Interview: Jonathan Maberry on Captain America: Hail Hydra

 

Jonathan Maberry, an award-winning novelist, has done a significant amount of work for Marvel Comics in recent years, including taking over for Reginald Hudlin on the Black Panther series, and penning the Doomwar event. Now comes Captain America: Hail Hydra, a 5-issue limited series that focuses on Captain America's ongoing struggle with the terrorist organization known as Hydra throughout his career. The miniseries promises to expand upon the revelations about this mysterious group's history first touched upon in Jonathan Hickman's Secret Warriors series. I spoke with Maberry to learn about the origins of this series and the latest threat the Star-Spangled Avenger is facing.


 



Matt Adler: Where did the idea of a doing a series that spans the decades of Cap's battle with Hydra originate?

Jonathan Maberry:  It more or less springs from my own lifelong attachment to the character.  I’ve been reading Captain America since Tales of Suspense #78 (June 1966), which was a Cap/Nick Fury story.  I even read some very beat-up copies of the 1940s strips belonging to a friend’s father.  So, ever since I was a kid I’ve had a sense of who Cap was, and I like the fact that Marvel has put him through a lot of changes.  There are clear eras in Cap’s career.  Given that, I wanted to tell a story that played off of a character with so much history.  When I pitched it to Marvel, they liked the cross-generational approach, and we were off and running.

MA: For the uninitiated, what is Hydra, and what's their ultimate goal?

JM:  Hydra is a global terrorist organization that (until now) we believe was created by Baron Strucker as a way of perpetuating the (ahem) values of the Third Reich.

In HAIL HYDRA, we learn that Hydra is a much older organization that has manipulated governments and ideologies to further their own ends.  Strucker is a crucial part of this, and he’s responsible for bringing Hydra more firmly into the 20th Century; however there is a new character, Dr. Geist, whose family line stretches back to the very creation of Hydra.

MA: So are you keeping Hydra's roots in affiliation with the Nazis?

JM:  We learn that Hydra hijacked the Nazi party and used it as a tool for furthering their own agendas, part of which is the search for mystical items that will help to achieve their goal of creating a new race of gods.

MA: To that end, Hydra is said to be pursuing the secrets of immortality. What's wrong with wanting to extend the human lifespan?

JM:  Nothing in theory; but Hydra is not just working to extend life; they want to create a new race of gods modeled after the Aryan master race ideal.  These new gods will rise up to rule humanity forever, and eventually rule the universe.

Those who do not fit the master race mold are likely to be exterminated or enslaved.

MA: Hydra's motto is famously "cut off a head, and two more shall take its place." Do they represent something greater that endures no matter the efforts of heroes like Cap?

JM:  Yes, Hydra is a compartmentalized organization.  If you tear down one of their campaigns, no matter how big, it won’t stop the organization.  They are the perfect model for modern terrorism, and many cells operate in total isolation from the others.  In HAIL HYDRA, the immortality project is overseen by Dr. Geist and his team, and only Strucker is aware of this cell’s existence.

MA: Who else can we expect to see in terms of friends and foes?

JM:  The villains are Hydra, Strucker, Dr. Geist and Geist’s team of reanimated Nazi soldiers.  As for the good guys, in issue #1 we have Bucky (as a teenager); in #2 the original Avengers line-up is on hand; in #3 Cap teams with the Falcon and the Black Panther; in #4, Cap (as ‘The Captain), works with the Falcon, Nick Fury and a huge host of surprise guests; and in #5, Colonel Steve Rogers partners with the current Captain America.

MA: There's a different artist for each issue of the series; how was this team assembled?

JM:  I worked with editor Bill Rosemann on that.  Bill really knows the Marvel stable of artists and when I explained that I wanted a different artistic feel for each issue, one that was in keeping with the era, he came up with an all-star lineup consisting of Sergio Cariello (Lone Ranger), Tom Scioli (Godland), Phil Winslade (Wonder Woman), Kyle Hotz (Annihilation Conquest: Wraith) and Harvey Tolibao (Psylocke), with stunning covers by Adi Granov.

MA: Are there any other creators' work with Hydra in particular you're drawing on for inspiration?

JM:  Absolutely.  The stuff that Lee and Kirby did is landmark; but I was also a fan of Jim Steranko’s work on Cap and his work on the early Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD books.  Action, heroics and science fiction –my favorite combination.

MA: Hydra is also slated to be a primary antagonist in the upcoming Cap movie; have you drawn upon what's been revealed of the film for this story?

JM:  No, I’ve stayed away from everything related to the movie, and everything in the other mini-series that are debuting at the same time.  The only Cap stuff I’m looking at is the current run with Brubaker and tons of back-issues dating back to the 1940s.  I don’t want to be influenced by anything currently being developed.

MA: How much back-issue reading did you have to do to prep for this?

JM: Tons of it, but how much fun is that!  I got a lot of mileage out of Marvel’s Digital Comics, as well as collections in trade and my own well-thumbed collection of books.

MA: What else are you working on these days?

JM: I’m in the planning stages of a project that is still under wraps, so I can’t talk about it.  Beyond that, I have a slew of pitches into various editors at Marvel for some projects I’m dying to do.

Aside from comics, I’m also a novelist.  I’m still on tour for my first teen novel, ROT & RUIN (a zombie thriller from Simon & Schuster) and WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE (a nonfiction book on good & evil in folklore, literature, and pop culture, which includes interviews with everyone from Stan Lee to Mike Mignola).  I recently turned in my tenth novel, DEAD OF NIGHT (St. Martin’s Griffin, summer 2011) and am at work on BOOK OF SHADOWS, the fourth novel in my Joe Ledger thriller series (following 2009’s PATIENT ZERO, 2010’s THE DRAGON FACTORY, 2011’s THE KING OF PLAGUES).  And I’m gearing up for the March 2011 release of GI JOE: COBRA WARS, a print anthology of novellas by Max Brooks, Duane Swierczynski, Dennis Tafoya, Jon McGoran and me.
 


Matt Adler is fairly certain if you cut off his head, one won't grow back, let alone two.

Comments

  1. I’m really looking forward to this!  Thanks for the interview!

  2. I really like this fix to Hydra it makes it makes it much better than “We’re replacing the 20th Century’s worst villains with ones we made up!”

  3. I am now much more likely to buy this now that I know there’ll be an issue with Steve in the black costume. 🙂