I suspect this will be a longish one. Spoilers, obv.
After killing Wilson with the last issue, this may have been us subconsciously trying to make it up to him.
I asked for Jamie to just do the moment post-kiss to imply the kiss, which he totally pulled off. That said, for clarity’s sake, we ended up lobbing in a LOC CAP to set the context. That it suits the books idiom makes it fine, but I do like that we needed.
Sign I’ve been at Marvel for a long time: making the last panel on the page be a name-check of a character rather than a WHAT!??!
More generally, about Prodigy being Bi?
I’ve talked about team dynamics and the choices in putting together a group. Basically, one of the first thoughts I had when looking at the Young Avengers was “this team needs more dudes who like dudes”.
Diversity is a big area. What the conversation has been centred around recently is diversity of characters in a book – born of the idea that it is a better pop culture that shows as many different sorts of people mirrored it. People tend to argue the “it’s good to see myself reflected in a book” – which is important, clearly – but it’s also important in terms of letting people empathise with people who are not like them. A more diverse pop-culture is a good thing. I still sigh over the reviews of Generation Hope that were “who am I meant to empathise with? All the best characters are girls”. I don’t want to live in that world.
However, the part I was thinking about was the question of diverse stories. Seeing a gay character in a book is one thing, but if there’s only one gay character on the team, you don’t get to do any stories based around active pursuit of their sexuality. You have two characters? Your romance is limited to do they do it or do they not? Add at least one, and the matrix becomes more complicated. There’s a different sort of dramatic potential there, from the classic love triangle to something a little more subtle and everything in between.
(It’s a result of a desire to try and make a more diverse generally team that you don’t get to do that. You end up adding supporting characters, who are by definition supporting characters. In a team book, that’s them being a supporting-supporting characters. It’s the same reason why – to pick up on an interesting conversation I saw around last issue – that we tend to get a lot of mix-raced couples in superhero comics: it’s just because it’s really rare to have two characters of any ethnicity other than “white” on the same team, and lead characters getting busy with lead characters is just more narratively compelling.)
In other words, because a book that has a gay couple in it is so rare, one of the more interesting directions would be to pursue would be to lean further into that and add another dude-who-likes-dudes and see what complexities it creates.
The problem with this is that it proportionally reduces the number of women in the team, for the simple reason that if you add a dude-who-likes-dudes you’re by definition not adding a woman. YA’s construct is basically three “couples” – Loki/MA, Marvel-boy/Kate and Billy/Teddy. Prodigy plugs into the matrix of possibility of the latter, etc, etc. I mean, it’s more complicated than that, but that’s the thinking I was having back in issue 1. I basically chose diversity of stories possible over pure diversity of cast members. In a cold, hard math way, the occasional entirely understandable wish of “team needs more women” almost certainly translates to “team needs less gay” in terms of what I’d have to do.
Why Prodigy? Why Bi? Oh, I’ll do that later.
We chewed over what to do here a fair bit, and while the Therapist part doesn’t come in until the end, we figured this would be fun.
The title is a play on the phrase “make-up”. Make-up is akin to made-up, which is Teddy’s big fear.
At this point I discover the word “Crapping” gets past marvel’s word filter. Expect a lot more crap in Young Avengers. But you were expecting that already, amirite, etc.
Jamie does a mean Leah.
I repeat, Jamie does a mean Leah.
“Avenger” is such a strange word. It’s always obsessed me, and I’m bringing it to the fore here. I suspect this all reads a lot differently when people get to the end of the issue.
The whole sequence is INTRODUCE LEAH AND WHY SHE MATTERS. This rests upon a lot on JIM, so I cut it right to the core.
(SPOILERS FOR JIM FOLLOW IN THIS BRACKETED SECTION: The “twist” involving Leah’s identity is irrelevant here, so isn’t touched on – neither of the Lokis ever realised it, for example. Hell, Leah didn’t realise it either.)
