Speaking of long-term plans, readers are currently seeing Dr. Mindbubble in "Captain America," a character you've had in your pocket for years -- at least since the "Uncanny X-Force" days. As the character is coming into full light, is this pretty much what your vision was all along, or did the idea evolve around the way?

I cooked the character up for a creator-owned book in 2001, and never got around to it, and then at a certain point realized that as a creator-owned character, the ideas I had were fun, but he really worked better in a superhero world, so I threw him into the Marvel soup. The character he was, and how his powers worked, and who he is and what he does, and his connection to the Weapon Minus program, and all of that stuff -- that goes back to the first document I wrote in 2010, when he was going to be utilized in "X-Force." We never got to him in "X-Force," because I was then moved onto other books. Dr. Mindbubble was going to be up against Fantomex, because Dr. Mindbubble was created by the Weapon Minus program, and the Weapon Minus program was created to deal with the rogue agents from the Weapon Plus program. When I didn't get to do that, I thought, "Well, he's shelved" -- until I realized that Captain America is also a creation of the Weapon Plus program. Not only that, but ideologically, a psychedelic super-soldier who is part of the beatnik and later hippie movement of the '60s, a sort of counter-culture, Timothy Leary guru, stands in a pretty glaring opposition to somebody like Steve Rogers. That that juxtaposition was actually far more interesting than Fantomex.

I built that up, and then I also recognized that the Ran Shen story takes place in the '60s, and that they were all at S.H.I.E.L.D. at the same time, and it just kind of takes shape at this point -- you start connecting the dots when you're doing your outlining, and you're like, "Oh, this is perfect!" Then, I also realized that Nuke was a big part of the Weapon Plus program in the '60s, and what a perfect connection that was, that Ran Shen and Dr. Mindbubble would have known, or had connection with, Nuke. That's where the Nuke idea came from. It all was born as I was putting together their backstories.

That definitely seems to have worked out, which has to be relief, as it could have been another idea that you weren't able to get to.

Yeah, and there are so many of these things that you don't get to. If you look at that same "X-Force" issue where you see Dr. Mindbubble's statue, next to it is Madame Worm. I got to use her in the "Winter Soldier" series as an agent of Hydra, and have plans for her coming up. There's a whole chapter of Hydra we meet in the "Winter Soldier" series that were put on ice after the '60s, basically, that I'll be reexamining and bringing back.

The "Winter Soldier" mini is the starting point for like five different ideas that I've had that will all bleed out into things that will affect Captain America moving forward.

You're working on a lot of books right now, a lot of very different stuff, and have had success with the launch of two creator-owned books over the past few months -- plus, you have a third Image book in the works. Are you enjoying that balance between the work-for-hire and the creator-owned? You're doing quite a bit of both right now, rather than leaning towards one or the other.

Every single book scratches a different itch for me right now. Marvel allows me to do different kinds of things -- I don't know if I ever would have taken it upon myself to do a 1965 James Bond-style story like "Winter Soldier" if I hadn't put it together on a Marvel [series]. "Uncanny Avengers," I've been allowed to just do my thing. I'm moving forward, and telling the kinds of stories that I like to tell, the kind of structure that I do in things like "X-Force" or "Fear Agent" -- and I get to do it with X-Men and Avengers, and cross-pollinate these two things. And I'm left alone. When it's all said and done, there will be consequences -- the characters will come out very changed, and the Marvel Universe will look a little different in the corner that I'm writing. But ultimately, I'm not hamstrung, nor am I given any sort of mandates in terms of how I have to structure these, or what I have to do. I can do it my way, and some people like that, and some people don't, but in the end it was at the least the way I wanted to do it. It's gratifying.

Conversely, the years that I wasn't doing creator-owned comic books, my soul was dying. I've dumped a lot of my personal life into a lot of these characters. I dumped a lot of myself into Fantomex, I dumped a lot of myself into Flash Thompson, various characters on the "Uncanny Avengers" team -- but I don't think that it's ever quite the same as like a Heath Huston [from "Fear Agent"], or a Bethany Black in "Strange Girl." A character that you create whole cloth and own naturally just takes on a different level of your character. Of course, they're not in any way, shape or form all you, but you find ways through the spectrum of these characters to say more about yourself and life, and it feels a little bit more connective, because there's absolutely no history -- it's all you and your creation with your collaborators.

Last year, all I was doing was "Cap" and "Uncanny Avengers" for 12 months -- that's all that was coming out. But at the same time, I was also producing "Deadly Class" and "Black Science," and I've been working on "Low" for like four and a half years now with Greg [Tocchini]. It's going to look like a whole lot of books, but in reality, it's stuff that I've been working on for years now; some of it's just finally coming together and coming out. But I think that one helps the other, for me, at least. Having my creator-owned books, and having that playful freedom -- it's what I did for so many years. Getting back to it, and building from ground up, has reignited my passion for making comics, and I think that carries over into my Marvel work.

"Winter Soldier: The Bitter March" #3 is on sale April 16.

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