Bringing Onslaught Back

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A decade after the initial Heroes Reborn stories took the Marvel Universe and comics in general by storm (for many, many reasons), Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld return to the character that started it off.  Marvel held a conference call and BF was in attendance.

The conference call was hosted by Marvel’s Jim McCann and editor John Baker.  Before the late-arriving creators, the hosts made sure to let everyone know about the Onslaught trailer that is up on Marvel’s website and also about a fun little fan video that was posted on YouTube.  The fan video is a parody of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back”, obviously titled “Onslaught Back.”  It quickly became a favorite of Rob Liefeld and something of a cult favorite as it makes its way around all the comic book websites.

During this discussion, Jeph Loeb took time out of his schedule to call from the set of the television show Heroes and after moving to a quieter portion of the set, the fun began.  Jim McCann started off by joking with Jeph that not only was Onslaught the first book he’s written since returning to Marvel, but it is basically the only thing he has done for almost a year.  Loeb returned that by agreeing that without Onslaught he would have nothing and you would be able to find him on the Santa Monica Blvd with a sign that said, “Will work for food… and Disney.”  He then added that though he hadn’t been seen around for a while in comics, 2007 would be a very busy year for him with a lot of projects in the works.

Jim McCann then took the opportunity to ask some questions of his own about the television show Loeb is working on, as Jim is a very big fan of NBC’s Heroes (of which Jeph is an executive producer).  Loeb said that he was very happy the show is doing well and remarked on how difficult it had been for him since work on the show had begun almost a year ago and finally reaction had started coming back and was pretty positive.  He also expressed how happy he was that the comic book community had been quick to embrace the show.  He pointed out that other comic book luminaries were also involved with the show in one way or another: Michael Turner and Aspen studios producing the online graphic novel portions that go online every Monday and of course, Tim Sale, who provides the artwork used in the show (Loeb joked, “Every episode has a little bit of Little Timmy in it.”).  He then compared the show to working with Marvel as a writer because the focus in both places is strictly on the characters and that really makes the show relatable.

The discussion then turned to the origins of this particular series at a recent Marvel Creative Retreat.  David Gabriel had been talking about how certain events were reaching their anniversaries and everyone seemed to look at Jeph when Heroes Reborn was brought up.  Someone mentioned a certain artist who would jump at the chance to work on the book to which Loeb said, “Well, if Robert(o) is in, then I’m in.”  For Loeb it was the chance to revisit a fun time and a fun partnership.  From there he began discussing some of the more pertinent story elements, explaining that this would not be a straight Heroes Reborn story, but a complete Onslaught tale. 

The story will start in the regular 616 Marvel Universe, make it’s way into the Heroes Reborn universe, and then fit nicely back into the 616 Universe.  Loeb joked that he felt the book was within continuity, but others might argue that he doesn’t really know what that means.  He then stated his view of continuity, “All I know is that Jimmy Olsen did not grow up to be Robin the Boy Wonder and the rest is cream cheese.” He then corrected it to fit with his new company and said “All I know is that Flash Thompson did not become Spider-Man…”

Click to enlargeClick to enlargeThe story itself, as explained by Jeph Loeb, was tied into the end of House of M.  “Basically, when Wanda said those 3 words, a lot of changes happened.  And one of those was that the blocks that had been put up to keep Onslaught away had now been removed.”  And of course, Onslaught’s first course of action was to find the character that was responsible for his demise, Franklin Richards.  Loeb explained that the book really hit home to both creators as Liefeld is a father and Loeb had very recently lost his 17 year old son Sam to cancer. 

Similar to some of Loeb’s other work, portions of the proceeds from this book will go directly to the Sam Loeb fund.  He then took some time to speak about the fund and how it was an award that went to a graduating member of Sam’s high school who best exemplifies the qualities that Sam was known and loved for.

At this point Rob Liefeld entered the conference call.  Rob again extolled the virtues of the fan parody video and said that unlike the rest of the creators he knew the guy who made it.  He also made a point to let everyone know that his Onslaught action figure was with him while he took the call.

