Marvel Comics' Champions has broadened its focus in recent months, going from outer space to Weirdworld - and this January the series is being relaunched to recruit from all of those places (and then some).
Writer Jim Zub is relaunching Champions on January 2, and will be joined by his long-time Wayward partner Steven Cummings. Their new Champions line-up is made up of 14 heroes - five founders from the previous run, but also some surprise additions.
Newsarama spoke with Zub about this Champions expansion, how he's compared it to DC's Legion of Super-Heroes, and how he's aiming to make each issue count.
Newsarama: Champions is being relaunched - and it’s a second chance to make a first impression. Jim, what is the mission statement for this new era, either the in-story one for the team or yours and Steven for this new #1?
Jim Zub: The original mission statement for Champions was "The World Still Needs Heroes", and that's more true than ever before. There's a generation of young heroes who want to make the world a better place and they're not waiting on the sidelines anymore. Our new mission is "The World Still Needs Heroes, and There Are Heroes All Over the World."
Ms. Marvel has put out the call and a huge number of teen heroes from around the globe have responded. The Champions are going to be bigger and bolder than ever before and do what needs to be done to improve the world they're going to inherit.
INTENSITY is my goal - big stories, big action, big risks, and big drama. Steven and I honed that approach well when we worked together on Wayward and we're here to deliver that same kind of intense storytelling on Champions.
Nrama:There's numerous teen heroes shown in the Champions #1 first look we shared earlier. Can we get on the same page and list who all is on the team as of Champions #1, page 1?
Zub: In Champions #1 we have 14 heroes on the team. Our founders who are still around make up the core: Amadeus Cho (Brawn), Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), Miles Morales (Spider-Man), Sam Alexander (Nova), and Viv Vision.
Moving out from there are the expanded crew I wrote from Champions #19-27 in the previous volume: Amka Aliyak (Snowguard), Nadia Van Dyne (Wasp), and Riri Williams (Ironheart).
Adding to that are a bunch of heroes who have helped the Champions in the past, but weren't full blown members until now: Fernanda Rodriguez (The Locust), Joaquin Torres (Falcon), Lana Baumgartner (Bombshell), Rayshaun Lucas (Patriot), and Victor Alvarez (Power Man), along with a brand new hero.
Nrama: Right, a new hero - an East Indian boy code-named Pinpoint. What's his story and his powers?
Zub: Qureshi Gupta is an East Indian boy from Delhi whose codename is Pinpoint. He loves hip hop music and eating vada. He creates teleportation portals that can take people around the world in the blink of an eye. He joined the Forums (the online chat group where young heroes stay in touch with each other that was first established in Secret Warriors) and lurked there for weeks, nervous about getting involved until he saw Ms. Marvel's call to action.
Nrama: We have here Steven Cummings' design for him - what were the initial notes given to Steven to design, and how do you think this final design expresses who he is?
Zub: Here's the simple write-up of Qureshi in the script for Champions #1:
"Pinpoint is an East-Indian boy, 15 years old. He’s relatively short and thin. His hair is crackling with the same green energy we see around the portal he's summoned. His eyes have no irises when he uses his powers. His superhero outfit should include form-fitting pants and a kurta shirt with a modern cut and collar to it."
I wanted Pinpoint's outfit to mix Indian clothing with an iconic symbol for teleportation/focus. It's the kind of costume a 15-year old could pull together on his own but also comfortable and not going to inhibit him in combat.
Nrama: What are Pinpoint and these Champions up against first in the series?
Zub: Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort gave me a challenge - They want Champions to be a must-read series every month. These new young heroes have been gaining traction since Miles Morales and Kamala Khan first took the world by storm and we need to remind people how important they are to the future of the Marvel Universe.
I came back with one of the riskiest stories I've ever pitched, a fiercely dramatic first arc where we push these characters into unexpected places and give them the chance to show us their humanity and heroism. I figured I'd swing for the fences and they'd pull me back to somewhere more reasonable but, to my surprise, they gave me the full green light and we've been roaring on it ever since.
If the Champions are an A-list team worthy of standing beside the Avengers and X-Men, then they need A-list threats and A-list drama to go with it. Without tipping my hand, that's what I proposed and that's what we're pushing to deliver.
Nrama: When this relaunch was announced at New York Comic Con, you described it as "the Legion of Superheroes for Marvel with the creative team of Wayward." What of LoSH are you carrying over spiritually in this series?
Zub: I was full of sass on that panel, but the scope of what we're doing is kind of "Legion-esque.” We have 14 heroes in issue #1. A mutant from one of the X-Teams joins up in issue #3, bringing our roster to 15. I have plans for other appearances by Marvel teen heroes and other provisional members coming on board when threats around the globe create a need for the Champions to bulk up even more. It's an army of adolescents - some familiar, some brand new.
We have a ton of team members, but I'm still focused on our core group, moving their story forward in big and unexpected ways.
Nrama: The Champions #2 cover is a picture of the team circa February 2018, with a blazing cut through it. What does that mean - and can you say who did that cut? Is it Chip Zdarsky, who has Daredevil's mask on fire over in the upcoming Daredevil relaunch?
Zub: It's symbolic but I can't say what it means without spoiling what's coming up. Champions #1 arrives at your favorite comic shop on Wednesday January 2, so readers don't have to wait long to find out. The end of issue #1 will make it quite clear and I'm sure it will get readers talking.
Also I don't know who this "Chip Zdarsky" guy is, but I'm sure his Daredevil will be fine. If he has fire on his cover then he stole it from us.
Nrama: We've mentioned him here and there, but now we're getting right to it - how did you convince your Wayward colleague Steven Cummings to get back in the work-for-hire game, with Marvel, and for this series?
Zub: Wayward was heading into production on our final story arc and I talked to Steven about what he'd want to work on next. It's been years since he did work-for-hire at DC and most of his contacts have changed, so he wasn't feeling confident he could put himself back on the market and get work. I knew otherwise. The art he was doing on Wayward was top notch and I knew if I let editors know he'd soon be available, he'd quickly get offers.
I showed Tom Brevoort Steven's latest pages and he was ready to make Steven an offer on the spot, which honestly threw me off a bit. I put them in touch with each other and was ready to delay the sixth arc of Wayward, but Steven was 100% committed to our Image series and actually turned Tom down, promising to reach out once our final issue was on deck. By the time that happened, Tom and I were deep into planning the Champions relaunch for 2019 and the schedule synced up surprisingly well. It meant that Steven didn't get a break between Wayward and Champions, but it also kept our momentum rolling.
Nrama: What was it about your partnership in Wayward that you wanted to continue with here?
Zub: After four years working together on Wayward, Steven and I know how to play to each other's strengths. Steven's teens are distinctive and beautiful but still channel the essence of their original designs. His fine detail work helps ground our story set in a world filled with action and drama.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals here with the new Champions #1?
Zub: I'm not writing for the trade. We're not here to waste your time.
Something huge happens in Champions #1.
The ramifications of it become clear in Champions #2.
The damage is truly felt in Champions #3.
Champions #4 is a reckoning...And we're just getting started.
See you in January...