Why Hasn’t There Been An ‘Avengers Academy’ Comic Adaptation Yet? [Kids’ Comics]
Avengers Academy is a hit mobile game where your favorite Marvel Comics characters are inexplicably reimagined as teenagers attending high school, and I am addicted to it. I’m not the only one, as the charming character designs and spot-on characterization of the students has millions of people playing. So why isn’t there an Avengers Academy comic?
It’s hard to describe what you do in Avengers Academy without it sounding completely futile and making me question my own decisions. You start off with a handful of Marvel characters such as Iron Man, Black Widow and Loki, and you send them to do timed missions. After they have completed those missions, you get coins and experience points that go to upgrading your characters and unlocking new classmates.
There’s no gameplay in a traditional sense, but I view it more like Pokemon Go, in that I’m collecting all my favorites. There are regular events that bring in new characters for a limited time, and as someone who started playing in June, I’m mad at myself that I didn’t start earlier and missed Black Panther and The Winter Soldier. (I just unlocked Squirrel Girl and MODOK last week, and I’m over the moon about it.)
So what is it about Avengers Academy that makes it so popular? I’m going to use The Wasp as an example, because that’s a character I never personally cared for before this game. However, in the game, she’s bubbly, excitable and determined. Every interaction with The Wasp is unique and fun, while retaining her own personality and self-confidence.
Elsewhere in the game’s roster, Iron Man is arrogant, Black Widow is distrusting, and Loki gets everyone’s names wrong on purpose. The team at TinyCo, led by head writer Allen Warner, have managed to distill the core character traits into something accessible and recognizable in a game you play for a couple of minutes at a time.
Even characters like The Vision who are vastly changed (he’s a DJ) are a fun, continuity-free breath of fresh air compared to the excellent but grim and continuity heavy Vision ongoing series by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta.
There's also the character designs by David Nakayama, which synthesize iconic costumes with casual and fashionable clothes that a teenager might actually wear. As your hero ranks up, they gain new costumes closer to their classic attire from the comics, but personally always prefer to revert them back to their casual attire, because seeing fully suited heroes walk around the school just looks weird.
Ideally in a comic, the characters would be wearing their standard, un-upgraded attire which fits in better with the overall aesthetic of the game and serves as a context clue to new readers that this is something unlike any of the other comics on the stands. With a youthful outlook and attention to detail when it comes to how the kids are presented, Marvel could have its own answer to the Archie's recent reboot under the likes of Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson.
TinyCo takes which characters to feature in the game very seriously too, and when it came time to introduce Union Jack, the team eschewed the more famous James Falsworth or Joseph Chapman versions for the obscure Brian Falsworth. By introducing Brian, they introduced the game’s first out gay character, and had dialogue specifically establishing him as such. Since then, there have been interactions between Union Jack and Loki that have been very much flirty, and with the game set to introduce a romance element at some point in the future, we may see more from that relationship.
While not immediately obvious to people who don’t play, Avengers Academy actually has a game-long narrative that would translate perfectly to a comics adaptation. A mysterious Timefog has descended on New York, and Nick Fury established the Avengers Academy to train heroes while seeking to understand it. However, there are hints and speculation that Fury isn’t telling the kids everything when Tony Stark discovers an Iron Man helmet he hasn’t designed yet in the Timefog, and Black Widow leads the charge to discover what Fury is hiding.
There’s implications that the Timefog de-aged most of the heroes and they don’t remember ever being adults, while some characters like Fury and Hank Pym are still grown-ups and seem to know more about their students than they should. There’s also the matter of rival schools such as Hydra School and the AIM Institute to deal with, as well as the Cosmic Conservatory, where the Guardians of the Galaxy study, and a host other other threats such as The Black Knight, The Sinister Six and, seemingly soon, The Kingpin.
In the 2000s, Marvel launched the Ultimate line as a gateway for new readers to get to know the characters in a more modern and accessible setting. While I don’t think Avengers Academy would grow to be a line unto itself like the Ultimate comics did, it could provide that entry point for fans who love the Marvel films but find the comics impenetrable.
Marvel may be hesitant because its Contest of Champions comic, while awesome, only lasted ten issues --- but in Avengers Academy the company has a video game property that could potentially rival DC’s Injustice: Gods Among Us for most popular video game adaptation. There’s an audience out there that craves this exact tone in comics --- Marvel’s SVP of sales David Gabriel admitted it last week in an interview --- and an Avengers Academy series could prove to be a huge hit.