io9 recently chatted with the incomparable Ed Brubaker about his upcoming run on Secret Avengers, the status of the Sleeper movie, and yes, the yahoos who got way too riled up about a Captain America comic.

For Secret Avengers, you have a pretty diverse crew lined up (Nova, Beast, War Machine, Steve Rogers, Valkyrie, etc.). These are some fairly stand-up supes; they're not like the Thunderbolts who have to be kept out of the public eye. What's so secret about them?


The one element that ties all of these characters together is that they all have a certain military background, even with Valkyrie with Asgard. Beast has a history with the Avengers, and you can't have a book like this without someone hitting up the science department. Of course, he's going to be out in the field with these guys.

The real crux of what I'm trying to do is a team book that feels somehow different from how we've seen team books up to this point. This is very much about taking that pulpy espionage flavor, mixing it with a Mission Impossible vibe, and doing it with superheroes. It's a new starting point. I'm not walking on to the X-Men or the Authority.

The first arc is very much about defining who their secret enemy is. I can't really talk too much about, a lot of it is about the history of these guys. This is my chance to do something like SPECTRE or COBRA without going too corny. It's very much something that ties in with real world history, but bringing in that Doc Savage, H.P. Lovecraft tradition that superheroes came out of. It's very much about stuff we haven't seen in Marvel.


In Captain America, the main antagonists are the Watchdogs and an insane, chipper 1950s Cap. What was your inspiration for this dementedly wholesome evil Captain America?

The first comic I ever bought with my own money was Captain America 156, which was the Captain America from the 1950s and the real Cap fighting on the cover. That was my first experience to the idea of another Cap – the hard-core conservative, HUAC-loving Cap. I always thought that this character was really tragic. He remembers the Eisenhower era; he's a man out of the time. I brought him back during the "Death of Captain America" story.

I always intended to hook him up with the Watchdogs. The Watchdogs – when they were created by Mark Gruenwald way back when – were reflective of those extreme right-wing, Middle America militia movements. I wanted to bring them back to reflect the world we live in today since Obama was elected. He's the Captain America for that slightly crazed, highly paranoid side of reality.


Speaking of the Watchdogs, what's been the readers' response to the media hubbub concerning the signs in Captain America 602?


I don't want to talk about that stuff too much. The only thing we apologized for was identifying those protesters as specifically the Tea Party Movement. In Marvel comics it's Roxxon Oil, not Exxon. It's a step removed from reality. It reflects the world without actually being the world, and that was what the apology was for - not that they got offended. People were reading stuff into that. No one ever said "All protesters are evil." I had to shut down my public email because I started getting death threats from, y'know, peaceful protesters.

Oh man! Yikes.

That was really pleasant. [laughs] I guess they're all for freedom of speech except for mine! What was really infuriating is that they're weren't reading the story, they were just reading some blogger. Has our media really come to the point where anyone can just blog about something and it becomes a news article that warrants death threats? We're seeing this with Trey Parker and Matt Stone of [South Park] receiving death threats from Muslims. How is this any different from Tea Partiers telling me I should die in a fire because I wrote an issue of Captain America? It's a little disconcerting to me. It makes me feel like our society has gotten to the point where it's a little too easy to get access to people. So yeah, I shut down my public email and now my only contact with the world is through my Twitter account [laughs].


Well Ed, you arm-wrestled fans to promote [your DC/Wildstorm miniseries] Sleeper, I think you'll be fine. Are we going to see any Over The Top-style promotions for Secret Avengers?

I'm getting a little old for arm-wrestling! I arm-wrestled about 65 people that day and won maybe about 80% of those. I did not work for about a week after that - I could barely move my arm. Hopefully the new promotions will be more like, "Hey! We're making a movie out of it!"


Speaking of Sleeper, any movie news on that front?

Actually, I just was at a meeting with somebody from Warner Brothers who said, "Oh hey, I'm working on the Sleeper movie!" and I'm like, "Oh, it's happening again!" It sounds like they're back to working on it, and apparently Geoff Johns has been talking to people about it. Tom Cruise is still attached, so we'll see!


Are you contributing to the Captain America movie as well?

I didn't end up consulting on it at all because of my Marvel deadlines, but I'm going to dig up Kevin Feige's email and start finding reasons to email him!

Final question: anyone or anything you'd like to give a shout-out to?
People should be reading Josh Dysart's Unknown Soldier [on DC/Vertigo]. I picked it up recently and it's really blowing me away.


Ed Brubaker, Mike Mignola, and Simon Oliver will be hosting a panel - "Comic Books: Indie and Beyond" - with Geoff Boucher at the L.A. Times Festival of Books tomorrow at noon.