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Jim McCann and New Avengers: The Reunion

Jo Chen's cover art to #1
Jo Chen’s cover art to #1
Interviewing New Avengers: The Reunion scribe Jim McCann was suggested by longtime Mockingbird and Hawkeye Mike McDermott, who contributes questions as well. Thanks, Mike!

Mike: Jim, for people who aren’t familiar with your name, can you tell us how you got started at Marvel and how you came to write the NEW AVENGERS: THE REUNION mini series starring one of Marvel’s married couples, the newly reunited Hawkeye/ Ronin and Mockingbird?

JIM: I’ve been working at Marvel for almost 5 years now. I’d been in the ABC Writer Development Program where I learned a lot about crafting serialized fiction and was able to write for the soap opera ONE LIFE TO LIVE. I moved to New York in the hopes of landing a job either with ABC Daytime or Marvel Comics, the latter being my dream job from the time I was 10 or so. I was incredibly fortunate to be hired in the Operations Department at Marvel a month after I moved here. From there I went into the Marketing & PR side of Publishing, where I’ve been ever since.
My writing background (I majored in TV/Film, Minored in Theater and English at Xavier University, where I’d won their BEST WRITER award) led me to penning a few back-ups, including a crossover between the New Avengers & the soap opera Guiding Light, which was a surreal but incredibly fun experience. About 5 months ago, I made the leap from full time staff to consultant, allowing me time to pursue more writing opportunities while staying with Marvel, which has become an amazing home to me.
I had pitched for NEW AVENGERS: THE REUNION as soon as I knew we were looking to bring Mockingbird back from the dead. They were and are my favorite couple in all of comics and I had a very clear idea of what their new status quo would be, what it would be like to be reunited after all this time, and what Bobbi’s been through all this time people thought she was dead.

Mike: How did you get started reading comics?

Jim: I remember reading comics in the infirmary at summer camp when I was in second & third grade. I would always either get hurt or fake being sick because the infirmary cabin was WAY nicer than the cabins we had to sleep in as campers. AND they had comics! Then, a friend gave me Uncanny X-Men #165 and GI Joe #1. Those are the first I remember owning. They were a few months old, but I started collecting with those two comics in 1983 and never stopped.

Mike: What is it about these two that fascinates you? What was special about them to you back in the day and how do you recapture that and move them forward?

Jim: What I love about Clint & Bobbi is that they are such a REAL couple. I read the original Hawkeye mini when it came out and I LOVED the rapport they had and the chemistry, even if I didn’t know what that was exactly at the time. I knew Hawkeye was funny and I loved archery and Mockingbird was a touch spy chick turned hero. I fell in love with them as fast as they did with each other.
As I grew up and West Coast Avengers came out, the couple grew and had honest issues, the kind you didn’t see in comics at that time. They fought, they made up, they separated, and they had honest trust issues. But they kept being drawn to each other, and I kept being fascinated by them.
As I look back at their relationship and look at moving them forward (in whatever capacity that may be “together” as well as individually), I found that they brought out the best & worst in each other. They are both impetuous, passionate, strong-willed, witty, and flawed. They are each others’ mirror-selves. They bring out the best & the worst in each other. When they are in sync, they are incredible as a pair, but if one of them tips the balance, it leads to serious drama and friction. What writer WOULDN’T love that interaction?!

Mike: You’ve made comparisons with Clint and Bobbie to Mr. and Mrs. Smith as well as Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man movies. Do you have an appreciation for old Hollywood films and have any influenced your ideas?

Jim: I can honestly say that almost half of my DVD collection is pre-1960. I love the films from the Studio System age of Hollywood. I love the films of William Powell & Myrna Loy; Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and anything directed by Billy Wilder, George Cukor, and Hitchcock. Film Noir fascinates me, as well, but I am drawn to the romantic comedies and suspense films of the 30s-50s. I also LOVE the Emma Peel years of the British TV series The Avengers. I would say that those directly influence all of my writing, but this series in particular. In fact, all 4 issues (plus the prologue) are named after a classic film.
I also studied a number of great espionage and caper films from the classics to today in order to really prepare for the spy-nature of the story.

Mike: Who would you cast in a movie starring the couple? What kind of movie would it be?

