Meet The Team: Loki
Oh Heaven, I wake with good intentions.
But the day it always lasts too long.
Loki is tricky.
To state the obvious.
Will you recognise me, in the flashing lights?
I try to keep my heart clean, but I can’t get it right.
Young Avengers follows a thirty-odd issue series I wrote for Marvel called Journey Into Mystery, which starred a reincarnated Loki. It was pretty successful, and taught me much that I’m trying to bring to bear on Young Avengers.
Despite the fact Loki is in both books, I don’t consider Young Avengers its sequel. I consider it another work in the shared universe that both works are embedded in. Journey Into Mystery left no room for a sequel. Journey Into Mystery was conceived as a novel. Young Avengers is conceived as a series.
Our first “season” of Young Avengers comes to a conclusion that leaves it open for a second season.
There was never hope for a sequel to Journey Into Mystery.
I repeat: write your own happy ending.
Will you recognise me when I’m lying on my back?
Something gone inside me and I can’t get it back.
The ending of Journey Into Mystery is an open secret. Those who want to know will know. But, as I said, it’s a new series not a sequel. There’s no way I’m going to front load an explanation of the complicated knot of everything-in-my-head that was JIM.
It’s written assuming the reader primarily knows what’s on the page.
A new reader will see Loki and see someone who looks a lot like the villain in the third-biggest movie of all time and is famed for manipulating, lying and generally being a charming shit. They will be suspicious about his motivations, and understand why the cast are suspicious.
A reader of Journey Into Mystery will know the truth. They will be suspicious about his motivations, and understand why the cast are suspicious. But even more so. Possibly to screaming THERE IS A SERIAL KILLER IN YOUR HOUSE at the book, or the local equivalent.
Both should be wondering what the hell Loki is really up to, which is exactly how I want it.
Will you recognise me when I’m stealing from the poor?
You’re not going to like me. I’m nothing like before.
There’s various mysteries in Young Avengers, but Loki’s motivations and aims are one of the big ones. What does he want? What does he need? What’s the snake doing in the garden of Eden?
And the truth about what happened to Loki at the end of JIM will eventually explicitly work its way in, which will be a surprise to those who don’t like googling stuff and/or buying my older comics, and still a revelation to those who do. As always, there’s things people don’t know. In time, we’ll tell everyone about Loki’s guilty little secret and what it actually means for the Young Avengers. And Loki. And everyone.
In short: he’s on the team. But is he on the team’s side? We’ll see.
It will be a fun time. No-one will cry. No-one will be upset. No-one will die unmourned and unloved.
Why do people always presume I’m lying?
Will you recognise me when I lose another friend?
Will you learn to leave me or give me one more try again?
Heaven by Emeli Sande was on JIM’s soundtrack and it’s the only one which moves onto Young Avengers. It believe it was added when I realised I’d be doing Young Avengers, and picking up there what I did with Loki and running with it to its next destination. It’s one of the tracks which came loaded with meaning and has only accumulated more as I’ve obsessed over it for hundreds of time. Of all the tracks on the playlist, it’s the one which sums up the heart of its character most precisely.
Oh Heaven, I wake with good intentions.
But the day it always lasts too long.
Then I’m gone.
Bleeding Cool picked this up from an interview with Joe Bennett where he talks about the work he’s been doing for Marvel post his DC-exclusive ending. It includes a panel of our story from A+X, which is Mister Sinister and Kid Loki.
And here it is.
The whole thing is agreeably gothic. He’s done great stuff.
Meet The Team: Wiccan
I was going to write about Billy last. He’s the character who puts our story in motion. He’s arguably the most popular character in Young Avengers, if only discerned by rough measuring tools like “amount of fanart”. It made sense, as I suspected talking about Billy would be closest to me showing more of my hand than I’d like and I’d want that moment to be as close to release as possible, to minimise the time people get a chance to reverse engineer what I’m up to. There’s already been a lot of Young Avengers preview stuff out there, and we’re getting close to me just getting you all on Skype and telling you the story one to one.
But then I realised than half the things I want to say about Teddy needed me to talk about Billy first.
So Billy goes first.
Which makes some kind of sense. In many ways, in Young Avengers, Billy Goes First is a recurring motif.
Even to the point where it confused me a little. When writing the first draft of this piece, I argued that Billy was always the lead character (in fact, the viewpoint character) and only became more so as the series progressed.
That’s nonsense. That’s just not true.
Young Avengers circa Sidekicks was a true group cast. I couldn’t select a lead from them. The original members are all kept at arms length for the first issue. The viewpoint character is Jessica Jones for the first part. If I was forced to pick a lead for the arc, I’d have to select select Iron Lad.
But as we move onwards, it is more Billy.
As we finish the conclusion of Children’s Crusade, we leave primarily with Billy’s response to how bad it got, his long and understandable depression. He’s the book’s Frodo. Yes, there’s lots of other people in there, but he’s the emotionally complicated, internally conflicted lead who carries an enormous weight which he can’t really do anything about. He’s the lead. He’s so much of the lead that it even warped my recollections of Sidekicks a little to move him forward from the group.
But Billy’s a reality warper. You have to expect that.
We join the book after he’s recovered from his depression – however he’s still haunted by exactly how bad it went bad last time. He thinks any return to heroing is a terrible idea, and responds vehemently at the very hint of it. There’s the sense people have been avoiding the topic with him. I’d understand that. If he has a negative trait, I’d say it’s a tendency to be self-involved. Married to Teddy’s tendency for stoic self-sacrifice, I’d say that’s the least perfect part of their pretty damn perfect relationship.
