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DF Interview: Frank Barbiere talks New Avengers Annual #1
For more years than most of the world knows, Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme has been part of a unique group of heroes, the Illuminati, manipulating the events of his planet behind the scenes.
Recently, this has led to some painful consequences and painful decisions for Stephen Strange.
This month, writer Frank J. Barbiere (Five Ghosts, The White Suits) and artist Marco Rudy (Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, Swamp Thing) spin a Strange-centric tale in New Avengers Annual #1 of mystic menace, derring-do and a scope on the new status quo of Doctor Strange.
To discuss the issue, Dynamic Forces met with scribe supreme Barbiere in his sanctum sanctorum and asked the tough questions:
Dynamic Forces: Frank, congratulations on your debut at the House of Ideas. How does it feel to be writing your first book for Mighty Marvel?
Frank Barbiere: It’s both exciting and a little surreal. I’m a huge fan of Marvel, and particularly have loved this current run of New Avengers, so being able to contribute to it is really an honor. Strange is a character that I never would have imagined writing, but once I got to it things clicked into place and I’m really happy with the voice I found in the character.
DF: So how did you come to be on New Avengers Annual #1?
Frank Barbiere: I’ve been putting out a lot of work over the last year and it caught the eye of Marvel editorial. I was asked to pitch a story for the annual and was lucky enough to get the gig. And here we are!
DF: Recently in the pages of New Avengers, Dr. Strange has grown frustrated and willingly exchanged his soul for enhanced power. Will we be examining this issue in this Strange-centric annual and what can you tell us about that?
Frank Barbiere: I love the drama going on with Strange right now, so I jumped at the chance to examine this exact scenario in my story. We are going to see Strange coming fresh off having sold his soul and also get some character moments from the past that help contextualize his decision. Strange is a character that is still brimming with hubris, and we found a scenario where he is going to be forced to make an “impossible decision.” How he deals with it will ultimately define who he is. Plus we get to see some of his crazy new powers in action.
DF: Will we be seeing any ramifications on the Illuminati from the events in this annual going forward?
Frank Barbiere: Though there is a ton of really cool connective tissue, this story focuses specifically on Strange and his character. We will definitely get a really good portrait of who he is and his new view on facing the impossible.
DF: Magic has always been a tenuous thing in Marvel, with each writer -- or generation of writers and editors -- constantly redefining it. Give us your take on magic, and in particular the Doc's magic, in the Marvel U. How has that changed since New Avengers #14?
Frank Barbiere: We are going to see some real deal, genuine magic in this story. A good portion of it takes place in the astral plane which has been beautifully reimagined by Marco Rudy. It’s a visual feast, to put it lightly. We also get to see a sect of monks who has embraced technology rather than just the mystic arts, and they serve as a fun intersection between the two. I think there is still a place for the unexplained and “magical” in the Marvel U. It’s a wonderful counterpoint to all the sci-fi stuff we see, and I think we found a really fun intersection between the two in this story.
DF: Besides an examination of the "new" Dr. Strange, what else can we expect in this story?
Frank Barbiere: As I mentioned, we see a very cool sect of monks who have embraced technology and really taken some very unique leaps forward. The main conflict has a lot of fun little connections to what we’ve seen in New Avengers, but really is a great self-contained story about Strange. We’ll be seeing Stephen cut loose in ways we haven’t in a long while and tons of amazing visuals. We’ll also get a glimpse into an important moment from Strange’s past. It’s a pretty loaded Annual, but every page is really a work of art -- it clocks in at 30 pages total!
DF: Thirty pages? Wow! So, what can you tell us about the big-bad?
Frank Barbiere: Keeping my lips sealed on that for now. It’s not any kind of famous villain, but the conflict here really puts Strange to the test and speaks to who he has become in the current climate of the Marvel U. I really wanted to craft a scenario that worked with this and felt meaningful, and I think we really accomplished it.
DF: Could this in any way be considered a "pilot" for a new Doc Strange mag? Would you be interested in writing such a book?
Frank Barbiere: I would jump at the chance to write more Strange. This is a self-contained annual and no future plans have been discussed with me at present, but who knows! Stranger things have happened. (laughs) I’m sorry for that pun.
DF: I liked it. <ahem> Er uh … Oh yeah, did the art of Marco Rudy live up to the way you had pictured your story in your head? Thoughts on Rudy's art?
Frank Barbiere: Marco has completely blown me away. I think people will be talking about his art on this story for a long time to come—he has truly taken the story to a whole new place. He watercolored the whole thing traditionally and just came up with such brilliant layouts …it’s really a work of art and deserves to be recognized. He’s an immense talent and I can’t emphasize how honored I am to have been given the opportunity to collaborate with him on this story.
DF: What other projects are going on now and in the future for Frank Barbiere?
Frank Barbiere: We’re plugging ahead with Five Ghosts, my creator owned series at Image that “put me on the map” so to speak and are preparing for our second year of the book. The second collection comes out in July and we’ll have issue 13 on the stands in October. I’m also gearing up to launch a book with BOOM! Studios called Black Market in July that I’m very excited about. I’ve also been working hard on Solar: Man of the Atom with Dynamite Entertainment, and that’s been an absolute blast. Keep an eye out for that stuff and more projects as they’re announced—I’m working hard to put out exciting stuff and hope readers will give my books a shot!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Frank Barbiere for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. New Avengers Annual #1 hits stores June 25th!
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