Saving one world from destruction or the schemes of would be world conquerors is a herculean task, but rescuing the countless worlds of Marvel Comics’ multiverse from is an even bigger challenge. The super strong, dimension hopping America Chavez knows this to be true. Inspired by her parents heroic sacrifice, Chavez spent her formative years traversing the multiverse using her super abilities to help people and worlds in need.
Service like that is incredibly inspiring, but taking so much time to help others often means not taking care of yourself. This March, America Chavez tackles that problem by going on a journey of self-discovery across time and multiple realities.
Writer Gabby Rivera and artist Joe Quinones will begin documenting Chavez’s personal and academic journey this March in their new ongoing series, “America.” CBR spoke with both creators about their take on their title character, what college will mean to her, and which Marvel characters she’ll encounter as she navigates her heroic and collegiate responsibilities.
CBR: Gabby, travel broadens the mind, and in America Chavez you have a protagonist who's a veteran traveler of a variety of other dimensions and realities thanks to one of her super abilities. What's your sense of how that's affected her perspective?
Gabby Rivera: I mean, that’s a deep question, right? Cuz you’re talking about a character that left paradise to dive into worlds riddled with humanity, chaos, and the need for super heroes. So, right out the gate, America has always been someone thirsting for a challenge and looking for ways to serve the people.
America doesn’t seem to have time or energy for the things that regular folks get wrapped up in, like petty interpersonal dramas or agonizing over the smallest details or logistics. For her, whatever current reality or place/time that she’s in exists in the middle of every other world too. It’s dangerous sometimes because it lends itself to that “punch first, ask questions later” type of vibe that she has but also, it helps when situations need to be de-escalated.
I think all the worlds both blend for her and remain distinct. And that’s why America’s real loyalties are to herself, why she holds her feelings so close to her chest. Why let out things when people can hurt you like they do in every other world at any given place and time?
This series will show her finally releasing some of that apprehension and really investigating her own motives and abilities. And maybe even finding a home of sorts.
Joe, as an artist, what do you find most interesting about America Chavez? Which of her qualities do you really want to make sure you capture and bring forth in your depictions of her?
Joe Quinones: I think America hides a big heart behind a veneer of scowls and clenched fists. She's guarded, as Gabby alluded to, and quick to throw the first punch, but clearly wants to share her love. Illustrating the nuances of that internal conflict (while she still throws some hard punches) is very interesting to me. That, and she just looks so damn cool. It's been great fun designing new looks for her along the way.
Comic fans probably know America best through her interactions with super teams like the Ultimates and the Young Avengers, but we've not see a lot of her on her own.
Rivera: Listen, sometimes it’s like we’re all pressured to go from high school to college and be straight and get married and make some babies and put our pics on Facebook and buy a house and go on vacation and pay taxes and die. It’s all mapped out. There’s a system of support for people who follow that road, which can include easier relationships with relatives, tax breaks etc. Give or take a few random acts of the universe, you’ll be fine.
That’s not the life America has ever known. She grew up with two moms and then, boom -- they were snatched because of ultimate sacrifices and whatnot. Then she spent a long time saving other people... and now she’s feeling like something is missing. Missing in the realest way, you know? Who are her people? What is she really capable of as a superhero?
Higher education can also be a radical act of self care. America is choosing to dive deeper into herself, to step away from the life that she knows, the life she already kicks ass at to start anew. America is taking inventory of her super hero abilities and wants to upgrade all around. What else is possible? If she can punch into other dimensions and fly and have super strength, then what is America capable of when she intentionally taps into her core? Could she stop the world?
What are some of the things we'll see in the early issues of "America?" It sounds like this is a series that lends itself to a variety of stories.
Rivera: We’re definitely bringing in some heavy hitters from the Marvel Universe to offer support and guidance to America. Much of what this series is about is personal growth, building one’s power, and just listening to what your heart and mind want you to do. But also, it’s about playing with someone who’s full of fire and wants to just punch her way through life. We’re going to see where America’s impetuousness lands her and how she gets herself out of the chaos.
Also, be ready for lots of radical women fighting for their people and their right to own what’s theirs. Be ready for characters who love themselves, land the best one-liners, and show up bringing the magic. You’re probably going to fall in love with all of them.
I’ve had to remember along the way that America isn’t me. Like whenever things get too sappy or too serious, I gotta hit that delete button and write the brash things I’d never say and let America climb the walls and be free. So it’s going to be a little goofy, and fun-sexy, and everyone is still going to learn life lessons.
Joe, you're coming off a run on "Howard the Duck" where you drew a variety of fun and strange stories and characters. So what's it like moving from "Howard” to “America?"
Quinones: No differences, whatsoever. Next question.
Just kidding. Beyond the obvious “Chavez don't got a duck bill" distinction, the books certainly have their similarities and differences. The focus has shifted, of course - "America" won't center on jokes as "Howard" did, but the two both have their fair share of melodrama mixed with bombastic action. Chip and I tackled some moments of sincere emotion in “Howard,” and I think Gabby and I are set up to do the same with “America.” No comment on how sexy or not sexy Howard is. You do you.
