. Get it and read it. I’ll wait.
If you did not purchase your copy and instead downloaded it illegally, move along. I really couldn’t care less what you thought of the book.
Anyhow… THE FEARLESS DEFENDERS is a new series from Marvel Comics. I’m writing the book. Will Sliney is drawing it. The book is colored by Veronica Gandini. Letters are by Clayton Cowles. And it is edited by Ellie Pyle. The cover was by Mark Brooks (with variants by Milo Manara, Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo, and Skottie Young).
I’ve written books for Marvel pretty steadily for the past couple of years, but this is the first project that I brought to them. In most instances, an editor has approached me with at least the basic premise. “What kind of Wolverine story would you tell?” or “What would you do with a book about Deadpool killing every character in the Marvel Universe?” This idea, though, is near and dear to me because it was the first proposal I took to my editors instead of the other way around. (Well, it was the first they accepted. I still have my US ACE proposal and my THOR/GHOST RIDER: METAL SOULS pitches on hand).
The set-up for this series came to me while I was working on FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS (which you should buy for more Valkyrie awesomeness). The concept, as it appeared in my original pitch document (written 12/7/2011) was:
Valkyrie, the greatest of the Shield Maidens, gathers a new group of the Valkyrior to stand vigilant against threats to both Asgard and Midgard. These Shield Maidens, though, will not be chosen from among the women of Asgard. Their ranks will be filled by the greatest heroines of Earth.
One part Avengers, one part Lady Liberators, one part Seven Samurai, this series will focus on earthly and cosmic action from the point of view of an all-female team. Some members of this group may not be accustomed to working with others. Some will be facing threats on a scale they’ve never encountered before. Some will be stepping into the role of “superhero” for the very first time.
In the end Valkyrie, who has long been an agent of death, must learn what it means to be an agent of life. She will find that her definitions of heroism and honor are put to the test by the women she leads and the challenges she faces. This is Valkyrie’s dream team, and her vision sets the tone for the entire story—making it come true, seeing it sometimes fail, and learning to adapt when changes need to be made.
Before the book was greenlit, it was passed around to a number of editors. Each editor had different notes, some of them suggesting radical changes. One day I might tell you about some of those. But as the concept moved closer to approval, it was placed in the capable hands of Ellie Pyle, who was supportive of me returning the book to its roots.
(There was a point when I wasn’t sure if this book would be approved or not. I was pitching for another title in the Marvel NOW! line-up. My pitch for that series rocked, quite frankly, and I really wanted to do that book. If I had been chosen for that series, I would have probably let this idea drop. So I’m very pleased that my proposal for the other series wasn’t selected.)
Since the series was announced, the cast has been the subject of much conversation. Many readers hated the idea of building the “team” of Shieldmaidens over time. The now-now-now mentality reared its ugly head. But I believe in a team book it’s important to work a little more slowly in revealing characters, especially when dealing with characters many people aren’t familiar with. That gradual gathering of the team has always been the plan.
From the original proposal:
Valkyrie takes center stage as the leader of this all-female super team. In early arcs, she recruits and vets various heroines from the Marvel Universe. Seven women will be chosen as the Shield Maidens of Earth. They are no longer tasked with ferrying the souls of the dead to the afterlife. Instead, they are tasked with the protection of the living.
During her search for this team, Valkyrie will turn to many known characters. (Imagine Arana, She-Hulk, Lyra, Loa, Kitty Pryde, Monica Rambeau, Dani Moonstar, Lionheart, Hellcat, Songbird, Ms. Marvel, the Invisible Woman, the Savage She-Hulk, Ghost Rider, X-23, Photon, or others being offered the position and powers of a Shield Maiden.) While some known (and lesser known) heroines will accept Valkyrie’s offer, the team will also be joined by new characters who may have no previous powers. Police officers, doctors, firefighters, nurses, etc., will change the way Valkyrie defines heroism.
Don’t read too much into the description above, though. This has changed quite a bit over time.
I’ve been really thrilled by how many people have mentioned that this book was their first real exposure to Misty Knight and Valkyrie. In the days to come, we’ll be adding Dani Moonstar and Hippolyta to the cast. We’ve also introduced Annabelle Riggs, my favorite character in the book.
Now, a lot of people are concerned that there aren’t that many A-List characters in the book. To that, I have to point out that few characters start out as A-Listers. They need a showcase… some place for readers to fall in love with them. My hope is that THE FEARLESS DEFENDERS provides that vehicle.