Rob then went into his own explanation about why he wanted to take part in the anniversary, which had a lot to do with the unfinished ideas he and Jeph had for the series when they began on Heroes Reborn.  They started off by reminding everyone how different a time it was back then not just for comics but for Marvel specifically.  He explained how at that time, Marvel Studios was going through their own Civil War and that when he and Jim Lee were pegged to redo the four books that were part of Heroes Reborn (Captain America and Avengers for Liefeld, Iron Man and Fantastic Four went to Lee), it was the first time that Marvel had outsourced any of their books.  Jeph then reminded everyone that before this happened, these books were all considered second-string books that very few cared about and then when Heroes Reborn started all these books became Top 10 hits overnight. 

This was hard for Marvel to handle and Rob and Jeph (who was scripting the books) bowed out after 6 issues and let Jim Lee and Wildstorm handle the rest.  And while they both commended the creators that did take over the books, to each of them it was a story that they never got to finish.  This book gives them the chance to at least bring some closure to that.

At this point the creators took some questions from the reporters in attendance.  The first question dealt with how the story would be made both accessible to new fans that were unfamiliar with Heroes Reborn and old fans.  Both creators expressed how they were being very careful to keep the story accessible to new fans, but also said that this book will have enough in it to classify as a “love letter to the old fans.”  Loeb again stated that first and foremost this was an adventure book.

Later on, Liefeld explained that for anyone who was unfamiliar with the old story, all old elements were explained very early on in the series and that the first 4 pages of the first issue will encapsulate everything that had come before.  Loeb went on to say that this book will also clean up the origin of Onslaught.  Liefeld added to that by saying that he was also doing that visually with the character and that we would see an evolution of the character through the variant forms he had taken.

When asked about the editorial support for the story and how much freedom they were given to tell the tale they wanted, Loeb went out of his way to praise editor Jon Baker and said that one of the reasons he came back to Marvel was because of the support of Marvel’s editors in allowing him to tell stories that he wanted.  They were able to fit the story (continuity wise) into the Marvel Universe between the events of House of M and Civil War.

Both creators were then asked if they could come up with a tagline for the book to hook readers.  Loeb said that he thought the trailer up on the Marvel website did it perfectly.  Liefeld agreed and said that all people will need to know is that this is a “big ticket bad guy… a high rollicking adventure… and at its heart, a story about a father saving his son.”

Following this comment, Jeph Loeb gracefully bowed out of the conference call, as he needed to get back to the set of Heroes.  Rob Liefeld stayed on to answer more questions.

Rob was then asked the question about how he felt that many new creators in comics were coming from other outlets.  While he did make clear that he thought a great number of creators were still coming up directly through comics, he also stated that having outside creators was important in gaining audience.  In his own words “If I were marketing Onslaught Reborn, I would be sure to put ‘From the co-creator of NBC’s Heroes’ on it somewhere.”

Since this story was spanning through different universes, Rob explained that he had gone out and picked up a lot of the old issues of Heroes Reborn to re-associate himself with the unique character designs of that time and to create a semblance of a visual bible to make the distinction between the Heroes Reborn and 616 versions of the characters.  He also expressed how much fun it was to draw these old designs again.

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Following these Liefeld comments, someone asked how they were planning on getting in fans that had bad memories of the original stories and what could be used to get them into this one.  Rob explained that this book reminded him of what made him love comics in the first place – straight superhero fun.  This book is basically the greatest heroes of the Marvel Universe against Onslaught.  To Liefeld, team ups were always a lot of fun.  He also said that this book will be a nice counter to people who have been overwhelmed by Civil War, because in this one Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are all still friends.

The last two questions dealt with how Rob has changed since the original.  When asked how this book might look and feel different, he joked that “Everyone has lost a lot of weight.”  He told of how when the original books were coming out he was speaking to Jim Lee on a daily basis and that Jim told him they started something he termed “Capcom Artwork” and there was a lot of excess on the page and character designs.  Liefeld again promised “less rage on the page” and that there would be no veins in any tongues.

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Finally, someone brought up the 400lb gorilla that enters the room with Rob Liefeld and asked how they could promise the book would be on time.  Rob said that while he accepts any criticism for his past work and lateness, he also pointed out that he had recently done his X-Force miniseries and that every book of that shipped on time.  He explained that he has had a good head start and already finished 2 of the issues, promising that barring any outstanding issues like a broken arm, Onslaught Reborn would ship on time.

Onslaught Reborn will be released on November 29.  There is a 50/50 cover split with Michael Turner and Rob Liefeld.

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