Marvel Comics is getting back in the swing of weekly comics starting May 27 after a long pause on shipping new issues due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And one of the titles leading the return to the direct market is Avengers #33, the launch of a new arc of Jason Aaron’s run, this time alongside artist Javier Garrón, which will pit the Avengers against their longtime ally Moon Knight.
Newsarama previously caught up with Aaron to set the stage for the tale, and with it now on the horizon, we’ve spoken to Garrón about what it’s like stepping up to Marvel’s mightiest title, drawing an expansive cast of both Avengers and an ancient Egyptian army, and working with Aaron, one of Garrón’s personal favorite writers.
Along the way, we’ll also show off some brand new interior pages from Avengers #33 and discuss the level of planning and detail that go into drawing an A-list comic like Avengers and the techniques and thought processes involved, and get a bigger picture on what’s ahead as Avengers rolls on.
Newsarama: Javier, you’ve been drawing comics at Marvel for a while – and now you’re stepping up to the core Avengers title. How does it feel drawing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?
Javier Garrón: To be honest, it feels like I’m myself an Avenger all of a sudden! You know, I was already a huge fan as a reader of Jason Aaron’s – one of my favorite writers and Ed McGuinness, one of my favorite artists – run on the title, so it was quite surreal to be invited to join the team. Such a huge honor! Not only are the characters the greatest heroes, but the creative team is an Avengers group of real people. True that it’s work at the end of the day, but it feels like a reward too.
As an artist, every time you start a new project is like playing with new toys. And now I’m playing with all of them! There’s a level of pressure too. As I said, I was already a reader, so I know the feeling of moving visually from a McGuinness arc to a David Marquez one, back to McGuinness and then a Caselli one. And now readers are going to find me in that sequence. So I’m aware the bar is high and I’m trying to be up to the task by flexing every art muscle I have. I want this to be monumental and amazing in its scale and detail.
Nrama: Avengers #33 kicks off a story featuring Moon Knight conquering the world with an ancient Egyptian army. What kind of stuff have you drawn for this story?
Garrón: All sorts of amazing stuff! I don’t want to give away anything so readers can fully enjoy with awe what we’ve been building up in this arc. But I can definitely say there are some epic set pieces, lots of world building, and massive armies. Fans will travel the Marvel world far and wide, Avengers will fall and Avengers will rise … and the Moon Knight lore will never be the same.
Nrama: On that note, how does Moon Knight’s role as an antagonist for the Avengers inform the way you draw him here?
Garrón: On one hand, the design was firmly set in the script. We pay homage to the visual history of the character, so there’s a lot of fun there. On the other hand, Moon Knight is a man with a plan. It only happens the Avengers are in his way!
But that plan is a solemn one, almost a holy one. And thus his physical language translates the importance of that plan. He’s not joking or messing around. He’s determined and precise in every move he makes, he doesn’t waste energy or words. Wearing a mask is always a challenge to convey emotions with the character’s face, but usually you can go around that a bit and achieve that communication.
There will be moments in this arc where facial expressions won’t be able to help in that sense at all -you’ll see why- so his body and hand posture in direct comparison with the rest of the characters speaks volumes. Tight moves, straight, dead serious about it. Almost regal.
Nrama: Is there a particular Avenger you’ve connected with most for this story?
Garrón: Now when I look back at the beginning of the run, I really feel a lot of connection with Robbie Reyes’ journey in the team. We both joined the Avengers and don’t want to disappoint!
During this arc, we jump a lot between Avengers because our main protagonist is actually our great antagonist, Moon Knight. And that’s one of the most interesting things to explore in a story. Why is he doing this? What’s his point of view of the situation? How is he reacting to every win and every loss in the development of his plan?
I’ve also felt quite a lot of empathy for Tony Stark in the story. He doesn’t have much more time on-panel than the rest of his teammates, but he makes the most it. I can really relate with all the fears constantly troubling him, all the self-doubt and second guessing in his decision-making process.