There’s a beat in Ennis/Dillon’s Preacher I love, and I’ll badly paraphrase. Tulip’s best friend Amy is watching Jesse and Tulip disappear into the snow. “I wish I was them.” she muses to herself, “I wish I was either one of them.” I suspect many of Billy and Teddy’s friends have had a moment like that for themselves.
His “parentage” is tricky. Frankly, I have little interest in explicitly delving into the depths of continuity. It’s not really my style. My style is a nod to show people who know it all know that I’m not ignoring it, and then treat it in the cleanest and most accessible way I’m able. It’s what I did with the even-more-complicated Magik over in the Uncanny X-men X-men, and it’s what I’m doing here. As far as the readers need be concerned for our story, the Scarlet Witch is his other mom.
He’s as much of a powerhouse as Wanda too. Maybe moreso. He’s a powerhouse a little afraid of his own talents and potential.
I can understand that.
And as our story starts, he makes a mistake, for the very best of intentions.
And now we see whether he learns from it or not.
In Young Avengers, we have explicitly stated we’re doing little to pastiche the decades of history before us. You won’t see us doing a parody of the cover of the first issue of the Fantastic Four, for example. But the flip of that is trying to do something that speaks to the core values that resonate throughout the structure, imagine how a Marvel Universe may feel if it was created wholesale on January 23rd 2013. The relationship between Power and Responsibility is one of the core motifs of the Marvel Universe.
And for that reason, I suspect that Billy will still be considered our de facto lead.
I think that’s the strangest thing about my Young Avengers – that was the one thing I didn’t try to escape, even as I’ve changed so much other stuff. Part of me thinks is that because he became so core to Young Avengers that I couldn’t think of a worthwhile route to follow that didn’t run with that. The other part of me – the part of that hopes is correct – is that he just works a little too well for our metaphor.
He remains a dirty great geek. Just a geek who has learned how hair-gel works. Part of me wanted to say something like Wiccan is probably the Young Avenger I’m closest too. I’m not sure it’s true, though I recognise a bunch of the churning insecurities.
But I’ll give you this: he’s the one member of the Young Avengers cast who is most like McKelvie.
On Continuity: A Writing-For-Spandex Essay
An email from an X-Men Legacy reader yesterday got my brain bubbling with thoughts I didn’t even know I’d been harbouring. What emerged was an essay about the philosophies of writing characters and stories against a backdrop of past writers’ work, in-canon continuity and knotted narrative histories. Hopefully of interest to some.
Behold the eternal tension when writing spandex comics: how to respectfully service all those years of tangled (and sometimes less-than-sensible) continuity, while still presenting something new and relevant?
My feeling is that it’s the writer’s job to be bold with this stuff. To strike out in new directions and evolve their characters. Hopefully he or she can do that in a way which never flatly contradicts the backmatter, but it’s a great shame – not to mention dramatic storydeath – when writers feel their Primary Role is to service, explain, reinforce or otherwise obsess over what’s gone before. To do so is essentially to build oneself a narrative cage by sanctifying every tiny minutiae of a character’s past. Many of which, let’s be honest, are questionable, contradictory, out-of-date, out of character or downright fuckwitted.
Ultimately we’re all required – writers and readers alike – to be philosophical about how fictions evolve. Some of the dodgy shit from a character’s past can – no, must – be gently and quietly ignored, and we’re all trusted not to kick up too much of a fuss about that. If that’s not plausible – say, because the Dodgy Shit forms some of the character’s most important foundation material – then there’s Option 2: revisit it in bold and aggressive fashion so its meanings or truths can be shunted to better “fit” with the present-day vibe. That’s fine, I have no problem with that, as long as it’s not the singular point of telling a new story. My feeling is that as long as the meat of a narrative is concerned with That Which Is New – current-ness, change, innovation, ideas – then everyone’s perfectly capable of accepting whatever backmatter the plot’s required to raise, and needn’t fixate on that which is omitted.
Hell: it’s been my observation that readers of Big-2 comics have a fucking genius-level capacity for subconsciously smoothing-out the kinks they perceive in stories. Read reviews of any of the big mega-crossover events and you’ll find endless examples of readers who can pick out the bits they didn’t enjoy – this episode treated that character in a disingenuous way; that writer bridged this narrative-gap in a fashion that made no sense – and yet who loved the event overall. It’s a spectacular and oh-so-very-human thing: the ability to selectively gloss-over that which doesn’t fit with the broader picture.
Ultimately it’s a contract - unique to the longform soap-opera that is spandex comics - between story and consumer: if you want to enjoy this, buddy, you’re going to have to be flexible on the detail. We all end up making jokes about it, even – oops, that old bit of stupidness from the ’80s got retconned out, ho ho ho. It’s completely instinctive, I think, so people don’t even realise how insanely, elaborately sophisticated the whole process is.
Hilariously, I think the subconscious manifesto a writer adopts when approaching this stuff has an in-built hypocrisy he or she is fundamentally obliged to ignore. Basically: you have to regard past writers’ work with respect rather than blind obedience… but you have to approach your own work with the assumption it will instantly enter inviolable CANON LAW, and be adhered-to eternally. In other words: “All recorded information is malleable, except those bits of it I created.”
Which is possibly the most perfect example I’ve ever seen of how a writer’s brain works.