We already knew that Avengers Academy was tying in to Avengers vs. X-Men, but Saturday's "Avengers vs. X-Men" panel at WonderCon in Anaheim brought even more details as to how the Marvel event series will change the lives of the teen heroes-in-training.In June's Avengers Academy #31, the team's loyalties in the ongoing conflict will be questioned, plus Sebastian Shaw — recently seen in Generation Hope — guest stars. Then later that month, issue #32 sees Emma Frost (someone very familiar with Shaw) show up at the Academy to dispose of Juston Seyfert's reprogrammed Sentinel. Newsarama talked via email with series writer Christos Gage for all the latest in Avengers Academy, the effect AvX will have on the title, and how much the book has personally meant to him over the past two years. Avengers Academy
#31 cover.Newsarama: Christos, it's fair to say that, in hindsight, Fear Itself had a major impact on Avengers Academy, leading to the departure of Veil and other major developments. Though it's early still, can we expect AvX to have similar lasting ramifications on your title?
Christos Gage: I would say yes. The events of AvX have significant impact on several characters, and lead directly into a storyline that will impact pretty much everyone else… one of the most significant stories we've done.
Nrama: Like much of the Generation Hope cast, Sebastian Shaw is coming into play in Avengers Academy during AvX. He's been a fairly clearly defined character over the years, but recent developments have left him in a very different place. What's your take on the "new" Shaw?
Gage: That would be telling! My take is that he's a complete wild card. His memory was wiped by Emma Frost, so he doesn't remember his villainous past, but in the last issue of Generation Hope (spoiler alert!) Hope gave him the file on himself, so as we start out, we know he has read it, and don't know exactly how he feels about it. Can this man be trusted? Would you let him around kids?
Nrama: And there's a very natural AvX conflict inherent to Avengers Academy, being that there's a Sentinel on the premises of the school. Though Juston and his Sentinel have been part of the book for a while now (and fairly front and center in issues as recent as last week's #27), can we expect a larger focus on them in the AvX tie-ins?
Gage: Yes, especially in issues #32 and #33. As far back as #22, we saw that the X-Men became aware of Juston and his Sentinel. Now they have decided that a genocidal robot created to kill them should not be running around loose, and come to destroy it. I love these two quirky characters and really enjoyed writing this story. Also, it's a big deal for X-23, who has to choose a side in a conflict that has special resonance for her. We will hearken back to one of Marjorie Liu's stories that I thought was incredibly powerful.
Nrama: Other than the obvious choices like Sentinel and X-23, and without encroaching on spoiler material, are there any other Avengers Academy characters for which AvX will be especially meaningful?
Gage: Finesse, Hazmat and Mettle, I would say, are the biggies.
#32 cover.Nrama: It's been established that though the event is titled "Avengers vs. X-Men," each individual character's loyalty may not be drawn in that simple of lines. And since the Avengers Academy students tend to be rebellious to begin with, is it reasonable to assume that some might be sympathetic to the side of the mutants in this conflict?
Gage: Absolutely. Heck, some of the Avengers Academy kids are mutants… besides X-23, there's Ricochet and Wiz Kid. And the others are not robots; they all have their own feelings about what's going on. It's almost inevitable that there will be dissension in the ranks.
Nrama: Along with Tom Grummett, artist Timothy Green II is joining the book with this arc. What does he bring to the series that's unique?
Gage: Tim is drawing #32 and 33, the issues focusing on the Sentinel. I thought he was perfect for that arc because I loved his work on the Annihilation books, so I knew he'd nail the sci-fi feel of the Sentinel, and the whole "giant monster" quality he brought to Groot.As for Tom, he's been kicking butt on this book for a while now, but it's been a blast seeing him draw so many new characters for this event! He's taking it to a new level… especially with naked Hercules!
Nrama: Avengers Academy isn't one of Marvel's highest-selling books or one of the most marquee in terms of positioning or big-name characters, but it's attracted a vocal fanbase and has already lasted longer than most ongoing series can reasonably expect to these days. From as much as you can assess such a thing from your perspective as writer of the book, what do you attribute to Avengers Academy's success?
Gage: I have no idea… I'm just glad anyone likes it. I'm just sticking to the tried and true Stan Lee formula of writing stories I'd like to read!
Nrama: Avengers Academy is also one a book you've written for more than two years now, surpassing, at this point, even your time on Avengers: The Initiative — in terms of your career, where do you rank the book in terms of the comics that have meant the most to you?
Gage: I definitely think Avengers Academy is the book that's meant the most to me. Not that the others haven't meant a lot, but this is the first time I've launched a new title; the first time I've co-created new title characters to add to the Marvel Universe, and moved them forward on a journey. So there's certainly a feeling of personal investment beyond, say, writing Union Jack — which, while I love every minute of that, was not my creation… if I screwed it up, the character would still endure. In this case it was kind of like sending your kids out into the world and seeing them do okay. It's really meant a lot to me that so many readers and retailers have embraced Avengers Academy, to say nothing of the pros I respect so much who either have shared that they love the book or have lent their amazing talents to it… I'll never forget that. If my career ended tomorrow, I'd really have nothing to complain about.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!