Gage Examines his Avengers Academy tenure
Unlettered Previews 1-3 for Avengers Academy #39
CBR News: Christos, take us back to the early days of your “Avengers Academy” work when you were first offered this assignment. How fully fleshed out was the book’s core concept when Marvel offered it to you? And what made the book appealing to you?
Christos Gage: Well, it started out while I was writing “Avengers: The Initiative,” which was sort of the spiritual precursor to “Avengers Academy.” Dan Slott began that title, I came on board as co-writer with #8, I think, and then with #21 I started writing it solo as Dan moved on to "Mighty Avengers." Even before Dan left, we knew that the Initiative, as a program in the Marvel Universe, was coming to an end, and had talked about what would come next. My memory’s a little fuzzy, but I think we agreed early on that since the Initiative was, in essence, a draft for super humans, a boot camp where they trained like an army, what made the most sense for a post-Initiative world was a school for the next generation of Avengers, where the students were there voluntarily. I think Dan may even have come up with the name “Avengers Academy.”
Dan moved on before the idea was really fleshed out, so it was up to me to come up with the hook for the series. I thought the most interesting approach would be that the student body, rather than being made up of the best, most heroic and upstanding kids with powers, should be superhuman “at-risk kids” who are at a point where they could become either heroes or villains. So at an Avengers summit where I was to pitch the idea of “Avengers Academy,” I put forth that idea, though it involved a pretty sci-fi oriented setup, sort of a “Days Of Future Past” approach involving time travel where the kids saw a tomorrow where they were these horrible people.
The folks at the summit, which included a pretty impressive brain trust including Ed Brubaker, Brian Bendis, and Matt Fraction, as well as Dan Buckley, Joe Quesada, Axel Alonso and the rest of editorial, suggested a simpler approach. I think it was Joe who suggested the kids just find out their psych profiles by hacking into the Avengers’ computers. That was one of those head-slap moments for me, where I was like, “Duh! That’s so much better!” Simpler, more elegant and more personal. That’s why I do all my screenwriting with my wife; she reins in my comic book sensibilities and grounds them in reality. But at this summit I realized that’s often the best way to go in comics as well. Having a story grounded in basic human, real-world roots makes for the most effective approach. And then Ed Brubaker suggested a Scared Straight crossover with the Thunderbolts, and I was all, “These summits are great!”
As for what made the book appealing to me, it was the idea that these kids are trying to rise above the limitations set upon them by their elders, by society, and by fate to become something better. That, to me, is true heroism. I also liked the fact that the setup had such a striking parallel to the teenage years for all of us — it’s a time when one good or bad choice can change the rest of your life forever. That’s always true, but it seems those moments just come fast and furious in adolescence.
One of the elements that made “Avengers Academy” so unique was it featured a cast of predominantly new characters. What was it like getting to add several new toys to the Marvel toy box? Had you ever created that many new character at one time for a book?
It was terrific, and even more so because I was doing it with artist Mike McKone. He had a huge impact on the characters, from Mettle’s skull-faced look — which gave me the idea that he wasn’t just a guy with metal skin, but he’d had his skin torn off — and Hazmat’s ethnicity, as well as Finesse looking like an “evil Audrey Hepburn” and Striker’s costume. I actually had created that many new characters at one time before, when inventing new Fifty State Initiative teams, but they were pretty much meant to be background flavor. This was my first time creating this many new characters to star in their own book.
Your new cast included Mettle, Hazmat, Striker, Veil, and Finesse. What led you to create these characters specifically? What inspired them?
The one common thread was that, for most of them, I wanted to give them powers that were as much a curse as a blessing. Aside from that, I keep a list of character names and descriptions that I write down as they occur to me, so I pulled from there. And as I mentioned, Mike had a big influence on their development as well.
You also included a relatively new character in the line-up, Reptil. Why did you want him to be part of the book? What do you feel he added to the initial cast?
Well, he was created for the "Super Hero Squad" cartoon, and I wrote the “Initiative” special that introduced him to the Marvel Comics universe, so it seemed like a natural. Plus, I love dinosaurs. Have since I was a tiny kid. No more complicated than that.
The other big aspect of “Avengers Academy” was the characters’ torture at the hands of Norman Osborn. Did you know that element was going to be part of your cast’s back story when you were coming up with them? And if so did it impact the creation of the characters at all?
To the best of my recollection that was always going to be part of the origin story of the characters. It gave them all a reason that they could “go bad” and also a shared experience, and of course it made story sense in terms of transitioning from “Dark Reign” to the “Heroic Age.” In terms of how they were visualized, however, I don’t think Norman Osborn had any impact. We knew we wanted several of them to have powers that were as much a curse as a blessing, but that was separate from Osborn — though he accentuated that side of things.
Posting just the Academy snippets from Christos Gage’s X-Position.
X-POSITION: CHRISTOS GAGE REMAINS NEUTRAL IN “AVX” CONFLICT
2) In the aftermath of your “Avenger Academy” AvX tie-in, it seems that the Academy doesn’t exist anymore and that the kids are on their own (per solicitations). Should we take that as “spoilers” that the Academy is destroyed in midst of the current event?
Gage: Spoilers ahead for those who avoid solicitations: You can take it as evidence that Avengers Academy is no longer operating in its usual manner. As for exactly why — destroyed headquarters, being shut down, the kids quitting, or some other after-effect of AvX — you’ll have to keep reading to find out!
2) Even though Finesse has been shown to be like Taskmaster, her abilities and appearance are also very similar to that of the X-Man Sage. Is there any connection between the two?
