When writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby introduced the world to “The Avengers” in 1963, they took their fledgling Marvel Universe to a whole new level. Alone, the individual members of the Avengers were all formidable heroes, but together they were even more powerful, and they had to be; because their opponents were some of the most dangerous and despicable villains in the Marvel Universe. This fall, Chris Yost is looking to capture that feeling of danger and excitement in two new projects. He’s the head writer and story editor for the new “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!” animated series, which will premier in October on Disney XD and the following month, Marvel Comics kicks off the four issue “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!” comic series by Yost and artists Scott Wegener and Patrick Scherberger, which will be set in the world of the animated show. CBR News spoke with Yost about both projects.
As an animation writer, Yost has tackled a number of popular Marvel Comics characters, but to comic fans he’s probably best known for his collaborations with co-writer Craig Kyle on “New X-Men” and “X-Force.” “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!” is the first time Yost will have a chance to really explore the characters and world of the Avengers, and the writer is very excited to be given that opportunity. “I grew up on mostly Spider-Man and since I’ve been writing in comics I’ve been pretty much writing about the X-Men, which I love, don’t get me wrong, but the Avengers are kind of a different feel,” Yost told CBR News. “There’s a different vibe. It’s all about the heroics. It’s not necessarily about the angst or everyone hates you. It’s just, ‘Let’s go out there and save the world!’ It’s the big, big stories and it’s a lot of fun.”
Another reason Yost is having so much fun with the “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest!” animated series and comic is the iconic cast of characters that he gets to write about. The core cast of characters includes: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Ant-Man, the Wasp, the Black Panther and Hawkeye.
“If I could have, I would included a lot more, but things get pretty unwieldy after about eight characters. We started out with the five founding members of the Avengers just like the comic books did and kind of took it from there. The team grows and changes. People will leave and people will come on board. We start off with Ant-Man, but he’s Hank Pym in all of his glory. So there’s definitely going to be changes with him as well,” Yost revealed. “It’s very much like the comic books. We’re telling Avengers stories. That’s been the whole thing from the start. We basically wanted to do an animated version of the Avengers comics. The comics had so much going for them. So the feeling was, ‘Why not do that?’ We updated stuff, followed some of the more modern stories and changed some things for the medium. But largely we tried to stay true to the classic feel of the comics.”
For the background and characterization of the animated Avengers, Yost and his fellow writers had a wealth of source material to draw from, including both comics and live action movie adaptations. “With the characters of Iron Man and the Hulk, we took them as if they were coming from the movies. It’s like their adventures in the movies happened. There aren’t full out references. We behave as if they’re in that world, but largely the show is drawn from the comic books. You’re not necessarily going to be seeing the movie version of Thor. You’re going to see the comic book version, because we haven’t seen the movie. So we went to the Thor that we know and love. I’m sure we’ll love the movie version, because it looks amazing, but we started working on this two years ago, so we had not seen it. Our Thor is very much the smiting God of Thunder that we all grew up with. Characters like Wasp, Ant-Man/Giant-Man and Hawkeye are the comic book versions. If you’ve read the comics, you’re going to come to the show and feel very comfortable.”
In the “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!” comic, the team is already together in the first issue, but in the animated series, viewers will get to see the fabled, “day like no other” when the team first comes together. Yost promises that the fledgling team will experience some growing pains after their initial assembly. “Early on in the series, Ant-Man says, ‘Just because you put some people in a room together and call them a team, it doesn’t make them a team. They’ve got to learn to trust each other and work together,'” the writer revealed. “So the Avengers don’t start off as this flawless fighting force.”
Longtime fans know that the Avengers dynamic with founding member, the Hulk, was especially contentious, and that will continue in both the animated series and the comics. “Heads will be butted. You put Thor and Hulk in a room and if the Hulk’s in a bad mood, things are going to happen,” Yost stated. “It’s definitely not a shiny, happy relationship. We get into it. I think you’ll see pretty early on in the show that there’s going to be a lot of conflict within the team, as well.”
