Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire, by writer Nick Spencer and a team of all-star artists, truly lived up to the idea of what events could and should be. Over the course of ten issues and a number of tie-ins, Spencer and his collaborators chronicled life in an America that had been conquered by Hydra and its leader, a Cosmic Cube-altered Captain America. Readers witnessed the exploits of a resistance army of heroes trying to end Hydra’s rule and change Steve Rogers back to the hero they remembered, and how the high stakes superhero adventure impacted the life of a single American family. On top of that, the series was a culmination of a long form Captain America tale that Spencer began telling back in the 2016 Avengers family event, Avengers Standoff.
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Today, Spencer joins CBR for the first half of a two part chat about some of those events and their immediate aftermath. In part one of our in-depth look at Secret Empire, we examine the controversy surrounding the series, the changes the living Cosmic Cube fragment known as Kobik made to the Marvel Universe in Secret Empire #10, how the true Steve Rogers feels about what happened while his reality was rewritten, and some of HydraCap’s interesting allies.
CBR: So Nick, you’ve pretty much wrapped your first big Marvel event! Overall, it felt like Secret Empire – and the larger Captain America tale you’ve been telling since 2016 – was about Cap’s true role in the Marvel Universe: to inspire. Is that what you were aiming for?
Nick Spencer: Absolutely. I think despite it being about putting Steve and all the other heroes of the Marvel Universe through something horrible, what we hoped was that through the inversion you could kind of see the importance and value of Steve Rogers both as a symbol and as a man; that you could see through this cracked mirror version just what it was that made Steve such a good and noble person. We hoped that you could see why he’s the hero everyone looks to when danger is around.
A lot of the inspirational moments in Secret Empire came from finding hope in some pretty dark places, leading to Secret Empire being pretty controversial. What was it like watching the conversation around the series develop as the book progressed?
You know when you’re doing a story like this, it’s not going to be easy on folks. You certainly understand that people are going to be upset. There’s no getting around it. What we did to Captain America here was a horrible thing. This was a huge ordeal and trial for him.
People are protective of these characters, and they’re passionate about them. These characters mean a lot to them personally. So seeing people up in arms about something bad happening to Captain America was just part of the terrain of the job. That said, we all felt from the beginning, and now that we’re at the end we still feel this way, that this was very much a story worth telling. We had a solid plan for how to bring the heroes through this, how to give them a big win, restore Steve, and hopefully give the Marvel Universe something of a fresh start going forward; a fresh outlook.
Now that the heroes have been through this and confronted a lot of their regrets and demons, they can come back stronger than ever.