With a new setting (LA!), new cast members (X-23! Julie Power! White Tiger! More!) and a new murder mystery (see this month's Avengers Academy #21 for more on that), there's a lot going on in the pages of Avengers Academy. So much, in fact, that Newsarama is spotlighting the series all week, with a different aspect of the book focused on each day.
To kick off "Avengers Academy Week," we've got the first interview with veteran artist Tom Grummett (recently of the Fear Itself: FF one-shot) on joining the series as the new lead penciller, starting with January's Avengers Academy #24.
So read on below for more from Grummett about his new gig, plus check out never-before-seen pages from his debut issue — and keep reading Newsarama all week for a lot more on Avengers Academy.
Newsarama: Tom, congratulations on the new gig as part of the Avengers Academy team — previously, Sean Chen and Tom Raney had been rotating arcs on the book. Are you going to be sharing art duties on Avengers Academy, or are you the sole penciller on the book?
Tom Grummett: I guess you could call me the lead penciller... I'll be doing the longer arcs, with other guys rotating in for an issue or two to give me a jump on the schedule.
Nrama: You're coming on board as of January's issue #24 — how closely had you been following the series up to this point? What was attractive to you about the cast and concept?
Grummett: I wish I could say I had been a close follower of the series... but these days it seems to be a challenge for me to stay on top of anything! There's so much out there, and I spend way more time drawin' than readin'. I'm way behind. That said, I'm a fan of Christos's work, and while I wasn't as up to date on the series as I shoulda been, I was familiar enough with the Academy to jump at the offer. [Series editor] Bill Rosemann up front told me that the book was going through some changes around the point I'd be taking over anyway, so I saw it as the chance to put my own stamp on the series.Nrama: Christos Gage has been writing the book since issue #1, and this is the first time the two of you have been paired together on a comic — how has collaborating with him been thus far?
Grummett: From where I'm sitting, I'd say it's going pretty well... we're working full script so the story's all there by the time I get a hold of it. I'm at work on my second issue at this point, so I'm getting into the skins of the cast, picking my favorites — that kind of thing. Christos makes it easy.
Nrama: The primary cast members of Avengers Academy are teenagers, and in comics, it often seems to be a challenge for artist to depict young characters that actually look young, as opposed to miniature adults. How do you approach illustrating a young ensemble like the main players of Avengers Academy?
Grummett: Luckily, I've got a bit of past experience with series involving teen heroes, so I can't say I worry overmuch about that... my approach is simply to get a handle on the characters themselves — how they stand and move, and how they express themselves. That's the challenge to any series.
Nrama: Avengers Academy also features veterans including Hank Pym, Tigra and Quicksilver. Are you looking to put a bit of a new visual spin to these classic characters?
Grummett: I'd have to say I'm not out to radically reinterpret these well-established characters. My approach to the "faculty" of Avengers Academy is to present them as I know them and love them, and hopefully as the fans know them... they're the touchstone to Avengers history, after all.Nrama: An interesting quirk of the book is that it features several characters who are inhuman in appearance — obviously Mettle and Tigra, plus Reptil (part of the time, at least). Visually, would you say the cast of Avengers Academy provides a good opportunity for a degree of artistic interpretation?
Grummett: I always find the "inhuman" type characters are a blast to draw. It's always huge fun to draw the Thing, or Dragon Man, or the Vision. I think what I love is the challenge of trying to bring out the humanity in a character that is no longer completely human.
Nrama: As of the current story arc, the book has moved to the old West Coast Avengers headquarters in Los Angeles. It's a setting that's growing rapidly in Marvel, after decades of events mostly taking place in New York City. Though West Coast Avengers headquarters is obviously fictional (at least as of last check), how much work goes into making LA look "right" and distinct from the locale of most Marvel books?
Grummett: It's a large part of the job, actually. I try to research the setting of a story as much as I can, and assemble good photo reference if possible. I've been to LA a few times, which is always a big help. So far, I've been working on a story taking place exclusively at the Academy compound, so the big reference hunt still lies ahead of me...
Nrama: To wrap up for now, you've got plenty of experience in both solo titles — Superboy, Adventures of Superman, Robin — and also team books, from Thunderbolts to X-Men Forever to Power Company and more. But with the recent expansion of Avengers Academy to include nearly every young hero of the Marvel Universe, is this perhaps the biggest cast you've worked with yet?
Grummett: I hadn't thought of it before, but it sounds like it could well be the biggest cast ever! I just hope they don't all decide to show up at once... Christos? You wouldn't — would you?Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!