Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning: A Cosmic Trip Through the Thanos Imperative

A comics interview article by: Robert Tacopina
The cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe has had to deal with a great amount of adversity over the course of the past few years. Beginning with Annihilation and continuing into the Thanos Imperative, readers of Marvel’s cosmic offerings have witnessed their favorite space faring characters continuously dealing with predicament after predicament which have taken their tolls on said heroes. This newfound renaissance has come at a price though since to achieve greatness one must first be broken and then rebuilt to obtain this lofty goal. Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are tasked with the continuing development of these characters. In fact these two gentlemen have probably been the two most influential men in orchestrating this newfound renaissance of the Marvel cosmic. I had the great honor of talking to the two gents and touching base with them on their little corner of the universe...

Photo of Andy Lanning by Luigi Novi.

Robert Tacopina: With Thanos making his return, can you please give us a little insight as to how the idea to bring one of Marvel's greatest villains back into the fold came about? Was this something that you two hatched a while back and just let the storylines simmer to this point or was it more of a spontaneous idea?

Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning: It was the former. We'd wanted to use Thanos, but we didn't want to bring him back too soon after Keith Giffen did such a fabulous job of killing him in Annihilation. It had to matter. So we built the story up, modifying and adjusting it as we went along.

Tacopina: It certainly seems that Thanos is a bit of a loose cannon presently, more so than we are accustomed to, what can you tell us about how he has gotten to this point and just what is the agenda of the Thanos Imperative?

DnA: Thanos is back, and he hates it. He doesn’t want to be alive, and he’s raging at everything. This story is built upon all the stuff we’ve developed through War of Kings and Realm of Kings -- there is a vile alternate Universe on the far side of the Fault which we’re calling the Cancerverse, and it’s set to invade ours.

Tacopina: The Cancerverse? Can you brief us further as to just what this is?

DnA: The Cancerverse is a universe almost exactly like our own -- it’s an alternate version of the Marvel U. However, it’s a universe where life has “won” the epic struggle between Life and Death. This is not a good thing. The balance of cosmic nature is lost and skewed. The Cancerverse is now full with unstoppable, undying life. It is a horrific and sickly prospect, and it wants new space to expand into. And it wants to bring its deathless gods with it.

Tacopina: If we can step back for a moment to when Annihilation was hatched and you were given the Nova limited series; did you have any idea that you would be practically single-handedly resurrecting what was considered a genre that was on life support?

DnA: No, we didn’t. We just wanted to develop some ideas we had for Nova. We have both always LOVED Marvel cosmic, and it’s been a privilege to have been given this much creative control.

Tacopina: Certainly you have woven quite the tapestry when you connect the two ongoing books with the multitude of events that you have conjured up. How freely were you permitted to tell the stories that you wanted to tell? Was there anything major that had to be jettisoned by Marvel editorial?

DnA: No, we’ve had great cooperation. Nothing ‘bit the dust’ at planning stage.

Tacopina: Switching to Nova for a bit; it has been revealed that Richard Rider will be a part of Ed Brubaker's Secret Avengers. What are your thoughts regarding this? I would hope that you would take a sense of pride in this as you have taken a character that was an afterthought and brought him back to being a factor of relevance.

DnA: Absolutely. When we started on Nova, anyone would have laughed at the idea of him being a headliner on a new Avengers book. WE take this as a compliment.

Tacopina: So much has transpired in the pages of Nova, but the restoration of the Corps has been one of the bigger issues. What do you see the future holding for the Corps?

DnA: We can’t say without giving too much of the upcoming event away. ;)

Tacopina: Is it somewhat disheartening that a certain space cop from a rival publisher has gotten so much attention while your books, which have been of equal quality, don't garner the same readership numbers and headlines?

DnA: Geoff John’s work on GL [Green Lantern] has been fabulous, and we’ve actually worked hard to make sure our storylines cut different paths to his. We don’t want to be seen as a bandwagon-jumping copy. The dedication of our readership is also very fierce. We love that.