Jim: I would have said Harrison Ford when I first started reading for Clint. He has that scoundrel and adventurous nature as well as a bewildered look when he realizes he just got himself over his head. Current actor though would probably be Josh Holloway, Sawyer from LOST. They have very similar attributes. And I think David Lopez’s Clint looks a little like Sawyer. For Bobbi, hands down Katee Sackhoff, Starbuck from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. I’ve had the pleasure to meet Katee and she is as beautiful as she is tough. She embodies Mockingbird, especially the Bobbi Morse of today.
I’d love to make a caper film, high on action and mystery, but with the banter and quips of The Thin Man or Tracy/Hepburn’s pairings. I think they spend as much time fighting each other as they do a common foe, and need each other to get them out of the fire the other got them in.
Mike: Bobbie and Clint have complicated histories, both alone and together so it seems fair to ask how accessible will “The Reunion” be to new readers or someone with limited exposure to the Avengers mythos? How does their story in DARK REIGN: NEW NATION relate to the larger one in your mini?
Jim: Since Bobbi was gone for 15 years of reader time, I had to really approach this as though she was a new character while also respecting and building on her history. It’s a balancing act, but my editor, Jeanine Schaefer, really helps with that. She is relatively new to the characters, so if I put something in a script or outline that relies on assuming someone knowing as much about the pair as I do, she flags it and I find myself going “Oh yeah! Ok, how do I introduce this in an organic manner and not just try and get away with adding an editor’s note, which is NOT an option, by the way. It’s challenging but ultimately serves the story best. This is its own story and over the course of the 4 issues recaps their history as well as catches you up on what’s happened to each of them individually (especially what happened to Bobbi while she was held captive by the Skrulls). The prologue set up some of the story and dropped a few clues into the tapestry but if you weren’t able to get that issue, you shouldn’t be too lost. The main things from that are that Bobbi & Clint are “keeping up appearances” when they are around the other New Avengers, but Bobbi is holding Clint at arms length romantically and they are arguing a lot behind closed doors. She’s shutting him out. She also brought SOMETHING back with her from the Skrull world, something that is vital to her mission here and now, and that she is going out on her own, no Avengers and no Clint. Or so she thinks!

Mike: In real life traumatic events like the death of a spouse and kidnapping and torture have significant repercussions. Thinking about all the villains and subsequent results sometimes I wonder if the fictional people populating either DC’s Gotham City or Marvel’s New York are living with mental disorders. And then there are heroes who’ve first hand experiences. Clint moved on with his life, died, returned, and picked up things again while Bobbi’s been captive during this same period. Reunions can be a mixed bag of emotions. How do you build on those circumstances and balance them out with action?

Jim: Bobbi is certainly living with circumstances that have changed her. Something happened to her while she was gone. She is dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the root causes you will see play out in the series. You catch glipmses as she has flashbacks that set in during times of stress. PTSD also affects your relationships to other, especially your loved ones. It’s affecting her relationship with Clint the most, for MANY reasons. All of this is what the story is built on. Without the circumstances, the series would not be nearly as interesting.
The great thing about this couple is that their psychological & emotional issues (be it morality & ethics, dealing with sexual assault, self-esteem problems, etc) have always been at the core of their greatest stories. They lend themselves to that emotional grab bag.

Mike: Every comics writer needs an artist. David Lopez who drew Catwoman is your partner in this. How did it feel to have Lopez bring your scripts to life?

Jim: David is an AMAZING collaborator. He brings the characters to life, and really pulls out the conflict they are feeling inside. His facial expressions are so perfect, and he gets the subtext, that they may be saying one thing, but felling & meaning something else. And his action sequences are fantastic. He draws combat scenes that are as amazing if it’s a crowd or just one-on-one. He adds details in that give me ideas to build on in the next issue every time. His redesign for Mockingbird was perfect, too. It’s a modernizing, yes, but it keeps elements of the classic design. It makes sense for her new mission and status quo.
Clint in a tux!
Clint in a tux!

Mike: Speaking of art, Jo Chen is your cover artist. I’ve seen the covers to the first and third issues. It’s rare that I dream about superheroes and kind of embarrassing to admit, but for whatever reason a few years ago I dreamt of Clint dressed in a tux for a night on the town. Whose idea was it to put Clint in a tux because I’d like to say “thank you.”

Jim: I cried a little when I head Jo was doing covers, not going to lie. For the tux cover, that was my idea because (brace yourself) Clint is in a tux for issue 3. And I think we both had very similar dreams years ago!

Mike: Thanks for that, Jim! Are there other characters you’d like to write? Pretend one of your proposals has just been given the green light: what would you do?

Jim: Runaways, Young Avengers, GI Joe, X-Men, so many come to mind. And who wouldn’t want to write Spider-Man?! But I have to be honest, my dream project would be to write these two characters (with some of their West Coast and East Coast Avenger pals) for the rest of my life!

Mike: The impression I’ve gotten from reading interviews and listening to podcasts is you’re very enthusiastic. What’s a day in the life of Jim McCann like and what is “hummingbird mode”?

Jim: That’s what I love- every day is different. I deal in our mainstream PR for publishing, so I talk to a lot of different press outlets, look over upcoming stories and help plan when and where to break them in the press. I write a lot of ad copy and scripts for our trailers as well. I am only in the office a few days a week, and on the days I am not in the office, I am writing or researching whatever project I’m working on at the time.

My philosophy for my job is to get people as excited about our comics as I am.

Hummingbird mode is what I kick into at cons. On Friday of New York Comic Con this past year, a friend in the industry texted me right after I hung up with him, after filling him in on the panel room situations and problems I saw that could arise. He said “Brrrzt! That’s the sound of Convention Jim turning on. Symptoms include running around, mania, and no-nonsense.” I tend to be very focused on making sure everything is perfect for the panels, the talent and the press and as soon as the panel starts I want to make sure that people know they are at a Marvel Panel, and have fun being there. Without the fans we are nothing, so I want to make sure that they have the best experience possible.

