Sam Humphries Talks “Avengers A.I.”‘s Prime Directive
By Dan Casey on July 15, 2013
In the wake of the Age of Ultron, the Marvel Universe found itself with a very particular need: a tech-based superteam that can handle the types of threats generated by advanced A.I. and machines like Ultron and other rogue intelligences that well-intentioned super genius Hank Pym inadvertently creates. Enter the world of Avengers A.I., the new ongoing series from writer Sam Humphries and artist Andre Lima Araujo. Formed by Hank Pym and all-around S.H.I.E.L.D. bad-ass Monica Chang, the team is led by an upgraded Vision, who is aided by his snarky younger brother Victor Mancha, the theatrically evil yet reluctantly heroic Doombot, and a brand new character only known as Alexis. Avengers A.I. has personality coming out of every circuit, and to take you further inside the world of Avengers A.I., I caught up with the series’ central processing unit, Sam Humphries, who told me about what to expect from the series, tackling some of the Marvel Universe’s more colorful characters, and transforming into a ’68 Chevy Malibu.
Nerdist: I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords. Avengers A.I. was a total blast. It seems pretty heavily influenced by the end of Age of Ultron. Tell us how you got involved with the book.
Sam Humphries: Lauren Sankovich called and offered me the book. I had my doubts. But that night, I had… a dream. My phone evolved into the Vision and I evolved into a giant robot. We transformed into ’68 Chevy Malibus and did donuts on the dark side of the moon. Then he refused to send my text messages unless I agreed to do the book. I guess that’s a deal you can’t refuse.
N: Avengers A.I. has a unique status quo, focusing on robot heroes tackling robot threats in the Marvel Universe. What elements are you looking forward to bringing to the forefront of the Marvel ecosystem?
SH: Super intelligences, artificial life forms, simulated realities, human extinction — in addition to giant robots beating the tinfoil out of each other.
Avengers A.I. is about advanced technology crash-landing into the world outside our window. How does society cope with the ever increasing — and increasingly inevitable — escalation of technological sophistication? It seems like every month there’s an explosive news story about about how we deal (or fail to deal) with runaway technology development — everything from PRISM, to drones, to catfishing, to your loved one paying too much attention to their phone. In the pages of Avengers A.I., we dramatize the thrills and threats of rapid technological development as the singularity, and the robot, synthetic, and A.I. dangers it spawns.
N: It seems easy to reduce a book like this to the “Robot Avengers” concept/logline, but it has a different feel to it – sort of like Tron-meets-Homeland with an edgy, humorous vibe. How did you arrive at the tone of the book?
SH: I spent three months in total isolation developing a comic book A.I. When my deadline approaches, I feed the A.I. keywords like “robots”, “explosions”, and “pinball,” and it spits out a complete comic book script. Don’t tell Lauren.
N: So far, I am really digging the roster. They have an easy rapport, which I imagine might be difficult when you’re dealing with soulless machines, but they all manage to shine in their own ways. I already feel like Doombot is going to be a fan favorite. Who has been the most enjoyable member of the team to write so far?
SH: Doombot! He’s a robot with the A.I. of history’s greatest monster. What could go wrong?
N: Regarding the team’s makeup, did you have free reign to choose or were there any members you had to include? Were there any ‘bots that didn’t make the cut?
N: The Marvel Universe is rich with robot characters, you couldn’t possibly do a book with them all. So we picked characters who are at the most compelling crossroads right now, and the characters that create the most compelling dynamic when brought together.
But of all the hundreds of characters who didn’t make the cut, each of them have at least one dedicated fan who ask me about them on Tumblr and Twitter. To them I say: any synthetic Marvel character is fair game for an appearance, and if the book continues long enough, we’ll get to them all — so keep buying!
N: Hank Pym is one of the Avengers’ more colorful characters, especially given his history of mental issues. How do you approach a character like Pym?
SH: I love writing Hank, he’s a smart-ass super-genius super hero. Avengers A.I. is a blast of excitement and nerves for him. It’s like that first day of school feeling: everything could go right, and everything could go wrong. At the same time, Hank lives with a chronic condition. He has to focus on managing that condition, working hard to living a normal life in the context of being an Avenger. Hank’s “functional” is most people’s “hyperfunctional.”
N: Another character that really leapt out was Monica Chang. You establish her as a no-nonsense bad-ass pretty much immediately, which is a breath of fresh air. How are you approaching her?
SH: Monica is a total bad ass with a razor-sharp intellect. She predicted this explosion of A.I. before it happened, and she’s dedicated to protecting humanity from the machine menace. And when the situation calls for it, she’s not afraid of standing up to the big guns of the Marvel Universe.
N: There were so many rad covers for the first issue. I’m a big fan of the 8-bit one, but I have to ask – which is your favorite?
SH: The blank cover variant — I drew it myself!
N: Such talent! Last, but not least, what comics are you reading and enjoying right now?
SH: Fantagraphics’ EC hardcover reprints and Simon Hanselmann’s Megg, Mogg, & Owl/Truth Zone comics.