There’s tough times ahead for Marvel’s premiere female superhero squad, A-Force. Not only are they currently dealing with a mind-controlling foe turning the team against itself, but now they’re stuck in the middle of Civil War II. We sat down with series writer Kelly Thompson to talk about what’s to come in the series, and the fun behind writing a group of scrappy female heroes.
io9: For people who’ve not been following along, tell us a little bit about the A-Force and what they’ve been up to in the most recent arc.
Kelly Thompson: So A-Force is currently made up of the superheroes She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Medusa, Dazzler, Nico Minoru, and Singularity, who is a character that crossed over from the Secret Wars event last summer and brought the team together here on this Earth (Prime Earth). They’re sort of like a hodgepodge Avengers freelancer team… which, let’s be real, is the best kind of team!
They were brought together for a specific mission by Singularity, but like the readers, the characters get that the team up is kind of magic and so they’ve stayed together beyond that first mission. I like to describe it as mostly jokes and punching things in the face. And dragons. You always need dragons.
You’re now the sole writer on the series, but co-wrote several of the issues in the first arc with G. Willow Wilson. What’s it been like transitioning from co-writer to sole writer?
Thompson: Yes, G. Willow Wilson was the co-writer of both the mini-series and the first arc of the new series, and so I’d been working from her plot since issue two of our new book. I think co-writing is of course a great way to get your feet wet and to learn a lot, I’m still relatively new at Marvel so it’s super helpful to transition in that way. At the same time, it obviously feels nice to stand on your own… so long as people like what you’re doing I guess! Wilson is admittedly some big shoes to fill, and I definitely feel that.
Ben Caldwell has joined you as the artist for the book, the first time you’ve worked together on a comic. What’s it been like collaborating with him so far?
Thompson: I adore collaborating with Ben. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and he actually did some illustrations for my novel Storykiller a couple years back, so we had at least some experience working together. But Ben just gets my sense of humor; he intuitively knows what I’m going for and nails it every time. He brings so much energy and enthusiasm to these women and they all look really badass but also totally distinct from one another. He’s a really intuitive storyteller and his character work and design is second to none. His art, paired with colorist Ian Herring, is pure magic, pages come in and I’m just blown away.
The latest issues have had a delightful cameo of the Dazzler Thor from Secret Wars. Is it a challenge to build on that legacy of the Secret Wars miniseries? And like Dazzler Thor, can we expect to see more Secret Wars-based characters appear in A-Force in the future?
Thompson: Yeah, it IS a bit of a razor’s edge to balance on. But I like to think that in a way we’ve got the best of both worlds. We try to keep things fresh and new reader friendly as much as possible, but also use the advantage we have in being able to pull from some of the more awesome aspects of Battleworld and the Secret Wars crossover… which is how you get delightful things like a Dazzler Thor. I mean, Dazzler Thor is ALWAYS an advantage, right?
The core A-Force team is this really solid group of interesting heroes—is it a challenge trying to find a balance between exploring all of these heavy-hitters in equal measure in a team book? Do you have particular character or character relationship you enjoy writing the most?
Thompson: I love these ladies so much it’s just absurd and in my opinion (other than the great art) it’s the crackling chemistry they have that really makes the book sing and stand out from the crowded shelves. I do hate picking favorites but I have to admit that Jen (She-Hulk) is probably the most fun to write. However, I’m able to cut loose a bit more with Nico and Dazzler story wise, since they’re not currently in any other books, so they’re rife with great character development opportunities. I’ve written Captain Marvel before in the Captain Marvel and The Carol Corps mini-series so it’s awesome to get my hands on “Prime Earth” Carol. I’ve dubbed her “Boss of Space” and that seems to be catching on with her fans, which is basically all I do this for (praise), so mission accomplished!