[Laughs] What else can you tell us about the initial supporting cast of "America?" Will her girlfriend Lisa Halloran, play a role in the book?
Rivera: We’ve got some fun folks lined up for this series, but everyone’s asking about Lisa Halloran and Kate Bishop. So, let’s be real -- I can’t give away too many of the goods. But I will say this: you will catch Lisa and Kate in some intense moments throughout this series. Might not be how folks want or expect, I mean are relationships ever how we expect them to be? But they’ll be there.
And we have a wild crew of new faces ready to roll out and join the Marvel Universe. I mean, we’ve got some robotic sorority girls, some unexpected family members, and an entire college bursting with surprises.Be on the lookout for tough, ready to rumble women of color, and some of our favorite high profile superheroes that you know and love from Marvel. Maybe even some X-Men if you’re lucky...
Also, at some point, Joe’s dog is going to make a cameo in America. First one to find it gets an autographed picture of Joe’s dog signed by Joe. He might not know this but it’s happening.
Quinones: It's my sister's dog, actually. But he's great, I tell you. Great. My cat Biggs showed up in “Howard the Duck,” becoming Howard's cyborg cat. I love the idea of making this a tradition where I bring my favorite animals into the books I draw. It makes me happy.
What hints or teases can you offer up about the enemies America will be up against in your initial stories?
Rivera: We’re going to have fun with villains. Some will be plucked from Marvel’s history of creating some of the greatest villains ever. Others, we’re making up. We’re definitely going to play with the idea of jealousy and how that can turn someone with huge powers into an intergalactic threat. America’s building up her strength and some folks won’t like that. Some folks will feel like the power they’ve built up along the way is being threatened by this Latina lesbian so and so and they’re not gonna like that one bit.
But when does institutionalized power ever appreciate strength from beyond their ranks? This series will also be about resistance and rallying behind your people, things America already does so well.Watch what happens when something big really comes for her...
Joe what can you tell us about the overall look you want "America" to have? How does it compare to some of your most recent work?
Quinones: I didn't have a label for it until Gabby mentioned it to me recently, but America's overall look represents a "hard femme" aesthetic. Hard, tough and feminine. She won't have just one look in our book, but several, ranging from super casual dorm-wear to rough and tumble, superhero duds. I'm trying to carry on the aesthetic tradition established by Jamie McKelvie on “Young Avengers,” but with some new twists. America is very much tuned into fashion, with a unique personal style that permeates her wardrobe. Doing my best to tap into that with Gabby's help.
Gabby, what's it like working with Joe on "America?" Which elements of his style do you enjoy the most? And Joe, what's it like working with Gabby? Which elements of her scripts have really excited you so far?
Rivera: Joe’s artwork is astonishing. He brings America to life in this way where I feel like I could reach out and high five her or hug her. And...it’s fun! Joe’s got this goofy side that I really like and that works well with me. I can send Joe some pics of Selena or some donuts for inspiration and then bam, he kicks back some work that capture the essence of each of those things and applies them perfectly to the characters. Also, Joe’s an expert and he treats me, someone so new, with much respect and is down for all my ideas. I’m thankful to be working with him on this project.
Quinones: Oh, you. Gabby has just been great to work with thus far. She's got a amazing sense of the character, her personality oozing off the page. And she's already deftly given me both thrilling action to draw and quiet, nuanced, personal scenes. It's been really fun to tackle on either end.
Finally, Gabby, "America" is your first comic and likely to be some readers first exposure to your work. What's it like moving from prose to comic scripts? And readers who are interested in what you're doing in "America" might be curious about your novel "Juliet Takes a Breath." What would you like them to know about the book?
Rivera: Seriously, this is the coolest writing gig ever! I’m someone who’s just like a goofy nerdburger, daydreaming all the time. And now I’ve got this opportunity to create stories with folks who are daydreamers too. I can explore real life problems in fantasy worlds where all the things are possible. Damn, do you know what that’s like for a queer brown weirdo? It’s something that humbles and excites me to my core. When there aren’t any barriers in your way like racism or poverty, when you can afford to live and be free, damn, that world world gets to be all yours. That world can be anything and writing that story is a gift.
Also, the actual process is helping me hone my writing skills in a major way. This type of on-the-job education is invaluable. With comic writing, I get to practice being concise, (although you might not be able to tell) and still impactful with my storytelling. I work with skilled editors who also have grand imaginations and use them to guide me in the best ways. It’s really a gift to be here.
As for my first novel, “Juliet Takes a Breath,” that’s my baby. It’s just this sweet little goofy novel that I got to share with the world. It actually made it out of my laptop and into the hands of people. And yeah, it’s about a young lesbian Latina from the Bronx trying to figure out feminism while navigating LGBTQ things and her relationship with her mom. Those are all important elements about Juliet, especially when it comes to the importance of diversity in literature.
It’s also the story of some kid trying to be 19, make out with cute people, and question authority. Those are some of the most quintessential elements in American storytelling. Juliet is one of those hometown kids looking to see the world and grow up. And she also tells a mean one-liner while rocking the latest Jordans, so give her a chance, y’all.
"America" #1, by Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones, arrives in stores March 1.