S.W.O.R.D At The Ready: Interview With Kieron Gillen
The latest title unsheathed from the X-Universe, S.W.O.R.D., written by Kieron Gillen with art by Steven Sanders is set to debut this November.
The secret organization known as S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department), was first introduced in Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men. John Cassady, the artist who worked on Astonishing, is doing the art for the covers of the ongoing series.
CosmicBookNews.com's Editor, Matt McGloin, spoke with writer Kieron Gillen on what characters fans will see, how the organization might handle some of the more powerful cosmic threats and whether or not Marvel's "Cosmic" villains or heroes will pop in to give S.W.O.R.D. a run for their money.
CosmicBookNews: Can you tell us a little about the ongoing S.W.O.R.D series? Can you describe the organization S.W.O.R.D for us?
Kieron Gillen: S.W.O.R.D. has been around for fifty years. It's a Sister agency to what SHIELD use to be. Where SHIELD dealt with internal security, S.W.O.R.D. looks to the stars. On this galactic scale, SHIELD are the FBI. S.W.O.R.D. are the CIA. Their mandate is a little larger than that. They're partially border security, partially diplomatic corp and partially full-on intergalactic spies trying to head off any threat against terra firma before it exists.
In short, S.W.O.R.D. stops something like Secret Invasion happening eight times a year, without anyone knowing.
CosmicBookNews: Can you tell us about the characters involved, Henry Gyrich, Beast, Agent Brand -- what are their roles in S.W.O.R.D?
Kieron Gillen: Up until Secret Invasion, Abigail Brand was commander of S.W.O.R.D.. Since then, the trans-national body which governs it has inserted Henry Gyrich as a co-commander. They've split the duties between them as they try to rebuild the organization. That Brand is even in co-control says a lot about how important she was in actually stopping the Skrull invasion. While there's a floating role, Brand tends to look more outwards while Gyrich looks inwards. Brand is mainly dealing with aliens out there.
Gyrich is mainly dealing with aliens right here. Brand, being a compulsive micromanager, and he does a lot of the day-to-day running of the Peak, which is S.W.O.R.D.'s orbital headquarters. They spend 99 percent of the time there doing the day-to-day responsibilities.
The other one percent is where our stories focus, where Brand stops all the enormously hard work and starts having to take enormous risks to save the world. On those days, she's Jack Bauer with less stubble.
Beast is only now cementing his relationship with S.W.O.R.D.. He's Brand's primary science officer, but is also in her "A-Team" of field agents. As in, a core team she tends to take everywhere. The empath Sydren (who you'll have seen in Astonishing X-men) and Lockheed (who you'll have seen in THE MIGHTY MARVEL UNIVERSE FOREVER) are the other core pair.
CosmicBookNews: The mission of S.W.O.R.D is to remove all alien beings from the earth. How are they going to go about this? Some aliens are arguably a lot more powerful than the earth based characters, how will S.W.O.R.D deal with, say a Silver Surfer class threat?
Kieron Gillen: With difficulty.
It's tempting to leave it like that. "With difficulty" is absolutely the point, and how they approach those problems will reveal a lot about the organization.
S.W.O.R.D. has kept itself mostly secret for fifty years. It's not the sort who generally go in with seven-hundred tanks. In this case, with those too powerful to fight, they'd try and work out an appropriate motivation for them to leave.
Of course, the Surfer isn't on earth at the moment, so that particular one isn't a problem.
CosmicBookNews: Furthermore, there are a lot of aliens on the earth, for instance would S.W.O.R.D look to remove a certain alien symbiote or even the "aliens" from Asgard?
Kieron Gillen: The certain alien symbiote's an interesting one. Brand suspects that Gyrich is actually an appointee via Osborn's political weight. As such, whether Gyrich actually goes for Venom or not will tell us a lot about what's really going on here.
The Asgardians are another interesting one. I suspect the lawyers are still arguing over that one, but S.W.O.R.D.'s don't really consider any of the pantheons on Earth as aliens. Intra-dimensional threats, abstractly, are under A.R.M.O.R.'s domain.
Or maybe it's just they'll be the last ones on the list.
CosmicBookNews: How far will S.W.O.R.D. go to achieve this? Even if it means direct conflict with their parent organization, H.A.M.M.E.R. and Director Osborn? Are they under orders from Osborn?
Kieron Gillen: As I said above, there's a suspicion of influence. But strictly speaking, S.H.I.E.L.D. - and now H.A.M.M.E.R. - isn't actually their parent organization. It's a sister organization. Osborn's influence, if any, is indirect.
Gyrich and Brand are at each other's throats throughout the series, but there's one thing which they both agree on. They do whatever it takes to make Earth safe. Where they differ is their belief in what it actually takes to make Earth safe.
CosmicBookNews: At the end of Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter we saw Beta Ray Bill state that he "is home." Will Beta Ray take part in S.W.O.R.D. in any way? Do you have any other plans for using Beta Ray Bill?"
Kieron Gillen: When I wrote "Home" I was mostly referring to the idea that he's back with what remains of his people - and thus wherever he is, he's basically home. Secondarily, I was referring to Earth. Thirdly, more the emotional state. It was that sort of line.
Of course, I totally wrote an ongoing relationship between 'em. Ti Asha Ra is staying on the Peak. Bill owes Brand a favour. While he does appear in the first arc, I do have hopes to use him down the line. I've got enormous empathy for the horse-headed fella.
CosmicBookNews: Are there plans to include Marvel's cosmic characters in this at some point?
Kieron Gillen: One of the best things about writing this series is the amount of the toys in the Marvel box that you get to play with. Anything that crosses the boundary between Earth and the Heavens is in our domain. That totally includes all the cosmic characters. I have a mad crush on several.
CosmicBookNews: Thanks so much for your time! We look forward to reading S.W.O.R.D. which is do to hit stores November 11th!