They’re not Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. They’re not even the West Coast Avengers. At one point, they received a cease-and-desist order to prevent them from using the Avengers name. But their tenacity could not be stopped and their inherent silliness endeared them to readers all around the world. And that is precisely why Marvel is announcing today, exclusively on Nerdist, that they are bringing back the Great Lakes Avengers in an all-new monthly ongoing comic book series.
The new ongoing series will be penned by Zac Gorman (Rick and Morty, Magical Game Time) and will be illustrated by Will Robson (Star-Lord). For those of you who aren’t necessarily steeped in comic book lore, let me assure you that no, you are not having a stroke. Marvel Comics is really reviving one of the zaniest superhero teams in its storied history. Created by John Byrne, the Great Lakes Avengers first appeared in the pages of another spin-off of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the aforementioned 1989’s West Coast Avengers #46. As it turned out, the Great Lakes Avengers were a group of likeminded, well-intentioned costumed vigilantes from the Great Lakes area who just so happened to be using the Avengers name.
Over the years, they’ve been something of a tongue-in-cheek, winking joke of a superhero team. This version will be no different, bringing four of the original members — Mr. Immortal, Flatman, Big Bertha, and Doorman — into the limelight for what I’m fairy certain is their first-ever ongoing series. The GLA has made countless cameo appearances and starred in their own 2005 mini-series, but this may well be the first time they’ve headlined their own book, which is exciting for fans of goofy, oddball, character-driven comedy.
Great Lakes Avengers #1 cover by Will Robson
Here’s the official solicit text
GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #1
Written by ZAC GORMAN
Penciled by WILL ROBSON
Cover by WILL ROBSON
Variant cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
“All New, All Different?” No, thank you! New things are bad and different things are scary! Instead, why not join everybody’s least favorite Super Hero team, The Great Lakes Avengers in their brand new—but not too brand new—ongoing series, Same Old, Same Old, Great Lakes Avengers! When the team gets reinstated as permanent members of the Avengers and uprooted to Detroit, the GLA has one more shot at Super Hero glory…but can they answer the call? Do they even have 4G coverage here? Find out!”
In advance of the announcement, I caught up with Zac Gorman and editor Tom Brevoort to pick their brains about the latest iteration of the Great Lakes Avengers, why now is the right time for the team to make its triumphant return, and much more.
Let’s begin with the obvious question: why is now the right time to revive the Great Lakes Avengers?
“Now is the time for Great Lakes Avengers to return, one, because I simply want to do it,” Brevoort joked. “They need to give me perks to keep doing the comics that people like and that sell really well,” he added with a laugh.
“I had been working on a different Marvel project that ending up falling through, so I went to talk to Tom about it,” Gorman explained. “This is my first Marvel book, my first superhero book. I’ve always loved the C-list characters, the obscure characters, and the comedy stuff. So, when I heard ‘Great Lakes Avengers,’ I immediately kind of latched on to that and thought it’d be a great book for me. But the Great Lakes region is where I’ve spent the majority of my life. I’ve lived in Detroit area and Chicago and the west side of Michigan and all around the Great Lakes, so it kind of seemed like a perfect fit right off the bat for me. So I just hit the ground running and started coming up with ideas for how I could make the series fresh again
“This is what you call good editing,” Brevoort added winkingly. “Good, insightful editing. I was able to subtly realize those things ahead of time and go, ‘Zac Gorman, he’s the guy to write Great Lakes Avengers.’ Not just because he wrote some fun Rick and Morty stories that I liked! I instinctively knew he was a native of the Great Lakes region and had this love of C-list characters! With that keen insight, I was able to pick him out of the pack.”
Great Lakes Avengers #1 variant cover by Mike Allred
“On top of that, we live in a world now in our publishing where books that range from Deadpool to Squirrel Girl have all found an audience, and I feel like Great Lakes Avengers as a concept is somewhere on the bell curve between Deadpool and Squirrel Girl. So it felt like this would be a thing where, because the Avengers are so well known from the films, a more general audience can get the joke of [GLA] than they would ten years ago. It seems like this sort of thing might be able to find some traction in a way it couldn’t have before.”
Placing Great Lakes Avengers in the company of heroes with cult followings like Deadpool and Squirrel Girl may seem ridiculous to some, but both were, in fact, members of the team in the past. This version of the team will contain four of the classic members — Mr. Immortal, Flatman, Big Bertha, and Doorman — as well as a few new faces that we’ll meet as the book goes on, according to Brevoort.
