As Marvel Comics’ roll-out of launch titles for its Marvel NOW! initiative continues, the publisher has a number of new titles up its sleeve for the new year — including Sam Humphries and Ron Garney’s “Uncanny X-Force” and bringing “Phonogram” creative team Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie to mainstream comics with “Young Avengers.” Featuring a roster including Kid Loki, Miss America, Hulkling, Wiccan, Kate Bishop and more, McKelvie’s preview pages have so far revealed not only a new artistic take on the super powered teenagers, but on the overall design of the interior pages and panel layout.
In a special press conference call, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and editor Lauren Sankovitch were on hand to speak about his upcoming take on “Young Avengers,” how he and McKelvie approached reinventing the team for Marvel NOW! and more.
After introductions by call moderator and Marvel Sales & Communications Coordinator James Viscardi, Gillen kicked things off by describing the overview of the series.
“Fundamentally, ‘Young Avengers’ used to be about being sixteen,” said Gillen, who also gave a brief summary of how the character grew up in the original series. “I wanted to do something different. Instead of being a book about being 16, it’s a book about being 18. It’s about approaching the world on your own terms.” Gillen stated he plans to explore the superhero convention from top to bottom. “Most of the books that have ‘Avengers’ in the title is about the ideal. It’s about super heroism and living as one of Earth’s Mightiest Mortals. … It’s a book about optimism and how optimism tends to get crushed.”
The writer detailed the cast, starting with Kid Loki. “This is a book you can pick up with issue one, but the last time we saw the Young Avengers is when they had been accepted as Avengers at the exact moment when they didn’t want to do it anymore,” Gillen said, stating the prime mover of getting the band back together is Kid Loki. “Putting the Avengers together is Loki’s original hit. He’s recruited people like Miss America,” he said, referencing the “Marvel NOW! Point One” story. “Loki’s putting them together for some reason.”
One of the mysteries of the series will actually be Miss America herself. “She’s clearly very, very violent, but she’s incredibly ideal. She’s been a superhero for longer than anybody knows. She believes in saving the world because it’s the only thing worth doing. What she knows about Wiccan and everyone else is a one of the big mysteries of the book.”
Gillen has cast Hulking and Wiccan as the primary romantic relationship of the book, and stated Wiccan making a mistake is the primary mover of the series at first. “It’s almost a Hank Pym creates Ultron plot,” he said, stating that Hulkling has actually been doing super heroics on the down low.
Kate Bishop (Hawkeye) and Marvel Boy have woken up together after a party at the start of the series. “I’d describe Marvel Boy as the completely alien hipster boy,” Gillen said, and mentioned that Marvel Boy and Miss America are similar in that they’ve been working on a larger stage for longer. The cast will likely expand as the series continues.
McKelvie stated his favorite character to draw is actually Billy and Teddy. “I love drawing the two of them, their interactions — the emotional stuff as well as the punching,” he said. “You want them to look like real teenagers as much as you can, so I put together reference photos for each character.” References included what they wear, what kind of music they listen to and more. Gillen expanded on this point by posing the question, “What’s on their bedroom walls?” Marvel Boy has posters on his wall of cinema classics across the decades.
Part of the draw of the book is McKelvie’s artistic layout for the seen preview pages — a part of the series since the very beginning.
“It was something at the very core of the book from the very beginning,” said McKelvie. “As much as we can make a superhero book for the 21st century, we wanted to do.” McKelvie and Gillen have presented every single fight scene in a different way and never do it again.
“We wanted to actually get the magical transcendence of every super heroic moment to feel like that,” said Gillen. “We’re not going to do any covers that do pastiche, that reference old Marvel covers. It’s the idea that the modern walks the paths. When Jamie was doing the cover, that’s what he was thinking about. How could a superhero book look now?”
One of the most publicized covers is Bryan Lee O’Malley’s cover for “Young Avengers” #1, and Lauren Sankovitch stated they have more plans in the future for variants, stating the title is an “unconventional book.”
As for appearances by old familiar teenaged faces, Gillen stated he wanted to hopefully move around the all-encompassing youth section of the Marvel Universe, and stated the focus of the book has the capacity to move.
Gillen characterized the book as “very natural,” saying, “There’s nothing that is less cool than desperately grasping to be cool.” The writer stated he dug into a lot of emotions he had as a teenager. McKelvie stated that for his part, it was about “staying true to the characters, looking at how the characters feel.”
“When I conceived the book, I knew how it felt before the story was,” Gillen said, referencing Marvel Boy and Kate Bishop waking up after their one night stand. “She basically wonders why she’s there, what’s going on. He’s in the shower. She pulls the curtains and they’re in orbit.” The team makes it feel especially strange due to the fact that they’re actually in space. “You go to the character, you think about how that felt and you transform it through superheroes. That’s what drives the book.”
Gillen has tackled teenage issues before in his work, and he noted that he didn’t want to turn the whole book into an after school special. While in “Generation Hope,” there were no easy answers, the writer said he’s interested in doing stories “about the boring stuff.” “Not the life and death issues, the life issues,” like the relatively mundane concept of “having a shitty job.” He wants to focus on the full range of teenage problems through a superhero lens.
“The question of ‘who I can become is key to the book,'” Gillen said. “Not quite in the same way [as in ‘Journey Into Mystery’ and these are themes I’ll continue to explore.”
The book is focused on the core team for now, but the writer explains the absence of Wiccan’s brother, Speed, early on, but he hopes to come back to the character around issue #6.
The writer said superpowers were the most important thing about the book and the second most important thing is breakfast. Joking aside, Gillen and McKelvie stated the diner in the preview pages is “kind of a focal point,” but they weren’t really sure why. “They go to the club, they go to the diner to get early morning breakfast,” Gillen said. “That’s where they’d be talking.”
In terms of the process of Gillen and McKelvie coming back together for “Young Avengers,” Gillen stated Axel Alonso wanted to see him pitch for “Young Avengers.” “I dug into the idea, so I put this vision document together and said I wanted to do it with Jamie,” he said. “I wanted to do the whole ‘Phonogram’ team (including Matt Wilson and Mike Norton). It’s the one thing I’ve never done for Marvel — I’ve never remade a book from scratch. I was looking at ‘Daredevil’ being horrifically envious. [Laughs]”
Sankovitch stated that after she saw the pitch, she fought an “editorial deathmatch” to get it in her office.
“I feel like Jamie has been really influential to not just the look of the book, but the feel of the book as well,” said Sankovitch. “There’s definitely some alchemy there that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
“It just means that Lauren has to translates our codes into scripts,” said McKelvie.
Gillen stated the creative process is a “hybrid-style” between himself and McKelvie. “Modified 8-panel grids are quite common,” he said. “When we go to the music video fight scene stuff, it’s Marvel method.” The writer and artist stated the fight scenes are less Marvel method and more commission.
The Young Avengers team was originally an homage to adult heroes, and Gillen said he could see “several characters change their name if they wanted to” in the process of their growth as characters. “The question of who you want to be is entirely core to the book.”
To wrap things up, Gillen spoke about his plans to tackle the grown up Avengers in the book. While they’ll show up in issue #2, the writer couldn’t explain it without giving away the plot. “They’re in it, I don’t want to say much more about that. It’s very much about parent figures. The relationship between parents and children is very key for the book.”
“Young Avengers” #1 hits stores January 23.
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