Gage: Not that has been revealed, although there hasn’t been a definitive DNA test proving that Taskmaster is Finesse’s father, either…
3) You’ve really put Tigra through the ringer and, by doing so, made her cool again. Was she always a character you were drawn to, or did you view her as a challenge?
Gage: Thanks! I’m a big cat lover, so I guess that may be why Tigra has always been a favorite of mine. Artists seem to like drawing her, too!
Avengers Academy: Final Exam
By Tim Stevens
Any former or current student knows the horror that exam time evokes. Imagine that plus super powers. The heroes-in-training of AVENGERS ACADEMY find themselves facing that kind of stress in August with the start of “Final Exam.”
Unfolding over four issues—AVENGERS ACADEMY #34 to #37—the arc chronicles the culmination of events building since the book’s debut issue pitting the teenage team against Jeremy Briggs, The Alchemist, and will test not just the adolescents’ abilities, but their integrity.
For writer Christos Gage, the current volatility of the Marvel Universe made this the perfect time to pull the trigger on this plotline.
“This title has a history of undergoing shifts and changes after big events, and with Avengers Vs. X-Men going on, it felt like a good time to bring the Alchemist storyline to a head,” he explains. “I’m also a big believer that if you drag out plotlines too long, they lose their power; you get to the point where people are just tired of it and want it resolved just so it’s over, not because they’re excited to see the outcome. It happens to me as a fan sometimes and I don’t want it to happen here.”
Editor William Rosemann sees validity in Gage’s opinion on the subject.
“Speaking as a comic book fan, I always appreciate seeing creators bring long-simmering plots to an explosive boil,” he concurs. “Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing plenty of emotional and visual fireworks in each and every single issue that I plunk down my hard-earned money for. But if you can add on the culmination or surprising zigzags of character journeys that I’ve followed for months, well, that’s fun to experience in any kind of storytelling medium.”
The timing also gave Gage permission of sorts to focus the action fully on the students and not worry about accounting for the teachers. With the adults still enmeshed in the events of AvX, the teens find themselves very much on their own.
“While we did see Jocasta leave with the Alchemist, so she will be around in some capacity, [the arc] focuses on the students,” the writer says. “I really wanted this to be a crucible for the students—hence the title ‘Final Exam.’ They’re going to have to succeed or fail on their own.”
Success will be no easy task. Briggs has repeatedly proven to be a capable manipulator and already won at least some trust from several allies, including former Academy member Veil. However, The Alchemist did not seem to be satisfied with just one super powered recruit, a fact Gage remains cagey on.
“Veil is definitely part of the story, she’s a major character,” he teases. “I’m going to keep mum on the others for now! [But] you never know what that guy’s been getting up to, do you? I’d say there’s a pretty good chance he might have added to his roster. He seems to prefer younger superhumans.”
The writer plays it similarly close to the vest about what exactly Briggs has in mind for goals, only promising that “Final Exam” will reveal the answers.
“This is definitely where that gets revealed, and put into action,” pledges Gage. “I can’t really say much about it, but it’s related to his feeling that the super hero/super villain paradigm no longer works.”
Despite knowing that this arc had to unfold now, Gage admits a certain amount of concern about putting these characters through this gauntlet.
“It’s pretty serious,” he confesses. “Every single one of the students is going to have to reach down within themselves to find out who they really are, behind the costumes and the code names. It’s going to be tough to write some of the stuff I’ve got planned!
“Fortunately, I know our art team can deliver powerful moments beautifully. We’ve got our regular penciler/inker team of Tom Grummett and Cory Hamscher on the first two issues, and Andrea DiVito handling the next two. Add in the stalwart Chris Sotomayor and the venerable Joe Caramagna on colors and letters, respectively, and we’re in awesome shape.”
So, I’m only posting the AA snippets but you can read the full interview at Marvel.com, Christos talks mostly about X-Men Legacy there.
And this interview is just about the AvX tie-in.
So you haven’t seen his interviews from yesterday about the upcoming arc, Final exam from AA34-37, here are those:
Covers of AA34 & 35
Tuesday Q&A: Christos Gage
Marvel.com: In a way, Christos, with X-MEN LEGACY and AVENGERS ACADEMY you’re smack dab in the middle of the fighting. Are you able to step back and say who is right, Cap or Cyclops?
Christos Gage: Both think they’re right, and both could be right. The Avengers have precedent on their side—the whole Jean Grey disaster—but if Hope is indeed the mutant messiah, she could be the only one who can control the Phoenix Force and save the world. The problem when you’re dealing with the Phoenix is you only get one chance, so it better be the right one! If I had to pick a side, I’d probably lean a bit toward the Avengers; history has not shown the Phoenix to be a particularly controllable thing.
Marvel.com: When you write your AvX event tie-in issues, how do you maintain the various points of view in your scripts? How do you present it in a strong, compelling, passionate way for both sides?
Christos Gage: You just have to understand both sides and get their arguments and viewpoints across. For the Avengers, they’re trying to keep the world safe from a deadly threat, while these deluded fanatics are willing to risk the lives of billions of people for some pipe dream. Meanwhile, the X-Men think they have it covered—they can both save the world and give mutantkind a new start—and these arrogant outsiders who have no real knowledge of them or their people are trying to force them to do something they think is a really bad idea.
I don’t have a problem portraying either viewpoint because both are potentially legitimate. It’s not like I have to make The Red Skull sympathetic!
Marvel.com: You’re an honorable guy! Now, how do the Avengers justify the seizing of the Utopia kids and sticking them in the Academy? And how do they manage to keep them there?
