Christos Gage Gets AVENGERS ACADEMY Ready for Some Football

 

It's something of a transition period right now for writer Christos Gage. His run on X-Men Legacy ends this month, as the title is getting relaunched with a new #1 in November from the creative team of Simon Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat. Next month, Avengers Academy — which he's written since its inception in 2010 — comes to a close, with some of the characters moving on to the December-debuting Avengers Arena.

But as Gage tells us, he'll be just as busy as ever, with multiple projects at Marvel, Dark Horse's Angel & Faith and more. And he's not quite done with Avengers Academy yet, and in this week's issue #38, illustrated by Tom Grummett, pits Hank Pym's students against Wolverine's Jean Grey School for Higher Learning in a superpowered game of flag football.

We talked to Gage about bringing both Academy and Legacy to a close, co-writing the current Amazing Spider-Man arc with Dan Slott, his thoughts on the provocative Avengers Arena concept and his long-time support of the New England Patriots.

 

Newsarama
: Christos, let's start with the big news: flag football. When people think Marvel and sports, they usually think of X-Men and softball, so what motivated you to bring football into Avengers Academy? Certainly, it makes sense given the time of year and your Twitter indicates that you're a Patriots fan, so I'm guessing it may be a subject close to your heart — plus it seems like a bit of a breather after the serious stakes of "Final Exam."

Christos Cage: I have to give the credit to either Jason Aaron or whoever else may have put together the Jean Grey School brochure in Wolverine and the X-Men #1. At the end of the brochure, under "Special Events," it said "Flag Football Game Against Avengers Academy." It was just meant as flavor, but a lot of readers asked when they would see the game, so I figured, why not? And you're right, following the serious events of "Final Exam," it was a great time for a palate cleanser… although some of the repercussions of "Final Exam" will be felt in this issue.

Oh, and Go Pats! Don't hate, I was there when they sucked.

 

Nrama
: The issue also features the Jean Grey School characters, some of whom you've been writing over in X-Men Legacy. Did this issue give you a chance to explore a few of those characters you haven't used much in Legacy?  

Gage: It did give me the chance to write a couple characters I don't usually tackle, like Warbird. But for the most part I've written them before.

Nrama: And here's a question that comic book fans are always concerned with, though never quite in this context: Will there be a definitive winner and loser in this flag football game?

Gage: Who wins is not the focus of the story. It's really more about the characters interacting, like in the old Avengers annuals, where the East and West Coast Avengers would play baseball against each other, or those X-Men stories you mentioned, when it wasn't about the score but rather what fun ways they would use their powers.

I can say a lot of people get ejected during the game. And Wolverine might just be nursing a grudge against Giant-Man for kicking him out of a Quinjet in Avengers vs. X-Men

 

Nrama
: "Final Exam "just wrapped, and since there's only one more issue left to go after this week, it'll be the last multi-part story of the book. I'm not sure if it was always planned that way, but how well do you think it works as effectively the climax for the series? It is called "final" exam, after all.

Gage: Actually, I did know the series was ending while I was writing most of "Final Exam." While issue #39 is really more the endpoint, "Final Exam" definitely paid off a number of plotlines, including the Jeremy Briggs subplot, the return of Veil (though she's now powerless) and Jocasta, as well as gave us some character development on a number of fronts, for both good and ill.

If the book had continued, I still would've done the storyline, but it would've been more of a "season finale," a bit like issue #20 was following Fear Itself. As it stands, though, I think "Final Exam" is an effective story to be the last big arc in the series. But I'm glad Marvel gave me the last couple issues to really wrap things up.

 

Nrama
: On that subject — X-Men Legacy is ending this month and Avengers Academy is wrapping the next. Are you pleased with the extent you were able to bring things to a close in both books? Marvel NOW! has been in the planning for a while, so you likely had a reasonable amount of time to tie up loose ends.

Gage: I did, especially with Avengers Academy. I think I had at least six issues notice. I'm really appreciative Marvel gave me that opportunity to plan ahead.

With Legacy, I feel good about how Rogue's character journey has wrapped up; even before I knew the end of the series would be issue #275, I had planned to end the focus on her with that issue, because I felt like we would be coming to the natural end of the road Mike Carey started her on. My main regret with Legacy is that, had the series continued as is, I would have turned the focus to the supporting characters in the book. But as it became clear there would be a relaunch, I sort of let the supporting characters fall by the wayside, because I didn't want to start things I couldn't finish. Much as I would have loved to further explore Chamber's class on "coping with physical mutations," or Mimic, or what was sure to be a volatile romance between Gambit and Frenzy, there just wasn't time. I know some readers are disappointed by that, and I'm sorry. It's just the nature of the beast sometimes.

