Since its inception, Marvel Comics’ Savage Avengers rested on a unique premise of Conan the Barbarian (yes, that Conan the Barbarian) teaming up with a whole host of some of the sometimes more rough-and-tumble heroes of the House of Ideas—Venom, Wolverine, and Elektra, just to name a few. This Wednesday, May 18th, however, get ready to experience a brand-new crew of savagery and heroism with the launch of a new series, as Savage Avengers #1 comes bounding and slashing to your eyeholes.
Written by the always phenomenal Ringo Award-winning creator David Pepose (The O.Z., Scout’s Honor), Savage Avengers sees Conan teaming up with new heroes such as Black Knight, Cloak and Dagger, and Weapon H, as the Barbarian and company are pursued through Conan’s Hyborian Age by the cyborg known as Deathlok that will be time-traveling romp unlike any we’ve ever seen. Pepose is known for taking familiar concepts and making them feel new and unique, so Savage Avengers is guaranteed to be a good time.
Mr. Pepsose spoke with me recently about how he came to work with Marvel Comics, his approach to Savage Avengers and selecting the cast, how his independent work informed his work on Savage Avengers, and his advice to aspiring comic book writers.
FreakSugar: First of all, thank you for agreeing with speaking with me again! It’s always a treat.
David Pepose: Of course! Always a pleasure to catch up.
FS: It’s been so nice to see your delight on social media about securing your work with Marvel. Your new gigs are more than well-deserved. So far, you’ve penned an Elektra story featuring Black Widow, with a Moon Knight story and Savage Avengers coming up. How did you become involved with working for the House of Ideas?
DP: Yeah! So I actually got those gigs in reverse order. (laughs) I’d been in contact with my editor Tom Brevoort since the debut of my first series Spencer & Locke back in 2017, and we’d kept in touch as new releases came out. It was shortly after my AfterShock series Scout’s Honor wrapped up that I got a call from Tom asking if I might have any ideas for relaunching Savage Avengers.
I think after the initial shock wore off, I immediately responded, “What if we did Conan versus the Terminator — but with Deathlok chasing Conan and a team of superheroes across the Hyborian Age?” It was one of those ideas that felt so crazy that I had to pursue it, y’know? And as I fleshed that out with a full outline and cast member wishlist, I like to think everyone saw my enthusiasm and ran with it.
FS: So, Savage Avengers. Can you describe the feelings that you were going through when you were offered the book?
DP: Two feelings ran through my head when I was emailed to pitch for the book — the first being sheer panic, but also just thinking, what made me Tom’s pick for this series? It took me about half a second, and then it hit me: Savage Avengers is Marvel’s mashup book, and I’m the guy who loves writing mashups. That was the moment where I realized exactly how much potential was in this series, and it really informed a lot of what I’ve been doing with this relaunch.
FS: There are some characters from the previous volume in the upcoming one, along with some new faces. What was the thought process when you began selecting who should showcase the title?
DP: Knowing that Gerry Duggan had already done a spectacular job with his rotating “Conan Team-Up” style of storytelling, the first thing I pitched with this new run was to give ourselves a permanent core roster, to give our readership a whole crew of characters to get invested in.
So my thinking for picking our Savage Avengers was fourfold: firstly, to speak to Gerry’s iconic original roster of Conan, Punisher, Wolverine, Venom, Elektra and Doctor Voodoo; secondly, to add to that sword-and-sorcery vibe we were building in this relaunch; thirdly, which characters could fill certain roles I needed for a long-term roster; and lastly, which kinds of characters did I want as a lifelong Marvel fan?
Mercifully, those first two elements had all the overlap I needed, in terms of what each character brought to the table as well as their general availability for a series like this. Elektra was an original Savage Avenger, so she felt like a slam-dunk, while Anti-Venom and Weapon H had ties to Venom and Wolverine in ways that spoke to Gerry’s original lineup, while still giving us room to do our own thing. Meanwhile, Black Knight, Cloak and Dagger all had that sword-and-sorcery aesthetic, while also bringing certain powers and skill sets to the table that we’re going to pay off in some big ways.
FS: Conan figures prominently in your run, as he did in volume one. What is it about Conan’s “man out of time” element that gives you opportunities as a writer?
DP: Honestly, Conan’s status as a transplant to the modern Marvel Universe is really the anchor to our entire story. As a character, Conan has a directness — you could even say a bluntness — that cuts through the pretension and self-deception that is part of 21st century living. Conan may see some of the moral struggles of heroes like Dagger or Black Knight as self-indulgent navel-gazing — he’s someone who sees the value in self-reliance, and so spearheading a team is not going to come naturally to him.
But I love that friction of different voices and values that comes with having a character like Conan — especially as he finds himself playing an unwilling tour guide when the whole team is sent back to the Hyborian Age. It’s sort of like coming back to your old hometown after you’ve moved away for a bit — you know the lay of the land better than a tourist, but you’d be surprised at how much things have changed while you were away, and what a learning curve it might be to come back.
FS: I was cheering when I saw that Cloak & Dagger were playing roles in Savage Avengers. Can you talk about why you chose Ty and Tandy?
DP: I’ve wanted Cloak and Dagger to be Avengers for 15 years, full stop. I’ve loved them since I first discovered them in the Maximum Carnage crossover as a kid, and seeing how critical they were in events like Civil War or X-Men/Dark Avengers: Utopia really cemented to me that Ty and Tandy were long overdue their shot for the big leagues. To me, Cloak and Dagger represents the epitome of untapped potential in the Marvel Universe — their powers have some really interesting implications and avenues to explore, but I also love their dynamic as partners, both as superheroes and potentially more.
