Exclusive Interview with Jed MacKay and C.F. Villa: Unveiling the Future of the Avengers

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Marvel Comics’ latest “Avengers” series is now available, featuring a familiar lineup of heroes reuniting to protect the world from various threats. In Issue #1, Captain Marvel handpicks a formidable team consisting of Iron Man, Black Panther, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Thor, and Captain America. Facing off against the formidable Terminus in the inaugural installment, future issues introduce a new group of adversaries known as the Ashen Combine, with the ever-present presence of Kang the Conqueror. With Captain Marvel at the helm, the Avengers are ready to confront any obstacles that come their way.

In an exclusive interview, we caught up with acclaimed writer Jed MacKay (“Moon Knight”) and talented artist C.F. Villa (“Mary Jane & Black Cat: Beyond”) to delve into their creative journey behind Marvel’s monumental title, “Avengers.” We explored their collaborative efforts, drawing from their successful past collaborations, and discussed their approach to the series. MacKay and Villa also offered intriguing insights into what readers can anticipate from the future of the “Avengers” series.

The Origin Story Behind The New Avengers Team and Comic

I enjoyed your work on “Black Cat,” so seeing that you were doing a book with Jed was pretty exciting, and realizing that book was “Avengers” was even more exciting. How did this opportunity come to be, and how exciting was it to work on a book of this magnitude?

C.F. Villa: It was pretty surprising for me as well because we’ve been encouraged by Rickey Purdin, our talent manager at Marvel, to seek out projects and be vocal about what we would like to do with certain writers. After the “Black Cat” project, I enjoyed working with Jed, and I reached out to Rickey and told him that anything Jed-related I would like to be considered to work for in the future. I never thought that would be “Avengers.” [Editor] Tom Brevoort asked if I would like to be in “Avengers” — it was a pretty good surprise …

It was great because Jed gave Felicia … [He] fleshed out her character a bit more than any other book has done before. It was fun to go deep down in character and get some deep cuts over her history — mainly on the third issue of the “Winning Black” series. That was a cool book to work on because there were a lot of callbacks from Felicia from the past. I enjoyed that one because we went deep down on her character. [Jed and I] did a lot of cool back-and-forths communicating about what we wanted to do in that book.

He had cool ideas to make it more psychedelic. I see now he’s working on “Doctor Strange,” and he has a lot of cool ideas for that one. It was awesome because we had a cool back-and-forth. We communicated a lot, and I really enjoyed that one. When I reached out and said that I wanted to work with him again, working on “Avengers” was surprising. I didn’t expect to be working on that one because he’s a lot going up and in the writer’s rank. This is the one that’s going to propel them to the forefront of the Marvel books. It’s cool.

Is it daunting to take on a book as big as The Avengers?

Villa: A little bit, but I feel confident because I’ve worked with some of the characters before, and it’s a cool challenge. I enjoy drawing these characters. These versions of the characters are fun to work with. It is daunting, but I enjoy it because I hadn’t worked with Captain Marvel before and wanted to draw her. I was being considered for a series with her a while back, but that didn’t come to fruition, and I was a little bummed that I didn’t get to work with her. So now that I get to do an “Avengers” book with her on the leader seat, I was like, “Wow.” I feel that this was better. This is better for me.

While the story is grand, was there a concerted effort to put a renewed focus on the Avengers team with this book following the recent Multiversal/God Quarry storyline preceding this one?

Jed MacKay: The goal of the first issue is to be a thesis statement for a series. “Here’s what we’re doing, here’s how it’s different from what came before,” that sort of thing. We’re trying to establish an identity for our new volume of “Avengers.” That’s what this first issue is about.

Assembling The New Avengers Team

What makes Tony Stark the perfect first pick for the team? He and Captain Marvel have both a storied and complicated history.

MacKay: When it comes down to it, Tony is Carol’s sponsor, and that’s a really important bond that the two share. With such a long publishing history, we’ve had characters come into conflict over and over again and makeup over and over again — that’s just how it works. But Tony and Carol share a history with addiction and recovery that rings true in a real-world sense, regardless of the comic book conflicts that have come between them, and that bond is worth acknowledging.

