Tobin, Higgins & Siegel Get Their "Game On"

Adolescence is a very important time in a person's life, when a young adult begins to truly discover their identity. It's doubly important in the Marvel Universe where super powered teens' journeys of self-discovery often determine whether they'll head down the path of heroism or villainy. The young students of the ongoing "Avengers Academy" by writer Christos Gage and artist Mike McKone are currently wrestling with the dicovery that the real reason the Avengers want to train them is not because they're destined to be the next generation of great heroes, but because they have the potential to become some of the vilest villains ever seen.

The new Spider-Girl Anya Corazon, who gets her own self-titled series in November by writer Paul Tobin and artist Clayton Henry, recently survived the Kravinoff family's assault on Spider themed heroes. Meanwhile, Spider-Girl's friends and teammates in the "Young Allies" series by writer Sean McKeever and artist David Baldeon are busy trying to protect the world from a villainous team of illegitimate offspring called The Bastards of Evil.

This January, the students of Avengers Academy will cross paths with Spider-Girl and the Young Allies in a storyline titled "Game On," starting with "Avengers Academy Annual" #1, continuing in "Spider-Girl Annual" #1 and concluding in "Young Allies Annual" #1. The main story in each annual is being written by Paul Tobin and will feature interior art by a group of currently unrevealed artists. Each issue will also feature back-up stories from the writing team of Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, who penned the recent "Captain America: Theater of War-Prisoners of Duty" one-shot and are perhaps best known for their independent short film, "The League," which chronicled the rise and fall of a superhero labor union. CBR News spoke with Tobin, Higgins and Siegel about the project

CBR News: Paul, what interested you the most about this story? Was it the chance to play with the next generation of Marvel Heroes, the opportunity to see them interact with the protagonist of your upcoming "Spider-Girl" title or both?

Paul Tobin: I always love working with new characters. The chance to give them a grounding and establish the way they look at the world is always interesting to me. This opportunity came to me very shortly after I'd been talking/tweeting with Christos Gage about how much I love his work on "Avengers Academy." The "Young Allies," that's Sean McKeever's territory and either I owe him a beer, or he owes me a beer (I forget which), so either way, it seemed like I should play with his characters.

"Spider-Girl" launches in November - what kind of action and adventures do you have planned leading into the Annual and what can you tell us about Anya's emotional status when the story begins?

Tobin: Anya's world has been rather ripped apart by events in her own title and she's going to be very glad to step away from her own life. Well, glad for a bit. It's hard to say that she's glad that someone else is trying to kill her. She definitely makes a couple new friends here, though, and she's going to need them.

In addition to writing Anya, with "Game On," you get to take part in what I imagine is one of the more enjoyable aspects of a crossover, and that's writing characters you don't normally write. What do you find most interesting about the other Young Allies and the Avengers Academy characters? 
Tobin: The fact that these are people who are more than just trying to develop their identities as superheroes, they're trying to develop their identities as people. I can definitely remember being in my late teens. There was a sense that the whole world was open to me, but also a sense of "What the heck am I supposed to do with it - and what if I screw it up?" So, what I find fascinating about these characters is how they're trying to make their mark on the world and discover the world at the same time.

Another facet of crossovers is their potential to bring in new readers. How accessible is "Game On" to folks unfamiliar with some of the characters involved?

Tobin: We're trying to keep it very accessible to new readers - to give people an "in" to all three titles, or the one or two that they haven't been already picking up. Therefore, I'm staying away from any captions like "As established in panel 5 of page 16 of a comic printed fourteen years ago." 
Spider-Girl is already a member of the Young Allies, and in "Game On" you're dealing with the both the Allies and the Avengers Academy kids. How would you describe the initial dynamic between these two teams?

Tobin: Stressed. Oh so very stressed.

In terms of plot and theme what is "Game On" about?

Tobin: Arcade has decided that his reputation is shot, since he keeps taking million dollar payouts to...have heroes escape and beat him up. He doesn't exactly have the sort of success rate that potential employers are looking for. So he goes looking for some "easy marks" and thinks he's found them in this assembled group of young heroes. The three annuals are essentially an exploration of "Was he right?"

