Black Vortex: Interview With Sam Humphries

The Black Vortex starts today!

bv01Yes, Marvel Comics’ next big crossover for the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy beings today with the Black Vortex Alpha issue. In celebration of the release, which I’ve been hyped for (and promoting) since NYCC, I had a chance to sit down with Legendary Star-Lord writer and “show runner” of the event, Sam Humphries, as he was finishing up writing the Omega issues, and chat about the crossover, what the Black Vortex is, and if everyone’s new favorite couple (or at least my favorite)– Kitty Pryde and Peter Quill–will survive the experience!

Acts of Geek: You and Brian Michael Bendis are the primary writers behind the crossover, but you’ve been dubbed the “show runner” of the event. What does that entail?

Sam Humphries: It entails watching helplessly as your email inbox is slowly massacred by a ruthless gang of very talented, very well-meaning co-conspirators.

In a sense, I am Spider-Man, watching over the sprawling city that is the Black Vortex. We’re talking thirteen issues of comics and around 30 characters. In the hands of dozens of creators and editors, an event like this can quickly become a disaster. Unless you are prepared — and we are VERY prepared.

It was my job to do a lot of that preparation before a single script page was written. I came up with the initial idea, and pitched it at a couple Marvel Editorial Retreats. I developed the overall outline for the overall story. I wrote a lengthy “Black Vortex Bible” to make sure everyone is armed with the information and background they need. But invariably there are questions, new ideas, and sticky wickets along the way. You gotta be ready to speak to all that in multiple email chains at once. If you make a change in chapter 3, how is that gonna affect chapter 10? Lots of stuff like that.

Fortunately, I am blessed with some stellar co-authors in Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gerry Duggan, and John Layman. They fix whatever I screw up, and take the things I didn’t screw up and make them better. Plus our editorial staff Mike Marts, Katie Kubert, and Xander Jarowey…it’s a talented team, I’m lucky to have their support.

AoG: I believe this is your first time heading a big event. How is writing issues for this different from writing a stand alone title?

SH: When you write a stand-alone title, you can change whatever you want on the fly and you won’t get angry texts about it from your co-conspirators.

AoG: The relationship between Kitty Pryde and Peter Quill has been a major focus of Star-Lord, and Peter “popped the question” to Kitty, asking her to live in space with him. Will their relationship be a focal point of the event?

bv02SH: Yes, absolutely. That has been a major thread of THE LEGENDARY STAR-LORD, and the two of them form the nexus between the Guardians and the X-Men. And the Black Vortex is gonna put all our characters through some heavy soul-searching — Kitty and Peter’s relationship is gonna go through the grinder in this one. #StarKatNation fans are gonna be on the edge of their seats.

AoG: One of the things about Legendary Star-Lord that I love is Peter’s propensity to get kidnapped, tied up naked, and needing to be rescued by Kitty, or other ladies in his life. It feels reminiscent of Eisner’s The Spirit. Was that intentional? Where did the inspiration for this come from for you?

SH: Ha! I never thought of that. Love Eisner’s later work but never got into the Spirit very much. Peter is not rich, or a super-genius, or the best he is at what he does. Being extremely competent is not part of who he is as a character — he’s a scoundrel with a heart of gold.

But one of his strengths is his relationships — with his mom, with the Guardians, and now with Kitty. So when he does screw up, he has backup. He has community. People he can trust. People who will go to the mat for him. It takes a village to raise a scoundrel.

And if he happens to get shirtless along the way, well…that’s just how things go in space!

AoG: What’s the thing you are looking most forward to about the Black Vortex?

SH: The artwork. Ed McGuinness, Kris Anka, Valerio Schiti, Paco Medina, Andrea Sorrentino, Mike Mayhew…plus more we haven’t announced yet. This event is gonna be so beautiful…one of the best-looking crossovers in recent memory.

Even better, I don’t have to look forward to it, I get to see it NOW! And it is truly awesome. So maybe I am most looking forward to everyone else getting to see it.

AoG: What character has been the easiest for you to write? What character has been the most difficult?

bv03SH: Peter and Kitty have been the easiest. I’ve written them the most, and in some ways, the Black Vortex is like a diamond that has formed around their relationship. The hardest has probably been the modern Doctor Hank McCoy. It’s easy to write a genius, but to write a genius with heartbreak…saying anything more would involve spoilers.

AoG: What’s the best thing about being able to crossover the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men?

SH: Taking characters who haven’t had a lot of time together and shoving them into unpredictable situations. Magik and Gamora. Beast and Rocket. A lot of times I discovered the characters with the most in common had the most potential for conflict…go figure…

AoG: The Black Vortex seems to be able to cosmically empower characters; can you give a little teaser for some of the cosmic powers that might be revealed in the crossover?

bv04SH: No spoilers. But I like to use these examples —

Joe Quesada loves to play guitar. If he submitted to the Black Vortex, he wouldn’t just be a great guitar player, he’d be able to torch an axe like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and George Harrison together — on their best days.

Axel Alonso is a long-time basketball player. If he submitted to the Black Vortex, he wouldn’t just be able to do a slam dunk or two, he’d be able to face off against the Dream Team a hundred games in a row and win every one — singlehandedly.

So apply that same logic to some of our heroes…

AoG: How would you sum up the Black Vortex in a sentence to someone who’s thinking about picking it up?

SH: It’s like every ice cream flavor you ever loved mixed with your favorite childhood memories topped with the tears of every hater who crossed your path. Hey, might as well swing for the fences…

So, well I dream about what I might become were I to submit to the Black Vortex (maybe the world’s greatest comic book writer? Or just an even bigger comic book nerd?), I hope you’ll join me in picking up The Black Vortex Alpha #1 (and the rest of the Black Vortex crossover), out now!


IMAGINE IF: Guardians of the Galaxy, Release Date 1981

Imagine if Hollywood had released tent-pole comic-book movies starring their iconic characters around the time of the source material’s release date. For the purposes of this experiment, we will say that a movie would be released 5 years after the introduction of the character, and only movies that have been made would be made.

There are several conceits with this Imagine If:

First, the current incarnation of the Guardians didn’t exist until recently, although by 1976 all the characters had been introduced, so for the sake of this experiment we are imagining the team was formed.

Similar to the current title being an oddball choice, and very goofy in nature, producers decided to do the same with this film, hoping to strike gold, with Martin Brest as the director.

hays110Star-Lord-Eddie Murphy

In the first of many off-the-wall casting choices, producers saw a box office star in the young comedian, fresh off his success after his first season on SNL.


pesciRocket-Voiced by Joe Pesci

If anyone could convey the anger and aggression of the pint-sized Raccoon with the very big guns, producers believed in Pesci, hot off his Oscar nomination for Raging Bull.




superstar-billy-GrahmDrax-Superstar Billy Graham

He’s big, he’s bald, this wrestling icon was ready for the big time!





IK 1986-03 CovGamorra-Cynthia Rothrock

A karate world champion, producers wanted someone who could appear deadly on-screen, this would be her film debut!




mr-tGroot-Voiced by Mr. T

Because of their good relationship with Sly Stallone, he suggested the unknown Mr. T who he was looking at for a role in Rocky III. His distinctive growl would be one of the most talked about parts of the movie.

51KbKj3MKYL._SY445_Thanos-Robert Duvall

If ever there was an actor with range, who could be sublimely subtle and menacing, Duvall is that guy, from Boo Radley to Tom Hagen to The Great Santini.