NYCC 2011: Gage Introduces the RUNAWAYS to AVENGERS ACADEMY



Since the most recent series ended in 2009, fans have wondered — and asked at about every Marvel convention panel — where the cult-favorite characters would pop up next.

With news from this past July's Comic-Con International: San Diego that the cast of Avengers Academy was moving to Los Angeles and that the book would include more of Marvel's teen heroes, it seemed like an appearance from the west coast-based Runaways was only a matter of time. Saturday at New York Comic Con made it official, with Marvel announcing during their "Avengers: Shattered Heroes" panel that the Runaways would guest star for a two-issue arc starting with March's

Newsarama talked with Avengers Academy writer Christos Gage about the pressures that come with handling such beloved characters, intriguing dynamics to watch out for, and a little bit about X-23's imminent arrival to the series.

Newsarama: Christos, is definitely a book that holds a very unique place in the hearts of many fans. How much of a fan are you personally of the series and the characters?

Christos Gage: Huge fan. I think it’s probably the best new concept to come out of Marvel in the past twenty years… certainly some of the most memorable characters. And of course it was brilliantly written by Brian K. Vaughan, and the art was perfect for it. It’s something you can go back and read again and it’s not only as good as you remember, it’s better.

Nrama: With the news coming from Comic-Con this year that Avengers Academy was moving to LA and a broader cast of Marvel teen characters would play a role in the book, a Runaways appearance seemed inevitable. How long has this arc been in the works?

Gage: A while, actually, but it only got firmed up when the move to L.A. was finalized. Fans have been asking for the Academy kids to meet the Runaways almost since we began, and while I love the characters, I only wanted to do it if there was a good reason. Then one of our readers pointed out that the Runaways’ Victor Mancha, a part-clone, part-machine who was created by Ultron, is sort of Hank Pym’s grandson, because Hank created Ultron. So that was a good reason… now all that remained was for circumstances to line up for it to work, and the move west made it pretty much a done deal.

Nrama: When the story picks up in March with issue #27, will the Runaways be pretty much the same — both in terms of group members and general status quo — from what fans will recognize from their last few appearances, or should some tweaks be expected?

Gage: They’ll be pretty much as they were in the final issues of their own book. They ain’t broke, so I’m not gonna fix ‘em. Well, there’s thing I think is not quite right, and that’ll be addressed in the story. And for a bit of a link to the past, David Lafuente, who used to be the RUNAWAYS cover artist, is doing our covers for these two issues!

Nrama: Speaking of recent appearances, the Runaways are currently embarking on a guest spot in Daken. How closely does the Avengers Academy arc follow from what happens there? Clearly, the west coast is becoming an increasingly busy place on the Marvel map.

Gage: The Avengers Academy appearance follows pretty closely, and Rob Williams and I have been in touch to make sure there’s proper coordination. But you don’t need to read one story to follow the other. It’s not a direct continuation, even though they take place pretty closely in time.

Nrama: It looks like the interactions between the Runaways and the Avengers Academy crew will be a major point of the arc. Any particularly juicy inter-group dynamics that you're looking forward to exploring?

Gage: Victor and Hank Pym. Karolina and Lightspeed, who have met before, and there was a hint of sparks flying. Hazmat and Nico. It’s all fun.

Nrama: Unlike a lot of Marvel characters, who have been around for decades and been written by dozens of creators over the years, the Runaways have really only been written at length by a few (very notable!) writers, starting, of course, with Brian K. Vaughan. Obviously there is a lot of care to be taken with taking on any character in a shared universe, but is there a special type of responsibility when writing the Runaways, who are so closely associated with just a few creators?

Gage: Yes. You can decide to focus on different aspects of, say, Daredevil…the grim urban avenger or the devil-may-care swashbuckler are equally valid approaches with plenty of precedent. But if I get the Runaways wrong, readers are going to notice. It doesn’t help that BKV is a genius. I’m glad you didn’t ask me this before I’d committed to writing it!

Nrama: Moving away from the Runaways — we know that X-23 is joining the book in December. Is she sticking around the book for the long haul?

Gage: For a while, anyway. I think there’s a lot of cool stuff to do with her. She’s been through a lot of things the Academy kids are also going through. And she has the same chance of being a villain they do.

Nrama: And with characters like the Runaways and X-23 entering the book, is it a challenge to balance that and also keep a focus on the main cast of the series? Or is the very idea of a "main cast" shifting with the book's move to LA?

Gage: I can’t imagine ever writing a book that has a more fluid — or populous — cast than . But no, our core cast, while it is changing a bit, is still the focus of the book. And yes, when you bring in the Runaways, you have to be careful some folks don’t get lost in the crowd. But that’s why it’s only two issues!

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