Marvel NOW! Q&A: Young Avengers

Marvel NOW! Q&A: Young Avengers

Young Avengers #1 cover by Jamie McKelvie

By Carla Hoffman

The Avengers seem to have everything pretty much under control. 

With new lineups packed full of A list heroes and enough specialists in the field to handle Earth's mightiest threats, What could they be missing? What essential piece of the puzzle can only be handled by brash young fools who obviously know better?

YOUNG AVENGERS gets a bold new look and a straight shot of precious optimism as writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie bring you teen heroes for the 21st century beginning this January. We got the vital details from Gillen. If I can ask, how did you and Jamie find yourselves on this book?

Kieron Gillen: [Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Axel [Alonso] bullied me into it.

I'm not even joking. When it was floated, I wasn't sure. YOUNG AVENGERS was a book with such a unique and singular vision from [co-creators Allan] Heinberg and [Jim] Cheung, and at least a big part of the vision was simply not what I do. It's a book which was kind of a love song to Marvel Comics' continuity, playing games and celebrating equally. I dug the book, but I knew that's just not what I would do. I would never base a story around that. It's just not how I think.

Then Axel basically beat my head against the floor a few times and said "Seriously, give it a proper think."

So I did, and I managed to find a way to make it work for me. It was such a personal book for Heinberg; I realized the heart of it had to be trying to make it just as personal for me. And since we're different writers, we have to be personal in our own way. I realized a big part of that had to be gathering together the creators I most trusted, and try and build something entirely bespoke. Which lead to Jamie McKelvie and everyone else, and the pop-song-as-super hero-comic you see before you.

Young Avengers teaser art by Jamie McKelvie What can you both bring to the teen super hero comic that no one else can?

Kieron Gillen: I think the first eight pages of the comic will lay out our stall pretty explicitly. If we haven't got you by then, I'm fine if you just turn away. 

I don't think you will. Is calling them "kids" derogatory? Or are young Avengers better Avengers?

Kieron Gillen: Yeah, it is, but I'm fine with that. The age gap is absolutely key to the book.

I wouldn't say “better Avengers,” but I'd certainly say purer. I think YOUNG AVENGERS makes a great point/counter-point to Jonathan [Hickman']s thrust with his AVENGERS book, in that way. I say YA is optimistic, but it's certainly not naive. Sometimes optimism is a bug that gets crushed by the windscreen of reality.

But sometimes—just sometimes—you get a bug that shatters the pane.

YOUNG AVENGERS is basically that bug.

I will ignore you if you tell me that a bug has never shattered a windscreen. There's always a first time. Optimism as opposed to say your current work on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY?

Kieron Gillen: It's an optimistic book, sure; as opposed to JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, that was at heart, a pessimistic book. However it's still incredibly emotional. Being optimistic is hard. Life tries to beat it out of you.

Wiccan There's something about being young and full of superpowers that makes you want to challenge the world.  What do you think it takes to be a hero in the Marvel universe? 

Kieron Gillen: I previously wrote GENERATION HOPE, which was basically me taking a bunch of relatively realistically rendered teenagers and dropping them into a serious, 00’s-style super hero universe. It was about showing how the personality rubbed against the craziness of their lives. With YOUNG AVENGERS, I'm flipping that. In my own style, I'm doing what classic 60’s Marvel did, and using the super hero elements as a device to specifically illustrate the characters' challenges and thrills. So when we first meet one character who's much cooler than most of the cast, she's in Earth-212, which is basically a dimension which is basically an infinite New York. Normal Earth is a bit downmarket for her—which is using the super heroic element to turn her into the equivalent to the person who moves from New York to your small town. They have a glamour you simply don't. Or, at least, that's how you feel.

So, to answer your question, teenagers deciding to use their superpowers is really about human beings blossoming and trying to work out how best to behave, trying to see where their talents will work in. Puberty is basically a superpower experience. It changes you totally. What are you going to become? What are you going to do?

