PAUL LEVITZ Continues the ADVENTURE with LEGION ACADEMY

PAUL LEVITZ Talks LEGION ACADEMY

Sometimes a comic's high issue number is misleading.

This week's Adventure Comics #523 is more like a brand new #1 issue as it introduces a new direction to the title, a new artist, and a slew of new characters.

Adventure Comics will completely start anew as it focuses on the "Legion Academy," filled with young superheroes who want to be full-fledged members of the now older Legion of Super-Heroes. These fresh, new heroes will be introduced by writer Paul Levitz and artist Phil Jimenez, the latter of whom is also helping with story concepts as he joins the creative team this week.

The move toward a new concept comes after the title has gone through several fluctuations in recent months, transitioning from the Superboy-centered stories that re-launched the title two years ago, and also recently losing its back-up "co-feature." For the last few months, the series has been telling stories about the Legion of Super-Heroes, even though that team already has its own ongoing title by Levitz.

Now Adventure Comics is all about this new young team of superheroes in the future. In Part 1 of a series of interviews about the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Legion Academy, we talked with Levitz about what readers can expect from Adventure Comics.

Newsarama: Paul, the solicitation for this week's issue and the start of your "Legion Academy" stories really called out for new readers to join with that issue. Is that one of the goals of this series now?

Paul Levitz: The rap on the Legion over the years has been that it's kind of a closed club because of its complexity. But I don't think that's proved to be the case for a lot of people who came in and tried it.

But I also don't think we've gotten as wide a sampling as other things that have come along. Hopefully, that can be one of the benefits of the Academy project.

Also, because the Legion has kept its fans as many years as it has — and there are so many people who have been reading Legion, literally, for a lifetime — it's possible that by having protagonists who are so much younger, that will provide a more inviting place for new relatively younger readers. In the case of Legion, we're not talking about making this an all-ages book or bringing in young children to read the comic, but simply increasing the number of people who are, say, in their 20's who are reading the book. Legion has a fair number of readers in their 20's and readers in their teens, but not as many as I'd like as a proportion.

Nrama: This week's issue also sees Phil Jimenez join the team. How does his artwork add to the new direction the title's taking?

Levitz: Phil has done some absolutely gorgeous artwork. I know people have seen some preview pages, but I think they're going to be even more pleased with the totality of it. He's so passionate about the characters. I think he's one of the more interesting artists in the current generation in terms of how much he puts into the physical acting and costume design — the personality of the character. He's almost a method artist, for lack of a better term. And that's terrific when you're dealing with something like the Academy, when you're dealing with characters who are at the beginning of their history. The Legion has this long affiliation with new characters, going back to the bits of Legionnaire business that used to run in the letters column almost 50 years ago now, allowing readers to create their own Legionnaires. So it's been neat to come up with a whole new bunch of guys run around in the Academy and we get to watch them grow up through their imperfections.

Nrama: Phil also has experience as a writer. Has he been contributing to the story-development side of the comic at all? Is he a co-writer?

Levitz: It's a collaborative process, and I think it's going to vary from storyline to storyline. When you have someone who knows the characters that well and is so passionate about it, you have someone who's overflowing with things he wants to contribute.

As an example, one night in the middle of the night, I got an email saying, "How do you feel about murder mysteries?" I said, "I like murder mysteries." And two minutes later, I had a list of 40 different murders that could be committed in the Legion Academy. I don't know that any will actually end up in the story, but that's part of the fun of it, when you're working with an artist who is a writer himself and has a fertile imagination. It becomes a constant game of 'Can you top this?'

Some of the reviews that have been posted, or comments that have been posted, on the recent Legion Annual talk about it being, for a number of people, some of the better writing I've done lately. And they attribute that to working with Keith, and I think fairly. In the same fashion, we've always had the same type of relationship there. Keith contributes something, I react to it, and what finally gets into the book isn't something that either of us came up with alone; it's a synthesis of it.

Some of that is going on with Phil, which is fun.

Nrama: What can you tell us about what's coming up in the first arc of "Legion Academy?"

Levitz: The first arc is really very much a first arc, introducing the freshman class. It's mostly new characters and Comet Queen, who has unfortunately had most of what passed for her brains wiped or damaged in battle. So she's been sent back to redo freshman class on up. And the story of how that happens will be played out in the fourth issue.

So we get to meet all these freshmen. We get a sense of their emotional relationships. And really, the vehicle to introduce a lot of the relationships, or the catalyst, is a new student who's showing up on her first day. She's an apprentice of the White Witch, from the Sorcerer's World. It's a young woman who has never really been anywhere or had any experience outside that strange and isolated planet.

And Glorith will be a mystery character for a while, as we learn what her back-story is. But also, in some ways, she'll experience the mystery herself, because she's seeing a whole different set of human relationships than she was used to seeing on that planet of hers. And she'll become the narrator of a lot of it too, in letters home.

So that's the first three-issue arc. Phil is just finishing the second issue as we speak, and I'm in mid-dialogue of that.

Nrama: And after the first arc we find out more about Comet Queen?

Levitz: Right. In the fourth issue, we step aside to do a one-issue story that looks at Comet Queen.

Nrama: She's one of the characters that isn't as new as the others, but will we be learning more about her?

Levitz: Yes, and we'll look at her origin in a little more depth. She was a very interesting character from the last time I was doing the book, in that people either loved her cockamamie, Valley Girl speak and over-the-top facial expressions, because Keith almost created her as almost an animated character rather than a character that logically was drawn on a Legion kind of standard look. Or they never wanted to see her again. And I decided that the folks who really loved her would win that fight. So that's a fun issue.

After that, the working plan is to start exploring Glorith's background and seeing what's going on with that mystery.

Nrama: Then before we move on to discussing what's coming up in Legion of Super-Heroes, is there anything else you want to tell readers about Adventure Comics?

Levitz: If readers are curious, there are two places coming up soon where you can comfortably "dip a toe" into the Legion world. The first issue of Adventure this week, and then the Super-Villains special in March. So this would be a great time to try out the Legion.

Check back tomorrow when we talk with Paul Levitz about Legion of Super-Heroes, including the recent leader election, next month's Legion of Super-Villains special, and whether Keith Giffen might work on the Legion again.

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