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Frank Barbiere & Brent Schoonover Talk About S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Dirty Little Secret and the HOWLING COMMANDOS

What's the story behind Dum Dum Dugan and his new monster squad?

Last week we heard about the 'All-New, All-Different Marvel' titles coming out this fall. There were a lot of new books and some changes in the creative teams. One book THE HOWLING COMMANDOES OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking a different approach to a concept we've seen before. Dum Dum Dugan will be leading a S.H.I.E.L.D. squad of monster-like agents. But wait a minute, isn't Dum Dum dead?

Frank Barbiere & Brent Schoonover answered some of our questions so we can know what to expect in the new series.

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COMIC VINE: How does this version of the Howling Commandos compare to previous versions?

FRANK BARBIERE: These are definitely the ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT Howling Commandos! The Commandos have a rich legacy at Marvel, and we’ve been able to mine all the previous incarnations to come up with a fun, fresh new take. The idea with our Commandos is that they are a special, extremely top secret part of SHIELD called “S.T.A.K.E.” and deal with the horrible, creepy things that are too intense for conventional action (such as the Avengers or SHIELD) in the Marvel U.

Clearly these are the “monster” commandos vs the traditional soldiers, but having Dum Dum in the mix has added that extra dash of history and turned the book into (pardon my pun), a whole new beast. Part of the fun as a creator at Marvel is to draw from the continuity and shared history of these properties and have it add up to something new, so this project really has been a joy to craft.

BRENT SCHOONOVER: The changes to the original HC group are pretty obvious, they were all normal soldiers with no special abilities. But I do think we are taking the cool vibe of the original crew and meshing it with the concept of making them monsters that we’ve seen in the past with the Keith Giffen mini and making something totally fresh. Having Dum Dum and even Jasper [Sitwell] in here really kind of helps create a throwback vibe to the book. But I don’t think we’ve seen a Howling Commandos like this at all yet. This line up really great and each character really makes a lot of sense for being there. S.T.A.K.E. is a truly unique approach to it.

CV: We found out the truth about Dum Dum Dugan in ORIGINAL SINS #5. Will this Dum Dum be aware he’s an advanced LMD?

BARBIERE: Yes, Dum Dum is aware that he’s a LMD and his struggle with his identity is a big theme in the book. Clearly we have “monsters” who have been labeled as freaks and living weapons by society and the government working for the greater good, so themes such as being an outcast and questioning your identity will come to the surface. Al Ewing has a great story in SHIELD #9 coming up that sets up our status quo, but readers will be able to jump in fresh and get the full story on Dum Dum and his struggle to find his place amongst these new Commandos.

SCHOONOVER: And he’s not too pleased about it. But I love the potential it gives us that our leader can almost be the most expendable character. He’s like Kenny from South Park meets John Wayne.

CV: What can you tell us about the selection of the monstrous members of the squad in both the comic world and as a creator?

BARBIERE: Our team is a pretty fun group of characters, and as a creator it’s an absolute blast to find the core of each character and play with their specific nuances. We’ve got (takes a breath) Warwolf, Dum Dum Dugan, Hit-Monkey, Orrgo, Vampire By Night, Man-Thing, Zombie Jasper Sitwell, Manphibian, and Teen Abomination right at the start. We’ll be playing with new characters I’m creating, which is a thrill, as well as having a lot of the creepier characters in the Marvel U circling around our story—it’s really a thrill to carve our own, creepy corner out with this title. I’m really working to give each of these characters a unique voice and purpose—clearly Orrgo is very different from say, Zombie Jasper. Having such a wealth of goals, strengths, weaknesses and personalities is going to make this a very entertaining book for readers!

SCHOONOVER: For me, I dig how it jumps all over different eras of the Marvel Universe. A classic Kirby monster like Orrgo, Early 60’s characters like Dum Dum and Jasper. Then you have some of the staple 70’s Marvel horror characters like Manphibian and Man-Thing. But then pretty new characters like Teenage Abomination. I just love how it’s a cool mix of horror characters from different decades. A little something for any fan no matter how long you’ve been reading Marvel Comics.