How fun was it to draw pages of Captain Marvel picking the team, from Tony Stark getting the first call? That was such a fun sequence!

Villa: This is the thing that I grabbed from before. I enjoy the acting and doing cool expressions that try to match the intention that Jed has in the script. It’s a loaded relationship that she has with Tony. They’ve been through a lot, so I like when we get some comments that, “Oh, you’re framing this very well. Thank you so much for portraying her like this.” That’s what we aim for.

We like to give a unique voice to the characters. Going through that the relationship with Thor has also been through a lot, so he needs to have that stern expression. He’s going through some stuff, but he will never say no to joining the Avengers. This issue was fun. It was a “getting the band back together” kind of issue, so I’m looking forward to the next issues and what the readers think about [them].

Captain Marvel chooses Sam Wilson over Steve Rogers — why did she make that more grounded decision?

MacKay: It’s laid out in #1, but the Avengers are sorely lacking the perspective of a normal person. Sam is valuable to the team not just as Captain America but also as Sam Wilson, an inner-city social worker. Sam is the conscience of the team, not just in an abstract of the dream as Captain America, but as someone who very much lives in the real world. As Carol says, “The Avengers aren’t gods. We can’t afford to act like we are.” It’s Sam Wilson who reminds them of that.

How do the Avengers bring stability to these heroes? Vision is questioning his humanity, and Black Panther finds himself at odds with the world, while Wanda specifically mentions the team brings balance to her life.

MacKay: Something I wanted to highlight as we went forward is what it means to be an Avenger. Being an Avenger is an important part of each of these characters’ identities — it’s aspirational, an honor, a responsibility, and a higher calling. No one is doing it for the money or the fame; with the threats they face, the only guarantee that comes with being an Avenger is dying young. But the world has given everything to these heroes, and so they give everything for it.

Crafting And Designing The Visual World Of The Avengers

What was it like designing a new group of villains in the Ashen Combine?

Villa: That’s where Jed and I exercised our communication skills because this is the moment where he lays out a cool background for the character [and] gives me a little bit of reference of where he wants to go. But I took them on a whole different road, and when I presented them to him — the finished sign of each character — it was like, “Whoa, this is real different than what I thought. But it’s fun.”

I’m a big fan of shapes and big shapes and iconic shapes. I wanted to do that with these characters — not make them look like something you’ve seen before. It’s fun to watch the reaction of the people. They can’t pinpoint where their reference came from [for] each one, and everyone says, “Oh, it looks like this, it looks like that.” But it’s fun for me because they don’t have a specific reference. [The Ashen Combine] look like something, but it’s all scattered. We did a good job because no one gets to pinpoint that they reference one thing; it’s all around. I like to watch the reactions, and it’s been fun. I think they’ve been well-received. I hope the readers are looking forward to the fight with the Avengers — it’s going to be fun.

You mentioned that Captain Marvel was one of your favorite characters to draw. You’re not only drawing the Avengers, but you’re drawing one of the most recognizable teams in pop culture. What was that like, and who are some of your other favorites to draw?

Villa: Well, I like to work now with Black Panther. I like to draw characters that have black suits because it’s easy. But now, Black Panther has a new costume, so it has a lot of details, and that’s challenging. We now have new suits for a few of the characters that are on the team. It’s also the first time I’m drawing [Captain Marvel] for Marvel, and working with her is fun. Sam Wilson is a cool character as well. His suit has its own details, and it is fun to learn how to draw these characters.

Thor as well — Thor is one of the characters that I’ve always wanted to draw in Marvel. Now he has … I don’t know if the new suit has been announced, but we’re also having a new version of his suit for him, more classic than the one he has on the Nic Klein “Thor” run. It’s very fun to work with him. I gave him a beard in #1 because I always wanted to draw Thor with a beard, and now he doesn’t have it. We’ve been having fun with the designs, and I had a pretty cool opportunity to draw Vision because we gave him a new, more classic look. Tom Brevoort wanted to do a little bit of throwback to his original design but with a modern, sleeker look. That’s what we aimed for.

