New Year’s Eve is a time to look back and reflect on what happened to you over the previous year. For some it’s a time to celebrate victories; for others it’s a time to appreciate that a year of hardships is over. For the teenage heroes of the Marvel Universe it’s both. This December, writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie — along with several of their artist friends — will throw the adolescent heroes a New Year’s bash of epic proportions.
It all takes place in the two-issue “Afterparty” arc of “Young Avengers” that begins in issue #14 and celebrates the end of Gillen and McKelvie’s first year mega arc on the book. Comic Book Resources spoke with Gillen about the arc, which was announced today at the “Marvel: Cup O’ Joe” panel at Comic-Con International: San Diego.
CBR News: Kieron, “Afterparty” begins in December’s “Young Avengers” #14, which means you still have quite a few stories to get to before then. What do you want readers to know about the stories leading up to “Afterparty?” How do they set the stage for it?
Kieron Gillen: The book starts to motor. I always describe “Young Avengers” in terms of TV seasons. When Jamie and I started this book we wanted to do a season. We had a larger structure to our story and knew where we we’re going.
A lot of our early stuff was me getting our pieces in position so we can knock them over. This is kind of like what I was doing in “Journey Into Mystery,” especially towards the end. In that final arc, “Everything Burns,” I got this great joy of being able to do something big and epic four to five times an issue. I got to do these big heart and mouth moments because I got the investment together, and one of the things I wanted to do in “Young Avengers” is try to bring that forward. So instead of doing that in say issues 20-30, I wanted to see if I could that in issues #7-13. So it’s intense from here on out.
So while the first five issues took place in like a day, day and a half, there’s a three month gap between issues #6 and #7. And there’s a five week gap between issues #7 and #8. So we do a lot with time and space as well as the adventures and emotionality of it.
This is the big build. This is kind of the end of the world really. The characters have to overcome and face their worst fears and see what they are at the end of it. And then we have a party! Because the adventures will have reached their climax, and it’s the end of the year.
We round out the year in kind of a low key way, no pun intended. [Laughs] We just thought that since we started in January it would be fun to do these two stories released the week before and the week after the new year and how they’re all set at a single party. So basically we have like six or seven sequences in the same night at the same party. It’s an idea you might be familiar with if you follow me and Jamie’s work. [Laughs] We just thought it would be a giggle.
What can you tell us about the physical and emotional shape of the “Young Avengers” when they reach “Afterparty?” Will their numbers have grown?
It’s a big party. I just had this image that at the end of the year all the Marvel Universe kids get together and have a party. So that’s what “Afterparty” will be like. It’s in this big location that no one really knows and everyone turns up. Jamie’s done this queue of people going into the party and they’re from all over the place.
I talked, especially early on, about wanting to make the book about Young Avengers in quotation marks. So it’s not necessarily about a team called the Young Avengers. It’s more about the idea of being young in the Marvel Universe. I strayed away from that quite a bit, but it will come through at the end. There will be cameos everywhere at the Afterparty.
I e-mailed every one who writes teenagers in the Marvel Universe and asked them “Who’s alive? Who’s around? Who do you think would be going off with somebody in the background of this party?” So it’s me playing with everyone and having fun with it.
At the same time it’s a wonderful setting for the personal drama of the end of the year. Because our characters are pretty torn up by this point. Some of them have experienced triumphs, some have endured enormous losses, and some of them aren’t really speaking to each other anymore. We use the party as the background for that.
I had this theory as a kid that parties were a time accelerator. Social interactions that normally would take months to play out would play out within an evening at a party. Then when you come to school on a Monday morning the world has changed.
So this kind of goes from there. Plus it’s us doing “Singles Club” in the Marvel Universe to a lesser degree. It’s not quite as interlocking. It’s a lot more about the character vignettes.
Of all the “Young Avengers” issues we’ve seen so far, it’s most like issue #6. It’s the Afterparty. The big stuff has happened and now we move the last few pieces into place and have some kind of emotional resolution to all the chaos, joy and pain. Also, dancing.
So you’ll have the surviving members of your main cast in “Afterparty,” but on top of that you’ve got other teen heroes like, say, the characters who survive “Avengers Arena?”
