Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign is over and the Heroic Age has begun in the Marvel Universe. with Steve Rogers now in the position of Top Cop, which means he’s been tasked with the job of cleaning up some of the damage Osborn had wrought. Under Osborn, the Thunderbolts were transformed from a team of villains trying to be heroes to a clandestine group of thieves and killers. Rogers wants to take the group back to its heroic roots, so he has placed fellow Avenger Luke Cage in charge of the team and turned it into a program where imprisoned super powered felons can earn an early release by performing heroic missions. In addition to the less=public Thunderbolts initiative, Osborn also created his own very public team of Avengers and used the media to manipulate and propagate his feelings on what the Avengers meant to him. This week in “Avengers Academy” #1, Rogers and his Avengers associates hope to show the titular institution’s inaugural class of super powered teens what it really means to be an Avenger.
Part of showing the students what it means to be a hero is by having them listen to the frightening and shocking stories of super powered people who have walked the path of the supervillain, like the current members of the Thunderbolts program. In August, the “Scared Straight” crossover between “Avengers Academy” and “Thunderbolts” finds the students of Avengers Academy visiting the T-bolts’ base of operations, the high tech maximum security prison known as The Raft. CBR New spoke with “Avengers Academy” writer Christos Gage and “Thunderbolts” writer Jeff Parker about the storyline which kicks off in “Avengers Academy” #3 and continues in “Thunderbolts” #147 before concluding a month later in “Avengers Academy” #4.
CBR News: “Scared Straight” doesn’t kick off until August, so what can you guys tell us about the stories in “Avengers Academy” and “Thunderbolts” that come before it? How big are they in terms of scope and scale?
Christos Gage: For “Avengers Academy,” “Scared Straight” is the biggest story so far, in terms of scale. Prior to that, we’ve been getting to know the characters and seeing how they interact. There’s been some pretty intense stuff happening from a character-based sense, but this is their first big excursion into the larger Marvel Universe.
Jeff Parker: And the first time the Thunderbolts and other prisoners in The Raft will become aware of them.
How did “Scared Straight” Come about? Did you guys come up with the idea, or did editorial approach you?
Gage: It actually arose from the last Avengers Retreat, when Ed Brubaker suggested it. I was pitching “Avengers Academy” right after Bill Rosemann had pitched the new take on “Thunderbolts,” and Ed said, “You should do a Scared Straight crossover.” And he was right!
I imagine one of the appeals of a crossover is the chance to write characters based in a different title. So, Christos, how was it writing the Thunderbolts? What do you find interesting about them? And Jeff, what did you find most compelling about the “Avengers Academy” characters?
Gage: It was fun. I’ve written some of them before, like Juggernaut and Moonstone, so there was some familiarity. I’m always a sucker for stories like this, about flawed characters seeking redemption but knowing the deck is stacked against them.
Parker: I like that we’re meeting these characters who are on that point of potential- they have their whole lives ahead of them (maybe) and can still go in almost any direction. They are on the paths of becoming a part of a modern mythology and we’re in their early days. Everything that happens now forms them and influences the future.
What can you tell us about the plot and themes of “Scared Straight?” Is this a crossover in the traditional sense of the word, or can you read each title involved separately?
Gage: You can read each book individually with no problem, but if you read both you get a larger view of what’s going on and how it affects the cast of both books.
Parker: When the visit to the Raft happens, the Thunderbolts have just returned from a particularly harrowing mission. So where they may have been dismissive if the visit came a week earlier, they suddenly have opinions to impart to the kids.
Part of the dramatic tension in “Scared Straight” comes from the fact that a potential jailbreak erupts on The Raft while the Avengers Academy students are visiting. Jeff, In “Thunderbolts” you’ve established that the security on The Raft is incredibly heavy. So how much danger are the characters in because of the potential jailbreak that erupts? Does this jailbreak have a mastermind, or is it something that happens spontaniously as various events converge?
Gage: Someone’s definitely behind it, but how carefully planned it is remains to be seen. I’ll leave the rest to Jeff…
Parker: It forces the Thunderbolts to have to deal with a situation in The Raft instead of outside, [which is] not at all what they were expecting. They had essentially just gotten done with their job, were settling in for the day and now chaos hits.
The Raft’s most notorious inmate has got to be Norman Osborn himself. From the solicits, it sounds like Norman is one of the main supporting characters in this story. How is jail affecting his personality? Is he less or more dangerous now that he’s behind bars?
Gage: Norman is always dangerous. Cornered, he may be even more so.
Parker: He’s pretty resentful, of course. He’s kept away from most human contact, and when he does get to go anywhere, the guards march him in front of everybody to reinforce the idea that “The biggest of you is just a common prisoner now.”
Who are some of the other major supporting players in this story line? Do any of the original Thunderbolts who work at the prison or the Academy instructors play a role?
Gage: On the “Avengers Academy” side, we’re pretty full already!
Parker: Mach V, Fixer and Songbird work closely with the prison, so yes.
How would you describe the tone of this crossover? It sounds like a pretty intense action thriller, or is there also some psychological conflict going on as well?
Gage: Both. There’s certainly action and physical jeopardy, but the real stakes may be on the psychological level.
A potential jailbreak on the refurbished Raft sounds like it could be a story that shakes up not just “Thunderbolts” and “Avengers Academy,” but much of the Marvel U. How much impact does this story have on your books moving forward?
Gage:It’s definitely something that will have repercussions for the future of “Avengers Academy.”
Parker: Yeah, things that happen here matter even more later.
Do either of you have any final thoughts you’d like to share about the “Scared Straight” crossover between “Avengers Academy” and “Thunderbolts?”
Gage: Both our artists are really hitting home runs. Mike McKone is bringing the cast of “Avengers Academy” to life in a way that makes me feel like I have a cast of brilliant actors at my disposal. I can’t rave enough about his work!
Parker: Kev Walker and Frank Martin have been impressing everyone, and it just gets better. Kev comes up with great stuff to flesh out the world of “Thunderbolts” beyond what I write, so the setting is truly a character. We’ve really entered a new era.