But I touch to get the emotional core of it. The reader knows Loki isn’t the Loki everyone thinks he is, so the meaning of the words twists. Yes, he would have been terribly bad for her.
Sulkling came to me as I wrote it, and I couldn’t work out why I hadn’t written it previously.
I think I had the idea to make Prodigy Bi all the way back when I was writing Generation Hope.
Mutants are a metaphor for many things, but one core facet of it is puberty. This is about changing when you are a teenager into something you always were going to become, but didn’t really realise. It’s traumatic, distressing but will begat the new you, etc. Everything is a metaphor.
Through that filter, Prodigy’s powers struck me as a good metaphor for a sexual awakening brought on by experience of the world. Because while some people do know their identities from the earliest ages, that’s not the only narrative. For some people, it takes a lot more figuring out, which means living, which means being around other people, etc.
Why use the powers at all? Because the book’s whole point of being is using the superpower metaphor to explore all those teen issues. We do not do any direct 1:1 social realism whatsoever. That we’ve spent 8 issues doing what we do would make doing anything other than this completely out of the book’s aesthetic.
However, I did know that a straight literal realist reading of the book could go for an entirely not-what-Prodigy-means “his powers turned him gay” reading if they wanted to (especially if they already hated the book). Knowing that people who weren’t reading the book would pick up on this meant that I knew I had to make it doubly-explicit, hence the last two panels which don’t really leave much room for good-faith argument. His powers didn’t turn him gay. He is his powers. You may as well say “his gayness made him gay”.
Why Bi? Not enough Bi guys in fiction, for one. But mainly, as its the sexuality suggested by the metaphor of his powers.
(Writer Secret: If you were building a MAXIMUM ROMANCE PLOT engine, you’d make the whole cast Bi.)
With all that, I did kinda wince when I saw that the three panels of his confession were tumblred without the next two. I knew what some people would say, and I was right. It’s an odd one – that we get accused of playing to tumblr a lot, but there’s so much of the book that actively distorts without a larger context, y’know?
Great face expression in the Game of Thrones reference on Panel 3.
David is totally more of a smooth talker than you’d think.
Another alternate New York here. We were working on some kind of trad-Elf approach, I believe.
A nice shouting match here too.
Kate being the sensible one and remembering the other team-mate in panel 5 makes me smile. Oh, Kate.
I’ve mentioned that the tentacles-as-extension-of-panel was Jamie’s idea, yeah? It was!
We had to move the crash in the background in the last panel from the left to the right, as the orginal subtle “you may not notice this” approach we were going for just didn’t transition people to the rest of the team jumping in on the next panel.
Yes, I typoed the wrong parents name and Editorial didn’t catch it. I’m terrible with names. When I used to live in shared accommodation I was known to go through everyone else in the houses’ name before I hit the right one. Sorry!
This was all marvel style, with the dialogue mostly lobbed in afterwards. What dialogue that was in the script was pretty heavily butchered.
Marvel Boy covering the rear on what’s chasing them. I suspect if I had more room, I’d have done some cuts on the way, etc.
Mother’s expression in the last panel makes me smile. Uh-huh??!
I’d love to cut and paste the panel description for this, as it was a big list of random ideas for alt-versions, of which we only used about half. It’s certainly a page that rewards paying attention to, in terms of who they all are. My personal faves are the Mephisto Teddy, the Kate Kang, the genomonster Teddy, the David Kohl from Phonogram Loki and the Nazi Scarred-face Kate.
(I’ve seen various people say how much they like the grey-uniform Kate. Er… guys! Look at the cut of the clothes! PROBLEMATIC.)
We had a bunch of ideas for this page, but this captures an extreme use of Mother’s reality warping well. Like Spider-man, if reality was his web. We play with Mother-as-Spider quite a bit on the quiet.
“Dirty Little Children” was a late addition, which I kinda like.
Nice Miss America there in panel 2, Jamie.
Page is divided into multiple page units here, which is almost puzzle-like work from McK.
Fourth panel lampshades that Noh-Varr hasn’t said anything in this issue.
