Last year, EW partnered with Marvel for The Art of Level 7, a series of exclusive posters showcasing key events in episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And in anticipation of next week’s mid-season premiere, EW is proud to bring back this initiative for a second round.
Every Thursday for the next few months, EW will bring you an exclusive first look at a new poster commissioned by a surprise artist, along with an interview from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeff Bell. The art will be available for sale on Marvel’s website as a high-quality print limited to 100 copies, starting at 12:30 a.m. PT each following Friday. This is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Art of Evolution, and we’re excited to introduce the first piece in the new collection from artist Gabriele Dell’Otto.
If the name sounds familiar, it should—aside from his recent work on Marvel’s X-Force mini-series, Dell’Otto, along with writer Brian Michael Bendis, created the character of Daisy Johnson (aka “Quake”) in Marvel’s Secret Wars. “We’re doing 12 pieces—we’re doing it for the whole back half, which is exciting for us,” Bell revealed.
As it did last year, Marvel collaborated with various artists in and out of comic industry, working closely to help produce episodic-specific pieces with a creative spin. “We came up with a list of a whole bunch of artists—just a real wish list of people—and then Marvel went out and chose people based on a specific style or because of some sort of relationship to the piece,” Bell explained. “And that’s how we came up with Gabriele Dell’Otto for this one, as the co-creator of Daisy Johnson. And now that we’ve got Skye there, it seemed like he would be a great choice to bring his unique perspective to the character. And I think it fits to the two visions of her—both as emerging superhero as well as her being caught in the middle of it all—and it’s captured really well here.”
In the explosive mid-season finale, a terrigan mist was released that allowed Skye to unlock her new powers as superhero Daisy Johnson. But the event also resulted in the loss of Agent Trip, and the mid-season premiere, appropriately titled “Aftershocks,” will find Skye and the rest of the team dealing with the aftermath of these events. Read on for more in our chat with Bell, as we take a closer look at what this first piece of art means for next week…and beyond.
EW: I love the fact that you chose to have Dell’Otto—he original creator of Daisy Johnson—debut your first piece, given that “Aftershocks” is the first time we’re going to see Skye really embracing her true identity. Was that an intentional choice?
JEFF BELL: Absolutely, and that’s 100% why we chose him. And other aspects of it involve Coulson’s relationship to her, and also sort of hinting at what you also saw hinted at in episode ten, which is Raina ain’t quite the same as we saw her last time. And that will be really interesting, to see how people react to that. We’re really excited about the actress, Ruth Negga, and where we’re taking the character, and so the poster hints at that as well.
Speaking of Raina in this piece – when you were asking people to create the art, did you give them specific direction about what was happening to the character so that they could work off of that information? Or is something like this more open to interpretation in terms of what Raina could become?
I would say for this, it’s not without base and some fact. It’s representative, and it’s his interpretation of certain things, and I think certain things here are quite different than how she’ll look. But I think it’s also hinting at the transformation. So when we approach them, we say, “we think this is interesting because of this or this.” This episode is the aftermath of Skye becoming a superhero, and maybe we’ll show them the script or let them watch the episode and let them respond to it emotionally and see what’s interesting to them. And then we have a conversation with them about how we’d like to portray that, and then we try to lean into the strengths that they have. Some are more graphic, some are more character based, some are more composite, and some are cleaner. And that’s one of the things we really look forward to each week, getting the initial sketches back from the artists and seeing their interpretation. It’s really fun to see how each one is unique and different, and we hope fans want to collect all of them—I know I do!
I also love how Coulson is portrayed in this piece, and I think that’s really important in light of everything that happened recently, with Skye finally meeting her father but realizing that as far as paternal figures go, Coulson is really the one she wants to be close to. And I like how Dell’Otto depicted that, where Coulson is kind of in between Skye’s two different sides: Skye transforming and Skye as a girl who has to deal with what she’s become.
One of the joys of the season has been watching both Chloe [Bennet] and Skye come of age. And Skye has become more confident as a character and as an agent, and we’ve also seen Chloe become more confident as an actor and performer, whether it’s her fight skills or whether it’s her emotional portrayal.
Can you talk at all about what we see of the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo in this? I remember when we had the art pieces last year, there was a lot of the S.H.I.E.L.D. symbol being overlaid by Hydra—or as you liked to call it, “Shydra.”
I don’t want to give too much away, but right now, we’re still very much in a S.H.I.E.L.D. world. And it’s still part of it, but it’s a background element to the more dynamic conflict we’re kind of bringing forward, which is more personal. I think as you see how S.H.I.E.L.D. is going forward, it will be ever-changing and intriguing. That’s all I’ll say.
So is it safe to say that Skye’s transformation as Daisy will be the driving point of the back half of the season, like Ward’s betrayal was last year?
I think that’s a very safe assumption. I think everyone has an opinion not only about Skye, but about people with powers. And suddenly, you’ve got this person you knew who comes in feeling different, and what does that mean both for her and for everyone else on the team? It is, in many ways, the axis around which around a lot of the back half of this season will emerge from.
Can we also infer based on what we see of Raina in this image that she’ll get closer with Skye because they share something other people might not be able to understand?
What I will say is that we’ve been playing the Skye and Raina through the whole thing as parallels, as doppelgangers of one another—two sides of the same coin. Both young women without parents, without a history, both struggling with who they are, both looking to figure out who they are and what they will become. And then who they are and what they will become in both instances are surprising and complicated and so that will absolutely affect their relationship with one another.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday, March 3 at 9pm. Be sure to check in at EW to see the exclusive reveal of next week’s art for episode 12, “Who You Really Are.” The art for “Aftershocks” will go on sale on at www.marvelshop.com/agentsofshield as a $49.99 print on Friday, February 27 at 12:30 a.m. PT.