AVENGERS ACADEMY WEEK: Gage on the Series So Far, Part 2
Christos Gage on AVENGERS ACADEMY
As Newsarama's "Avengers Academy Week" continues, we present the second half of our recap of the series thus far, with writer Christos Gage providing commentary on each arc. (Read the first half here.)
Here, we discuss from Avengers Academy #9 all the way to the present, with topics including the return of Korvac, the popular "Super Hero Prom" issue, the impact Fear Itself had on the book, and the team's recent move out west.
"Teach Your Children" / "Redemption Song" / "Return of Korvac" (Avengers Academy #9-#12)
Recap: Finesse meets Taskmaster, who she believes to be her father — and very well might be. Later, Speedball returns to Stamford, Connecticut to try and put some Civil War demons behind him, and the attempt to bring Wasp back to life actually leads to the return of old-school Avengers villain Korvac — which itself leads to the debut of the Avengers Academy's grown-up counterparts. Original series artist Mike McKone leaves the book as of issue #9, with Sean Chen and Tom Raney joining and rotating arcs.
Newsarama: Avengers Academy #9 saw an appearance from Taskmaster, a major Avengers: The Initiative player. Had you been looking from the start for a chance to incorporate him into the book?
Christos Gage: Oh yeah. I love Taskmaster. I've loved him since I read his first appearance some 30 years ago and I love him today. I planned from the start that he would be Finesse's father — or at least a likely candidate. He's like Devil Dinosaur… I put him in whenever I get an excuse.
Gage: A huge, huge fan. I wanted to bring in a big, iconic Avengers villain and have the kids face him. I also wanted to find a way to put the kids in the bodies they might have as adults — at that summit I mentioned, Matt Fraction talked about how cool it was for him as a kid when the New Mutants found their adult costumes, and that story made an impact on me as well, so I wanted to find a way to do something like that but take it even further… let the kids walk a mile in their adult shoes, as it were.
Making that happen required some cosmic shenanigans, so that sort of narrowed the field of possible characters. When I reread the original "Korvac Saga" and realized I could bring back Korvac's wife Carina — she's the daughter of an Elder of the Universe, and they can't die, so it made sense for her to return – it all fell into place.
Recap: Avengers Academy hosts a "Super Hero Prom," with guest stars including Gravity, Firestar, Butterball, Komodo, Spider-Girl and Nomad, plus Mettle and Hazmat confronting their feelings for each other. Plus, Speedball DJs.
Nrama: In a way, this issue seems like kind of a test run for the current status quo of the book — with many of Marvel's teen heroes playing a part. Did one lead to another at all?
Gage: Yes, but as a bit more of a happy accident than you suggest. It was actually the readers who told us they wanted more issues like this. The "Super Hero Prom" issue got the most enthusiastic fan reaction of any we've done, and it showed a spike in sales — with no crossovers, no variant covers, nothing but the promise of a super hero prom. Folks loved seeing our students interact with other young Marvel characters, in situations we all remember from our youth, like a prom.
So when we were thinking about where to go after the shakeups of Fear Itself, one idea that came up was to provide more opportunities for that sort of thing by opening Avengers Academy to any young superhuman who wants some extra training. And I'm having a blast with it!
Gage: No, it was kind of serendipitous the way that happened. Of course, Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott is a good friend, and we worked together on Avengers: The Initiative (among other projects), so we made sure these stories were well coordinated… in fact, the payoff of Doc Ock's nefarious plans is coming up in ASM soon, so you'll see how far ahead this was planned!
But with Spidey being the original teen superhero, it seemed inevitable that he'd interact with the kids. It was actually Spidey editor Steve Wacker who suggested it, and we had a great time. As for #14, the Sinister Six issue, one thing I wanted to do with that is show that just because these kids had beaten Korvac — after Korvac was weakened by fighting all the adult Avengers and the kids were powered up in their adult bodies — it didn't make them invincible. Now that they were back in their normal bodies, if they went up against veteran villains like the Sinister Six, they'd get their heads handed to them… and they did. It brought them back down to Earth and shook their confidence, just in time for Fear Itself.
Recap: The new reader-friendly Point One initiative spreads to Avengers Academy, with a one-shot issue introducing young billionaire Jeremy Briggs, who encourages the team to use their powers for something other than playing superhero.
Nrama: Many of the books that have gotten Point One issues at this point have been titles like Invincible Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men that have been going on for decades, but Avengers Academy got one just 14 issues in. Given that the book had a relatively small amount of history, did you alter your approach much in writing the issue?
Gage: Given the relative newness of the book, while we did try to make the Point One issue new reader friendly, our focus was a bit more on re-examining what Avengers Academy is about and serving as a launching point for new storylines… which Jeremy Briggs, who feels he is beyond the hero/villain paradigm, definitely personifies. He's offering another path for the Academy kidss… one that brings considerable personal and financial rewards, though also possibly the prospect of operating in a morally bankrupt world. We saw Jeremy come back in issue #20, when Veil took him up on his offer and left to work with him… and don't be surprised if you see him again soon.
Recap: Marvel's massive Fear Itself events hits Avengers Academy in a big way, with the team facing Sin's Blitzkrieg, and Hank Pym squaring off against a Worthy-fied Absorbing Man. The effect of the conflict leads Veil to quit the team and take up Jeremy Briggs' offer, plus Speedball and Justice depart as faculty members.
Nrama: The Fear Itself tie-in is, at this point, essentially the longest story arcs in the book's history. What motivated the decision to have the event make such a major impact on Avengers Academy?
Gage: I knew that, inevitably, we'd come to a point where there'd be an event of some kind. So, without even knowing more than the bare bones of what it might be about, I decided that would be the point when the kids go to war for the first time.
When I thought about it, I realized we've been sending teenagers to war throughout the history of our country, and to this day, many of our veterans are just 18 or 19. So I wanted to examine what it's like for someone that young to suddenly find themselves in a wartime situation… facing death, and maybe taking lives. And no one who goes to war comes back the same person. Things had to change after that.
Recap: In the wake of Fear itself, Avengers Academy moves to the former West Coast Avengers headquarters in Los Angeles, adding multiple part-time students and full-time teacher's assistants Lightspeed and White Tiger. Veteran Avenger Hawkeye joins the faculty to fill the void left by Speedball and Justice.
Nrama: A lot of the appeal of the book's current status quo is seeing other young Marvel heroes join the cast. How did you decide which characters to incorporate into the book? And was there anyone you wanted to add but wasn't able to use?
Gage: We made a list, and pretty much everyone on it was fair game. After all, they're only part-time students, so their presence doesn't preclude their appearing in other books. It was so much fun breaking out beloved but little-seen characters like Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel!
As for characters we wanted to use but couldn't, the big one was the Runaways. We knew they wouldn't sign up for something like Avengers Academy. But when we took a poll of the readers asking what young Marvel characters they'd like to see appear, the Runaways were far and away the top choice. So we decided to devote a two-part story to that very meeting, which comes in issues #27 and 28.More from Avengers Academy Week:
- AVENGERS ACADEMY WEEK: Gage on the Series So Far, Part 1
- AVENGERS ACADEMY WEEK: Gage Talks Marvel Teen Team History
- AVENGERS ACADEMY WEEK: Tom Grummett Enrolls as Lead Artist