Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie at the Edinburgh International Book Festival


Young Avengers is one of the most innovative superhero books being published by the big two. Along with Hawkeye it’s slowly redefining what the modern capes and spandex comic is. I’ve been a fan of the creative team, Keiron Gillen (words) and Jamie McKelvie (pictures) since reading the first volume of their Image series Phonogram. Gillen has steadily become a mainstay A-list writer for Marvel, with runs on Uncanny X-Men, Thor and now Iron Man, with his critically acclaimed tumblr-baiting Fear Itself spin-off Journey Into Mystery being one of the best things to come out of the event. McKelvie has done some back-up stories for Fractions Iron Man and did a few issues of his Defenders run but has yet to have a Marvel book that had his iconic stamp on it. So when it was announced they’d be launching a new Young Avengers series, I knew I’d be there, and I almost certainly knew I’d love it.

The best couple in comics

Flash forward 9 months from reading the first issue and I’m at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, patiently waiting in the Scottish Power Hall waiting on my two favourite creators taking the stage, about to give a talk as part of the Stripped series of comicbook related events. The room was packed, not sold out but damn close, and notably with a 50/50 split between male and female attendees. Unsurprising, really, when you consider that every girl I’ve loaned Phonogram vol.2: The Singles Club to has fallen in love with the book. After a brief introduction the two creators start by running through the cold open of Young Avengers issue 1 with Gillen reading out his script and accompanying notes. It gave a great insight into the creative process between the two. Clearly they have a tight working relationship, with the script notes being more of a back-and-forth dialogue.
We've all been there
Moving on to an interview conducted by the host, Graeme Virtue, Gillen and McKelvie discussed being asked to do the book. A major talking point was the first scene of issue one, in which Kate Bishop is experiencing the morning after her first one-night-stand. The idea was that if Marvel weren’t ok with them showing this and having Kate showing no remorse over the fact, then they wouldn’t be doing the book at all. It was designed to show that they wouldn’t be shying away from the realities of being in your late teens.
After the brief interview we were treated to another in-depth analysis of the creative process behind the book, with a stage-by-stage guide to the creation of the amazing double page spread in issue 4, wherein Noh-Varr proceeds to execute a room full of possessed baddies. Throughout the series McKelvie and Gillen have been trying to reinvent the double page spread, coming up with new and inventive ways to use the space, and with each new idea they use it once then never use it again, forcing themselves to create something brand new for the next issue. Another point of innovation that was discussed were the covers, they are purposefully not using any iconic or clichéd types of cover and absolutely NO homages to once again force themselves to make something new and redefine the scope of superhero comics.
A Q&A and followed for the last fifteen minutes of the event. Kudos to the audience for asking insightful questions and averting the standard geeky questions about the minutiae of continuity. Regarding the exclusion of the character Speed, Gillen stated that his place within the group dynamic has been replaced by Miss America and Loki. Having three sociopaths on the team might have been overkill and according to Gillen he was also concerned with the diversity of the team. A fan asked about the origins of Miss America and how difficult it is to design an origin that will pay-off the mystery that practically defines the character at this point, to which Gillen was surprised that no-one had guessed the secret yet. When asked about her costume McKelvie said that Miss America doesn’t have a costume per se, it’s more of a general style of clothing. Anything with stars and stripes on it, really. He has more designs for her attire than he will end up using.

Another member of the audience brought up the disparity in objective quality between the books of the Marvel NOW! initiative and the DC New 52 relaunch. Pausing while he attempted to piece together the most diplomatic answer possible, Gillen eventually said that Marvel understands that the secret of making a good comicbook is getting a good creative team together, who all have a passion for the book their creating, and then stepping back and letting them get on with – implying that this isn’t as prevalent at DC. Finally the host asked what I wanted to know: When is Phonogram 3 hitting the racks? The original plan was for the end of this year but due to McKelvie suffering from a bought of Pneumonia last winter and his endless perfectionism on Young Avengers it will be the end of 2014 by the time we see the story of Emily Aster in print.
Hats off to Stripped for putting on an excellent event and a big thank you to Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie for putting on the event and taking the time to sign all of my YA issues after the event. I look forward to next year!

The writer of this piece was:
Jamie_AvatarDavid McIntyre aka (Big Dave)
You can also find David on Facebook

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