Singularity is, as you said, the boundless optimist, and she’s also got the fish out of water thing going for her which is always fun. Starting out I wasn’t sure that Medusa would be a good fit but she’s such an unabashed delightful grouch that she’s becoming my secret favorite to write. And it’s actually in Medusa that the chemistry starts to make sense, because all of these women HAVE been leaders and ARE strong personalities, but it’s sort of like how you’re one person with your friends and someone else with your family, without even realizing it… these women can be one way in different books and still be a little different in our book. For example, Medusa is a literal queen and leader of her people, she is SERIOUS BUSINESS, but in our book, with She-Hulk and Captain Marvel both naturally also falling into leadership roles she’s allowed the luxury of falling into this bitchy sarcastic backseat driver and that becomes insanely fun.
Yeah, if A-Force was a family, Jen and Carol would be the moms, Medusa would be the sulky teenager, Nico and Dazzler would be the troublesome pre-teens twins, and Singularity the adorable baby that everyone loves and rallies around.
That said, is there any female hero in particularly you’d love to add to the team beyond a guest appearance? I’m loving her in Ultimates, but personally I’d love to see Monica Rambeau interact with the A-Force again.
Thompson: Man would I love to get my hands on Monica Rambeau. Love her and I’d love to get her on A-Force. We ARE actually getting Monica’s former Nextwave teammate, the foul-mouthed Elsa Bloodstone on the team for our Civil War II Crossover arc and I’m super excited about that. I would also love to see America Chavez (Miss America) show up in A-Force. Black Widow would be excellent too and a great contrasting voice. Rogue, Silk, Storm, Armor, Wolverine ( the current Laura Kinney version), and Valkyrie would round out the rest of my short list, I think. So many awesome ladies, so little time!
There’s quite a few Avengers teams running around at the moment. Beyond being a collection of fascinating female heroes, what is about the cast of A-Force that makes it stand out?
Thompson: I already said the thing about jokes and punching, and dragons, right? Heh.
I think we have both an advantage and disadvantage in that we feel a bit like an outlier. I feel like that allows us to be a little bit more “outside the box” than some other titles may have to be and I love that, but it is hard to establish yourself as “must read” every month. There’s a lot of good stuff on the shelves and the competition is fierce. I don’t think of us as being particularly political or having a diversity message, we’re just superhero ladies trying to do some good and tearing stuff up in the process and it’s great that we can do that and also be a team of awesome ladies, sort of by happy accident.
I hope what stands out about our heroes is their chemistry, the way they meld together in both good and bad ways, which feels very real and human to me. I think we’re one of the few books out there today that is legitimately a comedy action book.
Obviously, some of the A-Force team have huge roles to play in Civil War II. There’s Carol Danvers who’s leading one side of the conflict, but you’ve also got Medusa and She-Hulk as major factors in that story as well. What are you doing to tie A-Force into the event, and just how much will it affect the series over the next few issues?
Thompson: Yeah, I know not everyone is on board for crossovers and I get that they can be tough on titles that you already like. but with the make-up of our team—and especially with Carol, the face of one of the sides of Civil War II, in the mix—there was no way that it wasn’t going to tear us apart. So rather than fighting it, we’re leaning into it.
It was a bit of an adjustment for these ladies to come together as a team in the first place, but they stayed together because they came to care for one another and were doing some real good, so for our CW2 arc it will be a highly personal story that really tests the bonds the team has developed… and we’ll see what’s left when that war is over. You’ll have to tune in to find out!
Beyond Civil War II and the current arc, what can we expect from A-Force going forward?
Thompson: Well, we’re one of the titles starting our tie-in a bit later in the Civil War II cycle (our tie-in doesn’t start until issue #8) – so we’re still figuring out exactly what we’ll be when the dust settles but I’d say… expecting a roster shake up is not unreasonable. And of course more jokes and punching and possibly dragons.
Thompson: Yeah, I have been incredibly lucky this last year; so many wonderful people have given me wonderful characters to write. I have a few really exciting things coming, one of which is creator-owned, but unfortunately all of them are a bit premature to be announced. For now it’s all A-Force, Jem, and Pink Ranger all the time. Oh! And I have an OGN out with artist Meredith McClaren called Heart In A Box which is a little darker and stranger than my work for hire stuff, but if you like anything of mine you’ve read you’ll probably dig it too!
The next issue of A-Force, A-Force #7, hits shelves July 20th.