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SYFY WIRE Interviews

Marvel is rebooting New Warriors with writer Daniel Kibblesmith, who loves skateboarding heroes

By Dana Forsythe

It’s been five years since anyone’s heard from the New Warriors. While the core team of young superheroes — Night Thrasher, Firestar, Silhouette, Rage, Speedball, and Namorita — spent years fighting crime in the '90s, they were all but destroyed when they sparked 2005’s Civil War. Since then they’ve been reassembled, saved the world a few times, and even staved off an invasion from the Celestials. But after five years in limbo, the New Warriors are reuniting with a new purpose in April.

In the wake of Outlawed and the implementation of Kamala's Law across the Marvel Universe this spring — which decrees no one under 21 can be a superhero — Night Thrasher has resurrected his old team with the goal of mentoring a new generation of heroes "whether they like it or not." Now, older and hopefully a little bit wiser, it’s up to the New Warriors to guide a brand-new team of recruits, 30 years after they began fighting for justice themselves.

Thor #411 - (W) Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz (A) Ron Frenz

According to writer Daniel Kibblesmith (Deadpool vs. Carnage, Loki, and TV's The Late Show With Stephen Colbert), who is launching the book with artist Luciano Vecchio (Ironheart), New Warriors provides a perfect jumping-on point for new fans while calling back to the original series. If writing a superhero team wasn’t enough, Kibblesmith and Vecchio also created and designed five new superhero recruits for the book.

This week, Kibblesmith gave the first look at New Warriors to SYFY WIRE, explained why it's cool that Night Thrasher still rides a skateboard in 2020, and (even though the final designs are still under wraps) gave a preview of his new super-team.

I know you're a big comic book fan. Can you tell us a bit about your familiarity with the New Warriors before taking on this book?

I wasn't that familiar with them, to be honest. Most of the comics I read growing up were from my dad's Silver and Bronze Age collection, so I was a '90s kid on paper, but a '60s kid in practice. When NW #1 dropped in 1990, I'm sure I saw it on the shelf at One Stop Comics on Ridgeland, but I don't think it would've registered unless Spider-Man or Nightcrawler were on the cover.

It wasn't until later when I started reading my friends' comics at their houses and assembling my larger understanding of the Marvel Universe that I realized there were all these other things that had happened in the decades since — and were still happening every week. Even at the time, I thought it was a grievous injustice that the New Warriors had to share one Overpower card. Same for the Inhumans. I'm not over it, clearly.

The New Warriors #1 - (W) Daniel Kibblesmith (A) Luciano Vecchio (CA) RB Silva

Let's talk about this lineup. How did you narrow it down, considering the team has had more than a dozen members throughout its history?

My passing familiarity coming in was actually pretty helpful for our back-to-basics approach to the team — we're going with most of the original members, plus Rage and Silhouette, who might as well be founding members the same way Captain America isn't technically a founding Avenger. When I think of "my" core team, those are the people I can't imagine doing without — Night Thrasher, Namorita, Firestar, Speedball, Rage. Justice is there, but he's torn between worlds because of his bigger role in Outlawed.

It was important to me to have moments of Justice and Night Thrasher counterbalancing each other as the two sometimes-leaders of the New Warriors. And our artist, Luciano Vecchio, has such a great take on Silhouette, and so much love for that character, that we made sure to make her an official part of the team. I think the exception to our classic roster might be Nova, 'cuz he's usually off in space doing Nova stuff. Such is the nature of the Marvel Universe being an actual, uh, universe.

With Kamala's Law in effect from Outlawed in April, can you talk about how that new status quo will tie in?

Not Great Bob dot gif. It's tough out there for a teen hero. Without giving too much away, the New Warriors have chosen a side, and they're recruiting unaffiliated new New Warriors to come in from the cold and get proper hero training. So we get to see all our old favorite buddies, but also a new team of heroes that we want to feel as modern and immediate as the New Warriors felt in 1990, when they're literally bursting through old comics on their first cover as if to say, "Throw these old comics in the trash where they belong, it is the '90s now."

