When the kids in Avengers Academy go through a "Scared Straight" program, who better to oversee it than the Thunderbolts?
Exploring an idea from the mind of Ed Brubaker, Academy writer Christos Gage and Thunderbolts scribe Jeff Parker are teaming up beginning in August for a three-issue crossover that sends the Academy kids into The Raft for a "Scared Straight" program courtesy of the Thunderbolts.
And because things don't always go as planned, an imprisoned Norman Osborn ends up getting involved, dredging up memories of how he captured and tortured members of the Academy.
The crossover, which features art by Mike McKone and Kev Walker, kicks off in Avengers Academy #3, crossing over into Thunderbolts #147, then finishing in Avengers Academy #4.
Newsarama spoke with the two writers to find out more about what happens when the Academy kids mix with Luke Cage, Juggernaut... and Norman Osborn.
Newsarama: Jeff and Chris, how did this collaboration come about?
Christos Gage: It was Ed Brubaker's idea! At the last Avengers retreat, Bill Rosemann (who edits both books, with the help of the ever capable Rachel Pinnelas) had just pitched the new premise for Thunderbolts, and I was pitching Avengers Academy, and Ed said, “You should do a Scared Straight crossover.” Well, he was right. It was a brilliant idea. Fortunately Jeff thought so too. He knows better than to argue with the man who killed Captain America.
Nrama: Can you set up the story for us a little? How do the Avengers Academy characters get involved with the Thunderbolts?
Gage: The faculty of Avengers Academy has decided it would be a good idea to take the kids to The Raft, for two reasons. One, to expose them to super-villains in a controlled situation; and two, for a “Scared Straight” session. That's when inmates scare the hell out of teenagers, hopefully so as to encourage them to follow the path of righteousness, and not do stupid things that will get you landed in jail. That's where the Thunderbolts — whose rehabilitation program is based there — come in. Of course, there will be complications…the last time Speedball saw Moonstone, for instance, she was drugging him and brainwashing him, so that reunion could get awkward. But it's a pretty good idea…until the lights go out.
Nrama: Jeff, how do the Thunderbolts feel about dealing with the students of Avengers Academy? And how does each Thunderbolts character approach the experience?
Jeff Parker: This is exactly the kind of thing Luke wants to see, pushing youth off a destructive path early. Not all of the Thunderbolts are interacting with the kids, it's more of a Raft function- and I don't think anyone thinks Crossbones will have pearls of wisdom to impart.
My favorite bit of Christos' is how he has Juggernaut interact with them. He's surprisingly helpful considering how badly he deals with every adult around him.
Nrama: At first glance, these books seem to be dealing with different dynamics, but are there similarities? How are these teams alike, and how are they different?
Gage: Redemption is a big theme in both books. Nearly all of the faculty members of Avengers Academy have mistakes in their past they are trying to overcome. And although young, most of the kids have issues to get over as well. As far as differences, the kids are still in the early part of their lives. They're at a crucial point where the choices they make will affect their entire future existence…and they could still make the right choices. For most of the Thunderbolts, that ship has sailed. They've already made bad choices, and redemption is an uphill climb.
Parker: In Thunderbolts, Redemption is set as an ideal that is understood to be hard to reach. Everyone expects small returns, but the very fact that it's even put out there as a goal is a big statement of hope in a place where that is in short supply. Now the prisoners of the Raft can walk by an unbreakable window or be in the central courtyard and look up to see Thunderbolts Tower just outside of the facility, and know there's another path for them out there if they can just get on it.
Nrama: Since they're dealing with inmates, what other villainous characters or heroes will we see involved in the story?
Gage: Many. Just off the top of my head: Griffin, Tiger Shark, Vermin, Tombstone, Grizzly, Mandrill, and a whole mess more. And Academy #3 will have guest appearances by Valkyrie and Iron Fist, though not at The Raft.
Nrama: How does Norman Osborn get involved? And can you describe why his involvement affects these characters?
Gage: Norman is in solitary confinement on The Raft. This is important because he's the one who found the Avengers Academy kids…while running the Initiative, he “recruited” them — often by force — and tried to mold them in his image, which often involved torture. So grudges may be held. Of course, the kids would have no reason to even see Norman…unless something goes horribly awry…
Parker: And really, what are the chances of that happening?
Nrama: Will what happens here affect the Avengers Academy and Thunderbolts characters going forward? And if so, is there anything you can say about how?
Gage: Absolutely. And no.
Parker: That was the best way to answer that.
Nrama: Fair enough. Let's talk about the logistics of this type of event. How tough is it to work on crossovers where you have to write someone else's characters?
Gage: I enjoy it. It stretches your writing muscles. And I'd written Juggernaut and Moonstone before, so it wasn't that big an adjustment. Writing Ghost was a lot of fun. The challenge is getting the voices consistent, but we're a pretty collaborative bunch. Basically, when you trust the other writers involved, it's fun -- you look forward to seeing their takes on your characters. I'm a fan of Jeff's, so it's been smooth sailing.
Parker: Man, I'm going to screw up Christos' cast, I just know it...
Seriously though, he's really good at setting up things that work in comfortably with another book, this is one of the most natural crossovers.
Nrama: Then to finish up, anything else you two want to tell fans about the "Scared Straight?"
Gage: I will take the opportunity to praise my co-creator, ace artist Mike McKone, who is absolutely kicking tuchus on this book! He really brings the characters to life. I can't wait to see him cut loose on this storyline!
Parker: Mike is pretty awesome. As well as the unstoppable Kev Walker! Your eyes will happy throughout.
Early Crossovers in new books- good or bad?