CV: Is the team newly formed or have they been going on secret missions before the series begins?

SCHOONOVER: Newly formed. This is about as rag tagged as it gets. They start out like the Washington Generals with dreams of playing like the Harlem Globetrotters.

BARBIERE: We’ll see Dum Dum putting the team together (there are unique circumstances surrounding their enrollment in S.T.A.K.E.) in the first issue and bringing them on their first official mission. I don’t want to spoil the intricacies of how S.T.A.K.E. works, so you’ll have to read to find out how the team comes together and the details of being an all-new, all-different Howling Commando!

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CV: What sort of missions will they go on?

SCHOONOVER: This is more Frank’s department but I will say the missions are obscure. The first one out of the gate is nuts. All I can say is Plant Zombies! I don’t know how he’s gonna top that but I’m sure he’ll find a way.

BARBIERE: As I mentioned, the Howling Commandos deal with a special type of mission—the supernatural. Their primary goal is to identify extranormal threats and decided how to deal with them. Whether that’s destroying them, containing them, or even recruiting them, that will all depend on the specific mission. It’s fun to have a team that deals with the literal darkest corners of the Marvel U. We’ll have zombies, ghouls, and ghosts in our first arc—and hopefully we’ll have lots more missions to come.

CV: What will be the vibe of the series?

SCHOONOVER: It hits everything. Certainly a horror slant and a military/ special ops vibe as well. But there’s a good bit of comedy to be had as well. I’d say it kind of has a Buffy tone to me. Frank does an outstanding job of hitting emotional beats that keep it nicely balanced. I think the main theme is just what it means to be a Monster. We have nine characters on this roster (so far!) and none of them are alike. That’s the journey of the Howling Commandos. Outsiders coexisting with other outsiders. It’ll be like herding cats for Dum Dum.

BARBIERE: Brent, my wonderful collaborator, has given the book a wonderful style that keeps it rooted as a “comic,” but has a special sense of levity and excitement. Clearly we’ve got monsters fighting the good fight, so we don’t want to be *too* self-serious—there will be plenty of unintentional fun and comedy—but at the core this book is about what it means to be a “monster” and identity, so the serious themes will keep it grounded. There’s also going to be a ton of action, as they are soldiers, so I’d say it’s really a fabulous genre mash-up! We’ve got it all: action, horror, comedy, and good old fashioned, Marvel fun.

CV: Can we assume people like Maria Hill and Phil Coulson know about their existence? How classified are they?

BARBIERE: Hill is aware of the team, but she keeps them closely guarded. There are some crazy secrets down in Area 13 where the Commandos operate from, so it’s clearly a “need to know” basis as far as people knowing. We’ll be dealing with a lot of the politics and secrets in the series so I don’t want to say anymore, but we like to say that the Howling Commandos are SHIELD’s “dirty little secret.”

SCHOONOVER: That would be a good assumption. But if we tell you it’s seven minutes in heaven with Vampire by Night.

CV: Will we see other prominent members of the Marvel Universe or will the focus be on keep them S.H.I.E.L.D.’s “dirty little secret”?

SCHOONOVER: So far I’ve been given an outline on the first story arc, and it’s pretty crazy cool stuff. I think for the first arc we are going to try and keep the “Dirty Little Secret’ plan, but you never know. Hard to keep a giant thing like Orrgo under wraps for too long.

BARBIERE: As I mentioned, we’ll be having a wide variety of characters pop in and out, and how the Commandos deal with that (and how the greater Marvel U reacts!)…well, you’ll have to wait until Fall to find out!

Keep an eye out for THE HOWLING COMMANDOS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. to debut this fall. You won't want to miss out on what the secret is all about.