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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.