The life of a teenaged superhero is never easy, but it’s about to get a lot harder for the young vigilantes of the Marvel Universe. March’s Outlawed one-shot introduces a new status quo that has the government cracking down on superheroes under the age of 21, and these events will have repercussions across the publisher’s entire line. Written by Eve L. Ewing with art by Kim Jacinto, colorist Espen Grundetjern, and letterer Clayton Cowles, Outlawed sees the country rocked by a tragedy involving the Champions that compels politicians to take drastic actions. The set-up is reminiscent of 2006’s Civil War, which similarly began with a tragedy surrounding a young superhero team leading to federal restrictions on superheroes.
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“Civil War was meant to be (among other things) about curtailing personal liberties in the name of safety,” says Outlawed editor Alanna Smith. “Outlawed is tapping into different social anxieties. There’s been a lot of debate lately about the role of the youth in our society—whether they should partake in activism, how much their voices should be valued, whether they’re old and learned enough to have a say in their future, and what responsibility the older generations have to keep them safe. When you boil it down, Outlawed is about the conflict that arises when widespread decisions that affect an entire generation are made by people outside that generation, while ignoring the input of people who will have to live with those decisions. In this case, there are real, heartfelt concerns on both sides of the conflict that make it that much more complicated for our heroes to overcome. It’s not a problem they can punch.”
“To me, this story isn’t just about young people being in conflict with the government, but much bigger questions about what we ask of young people, how they’re expected to be independent sometimes and subservient other times,” says Ewing. “Every era of history brings new challenges, and young people today are coming of age in the era of mass shootings, the era of the climate crisis—things that in some ways are unprecedented in history. Yet we often don’t recognize their wisdom and their insights. It’s like we get above a certain age and lose all empathy. I just wanted to explore that tension, and them being superheroes really ups the stakes because they’re literally out there saving lives every day, but aren’t seen as full people or full citizens. And, at the same time, maybe the law is a good idea? Maybe it really is for everyone’s protection? It’s intentionally kind of morally ambiguous.”
“Eve is really skilled at getting into the psyche of our younger characters without pulling punches,” says Smith. “Her run on Ironheart had a really dark undercurrent of coping with loss and self-doubt that elevated it beyond what I think people expected. Outlawed needed someone who could write about kids dealing with a world that’s turned against them and make it feel visceral and real and urgent. She brought that intensity, and she’s also incredible at capturing the charm and personality that has made these characters so beloved in recent years.”
“I feel really grateful that the editorial team saw how much I enjoy writing adolescent characters and decided to give me this opportunity,” says Ewing. “I used to teach middle school, and as a teenager myself I was really angsty and dramatic but also, I think, had a lot of genuine emotional and intellectual perspectives, as all young people do. So I’ve tried to bring those experiences to bear in the way I wrote Ironheart, and the way I wrote Spider-Man and the Unstoppable Wasp when they paid a visit to the Ironheart world, and with Marvel Team-Up I got to really explore questions about what it means to be an adolescent because in that story, not only was I writing Ms. Marvel, but Kamala and Peter Parker actually switched bodies. So Peter had to remember what it was like to be a teenager. In a sense, I’ve kind of been in his shoes, putting myself in the head of a 15- or 16-year-old and trying to make sense of what it’s like in there, with real respect and care. So I’m excited to keep flexing that muscle.”
“When we first started talking about this story I was really excited about it from a character perspective, because I love the Champions, I love what Mark Waid and Jim Zub and Grek Pak and Jeremy Whitley and Saladin Ahmed have done with these characters individually and as a team,” says Ewing. “And I was also really excited about it from a sociological perspective, because I think the story presents some big questions about young people and politics and society and citizenship and government control and surveillance and what we think of as safety. All of that. But I did not anticipate that the powers that be would want to make this into a more far-reaching story that will really ripple across the MU. So I’m very humbled by that and definitely working up my nerves to just try to tell a good story that’s worthy of all that.”
This exclusive first look at Outlawed #1 highlights the complicated ethical dynamics at the core of this story, showing the perspectives of both adult and teen heroes. Jacinto’s dramatic body language and Grundetjern’s bold color palette charges these talking heads with emotion and urgency, and the final page of this excerpt highlights how well they capture heroes in action. “Kim’s style has evolved in really dynamic and exciting ways in the past few years,” says Smith. “I wanted someone who could draw intense, visceral action and also someone who would make our younger characters look like total badasses, and Kim delivered on all fronts. He’s got flair, and this is a book that needed flair. We’ve also got Espen Grundetjern killing it on colors, and longtime Champions mainstay Clayton Cowles on lettering, so you’re going to want to feast your eyes on these pages!”
Jacinto’s artwork has gone through some significant shifts over the years, and he has a talent for adjusting his style to match the tone of his projects. “I’m trying a different approach on this book,” says Jacinto. “My taste typically leans towards a dark and gritty style so I changed it a bit and I’m experimenting on this book. Since most of the characters are young superheroes, I wanted to give the characters more energy and dynamic poses. This book made me explore new ideas and go out my comfort zone and that excites me the most. Eve is very easy and fun to work with and straightforward. She will tell you if something is off and that makes it easy.”
“We’re bringing the next generation of heroes to the forefront in a major way and swinging for the fences in terms of story, stakes and scale,” says Smith. “Outlawed introduces an ongoing status quo that will be reflected in books across the line—almost every active character who’s under 21 (and even a few who are older) will be affected by the decisions made in Outlawed, and they won’t all agree on whether the new world order is good or bad. But there are real, serious consequences now for those who go against the ruling passed down in Outlawed, and it’ll interfere with their lives in a way they’ve never experienced, leading to some really interesting stories.”