The adolescent heroes of Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos’ “Champions” have taken it upon themselves to make the world a better place. Meanwhile, another group of super-powered adolescents in “All-New X-Men,” by writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Mark Bagley, tour and try to defend a world that is both literally and metaphorically toxic to them thanks to the danger the Terrigen Cloud orbiting Earth poses to mutants. So when a threat arises that is straightforward and can be confronted head-on, it’s kind of a nice change of pace — even if these threats are multiple stories tall and capable of demolishing cities.
In January, the entire Marvel Universe will face an army of these adversaries when the “Monsters Unleashed” event series from writer Cullen Bunn and an all-star team of artists begins. Then, in February, Marvel’s teen heroes step into the monster fighting spotlight with “Champions” #1.MU special by writer Jeremy Whitley and artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, and “All-New X-Men” #1.MU by Whitley and artist Carlo Barberi.
CBR spoke with Whitley about details from both specials including his take on his protagonists, the brand new characters the Champions will tangle with before their Kaiju battles begin, and the old friend Wolverine (AKA Laura Kinney) will reunite with as she searches the swamps of New Orleans for a bloodthirsty creature.
CBR: Not all of your Marvel work has revolved around teen heroes, but your upcoming “Unstoppable Wasp” series features an adolescent protagonist, and both of your “Monsters Unleashed” specials star teams of teen heroes. Coincidence? Or is there something about Marvel’s teen heroes that you find especially interesting?
Jeremy Whitley: I do love Marvel’s teen heroes. I’m a big fan of both these teams and several of the other historical teen teams Marvel has had like the Young Avengers, but the “Champions” book came about because I was in the right place at the right time.
I had been working with Tom [Brevoort] and Alanna [Smith], who are my editors on “Unstoppable Wasp” and became my editors on this book. I also had just worked with “Champions” writer Mark Waid on “All-New, All-Different Avengers,” which shared some of the same cast. I was looking for other stuff to work on, and they were like, “This is a thing we know you can do, and it’s something that needs to be done.” So it got suggested to me.
A very similar thing happened with the “All-New X-Men” book. I worked with Editor Christina Harrington on that book and on the Kate Bishop story I did for “A Year of Marvels,” which is now available as both an Infinite Comic and in print
What’s it like writing the Champions? Which characters and character dynamics do you find especially interesting?
I love Kamala Khan. She’s one of my favorite modern Marvel characters. There’s a lot of her in this book, and I think Mark [Waid] and I both have the same vision of young Cyclops sounding kind of like the Cyclops in the X-Men animated series from the ’90s. He’s an overly serious teenager. He’s 16 going on 35. I also like Miles Morales and Sam Alexander as a duo. The two of them working together and being goofy and doing their own thing works for me. I like having them play off of each other.
What about Amadeus Cho — the Totally Awesome Hulk — and the Vision’s daughter Viv?
It’s funny, because I haven’t read as much with Amadeus as the Hulk as I have of Amadeus hanging around with Hercules. Amadeus has this great balance of being one of the smartest people in the world while still being a teenage boy. [Laughs] Those are two things that are kind of counter to each other. He’s a character that’s kind of working against himself in that respect.
I like Viv a lot. She’s a character who has the entire Internet at her fingers at any given time and therefore can know almost anything she needs to, which makes her a lot of fun to write.
What are the Champions up to when “Champions” #1.MU begins? What can you tell us about the events that lead to their big monster fight?
They’re in and around L.A. in the story, and writing this story with the Champions in particular was an interesting task because they are part of the first issue of “Monsters Unleashed.” When you see them in that issue they’re in the middle of a fight. So it was our job to construct a story around that.
So what we did is something that probably feels like an issue of “Champions” that lead up to that particular fight. There’s an oil company trying to build a pipeline through a forest that is supposed to be protected and they sent a group of super villains out to work security.
Those villains of course take the idea of working security a bit too far. So the Champions show up with the goal of protecting protestors. That quickly turns into a fight and the fight gets massively disrupted by the events of “Monsters Unleashed.” You’ll get a lot of big, ugly, monster fighting in this issue too.
