UPDATED: It's GAME ON as Tobin Traps Marvel's Teen Heroes

GAME ON With Paul Tobin

10/1 Update: Comments from Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel added.

Youth is most certainly being served right now at Marvel Comics, with two teen teams — Young Allies and Avengers Academy — starring in their own titles. Recently christened Spider-Girl Anya Corazon, a teenager in her own right, gets her own comic starting in November.

It's fairly inevitable that these three entities will encounter each other (Spider-Girl being a member of Young Allies makes it even more likely), and in this case, "inevitable" is January 2011. No, they're not getting together for a Glee marathon or to catch whichever Nicholas Sparks adaptation might be in theaters — in "Game On," Spider-Girl writer Paul Tobin traps Anya, the Young Allies, and the Avengers Academy kids in Arcade's latest version of Murderworld.

The story stars in Avengers Academy Annual #1 and continues monthly in Spider-Girl Annual #1; wrapping up in Young Allies Annual #1. Artists are yet to be revealed, but the annuals also feature back-up stories from co-writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel (Captain America: Theater of War).

Newsarama talked with Tobin via e-mail to try and find why exactly Arcade is trying to kill a bunch of kids, what a 2011 Murderworld might look like, and if the meeting of Young Allies and Avengers Academy means a reunion between a couple of formerly engaged New Warriors.

Newsarama: Paul, fill us in a little bit about how “Game On” evolved. Was it a matter of “Hey, bringing together all these teen characters is a no-brainer!”? Or did it maybe start as a story to re-establish Arcade?

Paul Tobin: Arcade waltzed in a little later. I came in to the story after I spouted off to my editor (Bulldog-fancier Nate Cosby) about how much I liked Christos Gage's works on Avengers Academy. Unbeknownst to me, Nate and the Gang had been thinking of tying Spider-Girl (my upcoming book) and Avengers Academy and Young Allies together into one tale for a month. It just seemed natural. People of the same ages tend to hang out together, especially if they swing across rooftops and punch supervillains. I ended up in control of the writing phase, and I have always wanted to work with Arcade, because he's a madman with a sense of whimsy, and they're fun to write. Plus … and I have to check with my accountant on this … but I'm pretty sure I can now buy an all-white suit and write it off on my taxes.

Nrama: Obviously you're the Spider-Girl guy, but what degree of coordination was involved with Young Allies writer Sean McKeever and Avengers Academy writer Christos Gage in conceiving the story?

Tobin: Study of scripts, mostly. And my initial thoughts were run by them, making sure I was keeping true to their visions of their characters. I wish I could tell you that they sent me presents and bought me beers in order to make sure I treated their characters right, but it was unfortunately all handled in a very business-like manner.

Nrama: A shame. And since you are the regular writer of Spider-Girl, can we expect Anya to maybe have a more central role in the story?

Tobin: She does have a central role, indeed. At the same time, while she's the cement that ties the three books together, I was very conscious to not have her hog the limelight overmuch. Plus, having a chance to work with the other characters was a prime motivator in my tackling of the project.

Nrama: Arcade. What is this guy's beef? Why's he going after the teen heroes? Why does he choose them as his target for the statement he's trying to make?

Tobin: Well, Arcade is essentially a trumped-up hitman, so the first question we had to address was, "Who hired him?" And that led immediately to me asking, "Who the heck would hire this guy?" Let's face it … he's a hitman that costs millions to hire … and his targets always get away. That was something that we felt we, and Arcade, needed to address.

Nrama: Tell me about your own, personal take on Arcade. He's a fun villain, even if he still brings back frustrating, painful childhood memories of the Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade's Revenge game (I had it on Game Boy, and could never finish it for some reason). He's even had times where he's been reformed, or at least appeared to be (with posing as being reformed as recently as June's Fantastic Four #580) — but obviously he's way back on the wrong side in this story, trying to kill kids and all that. What do you like about Arcade, and what makes him a good opponent for the Avengers Academy/Young Allies/Spider-Girl?

Tobin: The fun thing about Arcade is … What's he going to do, and how's he going to do it? When I'm writing someone like the Rhino, it's pretty clear how he's going to handle things. He's going to make a list of things he feels needs punching, and he's going to punch them. With Arcade, though … he can just throw things out there. He doesn't even need to follow a path of sanity. And he can seem like a lot of fun, which makes it even more unnerving when he gets that killer gleam in his eye. The heroes in these books are in their formative years, which makes them all the more susceptible to indirect attacks, and I'm particularly having fun with the Avengers Academy crew, and their reactions to the (secret) reason why Arcade is after them.

Nrama: One more Arcade question — this story features a new Murderworld. What kind of 2011 touches can we expect to see there? Poisonous status updates? Exploding iPhone 4s? A to-the-death round of Plants vs. Zombies?

Tobin: Oh … if only I could use the Plants vs. Zombies game! That thing was responsible for keeping me awake a couple nights, making sure my lawn was free of zombies. As far as the new Murderworld, Arcade's got a few new tricks, sure. Maybe some more stress on the psychological aspects of his traps, as he knows these teenagers are on an even keener mental edge than some of their older counterparts.

Nrama: What can you tell us about the dynamic between the Young Allies and the Avengers Academy kids? Are the Young Allies fairly wary of the AA crew — because of how new they are to their powers, not to mention some of their more troubling proclivities?

Tobin: They're in Murderworld. Everyone is wary of everyone! When you're in Arcade world, you might as well have Admiral Ackbar following along behind you, advising you every step of the way.

Nrama: OK — Young Allies. Avengers Academy. Are we going to see interaction between Justice and Firestar at any point here?

Tobin: Hmmm. That's an interesting question. Let me just pass that along to my friend … Dr. Meaningful Silence.

Nrama: Are there any other particular personality clashes — or meshes — that we should look out for between the characters? Seems like the Avengers Academy might be a bit resentful of the Young Allies, for having more freedom and less unfortunate circumstances behind their banding together.

Tobin: Some of the traps in Murderworld are all about clashing (or meshing) personalities. That's one thing that draws me to Arcade as a character. I almost feel like I'm sitting down with him... devising multi-layered torments for our victims. Oh. I mean characters. Not victims.  

Nrama: What can you tell us at this point about your backups? Do they tie into the main stories? Which characters are featured?

Kyle Higgins: The backups are kind of their own thing — we're doing what we like to call "moment in time pieces," where we follow two characters in each backup.

Alec Siegel: A Young Ally and an Academy member.

Higgins: Right. And each has their own small story that, when read in conjunction, shows how how these characters are both similar and different.

Siegel: And the stories are all happening around roughly the same time.

Who would hire Arcade to do such a thing?

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