Marvel’s Next Big Thing: Dennis Hopeless Goes All Takeshi Kitano with AVENGERS ARENA

Avengers Arena #1

It’s a day during this week, so that means it’s time for another Marvel’s Next Big Thing press call! This afternoon we spoke to Dennis Hopeless about the controversial new title Avengers Arena. 

Since the announcement of the series, a number of fans have expressed anxiety over the prospect of their favorite teen heroes being thrust into an ongoing battle to the death. While Hopeless’ remarks might not bring comfort to everyone in that regard, you just might be surprised by his thoughtful considerations. It should also be noted that Avengers Arena is already getting a lot of positive buzz and might just be the sleeper hit of the Marvel NOW! campaign.

For those just joining us, Hopeless pitches Arena thusly: “Fifteen of your favorite teenagers and Darkhawk wake up on an island and they’re told ‘Only one of you is going to come out of it alive’” That’s not a dis at Darkhawk, by the way. The writer is simply acknowledging that the character isn’t a teenager. The cosmic hero is actually a late addition to the ensemble necessitated by the death of Hopeless’ initial choice of Kenji from Generation Hope (who died during pre-production). A fan of Abnett & Lanning’s Annihilation saga, he ultimately decided to bring in Darkhawk as a sub.

A newly menacing Arcade is behind this blood sport in the making, and this new Murderworld is easily his most ambitious project yet. We don’t know its exact location, but it’s not just some field or a stretch of green screen and astroturf. This Murderworld boasts four different regions, each with its own climate. That the world includes an arctic region, a forest, a desert, and a beach locale suggests that there’s a bit of Hunger Games level trickery going on, but the depth of that artifice or otherworldliness is uncertain.

Asked about the suspect choice to frame the story as an ongoing rather than a limited series, Hopeless pointed to the innate challenge of character motivation. “Primarily, it’s because we need the space to get you to believe these kids would do this stuff,” he said. “We need to get them to a place where they distrust and fear each other enough to let it play out. The first few issues have a different POV.” The first of which is Avengers Academy alum Hazmat’s. “It’s a long game. It’s not the one-person POV, it’s the characters all dealing with this in their own way. What would drive them to go through this and save themselves and save their friends? Once we get to a place where the core concept changes, the book changes, but the Murderworld thing is a long story.”

We asked about the adorable female Deathlok in the preview pages. That’s a Hopeless creation named Deathlokette (not sure on the spelling; sounds like ‘Death-Locket’). She’s 14 and is very much a Deathlok. Just sweeter than any previous incarnation.

Given the varying tones of similar stories like Hunger Games and Battle Royale–intense drama and satire respectively–Hopeless was called to identify Arena’s tone. Is the peril played entirely straight or is there an edge of black humor? Hopeless said that the characters in Murderworld take their situation quite seriously and that the book is a true character study for each teen (and/or Darkhawk, naturally). If there’s a streak of dark humor, that’s in Arcade’s perspective. The kids just don’t have that appreciation for their grim situation.

Asked about the concern and outraged leveled by some readers in response to the book’s announcement, Hopeless conceded that he’s definitely sought out internet comments on the subject. It’s not a topic he takes lightly. “Death close to you, very close to you, is the most powerful thing someone can go through,” Hopeless said, adding that he’d lost family members at a young age, an experience he’s had to summon in plotting these character arcs. While he understands where many of the anxious fans are coming from, he can only promise that he’s a massive fan of these young heroes as well. “I am really proud of the book, I think we’re telling a really good story within this. None of the people responding to the concept and the marketing have seen the book, so I don’t take it too personally because they haven’t seen it yet.”

Did he hesitate to add any favorite characters to the roster because he feared putting them into harm’s way? Hopeless said he had to avoid that mode of thinking, focusing instead on telling the best story. He did ultimately decide to remove Molly from the Runaways from contention, citing her comparatively young age as problematic given the themes he wants to explore.

And how does it all differentiate itself from those death-match movies we’ve seen in the past?

