It’s been twenty-five years since Marvel first launched Heroes Reborn. Following the events – and numerous deaths – from the Onslaught saga, the original year-long crossover saw the literal rebirth of several key heroes within a “pocket universe” known as Counter-Earth. In addition to acting as an epilogue for the saga, it also updated the origin stories for certain characters to make them more relatable for (then) modern readers.
Despite borrowing the name of the popular run though, Jason Aaron’s latest series isn’t exactly related to. It is, however, equally ambitious.
Set in an alternate timeline where all The Avengers never existed and no hero or villain exists in their ordinary form, this new series follows Blade after he wakes up and realizes he’s the only person who remembers how things are supposed to be in this strange world. With no memory of how he got to this new Earth and no allies, he embarks on a journey to not only find the truth and make things right, but to try and finally assemble The Avengers before it’s too late.
With the first issue of Heroes Reborn dropping this week, The DisInsider’s Dempsey Pillot was fortunate enough to sit down with the iconic comic book writer behind the series and pick his brain about where the idea came from, what to expect over the next few weeks, and more! You can read the full interview down below:
DEMPSEY PILLOT: Now my first question for you…really simple one. Are you excited?
JASON AARON: Oh, boy. Yeah, of course. I mean, you know, I think I’m excited every week I get to do what I do for a living. You know? I mean, it’s what I wanted to do literally since I was a little kid. I learned to read from reading comic books. I’ve never stopped reading comics. I’ve got the long boxes is my basement to prove it. That’s what I wanted to do since the first time I ever said what I wanted to grow up to do for a living. It was to write comics. So it’s kind of always been my dream job. I’m wearing Thor pajama pants right now. Every day I get to go and sit here and make up stories for a living, I am excited.
DP: That’s awesome. I envy you. Now, this isn’t the first Heroes Reborn event for Marvel Comics though, right?
JA: Yeah, you know, Marvel’s all for not letting a good title go to waste. So they brought the title back that was an event years ago, [where they gave some creators] these characters, let them shuffle those characters off to an alternate universe and do kind of an alternate world story. The only similarities this has to the previous Heroes Reborn is that this is a look at an alternate version of the Marvel Universe.
DP: And it was your decision to bring it back, or [did Marvel say], “Okay, we want to do this and we want to bring you onboard as the writer”?
JA: This was all a thing that grew out of what I was doing in Avengers. You know, I’ve been on Avengers for a few years now, I’ve been using the Squadron Supreme characters as a part of that and introduced this kind of new version where they’re the Squadron Supreme of America. So that’s been a part of what I’ve been doing for a while, and I knew it was kind of building towards doing this story. You know, I just knew I wanted to do it as these eight issues where I would write all of them and work with the different artists. [It was] Marvel’s idea, how to brand it and how it would come out and the idea of doing tie-ins and all that sort of stuff, but it’s very much a story that I wanted to tell that grew out of what I’ve been doing with Avengers for years now.
DP: Now, without spoiling anything, do you think you can give fans, or even people who aren’t casual readers of books or comic books an idea of what the series is about in your own words?
JA: Yeah, I mean, I don’t really think you need to have a lot coming into this. If you’ve been reading my Avengers, that’s great. If you haven’t, I think you can pick up Heroes Reborn #1 and jump right in because, basically in that first issue, Blade is kind of our entry point character. He’s the one who realizes something’s not right, so it’s very much about waking up and, and finding that the world’s been changed and everything’s different. The present’s different. The past is different. You know, the Marvel Universe has been rewritten somehow. And the characters we know and love are not at the heart of it anymore. Instead, it’s the Squadron Supreme, who are now and have always been Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. So the story is very much about plugging you into the middle of that world, just to sort of see how things changed. You’d get glimpses of that. And then each issue, as we go forward, will focus on a different one of those Squadron Supreme characters and give you an idea of, again, not just what they’re up to in the present day, but how some of the classic stories we know from Marvel’s past have played out very differently in this world. You know, when, Galactus first came to earth, there was no Fantastic Four there to face him. So how did that go? You know, when the Marvel Civil World War happened, it wasn’t between Iron Man and Captain America. So we, you get an idea of, again, not just what this landscape is like in the present day, but how the entirety of Marvel history has been rewritten. But you don’t need to know anything coming in. The Squadron Supreme are characters who’ve been around for many years in Marvel history. They pop up again and again. They’ve been good guys. They have been bad guys. And these are basically new versions of the characters that also harken back to some of the classic versions. But again, you don’t need to know any of that. Everything you need is in the pages of Heroes Reborn, and we tell you kind of who each one of these characters are and go from there.