Christos Gage: Well, they rationalize it as being for their own good, to keep them out of a potentially very dangerous conflict. And from the Avengers’ POV, Wolverine supports it, so they don’t see it as totally like kidnapping. Wolverine runs a school for mutants and it’s kind of his idea. As for keeping them there, well, they ask the Academy kids to make sure they don’t leave. Which of course makes things just a bit tense between the two sides.
Marvel.com: Once inside the Academy, what will be the greatest single source of conflict between the characters?
Christos Gage: It turns out one of the residents of Avengers Academy is a Sentinel, a robot built to kill mutants. That gets awkward. Sebastian Shaw going on a rampage doesn’t help either.
Marvel.com: So, what are the greatest similarities and dissimilarities between the two groups of kids?
Christos Gage: Similarities? They’re the same age, and in this situation, they are affected by the actions of their elders despite having no say in what’s going on. Dissimilarities? There’s a choice to being an Avenger, whereas nowadays, if you’re a mutant, you’re an X-Man. So the X-kids feel like the Academy kids are kind of playing dress-up, while they are in a fight for their very survival as a species.
'Avengers Academy' Takes Its “Final Exam” Starting In August
MTV Geek: The title of this arc set off little alarm bells in my head…Is this the end of Avengers Academy? Or just the roster we know and love (which would also, of course, make me very sad)?
Christos Gage: It’s not the end of the book. But it may be the end of Avengers Academy as we know it! After all, we have a history of big changes following big events.
Geek: Now that you’re in the thick of it, is this the end-game you’ve had in mind for the kids since you started? Or have you found that where you’ve taken them over the last thirty-odd issues has changed their individual journeys? Striker, for one, seems far less likely to turn out to be a villain now than he did back in issue one…
CG: For a while now, certainly the past year to year and a half, I’ve had a definite end point in mind for where I would want to leave these characters as a group. It allows for specific character journeys to change, and characters to come in and out, but in a general sense, I’ve known where I’d end things if the time came…Which, in today’s market, for a title that hasn’t been around since the sixties, is something I think you have to at least consider. I’ve also had specific thoughts on where I’d leave each character. Some of those points will be reached in “Final Exam.”
Geek: I think he’s been pretty up front about it, but what is Alchemist’s agenda here? And are we going to find out once and for all if he does have a secret agenda behind the agenda?
CG: Yes. You will find out once and for all what he’s up to. My take on him is that he hasn’t necessarily lied about his agenda – I think it would be a cop-out for him to pull off a mask and turn out to be Loki, for example – but he definitely seems like a guy who has more going on that he’s telling you.
Geek: The plot almost seems like we’re getting our own L’il Civil War (or Civli’l War, if you want)… If so, who is Cap in this scenario, and who is Iron Man? And to push the strained metaphor even further, who is Speedball? Is it, in fact, Speedball? I don’t even know what I’m asking anymore.
CG: I wouldn’t say it’s quite that cut and dried. Rather than two sides pitted against each other, with two leaders and two specific points of view, it’s more that each individual character will have to decide for themselves what they want their life to be going forward. Which is pretty heavy, but also something we all have to do as young people. I mean, it’s funny… You can go through some pretty big upheavals later in life. Change careers, get married or divorced, have kids or, hell, get a sex change. But at no point is there more pressure to make decisions about the REST OF YOUR LIFE than when you’re young. That’s what these kids are facing…in the typically ramped-up fashion of a superhero comic, of course.
Geek: Is it down to just the students? Or are we going to see the teachers get involved too?
CG: I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but for a variety of reasons, issues #34 through #37 are very much centered on the students. And by that I mean the core students, as those who feel their stories have gotten off track with my focus on folks like Sentinel may be glad to hear.
Geek: I’m sure you can barely talk about this, but once the students have made their choices… Are we going to see the introduction of a new Dr. Doom level villain? Since that’s what the threat is all along, it almost seems like SOMEONE has to go in that direction, right? Right???
CG: I feel like that’s a constant threat. Just as when you’re a kid, and you could screw up your life by doing something stupid like driving drunk or getting addicted to drugs or dropping out of school or whatever, at any point one of these kids could make a choice they can’t come back from. But that said, I think none of them is exactly the type to suddenly cackle “Mwah ha ha! I now embrace EVIL!” and do a heel turn like the wrestlers I grew up on. I think for our guys it would be more of a gradual thing getting to that Dr. Doom point. Even Dr. Doom started out as just kind of a jerky rich kid rooming with Reed Richards, didn’t he? He put on the armor after a series of momentous events. So I think we’d be less likely to see the kids get to that Dr. Doom point… More likely to see them take that first step onto a road there’s no turning back from. Will that happen in this story? Read and find out!
Geek: After this apocalyptic arc is all done, are we going to see the kids head into an arc called “Summer Break?” Or hopefully, “Summer School,” where the remaining students get special guest taught by Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley?
CG: Don’t forget Courtney Thorne Smith. Actually, there will be a bit of a palate cleanser in issue #38…a more light-hearted story. But like “Summer School,” it will have a very deep and meaningful subtext.
Avengers Academy: Final Exam begins in issue #34 in August, and runs through issue #37 in September, from Marvel Comics!
Source: MTV Geek
Christos Gage Administers AVENGERS ACADEMY’s ‘Final Exam’
Newsarama: Christos, first, just looking for some clarifications — I may very well be jumping to conclusions here, but with a story called “Final Exam” and the promise that this is a story that’s been building since the beginning, is this Avengers Academy starting to wrap things up?
Christos Gage: It’s not the book coming to an end. But for Avengers Academy as we know it – specifically, some of the characters that have been there from the start – we are reaching a major decision point, and things may never be the same.
