Avengers Arena is already one of the most discussed and controversial Marvel NOW! launch titles, with the hook — Arcade forcing Marvel teen heroes to fight to the death — attracting a wide variety of debate and responses.
It’s also the subject of the latest “Next Big Thing” conference call with the comic book press, set to start at around 3 p.m. eastern, with series writer Dennis Hopeless and more on the line. We’re covering it live, and this page will be continuously updated — so keep hitting refresh. For new art and covers from the series, click here.
“Fifteen of your favorite Marvel teen heroes, and Darkhawk, who has been made very clear to me is not a teenager, wake up on an island, and are told, ‘Only one of you will come out of this alive,’” Hopeless says, detailing the series premise.
Hopeless says it’s been an “interesting challenge” to establish Arcade as a serious villain, not a goofy one as he’s often been depicted as in the past. “After the first arc, we have an Arcade-centric issue that kind of explains how he went from the last time we saw him, to where he is now.”
The writer says he got to “cherry pick” his cast, so the existing characters are all ones that he really likes; he mentions he was a fan of Avengers Academy. “I absolutely love writing [Hazmat],” Hopeless says. “I love all of them, otherwise they wouldn’t be there.” Hopeless adds that it was fun to create the new characters from the Braddock Academy.
Hopeless says that series artist Kev Walker has drawn a map of the new Murderworld. “He’s change his methods a little bit,” Hopeless says of Arcade, stating that it’s more about pitting the characters against each other rather than giant pinball machines.
First press question, from CBR: How is this an ongoing series, if eventually nearly all of the main characters will be dead? Hopeless replies that it’s primarily an ongoing series to have the space to make it believable that these characters — all heroes — could turn on each other, and show what they’re going through. “It’s a long game,” Hopeless says. “Once we get to a place where the game changes, or we move away from that core concept, the book will become something else. But this Murderworld thing is a long story, and that’s why it’s an ongoing.”
Next question, from IGN: Will readers see the “outside” of the situation, or the Avengers trying to save the teen heroes? Eventually, but not right away, Hopeless says. “That will become a story element — that people are looking for them. Why can’t they find them? We’ll get there.”
Next question, from iFanboy: What can Hopeless say about new character Deathlocket? “She is basically a 14-year-old Deathlok,” the writer responds. “She is one of my favorites of the new characters that I got to create. Giving you a sweet, 14-year-old Deathlok was really fun.”
Next question, from The Beat: What tone is Hopeless going for? Is it more satirical like Battle Royale, or played straight like The Hunger Games? Hopeless says it’s somewhere in between. “At least Arcade can appreciate the ways this is satirical and amusing, so from his perspective we sometimes get that, but it’s definitely a serious character study within an exaggerated concept.”
Next question, from us: To whatever degree Hopeless has seen the response from fans upset with the concept, what has his reaction been? “I see all of it, because I’m a crazy person, and I look for it,” Hopeless says. “I appreciate the passion people have for the characters. It’s hard to know that one of your favorite characters may be pulled off the shelf, or killed. At the same time, death is a major emotional part of life. Having lost my father at a similar age as these characters are, that’s one of the most powerful things that a person can go through,” so the writer doesn’t agree that death is a cheap storytelling tactic. “Also, I’m really proud of the book. None of the people who are responding to the concept or the marketing have read the book, so I don’t take it too personally.”
Next question, from Marvel.com: Were there any characters that Hopeless wanted to use, but decided against because he didn’t want to put them through the dark rigors of the book? Hopeless says there were some characters that he wanted to use that were in ongoing series like Wolverine and the X-Men, but it was easier to take on characters not currently in books. He did consider bringing in Molly from Runaways, but decided that having a character that young in the book would be problematic.
Next question, from Word Balloon: How is Hopeless differentiating Avengers Arena so it’s not seen as a Battle Royale or Hunger Games knock-off? A lot has to do with the individual unique circumstances of teenage superheroes involved, Hopeless says, plus the P.O.V. shifts in his series. “To me, it’s as influenced by The Running Man as anything else,” the writer says.
Going back around, next question from CBR: How many homage covers are planned? At least through issue #5 (seen above), paying tribute to A Clockwork Orange. Marvel’s James Viscardi says they’ll keep it going until they run out of good ideas.
Next question, from iFanboy: Since the power sets are varied, is it an even playing field? Hopeless says that no one “buys in” immediately to Arcade’s plot, which is why readers shouldn’t necessarily expect domination from characters like Darkhawk — who has cosmic-level powers, and should theoretically be able to kill everyone except the very hard to kill X-23. Viscardi says the series will show that some characters have surprising advantages in match-ups, like X-23 vs. Hazmat.
Next question, from The Beat: How has Walker’s designs affected the book? “Kev’s amazing,” Hopeless says, praising their collaboration and what the artist has brought to the series.
Next question, from us: Since Darkhawk isn’t a teenager, what motivated Hopeless to include him in the series? Hopeless says he was a big fan of the Annihilation stories, which Darkhawk was very involved with, and that he likes the character’s perspective as being a former teen hero trapped in Murderworld. “He’s the adult, he’s the mature one, he’s the one that’s most confident that he can get out of this before anyone gets hurt.”
Next question, from Marvel.com: Most of the characters in Arena have an element of darkness in them, is that intentional given the set-up? “We chose characters that you can believe that they were pushed to different limits,” Hopeless says, stating that someone like Steve Rogers wouldn’t be believable.
Last question is from Viscardi — who’s the “blonde haired jerk” of the book, as seen in similar types of fiction? Hopeless says it’s “definitely Kid Britain.”
Avengers Arena debuts with two issues in December. Thanks for reading, another one of these tomorrow!