From its bold and frenetic action to its unique brand of humor (including the Tumblr recap page), Young Avengers is unlike anything else at Marvel Comics. It stands apart from the rest of the Avengers line as a more conceptual adventure focused on characters, rather than sprawling interstellar wars. As the book prepares to conclude its first “season” of stories, Comicosity sat down with writer Kieron Gillen at New York Comic Con to discuss the mysteries of love, Loki and America Chavez.
Alison Berry: “I’m going to be the best boyfriend in every reality.” That’s a line you gave to Billy [aka Wiccan] in issue 1 of Young Avengers. It seems to seed a lot of what’s been going on with him.
Kieron Gillen: It’s almost as if I plan stuff. It’s very sneaky.
AB: (Laughs) Almost! With the stuff going on between Billy and Teddy [Hulkling], and the whole “demiurge” thing, can Billy trust himself?
KG: That’s the question. Can any of us trust ourselves? Young Avengers is metaphor piled upon metaphor piled upon metaphor. It’s a dense massive surface. So I really wouldn’t want to talk too much in detail. But the thing about Billy, and what I quite like about the breakup as I wrote it, Billy’s an emotional guy. You maybe thought he might hit the roof or whatever, but no, he gets it. It’s scary. And he doesn’t want that. He wants what’s best for Teddy as well. Billy definitely loves him. And that he was mature enough to accept this, that for me was a sign of real growth. Does that answer the question? I’m not commenting through issue 15, but this is definitely one of the themes. What is responsible, what can you personally do, and how do you process your feelings.
AB: Can the Young Avengers trust Billy?
KG: Probably more than Loki (laughs).
AB: Speaking of Loki, I was a big fan of your Journey into Mystery run. Loki was a wonderful, tragic character, and he’s also become the most fun character in this book. How much of the development that Loki has undergone in Young Avengers is stuff that you had been planning to do after JiM, and how much have you invented for YA?
KG: Well, Journey into Mystery was written as a novel. Beginning, middle, end. At the final image, that was it, that was all I had to say about that story. I planned it early on; I could have written most of JiM’s final issue at the same time I wrote the first issue. There were some bits and details in between, but I knew the final image, the boy covered in blood and feathers. In fact the only major difference was that he was wearing the hat in my initial draft, but about halfway through I realized no way, that huge hat is gonna look goofy, an enormous hat on this tiny child. However, I was planning the ending way before. Around issue 20 in JiM I ended up being asked about Young Avengers, so I ended up getting to write a sequel. I never planned what I was going to do to Loki after JiM, because I was focused on telling that story. Then I probed my brain about where I wanted to take him next. I kind of had some ideas about where people might take him. Of course, people who have been following the announcements [Loki: Agent of Asgard has been announced as a new title in the All-New Marvel Now for 2014, by Al Ewing and Lee Garbett] might be aware of some of the directions we’re going to take him. I knew the book they’ve announced would be happening before I started Young Avengers. That’s part of the plan. It’s less about the connection between JiM and Young Avengers, and more about the connection between Young Avengers and what comes next, the book by Al Ewing.
AB: Jamie McKelvie’s art –
KG: (Joking) It’s very stiff. He’s very annoying. I hate him. (laughs)
AB: (Laughs) It’s so singular, so expressive. It plays a huge role in the storytelling itself. Have you adapted your writing to accommodate his style, or are you writing this for him?
KG: The thing is, you write everything for him. Well, not everything, that would be awful. Nothing but Hawk-Girls and punk hair-cuts. Yes, the thing is me and Jamie have history. We broke into comics together with Phonogram. We’ve been doing this together a long time, we’re sort of friends, we talk back and forth every day. So, with Young Avengers, I write – they’re like letters to Jamie, my scripts. When we do one of the big showcases, it’s like here’s what we’re gonna do, here’s the basic story concept. We could do it like this, or like that – we generate a load of ideas. Then Jamie comes back and maybe he does one, and then I riff on his idea, and we come up with what we’re doing. It’s very fluid and only really works because me and Jamie are friends. We know each other really well, and we can be very free and expressive.
KG: It is. A me and Jamie comic is very much a me and Jamie comic. Our work together is sort of singular. I wanted for Young Avengers to make Jamie a superstar. That’s why some of it is as visual as it is. It’s his first ongoing book for Marvel, really. We did Avengers but only for a few issues. I wanted everyone to pay attention to Jamie, he’s doing really interesting things in comic storytelling. I always sort of joke that people who don’t like Young Avengers – I’m aware of what some of those people say – “The art is carrying the book” – yes, exactly as I planned! What did you think I was trying to do? That’s how we work. I have some input into the art, idea-wise, but Jamie gets the credit – rightfully – for that. I wanted to make Jamie a star and I am. We save each other.
AB: Miss America.
KG: Miss America Chavez to you!
AB: Excuse me! Miss America Chavez – were you expecting the outpouring of love and the fandom that has sprung up around her? I have seen 20 Miss America cosplayers at NYCC alone. When do we get to learn more about her?
KG: Maybe by issue 15. The thing is, because I tend to plan my stuff quite well, when you arrive at the end of my story and you reread it, you tend to see how different things are formed. I’m very much that kind of structural writer. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna say something about Miss America by the end. I’m surprised less people have worked out what her deal is. And I haven’t really seen anyone who’s got it all. A couple people have got some parts of it, but the whole thing is….it’s fun. It’s a cool part of her, that she’s mysterious. Who else in the group, at least in the first reading, is a hero figure your age? [*I’d like to take a moment to thank Kieron Gillen for thinking I’m that young.-AB] She’s much more competent than most of the group, she’s been doing this since she was six, that’s sort of implied. She’s really useful that way, being the idea that somebody your age can be, without wanting to be someone else. She’s very much her own woman. You know Hawkeye, Kate, is incredibly competent, but she still calls herself Hawkeye. Miss America is herself in a very personified way. I think Jamie is probably the preeminent costume designer of the last three years. Captain Marvel alone would have given him a shot at that. But Miss America is pretty close to that. He’s very good at choosing and mixing the style and glamour and practicality, in a way which frankly isn’t exploitative. In the case of Miss Chavez, the idea was less a costume and more a style. She’s got a wardrobe – she likes blue, she likes black, she likes stars and red. So she changes her outfit every arc. I kind like the idea of someone – when we get to issue 15 we get a look at an outfit that’s a bit America Chavez-y, like something she could wear.
KG: Um, hello! (laughs) It’s amazing, especially now because of the con, I feel like I’m more aware of how big things are now. Obviously the first trade of Uber dropped (from Avatar Press), the first hardback collection I mean. Three came out, my Image book, and that sold out – we sold out at the con – we’re going to a second printing. That’s an historical fiction book about the Spartans and their slaves, not exactly “pop”. I’m – creators are generally whiners, you know you get them in a pub and they start – but I can’t believe how phenomenally lucky I am. I’m astounded I get to do what I do. I am grateful.
AB: Well thank you so much for sitting down with us!
KG: No, thank you.
You can read Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery from Marvel Comics in collected editions (issues 622-645). His current Marvel books include Young Avengers with Jamie McKelvie and Iron Man, both out monthly. In addition, Gillen writes Uber for Avatar Press and Three, a new miniseries for Image Comics (with art by Ryan Kelly and Jordie Bellaire).
Many thanks to Karen Dorula for assisting with this interview.