Arcade is one of Marvel's most dangerous villains. The other guys, you know what makes them tick - you know that they're after money or power or some identifiable goal. Arcade isn't like that. He's whimsically psychotic and that's what makes him so much fun to write and so incredibly hard to fight.

Arcade is best known for his "Murderworld" creations, elaborate theme park like deathtraps that he uses to attempt to kill his targets, which makes the setting a very important part of a story when Arcade is involved. What can you tell us about the locales featured in "Game On?"

Tobin: I'm having Arcade be a bit more cerebral. He still has his normal "How will they try to get out of this?"But I'm adding in a bit more, "How will these teenagers react to that?"

How would you describe the overall tone of "Game On?"

Tobin: Murderous. Tense. Humorous at times. But - murderously humorous.

Any final thoughts you would like to share about "Game On?"

Tobin: Just that I want to give a big thanks to Sean McKeever and Christos Gage for letting Arcade and me play with your toys. I'll try my best to keep them alive, but, you know how this Arcade guy is

Kyle and Alec, in doing my research for this interview I came across an interview about "The League" where Kyle expressed an affinity for sidekicks and younger heroes. Is that what drew you guys to this project?

Kyle Higgins: That's definitely a part of it, sure. A lot of that has to do with being able to relate to them.

Alec Siegel: Plus, we're really big fans of the main books, what Christos and Sean are doing in "Avengers Academy" and "Young Allies." The chance to add to what they're creating is pretty exciting.

"The League" was short film and "Prisoners of Duty," your "Captain America: Theater of War" book was a one-shot, so you guys have some experience in telling quick, one-shot style stories. Did that help in crafting these back-up pieces for the three annuals? Or is writing back-up stories sort of a whole other animal?

Siegel: It's just a different way of thinking. You're not building across multiple issues, obviously, so things typically have to be "cleaner." The story has to feel whole unto itself, which means your arcs and objectives become simpler.

Higgins: Which is not to say they become any easier. The struggle with writing shorter pieces is that nuance and subtlety are tougher to pull off. I know I wrote a lot of short films in college (including "The League"), which were great training. They're a lot of setup and payoff.

Your back-up stories will be appearing in the "Spider-Girl," "Avengers Academy" and "Young Allies" annuals. What do you find most interesting about these characters?

Higgins: Well, most of the characters have a "blessing and a curse" quality to them. Veil has these abilities, but they're killing her. Finesse can learn and understand anything, except people. They provide a lot of interesting dynamics, especially when you put a couple of them together. I've always loved that aspect of "the one thing that makes me special is also a burden." I think the best characters have that quality.

In terms of plot and theme, what are these stories about? Who do they focus on, are they connected or are they all sort of stand alone?

Higgins: They're loosely connected.

Siegel: Each story looks at two characters - a Young Ally and an Avengers Academy member - and we intercut between them. Some may cross paths, some may not. All three stories are taking place at roughly the same time, though.

Higgins: They're more "moment in time" pieces. They're designed as vignettes, where we try to learn something new about each character

Who are the important supporting characters in the back-ups? Do the main characters in these stories have to overcome specific obstacles and adversaries?

Higgins: Most of the characters show up, in one way or another.

Siegel: The stories aren't straightforward "smash ups." So adversary-wise, well, you'll just have to wait and see.

Any final thoughts you would like to share about your work on the "Game On" crossover?

Siegel: It's been a great experience. Paul's script for the main book is awesome and everyone has been a lot of fun to go back and forth with.

Higgins: As someone who spent a good part of his childhood trying to beat the Storm level in "Arcade's Revenge," I'm looking forward to Arcade's return to glory!

Finally, any upcoming projects, comic books or otherwise, that fans of your work should be on the look out for?

Siegel: We've got another one shot that we just finished up. It hasn't been announced yet, but it deals with one of the all-time classic heroes in the Marvel U.

Higgins: I'm doing a couple Batman backups, which are a lot of fun, and I'm currently writing a miniseries for Marvel that I'm very, very pumped for. It's a really big book and one of my all time favorites. I'm still shocked they're letting me do it. I'm not sure when it'll be announced, but hopefully soon!

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