SDCC 2011: AVENGERS ACADEMY Goes West with New Students

SDCC 2011: AVENGERS ACADEMY Goes West

Avengers Academy debuted as part of Marvel’s Avengers line relaunch in the spring of 2010, introducing a cast of student superheroes — Reptil, Finesse, Hazmat, Mettle, Veil and Striker — brought together due to being identified as potential future supervillains, a fact at first unknown to them.

As announced at Marvel’s “Next Big Thing” panel Thursday afternoon at Comic-Con International: San Diego, the comic is about to see some major changes starting with November’s Avengers Academy #21. The school’s relocating to the west coast — specifically, the former West Coast Avengers compound — and headmaster Hank Pym’s opening up the doors to all manner of Marvel teen heroes, beyond the familiar group seen since issue #1. The excitement of all that newness doesn’t last long, though, as an Avenger turns up murdered and the whole class is a suspect.

Newsarama talked with series writer Christos Gage about the future of the book, including if the prospect of new cast members means we’ll see some faces from his run on Avengers: The Initiative, the role of the book in Marvel’s increasingly busy west coast, and the validity of calling Hank Pym Avengers Academy’s Mr. Belding.

Newsarama: Christos, sounds like there's a whole lot happening in Avengers Academy starting in November. Let's start with the new students — with word that the school will "open their doors to all teen heroes of the Marvel Universe," can you give any hints on which characters we might see? Some characters from Avengers: The Initiative, perhaps?

Christos Gage: Actually, the Initiative characters already had quite a bit of training… though some of them will show up, as will various Young Allies, Loners, etc. Our focus will still be on a core group of full-time students, though… our “cast of thousands” will be more background, as well as an opportunity to do wider-ranging stories like our very well received “Super Hero Prom” issue in #13. But for most of those students it’s more of a part time thing… they can and will still have their own lives and adventures, while their Avengers Academy time will be more like someone who has a day job while also taking classes at a local college.

Nrama: And alternately, with a new class joining the fray, will we see the original class stick around, at least for the most part?

Gage: Except for one member who leaves in #20, the original class is still the core of the book. Like I said, they’re the full-timers. There will be a couple of additions to their ranks, however. One is a long-time Marvel character who’s been in another team of youths before — more than one, actually! The other is a new character with a familiar name continuing a proud heroic legacy… and dealing with the pressure that accompanies that.

Nrama: Looks like the Academy is moving west, to the old WCA compound. Will we see the Academy cast interacting with some of the other Marvel characters who've recently switched coasts, like Moon Knight and Daken? And how much are you using your experience of living in real LA to help you write Marvel Universe LA?

Gage: There could always be interaction with West Coast based characters. And I will definitely draw on my personal experience in LA! No Carmageddon stories, though.

Nrama: And there's new teachers, too — any possible clues of who may show up to drop some knowledge? And does this mean that some combo of Tigra, Quicksilver, Speedball and Justice will be leaving the book?

Gage: Well, as always, the door is open for any Avenger, past or present, to serve as guest instructor, but you’re right, we have a new full time faculty member who to my mind is a perfect fit, and who I personally consider a quintessential Avenger. And yes, a couple of old teachers will be leaving, under circumstances to be revealed…

Nrama: Looks like Hank Pym is still definitely a part of the book. Do you see him as a fundamental component at this point? Sort of like how Mr. Belding was the constant between Saved by the Bell and Saved by the Bell: The New Class, but wasn't on Saved by the Bell: The College Years, and then that ended up lasting less than a season. (He was in the Thanksgiving episode, though.)

Gage: Um… I’ll take your word for it! But yes, I do see Hank as an integral part of the Academy. Could it function without him? Sure. But I love the character, and between being a founding Avenger and having had his own experience with making mistakes and seeking redemption, I think he’s absolutely perfect as the cornerstone of the book.

Nrama: We haven't even gotten to the murder aspect yet. I imagine there's not much you can say about it at this point, but it sounds like a story that'll have major implications and long-term ramifications — how long are we going to see this story play out for?

Gage: The ramifications will indeed be felt for a long time, even after the identity of the person responsible is revealed.

Nrama: Art-wise, is the book sticking with the rotating team of Sean Chen and Tom Raney?

Gage: That’s the plan for the moment. Those guys are amazing…and when we need a pinch hitter, [series editor Bill Rosemann] has pulled in great artists like Andrea DiVito in #18 and Jorge Molina in #5, so I’m a happy man.

Nrama: Finally, given the nature of the book, it seems that there's an inherent opportunity to shake things up like this every so often — is that kind of the rough plan? Periodically introduce a new class and new teachers, as the Academy concept seems to lend itself to?

Gage: I do think that the core kids introduced in the first issue are still the heart of the book, although you never know, there could come a day when all but one of them might be gone. But yeah, what I like about this book is that, like being young itself, change is inevitable. That keeps things exciting for a writer… and hopefully for the readers too!

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