Tacopina: Who wins in a fight between Nova and Green Lantern and why?

DnA: Nova (we would say that, obviously). They’d fight, Nova would contain GL gravimetrically using insight on Oan tech provided by the Worldmind, then Nova and GL would realize they had a common threat and would buddy up like cops from different jurisdictions.

Tacopina: I always had this feeling that Worldmind was always much more than we were led to believe. The concept of the Worldmind is such a fascinating one and would it be safe to say that it seems to share a symbiotic relationship with Richard Rider.

DnA: The relationship probably is symbiotic. Certainly the Worldmind/Richard Rider relationship is closer than any Worldmind/Nova relationship the Worldmind has ever had. And the Worldmind is generally character driven. It had a proper (if restrained) personality when we first met it, and when Ko-Rel’s template was required to take over, that was more than just a surface change, more than just a different voice and face.

Tacopina: Guardians of the Galaxy featured such an eclectic cast of characters that made such a fun read. How was it to write these zany characters? I love Rocket Raccoon and Peter Quill in particular and hope that they continue to play a large part in the Marvel books.

DnA: They will. ;) It was a great book to write, great fun finding the voices and the means to interact them. You’ll see a lot more of that before The Thanos Imperative is done.

Tacopina: One of the most intriguing elements you introduced in Guardians was the Universal Church of Truth. Will we be seeing more of them as well as Adam Warlock in The Thanos Imperative?

DnA: Oh yes. The UCT are the primary apostles of the Cancerverse in our universe.

Tacopina: You've had the opportunity to work with a vast and varied assortment of characters over the course of these titles and events. Which ones do you feel most comfortable with and can you see coming back to in the future? I would love to see you guys handle a Starjammers and/or Inhumans book personally.

DnA: Thank you. We’d be very happy to come back to almost any of them. Drax, Gamora, Star-Lord and Groot are particular faves. And Cosmo. And Mantis....

Tacopina: What in your combined minds would it take to propel both Nova and Guardians to greater success? As far as I am concerned it has nothing to do with the stories or writing as both have been exceptionally and consistently excellent.

DnA:If we knew that...

Tacopina: What is the creative process like for you guys? You have been working together for so long has it just become second nature to operate the way you do?

DnA: Yeah, we brainstorm a lot, on the phone and regularly face to face, plan out and then Dan usually crafts the finished scripts from the piles of notes and plots etc. It’s a fun process. We do it because we do a lot of work independently, so it’s nice to hang out and work with someone now and then.

Tacopina: Andy, not only do you write but it seems you ink every other title on the market. How do you have time for this? Does Dan have you chained in his basement isolated from the outside world? What sort of tools do you utilize in your inking?

Lanning: Yes, Dan has me chained up in his basement. I'm his ink-gimp!

When Dan's not beating scripts out of me, he throws pens and brushes at me, mainly #3 water-colour brushes, Hunt art pens (with a 102 nib), various Rotring technical pens, Micron fibre tip pens as well as Faber Castell Pitt pens along with the odd bucket of Rotring drawing ink.

This keeps me happy until I get a bone to gnaw on at weekends...mmmmmmm marrow!!

Tacopina: What sort of advice can you offer to anyone with dreams of making it in the comic industry?

DnA: Jump in, work hard, always strive to do better and get out there to show people what you’ve got... BUT temper that driving self-confidence by LISTENING TO WHAT EDITORS TELL YOU. Learn, and learn to take advice.

Tacopina: Is there anything you would like to take a moment to promote?

DnA: The Thanos Imperative. What else? It will rock your worlds!

Tacopina: I have to offer my sincere gratitude to you for turning me on to both Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy and making them both incredible reads. I hope that when the dust left from Thanos clears that both titles will be returning from their "hiatus".

DnA: Thank you very much indeed.

Tacopina: Thanks for taking the time to touch base with us. We wish you continued success and look forward to talking with you in the future.

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