The New Warriors #1 - (W) Daniel Kibblesmith (A) Luciano Vecchio (CA) RB Silva

Let's talk about this new team of recruits. I know you’re still working out the final details, but can you talk me through the process of essentially creating a new team of superheroes?

This is my first major superhero contribution to the Marvel Universe — most of the characters I've co-created have been weird puppet-y monsters (Hi, Doc Jaw! Hi, Drrf!). If writing the New Warriors didn't make me feel like a kid in the '90s again, coming up with my own new superhero ideas definitely did. It's probably the most energizing and effortless part of this process, and it came really quickly. Then, once Luciano's designs came in, I was blown away and surprised enough by some of the choices he made that I really felt like I was "meeting" them for the first time, and it ended up changing some of their roles in the stories. Once you see the new kids, hopefully they'll feel as "2020" as much as the New Warriors were the "Heroes for the '90s!"

Who were you most excited to write?

That's tough to answer, because what I was most excited about was the team dynamic. But I've always loved Firestar, because I knew her from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, so even while I was on my '90s Spider-Man and X-Men train, I always had a passing awareness of where Marvel had her stashed, from New Warriors to the Avengers, to the fantastic all-ages Mary Jane comics. Basically anywhere that someone had a crush on Firestar, I was there to also have a crush on Firestar.

The New Warriors #1 - (W) Daniel Kibblesmith (CA/A) Luciano Vecchio 

What do you think this team brings to the Marvel Universe that's been missing?

That's the awesome thing about these characters, and so many others in the Marvel Universe, is that there's always room to keep filling in the cracks. It's like Night Thrasher says in their earliest appearances, the New Warriors fight the crime that the Avengers miss. So you can infinitely stratify the Marvel Universe into all of these parallel tiers and keep expanding the middle to make new fan-favorite characters and powers and teams and romances and tragic deaths.

Once you create something that clicks with people, it becomes part of the big jigsaw puzzle, so you notice the absence when it goes away for a while. The New Warriors clicked, so they're always going to be part of the fabric of that universe, and you're always going to notice when they go away — and when they come back.

Since Night Thrasher is a relatively unknown character to modern comic book fans, can you help explain his appeal to people who weren't teens in the early '90s?

Night Thrasher is like any great comic book character: a product of his time who also transcends it. You see a young guy with no super-powers, peak human training, and a genius-level I.Q., fighting street crime on a skateboard and you either get it or you don't. I think as someone who was a comics-reading child in the '90s and constantly measuring their distance from the '60s comics I imagined to be "timeless," I was allergic to feeling like I was being marketed to, and a skateboarding superhero is and was the most '90s thing I can imagine. But that same skateboarding superhero in 2020? That's a choice, man. Why is that happening? That means there's a ton of character and story opportunity there, and I want to know more.

Part of learning to love the New Warriors is throwing away the preciousness of timelessness. The best comic characters have the particular angst of the decade in their DNA (I mean, Hulk. HULK.), even if they end up working in any era. And I think Night Thrasher does, because he's rad.

Contest of Champions #4: (W) Jim Zub (A) Paco Medina. [Credit: Marvel]

As a fan-turned-creator, what's it mean to make that jump and achieve one of your dreams of writing comic books? What do you strive for now that you're writing for Marvel?

It means I don't sleep anymore because ('90s reference) sleep is the cousin of death. But I used to visit NYC and find the Marvel offices and literally just drink coffee on a bench looking up, trying to figure out how to get inside. Now I live in NYC and write for Marvel and I've still barely been inside because it turns out ('90s reference) they invented e-mail. Mostly, I strive to just keep this gig going, and write the kind of stories I'd want to see from these characters as a '60s/'90s kid at heart. One Stop Comics on Ridgeland is still open, but now I get to be on the shelves too.