Once a Superhero: Cebulski talks "Loners"

In Brian K. Vaughan's celebrated run on Marvel Comics'"Runaways," the prolific author introduced a support group for one-time teenaged superheroes called Excelsior. Named for Marvel visionary Stan Lee's ubiquitous catchphrase, the group's secret sponsor turned out to be Rick Jones, working on behalf of the late Captain America. Now that group returns, with a new roster and a new moniker in C.B. Cebulski's "Loners." The writer sat down with CBR News to talk about the "Runaways" spin-off.

Cebulski was already well acquainted with Excelsior's original cast of obscure characters when he read BKV's "Runaways." "I've always had a soft spot in my comic-loving heart for teen heroes and instantly fell in love with these kids," Cebulski said. "Well, fell in love with them again would be a better way to put it, as I read all the books starring these characters as they were originally coming out. 'Power Pack,' 'Slingers,' and 'New Warriors.' The current members of Loners as we start this series are Darkhawk, Ricochet, Turbo, Green Goblin (Phil Urich), Julie Power and Spider-Woman. There will be a few surprise guests along the way as well."

Now called "Loners," the team is anxious as ever to forget the past and look to the future; but that is easier said than done. "We get the kids back to their roots as a superhero self-help group who are trying their best to put their pasts as teenage heroes behind them and live normal lives out in L.A.," Cebulski said. "But once you have their powers, can you ever truly give up the lifestyle? That's a question they'll all be struggling with." That said, each of the team members have dutifully complied with the Superhero Registration Act as "another step for them in trying to stay out of costume and keep from using their powers." And now that L.A.'s premiere superhero group, the Runaways, have pulled up stumps for New York City, that makes the southern California based Loners the heirs apparent to the protection of America's left coast. "When some of the Civil War fallout spills over to the West Coast, what will they do?" Cebulski teased.

While several members of the group's original roster are returning for the new series, Cebulski took a moment to explain the absence of some characters and the introduction of others. "Chamber is no longer on the team for various reasons, which I won't spoil here for anyone who hasn't read ['Runaways']," Cebulski said. "He's off doing his own thing in X-land now. Mattie 'Spider-Woman' Franklin is a character Brian Bendis made me really care about in his run on 'Alias,' and given the wringer he put her through, she seemed like someone who could use some fun in the sun in L.A. with this group while dealing with her inner demons."

Two other heroes who number among Cebulski's personal favorites will be joining the group in the coming months. "Any 'Gen X' fans out there?" the author hinted. And though Rick Jones sponsored Excelsior's original mission, he will have little to no involvement with the Loners, as he will soon be caught up in the events surrounding the return of a certain Green-skinned Goliath in the upcoming Marvel event "Word War Hulk."

Contrasting with tradition, Cebluski is one of a growing number of Marvel writers who generally prefers to write full-script rather than "Marvel Style." "I need to write it all out, descriptions and dialogue, or it feels incomplete to me," Cebulski explained. "I work most of the beats and story out in my head first before I start scripting. The characters then walk and talk me through the scenes and I just transcribe what plays out in my mind. I have tried to write plot/script before and it doesn't really work for me. Adding text and balloons after something is already drawn is really hard as I have trouble getting into a groove looking at actual pages. It's hard to explain. Plus, I hate worrying about covering up all the beautiful art!"

Speaking of beautiful art, Cebulski has nothing but praise for his "Loners" collaborator Karl Moline. "I love Karl!" Cebulski exclaimed. "He's an incredibly talented storyteller. I've been a huge fan of his since 'Fray' and loved his work on 'Route 666'! 'Loners' would not be what it is without him. He breathes such life into the characters. I always liken 'Loners' to an ensemble drama and the level of emotion and expression that Karl infuses these kids with really brings them to life on the page. And when they move, they really move. He has them glide across the page with such ease in his storytelling. He owns 'Loners!'"

Cebulski, who is also writing the Sister Grimm chapter of Marvel's upcoming "Mystic Arcana" series, is well aware that his take on these Brian K. Vaughan creations may invite comparison to the popular writer. "Following in BKV's footsteps is daunting as hell," confessed Cebulski. "Brian is not only a friend but one of the most talented writers working in this business. Not to mention one of my favorites! There is no one I respect more. He has done some amazing things with these characters and I'm thrilled I'm even afforded the chance to be able to play with them in his wake. I wish he was still writing them, to be honest, but I just hope to do him and the fans proud."

Readers who missed the debut of Excelsior in Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona's "Runaways" can pick up volume #4 in stores now. C.B. Cebulski's "Loners" #1 hits stands today.

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