FS: I’ve loved Deathlok since the Dwayne McDuffie run in 1990. There are many time travelers who could have pursued Conan in your book. What was the thought process behind landing on Deathlok?
DP: Deathlok is a character I’ve been pitching to Tom since our very first emails back in 2017. (laughs) There’s so many different stories you can tell with that character, whether it’s patching up various bits of continuity, leaning into the weird science morality tale of the character, or just going for the most intense hardcore action with a story starring a killer cyborg zombie. It’s just an insanely flexible concept.
But for Savage Avengers, Deathlok felt like the perfect foil against Conan — one of them is this unstoppable mountain of Cimmerian muscle, the other is this relentless machine that does not tire or feel pain or pity. It feels like Conan versus the Terminator, you know? But there’s so many places to fit in cool twists when it comes to Deathlok, and I’m very excited for readers to get to know him better.
FS: Moon Knight is getting some much-deserved time in the sunlight (or moonlight) lately. How were you offered to write a Moon Knight tale?
DP: Yeah, that’s really exciting! While we were hammering out our cast list for Savage Avengers, I’d mentioned to Tom how much I liked the character of Moon Knight — to the point where if one of our core cast members hadn’t been available, he’d likely have been a shoe-in for my Savage Avengers roster. And thankfully, my Savage Avengers editors were also working on Moon Knight: Black, White & Blood, so they asked me a few months later whether I’d be interested in contributing!
FS: Moon Knight has been approached a number of ways over the years. What is your take on the character?
DP: I’ve written a lot about mental illness and alternate personalities dating back to my breakout series Spencer & Locke, so this story really felt like coming home to me. I think Moon Knight at his best has had a subversive sense of humor to him, sort of this idea of taking the horrors of his life and the evils that he faces, and trying to add a little bit of a smile to them, y’know? So artist Leonardo Romero and I are exploring Moon Knight through his various alter egos, as Marc Spector, Jake Lockley, and Steven Grant meet at their favorite diner to compare notes — and injuries — over a long night of crimefighting.
FS: Why do you think that Moon Knight is a character that creators enjoy revisiting time and time again?
DP: For me, I think it’s because Moon Knight has so many different sides to him — there’s his various alter egos in Jake Lockley and Steven Grant, there’s the incredible series of costumes Declan Shalvey designed for the character… there’s even a wide breadth of adventures Marc can organically be involved in, ranging from street-level crime to fantasy mythology to psychological horror. I think a character that’s as intense and as flexible as Moon Knight is always destined to have a dedicated fanbase behind him.
FS: We spoke a while back about your book The O.Z. First of all, congratulations on its success! Do you have future plans to revisit that world?
DP: We do! We’ve just wrapped up our double-sized second installment, so while we’re getting that set up with the printers, we’re about to start work on our third and final chapter. The series has been written for a bit, so it’s really just watching my inbox for all of artist Ruben Rojas’ tremendous art to come in.
FS: You had such success with your creator-owned books and now with your work with Marvel. If you could give any aspiring creators advice, what would it be?
DP: Boy, where to begin? There’s a lot of elements that go into making the jump from the indie trenches to the Big Two. For me, I’ve always tried to level up as best I can between projects, to always try to flex different muscles with different genres and tones and high concepts. Spencer & Locke was a ruthless little character piece, while Going to the Chapel was a sprawling ensemble, while The O.Z. and Scout’s Honor were about worldbuilding. You try to be as consistent as you can with every credit, y’know?
But I do think there’s often a misconception about how long the process takes, and I think new creators often feel this pressure that their first script has to be a staggering work of incredible genius that will immediately open up the doors to Marvel and DC — but in my experience, that’s never been the case. I always tell people to start small — write an eight-page script a day. Do it for a month. Do it for three months. You don’t have to publish it, you just need to finish it and learn from it. It’s like preparing for a marathon — you want to do the conditioning first, and even when you do bring on a creative team, you want to start with a small, sustainable miniseries versus trying to tell your epic long-form story.
FS: Is there anything you can tease about any of these projects or projects coming down the pike?
DP: There’s some fun things coming! I’m working on a new original series that finally lets me dip my toes in the horror pond, as well as working on a couple of stories that are checking off some true bucket-list items. Ultimately, I’m been really fortunate to stay busy, and I’ve been truly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to play in the Marvel sandbox — and most importantly, to be given the latitude to stay true to my voice as a creator while getting to add my mark to the House of Ideas. It’s been a real dream job, and I’m excited for readers to get to see what we’ve been cooking later this year!
Savage Avengers #1 goes on sale Wednesday, May 18th, from Marvel Comics.
From the official issue description:
AN ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT, ALL-DANGEROUS TEAM ASSEMBLES! Since his exile from the Hyborian Age, Conan the Barbarian has conquered the most dangerous foes the modern Marvel Universe has to offer — but what happens when this hard-edged Cimmerian finds himself on the run from the cybernetic soldier of the future known as Deathlok? Outgunned and outmatched, Conan must turn to an unlikely group of loners, berserkers and killers if he hopes to survive the night — but can these Savage Avengers defy Deathlok’s murderous manhunt, or will they become the next targets in the crosshairs of tomorrow? Don’t miss out on a bold new beginning for Marvel’s most savage super heroes, as Ringo Award-winning writer David Pepose (Spencer & Locke, Scout’s Honor) and superstar artist Carlos Magno (KANG THE CONQUEROR, RoboCop: Dead or Alive) introduce a sensational new lineup that will resonate across every era of the House of Ideas!