INTERVIEW: "Avengers Academy" Enrolls Players In Marvel's Superhero Campus

Sure, the Marvel Universe has its share of young heroes, with the Avengers inspiring more than a few them. But what if the Earth's Mightiest Heroes were that younger generation, just learning the superhero ropes?

Now you can find out thanks to "Marvel Avengers Academy," a new, free-to-play mobile game for iOS and Android devices from TinyCo, the game studio bets known for "Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff." In "Avengers Academy," you take on a role dean of the college where your favorite Marvel characters go to learn how to be superheroes... and supervillains.

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To find out more about this game, which released today, we spoke to TinyCo's General Manager Jeremy Horn and Marvel Games Creative Director Bill Rosemann about how this game came to be, if it connects to the "Avengers Academy" comics, what went into lining up its impressive voice cast -- which includes John Cena as the Hulk, Alison Brie as Black Widow, and Colton Haynes as Thor -- and what went into re-imaging these iconic adults as college kids.

CBR News: What kind of game is "Marvel Avengers Academy?"

Jeremy Horn: "Marvel Avengers Academy" is the ultimate mash-up of a builder and an adventure game. It brings the best of the Marvel Universe into the hands of players with a deep story, larger-than-life characters and dynamic animation.

Does the game connect to the "Avengers Academy" comics?

Bill Rosemann: Like in the comic book series -- which I was lucky enough to launch and edit throughout its forty-issue run -- Avengers Academy is the premiere school charged with developing the next generation of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Also, like the comic, the game will take you inside the day-to-day lives of these superhuman young adults as they face the challenges of academics, self-discovery, dating...and, oh yeah, saving the world.

Where the game differs -- and, to me, adds an intriguing layer of possibilities -- is that in addition to featuring characters who are currently young adults in the comics, you'll also meet Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Loki and Black Widow, who've been reimagined as college-aged students. But fear not, True Believers, this isn't an imaginary story! These are the heroes and villains you know and love, who've been transformed via a story that's just waiting for you to uncover.

Where did the idea for "Marvel Avengers Academy" come from?

Horn: First and foremost, we are huge Marvel fans at TinyCo. We all dreamed of making a game in collaboration with them, but we also wanted to be true to our values by creating an amazing gameplay experience by bringing bite-size fun to all players. We presented our concept of "Avengers Academy" to Marvel and they loved it.

The cast for the game includes Alison Brie from "Community" as Black Widow, rapper A$AP Rocky as Falcon, Alexandra Daddario from "True Detective" as Wasp, and WWE Superstar John Cena as The Hulk, among others. Which of the characters was the hardest to cast, and how did you finally agree upon the person you did?

Horn: The hardest person for us to cast was actually The Hulk. You might think it would be simple, as The Hulk usually just grunts a lot, but giving him a voice in a universe like ours was important. He needs to be more curious and slightly humorous. We needed someone who loved the character, understood the humor, and was larger than life. We got the person we wanted in John Cena. He's an incredible performer, and is proving over and over again that in addition to being a wrestling superstar, he is a great comedic and dramatic actor. We were super lucky to be able to work with him. 

In making the game, why did you decide to make them college kids as opposed to teens or tweens?

Rosemann: Every Marvel story can be seen as a coming-of-age tale. What does it feel like to discover you have certain abilities and are suddenly being asked to make crucial choices with them? What is it like to love and then lose? Faced with the easy way and the right way, which path will you take? These are the questions every good Marvel story asks, and in most of our lives, it's when you're a young adult that you must give answers.

Who designed the look of the characters as college kids?

Horn: The amazing David Nakayama of TinyCo led the art direction on "Marvel Avengers Academy." David is a Marvel artist with dozens of covers and comic books under his belt, and he loved reimagining our favorite characters for "Marvel Avengers Academy."

Rosemann: Yeah, David nailed the overall feel of the game right out of the gate. As soon as we saw his first designs of Captain America, Iron Man and Wasp we knew he truly understood the heart of each character and that -- even though they may start out wearing "civilian" clothes -- they'd be instantly identifiable as the real deal.

Marvel's games always do fun things when there are movies coming out. So when "Doctor Strange" is released in November, will he be introduced as the new health teacher, the school nurse, a visiting professor...?

Rosemann: ...of the supernatural arts? That would be fun.

Horn: We want to keep some things secret, but we do have exciting plans around introducing new characters into the Academy. All I can say for now is that big things are coming.

This is a free-to-play game, with in-app purchases. The big concern gamers always have with that combination is that you'll be able to pay your way to victory. What have you done to make sure "Marvel Avengers Academy" won't annoy people in this regard?

Horn: "Marvel Avengers Academy" has an incredibly large amount of quests and adventures available to all players, and gameplay skill also allows players to move through the content faster. We also want to give players the option to move fast in the game if that's their desire. We want to ensure that all types of play styles are supported and fun for the players.

"Marvel Avengers Academy" is being released for iOS and Android devices. Are there any plans to bring it to computers, consoles, or other kinds of tablets and smartphones?

Horn: For now, we are only releasing the game on iOS and Android, but our goal is to offer this experience to as many players as possible, and we will be pursuing that goal by looking at what platforms our players are requesting the game on.

Prior to "Marvel Avengers Academy," TinyCo made the "Family Guy" game. Bill, was there something about that game that made you think they'd be the right people to make "Marvel Avengers Academy"?

Rosemann: The "Family Guy" game was proof that TinyCo had the chops for delving into a world and creating a rich, rewarding, and surprising experience that fully realizes everything the fans love about it. And with their passion for Marvel, it was a no-brainer.

"Marvel Avengers Academy" is out now for iOS and Android devices.

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