Nrama: “Final Exam” is the Avengers Academy versus Alchemist’s team — who can we expect to see in the latter group?
Gage: Well, we have seen that Veil, Jocasta, Rocket Racer and Machine Teen, as well as some former Initiative recruits like Cloud 9 and Hardball, were working with the Alchemist. But this is less of a “Team A vs. Team B” situation than one where the kids must make some tough decisions about the direction of their lives. Although let’s face it, there will probably be punching.
Nrama: Also, does this story involve just the main Avengers Academy cast, or also the extended group introduced since the move to the west coast?
Gage: I’m stepping back a bit and focusing on our core cast of students. Finesse, Hazmat, Striker, Mettle, Reptil, White Tiger, X-23 and Lightspeed.
Nrama: And while the Academy students are trapped in Alchemist’s building, what kind of role will the Avengers Academy faculty have in the story?
Gage: It’s really more about the kids. Some of the adults will still be quite busy with AvX matters.
Nrama: On the story, you’re joined by Tom Grummett and Andrea Di Vito — they’re two very different artists, but in what ways do you think their styles complement each other well?
Gage: I think they both have what you could categorize as a “classic” superhero style… clean, dynamic storytelling, exciting action, powerful character moments… and the story comes first. Neither one of these guys feels the need to say, “Hey, look at me!” by doing flashy stuff just for the sake of doing it. They can bring the flash, for sure, but only when it’s called for. They’re consummate pros who are all about telling the story in the most effective way possible.
Nrama: Final Exam will be twice monthly, as the series has been much of the time recently. What are the advantages of working at that pace?
Gage: It kind of allows you to step up the pace, like a weekly TV show… something like Justified or The Sopranos, where you can make every installment feel important, and hopefully there’s just enough time in between to make the audience really want to see what’s next, but not so much they pick up the next issue and don’t quite recall what happened in the last one. It can be hectic, but that’s part of the fun!
Final Exam arc is issues AA34-37! So AvX lasts from AA29-33.
And I was worried with this title that AA was gonna be cancelled after this, but Christos Gage mentions in the last question, that he at least has plans for the AA kids to meet another group of teens after this arc, maybe the Young Avengers? or the X-kids in Westchester?
Anyway I think I’m really looking forward to this, as it seems much more interesting than the AvX tie-in and I’m really happy that the focus will be on just our main kids this time around. And it sounds like Laura stays with them after all the AvX stuff too which I’m very glad about too.
GAGE PREPARES A “FINAL EXAM” FOR “AVENGERS ACADEMY”
CBR News: In this market, a storyline with the word “Final” in its title can cause alarm with fans. That said, what does “Final Exam” mean for this series? Is this the end of “Avengers Academy?”
Christos Gage: It’s the culmination of a long-running storyline, that of the Alchemist and his almost anti-Avengers Academy, which he created to serve as an alternative to the hero/villain paradigm he says the Avengers promote. It’s also when the kids will have to face a moment of truth and discover who they really are, beneath the powers and the costumes. If you think of a final exam as what all your work has been leading up to, where everything you’ve learned to this point is put to the test, that’s what it is.
CBR: As you say, the series has been building towards this showdown with Jeremy for a while. What can you tell us about Jeremy’s ultimate goal? He seems like a guy who projects one front and hides who he really is.
Gage: He’s complicated. He definitely is the kind of person who will manipulate others to get what he wants, but a lot of our readers have said they feel he makes good points about there being better ways for super humans to benefit the world than putting on costumes and smacking each other. Is that something he really believes? Or does he have some nefarious hidden agenda? Does he, as he claims, want to do good, and he sometimes uses less than exemplary methods? Or is he just misunderstood? All will be revealed in this story.
CBR: "Final Exam" doesn’t begin until August. What can you tell us about the "Avengers Academy" stories leading up to it and sort of physical and emotional shape the kids will be in when this story arrives?
Gage: The previous stories will have been the “Avengers vs. X-Men” tie-ins, and that worked out quite well, because those stories will have seen the kids forced to look at what their elders are doing and decide how they feel about it, and in some cases, take a stand against it. Given that “Final Exam” will see them operating without the guidance of their teachers, they’ll have been prepared for it by the “AvX” storyline. Also, the events of “AvX” will lead directly to a big moment at the end of issue #33 that sets the stage for “Final Exam.”
I can’t get into it any more without spoiling our “AvX” tie-ins, so I will just say that, in a general sense, “Final Exam” will see a number of both plotlines and character journeys coming to a head.
CBR: Who are the teen protagonists you’ll be focusing on in “Final Exam?” Will it just be the original six students? Or will some of the new Academy students like White Tiger and X-23 play a role as well?
Gage: It will be the original six students, yes, including Veil, who now works with Jeremy, plus White Tiger, Lightspeed and X-23.
CBR: Will the kids be facing off with Jeremy’s group of younger heroes? If a fight breaks out, will they be more than a match for the Avengers Academy kids? And since you say this is a storyline where the kids have to stand on their own, where does that leave the faculty?
Gage: Veil is the only one I’m promising. The others, well, you’ll have to wait and see. There will be some super-powered teens on Jeremy’s side; I’m just not ready to reveal who they are.
The faculty will play a smaller role — I really wanted this to be a big test for the kids. As for the part time students, they won’t be around. We’re narrowing our focus with this storyline.
CBR: You’re working with Tom Grummett and Andrea Di Vito on “Final Exam.” Which of their artistic strengths do you want to play to and bring out in this storyline?