That said, there will be plenty of A-List characters (and plenty of lesser known characters) appearing in the series. In the fifth and sixth issue of the book, we have a LOT of guest stars. And there’s really no place this series can’t go. You could see almost any character in these pages.
While the Valkyrior is composed of nine women, there will be a much, much bigger cast of recurring characters. If you have a favorite Marvel lady, there’s every possibility she’ll show up at some point… and maybe she’ll stick around.
But They’re All Women, Right?
Yes, the stars of this book are the ladies of the Marvel Universe. But I didn’t set out to write this series in order to make a statement. I came up with an idea that would allow me to tell fun stories featuring characters I love. They just happen to be women.
And I know… I’m a guy… writing a comic about women! Why didn’t Marvel give this book to a female writer? Simple. I’m the writer who pitched the concept.
I’m no stranger to writing strong female leads. Check out THE SIXTH GUN sometime. I feel as though I handle female characters well… because I treat them like human beings first. Writing a solid character is about character first, not gender.
I’m not sure how I originally envisioned the tone of the book, but while writing the first issue I decided that the name of the game would be unapologetic super-heroic FUN. The team-up of Misty and Valkyrie was unexpected, and I want to carry that off-beat sensibility throughout the series.
I’ve really been blown away by the response to the first issue. Thank you all for the kind words and support! It means a lot. I never really expected the outpouring of love for the book… and for newly introduced character Annabelle Riggs… but it thrills me to no end. Writing comic books can be challenging and more disheartening than most people really know. But the past few days have been truly inspiring!
My goal is to make THE FEARLESS DEFENDERS unlike any other book on the stands. It’ll be strange and quirky and unexpected and pulpy. I’m glad people have enjoyed it so far.
I’m realistic, though, and I know I can’t please everyone. I’ll keep trying, of course, but that’s a losing battle.
One scene in particular (I’m being secretive here to avoid spoilers)… brought about cries of “fanservice!” I hadn’t heard the term until this week, but I’ve gotta say it’s kind of a stupid concept. I write books that I want readers to like. In the end, isn’t that fanservice? I guess there might be people out there who hope no one enjoys their work. I’m sure there is more to the “fanservice” term, but it sounds a little ridiculous to me. I’m sure someone could send me a lengthy description of the term and how I’m misinterpreting it, but, really… no, thanks… I’m okay.
That scene in particular was discussed at length with Will and Ellie to make sure it played well and was handled in a tasteful, respectful manner. Every big moment in this series rolls into another big moment, so I try to make sure everything works in the best way possible.
Keep in mind that no one knows what I have planned for the characters in this book. With this series, I’m writing for the long game, and some of the things I have planned will thrill readers and piss them off and break their hearts… if I’m doing my job.
And guess what? That serving the story, the characters, and the fans.
It’s exciting for me to see where readers think character arcs are headed. But I’ll warn you that you’ll be hard-pressed to figure out what’s in store for these characters based on a single issue that was pretty action-oriented.
Future stories will feature characters and guest stars you won’t expect, and they’ll be barreling through some of the most unusual adventures in the Marvel Universe. I’ve got stories planned that take us to Latveria, Chinatown, and the mean streets of the urban jungle. We’ll be running afoul of sorcerers, gods, amazons, ninja, and a new team of super-villains!
But Here’s the Thing!
If you like this title, it’s still very important that you tell your retailer to stock it. Subscribe to it. Tweet about it. Blog about it. Write to Marvel and let them know what you think! Write a letter for the book’s letter column! Tell your friends. I was in the comic shop just this week and watched as the clerk physically put the book in a customers hand and told them to read it. Hot damn! We want a long run on this series. We think it deserves it. But sales typically drop after a first issue. Word of mouth and your support can help keep this title going! It’s vital!
And if you didn’t like the first issue, maybe give it another issue or two. It might grow on you.
Here are links to a few reviews that have popped up! There are plenty of others, of course, but here are a few to get you started.
Would You Like To Know More?
Will Sliney and I have done a few interviews about creating THE FEARLESS DEFENDERS. Here are a couple of links:
I’d love to hear from you, so please drop me a line and let me know what you thought of the book!
THE FEARLESS DEFENDERS #1 – On Sale Now!
The Fearless Defenders #2 – On Sale March 2013!