Critically-acclaimed Christos Gage stops by the Outhouse to talk all things Avengers Academy!
Christos Gage is the writer of the critically-acclaimed book Avengers Academy. Avengers Academy shows the next generation of Marvel heroes and features a deep cast of classic fan-favorite characters and new characters. Christos was kind enough to stop by the Outhouse to discuss the first year of the book, how the book ties into Fear Itself and provides a few hints about the future of the book.
The Outhouse: Avengers Academy has been highly acclaimed and well-received among the comic book community. How do you feel about the success your book has enjoyed over the last year?
Christos Gage: It's wonderful! Everyone knows that new characters are a hard sell, and we are currently experiencing a devastatingly tough market as the recession has finally hit the comics industry, so in that environment it's incredibly gratifying to have been so well received by the readers. We landed on a bunch of "Best of 2010" lists and the critical response has been amazing. But for me the most inspiring thing has been the warm reception by our readers, including many teen correspondents. That's why I wanted to do a letters page in this book. I think we have a wonderful community of readers, and I wanted to give them a voice...as well as have a place to thank them personally! Any success we enjoy is down to them...and, of course, the brilliant artistic contributions of Mike McKone, Tom Raney, Sean Chen, Scott Hanna, Jeromy Cox, Joe Caramagna and our editorial team of Bill Rosemann and John Denning.
OH: As Avengers Academy approaches the end of its first year, what do you think have been the strongest aspects of the book? Do you feel that there's anything that you can improve upon moving forward?
CG: The strongest aspect, judging from the mail we get, has been that we achieved our goal of bringing new, unfamiliar characters to life in such a way that the readers relate to and become invested in them. I think the art is pretty stellar too. Of course, there are always things I could improve upon. For one thing, while sales have stayed rock solid for the last five months in a row, the book isn't selling as well as I would like, and considerably less than the other Avengers books. Now, I don't expect a title with so many brand new characters to match the sales of books starring big guns like Thor and Iron Man and Spidey, but we do have a cast of longtime Avengers – even a founding Avenger in Giant-Man – and we're telling what I think are very Avenger-y stories, including the return of Korvac. So I would love to see more people giving the book a try, and even see sales go up over time, which is a rarity, but I like to aim high. I think one way to do that is for our stories to tie in more with the rest of the Marvel Universe, which is already happening with the return of Korvac, the appearance of the Sinister Six in issue #14 – tying in with what Dan Slott is doing with them in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN – as well as the FEAR ITSELF storyline beginning in #15.
OH: One of the strongest parts of the book has been your great characterization of the large cast of the book. How have you managed to juggle such a large cast while keeping all the different characters' stories moving forward?
CG: As regular readers will know, there's often one or two "point of view" characters in a given issue. I find that focusing on the perspective of specific characters, and rotating the featured characters, ends up giving everyone a chance in the spotlight. Of course, it's important not to just ignore the others. I got pretty good practice juggling a large cast in THE INITIATIVE...comparatively, AVENGERS ACADEMY is an intimate setting!
OH: What's been your favorite character to write so far in the story? Is there any character that you want to write but haven't gotten a chance to yet?
CG: This will sound like a cop-out, but of the kids, my favorite is whichever character I'm writing at the moment. They keep surprising me. For other characters, it was a lot of fun to write Korvac and Thor. I'm pretty lucky, I've gotten to write most of the characters I've wanted to at Marvel.
OH: There's been some controvery with the title's classification by Marvel's Marketing team as an "All Ages" book while the content of the book is covering some very heavy topics... do you find yourself holding back on what your writing because of that label?
CG: Well, any time you tackle sensitive topics like teenage sexuality or child abuse, you want to tread carefully. But you also don't want to avoid dealing with issues that are a part of the lives of teenagers just because someone might be offended...if you do that, in my opinion, you're talking down to your audience, and that never works. At the end of the day, I try not to show anything you wouldn't see or hear on a network prime time TV show at 8pm. But I can certainly make mistakes. For instance, in one of our issues, Reptil and Finesse were making out...in bed...and she was in her underwear and a t-shirt while he had his shirt off. It wasn't my intention to suggest they went so far as to have sex, but a number of readers made that assumption, and I can certainly see why. So sometimes you make mistakes without meaning to. Oh, and just to clarify, the "A" label is not "All Ages" but rather 9 and up...which some people still might feel we go to far for. I do my best, but I freely admit it's a tricky line to walk and I welcome input from the readers. The good news is that we hear from a lot of teenage readers, so I think we're reaching them with what we're doing, which is great.
OH: What can we expect to see during Avengers Academy's second year?
CG: The kids will face some major league villains, such as the Sinister Six...they'll see what's become of some of the superhuman kids Norman Osborn found who DIDN'T get recruited to the Academy...and they'll have to face the horrors of Fear Itself!
OH: How will the book be tying into Fear Itself? How will the event shape the students and will it affect their decisions to become a hero or a villain?
CG: We'll tie in starting with issue #15 and running through to the end of the event...I think that's #20. I don't want to spoil the storyline, but basically, this will be the kids' first major world crisis. In a very real sense, they'll be going to war. And war changes everyone who experiences it.
OH: Will Fear Itself change the status quo of Avengers Academy at all? Will there be any lasting ramifications from them participating in the event?
CG: In a big way. I don't want to spoil anything, but after Fear Itself, a number of things will change...not the least of which is the lineup.
OH: Will the Avengers Academy team ever meet up with their predecessors in the Avengers: Initiative? What about other teen teams in the Marvel universe such as the Young Allies or Young Avengers?
CG: Yes! In issue #13, the super hero prom issue, the Academy kids meet some former Initiative members AND the Young Allies! As for the Young Avengers, it seems like a natural, but it won't happen until after the Children's Crusade miniseries is finished, so we don't disrupt that.
OH: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you're working on right now?
CG: I have two issues of Amazing Spider-Man, #661 and 662 (which happen to guest star the students of the Avengers Academy); the Captain America video game; another Marvel-based video game I can't reveal yet; the Fear Itself: Home Front miniseries, featuring Speedball from Avengers Academy; a three-part Astonishing X-Men story; a chapter of the Iron Man "Iron Age" miniseries; a news "season" of my Absolution series at Avatar; and I was just announced as the writer of Dark Horse's upcoming "Angel & Faith" Whedonverse series.
OH: Last question: Do you know how they make the infamous "Chung chung" noise on Law and Order?
CG: That sound is all the money Dick Wolf makes being loaded onto trucks!
Avengers Academy #12 hits stores April 20th!
Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer