In Marvel’s recently announced ongoing series Champions, six young heroes are looking to change the world by redeeming the concept of super heroes following a divisive conflict. From writer Mark Waid and artist Humberto Ramos, Champions stars Ms. Marvel, Nova, the Miles Morales Spider-Man, the Totally Awesome Hulk, a teenaged Cyclops and Viv Vision as a new team focused on the future. If their motivation for revolution sounds familiar, maybe it’s because this series looks like Marvel’s attempt to examine the burning desire for change and anti-establishment solutions currently dominating the political landscape in this election cycle.
Champions is launching in the fallout after “Civil War II,” the event which features a conflict that splinters the hero community, with one group led by Tony Stark’s Iron Man, another by Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel. To hear Waid tell it, following that war, the public might be disillusioned by these established heroes, their in-fighting, and their solutions to problems.
As Waid stated in an interview with Marvel.com, “All I can tell you is that—to their [the Champions] mind—the reputation of super heroes has taken a very public beating and they’re very intent in proving to the world that super heroes still have value and still have relevance.”
A recent Marvel press release focusing on the launch of Champions stated, “The next generation of heroes are fed up! It’s time for a change. It’s time for a brighter tomorrow. Enter…the CHAMPIONS! Six determined young heroes out to change the world…It doesn’t take a Tony Stark or Captain America to make a difference. All it takes is six young heroes and you can change the world. A new day is dawning – and these six are just getting started!”
Reading that, combined with Waid’s comments, indicate an approach that might evoke a political season that has been framed as outsider vs. insider, establishment vs. revolution. Marvel might be hoping that taking young characters and casting them in the role of change agents will resonate with the clearly more vocal public dissatisfied with the status quo that have given rise to the national careers of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Using the events of “Civil War II” as a springboard to craft a a young team and provide them with a clear mission statement may seem like Marvel’s cynically jumping on a hot button issue, but it’s also just as legitimate for art and entertainment to reflect the concerns of the times, and this anti-establishment climate is certainly of the moment. Hiring a writer as popular and respected as Waid and pairing him with an artist as high-profile as Ramos proves that Marvel is putting care and effort into the series. And putting Ms. Marvel, one of the publisher’s most successful new characters in recent times front and center alongside Miles Morales, another signature young Marvel hero, certainly cements both character’s statuses as A-list properties.
It’s a completely believable impulse that, after witnessing the failings of the older generation, these characters could respond in the same way many people have during this election cycle after what they feel have been years of back-biting, obstructionism and pocket-lining. With super-heroes standing in for politicians, Waid and Ramos could mine a lot from examining a team of young people committed to restoring the faith of the public by focusing on integrity. If Marvel is going to have a book that focuses on a team of teenaged heroes looking to differentiate themselves from a generation they feel has failed them, then using the same rhetoric and emotions that permeated the campaign of, say, Bernie Sanders is a timely and effective way to make this book more than just a version of New Warriors.
Whether or not this approach will resonate and make the book a success won’t be decided until the series launches on October 5th, but with the talent involved, and this strong concept behind the idea, it’s more than possible that Champions could become more than just another team book.