Marvel's Champions Confront Complex, Global Problems & Adolescent Angst

SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains spoilers for Marvel's "Champions" #2, on sale now.

In Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos' "Champions" #1, a new team of teen heroes took it upon themselves to move beyond the “punch out the villain” approach to superheroics and try and find real ways to help change and improve their world. Their ranks currently include Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Nova (Sam Alexander) the Totally Awesome Hulk (Amadeus Cho), the Vision's synthezoid daughter Viv, and the teenaged Cyclops (Scott Summers), who joined the team in Issue #2.

Despite their young age, many of the Champions have already overcome some herculean personal and superheroic trials. That said, there's one thing though the team may not have accounted for when they banded together: the high drama and angst that's part of daily adolescent life.

With the second issue now in stores, along with its major surprises, we spoke with Waid about what kind of impact the emotional and hormonal rollercoaster that is puberty will have on his cast. The writer opened up about the possible romantic feelings certain members harbor for each other, and the global issues the Champions will wrestle with in their quest to make the world a better place.

Exclusive art from "Champions" #3

CBR: One of the fun elements of “Champions” #2 was the old school X-Men and Avengers-style soap opera elements. Will that continue going forward? When your teen cast isn't thinking about saving the world, will they preoccupied with things like romance?

Mark Waid: Yeah, they'll be thinking about romance. They'll be thinking about impressing each other. They'll be thinking about being afraid of looking dumb in front of each other. They're teenagers, and the life of a teenager is grand opera.

I still remember what it was like to be a teenager, as do you, as do our readers. Everything about being a teenager is super dramatic. There's no reason we can't keep that in the book as well, so every revelation is a bombshell. Every perceived betrayal is the end of the world. Every mistake they make is the worst mistake anybody ever made in the history of mankind. That rollercoaster of emotions and hormones just lends itself to great stories with teenage characters.

One character whose emotions I'm especially curious about is Sam Alexander. In the early issues of “All-New, All-Different Avengers,” there was a very awkward attraction between the young Nova and Ms. Marvel. Is that still there? Because in “Champions” #2, he appeared to be especially interested in Viv.

He's a young man with a healthy libido, and he has eyes for more than one girl at a time. I think he realizes that Kamala seems to be off the table for him for a while. I still would like to get back in there and examine that at some point, though.

In “Champions” #2, Viv gets her first kiss thanks to a willing Amadeus Cho. In Issue #1, you hinted that they knew each other before joining up with the Champions. Were there some early off-panel interactions between the two that we might see in future issues?

I can't say anything more about that, because it would spoil some things in Issue #3.

The Champions are a new dynamic for Viv, who hasn't really had much interaction outside of her school, and the teenage Cyclops, who has spent much of his life as an X-Man. What's it like for them to be part of a team whose take on superheroics differs greatly from other Marvel Universe teams?

Viv is quite taken with this opportunity to go out and learn, see the world, and do something to make the world a better place. That's what the Champions exist to do more so than to punch out supervillains. It's very exciting for her because, as you said, she hasn't interacted with the world very much outside of Georgetown.

Cyclops is very wary. He knows he has to present himself and act in an exemplary way because everybody else on the team knows that, from their point of view, his adult incarnation turned into the worst villain to ever walk the face of the Earth. So there's a lot of concern whether or not the young Cyclops will also follow in that path.

Cyclops knows that, and is terrified of that. He's got to walk the straight and narrow. That said, there's a need for him to be among people his own age whom he hasn't formed bonds with yet, like the Champions, because it gives him the chance to reinvent himself a little bit. He can let other aspects of his personality shine.

The Champions have an idea on how they'd like to impact the world, and often times implementing such a vision requires a leader. Is that something the team currently has? Because it looks like both the Hulk and Ms. Marvel have big plans for the team.

Exclusive art from "Champions" #3

That will be a running gag for a little while. There are two people who think they're the leader, and that's Ms. Marvel and Amadeus -- but half the team thinks Cyclops should be the leader because he's a proven leader. So there's a constant back and forth friction between all three characters about who should lead the team.

Making a difference in their world is the Champions' ultimate goal, which I imagine will put them up against some supervillains, but will they face everyday adversaries as well? Those who want the status quo to continue, like media organizations with agendas, greedy business people, and corrupt politicians?

The Champions are about confronting the injustices of the world, particularly the ones younger people face. As a Marvel comic, though, we can't be too on the nose. It's sort of disrespectful to do a story about Ferguson, call the city Ferguson, and act like the superheroes can have anything to do there, because that belittles the efforts of the real heroes in that town. If we take situations like that, though, and sort of tweak and fictionalize them a bit, it's clear what we're doing.

So we're going to deal with racism, immigration issues, and things that are on the minds of young people everywhere.

It sounds like this is sort of a sister book to “Occupy Avengers” in that that book features heroes trying to make the lives of everyday Americans better. “Champions” involves a team dedicated to doing the same thing, but on a global scale. Is that a fair description?

Yes, the Champions is very much an international group. Amadeus has a ton of money, so he's set them up with transportation that makes the Avengers Quinjet look like a '48 Ford. They can move all over the globe, and they will. Issue #3 takes place in South Asia. Issue #4 takes place near Atlantis. There's different places we can go.

It's been years since you and “Champions” artist Humberto Ramos worked together regularly, having last teamed on another teen hero, DC Comics' Impulse, but his work on the book looks like you guys have been collaborating together for quite some time.

I've only worked sporadically with him over the last 18-19 years since we left “Impulse.” He hasn't missed a step, and when the two of us hooked up on this book, we just fell back into old habits very easily. We communicate the same way we did before. I think we're a good team, and you wouldn't know there's been such a long break.

Humberto is the best. I'm lucky to be working with him again.

Finally, the Champions came together because of past conflicts between Marvel superheroes, but there's a big one on the horizon that has the potential to pull in two of their members, “Inhumans Versus X-Men.” Will the “Champions” series become embroiled in that conflict at all?

Not directly. Indirectly, there are some nods to it in issues #4-5. Right now, though, we're trying to keep the book separate until it really gels and has it's own identity.

champions arthur adams
Arthur Adams' variant cover for "Champions" #3
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