Jim McCann: On the Arrow

A comics interview article by: Robert Tacopina
It’s a great time to be an Avengers fan in the Marvel Universe right now. We have seen a dynamic shift over the past half decade where Earth’s Mightiest Team has been re-established to be just that. Out of all the great Avengers goodness that we have been treated to I have to say that my absolute favorite revelation has been the return of Hawkeye and Mockingbird. When Clint came back I was thrilled, when Bobbi came back I was ecstatic, and when I read writer Jim McCann’s New Avengers: The Reunion: I was floored!

Now with the ongoing Hawkeye & Mockingbird title dropping this week, I figured it would be a great time to hit up a promising writer who has shown that he definitely has the chops for handling Marvel’s brilliantly underrated couple, Hawkeye & Mockingbird!

[Editor’s Note: This interview took place prior to the release of the title.]

Robert Tacopina: Hi Jim, thanks for sitting down with us at Comics Bulletin. I’d like to open things up with a book that I am totally excited for, your new Hawkeye & Mockingbird ongoing series. This is the first regular series that you have taken part in, any nerves building up yet for the fan reaction?

Jim McCann: Awesome, I’m so glad you’re excited for it! Me too! It is coming out on June 3 (due to Memorial Day holiday), and I have an internal countdown clock going so I remember to eat and hydrate because YES there are nerves and excitement and loads of emotions swirling around. I think we have a really strong book, though, full of action, drama, characterization, and fun. I know everyone has put their all into it, and I think it comes across on the page. I’m really proud of this book.

TACOPINA: The solicitations for the first couple of issues have been made public and it appears that you are starting things off with the Phantom Rider, who played a major role in the life of Mockingbird. What decisions factored into your plan on picking up on this plot point from the past?

McCANN: When starting off a book with Hawkeye and Mockingbird, we took a look at the most iconic stories and what the biggest turning points for them as a couple and for them as individuals. The Phantom Rider storyline from West Coast Avengers was one of the biggest, if not the top one for them as a pair. So we started there and brought it to today -- how are the characters involved different from when they last faced each other, what’s changed in themselves, and what issues and dramatic tension still remain? The ground for story was incredibly fertile there and so that’s where we begin. And, just like that original tale, this sets the stage for everything that is to come in the future for them.

TACOPINA: You have stated in the past that you made a big push to Brian Bendis and Marvel editorial to bring back Mockingbird during Secret Invasion. You obviously have an attachment to this character, but what in your mind makes her such a compelling character to warrant a reprieve from death?

McCANN: In addition to being an incredibly strong female character, I feel she was sorely missed and has the potential to become an iconic female character in the overall Marvel U. She’s a spy, has a PhD in biology (she developed a version of the Super Soldier Serum, for crying out loud), is strong-willed, is an incredibly skilled fighter, and has a very unique voice. She stands her ground and doesn’t back down from any fight. She, like Hawkeye, is a very relatable character in her core -- she is fallible, brash, forgiving, stubborn, impetuous, and determined. She’s a character that people can see something of themselves inside, and I love that about her.

TACOPINA: Clint and Bobbi have such a unique and dysfunctional relationship. How do you get into that mindset when writing them? How would you define the pair as a couple?

McCANN: I’ve compared them to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Hepburn & Tracey, and Michael & Fiona (from Burn Notice). They really love each other -- but they are SO much alike that it can get in the way. They are the mirror image of one another -- bringing out the best and highlighting the flaws in each other. It makes for a fantastic dynamic.

TACOPINA: Will you delve further into Bobbi’s detainment by the Skrulls?

McCANN: As the story sees fit, yes. An entire arc devoted to the Skrulls isn’t in the works right now, but what happened to her during that time plays a role in how she is today.

TACOPINA: Both characters are still a part of the Avengers but on different teams. Did you have any say in that regard, and do you plan on incorporating that aspect into your title? What are your thoughts on splitting the two after you worked so hard to reunite them after years apart?

McCANN: Wellllll, I can’t say too much about New Avengers until that comes out without spoiling it. Brian Bendis chose his rosters for a reason. As for how they are outside of the Avengers together, you learn that relationship in the first arc. They are not separated in every sense of the word -- and it kind of makes Hawkeye & Mockingbird a special book because this is where you’ll find the evolution of what’s next for these two.

TACOPINA: David Lopez, with whom you worked with on Reunion (which was awesome!), is providing the art for the book. What’s it like working with him and continuing the adventures of Hawkeye and Mockingbird together?

McCANN: Isn’t he amazing?! Working with David is like working with a partner in so many ways -- he really is a huge part of this team. I couldn’t imagine doing the book with anyone else. And if you thought Reunion was awesome, wait until you see his work on Hawkeye & Mockingbird! David, inker Alvaro Lopez and colorist Nathan Fairbairn are all bringing their A-game and making this book look amazing. A super-star team right here, I’m telling you! They take the script and deliver far beyond what’s on the page. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch!

TACOPINA: Will we be seeing more of the W.C.A. and possibly a deeper look into the organization? What does Nick Fury have to say about this?

McCANN: Absolutely! They have a new HQ, new members (Hi Dominic Fortune!), and provide a great support staff to this book. Nick... well, he’s got his own kids to deal with right now, but you’ll see him in issue #2 (how’s that for a tease?)

TACOPINA: Can you please give us a little tease as to what we can expect to see in the immediate future for Hawkeye and Mockingbird?

McCANN: An intense first arc, twists and turns, baddies with familiar faces, and the return of a group these two have never faced.

TACOPINA: You also just had a Dazzler One-shot come out. Can you give any further info on the book and how the pieces came into place for that and what is it about Alison that you personally find interesting?