Mike: For the past several years Marvel and DC have been driven by events that are planned out well in advance at summits. Sales figures speak otherwise, but there seems to be a number of fans experiencing event fatigue and feeling the economic cash crunch. Care to comment from a marketing point of view? Will there be a break after Dark Reign’s conclusion before the next big event?

Jim: I can’t speak to our long-term plans as they involve a lot that haven’t been announced yet, but I think “event fatigue” is a easily thrown around buzz word that people talk about and apply to things that aren’t actually events. DARK REIGN isn’t an event, it’s a simple bannering that indicates what books deal strongest with the fall-out of Secret Invasion. Events sell well because people like shared universes and for the events in one comic are reflected in another. During Bill Jemas’ days, people were complaining that the Marvel U seemed too pocket or segmented. “Magneto destroys New York in New X-Men, so why doesn’t anybody talk about that?!” Now we have a shared universe and the people that liked pocket segmented books are the ones voicing their complaints.

Economics and the strain of the customers AND the retailers are very much on our minds, so we are making sure that every book is worth your money and not forcing people or tricking them into buying more books than needed in order to get a full story.

Mike: Your upcoming miniseries deals with the reunion between Ronin (the Avenger formerly known as Hawkeye) and his wife Mockingbird.

Mockingbird was long believed to be dead, but turned out to be a prisoner of the Skrulls and was freed during the recent Secret Invasion. For the benefit of newer readers who may not be familiar with her–who is Mockingbird? What was it about her that made you want to bring her back after all this time?

Jim: Mockingbird, aka Bobbi Morse, is a former spy with a PhD in Biology. She discovered corruption within SHIELD and so she went rogue to find the root of it. That led her to taking up a costumed identity. She met Hawkeye and the two hit it off (and each other) very quickly. The eloped 9 days after meeting. She always struggled with the restrictions that being an Avenger vs being a spy put on her usual means of dealing with threats. She had a different set of personal rules than what Clint did. This, combined with serious trust issues, led to the collapse of their marriage. The two separated and tried to live apart. They kept being brought together , and finally decided to try and make another go of their marriage. Just as they seemed they could recapture the happiness of their early days, she was killed. Or so it seemed. As we know now, at some point along the way, she was abducted and replaced with a Skrull. Where and when will be revealed, but it’s at a very crucial point in their history, and impacts where both of them are coming from in their dealings with the other.

I think she’s a fascinating character, a very strong female hero. A woman with no super powers, but is an expert marksman who relies on her wit and cunning as much as her aim. She brings something to the Marvel U that no one else does on the canvas right now. She also brings out a side of Clint that has long been missing in the character and makes them both far more fascinating for it.

Mike: Clint Barton has been through a lot of changes since Bobbi’s supposed death. He has also been killed and brought back from the dead. He’s given up the Hawkeye identity and become Ronin. And he’s started moving on to new romances–he had a serious relationship with semi-reformed supervillain Moonstone for a while, and had gotten intimate with fellow Avenger Echo just days before Mockingbird’s return. Where is Clint at mentally and emotionally now that his “dead” wife has now returned?

Jim: That is a great question and is something that is glimpsed at in issue 1 in his talk with Bucky. But issue 2 REALLY gets into Clint and Bobbi’s heads, where they both are emotionally. So you’ll have to read to find out!

Mike: What kind of “reunion” should readers expect here? The marriage between Clint and Bobbi was a complicated one–when times were good they could barely keep their hands off each other, but when times were bad they went through a very bitter separation. Given how much time has passed, and all the changes while Bobbi was gone, is it even possible for them to pick things up where they left off?

Jim: You said it yourself- this will be a VERY complicated reunion. It’s impossible for them to pick up where they left off because Clint doesn’t know anymore where they left off since he doesn’t know when she was replaced. And what Bobbi went through while captured, in addition to where she was when she was taken, makes it impossible for her to pick up as well. They don’t need to figure out if they’re on the same page, they have to see if they’re even in the same book, so to speak!

Mike: Given how long she’s been gone, Mockingbird must have been one of the earliest victims of the Skrull infiltration. Why did they choose her to kidnap and replace?

Jim: That, my friend, is something you will see in issue 3. It’s going to be controversial, I know, but is a logical reason and what happened after will have people talking. A LOT.

Mike: Presumably Ronin and Mockingbird will be dealing with more than just their own emotional drama. What sort of external threats will the heroes be dealing with in this storyline?

Jim: Bobbi has info from the Skrull homeworld she took from their observations of us as they were planning their Infiltration. That, combined with what she went through while captured, has set up her new status quo. She wasn’t the only person abducted and left forever changed by the Skrulls. She has seen the worst in humanity thru the eyes of the Skrulls. And now she is determined to use their intel to deal with the threats we have here on Earth.

February 23, 2013
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