He just recently wrote an issue of ASTONISHING X-MEN (#43, to be exact) and, very soon, he'll be taking over the writing duties on both GENERATION HOPE and CAPTAIN AMERICA & BUCKY. His name's James Asmus and he's a man of many talents. We had the excellent opportunity recently to sit him down for a talk about what his plans for young mutants and super-soldiers, his "other lives" and his addiction to quests.
COMIC VINE: James, you're about to make a serious splash on the scene in this year's final quarter, taking the reins of no less than two ongoing, monthly series. However, you've actually been writing for Marvel for a couple years, now. Where might have readers come across your work up until this point?
JAMES ASMUS: I've written short stories for most of the X-Men anthology series since 2008's X-Men: Manifest Destiny. Earlier this year I scripted a mini-cross-over between Uncanny X-Men, Steve Rogers: Super Soldier, and Namor: First Mutant in each book's "Annual", and collected as X-Men/Steve Rogers - Escape From the Negative Zone. Other than the Negative Zone stories (which I love), my favorite stuff is probably my Machine Man issue of Deadpool Team-Up (#890) and my Nightcrawler/Wolverine story in Nation X #1. That one was illustrated by Mike Allred, who's my favorite comic artist, hands-down. (Interesting side-note: a panel from that story got turned into a poster for This American Life!)== TEASER ==
CV: Prior to all of that, you were working in some arenas quite outside of comics. It's very fitting for a superhero writer to have an "alter ego" or two - - what can you tell us about James Asmus the playwright and James Asmus the actor?
JA: Well, if you line them up chronologically, it went actor-playwright-comic scribe. I still do a bit of the first two, but much less than I used to. I started doing theater (classes, childrens' theater) in second grade. It was my outlet and my socialization all through adolescence. I really fell in love with so much of it, and the people I met there became my closest friends. I decided to study theater in college (practical!) but wasn't happy with a lot of the plays our department chose for us. So I started writing material. I quickly realized that I loved writing as much as I did performing - but the big difference is, I can choose what I want to write but an actor pretty much has to take what they're offered.
So, I decided I'll be much happier trying to write what I want to write, rather than suffering through horrible acting gigs! I moved to Chicago because of the fantastic theater scene there, and I spent several years just writing plays and getting them produced.
At one point I think I wrote or co-wrote 4 plays in a year, including 2 musicals. One of those went to New York, and a friend of mine who worked for Marvel got some editors to come down and see the show. They dug it, and I got a chance to write a short piece for the X-Men: Manifest Destiny anthology! The rest grew slowly from there. So the lesson is - if you want to write for Marvel, start doing alternative theater musicals!
CV: I wonder if that opposite's true, too!
Now, as you mentioned, you've been involved with various X-books prior to GENERATION HOPE. Where will this team be fitting into Cyclops' agenda, post-SCHISM (especially since Hope and Scott haven't always had the fondest relationship?)
JA: While that's true, her only real connection to Wolverine is that he's agreed to murder her if she gets out of control. So I don't know if that would be the warmest company to keep either. Hope has seen herself as a soldier since before puberty!
She definitely came down on the Cyclops side of the children-as-soldiers argument that lead to the X-Men's Schism. Plus, she remains dedicated to her team's mission of identifying, activating, and aiding new mutants, as we saw in Kieron's run.
CV: You're also taking over CAPTAIN AMERICA & BUCKY, which would seem a world and maybe even a whole epoch away from GENERATION HOPE. Will the book continue to be set in World War II?
What sort of adventures can we expect America's most patriotic superhero duo to have on your watch?
JA: Unlike the current arc, our story is going to jump up to the present. The events will spring out of some WWII Cap & Bucky conflicts of old. My editor (Lauren Sankovitch), Ed Brubaker and I got excited about reworking and updating a particular corner of Captain America history. There is a big event that's gone untouched for a while now, and at least one element figures prominently into an upcoming story Ed Brubaker will be unleashing elsewhere. So we're taking the opportunity to set the stage while telling our own story of high-stakes Cap & Bucky identity theft!
I know I'm being vague - but the story is a mystery! I can't give much away just yet. I can probably tell you that we'll be updating an older Cap / Avengers villain!!
CV: Cap and Hope had a memorable conversation during your ESCAPE FROM THE NEGATIVE ZONE story arc. Here were two enormously different characters who still managed to find some common ground during an especially tense moment. Care to speak about their similarities, differences and what you find uniquely appealing about each?
JA: I'm glad you think it was memorable! Someone recently sent me a tumblr chain, where part of that scene had been circulating heavily (which is always nice to see).
As for why I love these characters, I could go on for way too long. But, essentially, I think both Steve Rogers and Hope "Summers" have a very pragmatic outlook to their heroism. These are two characters who never question whether they should be risking their lives to accomplish what they see as right. They both have the dedication of a true soldier in that regard.
I assume Cap recognizes the quality in Hope, and has a great deal of respect for how she has kept herself together in a life full of tragedy.
What makes them uniquely intriguing, though, is seeing how that viewpoint mixes with their station in life. Captain America carries the burden of being an icon. Even among other superheroes, so many of them look to him with reverence and as their ideal. In that sense, he is to the Marvel universe what Superman usually is to the heroes of DC. Hope, on the other hand, is a teenage girl that almost everyone is afraid of.
Both of those dynamics create endless conflicts - especially internal - that honestly intrigue me much more than simply pitting them against a villain of the month.
CV: To draw another connection, here...
During the last volume of CABLE, Hope served essentially the Askani'son's sidekick. Now, you're tackling Marvel's most archetypal hero/sidekick partnership. Obviously, Bucky wielding the shield alters the relationship's past as much as its present and future - - how do you see his partnership with Cap?
JA: Well, first off - it isn't James Barnes in our Bucky mask this time (tease.) But the story with all of the Buckys (Buckies?) is that of a regular person risking their life to fight alongside super-powered heroes. And I love the dichotomy of the "weakest" superheroes truly being the ones who are taking the biggest risk, and arguably then, being the most heroic.
CV: Obviously, we're not expecting you to show any of your cards before it's time to deal the hand, but still, we've all seen that GENERATION HOPE promo for REGENESIS.
C'mon, tease us a little... what in the world is Sebastian Shaw doing on the team?
JA: Upping the tension, changing the dynamic, and maybe - just maybe - poisoning the well?
CV: Cryptic! Well, I think we've run out of space, now, so thanks for joining us today, James.
Before we let you go, though, could you speak a bit about how you've used Comic Vine's databases for research? Actually, I've noticed that you're a Level 28 member of our community, so here's the bigger question - - just how many trivia quests have you completed?
JA: It's true! I've mentioned this around before, but whenever I'm working out a story I RELY on the Comic Vine databases to fill me in on what issues characters have appeared in, who they've fought, etc. The fans and community here do a better job than Wikipedia! And I'm eternally grateful for it.
And yes, you know my dirtier secret - I am obsessed with the quests! As of now, I've finished 197 of 262 quests. If people want to help me - I think I still haven't had enough profile views or follows to unlock those! So get over to my "Asmus" user page and follow! (Also, thanks for reading!)