James Stokoe Talks ‘Avengers 100th Anniversary Special’ And The Next 50 Years Of Comics [Interview + Exclusive Art]
As you may have noticed from all our recent Batman ’89 content, comic books are pretty big on celebrating anniversaries. There’s only one problem: You sort of need to wait for those anniversaries to actually happen, and we as readers have never been all that great with the concept of patience. I mean, does anyone really want to wait around until the 2060s to celebrate the centennial of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Marvel Age of Comics?
Marvel Comics certainly doesn’t, which is why they’re gearing up for a series of 100th Anniversary Specials, set to be released next month — 50 years before those anniversaries actually happen. For the Avengers, Marvel’s tapped Orc Stain and Wonton Soup cartoonist James Stokoe to reveal the future of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Today, we’ve got an exclusive look at Stokoe’s characteristically frenzied, hyper-detailed pages from the upcoming one-shot special, which includes such compellingly weird concepts as an Avengers team made up of Beta Ray Bill, Rogue and Doctor Strange; a sentient Stark Tower; an America lost to the Negative Zone; and the Mole Man — because the Mole Man has always been weird enough. We spoke to Stokoe about why he chose the heroes and villains to populate the Avengers of 2061, and what he sees for comics as a business in the next 50 years.
ComicsAlliance: It seems like the Mole Man was chosen as the antagonist due to his status as the villain of Fantastic Four #1, the start of the Marvel age, but is there anything more to why he’s in there? Did he just lend himself to the visuals you wanted to create?
James Stokoe: There’s that, and he was also the villain in the first comic I ever read, so I’ve always been pretty sweet on Mole Man. But yeah, I mostly chose him because he has an army of cool looking goons which I could draw all day.
CA: Along the same lines, I was wondering if there was a significance to that, in that recent years have seen Avengers replacing FF as Marvel’s flagship franchise (or, well, replacing X-Men, which replaced FF).
JS: I’m still getting over the days when Deadpool was the hottest thing on paper, so I can’t say their rising popularity affected how I approached the work too much. These days, I’m not that deeply plugged into mainstream comics culture, so there really isn’t anything that’s rubbed off on me.
CA: The Avengers of your story are Doctor Strange, Rogue and Beta Ray Bill. Why those characters, who have traditionally not been considered to be associated with the Avengers?
JS: To me, the mainstays of the Avengers have always been Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America, and they all show up this issue in one form or another, but I didn’t really want to focus on them too much. There’s 50 years of fake history between now and this issue, so there’s no reason not to shake the cast up a bit. Plus, to fit the story, I needed the main characters to be ones that could potentially live forever, and I gave those three differing versions on that immortality. Rogue has hijacked Wolverine’s powers and doesn’t really age, Doctor Strange has been reincarnated 13 times, and Beta Ray Bill is a cyborg demon space horse, which in my mind makes him immortal.
CA: You extended the narrative of these characters 50 years into the future. Do you ever think about what comics, as a community or a business, will be like in 50 years?
JS: I’m a bit farther removed from it than I was in the past, but I’ve always been optimistic about the community and where it’s heading, and all these amazing young artists coming up are making that optimism all the more easier. There’s been a real surplus of talent these last few years that I haven’t ever seen before. 50 years is a long time to speculate on, but I think the community has stepped up their game so I’m not so worried.
The business side of comics has always been a strange animal to me, but I think the crux of moving forward and staying healthy is just to keep up. The burden is going to be on the publishers to keep their noses to the ground. There’s really no excuse for mediocre books when you can throw a stone and hit 9 or 10 really amazing cartoonists who are hungry for work.
James Stokoe’s Avengers 100th Anniversary Special is on sale this July.