One of the best books consistently has been Christos Gage’s Avengers Academy. He has taken a group of new characters that he created, and has made it one of my can’t miss reads. If you aren’t reading this book get on it, immediately not sooner. I had the chance to sit down and chat with him recently, and here is what transpired. (Note: This interview contains spoilers so if you haven’t read these issues yet, NUFF SAID!)
CV NICK: I love Avengers Academy, it has been one of the most consistently well done books at Marvel for the past year, and I’ve really enjoyed the plots and the growth of the students and teachers at the Academy. With the events of Fear Itself ending, and the new team members and staff joining the team, what can you tell us about what you have planned?
GAGE: Thanks so much! #21 was intended to be a good jumping on point for new readers, as the team moved out to the West Coast and added new members. As you’ve seen in recent issues, we have a lot of intrigue going on with the death of Jocasta, and some hidden threats at the Academy, such as future Reptil possessing his younger body, as well as the monster called Hybrid – an old Rom villain I’ve always loved. Following that, in #27, we see the Runaways show up for a meeting fans have been requesting for a long, long time. And beginning with #29, we jump feet-first into the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover! It’s a great time to jump on board!
CV NICK: With the death of Jocasta at the end of AA21, it is implied with the reveal of Reptil being possessed by his future self? that he maybe has something to do with her death? That maybe in the future some of his team members go “bad”? Intriguing as well that the page is labeled as “Somewhere in Time”.
GAGE: There are indeed a lot of questions being raised by those pages. Some have been answered in #23 – for instance, that is indeed Reptil’s future self inhabiting his younger body. As for his involvement with Jocasta, stay tuned…I promise answers are coming soon! And “bad” is relative depending on your perspective. Our story is, in large part, about how far a man is willing to go to protect those he loves, even at the expense of others.
CV NICK: What can we expect the new students to bring to the team? Who is your favorite of the new students to write?
GAGE: I hope they’ll bring unique personalities that evoke interesting emotions in our existing characters. Another thing they’ll bring is ties to the overall Marvel Universe that have been absent so far since all our characters were rookies: Lightspeed has years of experience as a hero, X-23 has been active for a long time and indeed, in many ways, lived out the fear these kids have of going bad (though it wasn’t really her fault), and White Tiger is carrying on the legacy of her brother Hector, so she is the Academy’s first legacy character. I can’t really say I have a favorite…I like them all. I am developing fondness for Julie Power, since she’s the only one of them I actually read when I was a kid myself.
CV NICK: What about the addition of Hawkeye to the staff? Besides his tumultuous past, what can we expect him to bring and how will it affect Hank and the other instructors?
GAGE: Hawkeye knows what it’s like to have a troubled childhood and be tempted down the wrong path. He also knows what it’s like to be redeemed and become a true hero. He feels like it’s his karmic duty to give these kids the opportunity he had. Of course, Hawkeye’s never been the type of guy to run his plans past others, so Hank and the other teaches might find that problematic!
CV NICK: Recently, online rumors have lead to certain Comic News sites suggesting that Avengers Academy potentially being on the chopping block, and you took to Twitter to vehemently deny and defend the book to the naysayers. What can you tell us about that, and how does having something like social media help or hinder you to get the news out about your book, and other projects?
GAGE: Well, the numbers speak for themselves. AVENGERS ACADEMY is not a huge seller as Marvel titles go, but what’s been positive is that it’s still profitable and our numbers have held very steady for quite a long time now. There are books that have been around for years selling consistently at this level…two that come to mind are X-FACTOR and THUNDERBOLTS. So AVENGERS ACADEMY is making money for Marvel and as long as it holds its numbers it will continue to stick around. The danger is that, when your sales are at this level, losing just a few hundred or a couple thousand orders – in essence, only one less copy at every comic shop in America – can push you into the danger zone. And rumors of a book being canceled can most definitely get readers to drop that book, because they feel it no longer “matters,” or they don’t want to continue to be invested in a storyline that might end prematurely. I’ve spoken to many, many retailers about this phenomenon, and they say they see it all the time – perception becoming reality when rumors of a book being canceled start to spread, readers drop it, and sales go down to the point where it does indeed get canceled. So I wanted to strongly and vocally make it clear that we are fine, as long as sales hold up at their current level. If you like the book, keep buying it. Pre-order if you don’t already. Tell your friends to check it out. I just heard that issue #21 is sold out at Diamond, and #22 might have been as well, I don’t recall…which is great, because it means readers are interested and retailers are re-ordering. We’ve had many wonderful retailers supporting us and recommending the book to their customers. So I just wanted to be proactive about getting the word out and hopefully preventing the rumor from going too far. As for social media, I love being able to communicate directly to readers and retailers. It can be a double-edged sword, in that it allows rumors to spread quickly as well, but that’s the world we live in. I definitely prefer it to not being able to communicate with the buying public at all, or in a delayed fashion.
CV NICK: With AA being in the news lately, it has also leaked that Striker will be revealed as a gay character, how long has this been planned, and how did you decide to make such a culturally significant decision?
GAGE: It’s been planned as far back as issue #5. If you look back at that issue there are hints, such as the flashback scene where Striker is surrounded by female groupies provided by Norman Osborn and he has no interest in them whatsoever. What made me want to go in this direction is that, while we have come a long way in having positive depictions of gay youth in popular culture, we have seen fewer examples of kids who are struggling with their sexual identity, and I wanted to explore that. I think there are still a lot of gay youths, especially in more rural areas where they might not personally know any out gay people, who feel conflicted and isolated, and I wanted to say, hey, you’re not alone in this.
CV NICK: How can we expect to see AA used in this summers big Avengers event, which rumor has it they are to feature prominently?
GAGE: You will definitely see Avengers Academy tie in to Avengers Vs. X-Men. Probably in such a way that the kids will come up against X-Men kids. I think it’ll be interesting to see how the kids on both sides react to this conflict that essentially their elders got them into.
CV NICK: Are there any future plans or projects you can let us know about?
GAGE: I’m taking over X-MEN: LEGACY with issue #260.1, which is out very soon! I also write ANGEL & FAITH monthly for Dark Horse, and I have a secret miniseries in the works from Marvel. My original graphic novel SUNSET comes out in the spring from Top Cow, and my wife Ruth and I are working on an original graphic novel for Oni called THE LION OF RORA, which is the true story of her ancestors, a historical epic in the vein of BRAVEHEART.
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