By Kiel Phegley
A teenager with a traumatic past and strange powers that can seem a blessing and a curse? Sounds like a Marvel character!
And come March 25, the assembled masses of Marveldom will get to meet Reptil, already and action figure and animation hero, when he makes his comic debut in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE FEATURING REPTIL #1 by writer Christos Gage and artist Steve Uy.
"Reptil is a teenage kid who lives with his grandfather in Nevada," explains Gage. "His parents were archaeologists who vanished on a dig and are presumed dead, although Reptil is convinced they're alive. I don't want to give away his origin here, but his power is that he can transform parts of his body into various dinosaur attributes—an Ankylosaurus' mace-like tail, let's say, or a Pteranodon's wings. He's a smart kid, a good kid, but kind of brash and headstrong, with a healthy dose of recklessness. He registered with the Initiative, as the law requires, but since the Initiative generally doesn't take cadets until
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they turn 18—with a few exceptions like Stature—his only presence there has been on their list of potential future recruits—until Stegron the Dinosaur Man [shows] up with his dinosaur army and [starts] raiding government facilities for some unknown purpose.
"The Initiative's leadership [feel] that Reptil's unique powers might be their only chance of stopping Stegron, so under the guidance of Tigra and existing Initiative characters like Cloud 9, Komodo and Prodigy, he's going to have to go through some accelerated training and leap into action a bit earlier than anyone intended."
Of course, since debuting at conventions as part of the Marvel Super Hero Squad toy lineup and soon to be released animated series, Reptil's status as a fully fledged Marvel Universe player became set in stone before Gage ever put pen to paper. When editors looked for a place to put the Dino-kid, Gage jumped at the chance.
"[Executive Editor] Tom Brevoort approached me with the thought of doing a special that would bring Reptil into the Marvel Universe, and I didn't require much convincing, since Reptil is a guy who can take on dinosaur attributes and I was a major dinosaur nut as a kid," the writer shares. "He's a really fun character, and when I hit on the idea of bringing in Stegron as the antagonist, I knew I'd be in hog heaven with this book!"
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But rather than simply transplant a kid-friendly version out of the animated world and plop him in with the rough and tumble teens of the Initiative, Gage smartly took the time to develop Reptil as a true Marvel mainstay.
"I got some basic character back-story from the animation guys and from Joe Quesada, but I have to say that everyone was really open to letting me give the character a voice and presence that felt right to me. Provided certain core elements were present—i.e. his powers—I had a lot of freedom. The thinking was that the animated version of Reptil and the comics version don't have to be identical, just as, for example, Wolverine in an animated series isn't necessarily going to reflect the current status quo of Wolverine in the comics. So, although I didn't create the character, I got to write him in the way that felt most natural to me, give him a name—Humberto, after current INITIATIVE artist Humberto Ramos, who designed Reptil—and flesh out both his and his grandfather's personality."
And as a professed lover of all things Jurassic, Gage teases that Marvel's most famous Dinosaur duo may also be making an appearance in the pages of AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE FEATURING REPTIL #1.
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"Yes, I am a Devil Dinosaur nut, and if you think I could get through this story without having him show up, well, let's just say Reptil may not be the only red, scaly figure in the issue," promises Gage of the giant red dino and his monkey sidekick Moonboy. "As I mentioned, I was a huge dinosaur fanatic as a kid. While other boys played with plastic army men, I had plastic dinosaur figures, as well as models, books and a giant, red snap-together T-Rex with [a] glow in the dark teeth and claws. I knew so much about dinosaurs that when my kindergarten class got to its dinosaur lesson, the teachers had me teach it. Yes, I was a little brown-noser. I'm not as up on dino minutia these days, but I have an abiding love for the giant lizards, and there's just something about gigantic, rampaging reptilian monsters and guys who are half human and half dinosaur that, to me, embody everything that's great about comics."
As for the future of THE INITIATIVE series in the wake of Dark Reign, Gage notes that the special will serve as a piece of the bigger story, so longtime readers will want to check in.
"Whether Reptil will continue to be a part of the book remains to be seen, but we're certainly following up on threads from the main series. We'll see characters like Prodigy, Komodo and Cloud 9 react to events from the main book, and drop hints
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about where they may be headed in the future. Readers who don't follow THE INITIATIVE monthly will be able to pick up the special and enjoy it on its own, but our regular readers should definitely feel like it's part of the larger storyline."
AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE SPECIAL FEATURING REPTIL #1 introduces the Marvel Universe to it's newest star on March 25. You can read more INITIATIVE on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
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