Ryan North might be best known as the author of the hilariously funny webs series Dinosaur Comics. Upcoming, he will be handling one of the spotlight stories in ORIGINAL SINS, the anthology series tying into this summer’s major event.
He chatted with us about his plans for the Young Avengers as part of this paradigm-shattering crisis.
Marvel.com: Original Sin is centered on a big mystery whodunit, so obviously you can’t tell us too much about what your arc will entail, but what hints can you drop at this point?
Ryan North: I can't say much yet, actually! But I can say [the Young Avengers are] going up against the Hood, who has discovered part of this whodunit and is trying to make a pretty huge profit on it. And there's a personal reason for the YA to be involved.
Marvel.com: You’re coming onto this book after the wildly popular reinvigoration of YOUNG AVENGERS by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. How much are you trying to follow up what they did directly vs. putting your own new spin on things?
Ryan North: What helps me, I think, is that it's not the same thing. Kieron and Jamie were telling these longer stories in seasons, while this is just a short story. And those are two pretty different beasts! I didn't have room to include the entire team all the time, so most of the story focuses on Hulkling, Prodigy and Marvel Boy. The other Young Avengers show up in different ways, but this is a story about them.
Kieron and Jamie have both been super-supportive too, which has been awesome! They've given me some great advice on the Young Avengers—and on life in general?
Marvel.com: What made you decide to use a subset of the team instead of the full roster?
Ryan North: Space constraints, really! This story is just part of the book each month, so I don't have a full comic-length to play in. What that means is you've got to pare the story down to its core, and that includes the characters. Not to say that Teddy and Noh and David are the core of the Young Avengers! But they're the core of this story, and I thought it'd be fun to see a story where these three characters are working together on something without the vast talents of the [team] as a whole to back them up.
Marvel.com: Was it your idea to use the Hood as the main villain for this arc? I often saw the Hood as someone immature given way too much power without having to earn it; how do you think that plays with actually immature heroes who are trying to earn the power that they already have?
Ryan North: Actually, that was my editor, Wil [Moss’], idea! But it was a good one: that's probably why they pay him the big bucks. Hood's big line is "with great power comes great opportunity" which tells you a lot about the kind of person he is. But, I mean, that doesn't mean he's a super villain. There [are] tons of people in the real world who absolutely live their lives according to "with great power comes great opportunity" and while they're not generally people I'd like to have as friends, most of them aren't trying to rob Fort Knox or poison the world's water supply. They're usually just these really powerful CEOs trying to make life way easier for themselves and the people they love.
It's greedy and unethical, but there's a human being wrapped around that core. I think that's an interesting thing in the Hood: he's not the greatest guy in the world, and then he gets all this power, and he continues not to be the greatest guy in the world. Throw that up against the Young Avengers, who, as you say, have this power and are, in some sense, trying to earn respect, and that can be really interesting.
Marvel.com: Is it hard to write convincing teenagers?
Ryan North: Nope! I mean, it's no harder than writing a convincing anyone, I think. As a former teen, I can tell you it's a lot like being an adult, except you're less sure who you are, everything is more important, and you're having crazy new experiences all the time. Not that much different from being a super hero, I imagine.
Marvel.com: Ramon Villalobos is handling art duties for these issues. His art is much more textured and gritty compared to McKelvie’s super-clean lines. How does that play into the overall portrayal of these characters and the story you’re telling?
Ryan North: Ramon's style is super awesome: I love how realistic everything looks. I think that'll be a lot of fun in a comic about super-powered teens, to have these pages that make you think "Okay, yeah, I can see this happening." I'm really excited to see each new page as it comes in!
But I've never before changed my writing to fit an artist's style. I can see the benefits in doing it—this artist loves drawing hands, so I'm gonna write a lot of complicated hands into this story; okay that was a terrible example, no artist likes drawing hands—but it also seems limiting, you know? You start not doing things because you're writing for what you think an artist is good at. And man, I bet artists like being challenged as much as anyone else does.
So that's my justification for not thinking about the artist when writing a comic! It's also my justification for not thinking about the artist when I write "In this panel, 400 different people all in different hats are watching the action," except for the brief thought of "wow that sentence took 10 seconds to write and it's going to take 10 hours to draw; I totally have the easy job."
Marvel.com: We don’t see a lot of writers make the jump from webcomics to comic books. You’ve already had some impressive and deserved success with your indie work, how does it feel to get the chance to write for Marvel?
Ryan North: Oh it's great! I'm following in Chris Hastings' footsteps, who writes The Adventures of Dr. McNinja but has also written FEAR ITSELF: DEADPOOL and LONGSHOT SAVES THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, both of which were hilarious.
It's sort of like writing Adventure Time comics, where I get to play in someone else's sandbox and have fun with all the awesome toys they've got there. The difference with Marvel is the universe has way more comics being written about it, so there's a larger continuity to keep track of. And that's fun! You can tie in things going on in other comics into your comic, and make it feel like it's part of this real-life thing happening just a few cities away.
Marvel.com: “Just who the hell do you think you are?” and “What gives you the right?” are things probably being said about you on Tumblr these days. Are you at all nervous about working with such fan favorite characters?
Ryan North: I love Tumblr, I really do. Both those sentences come out of the same place: "I love these characters, and I really care about these characters, and I don't want anyone to ruin my friends." And that's awesome! That's a great place to be starting with when you're writing a comic, because you've got an audience that cares. Now all you have to do is not mess it up!
When the Adventure Time comic launched, there were no Adventure Time comics, so the response was "Oh cool a comic, this is going to be great!" and there, all I had to do was not suck. People wanted it to be good, but they didn't have any expectations about what an Adventure Time comic would look like.
The advantage with Young Avengers is that Kieron and Jamie have already done the hard work, in that they've followed a previous, super-successful YA run and done something new with it that was also super-successful. They've proven that there's different ways to look at the Young Avengers, different ways of telling their story. So it's not too dissimilar from where I was with Adventure Time: people know that Young Avengers comics can take these different forms and styles, so now all I have to do is not suck.
Marvel.com: And since we’re talking about Tumblr, if you were going to cosplay a Young Avenger, who would it be and why?
Ryan North: I think Kate looks really cool. I'd like to see if I could look as cool as Kate. Is there a male Kate cosplayer? "Mate Bishop" maybe? I'd go as Mate Bishop.
Marvel.com: Finally, I have to know, are you a fan of the classic Marvel character Devil Dinosaur?
Ryan North: I have actually read zero Devil Dinosaur comics, but am of course intimately familiar with them, thanks to my every-five-minutes Twitter search for anything involving "Dinosaur Comics."
ORIGINAL SINS, featuring the Young Avengers by Ryan North and Ramon Villalobos, kicks off in July