Interview: Christos Gage on AVENGERS ACADEMY (Plus a Preview of #7!)

With the sixth issue of Avenger's Academy arriving on shelves this week, I thought it was about time to talk to writer Christos Gage. In addition to our interview–which covers everything from writing for teen characters to raunchy fan favorite moments, and the team's uncertain future–we've also got an advance preview of next month's issue #7, courtesy of artist Mike McKone. As you can see, Hank Pym is back in the role of Giant-Man in a big, big way. 


Paul Montgomery: Avengers Academy is turning out to be a real sleeper hit with our community, and many are calling it one of the best current Avengers titles. For me, a lot of that has to do with its very pure Marvel comics tone, harkening back to the earliest Amazing Spider-Man comics when Pete had to juggle super-heroics with picking up Aunt May's prescriptions. Lots of teen drama. Are there any hard/fast rules on how to balance superhero action with daily drama?

Christos Gage: Thanks, that's great to hear! I don't have any hard and fast rules beyond the one Stan Lee had in mind when he, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and the rest of the Bullpen created the Marvel Universe: write the kind of stories you'd like to read. When my gut tells me we've had enough angst and it's time for a fight, I go with that feeling, and vice versa. Some issues are more character-oriented, while others are more high adventure. It's an instinctual thing.

PM: How about keeping the voice current? How important is maintaining a timely relevance with regard to writing teen characters? Do you read the magazines? Snoop around malls?

CG: Hah…I can just imagine how a swarthy bearded guy following kids around a mall would go over! The tasers would come out in a hurry! No, I don't worry much about keeping the voices and references current…too much of that always feels fake to me, and I think a lot of the things young people go through are universal. When the dialogue calls for a cultural reference, I just use what makes sense to me. Sometimes there are Marvel Universe analogues that can fit the bill. When there aren't…well, one might argue I never really grew up myself, so I do have a working knowledge of TV shows and video games and things like that, even if I no longer care to stay up all night waiting in line for Grateful Dead tickets…uh, I mean Justin Bieber…uh, I mean Dazzler. Yeah, Dazzler!

PM: How much of a trajectory do you have planned for these characters? Do you know where you want them to be a year from now? Five years?

CG: I have a rough idea of where we're going, because that's important, but it's equally important to leave yourself the opportunity to roll with inspiration and also events unfolding in the Marvel universe. One thing I love most about writing these characters is that they constantly surprise me with where they want to go, and I'd hate to think of something cool only to have to reject it because it doesn't fit “the plan.” So yes, I know where we're headed, but the specifics or the timing could always change.

PM: Much of this story is about this specific ensemble and their mutual abuse at the hands of Norman Osborn. But is Avengers Academy the story of this initial class and where their lives are headed, or do you see the book chronicling future class lineups with new students?

CG: If we're lucky enough to have the reader support for a nice long run, I definitely see the possibility of new characters joining the Academy. Like any ensemble show or comic, things should constantly evolve. But for now, it's about these six kids.

PM: You've assembled a great team of original characters. Can you talk a bit about the process of organizing a new superhero team? Is the team we see now consistent with the original lineup you may have jotted down on napkins?

CG: The team you see is pretty much exactly the roster I came up with, except they have evolved considerably, thanks in large part to the amazing designs by their co-creator, Mike McKone. He really breathed life into them. There were a few changes…for instance, Mettle was originally called Fortress until we discovered there was a character by that name at another publisher…but for the most part, the lineup has remained the same, it's the characters themselves that have evolved.

PM: Osborn's a major player in the ensemble's past, and he's even turned up in the recent Thunderbolts crossover. How much of a role does he play in the future for these characters?

CG: Norman will be out of the picture for a while, both because of events in his own upcoming miniseries and because I wanted the kids to forge their own identities without always being in his shadow. But they will always have that tie to him, so who knows what could happen down the line?

PM: Speedball is no longer wearing his own personal iron maiden. But he's still dealing with some masochistic issues. Should we be worried?

CG: Speedball is trying to move beyond the events of Civil War and his Penance identity, but he's finding it's not as simple as changing clothes. Look for this to be addressed in issue #10.

PM: Structurally, each issue so far has shown a spotlight on an individual character from the team. We're up to Reptil this week, right? Once each student's had their 15 minutes, does the cycle come back again with more spotlight issues? Or something else? Really, I just want to say I'm looking forward to any future Finesse issues. She's fantastic.

CG: Thanks! Yes, issue #6 spotlights Reptil. I wanted the readers to get to know these new characters, and giving each of them their own focus issue seemed like a good way. After that, the focus will shift around between the characters, even incorporating the teachers. For instance, #7 sees Hank Pym reclaim his mantle of Giant-Man, and takes a close look at him. And we'll be following up on storylines introduced in the first arc…Finesse fans will particularly enjoy issue #9.

PM: Has Valkyrie been permanently banned from the Academy? Was there any friction getting that scene into the issue? It's maybe the big fan favorite moment of the series to date.

CG: It was several steps naughtier in its original form, but I wrote it expecting it to be toned down. I'm both pleased and amused by how racy it still ended up being, and how everyone who read it and was old enough fully understood what was being implied. And you can't ban Val! Who's gonna tell her she can't come in? I'd love to see her come back.

PM: What's next?

CG: Issue #7 has the aforementioned Giant-Man return and a battle with the Absorbing Man. Issue #8 sees Tigra take the spotlight as the video the Hood shot of himself beating her up hits the internet and all hell breaks loose. Issue #9 brings in a character fans have been clamoring for since issue #1, the guy who may be Finesse's real father…Taskmaster! Issue #10 sees the Speedball storyline develop. And with issue #11, a big time, classic Avengers villain returns…



Avengers Academy #6 is available this week. Issue #7 debuts in December. 


  1. Thanks for this. I love this series. Good to hear there are some long term plans.

  2. I’m enjoying that these characters are hard to read and there’s no telling what they’ll do next.

  3. By far the best Avengers series out there right now.

  4. Thanks for featuring this series on the site!  I’ve been a huge fan of Academy since hearing Christos and Mike and Bill Rosemann discuss it on a panel at Heroes Con, right before it launched.  I love the work that’s being done to balance the ensemble — students and teachers alike.  It’s a compliment to the strength of the writing that I don’t have just one or two favorite characters but am interested in what’s happening with the whole ensemble.  Way to go, and I hope we do see many more issues.

  5. One of the best Marvel books, and the best Avengers title by far.  Thanks for this piece!

  6. One of my favorites and it sounds like it’s getting better!

  7. Big fav here too….really looking forward to the return of Giant-Man!

  8. Thanks for this! Academy is definitely my favorite of the Avengers books, and not just because Hank Pym and Quicksilver are too of my favorite characters. The new additions to the Marvel U have been very interesting so far and I’m eager to learn more about their back stories. I ALMOST didn’t pick this up when the relaunch happened, and that would have been a huge mistake as it’s currently the Avengers book I most look forward to. 

  9. Wow I am incredibly excited for what is coming up. This has been a great series that I thought I would totally dislike

  10. My current favorite among the Avengers books.