Gage: Andrea worked on an issue of our “Fear Itself” crossover storyline, and I thought he did a fantastic job getting across the intensity of the situation as well as the emotions the characters were experiencing. We needed that again. Our regular artist, the phenomenal Tom Grummett, excels at it, but given that this story will be shipping twice monthly, it was inevitably going to require the services of two artists.
Our editors, Bill Rosemann and Jake Thomas, agreed with me that Andrea’s handsome, classically heroic style of art meshed well with Tom’s — these guys are distinct talents, but their strengths lie in the same areas, and they’re exactly what we needed for this tale.
CBR: Finally, you hinted a little bit about this at the beginning of our talk, but can you offer up any more clues as to where “Avengers Academy” is headed after issue #37, the final issue of “Final Exam?”
Gage: Again, I will have to keep mum, but I will go so far as to say that another long-anticipated meeting with another group of teenage characters will follow. “Final Exam” is a big deal for the kids. It’s a cliché to say “after this, nothing will be the same!” But it’s true.
"Avengers Academy" takes its "Final Exam" in August.
So excited that my three favorite Academy kids + Laura are gonna get the spotlight. And so happy about this part!! “but those readers who have been clamoring for Finesse and X-23 to get to know each other better are going to get their wish. ” The previews of them together in AA29 were already great, can’t wait to have this friendship happening!
MTV Geek Interview
Covers of AA31 & 32
CBR News: Christos, how will the structure of “Avengers vs. X-Men” work with your cast of characters? Will you be focusing on the same set of characters throughout your tie-in or will certain characters step to the foreground based on the acts of “AvX?”
Christos Gage: The first “act” of “AvX” roughly coincides with “Avengers Academy #29-31, in which the mutant kids from Utopia are brought to Avengers Academy for “protective custody.” The second act jibes with #32 and #33, in which the X-Men decide Juston Seyfert’s Sentinel has to be destroyed.
A bunch of different characters will get some time in the spotlight, but in #29-31, I would say it’s X-23 who is the central figure — which makes sense, given the fact that she has ties to both sides. #32-33 spotlights, naturally, Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel, taking center stage for the first time. But I always like to showcase a variety of characters — from Finesse to Mettle and Hazmat to Hercules, who will be a guest teacher in #29 through 31.
CBR: We know the adolescent cast members of ”Generation Hope”and their one adult member (an amnesiac Sebastian Shaw) are among the Utopia-based mutants brought to “Avengers Academy” for protective custody. What’s it like writing these characters? How similar and how different are they to your core cast in “Avengers Academy?”
Gage: It’s interesting to write them because it does make me think a lot about the difference, which in general terms I would describe this way: being an Avenger is something you do, while being an X-Man is something you are. There was a time you could be a mutant without being part of the X-Men, but now that the mutant population is so small, “mutants” and “X-Men” are more or less synonyms.
I really enjoy writing the “Generation Hope” characters, although Sebastian Shaw is a different beast entirely. He has a long and infamous career as one of the worst villains on Earth and in the last issue of “Generation Hope,” he found out the truth about his past. So he is very much a wild card.
CBR: The last time we talked about “Avengers Academy,” you mentioned X-23 would play a role in the “AvX” story line. Will we see her interact with the kids of “Generation Hope” or will she be interacting with some other youthful X-Men?
Gage: Laura’s interactions will actually be primarily with her former classmates from the New X-Men, Dust and Surge, who consider her a traitor for being part of an Avengers organization that is keeping them against their will. It’s an interesting situation for someone as unused to exploring emotions as Laura. She left the X-Men in part because she didn’t want to choose sides in the “Schism,” but now there’s no avoiding it — you’re either on one side or the other. So she’ll have to really consider who and what she wants to be
CBR: Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel have played small but significant roles in the past few issues of “Avengers Academy.” What’s it like writing these characters? With such a mutant-centric story line, how big will Juston and his Sentinel’s role be in the “AvX” tie-in issues of “Avengers Academy?”
Gage: Originally I was just looking for teen characters to add to the newly expanding student body in issue #21. But I have come to really love Juston and the Sentinel. There’s something very basic about the dynamic — a kid with his own giant robot. What kid hasn’t wished for that at some point or another? Sean McKeever, in his two “Sentinel” series, did a great job making them live and breathe.
As you point out, the mutant-centric story makes it a perfect, organic opportunity to put them in the spotlight. Issues #32 and #33 will bring Juston and the Sentinel to the forefront, examining the question of whether something created for a destructive purpose can ever rise above that — a question that resonates with many of the residents of Avengers Academy.
CBR: Will any other students from the original student body or the new class play significant roles in the “Avengers vs. X-Men” tie-ins? What can you tell us about these characters and how they’ll initially view the events of “AvX?”
Gage: There will be important roles for Finesse, Mettle and Hazmat. I really can’t say much without treading on spoiler-mines, but those readers who have been clamoring for Finesse and X-23 to get to know each other better are going to get their wish. Also, we’ll be examining how the mutant members of Avengers Academy’s student body — specifically Wiz Kid and Ricochet, along with X-23 — feel about the hostilities.
CBR: What about the school faculty? Will they be on hand for this story or will the events of “AvX” place them elsewhere?
Gage: Some will be elsewhere, which is why Hercules is guest-starring in #29-31 alongside Tigra. Giant-Man is back in #32 and #33. I had a blast writing Herc! And for those who feel comics exploit women, I’ve tried to balance the scales by giving you naked Hercules. You’re welcome.
CBR: Is there anything else you can tell us about the plot and themes of your “AvX” tie-ins? Current information suggests the kids of Avengers Academy are not going to be happy about two teams of heroes at war with each other.