DP: Yeah, and I really enjoyed it and I am glad you mentioned that Blade is this entry point character. I was-well, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a main character. But as far as I can remember, because I’m into comics here and there. I’ve read all the big stuff like Secret Invasion, House of M – which, by the way, this totally gives me some House of M vibes for sure. More on that one that later. But why did you choose Blade as the main character? I can’t think of any major crossover events off the top of my head where he is the main character, so why him in particular?
JA: Well, he’s been a part of The Avengers in my run for a bit now. So we’ve seen him going on adventures in space. You know. Fighting all kinds of different villains outside his usual M.O. So I like that for him. I mean, not to change him to be something different than what he is like, but I mean, I also liked putting him in different situations than he’s used to. And something like this: making him the only guy who seems to remember The Avengers ever existed, which puts him in the position, you would think he’s the one who’s now got to try to recreate The Avengers, rebuild The Avengers. Again, each issue of this, like I said, will focus on one of the Squadron Supreme members. They’ll also have backup stories, all of them drawn by Ed McGuinness that will follow Blade on his mission to sort of find anybody else who maybe remembers the world has been changed, and try to put together some new version of The Avengers to fight the fight and change it back. So that’ll be in the backup series.
DP: Now, as I just mentioned, this setup gave me major House of M vibes. So I have to ask was that one of your influences going into this? If not what other storylines or ideas played a role in shaping the story?
JA: Yeah, I mean, House of M is certainly a great example of one of those kind of alternate universe stories that wasn’t an alternate Earth so much. It was a remade version of the Earth we know, right? So this is definitely in this same sort of vein, but I’ve always loved those kinds of alternate universe, alternate world kind of stories. And this is all that again, doing it on kind of the biggest scale; it’s not just what if this one character’s life was different? Because what if the entire universe was different the entire Marvel timeline was different? How would it look if you took out some of the characters who have always been Marvel’s most prominent characters and replaced them with these other characters – a Squadron Supreme. So just sort of imagining how that changes this or that, that’s been the fun of this. And I think you can see each issue of this series is packed with those kind of moments and Easter eggs [even as] we’re still telling a story over the course of it. In my mind it’s like imagining a line of comics. What would the line of Marvel Comics look like for this world? Right? So you’re not publishing Spider-Man, you’re not publishing The Avengers or Fantastic Four or Thor. Instead, you’re publishing Hyperion, Nighthawk, Blur, Power Princess, Dr. Spectrum, Squadron Supreme. So I went into this basically like, thinking, well, this is issue #747 of Hyperion. What would that issue look like? So I think it’ll be more clear as we move forward and things start to unfold [exactly what kind of event this is]. But that, to me, it’s been the most fun diving into each one of those characters – into their history and friends and enemies – and just painting a very different sort of version of the Marvel Universe. One that I think is, you know, pretty unlike any version we’ve ever seen before.
DP: Now, I assume that when you’re a writer of your stature the possibilities are endless. So my next question is that, for this, were there any ideas that were turned down or anything that you kind of couldn’t figure out a way to fit into this? Anything that fans or readers won’t see that almost made the cut or just didn’t ultimately make the cut?
JA: You know, I don’t think so. I mean, I think I put everything in there I wanted to. I mean, there’s a lot wedged in there, and not just in those main stories, but in the backups too. There’s little references or teases of bigger stories, kind of on every page of this. And then again, [there are] some of those little moments, some of those brief character reveals or story tidbits that get elaborated on with the different tie-ins that Marvel’s doing. So yeah, I think I packed as much in each issue of this as I possibly could, especially given they’re all a little bit oversized with the backup stories.
DP: That makes me so excited to finish this. And, as I said before, you know, I read the first issue. I’m very excited for what’s to come. But I want to know, what’s one thing that you hope, or you want fans and readers to take away, by the end of this series? [Is there] maybe a message or moral or, you know, just an underlying theme that you think this storyline has?
JA: To me, writing it, [this was just very much about] embracing the love of comics, you know? This is eight issues over the course of two months. So I had to work way ahead on this. So a lot of what I wrote last year [was] in the midst of when the comic industry kind of shut down. This is the first book I was working on. So in the midst of the last year that I think a lot of us would like to forget, or that we’re all looking to move past in some way and get back to some semblance of life as we know it, that was all wrapped up in this. Like this job that I’ve loved that I’ve wanted since I was a kid that I love every day. That all kind of disappeared. So coming back to it was very much celebrating what I love about this job, what I love about comics, as a reader, as a writer, someone who feels very blessed to get to play in these sandboxes with these characters in these toys. That’s all wrapped up in this and I think that hopefully you can feel that on every page of this story. From me and from the amazing group of artists who I’m getting to work with across these eight books. But it’s very much a celebration – a joyful celebration of the power, the beauty, and the fun of comics.
