Going All-In on 'All-Out Avengers'
Cutting-edge creators Derek Landy and Greg Land share their concept for a revolutionary new take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
It’s like no Avengers comic you’ve ever seen before—sort of.
“This is basically that feeling that readers of a certain age have of walking into a corner store as a kid and picking up whatever comic was on the rack,” explains Derek Landy, writer of ALL-OUT AVENGERS, the new comic with a high concept of starting every issue in the midst of an adventure. “Invariably it landed you in the middle of a story. We didn’t have the option to back order, we didn’t have comic shops. You had to wait until you were a grownup and they invented Marvel Unlimited so you could find out how that story started.”
“You’re thrown into the second part of the story, but the first part is never even written. It’s not constant action, it’s constant momentum. The story is always in full flow, everybody is always hurtling towards the finish line every single issue, which is a feat in itself.”
Joined by iconic artist Greg Land, Landy has launched the new ongoing ALL-OUT AVENGERS series in stores now. In anticipation of its debut, we spoke with the Land/Landy connection on their big plans for Captain America and company!
I know that the idea for ALL-OUT AVENGERS came from editor Tom Brevoort, but where in the process did you come onboard?
DEREK LANDY: I come from the world of books and got my start in comics on little stories that Marvel threw at me to test me. My way of getting work at Marvel is waiting for them to call me up and say either, “Derek, we’d like a pitch from you on this” or “Derek, start writing this.” [Laughs] I was coming to the end of CAPTAIN AMERICA/IRON MAN (2021) and I got the call from Tom saying “I want the experience of being plunged into a story in every issue, I want to share that sensation—would you be interested?” He also said it was going to be a new Avengers book. What writer could say no? I would have said yes to whatever, though. If he had pitched me a story about Dazzler’s manicurist, I would have said “Yes! Absolutely! I have ideas!”
Tom’s instructions were that I could literally have any character who has ever been an Avenger as long as they’re still alive. I could not turn this down, I could not pass up the opportunity to write these characters. Especially because over COVID, over the two years everybody was locked up, I started a mammoth, massive read of AVENGERS stories I had heard about and absorbed through osmosis but never actually read. I picked up the big omnibus hardcovers. I was firmly in an Avengers mindset. I was about halfway through the 70’s when Tom asked me if I wanted to write a new Avengers book. Why not?
GREG LAND: I had just finished a run on the great SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN books and then Tom Breevort asked me if I’d be interested in this project. I liked the idea of getting to draw an ensemble of Marvel’s best and greatest characters. And after reading the synopsis by Derek Landy, I got excited about the direction of the story! This comic has a lot of action which I love to draw and it puts our heroes in some situations that they aren’t normally in and it creates a nice chaos that’s fun to draw also.
Derek, I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but what are the biggest differences between writing for novels and writing for comics?
DEREK LANDY: There are a few obvious ones and then a few that took me completely by surprise. When I write a book, I own everything. I’m in charge. Nobody knows these characters better than I do. Nobody knows the story, I keep that to myself. Not even my editor knows most of what’s about to happen. The sense of ownership for the books is constant. Then you go and you write for Marvel, and the problem I have struggled with, that I’m struggling with, is respect. I basically have too much respect for other writers and artists. [Laughs] I don’t want to tread on toes. I don’t want to use this villain because somebody else might have plans.
I thought when I started with Marvel that for every character they already had a plan. They linked up, they crossed over, but every character was set in stone. I thought I was allowed to play with Falcon and Winter Soldier a little bit, but I didn’t want to upset the applecart. I had no idea that Marvel ran such a free playground. They have certain things that have to happen with certain characters and certain teams at certain times, fine. The overall arcs are understandable. But with everyone else, you can make changes, you can introduce, you can modify—as long as your editor agrees with your choices, you can do whatever you want. If you go too far, they tell you, but they allow you your freedom.
Coming from books to comics, my mistake was believing I didn’t have the freedom that I actually had. So I was too respectful, and I think I still am too respectful. This bleeds over into everything else, because if you’re too respectful, you’re curtailing your own ambition. That has taken me until now to break out of. The stories with ambition are the ones that you remember. If I’m not ambitious enough, I’m never going to write anything astonishing. I’m breaking free of that, slowly, and ALL-OUT AVENGERS is my attempt to do something bigger.
