Last week, the fans' call for "surprise" characters on an Avengers book was answered, with 5 all-new characters and one born from animation as the teasers for Avengers Academy. While many initially postulated that this would be a simple re-titling of Avengers: The Initiative, writer Christos Gage says that's not the case. While some of the characters and general themes of Initiative will carry over, this is a new book with its own new flavor.
Newsarama spoke to Christos Gage and editor Bill Rosemann for teases about where this new series fits into the Marvel Universe, who may show up, and how it fairs against other books featuring young characters.
Newsarama: Starting off, when fans heard Avengers Academy was on the way, most thought this would be where their favorite Avengers Initiative characters would be showing up. Of the 6 cast members we saw last week, only one of them is familiar. Will we see any of those others, students and teachers alike, showing up?
Christos Gage: Stay tuned! And let me say up front I'm sorry for being so coy in my answers, but we really don't want to give away too much too early.
Bill Rosemann: With two scripts in and the third just landing on my desk today, I can say that Christos brewed up a mix of stars, supporting characters and foes that will have Avengers fans smiling. As for whether these characters are all new or a combo of fresh and familiar faces…well, that’s the fun of turning the page yourself, isn’t it?
Nrama: Is the setup going to be similar to Initiative's training grounds, or more like Xavier's, with a full school system in addition to combat training?
Gage: A less military feel than the Initiative. More like the original New Mutants, if you're old like me and remember how that was.
Nrama: It's become pretty clear from the solicitation of "Enter the Heroic Age" and the subsequent announcements of the involved series that it will serve as the launching point for "Avengers Academy" as well. Gorilla Man is presumably on the cover for Atlas, Hawkeye and Mockingbird for their new series, etc. Logic says "Initiative" mainstay Hank Pym, The Wasp, is on there for Academy. Can you comment on that?
Gage: Logic? This is comics! We don't need your stinkin' logic! (And if you found that answer evasive, guilty as charged.) I'll confirm that there is an Avengers Academy story in that issue, kind of a teaser for the ongoing series, but I can't say more than that.
Rosemann: Not only is the 8-page Avengers Academy story in Enter The Heroic Age created by the regular team of Christos and Mike, but it also provides illuminating insight into a key student’s mind…and also reveals three additional characters that as of this moment have not yet been revealed. We’re treating this story – as well as the two other 8-pagers that I’m editing in that one-shot – as must-read chapters in these new launches and revamps.
Nrama: Can you tell us a little about the story in "Heroic Age"? Will it bridge the gap between Initiative and Academy?
Gage: Kind of. But Avengers Academy isn't a continuation of the Initiative. It's a whole new thing. They may have a character or two in common, but Avengers Academy is the launch of a brand new title. Hopefully readers who enjoyed my work on The Initiative will find similar things to like here, as well as the awesome art of recent Amazing Spider-Man artist Mike McKone, but this isn't a relaunch…if you've never read Initiative, you can pick up Academy and get in on the ground floor.
Rosemann: If you liked Christos’ run on Initiative – especially those issues where he zeroed in on one or two characters and delved into their psyches – then you’re going to love Avengers Academy. And if you never read Christos’ run on Initiative, well you’re going to love this anyway. Avengers Academy is completely stand-alone and new reader friendly…but it’s also more of what you may already enjoy.
Nrama: What's the need for this in the Marvel Universe? Where does this fit alongside other young teams and the larger Avengers line to you?
Gage: That's a question that'll be answered in issue #1, and hopefully in a way that'll hook readers and make them want to come back month after month. I really can't say more, but rest assured we have discussed at length that the world does not need another generic “teen heroes” book. Avengers Academy has its own dynamic, its own reason for being, that sets it apart from titles like Runaways or Young Avengers or Secret Warriors, all excellent books in their own right with their own unique approaches that we wouldn't dream of trying to duplicate. As for how Academy relates to the Avengers line, it is very much an Avengers book. I was at last fall's Avengers retreat and the other writers--Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction--were very generous and encouraging in terms of keeping close ties between the books. Not in the sense that you have to buy one to follow another, each title is self contained, but in the sense that the characters all move in the same world, and if it makes sense for, say, Hawkeye to show up in a book he's not a regular cast member of, we have the freedom for that to happen.
Rosemann: By the end of that Avengers Retreat, after the ideas zipped back and forth between Christos and the other writers, we knew we had a book that not only delivered an innovative, high-concept twist on a familiar concept, but also one that would be an intriguing and unique addition to the Avengers family. Can’t wait to see what happens when they collide in issue #3 with…oops, almost spilled that one!
Nrama: OK, let's look at the announced cast from last week's teasers. We have 5 all-new characters in Finesse, Hazmat, Fortress, Stirker, and Veil. First, speculation is that each of these have some connection to existing Avengers characters, similar to how the Young Avengers did when they were introduced. Is that the right line of thinking?
Gage: Some of them might. But I also think it's stretching believability if everybody on the team is somebody's son or daughter or clone, especially given how often that's been done lately. Some of them are just entirely new characters, but with others we'll be hinting at ties to the larger Marvel Universe that we hope will lead to fun speculation from the readers…and eventually juicy stories.
Nrama: Any other teases you can give about Avengers Academy?
Gage: The art is amazing. Mike has been working with new high-tech tools and while his art is still recognizable as having that same detailed, clean look it always has, there's an extra “zing” to it. (That's a technical term.) I can't wait for people to see it! I'm having a blast working on this book, and I think that's true for everyone on the creative and editorial teams…I hope readers will give us the chance to hook them by picking up the first issue. If you don't like it, okay…I didn't do my job. (I speak for myself because I know Mike is doing incredible work.) But remember how Young Avengers took everyone by surprise? We hope readers will feel the same about Avengers Academy.
Rosemann: A killer hook, surprising new characters, intense drama, smart shared universe connections, jaw-dropping cliffhangers, thrilling guest-stars, dangerous foes, beautiful “modern classic” art…Avengers Academy has it all, and Christos & Mike are the magical combo that will remind you why super hero comics are the coolest thing ever.