What else can you tell us about the villains the Champions will battle before the Kaiju mayhem breaks out?
They’re actually a new group of characters that we created for this story. They’re sort of a truly Capitalist idea of Heroes for Hire. They’re called the Freelancers. They’re a group of California-based 20-somethings who are out to make a buck from super heroics. In this case they’re coming down on Roxxon’s side of things. [Laughs] As we know, Roxxon is very rarely on the right side of anything.
They’re not ultimately fighting on the side of evil, but they are self serving in the same way the Champions are serving and protective of other people, the environment, and any other great cause they can find to champion.
When the monster fights break out, will the title characters be slugging it out with established Marvel Kaiju? Or new ones?
We’ll have two new monsters that we got to design for this story. They’re a couple of leviathans from outer space.
My artists on this, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, really did some awesome designs for the two big monsters we get in this story. Both monsters are a lot of fun. I think people are really going to enjoy what they’ve done.
There is a bit of a connective tissue between your two “Monsters Unleashed” titles since Cyclops is a character in both the monthly “All-New X-Men” and “Champions” books. Does he appear in both of these specials?
No, I dropped him out of my “All-New X-Men” story, which is the second “Monsters Unleashed” special I wrote. Because 1) The All-New X-Men are a much bigger team. So there’s a lot more moving parts. And 2) These stories are theoretically happening at the same time. So for the sake of continuity I put him in the Champions story and not the X-Men one.
The X-Men story focuses pretty largely on Wolverine, Laura Kinney. The rest of the team is there and having their own story, but they’re in more of a support role.
The solicits I read for “All-New X-Men” #1.MU suggested Laura’s story would be a fun investigative style tale in New Orleans.
Yeah, Laura is in the swamps of New Orleans and working with her good friend Gambit. They’re trying to figure out and track the thing that is killing his friends and fellow thieves.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team is in New Orleans enjoying Mardi Gras.
Gambit and Laura’s friendship goes back to Marjorie Liu’s fantastic “X-23” series. What’s it like having them reunite in your story?
It’s a lot of fun because it’s been a while since the end of “X-23.” I went back and reread all of Marjorie’s stuff, which was all great and it’s interesting to see how the kind of tone around stories with Laura has shifted. “X-23” was a pretty serious book, and “All-New Wolverine” is not exactly light hearted, but Laura has more of a sense of humor now. She’s a bit dryer and more well rounded. It’s because she’s grown so much as a character.
So reteaming her with Gambit was a lot of fun. He’ll get a chance to see how much she’s grown. He sort of took her under his wing in the “X-23” series.
What’s it like writing the other cast members of “All-New X-Men?”
It’s a lot of fun. Everybody kind of does their own thing in New Orleans and I know Carlo Barberi, who’s drawing this book, has to be just hating me. He’s delivering amazing pages, but seeing as this whole thing is taking place during Mardi Gras, the whole book is literally crowd scenes. Carlo isn’t shying away from those scenes though.
Everybody is rushing off to do their own things. Bobby gets swept up in everything. Idie and Evan head off to the St. Louis Cathedral there and Carlo has drawn some dead on images of the Cathedral, which is really beautiful.
I loved both Jason Aaron’s run on “Wolverine & the X-Men” and “Uncanny X-Force” where we got to see Idie and Evan really blossom. So to get to write them after reading about them for so long was really cool.
With Wolverine off on an investigation and the other kids involved with Mardi Gras will “All-New X-Men” #1.MU be more of a quieter story than “Champions” #1.MU?
It has a pretty big climax. It starts off as more of a laid back tale with the team hanging out and enjoying Mardi Gras, but, as they tend to do, giant monsters show up and things get more serous and exciting. I think having a massive monster attack in the middle of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is going to be a visual treat because the pages Carlo has been turning in are amazing and we’re not even to the really big stuff yet.
It’s very cool to take these characters who usually fight on a smaller scale and figure out how they work together to fight a threat that’s much bigger than them.
I think both of these books will be a lot of fun, and that’s the big aim with the “Monsters Unleashed” stuff. The books are big, fun, full of cool slugfests, and pretty appropriate for all ages.