Maybe! [Laughs]. We’ll have characters like Lightspeed, Cloud 9, Lucy in the Sky, Power Man, White Tiger, and Gravity. We’re most excited about having Troll who me and Jamie always loved when she was a part of “Thunderbolts.”
Plus, I have a list of like 20 kids from the Jean Grey School because with Prodigy there’s an easy link. So the only young people in the Marvel Universe that probably won’t be there are the FF kids who are way too young to be coming out to this very silly party.
I don’t want to oversell these. They are cameos. Some of them will just be people partying on the dance floor. I like the idea though. Someone might be doing the robot in front of Victor Mancha and he’s going, “That’s not cool.” [Laughs] I’m not sure I’ll actually use that joke, but that’s what I’m thinking.
While all that’s going on we’ll explore the personal drama of our Young Avengers because they’re wrapping their year up. So we’ve got this wonderful back drop. It’s our love song to the variety, power, and potential of the young people of the Marvel Universe.
Does “Afterparty” involve things like super villain battles? Or is it more about how super heroic teens cope after a year of super villain battles?
Probably the latter, really. The climax of our big story happens in issues #12-13, which is full on drama turned up to the maximum. We have all the action you’ll ever need in those two issues. Then it crashes down and “Afterparty” is like a week or two later.
So our main plots will resolve and then we’ll tackle our subplots in “Afterparty.” It’s quite rare that you get a chance to do those these days. In “Afterparty” we’ll show you more with Ms. America Chavez, the last few cards of Loki and other stuff like that. It’s quiet, but big. I don’t think it’s going to be any less emotionally intense then our big climax, but the emotional timbre is different.
The fact that we’re doing it over the New Year is quite nice. There’ something fun about doing stories about a time period, while that period is happening. That’s sort of our model in “Young Avengers.” We do a lot of things just because we think they’ll be fun and interesting.
There’s nothing wrong with being an adventure comic book that comes out once a month, but in “Young Avengers” we like to try stuff, and I’m not worried about people not liking us; especially considering how well issue #6 went down.
So our structure for this arc is that Jamie does the first and last five pages. So he’ll do the first five pages of issue #14 and the last five pages of issue #15. Then the rest of it is divided into five page chunks where each artist does their section. And each section primarily focuses on one character. So for example there are sections that focus on Prodigy, on Hawkeye, on Marvel Boy and Ms. America.
â€¨For that section we made this list of artists that who we A) love and B) thought would say yes. [Laughs] They’re all our mates, because there’s sort of a gang mentality vibe. We said we’d do “Young Avengers” like a gang. So we tried a few people and they just couldn’t fit it on their schedule. Then we narrowed it down to five names, because there’s somebody else who’s kind of said yes, but we’re not 100 percent sure about the schedule so we don’t want to announce them just yet.
The great joy of that is all our guest artists on these books are guests at this year’s Thought Bubble convention in Leeds. Thought Bubble is where me and Jamie DJ. It’s a con, which genuinely gets a dance floor going, so it’s insane. And the idea that almost everybody who worked on “Young Avengers” will be there including Kate Brown, some of our cover artists, and hopefully our editor Lauren Sankovitch. It feels very natural and beautiful. It’s our celebration of working on the book, and we can end the year with our friends.
It will be great to see the work of Becky Cloonan, Ming Doyle, Christian Ward, Joe Quinones, Emma Vieceli, and some other people we love in “Afterparty.” We’re going to arrange them so that they aesthetically suit the story. I think it will be really interesting.
Man, I wish there was a more interesting word for interesting. I over-use it terribly.
When we originally chatted about “Young Avengers” you said you had a plan for 15 issues. So now that “Afterparty” has been solicited how does it feel to have the end to those plans in sight?
It’s good. We’ve done what we wanted to do. I think that’s the best way of putting it. “Young Avengers” feels similar to Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker’s “Immortal Iron Fist” in that this is a 15-issue statement. It can be collected in three trades and maybe even one big omnibus. It will be a way we saw of doing super hero comics in 2013.
I really do love the synchronicity of coming out in January of this year and issue #15 comes out just at the beginning of the new year. There’s a poetry to that that, which we don’t get enough of in comics.
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