How did you pick out the characters who kick off ALL-OUT AVENGERS?
DEREK LANDY: The weird thing is that even though we’re constantly coming in on the second issue of a two-part story where the first issue will never exist, we’re still in continuity, so the core Avengers team is still the core Avengers team from AVENGERS (2018). But, as Tom said, I’m allowed to use any character that has ever been called an Avenger, going all the way back to the 60’s. I feel like as long as I’m using minimum three Avengers from this era, I’m fulfilling the criteria.
Obviously you have Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, but I’m starting to bring in Spider-Woman a lot. Visually, she’s just awesome. Every iteration of her character, I have adored. [Former Avengers writer Brian Michael] Bendis had a wonderful Spider-Woman. Pairing her up with Captain Marvel: Carol Danvers allows you to have a great friendship. Because I can pick and choose, if I don’t have a bad guy capable of beating Captain Marvel and Thor, I don’t have to have them there. And I don’t have to explain it, which is the lovely thing.
When ALL-OUT AVENGERS was announced and the format was announced and people knew I could use anybody, I got so many messages on Twitter with requests like “are you going to use the Wasp?” And I hadn’t thought about it, but I’d love to write Janet Van Dyne! Then there are really specific requests to put two characters in a romantic relationship together because they shared a moment 23 years ago and you could retrofit it; that’s when I go, “dude, you know more about these two characters than I ever will, so I’m not even going to touch that.”
It basically comes down to which characters fit the plot. That’s an obvious answer, but again, it comes back to my own ambition as a writer and how big I can make each issue without any backstory, without any flashbacks, without a “previously on.” In theory, I could go huge every single issue, and then I can have Thor and Captain Marvel and all the heavy hitters, but most of the time I’m approaching it from a smaller threat point of view that allows the less powerful characters to actually interact with each other more.
Where does the threat from ALL-OUT AVENGERS #1 come from? Queen Arrok, the Dark Tide—all of it.
DEREK LANDY: They first appeared in the BLACK ORDER (2018) limited series, the first work I did for Marvel. I love the idea that there will be Derek Landy books, Derek Landy comics that have formed their own little universe within Marvel. It’s the same with all writers. You come up with a side character, a supporting character, you’re going to use them in your next series as long as they have managed to remain alive. There was a character from FALCON & WINTER SOLDIER (2020) that went on to appear in CAPTAIN AMERICA/IRON MAN. Now the bad guys from BLACK ORDER are in ALL-OUT AVENGERS.
The lovely thing I’ve discovered is that when you’re writing and have a villain who’s not integral to the plot, you just have them there for one issue to get beaten, when I’ve created a character to fill that role, the Marvel editors will go, “instead of creating this random villain who will never appear again afterward, we could use this random villain who showed up 15 years ago in two issues of something you’ve never read.” Then I get to go read those two issues to figure out who this is and what they can do.
Who has been your favorite character to write or draw so far?
DEREK LANDY: The issue Greg Land is drawing right now stars Spider-Man. I had Spidey in the first issue and didn’t give him a lot to do, but I had to write Spider-Man. He’s my absolute favorite. In issue #5, he takes center stage. It’s a dream come true, an absolute joy to write my childhood hero. Spider-Man is for me the most fun.
I’ve written Captain America and Iron Man before in their limited series. Cap is the hardest to write, because you don’t want to have him make a speech with every dialogue balloon, but at the same time, everything he says has to be keeping with what he is and what he believes. Everyone else you can color outside the lines to a degree. Tony can be heartfelt or decent, and then he can cover it all up with sarcasm. He’s got more leeway, so as a writer, I’m a lot looser with someone like Tony. Captain America, you have the responsibility to get the tone right. You have a responsibility to choose the right words.
Spidey has been the most fun. Cap has been the hardest. For some reason I love writing Spider-Woman. I’m not going to go through each character, I swear, but Carol Danvers, if you go through her stories over the past 10 years in her own series, she subverts your expectations. And then I also get to write Blade. I’ve found the trick to writing Blade is that he’s going to be cool no matter what, so don’t be cool. On the page, he’s cool. He’s just cool. But if you write him as cool, he’s going to be stupid. I’ve been writing him as nice, as kind; he’ll always be cool, but now he’s also warm.
