Sam Humphries is one of the hottest writers in mainstream comics today, with titles like Uncanny X-Force, Avengers A.I., and Ultimates to his credit. But his next book — The Legendary Star-Lord (due out from Marvel NOW! in July) — will no doubt attract Humphries’ biggest audience yet, since it will be buoyed by title character Peter Quill’s screen debut (as embodied by Chris Pratt) in August’s Guardians of the Galaxy film. We sat down to chat with the affable writer about his plans for the book, his inspiration for Quill’s adventures, and his love of Marvel’s cosmic titles.
NERDIST: Is The Legendary Star-Lord your most idiosyncratic Marvel work so far?
SAM HUMPHRIES: I don’t think so. [Laughs.] I totally see where you’re going. Star-Lord as a book, and Peter Quill as a character, is probably the closest to who I am personally, more so than any other work at Marvel. In that case, maybe it is similar to my indie work. Creator-owned work, by its nature, can be much more personal than something that you do for work-for-hire. You may be able to draw parallels there. This book, for Marvel, is the most Marvel book I’ve ever done, if that makes sense. John Carter was not even in the Marvel Universe. Ultimates was not even in the Marvel Universe. Uncanny X-Force was a book that really lived in the shadows and stayed on the fringes of things. Avengers A.I. was a very heady and cerebral and deeply sci-fi book, about the nature of human consciousness and all that kind of stuff. Star-Lord is a superhero in space. I think this book cuts to the heart of what most people think a Marvel book is, more than my previous outings with Marvel. Because he’s a cowboy. He’s out there in space having these crazy adventures, making bold moves, and thinking his way out of trouble.
With Peter you’ve got a really interesting character dynamic. Where he’s a scoundrel, he’s a smart-ass, but he always has this twinge in his heart, like a loose thread on a sweater, that always makes him want to do the right thing. Once he starts pulling on that, all his scoundrel cravings and desires fall away and he finds himself being a hero. That dichotomy is so firmly in the classic Marvel mode of heroes. He’s not a character who is a classic character at the moment, in terms of fame or recognition, by any means. But he really does come from that classic Marvel heroic mold that Stan and Jack and Steve Ditko and Jim Steranko and friends all established in the ’60s and ’70s. It strikes to the heart of what a Marvel comic can and should be, but it’s also a book that is going to be closest to the heart of what goes on in the Marvel Universe, more than anything I’ve ever done before.
N: How far ahead have you planned Peter’s adventures?
SH: We’ve got this book planned out through September 2015, and talked about it a lot at the last creative retreat, and the trajectory of this book cuts directly through some of the biggest happenings, some of the biggest explosions, that are going to be going to going off in the Marvel Universe in the next year or so.
N: And yet the book appears pretty accessible to newcomers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like there isn’t a ton of prior continuity with which fans need to be familiar.
SH: No, Star-Lord doesn’t have the page count of somebody like Wolverine. [Laughs.] Wolverine has so many stories told about him over the years. Star-Lord’s only had a handful of comics that he was in published before the Annihilation stuff. Even then he really stuck to those books. So really all you need to know to enjoy the book is that if you’re familiar with Han Solo and you like Han Solo, you’re gonna be into this book. That’s all you need to know. You just need to know that there’s a guy, he’s in space, he’s got a gun, and he’s a smart-ass
N: Can you talk about the first year’s storyline? Apparently Kitty Pryde will be involved.
SH: The first few issues are all done-in-one stories. But even from the very first issue we start sowing the seeds of subplots, one of which is an ongoing long-distance romance with Kitty Pryde. Another one of which involves a new bad guy who I can’t talk about very much. And a new team of bad guys. Those are threads that we’re gonna feed right into the first issue and will build and build, and [result in] some pretty big epic-scale explosive stuff in the Marvel Universe.
N: Your Star-Lord is the version that will coincide with August’s Guardians of the Galaxy film. Can you talk about how the two will dovetail?