Gage: It’s really about kids being caught up in a chaotic situation caused by the decisions of their elders — decisions they had no say in, but now they have to deal with the consequences. They’ll have to figure out who they are, how they feel about what’s going on and if the side they started out on is the side they want to stay on.
CBR: You’re working with Tom Grummet and Timothy Green II, two great artists with very distinct styles. What can people expect from the issues they’re drawing? It seems like Timothy’s flair for sci-fi would make him a great fit for the story focusing on Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel.
Gage: You’re right! I have wanted to work with Timothy since seeing his awesome work in the “Annihilation” books — I loved his take on Groot and Rocket Raccoon! Tom has been doing stellar work on “Avengers Academy” for a while now, but I think he’s delivering some of his best in #29-31. The opening splash of the Academy kids watching Hercules re-enact the first Olympics in a historically accurate manner — in other words, naked and oiled — is priceless!
CBR: Let’s wrap things up by talking about the impact of your “AvX” tie-ins. You’re telling a long form story in “Avengers Academy” that primarily focuses on the lives of the original students. Without spoiling things, how large an impact will your “AvX” stories have on that long form story?
Gage: It will affect some characters more than others, but it will progress the journeys of the characters it affects in important ways — and then it will lead directly into a story line that may just be the most significant we’ve done yet.
Newsarama: Christos, it’s fair to say that, in hindsight, Fear Itselfhad 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 Academyduring 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 ofGeneration 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.
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 aremutants… 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.
Covers of Avengers Academy #31 & 32 here.
MTV Geek: It’s a bit tough to talk about this without spoiling AvX, or the first two issues of the tie-in with Avengers Academy, but let’s start out talking about what we DO know… #29 and #30 focus on X-23, the bridge character for the X-Men and Avengers. Is that going to continue, or are things switching around a bit in #31 and #32?
Christos Gage: Issues #29-31, drawn by our regular artist, the mighty Tom Grummett, focus on the mutant kids from Utopia being “guests” of Avengers Academy, quite against their will. In #32 and 33, featuring a guest artist I’ve wanted to work with since his awesome ANNIHILATION: STAR-LORD work, Tim Green II, the X-Men come gunning for Juston Seyfert’s Sentinel, to destroy it once and for all. X-23 will be a major part of both storylines. It’s not just because she’s caught between the two sides…the issues and themes we’re tackling tied in naturally with the character journey she’s been on, most recently courtesy of the talented Marjorie Liu. Laura won’t be the only character getting attention, by any means, but it’s finally her turn to step into the spotlight.
Geek: We also know that the Academy is rounding up the mutant kids from Utopia, and “housing” them at the WCA complex. Given the X-Men’s recent Schism on this very issue, plus the fact that the Academy was recently invaded by former students disagreeing with Pym and company’s methods, I imagine there’s going to be no problems whatsoever with this move, he said sarcastically?
CG: I foresee a circle of happy kids singing “Kumbaya.” No, I foresee major friction. And X-23 confronted by some of her former New X-Men classmates, like Dust and Surge. And, of course, naked Hercules. Well, that’s not a problem…it’s a solution to all problems.
Geek: Are we going to see Veil, Jeremy Briggs and the rest get involved in this? Or are they sitting to the side, snarkily commenting on how this is all “superhero business as usual?”
CG: I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to give Tom Brevoort apoplexy. Every since the cast of AVENGERS THE INITIATIVE grew to astronomical proportions, Tom has been cautioning me NOT to let that happen with AVENGERS ACADEMY! And you want me to put the Avengers Academy students, all the X-Men kids from Utopia, AND Veil and her crew in a single story? You, sir, are a cruel and heartless man.
Geek: Let’s talk about Sebastian Shaw, who gets highlighted in #31 – what’s it been like writing him, and what does he bring to the mix?
CG: Shaw is actually in #29 through 31. It’s been interesting writing him because this is not the same Sebastian Shaw who had such a long and evil reign as leader of the Hellfire Club. Emma Frost wiped his mind, and, as an amnesiac, he joined up with the kids of GENERATION HOPE. But in the final issue of that title, Hope gave Shaw the X-Men’s file on him, so now he knows the truth about who he was. Does that make him a villain again? That’s what he brings to the mix. He’s a wild card…and a potential massive threat in the middle of a bunch of kids. I love writing characters who are total loose cannons, and Shaw is most definitely that.
Geek: With Hazmat all about releasing energy, and Shaw basically a sponge for energy, are we going to get to see any interesting interactions there?
CG: That seems like kind of a natural confrontation, doesn’t it?
Geek: Then in #32, we’re moving the spotlight to Sentinel. This is such a quirky cult character, what’s been fun about bringing him back? And what’s coming up with the robot and Justin as they get embroiled in a full scale war?
CG: You know, I never meant for Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel to have such a presence in this book, but there’s something so primal and appealing about a kid with his own pet giant robot, and Sean McKeever brought them to life so vividly in the two series he wrote them in, that I can’t resist. Regular readers will remember that the X-Men finally became aware there was a teenager running around with a robot designed to kill them in AVENGERS ACADEMY #22. Now that the two teams are at war, the X-Men decide it’s time to remove that particular threat from the board, and come to destroy the Sentinel. Which to them is a genocidal killing machine…but to Juston is his best friend. I wanted to explore the question of whether something created and groomed to be violent and harmful deserves the chance to rise above that, or whether the threat posed to others is the more important consideration. Longtime readers of AVENGERS ACADEMY, by the way, will know that the description I just gave applies to a lot more campus residents than the Sentinel.
Geek: Speaking of which, with Fear Itself, Avengers Academy very much dealt with the realities of kids getting involved in a war – are we going to return to those themes here? Or is this a different look at conflict?
