Heroes Helping Heroes: Cebulski talks "Loners"

We've all heard the many stories about the difficulties child actors have in their teenage years. The pressures of growing up, poor choices and the extra freedom that money can buy have often caused many child and teen stars' lives to go off the rails. If a teenager's life could be ruined by money, just imagine what might happen to teenagers with superpowers. The protagonists of "Loners," a new six issue mini-series from Marvel comics by writer C.B. Cebulski and artist Karl Moline, have imagined and have made it their mission to keep the lives of teen heroes in the Marvel Universe from going astray. CBR News spoke with Cebulski about the series, which is tentatively set to hit stores in February of 2007

The cast of "Loners" should be familiar to fans of the series "Runaways" or many of Marvel Comics titles from the '90s. "'Loners' is the Excelsior team from 'Runaways' and spins out of that book," Cebulski told CBR News. "What you saw happen in 'Runaways' was the Excelsior team of Julie Powers AKA Lightspeed, Darkhawk, Turbo, Ricochet, Phil Urich [star of the '90s 'Green Goblin series] and Chamber got together. Then it was revealed that Chamber was just a plant and he kind of went off on his own and did his own thing and Frank Tieri is handling him now in 'New Excalibur.' So, it'll be the five remaining members."

The five members of "Loners" were all costumed champions in the '90s, but the focus of the series won't be on super heroics. "They were originally a self-help team for teen super-heroes," Cebulski said. "At the end of the 'Runaways' arc they all got back into costume and kind of formed a superteam and were referred to every now and then as cleaning up crime in Los Angeles, but the concept we're going back to is the original teen super-hero self-help group, where they're going to be actively staying out of costume and pursuing helping people, teens, and others affected by 'Civil War' and to do so out of costume. Inevitably, of course - it's like an alcoholic trying to stay away from a drink - there's always a temptation to go back and put that costume on and they're sometimes drawn back into super hero life. It's the struggle between what it's like to be a teen superhero and the addiction to super powers and super abilities."

Since "Loners" spins out of the concept of Excelsior, the teen superhero self help group that writer Brian K Vaughan created in "Runaways," Cebulski sought out Vaughan's feedback at a number of points during the development process of the series. "This was pitched a while ago and has been in development all that time," Cebulski explained. "I asked Brian before I even pitched if he would mind and he was totally supportive of it. When I wrote my first pitch, I sent it to Brian and he liked it and sent back a few comments on how he would handle the characters. When the issue-by-issue break down was finalized, Brian happened to be in New York, so we got together, talked about it and with his and Marvel's blessing, off I went to work on this spin-off."

One of the reasons "Loners" has been in development for awhile, is a certain Marvel mega-story that is currently redefining the role of superheroes in the Marvel Universe. "I first pitched the series on September 20th, 2005," Cebulski stated. "The revised pitch was in October, 2005. Once we got into 'Civil War' it was put on hold for a while to see how all that stuff would play out. We just had to see where all that would shake out, plus development takes time."

"Loners" may be a spin-off from "Runaways," but the new mini-series won't have close ties to that series. "This completely stands on its own," Cebulski stated. "That's how I originally pitched it. Brian and I, when we originally talked about it, we thought it would be great to see the two series cross-over. If the series continues further on down the line, I'd love to do that, but I have no idea what Joss [new "Runaways" writer Joss Whedon] is doing and haven't talked with him. I know where Brian and Adrian are leaving 'Runaways,' but they're leaving on their note and Joss will have his own direction for the book, so the possibility of a cross-over is unknown."

If the "Runaways" and "Loners" do eventually encounter each other, readers shouldn't think of it as a meeting between two superhero groups. "One of the things that we're doing with the book is that it's much more of an ensemble cast book; more so than a team book," Cebulski explained. "So, each issue, while the group is going to get together out of costume, if and when they are drawn into costume it might be in solo adventures or a few members going off on their own, so it won't necessarily be a team book. This is going to sound kind of dumb, but I see these guys as 'The Breakfast Club' of the Marvel Universe in some way. You've got these five ex-heroes, meeting each week out of costume kind of like in detention in the movie. You've got Julie Power, who is the Princess and Ricochet is the thug and Phil is the geek, etc. The match-ups are there when you look through 'The Breakfast Club' cast and the 'Loners' cast. Then we'll have other teen superheroes from around the Marvel Universe coming in and out of the book as we go, as kind of guest stars; nods of the hat to current continuity and other people who are there."

Cebulski offered a clue to the identity of one of the teen heroes that he has plans for in "Loners." "There will be a very nice connection for fans of Brian Bendis's 'Alias' book, as well, in the upcoming 'Loners' series," Cebulski said. "We're directly following up on one of the lines that Brian kind of left out there. I spoke with him about it and got Bendis's blessing to take the character from where he left her and run with her."

With "Loners" focusing on teenage heroes and other Marvel series that feature young leads like "Runaways," "Young Avengers" and "New X-Men," some readers might be wondering if they are seeing the rise of an adolescent based sub universe in the Marvel Universe. "I think it's just a coincidence that there are so many of these different teen projects going on at the same time," Cebulski stated. "I've never talked to Craig ["New X-Men" writer Craig Kyle] or anyone else about that, but my intention to bring in teen characters doesn't come from a concerted effort to introduce more teen characters in that sense. It's just that this is the focus of this book and looking around the Universe I've noticed there are a lot of teen characters out there that we can use."

Readers should expect to see some teen heroes in the early issues of "Loners," but they shouldn't expect appearances by any of the big names of the Marvel Universe, who Cebulski feels would distract attention from his protagonists and the kids they are trying to help. "We're approved for six-issues and we're hoping to go beyond, but in the first six issues the way we have it plotted out there will not be any cameos from any of the major heroes," Cebulski stated.

Cebulski has known the man bringing his plots to life, "Loners" artist, Karl Moline, for awhile now. "When CrossGen imploded, I was still working at Marvel in talent management and got to know a lot of the guys and helped get them adjusted at Marvel," Cebulski said. "Guys like McNiven, Jimmy Cheung, Brandon Peterson and all those guys. I got to know Karl at that point. I've always been a fan of his art. He's been doing stuff at Marvel, he did 'Rogue' pretty regularly, but then he kind of dropped out of site. When 'Loners' got up and rolling, he was one of the first guys I went to. He was happy to come on board and I love everything he's doing so far.

"It's interesting, but when Joss took over 'Runaways' they asked him who he wanted as an artist and the name he first mentioned was Karl [who illustrated Whedon's series "Fray" for Dark Horse comics]," Cebulski continued. "But luckily for me he was far enough along on 'Loners' to be able to say, 'No, he's already working on another book!'"

Cebulski feels that "Loners" is a series that will appeal to both new and old Marvel fans. "If you've read 'Runaways' great, you'll be more familiar with these characters and it'll be a nice tip of the hat, but if you haven't and you're a fan of any of these characters, like the old 'New Warriors,' you're going to be able to pick up the first issue of this book and start fresh," Cebulski said. "It's one of those new reader friendly titles, but I'm a huge Marvel geek and very respectful to continuity and will offer those tips of the hat to fans as well."

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.

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