Nrama: What storytelling techniques are you keeping in mind to balance not just the large team cast, but a whole army of enemies? What challenges does a book like Avengers bring up?
Nrama: Making comics is like juggling. You have to keep balance and rhythm between all the parts in motion. In a book like Avengers, I was determined to really keep the epic visuals the book had so far. That means leaning in wide angles and large, detailed establishing shots so the reader can understand at every moment where we are, the size and scope of the action. But you can’t put all your money on those. The book would be cold and distant.
And even though those shots are magnificent, we’re here for our heroes. It’s a character journey that we love. So I’m trying to keep them balanced with super cool close shots of the Avengers. Tight, clear action but super kinetic. I’m working a lot on page composition, panel size and shape, to keep the reading pace in control. Some segments are more calm and some are prepared to be as dazzling and fast as the story is.
I’m also leveling up the detail, every mummy is different, and every background has its own personality. So in order to keep it visually clear, I’m also putting a lot of work in line hierarchy (some lines have more width, thus more weight, than others) and shading/effects. I’m upping my game on every level!
Nrama: You’re working with Jason Aaron on this Avengers arc. You said he’s one of your favorite writers – what’s it like working with him?
Garrón: It’s a dream come true! I can tell you I’m a massive fan of his work as a fan, and now that I’ve worked with him, I can say I’m a massive fan of his scripts as an artist too. I’m fanboying super hard, like all the time (I try to look super serious and professional and whatnot, but c’mon! Jason Aaron! You can’t get better than that!).
He gives a lot of tools in his text to build the visual narrative and help, but still leaves a lot of room for input and collaboration. What I deeply love about his work is the detailed, long-term construction of his epic stories. They’re always epic but on a human scale. Lots of characters, richly detailed, evolving and clashing through time, weaving an incredible human tapestry. Take Scalped, Southern Bastards, or Thor, for example. Each issue is a just a small piece of a much larger puzzle you keep putting together.
He has a plan and doesn’t rush it. He puts one brick on top of another, and then another, and then another. And in the end you have a vast picture and gone through an incredible journey of human experience. That’s exactly the kind of story I love.
And also he’s extraordinarily nice, kind and friendly. I mean, he’s a super mega star, but in a work environment he’s just Jason, and that’s gold.
Nrama: What’s your favorite thing you’ve drawn for Avengers so far?
Garrón: Moon Knight is extremely interesting to draw here. Because of some things happening in the story, I can take a couple of spectacular, completely new, never seen before approaches to the character. I can’t go into deeper detail because we would delve into spoiler territory, but it’s jaw dropping stuff, y’all.
Also Starbrand! Since she is a baby, she doesn’t have dialogue lines and only does basic actions. That gives a lot of room for non-scripted visual gags that don’t necessarily have any weight in the story but enrich the scene so much. Also Jason’s run here mixes epic super hero action with some fine humor, so I knew it would fit tonally. As the story goes, I can really develop the character a bit with her body language and expressions. Super duper fun to explore.
Nrama: When this Avengers arc is complete, where will we see your art next
Garrón: I’d love to stay in the Avengers as much as possible! As much as they let me! If schedule works out, people like my work here (read Avengers! You’ll love the ride!) and I’m not required elsewhere for whatever reason, I can’t think of anything else right now (an Avenger must always answer the call!) … the sky is the limit! Bring on those global threats!
Nrama: Bottom line, what’s in store for fans as they dig into this supernatural Avengers story?
Garrón: A multi-layered super hero epic, crossing all space and time boundaries, with tons of elements of Marvel mythology clashing and mixing in a massive quest to save Earth from… Moon Knight?? Or is it with Moon Knight? Is his the only way to save us all, and are the Avengers an obstacle? Is baby Starbrand the cutest and most powerful Avenger ever? Will classic Egyptian priest robes and ancient bird-god skulls become trend in fashion, and should you be buying yours today before it’s too late?
But I digress… ‘The Age of Khonshu’ has arrived, and the shadow its moon casts upon us is large, deep, and dark. Brace yourselves!