DP: And you can, by the way. You can feel that a lot of love and time went into this.
JA: You’ve seen issue one, right? So it just gets crazier and wilder and, I think, more fun as we go. And you get to see this amazing group of artists who are drawing all these. I’m very excited and can’t say that enough.
DP: Now I would be kicking myself if I didn’t get a chance to ask you this, but by now, I’m sure you’ve heard that the next Thor film will be an adaptation of your storyline about Jane Foster and how she ultimately wields the hammer. How does that feel?
JA: It’s super great. It’s really exciting, of course. You know, that Jane Foster-Thor story is one of the things I’m most proud of from, obviously, not just from my time at Marvel, but really my whole career. I’m really proud of the story that I was able to tell, and I’ve been really blown away by the response that it’s gotten from people over the years. So yeah, I’m very excited for that story to be put in front of a wider audience. And I am a huge fan of Taika Waititi. Not just because of his previous Thor movie, but [because] I love Jojo Rabbit. That was one of my favorite movies of the last few years, so I’m really excited to see what he does with it. And you know, the fact that he’s bringing in Gorr, the God Butcher, the villain from my Thor: God of Thunder run makes me even more excited. So the idea that I, you know, dreamed up this character in my head, that ‘s now going to be played by by Christian Bale. Like, that’s all really cool. So I’m excited to see, again, whatever, all those those really talented people come up with, [it’s similar to] knowing that the story that I told with Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson is there for anybody to go pick up and see how we handled it.
DP: So just to clarify, you haven’t been contacted as a consultant or anything, so you don’t know what to expect from the film, right?
JA: I mean, I’m not involved with the movie, but I know some of what to expect. I guess I had some conversations. And again, every everything I know just made me more excited to see what they do.
DP: That’s incredible. The fact that, you know, they reached out to the source. That gets me even more excited for the film. Now, one other question – a little off topic. Monday, Marvel unveiled this giant sizzle reel for the MCU. Personally, are there any other films that you’re looking forward to seeing throughout the rest of Phase 4 besides, obviously, Thor: Love and Thunder?
JA: I mean, you know, I don’t just say this because Marvel pays a lot of my bills. But you know, I’m a big fan. So I go see all the movies usually with my son. We watch all the Disney+ shows. I’m in for everything. So I’m excited for…Black Widow’s the next one, right? And then you get Shang-Chi, which looks really cool. And I really liked a lot of what they’ve done with the the Spider-Man movies, so I’m excited for that one. All that stuff… James Gunn, Guardians 3, and seeing how things are gonna go forward with Black Panther. You know, the previous movie was so incredibly good. There’s a lot to be excited about there. Plus all the Disney+ shows. I don’t know. I’ll be there for all of it. And I was really excited to see the little Fantastic 4 tease because I’m a big Fantastic Four nerd. There’s so many characters, so many great stories for studios to translate and twist and mix together the way they do and bring to the big and small screen that I feel like you know, they’ll be able to keep us entertained for for many, many years to come. And then our job in the comic department is to keep doing the stories that hopefully they can make movies of 10-15 years down the line.
DP: Absolutely! I mean, I think Heroes Reborn would make a cool movie at some point. Now my final question for you is talking about the future. What’s next for you? Have you thought about like beyond the next eight weeks? Are there any other characters you haven’t explored yet that you hope to maybe take a crack at in the future?
JA: Well, you know, I’ll still be on Avengers after this. We’ve sort of teased the solicited the next arc after Heroes Reborn which is World War She-Hulk, and then that’s sort of moving towards Avengers #50/#750 (in terms of the legacy numbering) which will be a really epic -colossally epic issues – the biggest comic I’ve ever written just in terms of total page count. It’s huge. So it’ll be very much about bringing together a lot of the threads I’ve been playing with over these 40+ issues of Avengers, and also setting up some some really big stories to come. The Avengers “Free Comic Book Day” issue will be a part of that. So yeah, Avengers #50 will set up most of what I’m doing next year. And there’s a couple other things I’m working on that we can’t talk about just yet. But basically all through the end of this year. I’ve got a lot that’s going on the end of this year that leads into next year. So plenty to keep me busy and a whole lot more. You know, I’m just as excited about Heroes Reborn. Again, it’s always nice when you know, you get to the point where you’re able to tell people about it. And then then where the books are actually on the shelves and people can go pick them up. That’s always fun.
Special thanks to Jason Aaron for taking the time out his busy schedule to speak with us!
Heroes Reborn is available wherever comic books are sold now! If the interview wasn’t enough to get you excited about checking it out, you can check out the trailer for the series below!