The three panels with Kate/Mother are a particularly lovely choice by McK. Just this little moment of paranoia, in this larger conflict…
…and then she’s literally dragged off the page.
We loc capped this in case anyone didn’t remember where they started this particular journey.
Hmm. I think this is my least fave page in the issue. There’s a bunch of stuff I’d have rewritten in terms of presentation, but the core is there.
Prodigy underlines the point – Patriot’s taken them on a tour of the universe apparently just to fuck with them.
Yes, this isn’t the first time the team have realised that there’s no easy or immediate solution to the current problem. The problems haven’t gone away.
The tendency to twist a character’s best attributes into things to be insecure about seems like another theme to me.
And a noodle scene! The “superheroing then go get food” is the superheroing as clubbing metaphor, obv.
This is stressing that Patriot is a separate problem to Mother, at least in terms of what they’ve seen.
In passing? My favourite thing about this whole page is how much fo a mess the team are. Billy’s face being a mess, the bruises on Kate, etc. We may not be a realist-model superhero book, but we certainly ground it with a physicality.
I originally had a line on panel 5, but when I saw Jamie’s Miss America glare, I knew I didn’t need it.
Hmm. Don’t think I need to add more to this.
When initially reading this in proof, I had a moment of “oh crap – why did you do that?” as I thought that Billy saying everything that they’ve just been discussing was crappy exposition. And then I actually just read it and remembered what McK and I were doing – as in, the point was that Teddy wasn’t paying attention in the meeting, because he was thinking about the conversation he’s about to have.
Billy looking happy is great. Clearly, that can’t last.
A “break-up” scene. I played with how to take it a few ways. Obviously, in terms of what happens in the issue, space is at the premium. But I realised that, in a real way, there is little to actually “say” in the conversation. Teddy confesses his fears – as described earlier in the issue – and why he thinks that they need to be apart. Billy reacts, and shows his character.
In other words, I just step back and let Jamie show it. It becomes more a diary entry, or a lyrical mode. I was thinking of bits of the old Streets song Dry Your Eyes, with its moment-by-moment retelling of a break-up. The bits that cut through you weren’t necessarily the dialogue there, but the observation of small movements and the narration. The sense of time standing still there, and the incredibly awfulness of it all. The fragments of how someone looked, etc.
I mean, I think of my break-ups, and I don’t remember what was said… but I certainly remember a key phrase that sticks with me. There’s a little of that in panel 3 here.
I’m proud of Billy here. This is real maturity going on. He sees that there’s a problem and does what’s moral. Because he doesn’t want Teddy to feel like this and if that is what’s happening, it clearly can’t go on. It’s best if they’re apart to work out how they really feel.
Doesn’t make it any easier.
Black page, lettering. Callback to the final arc of Journey Into Mystery, which – for those who were there – should immediately set certain alarm bells ringing. For those who weren’t, a black page is ominous enough.
The mention of the Therapist a few issues back was fairly quiet. But…
File the first two panels this next to the last two panels on the page about Prodigy’s Bisexuality. I needed to 100% stress the exact nature of how and why the two are apart.
Panel 3 is perfect framing by Jamie. Slightly off centre with all that space just makes him feel small and isolated.
Uh-oh. What’s this?
And it’s Young-Adult Leah, who appears to have grown up to be my dream goth-girlfriend circa 1992. I honestly didn’t ask for it.
(I’ll talk a little more about Leah’s fashion sense next issue when you’ve seen the rest of her outfit. It was Jamie looking at fashion blogs and finding the perfect look for her. I also like that she keeps her bone-head-piece. This is normal attire in the MU for Therapists.)
There’s a few more JIM-call-backs here – Leah’s final line and the milkshake – but they’re softish nods.
More Leah next issue, amongst others. It’s a little bit of a format-breaker, and bookends the main interdimensional arc that’ll be the body of the second collection. So we start the second collection with issue 6 and end it with 10. That kind of structure.