When the heroes aren’t locking horns with each other, they’ll be butting heads with a horde of Marvel Comics’ vilest villains. “HYDRA plays a big role in the series; much larger than we initially thought, and you’d be hard pressed to name a Marvel villain that’s not in the show,” Yost remarked. “We went for it. I think in 26 episodes there’s something like 130 named Marvel characters that show up. If there’s a classic Avengers villain that you love, there’s a really good chance that they’re going to show up.”
“The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!” will features stories with both continuing and stand alone elements. “Comic book fans have a great love for the ’90s X-Men animated series because of the serial nature of it; the ongoing storylines and the continuity. We don’t get into it as hardcore as that, but there is definitely an ongoing Avengers story here. We even drop elements into the show that will have a heavy effect on season two,” Yost remarked. “At the same time, if you just watch a single episode you’ll understand things. There’s always a threat introduced and the heroes come in and fight against it. Each episode has a beginning middle and end and you can enjoy them one at a time, but if you watch them all you get a bigger story.”
The stories in “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!” won’t just be about earth shattering conflicts with villains. Yost and his fellow writers also made sure to include many of the soap opera style elements that were a regular part of classic Avengers comics. “You’ve got relationship drama. You’ve got interpersonal conflict. You’ve got punching. There is a lot of stuff,” Yost said. “You’ve got Captain America adjusting to the modern world. You’ll see that in the first issue of the comic as well as the TV series. Thor is from another world. Hulk is cranky. And much like in the comics, Hawkeye has quite the attitude. Then you’ve got the Black Panther who is not the most open and communicative person in the world. It’s a challenge for these guys to come together and save the world, but that’s the fun of it.”
Yost plans on using the four issue miniseries to take a deeper look at his cast of characters. “The comic book is going to be all original stories. It’s not like these are the ones that got rejected by the show. They’ll be all new, mostly stand alone tales featuring characters like Cap, Thor, Iron Man and Hulk. There will be a main story drawn by Scott Wegener of ‘Atomic Robo’ fame, then there will be a shorter back up style story drawn by Patrick Scherberger, who has been drawing a lot of the ‘Marvel Adventures’ all ages titles,” Yost explained. “They’re both amazing artists and it’s been a joy to look at their work on a daily basis. The main story in the first issue is Cap and Thor versus the Super Adaptoid. Then the back is about Hawkeye and Black Panther taking on Whiplash.”
“The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!” comic series is an all ages book, which means it’s intended for all fans of the franchise whether they’re nine or 99. “The bottom line is that we want kids to be able to pick up this comic and watch the show. We want them to get into it and just dig it. At the same time, everything I write I kind of write for me as well. If I don’t enjoy it, there’s no point,” Yost stated. “I grew up on things like the ‘Transformers’ and ‘G.I. Joe’ cartoons. They featured some fairly involved stuff. Kids are smart. They get things. I think they’re going to latch onto this and hopefully get introduced to a whole new world. Then they can head to the comic book store and get more and more. ‘Avengers’ definitely does not talk down to you. I think any fan of the comics can watch the show and think that’s pretty cool.
“The hope is that if the hard core comic readers dig it, kids will dig it too. They’re going to recognize Iron Man. They’re going to recognize Hulk. And after next summer, everyone is going to recognize Thor,” Yost continued. “The advantage we have over those movies is, there is going to be at least 52 of our stories. Every week, they can tune in and have a huge adventure. We treated every story we did as if it were a movie. We literally went for it with every episode.”
While the animated “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!” will air weekly, the miniseries will only run four issues. If fans respond to the series, though, Yost would love to write more issues. “I think both of these formats feature the Avengers that we know and love. The comic book can do things different than the show. You’re going to see villains that you don’t see in the show in the comic book. For me, the comic book was a way to tell some smaller stories, and in some ways, some even bigger stories,” the writer said. “With the comic book, you’ve only got so much time and there’s a lot of things that we wanted to do with the show but didn’t get to do. So you’re going to see a lot of that here. I’m just as excited about the comic book as I am about the show.”