Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Allan Heinberg

The writer gives us a peek behind the curtain of AVENGERS: CHILDREN'S CRUSADE



By Kevin Mahadeo

Writer Allan Heinberg brings the magic in more ways than one this July when he reteams with artist Jim Cheung to launch the eight-issue bi-monthly series AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE, which not only returns Heinberg to the Marvel Universe and the Young Avengers, but also heralds the return of the reality-warping Scarlet Witch.

The Young Avengers first appeared in an eponymously titled limited series written by Heinberg and drawn by Cheung. The series centered on a group of young, super-powered Avengers fans looking to reform the team after the events of "Avengers: Disassembled." Both the title and team gained massive popularity and critical acclaim.

Although Heinberg originally departed after the original 12-issue run of YOUNG AVENGERS, the youngsters played major roles in Civil War, Secret

AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE #1 preview art by Jim Cheung
Invasion and Dark Reign. CHILDREN'S CRUSADE centers on the Young Avengers' search for the long-missing Scarlet Witch in hopes of exploring her connection to twin team members Wiccan and Speed. However, the mentally unstable, insanely powerful mutant sorceress disappeared after the HOUSE OF M limited series, in which she seemingly permanently decimated the mutant race.

Needless to say, while the upcoming story plays out from the point of the view of the Young Avengers, with the Scarlet Witch returning, countless heroes and villains from across the Marvel Universe will play a role.

Heinberg took some time away from casting his spell onto the printed page to talk about the CHILDREN'S CRUSADE, the thin, blurry line between hero and villain, and what the future holds for him and his Young Avengers.


Marvel.com: Before we get into the nitty gritty of the CHILDREN'S CRUSADE, I wanted to take a look back at the past. Anyone familiar with your work in television knows you love comics. What about this medium and this form of storytelling appeals to you both as a writer and as a fan?

Allan Heinberg: There are absolutely no limits in comic book storytelling, which makes it a very different medium from TV and film. I also love the collaborative aspect of making comics. Working closely with Jim Cheung, inker Mark Morales and colorist Justin Ponsor-and with editor Tom Brevoort and associate editor Lauren Sankovitch-continues to be the chief pleasure of writing AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE.

Marvel.com: When you first launched YOUNG AVENGERS, did you have any idea how big it would have gotten? Are you still kind of shocked at the popularity this new team gained?

Allan Heinberg: I was astonished that anyone read YOUNG AVENGERS in the first place and I continue to be humbled and grateful that readers still care about these characters. 

AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE #1 preview art by Jim Cheung
Marvel.com: Following YOUNG AVENGERS, we saw hints and teases that ultimately you might lead to this moment with Wiccan and Speed meeting The Scarlet Witch. Did you always have this story in mind? Obviously it must have changed a bit over the course of the years, but is this story year pretty similar to the one you set out wanting to tell?

Allan Heinberg: The search for The Scarlet Witch was a story Jim and I wanted to tell from the very beginning. YOUNG AVENGERS was about the kids' search for identity, and Wiccan's desire to find out whether he and Speed actually are the sons of The Scarlet Witch made the story an essential one for us. In the years since YOUNG AVENGERS, the story we originally discussed changed because the Marvel Universe itself changed. When we first conceived the search for The Scarlet Witch, House of M hadn't even happened yet. Wanda's role in that story suddenly made the stakes much higher in ours. What started as a Young Avengers story quickly became a Marvel Universe story involving a huge cast of Avengers and mutants.

Marvel.com: What's it like bringing back Wanda Maximoff after so long? This character has been missing for years and you're the one bringing her back in. Any pressure?

Allan Heinberg: I have an enormous amount of respect and affection for The Scarlet Witch. I got to write her briefly for our YOUNG AVENGERS SPECIAL and have been eager to spend more time with her ever since. She's a remarkably complicated character with a dense, rich history-and her return to the Marvel Universe poses a number of challenging moral and ethical questions that need answering-but it's clear to me why the character has had such remarkable longevity and why she's so beloved by so many.  

Marvel.com: You mentioned House of M, but most people in the Marvel Universe have no idea about what happened in that event. Does this series kind of let the cat out of the bag, so to speak? How are the kids going to react to this?

AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE #1 preview art by Jim Cheung
Allan Heinberg: AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE definitely provides a number of twists and revelations on the subject of House of M that inevitably make things even more complicated for the Young Avengers, the Avengers and the X-Men.

Marvel.com: What are your thoughts on those events? As much the characters of the Marvel Universe are upset at Wanda over what happened, in a way I personally feel bad for her as she was a victim as much as anyone else.

Allan Heinberg: I think [in House of M] Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel-and David Finch in "Avengers: Disassembled-did an extraordinary job making Wanda a sympathetic and ultimately tragic figure in the Marvel Universe. What Wanda did was unconscionable, but it was all emotionally grounded, completely relatable and absolutely devastating. If Wanda had simply been cast as a clear-cut villain, the story would not have had the enormous emotional resonance that it did.

Marvel.com: Of course we can't talk about Wanda without talking about the other two members of her immediate family: Magneto and Quicksilver. Starting with Magneto, what's his position in all of this? Sure he's been a good guy lately, but I mean, even in this regard, does the desire to find his daughter make him a bad guy?

Allan Heinberg: Part of the challenge of working on AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE is that this story has no clear-cut good guys or bad guys. The Young Avengers start out thinking they know who the good guys are, but their desire to rehabilitate The Scarlet Witch makes them bad guys in the eyes of the Avengers. The same is true with regard to Magneto and the X-Men. But if Magneto's desire to find Wanda earnestly stems from his concern for his daughter, isn't he a good guy? Or is he a bad guy for attempting to control what is arguably the most powerful force in the Marvel Universe? So all bets are off when it comes to Wanda Maximoff. She could come back as a creative force or as a destructive

AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE #1 preview art by Jim Cheung
force, and the outcome of her choice-if indeed it is her choice-will have far-reaching implications for the Avengers, the X-Men and the Young Avengers.

Marvel.com: The same sort of applies to Quicksilver. He just wanted to save the life of his sister, which was a sort of reasonable justification for his actions. What are your thoughts on the character of Quicksilver and his actions?

Allan Heinberg: I love that Magneto and his family are such flawed, morally complicated characters. They represent mankind at its best and most noble and at its most intolerant and iconoclastic. They've been called heroes, they've been called villains and they know that those labels are ridiculous. The truth is far more complicated and compelling that that.

Marvel.com: From the get go, it looks as though this series is involving a lot of characters from all over the Marvel Universe. But at the same time, this is still the story of the Young Avengers. What's it like for these kids to be caught up in all this? To be surrounded by so many heroes, but at the same time, see the tough choices you have to sometimes make as one?

Allan Heinberg: That's what the Young Avengers are trying to figure out. In the course of the story, they will be forced to make choices that will affect the entire Marvel Universe, and they will have to do that without any formal training or life experience. AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE is a true coming of age story in that, by the end of it, the kids won't have any innocence left to lose.

AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE #1 preview art by Jim Cheung
Marvel.com: To close out, you've mentioned that you're approaching this series as your final say on the Young Avengers, but you do leave open the possibility of one day returning to them. What's it been like creating these characters and seeing them go off on the their into the Marvel Universe? Is it sort of like a parental thing? You helped raise them, but by the end of this, they'll be older and ready to move out and take on the world?

Allan Heinberg: I did start this project thinking AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE might be my last Young Avengers story, but the more time I spend with these characters, the more of their stories I want to tell. I don't know when or how that will happen, but I love these characters, and I'd love to keep writing them for a very long time.


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