“These characters come from different places, but they’re all Marvel superheroes. This gives it a different perspective. We do a POV shift where you see the situation from all the characters over the course.” Hopeless has a working knowledge of the Hunger Games, referencing several key points. He particularly focused on that book’s fixed perspective in Katniss’ head. By the second arc of Arena, we’ll have taken a stroll in each character’s shoes. But Hopeless also seems to shrug off the Hunger Games comparison in favor of another favorite. “For me, it’s as influenced by The Running Man as anything. It comes from gladiatorial games and everything just as much. The perspective of teenage superheroes changes it enough.”

Avengers Arena #1 hits shelves on December.

 

Comments

  1. Darkhawk is the only character I care about. Saying that, he’s the only reason why I’d check this out. I hope, really hope that they do not kill him!

  2. CaseyJustice CaseyJustice says:

    I think the winner should be awarded with a ongoing series…

    And I think Nico and Chase should win…

    Can we bring Runaways back, guys?

  3. SleepingMan SleepingMan says:

    I’ve seen Hopeless in a couple of interviews now talking about Ultimates, his UXF and this series and I find him to be an incredible thoughtful writer who thinks ideas through before writing which is why im excited for this series and UXF but I still don’t like the premise. To me personally it just seems like Marvel higher ups saying that all these teenage characters are disposable and only the old guard won’t go away.

  4. TA TA says:

    I’m in.

    I know nothing is permanent in comics, but I find the high stakes here appealing.

  5. Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I’m still looking forward to this title, though I don’t exactly have my fingers crossed about Darkhawk’s survival. If he was a late entry into the series, that means he doesn’t have any planned out storylines, which means he’s disposable.

  6. So, is that Captain Britain on the cover for issue 5? Doing the Clockwork Orange pastiche?

  7. icn1983 icn1983 says:

    Kinji Fukasaku directed “Battle Royale,” unless you’re saying that Dennis Hopeless is like Takeshi Kitano’s character in “Battle Royale.”

  8. This sounds like an interesting series and I have always thought Arcade was one of Marvel’s most underrated villains, but after long consideration, I decided to pass on this one, although I might pick up the first trade if I hear good things.

  9. The_Maxx The_Maxx says:

    I don’t care how blatant this rips off (pay homage) Battle Royale. Most of the appeal for me is because of that anyways picking this up fa sho!

  10. Billington Billington says:

    Kind of excited just to see Arcade get some spotlight. I hope he has some regular appearances, as opposed to just being the guy necessary for the premise.

  11. r3v r3v says:

    Interesting that it’s an ongoing… I’d have expected this kind of thing to be a mini. That’s addressed in the article, but it leaves me wondering if they have a solid end planned ahead of time anyways.

  12. BornIn1142 BornIn1142 says:

    “While Hopeless’ remarks might not bring comfort to everyone in that regard, you just might be surprised by his thoughtful considerations.”

    The Hunger Games is really popular right now, so let’s go with that! Everyone is Katniss!

    Yeah. Thoughtful.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Maybe you had to be in the call, but I was taken with his remarks about death and experiencing death in youth. Hard to capture in words, but it sounded to me like he’s invested in exploring that emotional experience. He doesn’t take it lightly.

  13. smars smars (@smars) says:

    GAWD!
    they should just release the book in black and white.
    those pages are gorgeous!

  14. pppiquer pppiquer says:

    I was a bit hesitant about this title, but the adition of Deathlockette convinced me to give it a try. I love a bit of goofiness along with my underage murder

  15. thefig24 says:

    I love teen books. I loved the Young Avengers, Runaways, Avengers Academy, and New X-Men. I even had a certain fondness towards the Initiative. Therefore it makes me kind of sick to see this kind of book being release by Marvel.

    This isn’t how I want to see some of my favorite characters return. I don’t want to see them die. I don’t want to see them become murderers. Instead of getting me interested, this is killing my interest in Marvel. Killing off a bunch of my favorite characters is a great way to lose me as a reader.

  16. twiceborn twiceborn says:

    I will try it before I deny it.