These days, one of the most well-worn and well-respected tropes in superhero comics is the high school hero -Â the coming of age tale that melds superpowered themes of self discovery with heaps of adolescent angst. Yet, considering how many wise-cracking teenage superhero comics are on the stands, a surprisingly small number explore the female superhero’s point of view. This all changes in April when Marvel Comics launches “Marvel Her-Oes” – a new teen-centric mini featuring younger versions of some of the biggest superheroines from their Avengers franchise and the latest in the publisher’s “Women of Marvel” initiative. And CBR News spoke exclusively with series writer Grace Randolph about why her work with artist Craig Rosseau should be a draw for comic fans of all kinds as it carves a space for characters like the Wasp and She-Hulk to shine.
“I know there are a lot of teenagers with superpowers in the world of comics, but this is going to be a unique perspective on that, especially considering the female characters,” explained Randolph. “It’s along the lines of ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ but with female characters.” A comedienne and video host who recently made an all ages comics splash with BOOM’s “Muppet Peter Pan,” Randolph is hoping to open up the story potential for the women of the Avengers lineup in bringing them to a New Jersey high school setting -Â particularly the shrinking heroine Janet Van Dyne, AKA The Wasp.
“This is a big day for Janet Van Dyne,” the writer explained of the series open. “She has superpowers, but she’s been told to hide them from everybody. So she goes to a normal school where no one has superpowers – or so she thinks – and she’s having a hard time hiding such a big part of herself. It’s made her a wallflower. She’s an underachiever.
“I liked her because for one I thought she had a very cool power that I thought would appeal to a female readership. She’s basically Tinkerbell who can fight. And I think the thing about her character is that she has a great background and is a very famous character who’s not quite as developed as some of the other Marvel characters. It gave me a lot of room to play.”
Randolph came to the “Marvel Her-Oes” assignment (which is pronounced simply “Heroes” leaving the emphasis to come out on the page) with full knowledge that both the women characters of the superhero world and the women readers often get lost in the mix. “I would love to write something that women would see on the comic book stands or in Borders, and they’d say, ‘That looks really cool.’ I want Janet and her friends to mirror conflicts that women have. There’s comedy in this, but they’re not all smart alecks. Sometimes female character are all, ‘Oh no, you didn’t!’ I wanted to make them real so readers will go, ‘Yeah, this is like me.’ I find it frustrating that more women don’t bother to read comics because they have such great female characters that they’d really enjoy.
“However, I don’t want guys to look at this book and go, ‘Ugh…a girl!’ This isn’t all hearts and unicorns. There’s going to be action and fighting. I think that’s important.”
And that action emphasis comes out strongly with the addition of “Jenny” Walters as Janet’s best pal and occasionally transformed She-Hulk. “In the Marvel Universe, when Jennifer Walters turns into She-Hulk, it’s really not that much of a problem. She becomes more glamorous and more buxom. She can talk perfectly fine. Her problem is more, ‘Who do I want to be? What image do I want?’ And I’m very excited that in this book, when Jenny Walters changes it’s more like the original Hulk. When she Hulks out, it’s a problem for her. I think that the idea for any teenage girl that your powers turn you into Quasimodo or Mark McGwire – that’s going to be a big deal. Jenny’s more of a peace nerd because she’s always trying to stay very calm and collected instead of Hulking out.”
The cast of “Marvel Her-Oes” will be rounded out by a number of other young women pulled from across the Marvel Universe into the secondary educational setting including Ms. Marvel and the school’s reigning Mean Girl in Namora. “She’s an exchange student from Greece. She and Janet are not friends when the series starts out,” promised Randolph, who said that she was using her fan knowledge of the Marvel characters to pack Easter Eggs into the series including the appearance of some classic Golden Age heroines to serve as mentors for the young Avengers.
And with a resume whose credits range from all ages fair like “The Perhapanauts” to classic Marvel and DC penciling gigs, Randolph feels Rosseau fits the mold “Marvel Her-Oes” needs perfectly. “I think it’s very important for all our female characters to not only look great but to also be very expressive. I think Craig does a great job at that. I have a comedy background, so I put a lot of humor in the script, and a lot of the time a good joke only comes across with a facial expression or a reaction shot. You always want an artist who can deliver that and more.
“I go to the comic store every week like everyone else and pick up my huge stack of books, and I don’t want this to be another re-hash or another origin story. We’re trying for something totally different here,” the writer concluded, hoping that longtime fans wouldn’t pass the book over thinking it was merely kiddie fare and that seeing her work here could help introduce readers to the full range of styles at her disposal. “‘Marvel Her-Oes’ is an all ages book, so it’s trying to appeal to everybody. When you try and break into comics, you start in on the younger stuff. It’s where you get your in. Like Jeff Parker – I really admire his career at Marvel starting out with ‘X-Men First Class’ and stuff like that.”
“Marvel Her-Oes” #1 ships in April from Marvel Comics.