AVENGERS ACADEMY WEEK: Gage Talks Marvel Teen Team History

SDCC 2011: AVENGERS ACADEMY Goes West

Avengers Academy is one of the latest Marvel team books to star a roster of superpowered teens, but it's certainly not the first. And not only is it thematically following in the footsteps of those past titles, it's also got some real concrete connections to the teen team books of yore, including sharing several of the same characters.

For the second installment of Newsarama's "Avengers Academy Week," we're mapping the relationships between the past and present, and talking to series writer Christos Gage about how these books helped to influence Avengers Academy, both directly and indirectly. Read on, and check back for much more on Avengers Academy all week long.

 

New Warriors (original run: 1990-1996)

Avengers Academy connection: Speedball, Justice (former faculty members), Turbo (current student)

Background: Declared "Heroes for the '90s!" right on the cover of the first issue, New Warriors lasted for 75 issues with a core including Night Thrasher, Rage, Firestar, Speedball and Namorita, with the creative team of Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley on early issues.

Gage says: "I loved New Warriors… I think I bought it from the debut issue to about issue #50. It had strong ties to the Marvel Universe while still standing on its own, and there was always a strong feeling of the cast developing as people, as well as a sense that anything could happen at any time. All these are things I try to bring to Avengers Academy."

 

Power Pack (original run: 1984-1990)

Avengers Academy connection: Lightspeed (current student/teacher's assistant)

Background: Created by Louise Simonson and June Brigman, Power Pack introduced a team of superpowered siblings (including Lightspeed, Julie Power) while dealing with a variety of contemporary social issues over a course of 62 issues.

Gage says: "What I take away from Power Pack is the sense of fun and adventure. Yes, being young involves a lot of angst, but it can also be a blast. Louise Simonson and her collaborators (Brent Anderson springs to mind) really captured the sense of wonder one imagines would come with having powers at that age. And it wasn't watered down at all… there was a real sense of risk and danger at the same time.

"This book reminds me of the great kid-focused adventure movies I grew up with, like The Goonies and Explorers, back when you could have a movie that starred kid actors without needing, say, The Rock to be the real star. I definitely try to bring that feeling to Avengers Academy. The adults may save the day every once in a while, but for the most part it's up to the kids."

 

Avengers: The Initiative (2007-2010)

Avengers Academy connection: Reptil (current student leader), Butterball (current student)

Background: Following Civil War, Avengers: The Initiative tracked the training of budding superheroes at Camp Hammond, in Stamford, Connecticut. Written by Christos Gage from issue #8 until the series ended with issue #35, with Dan Slott co-writing for issues #8-#20.

Gage says: "This book, more than anything, taught me to juggle a large cast. Too large, if I'm honest. But while in Initiative I often shifted focus...for example, during "Dark Reign" it became very Taskmaster/Constrictor oriented… the spotlight in Avengers Academy has remained and will remain with a core group of kids.

"But what Initiative taught me is that the size of the cast doesn't matter so much if you engage the reader with real human emotion. Whether it's the eager fanboy enthusiasm of Butterball, the doomed romance between Constrictor and Diamondback, or Taskmaster realizing he's in way over his head — or even, for just 12 pages, the lifelong failures and tragic death of a character as obscure as Johnny Guitar — you need that connection for it all to mean anything."

 

Loners (2007)

Avengers Academy connection: Ricochet, Hollow (current students), Turbo, Lightspeed

Background: A Runaways spinoff, the six-issue Loners miniseries followed a support group of former superheroes including Lightspeed, Ricochet, Turbo and Phil Urich (the former heroic Green Goblin and current villainous Hobgoblin).

Gage says: "The fun of Loners was the drama of the interactions between the characters. Love triangles, angst, temptations and attempts to resist them… I love stuff like that. While Julie Power will get more attention than the others, I've definitely gone to Ricochet a time or two for story beats already."

 

Generation X
(1994-2001)

Avengers Academy connection: Hollow

Background: Following the events of "The Phalanx Covenant," Generation X was a spiritual successor to New Mutants, starring young mutants under the tutelage of Banshee and Emma Frost. Originally written by Scott Lobdell and illustrated by Chris Bachalo.

Gage says: "I'll be honest, this is the title I'm least familiar with. It came out when I was a starving student and couldn't afford to buy many comics. But I look forward to catching up on it, both for Hollow and for Chamber, who I'll be writing in X-Men: Legacy. I hear great things. In fact, I invite folks to take to Twitter and suggest specific issues or storylines to me at @christosgage!"

 

Runaways
(2003-2009)

Avengers Academy connection: Guest-starring for a two-issue story arc starting in March's Avengers Academy #27.

Background: By far the most successful launch of Marvel's short-lived "Tsunami" imprint, Runaways helped cement the status of superstar writer Brian K. Vaughn, and starred a crew of teenagers who discovered that their parents were actually evil criminals called "The Pride.

Gage says (in an interview with Newsarama from this past October): "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."

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