SH: I haven’t seen any of the movie. I’ve seen as much as anybody else. I’ve seen the trailer and I’ve read the script. I’m not in the loop on day-to-day decisions on the movie. But my book and Brian [Michael Bendis]’s Guardians of the Galaxy book and the movie come from the same source material. We all come out of all those great cosmic books, so we’re coming from the same starting point. It seems to me that Legendary Star-Lord and the Guardians of the Galaxy movie are very much in sync. Some people in the know, who have seen the movie and have read what we have done so far on the book, are very sure that both the movie and the book are a hundred percent on target with each other. So if you go to the movie and you like Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, you’re going to love what we’re doing in The Legendary Star-Lord.
N: Will there be any crossovers with Brian’s Guardians book?
SH: I gotta be careful about what I can say right now, but Brian and I have been working on this since before I even formally accepted the book. He and I started working together when I was on Ultimates and he was on Ultimate Spider-Man. We’ve had a really comfortable working relationship. I will say we’ve been talking a lot. Brian has been really good at establishing the nature of the Guardians of the Galaxy, where it’s kind of like the Real World house. Where everyone comes and hangs out at the house, but they each have kind of their own thing going on, their individual lives, and they can come and go as they choose. So yeah, this is like Iron Man in the Avengers – he has his own solo title and he has his own thing going on. Tony Stark has his own battles going on, both personal and external. That’s the same with Star-Lord and Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon book. But Marvel’s cosmic bench right now is very deep. We’ve got a lot of great titles with some fantastic characters and some amazing creators. And we’re very aware of that. We’re very aware of the interesting pieces at our disposal, and there’s been a lot of interesting discussions about where we might go with that.
N: Can you talk a little about the way you collaborate with artist Paco Medina?
SH: Paco’s great. He’s a fantastic artist. I remember very much fondly looking at his work when he was drawing Ultimate X-Men while I was writing Ultimates. I got to see his work as it came in, and really loved everything he was doing. I’m so psyched that we get to work together on one book together. He is just so great for this book. He’s got a real flair and style that I think is so suited to what we’ve got going on in this book in terms of its western vibe and shootouts in dive bars and fast spaceships and alien worlds. Even people who already know and love Paco’s work will see a side to him that they’ve never seen before. He just turned in this full-page spread five days ago and it’s still on my screen. I can’t stop looking at it. It’s so beautiful, and he really killed it. I’m so excited for this book to come out and for people to see the work he’s been doing.
N: What else is keeping you busy these days?
SH: It’s too early to get into specifics. I’ve been teasing people for a while that I’ve got a lot going on in the background, and that’s been true for at least six months or more at this point. I’ve been very busy with things I’ve been working on but I’ve been unable to speak about them in public. Legendary Star-Lord is just the first of them. I’m working on a few things for Marvel right now. One of which I think will surprise a lot of people, another one of which is gonna be a great big deal. I’m working on some creator-owned books as well that we’re going to be talking about in the near future… Is that vague enough for you? [Laughs.]
N: It’ll do. [Laughs.]
SH: You know how this goes. You can’t talk about something until you’ve been living with it for eight months and you’re the least excited person about it, because it’s all you’ve been thinking about for eight months.
N: When did you first become a Marvel fan? When did you first encounter the cosmic books?
SH: My first comic book was a Marvel comic book and it was a cosmic book. It was Secret Wars. I got in in a repackaged three-pack, with two other issues. [Laughs.] It’s a book that people like to [criticize], but I love that book. It totally sold me as a fan. It’s great because it takes place on this battle planet with the all-powerful Beyonder and all this cosmic stuff. But it’s a book that brings alive the heart of these characters. They’re all far away from home, they don’t know if they’re going to live to see Earth again, but they’ve all got these really compelling personal stories that are played out against this epic cosmic background. Doctor Doom’s part in that book is so hardcore and so intense. It’s so big, and it couldn’t be bigger, but it all starts with who Doom is as a person and what does he yearn for and what is he trying to unlock in himself in trying to be a better Doctor Doom, however he defines that. That’s the kind of story that I want to tell in Legendary Star-Lord. We’ve got all this great stuff going on, in terms of big adventures and all these new aliens to meet and new worlds to discover and bounty hunters and gun battles and all that sort of good stuff. But what really drives all these stories is that friction within Peter’s heart – is he a scoundrel or is he a hero? And if he’s a little of both, what does that look like? Do you like how I brought it right back there? [Laughs.]
N: Full circle. You’re a born writer. [Laughs.] Thank you so much for your time, Sam.
SH: Thank you very much! I really appreciate it, dude.