That, basically. And on the subject of heroes, who's going to be on the team?  What is bringing them together in this particular configuration?  


Kieron Gillen: The core team is Wiccan, Hulkling, Loki, Hawkeye—i.e. Kate—Noh-Varr—aka Marvel Boy, ex-Protector—and Miss America. They're being brought together by random chance! Or so they think. The reader will know—from [MARVEL NOW! POINT ONE]—that it's Loki who's brought them together. Which sounds like a plot. Will they have the support of any of the other super-teams? Are they striking out on their own?

Kieron Gillen: When we actually join them, they're not a super-team. They're not even superheroing. Wiccan is still basically in the emotional place he was where everyone last saw him. He's completely burnt out on super heroics. He's worried he's just going to get more of his friends killed or their lives destroyed. However, unbeknownst to him, his boyfriend Hulkling has started to be a super hero on the down low. Our story basically starts when Wiccan discovers this—which, through our super heroic prism, is basically akin to "you were cheating on me!" 

Hulkling says some choice words. Wiccan realises something—and then makes a mistake.

Our status quo swiftly follows.

And they're equally swiftly on their own. How much free reign do you both have to create a new corner of the Marvel Universe, from costume designs to locations to potential threats to life as we know it?


Kieron Gillen: This is totally a bespoke creation. We want all its elements to gel. We're using a few old villains and heroes, sure, but they're span in our way. The prime threat of the series is entirely new, though with an emotional connection to the characters.

But we want to see familiar elements rendered strange. We're doing things like trying to create a demarcation between the fantastic and the normal. I'm writing the casual scenes in full script, with lots of grid structures. It's really grounded. But when an action scene happens, that explodes. I start writing in Marvel method. We try and conceive each action scene as a unique visual show-case. It's kind of “Fight Scene As Music Video”—as in, each one has its own twist on how we're presenting it, of making it feel exciting, which we try not to re-use. So we go from the normal to the fantastic and back again. It feels kind of magical, at least to me. What part of the Marvel Universe will the Young Avengers cover that was missing from Marvel NOW! until, well, now?

Kieron Gillen: The part that goes and tries to find a good breakfast place at 5am.

This part is important. Trust me. And last but not least, you mentioned on Tumblr that you were thinking about doing a playlist for the book and started off the ideas with “The Nights of Wine and Roses” by Japandroids. Do you want to share a little bit with the readers on why that song was the first to come to mind or do you want to save that for the playlist ahead?


Kieron Gillen: [Laughs] Yes, the playlist will eventually be made public. I'm thinking about doing a series of posts revealing which song is informing my take on the characters, which will also be a good way to introduce my thinking on the team to the very-active Young Avengers Tumblr folk.

It wasn't the first to come to mind; the first thing in the playlist was actually Emeli Sandes' “Heaven” which connects incredibly strongly to one character. In fact, it was just the one that popped up on the playlist at that second, and I had the sudden urge to post it. It's an incredible record, and certainly describes a little of the raucous pugnaciousness of the team. It's a song that actively defies everything in existence that stops them from living in a manner they find agreeable. A key line in my thinking about YOUNG AVENGERS is "The original series is about being 16. This series is about being 18." “The Nights of Wine and Roses” sounds a hell of a lot like how life felt for me at 18. 

The whole playlist is a mixture of things which all evoke a certain sense of youth. Some of it is hyper-modern. Some of it is prehistorically old. Some of it is heartbreaking and some of it makes my heart beat faster and faster until it explodes. YOUNG AVENGERS, y'know?

A quick bunch of random selections from the list: “212” by Azealia Banks, “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, “I Love It” by Icona Pop, “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince, “I Wish I Was Someone Better” by Blood Red Shoes, “The Night” by School of Seven Bells, “Young Hearts Run Free” by Candi Staton, “I Feel It All” by Feist, the “Breakaway” cover by the Detroit Cover, “Born On The Floor” by the Make-Up, “Born To Run” by Bruce and “Absolute Beginners” by Bowie. It's currently standing at 51 tracks. 

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