CG: It’s a similar premise but in a different way. Last time around, with Fear Itself, we looked at kids being put on the front lines of a shooting war. This time, we’re examining what happens to kids when they face the consequences of their elders making decisions that affect them tremendously, but that they have no say in. And what happens when they start making decisions for themselves.
Geek: I’m guessing this probably won’t happen, which is why I feel comfortable asking it: if you could give one Avengers Academy student the Phoenix Force, who would it be? And why?
CG: Butterball. Because he’s so laid back. I mean, really, can you imagine “Dark Butterball?” Well, actually, that sounds like a pretty tasty Ben & Jerry’s flavor, now that I think about it…butter pecan, chocolate…now I want some.
Geek: Lastly, what – if anything – can you tease about what’s going to come out of these issues? In Fear Itself, they had their school destroyed; are they going to have to pack up and move… Again?
CG: Ha. That would be a cakewalk compared to what’s coming up for these kids.
Source: MTV Geek
Two interviews are out today! Check over here for the X-Position one.
Avengers Academy #28 previews
AVENGERS ACADEMY Makes Room for RUNAWAYS, Preps for AvX
Newsarama: Christos, let’s start with the latest in Avengers Academy — the Avengers vs. X-Men tie-in issues solicited for May. First, the Generation Hope kids are coming to Avengers Academy (though evidently against their will). What’s it like bringing even more Marvel teen heroes into the book?
Christos Gage: I love comparing the Academy kids to other young Marvel characters, from the Runaways to the Generation Hope kids. It’s fun to see the different philosophies between them, the different ways they approach their lives. I think it really shows that these are not interchangeable super-powered teens; they all have their own reasons for being who they are and doing what they do.
Nrama: Can we expect a major role for X-23 in these issues, given her obvious connection the X-Men?
Gage: X-23 will definitely have a major role in the AvX issues ofAcademy. She has one foot in each camp. She joined the Academy in part because she didn’t like the Schism going on in the X-Men’s world, but now she’s caught up in a whole new conflict, and this time she’s going to have to take a side. She’ll encounter some of her former New X-Men classmates and really have to examine how she feels about what’s going on as well as her place in it. I’ve really enjoyed building on what Marjorie Liu has done so well in Laura’s own book.
Nrama: The Avengers Academy #26 letter column was a notable one, where you responded to a reader upset over Striker coming out. Though I’m sure it’s not the goal, how does it feel to be able to inspire that kind of thoughtful dialogue about a serious issue through a superhero comic book?
Gage: It feels good. We live in an era when discourse between people holding opposing viewpoints all too often quickly degenerates into name-calling and personal attacks. In this case, the topic was certainly a highly charged one — whether the story of a teen character coming out as gay belongs in a mainstream superhero comic — but across the board, from the original letter to every response we’ve received, people have been polite, courteous and respectful. And they’ve expressed appreciation at being able to be part of a conversation like that. We live in a wonderful, diverse country. We may not agree, but we can treat each other with respect. I feel privileged to be able to provide a place where that can happen.
Nrama: Avengers Academy #26 was also an intriguing issue for how what was essentially a conversation between two sides was executed as a visually interesting comic book. Though Jeremy Briggs certainly doesn’t seem to be a real altruist, his side certainly had some points, and in a lot of ways seemed more logical than Hank Pym. How important was it to construct the debate in a way where both sides seemed viable?
Gage: It was important because regardless of whether Jeremy Briggs is a good guy or not, Veil and the other young heroes who joined with him, like Cloud 9, are indeed good people, and they wouldn’t buy into an arrangement that didn’t allow them to truly and meaningfully help people. That’s one of the questions I think is interesting to explore: if you are offered a chance to do something good by someone whose motives may be less than selfless, does that absolutely mean you shouldn’t do it? Can you do it without compromising yourself? And can Jeremy be somewhat self-interested and want to make a positive change in the world? Stay tuned.
And by the way I think all credit goes to our art team, Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher and Chris Sotomayor, for making what is definitely a talky issue visually interesting… to say nothing of Joe Caramagna fitting all those words in so artfully. Thanks for pointing that out!
Nrama: Hawkeye joined the book-semi recently as an instructor, but given how many series he’s in right now, will he continue to be part of the book long-term? (Not that there aren’t any a few other similarly busy Marvel characters, like Wolverine for the past 30 years or so.)
Gage: Well, that’s presuming there won’t be some big shake-up after AvX. But in theory I don’t see why he can’t keep doing it. Hank Pym is also on Hawkeye’s Secret Avengers team. All the teachers don’t have to be there all the time. That’s the great thing; we can have guest teachers like Hercules in #29-31! But Hawkeye will probably receive less focus than other teachers by virtue of his exposure elsewhere.
Nrama: Finally, the Avengers Academy/Runaways two-parter is nearly here. We talked at length about the story in the past, but with the first issue out this week, is there anything you’d like to tease about the arc at this point?
Gage: Two words: Old Lace. Two more: Devil Dinosaur. If you still don’t want this book, you may be happier getting your comics in The New Yorker.
Full interview at the source, just included the Academy mentions.
Avengers Academy #29 preview pages
X-POSITION: GAGE SCHOOLS “X-MEN LEGACY”
CBR: We saw in the previews of AvX of the “Avengers Academy” issues that the Utopia kids get “interned” at the Academy. How awkward will it be for X-23 to see her old NXM chums arrive against their will? And what are the odds of the kids from Westchester coming in to break them out?
Christos Gage: There are indeed scenes between X-23, Surge and Dust, and they were fun — for me, not for the characters involved! This storyline definitely looks at X-23 and how she has developed as a person since her days with the New X-Men, as well as how she is continuing to develop. As for the Westchester kids coming to break them out, they’re going to have their own problems…
CBR: In solicitations for “Avengers Academy” and “X-Men Legacy” during the AvX event, it seems that both schools are housing X-Men members and Avengers members for “safety reasons” and under Steve Rogers orders. Could this be seen as a sign of hypocrisy coming from Steve Rogers, given that this would be similar to the Japanese World War 2 internment camps? How would you explain his justification for doing this to the readers?
The situations are different. I can only say so much to avoid spoilers, but in “Avengers Academy,” what has happened is that various X-kids from Utopia end up in the custody of the Avengers, and it’s decided the best thing to do with them to keep them out of the conflict is to house them at Avengers Academy. It’s not an internment camp per se (the cover of “Avengers Academy” #29 is more symbolic of how the X-kids feel), it’s more like Child Protective Services, where kids who have nowhere else to go are placed — presumably for their own good.
I’m not saying it’s right — there’s a lot of debate about that in the book itself — but it’s with good intentions. As for the situation in “X-Men Legacy,” events there are more reaction to the larger conflict — the Avengers send a team to keep an eye on the X-Men and make sure they don’t escalate matters by joining the Utopia crew, but they are more watching from outside, like cops at a Mafia wedding. Oh, and don’t assume it was Cap who made the decision in all these cases!
CBR:Although Wolverine doesn’t want the kids fighting during this event, will any of the X-kids get a chance to throw down with the Avengers?
I think a few of them might, but probably more likely with the kids of Avengers Academy.
CBR:Even if both schools survive the events of “Avengers vs. X-Men,” there is still the upcoming “Ultron War.” Will “Avengers Academy” play a role in that event?
I’m afraid I can say almost nothing about the “Ultron War” at this time. Largely because that’s how much I know!
CBR:Can we expect roster changes in your titles coming out of AvX and the Ultron War?
Roster changes will come about when it feels right for the characters and the story. But change has always been a part of “Avengers Academy” — just like high school itself!
CBR:Is ‘Legacy’ going to have anything to do with Avengers Academy in AvX? Can we expect to see Rogue kick some She-Hulk butt?
No, the two will be separate. But I encourage you to read both! There will be a fight. Butt will be kicked. Whose? Wait and see!
CBR:What was the process of writing that inevitable showdown where Cyclops’ members go head-to-head with the members of Logan’s team? Did you collaborate with guys like Jason Aaron or Kieron Gillen?
I checked in with “Generation Hope” writer James Asmus and relied on guidance from X-editor Daniel Ketchum. I’m afraid saying more than that might venture into spoiler territory.
By Ben Morse
When it comes to the ravages of war, even children can’t escape the consequences.
Avengers Vs. X-Men will be no exception to the rule above, as AVENGERS ACADEMY enters the fray beginning with issues #29 and #30 in May, throwing the young students into a conflict bigger than any they’ve experienced while also bringing several familiar mutant faces into the series, and likely not to make friends.
“Avengers Academy is where the Avengers want to put the young mutants of Utopia when hostilities break out,” explains AVENGERS ACADEMY writer Christos Gage. “They take them into custody and house them at the one facility they know that can handle an infusion of super-powered kids. It’s a bit like Child Protective Services: ‘You’re not under arrest, you haven’t done anything wrong, this if for your own good—but you can’t leave.’
“Needless to say, there are plenty of folks who are none too happy with this turn of events. And if bringing them to Avengers Academy is intended to keep them out of trouble, it doesn’t quite work out that way.”
At the center of the chaos will be X-23, who recently enrolled in Avengers Academy, but has a long history with the X-Men, as the clone of Wolverine, a member of X-Force, and longtime resident of Utopia herself. Laura will find herself caught between classmates and friends past and present, but could also provide a potential bridge between the two.
“X-23 will be in the spotlight,” asserts Gage. “She has a foot in each camp, so the war between the Avengers and the X-Men is naturally going to affect her more than anyone. She joined Avengers Academy in part because she wanted [nothing] of the Wolverine/Cyclops schism. Now she’s caught directly in the middle of another war, and there is no avoiding making the choice this time around.”
“You will also see Hazmat, Finesse and Mettle being very involved as well. The core Academy student’s personal histories might well make them feel sympathetic with the mutant kids. But could they be sympathetic enough to turn against their own teachers and classmates?”
As to who from Utopia will be crashing in Avengers Academy, Gage promises a wide array of guests previously featured in GENERATION HOPE, NEW X-MEN, X-CLUB and elsewhere across the mutant world.
“The Lights [from GENERATION HOPE] are not going to be too happy with the situation,” says the writer. “I enjoyed writing [them], but I also had fun giving some screen time to less high profile mutants like Loa and Crosta. Madison Jeffries and Kavita Rao of the X-Men’s Science Team will act as chaperones of a sort, and Hercules will be around as a guest teacher from the Avengers side. Oh, and he’ll be naked. You’re welcome.”
One last visitor who could be a concern for Avengers and X-Men alike will be the once-leader of the Hellfire Club, Sebastian Shaw, who recently resurfaced amnesiac and seeking redemption in the pages of GENERATION HOPE. Gage teases that Shaw will go toe-to-toe with Hercules, Mettle and more.
“Given where [writer] James Asmus will be leaving [Shaw] as GENERATION HOPE concludes its run, he is most definitely a wild card,” Gage notes. “[That is] if wild cards could absorb the energy of any attack thrown at them and beat you to a pulp.”