“They also have, as seen on our advance cover, a life-size cardboard Squirrel Girl stand-up because whenever there’s a photo op, if you have Squirrel Girl in the shot, she’s very popular, so it’ll get picked up and people will pay attention to it,” Brevoort explained. “So they’ve got that in case anybody is paying attention to them. That way they can set it up and still seem like they’re Squirrel Girl’s buddies.”
“Technically she’s too nice to really frame it that way, but clearly she’s gone on to bigger and better things!”
But with no Squirrel Girl or Deadpool on the team, who is poised to be the book’s breakout star?
“I did an interview with Marvel.com, and I’ve been talking it up, but I think that Doorman is going to be the breakout star,” Gorman confessed. “He’s kind of got a smaller part in the series, but his moments land pretty well. He’s got an interesting story, with some of the stuff built into his backstory in regards to his relationship with these cosmic forces. There’s a lot of potential when you have a guy who is a complete screw-up, who is very self-involved and doesn’t take his job seriously, but is also kind of responsible for the fate of the universe. He’s kind of my favorite, but I’ve been having fun with Flatman also because he has a lot of range that hasn’t really been explored in the past.”
Many people may be willing to write off the Great Lakes Avengers as something of a joke, but they have been a part of some truly massive Marvel events, including Civil War, Fear Itself, and Secret Invasion. With an inherent irreverence to the team but a sense of urgency and epicness to the world they inhabit, Gorman and Brevoort are striving to create a book that is both funny, but feels grounded in the real world.
“To me, comedy is where they thrive,” Gorman explained. “One of the things I think we’ve done with this book is grounding the wackiness of [the team.] If you take this team that started out as an absurd, fourth-wall-breaking parody of a superhero team and ground them in a real world scenario, that’s where a lot of the comedy comes from — especially what I like about the team, and the tension that arises from it. It’s definitely a comedy, through and through, but it is definitely more grounded than past standalone Great Lakes Avengers books.”
While the Avengers are based out of New York City, the Great Lakes Avengers, as their name would imply, are based out of Detroit, Michigan. But apart from economic hardship and an overwhelming amount of Juggalos, what sort of challenges will the team be facing?
“You do get a lot of that real-world element of Detroit in the book,” Gorman said. “I’m a Detroiter myself, growing up in the Detroit area and I’m pretty familiar with it first-hand. I think taking some of those real-world issues that seem like they’d be way too grounded for the Great Lakes Avengers — and they are — like gentrification and underfunded city services, and pairing them with the absurdity of a team like Great Lakes Avengers generates a lot of comedy of the book.
“It’s definitely a Detroit book,” Gorman continued. “There’s a lot of Detroit in it, in a way that I think is a relatively accurate depiction of the city. And not just in the RoboCop 1987 version of Detroit.”
There will also be some Easter eggs sprinkled in for Detroit residents to appreciate on a deeper level too, Gorman confirms. “Some of the new characters have Detroit roots and connections to Detroit things,” Gorman explained. “I’m definitely all for working to sneak that stuff in. I was born and raised in the area, so it’s always a part of me.”
Considering the GLA’s relatively short lifespan, they have managed to accrue an impressive cult following. But what is it exactly about Earth’s Okayest Heroes that resonates with readers?
“I think that it’s very easy to relate and connect with a bunch of characters who really, really want to be superheroes and really, really want to do good, and be a part of this superhero experience, but who are just kind of not wonderful at it,” Brevoort said. “They’re kind of the closest, in their way, to what we, the audience, would be like if you gave us superpowers and a costume. Characters like the Great Lakes Avengers, they’re the Bad Luck Bears of superhero teams. They’ve got plenty of heart, but they’re not all that wonderful at being able to do the gig. And yet the fact that they have such heart is part of their appeal. They’re all kind of weird and offbeat and factory second superheroes in a way. They’ve got powers that kinda sound good, but aren’t all that useful, and they’re just kinda weird. I find that very appealing somehow. They’re much more like the people in my immediate circles than most of the actual superheroes we publish comics about.”
“Yeah, they’re inept, but what I think is so endearing about their characters is that they all try really hard, and they’ve got really good hearts, and I think that’s important,” Gorman said. “That’s what makes them likable. They really try.”
As for what’s really going to happen in the Great Lakes Avengers ongoing series, you’ll just have to wait and see. Marvel will likely reveal even more about Great Lakes Avengers at San Diego Comic-Con, which kicks off on July 22.
What do you think of this new iteration of the team? What do you want from a Great Lakes Avengers comic? Let us know in the comments below.
Image: Marvel Comics
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