In June 2010, Marvel's teen-aged superheroes are coming to the forefront in a big way. Avengers Academy, a new series by Christos Gage with art by Mike McKone, is getting the teaser treatment this week. Now, the team behind Marvel's Nomad stories also gets a new ongoing series, Young Allies, and introduces a new team of villains: the Bastards of Evil.
Writer Sean McKeever and penciler David Baldeón will bring together teen hero Rikki Barnes with Araña, Gravity, Firestar, and a new Toro to make up the Young Allies team. Most of the characters will be re-introduced over the next few months leading up to the series launch, including stories by McKeever in Firestar #1 in April, and a Gravity spotlight in Age of Heroes #2, the Marvel anthology coming up in June.
Readers of the Nomad back-up stories currently running in Captain America are already familiar with how Araña and Rikki Barnes get to know each other, since the two teamed up in February. With Young Allies, the two teen girls will unite with a few other characters to form a new, youthful group of heroes who all operate in and around Manhattan.
Newsarama talked with McKeever about the new series, getting information on what the "Bastards of Evil" are all about, and why this new Toro character has such a bullish attitude.
Nrama: Sean, did the idea for Young Allies spin out of the success of the Nomad mini-series, or was it something you guys had in mind all along?
McKeever: What happened was, early on in writing the Nomad mini-series, I was researching the character and I came across the Heroes Reborn: Young Allies special that Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley had done back in the early '00s. I remember when those Heroes Reborn specials had originally come out, but I just wasn't plugged into what was going on with the Heroes Reborn stuff then and didn't read it.
So I picked that up and thought that was a cool idea: the "Young Allies." So I suggested to Tom Brevoort having Nomad have her own Young Allies. And part of my original Nomad pitch was to have Araña and Nomad team up, so we pushed that into the Captain America back-ups, and Araña and Nomad became the seed of what Young Allies would become. I asked for a few other characters, and I can't remember who it was that I suggested, but I suggested Nomad, Araña, Gravity, Firestar and somebody else. And I honestly can't remember who that somebody else was, but Tom Brevoort suggested Toro from the Heroes Reborn book.
Nrama: So do they actually decide to form a team?
McKeever: Not in the usual comic book definition of that word. Young Allies isn't really a team book. The idea of using the title Young Allies for me was that they really are "allies." They're all on the same side. They are all drawn together to fight against something specific, but they're not a traditional team.
Nrama: Once you got the roster together, how did you decide to approach the introduction of the characters? They're showing up in several places, aren't they?
McKeever: Yeah, the introduction of the characters started to fall into place. First, we have the Araña and Nomad team-up within the pages of the Nomad back-up story. Then Tom asked me to write a Firestar one-shot for their Women of Marvel celebration. He also asked me to write a story for Age of Heroes #2, and he suggested it be a Gravity story, or some sort of Young Allies set-up story. So I said, "Oh hell yes a Gravity story!" I wanted to write Gravity again.
Nrama: Did you know, when you started the Nomad mini-series, that it would all lead to this team-up between these characters?
McKeever: All these pieces were kind of coming together by the time Nomad started coming out. I was already very excited, obviously, but couldn't really talk about it to anybody. So I was just dropping hints in interviews and things, saying "this is just the beginning." And now that we're here, I'm excited to be able to talk about it.
Nrama: And you're working again with David Baldeón on art?
McKeever: I'm bringing David along with me from the Nomad mini-series, and he's drawing the Nomad back-ups in Captain America. He'll also be drawing the Gravity story in Age of Heroes. So it's great that he's also doing Young Allies. It gives everything a nice artistic continuity.
And David has such wonderful characterization. I know the word characterization is overused and misused, but he really does bring some wonderful "acting" to these characters. And like many of the actors I've worked with, he knows how to bring the quiet moments and the subtle moments forward in a very compelling way.
Nrama: How does it feel to return to Gravity after all these years? He's been through a lot since you first created him.
McKeever: It was really easy to get back into writing him. I mean, he's Gravity! [laughs] That's the only way I can think to say it.
But yeah, his situation has been pretty tumultuous since I last put pen to paper in a Gravity story. As he explains in his Age of Heroes story, he's died, he's come back to life, he's saved the universe, he had the world know his identity then had it magically forgotten, he's been a team leader in the Initiative, and then finally he was with the Great Lakes Initiative.
