Thought Bubble kicked off its 2013 weekend-long celebration of comics with a number of panels and exhibits, including Saturday’s much-anticipated “Young Avengers: Afterparty” panel hosted by writer Kieron Gillen. Featuring regular series artist Jamie McKelvie along with Becky Cloonan, Ming Doyle, Joe Quinones, Christian Ward, Matt Wilson and Annie Wu, the panel looked back at the last year of the Marvel Comics series, while looking forward to its upcoming final issues.
A huge crowd pushed into the room for the panel, with people squeezing into the back and sides of the hall. Dubbed the “Speech Bubble,” the room was lit to look as though it was prepared to host a cult ceremony of some kind. From the front, someone was heard to say, “So, this is what Tumblr looks like.”
With the panelists assembled — and after Gillen produced a cardboard cutout of the absent Emma Vieceli from his bag, which spent the hour perched on McKelvie’s arm — the panel began. Firstly, Gillen asked everybody in the audience to lock pinky fingers with the person sitting next to them, and solemnly swear not to spoil anything that would be revealed about upcoming storylines.
So, sorry, you won’t get any spoilers here. I don’t want Kieron Gillen coming after me.
What can be shared is that the final two issues of “Young Avengers” will be jam issues, with several stories that all take place on the same night, and in the same location. After the current arc finishes, the characters will celebrate with a “we saved the world party,” which sees them all converge at a club alongside members of the Jean Grey School, The Runaways and Avengers Academy.
Gillen revealed that the initial plan came from Jason Aaron’s idea for a “Wolverine & The X-Men”/”Young Avengers” crossover storyline, but things spiraled into a own self-contained “Young Avengers” arc instead.
The interconnected covers for the issues were flashed on screen, and McKelvie explained how carefully he had to hide any secrets or spoilers in the artwork. Knowing the covers would appear online months before the issues went on sale, there were a number of plot twists to hide. With that in mind, he and Gillen had to talk constantly with other creators (Gillen jokingly said he had to call “Avengers Arena” writer Dennis Hopeless once a week) about which characters would be surviving their respective titles over the next few months, and could therefore appear on the cover.
McKelvie took on the task of organizing the finale’s artistic teams, telling the crowd that everybody he asked to participate had said yes. He then showed slides of his design work, explaining that whenever a location is an important part of a story, he builds a 3D model of that location in Sketch-Up for reference. He then sends the model to the other artists, so everybody knew where their part of the story was taking place and what the geography was like.
Each artist in the issue was spotlighted in turn on the presentation, starting with the absent Emma Vieceli. After attempting to get the cutout to speak, Gillen spoke on the story instead. Vieceli will handle a story featuring an unnamed character. Not wanting to give away which character would be starring in her story, Gillen instead showed off Vieceli’s sketches for Ms America, who’ll be appearing as supporting cast.
Miss America will, however, be the main character for Christian Ward’s story. Ward said that his first thoughts on the script were simply, “Holy crap.” He discussed his interest in experimenting with panel structure, and trying to create something that would look a little bit different. He wanted to do something similar to “The Infinite Vacation,” but without “doing a disservice” to the scripting. Gillen showed off several in-process slides of Ward’s art, which depicted Miss America being hassled by Rockslide.
Seeing Ward’s art led to a brief discussion of what the characters will be wearing. McKelvie chose the outfits for the main characters himself, such as the purple dress worn by Kate Bishop or the necklace worn by Miss America. At the same time, the other artists were given free rein with the other characters — whoever was first to include Pixie in their stories, for example, would be the person who got to decide what outfit Pixie would be wearing for the party.
Annie Wu’s work was shown next, revealing her as the artist for Kate Bishop’s story. She’ll be joined by Jordie Bellaire, who will color several of the stories. Wu said that her process for the issue was to do tiny layouts for each page in turn, as opposed to sketching them, before blocking for dialogue and inking the pages in Photoshop. When she first gets a script, she prints it out and then doodles expressions and faces next to the dialogue, as she tends to think in expressions. Her art showed Kid Gladiator cheering, and she pointed out his clothing. “I couldn’t afford those pants, so I put them on Kid Gladiator instead.”
Becky Cloonan will take on Noh-Varr, with the artist pointing out that she “had a lot of fun drawing his abs.” Cloonan said she stuck to either a grid system or a slight variation on a grid for the story, which will also be colored by Bellaire. It should be noted that Noh-Varr was shirtless in this artwork.
As Gillen showed some of Ming Doyle’s art, he pointed out a white square area where he’d crudely erased a plot point from the page. Doyle is drawing a Loki story, which is fine because said that she enjoyed drawing his “intense hotness.” With his new costume — designed by McKelvie — the character reminds her of “a Slytherin aristocrat,” which informed the way she drew him.
Joe Quinones’ story was also kept secret. He said that he read through the entire issue before starting, so he knew everything that would be happening and had the whole picture in his head whilst drawing his contribution. As there was only one opportunity in his story to show people dancing, he took it fully, and Gillen showed a page of several of the young characters dancing wildly.
Although most of his interior pages couldn’t be shown onscreen due to being considered spoilers, colorist Matt Wilson instead looked to the main cover image, where he pointed out the changes he and McKelvie had worked on for Wiccan’s outfit. The stars in his cape are now being colored differently. McKelvie said that one of Wilson’s best talents was in separating the planes of the characters present, making the characters in the foreground look like they stand apart from those in the background.
Having run through the stories and talent involved in the two-issue spectacular, Gillen took questions from the audience. Asked about the challenge of writing Kate Bishop, who simultaneously appears in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s “Hawkeye,” Gillen replied that, really, “it was just a question of which of us gets to kill her.”
A question was asked about the self-contained nature of the “Young Avengers” run — did the panelists think a short, controlled, single story makes for a better series? McKelvie answered that he personally prefers this, and that he was happy Marvel okayed the format. Gillen said that he had never written an uninterrupted story before for Marvel, as his other books have all featured tie-ins or crossovers at some point. McKelvie added that he’d never actually launched a Marvel series before, having usually coming in halfway through a run.
One member of the audience asked about the worry that, with “Young Avengers” ending, the diversity of the cast might be downplayed or reversed in future stories featuring the team. Gillen replied that he had trust in Marvel’s editors, who will take good care of the cast. He closed out the panel by saying, “It’s not that we ‘did enough’ issues — it’s that we finished our story” before thanking the crowd for their support, leading a round of applause for the panelists.