McCANN: I like relatable characters, and to me Ali is the perfect example of the “Mutant as Minority” metaphor. She has had it all, lost it all, and become a hero -- all due to what makes her different from the rest of the world. She’s faced prejudice and rejection as well as fame for those reasons. And through it all she’s had to do most of it on her own terms. I love that about her. It was that idea and the contrast between what she’s gone through and emerged contrasted with how her sister Lois London (Mortis, of Necrosha fame) turned out that made me want to tell this story.

TACOPINA: Dazzler has had such an odd history so far from her origins to Longshot to her apparent immortality. Are those any topics that you will be addressing or would like to in the future? Possibly in an ongoing or limited series if the One-shot is well received?

McCANN: Her origin and history are at the core of this story. Now, some of the crazier aspects like her immortality won’t be addressed here (I only have so many pages) but I absolutely want to do more with the character and tackle some of those issues and give her some new ones!

TACOPINA: You have a future project entitled Return of the Dapper Men that is in the works. Please tell us some more about this book and when can we expect to see it?

McCANN: Return of the Dapper Men is an original graphic novel published by Archaia. It’s due in October of this year and it’s my take on a fairy tale. I wanted to tell a story that reminded me of the classics like JM Barrie and Lewis Carroll, mixed with Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak, with a dash of steampunk and Clockwork Universe Theory tossed in. It’s a story for all ages in that adults can get one thing out of it and younger audiences will have a different experience reading it. The story is set in a world called Anorev where time has stopped for as long as anyone can remember. There are no adults and the children have remained kids because there is no one to tell them to go to bed. They’ve retreated below ground where they live in the greatest playhouse you could imagine. Above ground, robots have taken on more human qualities and live in houses. Which came first -- human or robot -- is lost in memory and what purpose anyone serves is gone too, for without time there is no destiny. Until a day when Time is ushered back in by the return of 314 identical looking dapper men who rain down from the sky to set things right, whether people want them to or not!

TACOPINA: The cover art for this is so different than what one would expect but oddly fascinating as well. Artist Janet Lee uses a style that seems to fit the mold of a children’s story and I find that very endearing. How did you two hook up for Dapper Men?

McCANN: Janet’s style is incredibly unique and that is one of the reasons I am so glad she agreed to go on this crazy journey with me! She was the only person for this story for many reasons, not the least of which is that the book is inspired by three different pieces she did for three different showings. We’ve been fronds for 15 years and her art has really started taking off over the past 5 or 6 years. Two years ago I was visiting Nashville and looking at a bunch of art in her house and the story just sort of came to me. I told her about it and she did the crazy thing of taking herself off the gallery circuit for a year and did this OGN -- and that was a huge move because as you can imagine, she’s gaining a lot of attention in the art community. Now a whole new audience is discovering her and I hope they love what they see as much as I do!

TACOPINA: Was it a hard decision to leave steady employment over at Marvel and go freelance? What are some of your most memorable moments with the company?

McCANN: Absolutely. It was a huge leap of faith, but Marvel has been my home for 6 years and I feel comfort in knowing that I’m still part of the family. It was a logical step and a natural evolution. I have a book’s worth of memories from my time, from the happy to the sad -- we really are a family there and see each other through so many things. There are many personal moments I will always treasure, but as far as comic moments -- Colbert, Death of Cap, Tim Gunn, my first San Diego Comic Con are big stand-outs!

TACOPINO: You have stated previously that you are a big fan of the X-Men. Who would consist of your dream team, and when are you going to take a crack at writing an X-book?

McCANN: Wow, well, it would depend on who’s available at the time and what the story is. Dazzler, obviously, Colossus and Kitty, Rogue, Psylocke, Wolvie (but more like the cocky hard-headed rebel), Storm, and a few surprises that I’ve had in mind for some time but won’t spill here! So there! LOL I got to write them in a Christmas special 2-years ago and some are in the Dazzler One-shot too. I’ll take a crack at writing them any time I’m asked!

TACOPINA: What is the average Jim McCann “day in the life” workday like?

McCANN: I’m still discovering that. My first two weeks after Marvel were spent recovering from gallbladder removal surgery, so this is really the start of my day-to-day full-time freelancer life. I’m trying to get organized (NOT my strong suit) and see where the day takes me!

TACOPINA: Who are some of the people who have influenced you most in your career?

McCANN: There have been so many people who have helped me along the way- especially the writers at Marvel -- I can’t possibly name them all but every one of them knows they have helped in some way. My editors have all helped shape me and pushed me -- Tom Brevoort, Mark Paniccia, Bill Rosemann, Jeanine Schaeffer, Mike Horwitz, Rachel Pinnelas, Steve Wacker, and Nate Cosby. Joe Q and Dan Buckley have been my role models in many ways, as have the people I’ve worked for and with, like David Gabriel, Arune Singh, Mike Pasciullo, John Dokes and David Bogart. And then there are a number of creators whose work inspires me every day. Outside of comics, Jesse Murray and Sue Johnson of the ABC Daytime Writer Development Program really helped me be who I am today as a writer. My partner inspires me every day in unwavering love and support, and my family and friends. I guess I find some influence in most people I meet and become close with. Everyone has something to teach or offer.

TACOPINA: Finally, are there any other projects that you are working on that you would like to clue or readers in on or anything in general that you would like to promote?

McCANN: I do have some things cooking right now, but it’s too soon to promote or really even tease about. But stay tuned! I’m just getting warmed up!

TACOPINA: Thanks a lot for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. I wish you continued success and hope to see more stuff from you in the future.

McCANN: Thank YOU for taking the time to interview and for wanting to talk with me! And a huge thank you to the fans -- without you, none of this would be possible, so thank you for your support and keep reading!

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