Exclusive Interview: “Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers” Author Carrie Harris
In her new novel Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers (paperback, Kindle), writer Carrie Harris gets to send Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and other Marvel Comics characters on an epic adventure. But it’s not one that’s related to the comics, or based on the movies and TV shows, or connected to the video games; instead, it’s inspired by the miniatures game Marvel: Crisis Protocol made by Atomic Mass Games. In the following email interview, Harris discusses what inspired and influenced this novel, as well as how it connects to the game she loves to play.
For people who haven’t played it, what kind of game is Marvel: Crisis Protocol, and is it based on the comics and the movies or just the comics?
Crisis Protocol is a miniatures game. Players create their own teams and go to town in fast-paced battles that include cool powers and thrown dumpsters. The available characters are based on the comics, but I’d argue that it’s accessible for any Marvel fan, and it’s a heckload of fun, too.
And then what is Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers about, and how does it connect to the game?
Shadow Avengers is about a group of superheroes led by Doctor Strange. He’s put them together to protect the world from Dormammu’s upcoming invasion. But when a bunch of portals start opening up, they start spitting out Asgardians instead. The heroes have to figure out what’s going on and save the day.
I love tabletop games, and I think that the best game tie-in fiction makes you excited to play. So I tried to put a bunch of fun battle scenes into the book that feel like they could be a part of a Crisis Protocol game session. In fact, I think you could play through some if not all of them, although I haven’t had the time to try it out yet.
Is there also a connection between Shadow Avengers and the previous Crisis Protocol novel, Stuart Moore’s Target: Kree?
Yes! This book is a sequel to Stuart’s excellent Target: Kree novel. However, this one follows a completely different group of heroes. I try to make my books stand alone, so I suppose you could read them out of order and still understand what’s happening, but I strongly recommend that you read Target: Kree first because it’s so darned good.
I get the sense that you were a fan of Marvel: Crisis Protocol before you started writing Shadow Avengers…
I’m a huge tabletop game fan, and I have a copy of the game, but I run into this awful problem that my miniatures always look like they were built by a five-year-old. So I’ve played the game, and I really enjoy it, but I’m really tempted to sub in some Pop figures or something, because my minis make me very depressed.
Where did you get the idea for Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers?
Since the first Crisis Protocol book was already written, I had a clear roadmap to follow with lots of different strings to pull. The end of Target: Kree sets up the basic premise for mine, so I just had to take that and run with it. It was really just a matter of putting my own spin on it in a way that highlighted some of the awesome things that Crisis Protocol does.
Given the source material, I’m guessing that Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers is a sci-fi action story, but has a bit of the occult in there as well…
That’s a pretty good description, actually. Given that the book is based on a skirmish type game, there are a lot of action scenes and a lot of fights. But I also wanted each character to get a moment to shine, and to capture some of the wit and emotion that make me love this world so much. So it’s also got some moments of drama and comedy sandwiched in between the kicking and punching and shooting.
Now, Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers is not your first novel. It’s not even your first novel based on Marvel’s characters. You previously wrote Marvel: Xavier’s Institute: Liberty & Justice For All in 2020, as well as Marvel Untold: Witches Unleashed, which came out a few months ago. Are there any writers who had a big influence on Shadow Avengers but not on any of your previous novels, especially the Marvel ones?
I mean, this might make me sound like a smart alec, but Stuart Moore had a unique influence on this one because he wrote the first book. I didn’t go into this trying to write like Stuart, because we each bring our own voices to the table, but one thing I really enjoyed about the Target: Kree was the blistering pace. It just doesn’t let up. So I did make an effort to capture that in this book so that they feel like a part of a continuous story even though they’re written by two different people.
And did any of the other Marvel stuff have a particularly big influence on Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers? Y’know, the comics, movies, TV shows, video games, t-shirts, decorative soaps…
That’s a difficult balance, because Crisis Protocol uses the comic version of the characters, but these stories exist outside of the comics continuity. So what I did was read a lot of comics (and watch a few things on Disney+) and focus on the characters’ voices. I wanted to make sure that whenever Spider-Man was on the page, he felt the way Spider-Man should feel and sounded the way he should sound. As a fan myself, I’m familiar with those voices, but with so many characters in play, it’s easy to get jumbled up. So a quick visit to a comic to read a Venom scene before I wrote one helped me to make the characters each sound different.
What about other non-literary influences; was Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers influenced by any non-Marvel movies, TV shows, or games?
Nothing in specific, but it definitely was influenced by other game tie-in books that I’ve read or written in the past. Like I said, I enjoy tie-in books that make me want to play the game. Maybe that’s because they stimulate ideas for the game, or maybe it’s just because the book is so darned fun that I want to go back to the game and experience that again. That goal definitely was in my mind during the whole process of writing Shadow Avengers.
Now, as we’ve been discussing, Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers is connected to the game Marvel: Crisis Protocol. There are a lot of Marvel fans who don’t play C.P. Do you think fans of Marvel’s comics and movies would enjoy Shadow Avengers? And, more importantly, understand it?
Oh, sure. I’ve approached all of my Marvel books in the same way: I want them to be accessible to anybody, whether you saw a Marvel movie once or you have all of the comics in long boxes stashed around your house. This one’s the same. If you play the game, I hope this book will give you ideas for fun team-ups and make you want to get out those minis. But if you don’t, you should have no problem understanding what’s going on.
What about people who are big Carrie Harris fans but don’t read the comics or play Marvel: Crisis Protocol? Would they also enjoy and understand Shadow Avengers? And I mean people who just aren’t into Marvel stuff, not someone who hates Marvel like Martin Scorsese.
Hah! I’m not sure I’d give a copy to Scorsese, but at the end of the day, I think Shadow Avengers has a lot of elements in it that you’ll find in my other books. I like fast-paced action scenes, character development, really awful jokes, and heroes you don’t expect to save the day. If you like those things, you’ll probably like Shadow Avengers as well as my other stuff.
So, is there anything else you think someone might need to know about Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers?
It’s got a gorgeous cover by Xteve Abanto. My name is on Spider-Man’s leg. I don’t know why, but that just thrills me to no end.
Finally, if someone enjoys Marvel: Crisis Protocol: Shadow Avengers, they’ll probably go buy Marvel: Xavier’s Institute: Liberty & Justice For All and Marvel Untold: Witches Unleashed, and maybe even Stuart Moore’s book. But once they’re done with those, which of your original novels would you suggest they read and why that one?
I think I’ll go with Elder God Dance Squad. That’s partly because it’s my most recent original book, and I’ve gotten better at this writing thing over the years. But also, E.G.D.S. is about a group of people trying to save the world, just like my Marvel books. Only in this book, the heroes are a high school dance squad, and the villains are the Lovecraftian beasts trying to crawl up from beneath their school and devour the world. It’s kind of like Stranger Things meets Bring It On, and I love how ridiculous it is.
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