Now, he's decided he's done with all that stuff. He wants to go back to school and try to find some direction for his life without Gravity. And that's what the Age of Heroes story is about. It doesn't go quite like he plans, as usual.
Nrama: Firestar is on a very different path from these other characters right now. What's her status as we pick up her story?
McKeever: In Marvel Divas, Roberto Sacassa dealt with Angelica having breast cancer. And in my one-shot, it deals with the aftermath of that, with her still going through chemo. She's trying to decide, now that she's gotten a second lease on life, what's she going to do with it. The art's by Emma Rios, who did the Strange mini-series. It's amazing stuff. She's a terrific artist and just a perfect match for this. And that sets up Firestar's situation for Young Allies as well.
Nrama: And Toro is the only new character?
McKeever: Yeah, we don't meet him until Young Allies #1. Originally, in the Golden Age, Toro was the Human Torch sidekick character, and part of the Young Allies team with Bucky. Then I guess Fabian had the idea to use the same name but with a twist: the Toro in his Young Allies was a man-bull. This Toro we're introducing is the same person with the same name but just in the Marvel universe.
This version of Toro has a pretty rough past, and that plays a big part in who he is now. He's from Colombia and has come to New York illegally. He wants to escape his past and to find some measure of redemption in his life. As for what, you'll have to read to find out.
Nrama: We know about Nomad and Araña and how they work together from the Nomad back-ups in Captain America. Is that relationship going to continue?
McKeever: Yeah, even after this current Nomad-Araña storyline, Araña's still around as a supporting character, whether in costume or... well, I better not say too much, because that story isn't over yet. But yeah, she's still a player in the Nomad world. And Nomad's part of her world. So they're sort of building this friendship together, and that's their dynamic going into the Young Allies series.
Nrama: What's the relationship between the other characters?
McKeever: Nomad knows Toro, but from a different world. And in that world they had a certain relationship that isn't so here, obviously. As she learned during the Nomad mini-series, the versions of people in this world aren't the same as the ones she knew. And trying to make it the same can have disastrous consequences. So that's a bit of an issue for Nomad.
So Araña, Nomad and Toro are these three high school aged kids. But then you've got Gravity and Firestar, who are a little more seasoned. Firestar is more so than Gravity, but they're both college kids going to NYU. They've both been team leaders, and they've got a lot to connect with in that manner.
These are the sort of dynamics I'll be exploring in the book. But it won't be entirely rosy and buddy-buddy. There will also be a little teenage angst and tension, and a big part of that tension comes from the introduction of the Bastards of Evil.
Nrama: That has to be one of the best villainous group titles ever. Who are they? Are they really "bastards?"
McKeever: They're the unwanted sons and daughters of supervillains, so this is their sort of ironic name for themselves. You'll learn more about them and who specifically they're the sons and daughters of in the story.
Nrama: Can you give just one as an example?
McKeever: In the Age of Heroes story, you'll meet Warhead, who is the son of Radioactive Man. And instead of just the general radiation powers, he's able to generate miniature fission reactions.
Nrama: Wow. How miniature?
McKeever: [laughs] Well even a small one isn't that small.
But that's somebody that Gravity is going to come up against, and that's really going to spin him into an interesting direction that's different from what people have come to know from the Gravity mini-series, but is also through and through... Gravity.
Nrama: So you've got the Gravity story in Age of Heroes #2 coming up, and the Firestar one-shot, as well as the Nomad back-ups in Captain America, all leading toward the Young Allies ongoing series. And you're also doing a Young Avengers story, right?
McKeever: Yeah, I've also got Siege: Young Avengers, which comes out in April. I got to write them briefly in Nomad, which was cool, but really getting to spend some time with the characters was neat. I really enjoyed [Allan] Heinberg's run, and this was a nice opportunity to explore the characters and have some nice little vignettes that take place within the storyline of Siege. They're fantastic characters that Heinberg developed, and they were amazingly easy to get the voices of. You just knew who they were.
Nrama: Since they're in Manhattan as well, is there a chance the Young Avengers might meet up with the Young Allies at some point?
McKeever: I would like that very much. [laughs]
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell people about Young Allies?
McKeever: I think people are going to be in for a surprise with Young Allies. It's not quite the usual thing in terms of a "teen team" type book. This is really, at its heart, about a battle for the soul of a generation. Plus everything I'm doing here, plot-wise, is very much character first. That's from the heroes' perspective and from the villains'. It's just been a joy for me to write, and I think that's going to come through in the finished product.