 

Nrama
: To move onward towards the future, you're jumping back on Amazing Spider-Man with Dan Slott as of issue #695 this week. You've gotten to write a healthy amount of Spidey over the last couple of years — what has you specifically excited about this story, which is coming in what appears to be a rather conspicuous time for the character?

Gage: Well, it's always fun just to co-write with my old Initiative pal Dan Slott, especially on what I believe will be looked back on as a truly classic run on ASM. And yes, this is a highly significant time for Spidey. But for this old fanboy, the real draw of working on issues #695 to 697 was the War of the Goblins!

That's right, the original Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley, comes back to teach a lesson to Phil Urich, the new Hobgoblin who killed Kingsley's brother and stole his identity! Add the Kingpin, oodles of Hand ninjas, plus surprises I can't mention, and it was irresistible to me. It's icing on the cake that Giuseppe Camuncoli, the penciler of the last issue I collaborated with Dan on (#664, I think) is back, with the inking of industry legend Dan Green (he inked the very first X-Men comic I ever read, Uncanny #107!). I promise you no one who reads this will be looking ahead to #700; they'll be enjoying the story on its own merits!

 

Nrama
: You're also writing the Astonishing X-Men annual in November, which looks to at least partly be focusing on Northstar. His wedding was one of the bigger mainstream comic book news stories of the year — what are you looking to say about the marriage in the issue?

Gage: This story, where I reunite with my Legacy artistic team of David Baldeon and Jordi Tarragonna, looks at the notion that when you marry someone you are also marrying into their family… and in Kyle's case, his husband Northstar's family is the X-Men.

And yes, we deal with the fact that Kyle is now a target for anti-mutant hate groups like the Friends of Humanity, but while grappling with that he faces up to a variety of issues, interacting with the other Astonishing X-Men. It was a fun issue to write, I love character-based stories like that.

 

Nrama
: Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker's Avengers Arena uses several of the Avengers Academy characters, and has some fans very excited and some fans very nervous, given the concept. Definitely curious — do you have any thoughts on the title you'd like to share?

Gage: I understand the nervousness of readers afraid they will lose some of their favorite characters. And some folks probably will. But I trust Bill Rosemann, who has edited Avengers Academy from the start, not to let this become a gratuitous massacre done for shock value. And Dennis Hopeless seems like a smart, talented guy who has higher standards than to do that anyway. I'm a big Kev Walker fan, too, so I'm sure the book will be well done.

It may not be for everyone, and I get that. And of course I'll be bummed if any Avengers Academy characters die. But Mike McKone and I didn't create them to put on a shelf when we were done. We created them to be part of the Marvel Universe, and that only happens if other creators take them on, which I am thrilled to see happening. All I would say is, give the book a chance, like you did with Academy. If you like it, stick with it. If you don't, don't. That's pretty much my advice on comics in general.

 

Nrama
: Moving beyond Marvel, Angel & Faith is now well into its second year at Dark Horse. How would you describe the experience of getting to add to and create in such a beloved section of pop culture?

Gage: It's intimidating, because I know how much these characters mean to people — to say nothing of what they mean to Joss! But that's also what makes it such a wonderful privilege. To be trusted with these icons, to have the chance to further their story, it's an honor. And the way the Whedonites have welcomed Rebekah [Isaacs] and me with open arms is really amazing.

I've worked in TV, and when you write an existing show, your job is to make sure you are true to the voice of the show, of those characters. I think that background served me well on Angel & Faith. I've made mistakes, and I have a great editorial team keeping me on track, but really, the distinct voices Joss and his writers and actors gave Angel, Faith and the rest means the hardest part's already done. They're living, breathing people; it's my job to just listen to them and write down what they say.

 

Nrama
: Though you've got quite a bit going on as it is — along with the above, First X-Men is still unfolding — fans are still curious what's next for you since both of your Marvel ongoing series are ending. In terms of monthlies, are you sticking mainly with Angel & Faith for the time being? Or can we expect more announcements soon?

Gage: Yeah, Angel & Faith is currently my only ongoing book. I am going back to Absolution, my superhero cop drama for Avatar Press, for a second and third "season," so that's going to be back starting in 2013. I'm doing a bunch of short-form stuff for Marvel as well, like the Astonishing X-Men Annual and an Iron Man 2 movie adaptation/bridge to Iron Man 3 miniseries. And I'm talking to other publishers, though I can't reveal anything just yet. I'm as busy as ever, and I'm getting to do a variety of different stuff. I'm lucky to have the luxury of taking opportunities as they come, or make my own, as I choose, so that's what I'm going to do.

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