I enjoy working with every one of the characters here; it’s been really fun. I don’t have a favorite. Everyone is cool. But I do enjoy that I get to work on Captain Marvel with her as a leader because that’s a special story. She hasn’t been the leader before. She’s been on the main seat on social stories like “Civil War II” against Iron Man and their buddies. Right now, it’s cool to have her leading the team.

Tone Of The Book And Kang’s Return

What is it like to set the tone for these characters in the Marvel Universe?

Villa: It’s tricky because readers have expectations, and fans are hardcore about this stuff. [Even] on the outfits — we have to be accurate, and we will have those outfits some people have talked about. When the new Thor outfit is out … It’s going to be there; it is just a thing of timing. We will have everything from the other books, and it’s tricky because you have to level out the power. They’re all powerhouses. Everyone is powerful, not to mention the leader. Poor Sam Wilson. What is he going to do with these gods here? But that’s why Sam is there because he’s a human element.

This is the thing that brings the band together, and we are paying attention to the other books and what they’re doing over there while making our story fun and making them look good. It’s tricky because you have such powerful characters, and to make them shine in 20 pages … it’s never enough. I would like to have a whole sequence with each one — five, six pages with each one — but it’s hard. We will have some very interesting sequences in the books to come. Everyone will get their time in the spotlight. Jed’s doing a very good job of giving everyone a lot to do and to all shine through.

How does this book build on the events of “Timeless” and continue where Kang’s adventures were last left off? Was there an effort to align the team more with heroes that readers also recognize from the MCU?

MacKay: Having been given the assignment for “Timeless” while I was working on “Avengers,” I — perhaps selfishly — used it as a stealth prologue for “Avengers.” The mysterious Missing Moment, the unknown prize, and the Tribulation Events that presage it are all groundwork for what’s coming down the line for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

As for team composition, there is an element of MCU alignment there, but in the sense that I wanted our Avengers team to be the biggest heroes around, the book you go to when you want to see all the big names — sans Wolverine and Spider-Man, of course — in one place, working together. So while we’re not taking our cues from the MCU, it has given characters like Vision, Wanda, and Sam Wilson a boost in popularity, the likes of which they’ve never seen before.

Villa: [Kang]’s mischievous. He’s out there plotting stuff. We would like to see what the readers think about it, and it’s … “Timeless” is a very big book in relation to what we are going through in “Avengers” and what we will be doing in the next issue. It’s important. In Issue 2, you’ll see some of the relations to “Timeless” and the books to come. It’s going to be there; you need to go back to that book. I enjoyed going through it. It’s a different look for him, for Kang, and what’s coming up … I hope readers enjoy it. It’s going to be fun — a lot of twists and turns.

The New Avengers Team is Ready for Exciting Adventures

How excited are you for readers to finally get a chance to see what you’ve been working on?

Villa: I’ve been working on this work for a while, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the people think and their comments. I’ve been growing steadily over my time at Marvel, and this is the culmination of all those years. I’ve been around for five years in Marvel, and they say that the growth period for an artist is around that — five or six years. People will get to experience that.

I’m still growing. I’m still learning how to do things better. But, of course, I’m surrounded by legends. Jed — his prominence in writing is growing, as he’s been doing a lot of awesome things with “Moon Knight” and “Doctor Strange,” not to mention “Black Cat” — I was part of that. I’m thankful that they’re keeping me around to do [more]. This book is the biggest one I’ve ever done, for sure, and I want to step it up.

The coloring job that Federico Blee has done has been amazing. My work has never looked better. His colors are awesome. [In] #2 and #3 as well, he has an amazing skill to portray lightning and power effects, and the Avengers look really cool. With his skills, he is doing an awesome job.

Working with Tom Brevoort, a legendary editor of Marvel … He’s been at the forefront of so many legendary runs and events, and it’s awesome. I have to give my best, and I’ve been learning a lot throughout the “Avengers” book. I’m looking forward to making more. I want to stay here and make a mark and make our favorite heroes look as awesome as they can.

Get a Sneak Peek at the Intense Battle in “Avengers” #5 as Scarlet Witch Takes on The Dead

Grab Your Copy of “Avengers” #1 by MacKay, Villa, Blee, and Petit, Available in Stores and Online Retailers

Mark your calendars for the release of “Avengers” #2 on June 21.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

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