It’s a bloody menu of great character after great character. I’m not going to spend the next hour talking about Hawkeye, but there is stuff I have Clint Barton doing in issue #3 that I just adore. Seeing Greg Land’s art for some of those panels, it makes me laugh every time.
GREG LAND: Spider-Man is my favorite, he is the greatest comic book character of all time! It was great to draw him as the symbiote, but there’s something about drawing him in his classic costume that makes the grade school kid in me so happy!
A key part of issue #1 is having a mystery narrator whom we never meet. I imagine that continues on in the series—if so, how hard has it been to maintain?
DEREK LANDY: That was my breakthrough moment. Tom came to me with the initial idea, and then it’s my job to come back to him with a workable pitch. I didn’t think I’d be allowed to have the mystery narrator, but that was my first breakthrough as far as ambition goes. I took the opportunity that was actually in front of me. That narrator will be returning. The captions in this series will be very subjective. They’re all from one point of view. The opinions, the interpretations, the explanations you would associate with captions, they all come from one source, one character.
Once I figured that out, once I realized the captions could be the thread linking all these issues together, because we have the readers coming into the middle of the story, it occurred to me we could have the characters doing the same each time. They need to work out what is happening, why it is happening, who is making it happen and who is being affected. Slowly you start to build up your story. The core of the story is that experience of being plunged into the action. As long as I can maintain that idea, that sensation, I have been utilizing these other threads to tie everything together. It’s a mystery that will take the first two arcs to even begin answering what is going on.
How has it been working with each other?
DEREK LANDY: Every day you get a new page in the inbox and there seems to be nothing [Greg] can’t handle. Apparently he is just having the most fun on the Spider-Man issue. When he read the script I got a nice little email back saying, “I love this so much!” It’s been great. Seeing those pencils, then Jay [Leisten] comes in with the inks—for me it’s like an education every single issue; I learn more about the process. I can write however much I write, but for an artist to come in every single day and have a page of beautiful artwork with the prettiest characters, it’s kind of startling.
GREG LAND: This is my first time working with Derek and I’m finding his scripts are terrific to work from and I’m really enjoying his stories. We’ve only had email conversations, but he always has something pleasant to say about how I interpret his writing.
What can readers expect from ALL-OUT AVENGERS and why should they stick around?
DEREK LANDY: Wonderful artwork. That’s what they can expect. Even if you hate my writing, you’ll still get the prettiest Avengers you’re ever likely to see.
I’m doing my very best to not only deliver an issue of hopefully intelligent action, but an overall mystery, which I’m hoping will lean them in. It’s going to be very easy for them to pick up issue #1. It’s going to be very easy for them to pick up issue #2. By issue #3, I expect any reader will be looking for consistency, coherence, and that the creative team has a plan. I’m intent on establishing that we have a plan. Stick with us and you will have constant breakneck action, but you will also have an overarching story I’m astonished they let me do. Because to go from having a curtailed sense of ambition which I imposed on myself to the ambition of ALL-OUT AVENGERS and where I want to take the story, the kinds of characters I want to involve, that leap is impossible. That leap is ridiculous. I’m just hoping the readers will stick with my writing long enough to make up their own minds as to whether or not they like where I’m taking it.
They’re going to have beautiful art, wonderfully inked, the colors are astonishing; come for the art, stick around for the story, I promise I’m going to do my very best! [Laughs]
GREG LAND: I hope the readers will enjoy the story as much as I do and I hope through the artwork they can see how much fun I've had working on this book!
Pick up ALL-OUT AVENGERS #1 now, out in print and digital comic stores.
Find brand-new comic stories at your favorite local comic book shop. Be sure to ask your local shop about their current business policies to observe social distancing or other services they may offer, including holding or creating pull lists, curbside pick-ups, special deliveries, and other options to accommodate. Find and support your local comic book shop at ComicShopLocator.com or by visiting Marvel.com/LoveComicShops.
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