There’s never been a better time to be a teenager in the Marvel Universe. A whole new generation of diverse young heroes is emerging in the MU, and to spotlight them, Marvel just announced a new team book, The Champions, made up of some of their brightest new prospects. The roster includes the time-displaced teen Cyclops, Ms. Marvel, the Miles Morales variety of Spider-Man, Nova, the recently Hulked-out Amadeus Cho, and the Vision’s synthezoid spawn, Viv. It’s an intriguing lineup to be sure, but it has a lot of room to grow!
Despite the renewed focus on youth, Marvel has a ton of great teenage superheroes that have gone unused recently. While a lot of them may not wear the mantle of an older hero, they are still worthy of attention and development, and would make great additions to the rebellious team. After all, what better way to emphasize the generational conflict brewing in the Marvel Universe than by including completely original characters? Though if Marvel is intent on keeping the team one of legacy heroes, there are even a few of those that would work well on the team.
Marvel’s younger generations are packed with great characters, and I couldn’t possibly highlight all of them here. Be sure to let us know your favorites in the comments.
Who better to include on a youthful superteam than the eldest member of Marvel’s most classic kid team, Power Pack? Between his formidable gravity-manipulation powers and his big brain, Alex—formerly known as Zero-G—would be a benefit to any team, as he proved alongside his siblings as part of Power Pack, as part of the New Warriors, as a recruit for the Avengers Initiative, and most recently as one of the most prominent members of the Future Foundation. The only thing preventing Alex from joining up with the Champions is that he was last seen in the final pages of last year’s Secret Wars event, heading off into the multiversal sunset to create new universes with his Future Foundation colleagues.
One of the most popular, but painfully underused teams in Marvel Comics is the Runaways. Created by Saga writer Brian K. Vaughan and Ms. Marvel artist Adrian Alphona, the Runaways are a group of teens who leave home together after discovering their parents are supervillains, but they have sadly not had a series of their own for quite some time. Nico Minoru has popped up in A-Force, Victor Mancha in The Vision, and a future Molly Hayes in the X-Men event Battle of the Atom, but one founding member of the team has been missing for a few years: Karolina Dean, a.k.a. Lucy in the Sky. Karolina is from an alien race called the Majesdanians, giving her the ability to manipulate light in a variety of ways, including flight, making her a very visually compelling character and also adding an extraterrestrial to the team, which is currently all humans, Viv aside. She’s also one of Marvel’s most interesting lesbian characters, so bringing her back into the spotlight during their current push for diversity would be sure to please many fans.
Current Star Wars and Mighty Thor scribe Jason Aaron and Doctor Strange artist Chris Bachalo created several fun new students for the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning in the pages of Wolverine and the X-Men, and some of the most intriguing additions weren’t even mutants. Kubark, also known as Kid Gladiator, hailed from the Shi’ar Empire and is the son of its emperor and head of the Imperial Guard, Gladiator. He inherited his father’s unimaginable strength, flight, speed and variety of other totally-not-Superman powers, along with his quick temper. But despite that, Kubark has a much kinder heart, though he tries not to show it. Kid Gladiator would immediately make any team much more formidable and would raise their intergalactic profile, especially with rumblings of a coming war between the Shi’ar Empire and Asgard.
With Black Panther’s popularity soaring to new heights after a scene-stealing big screen debut in Captain America: Civil War and a smash-hit ongoing series from Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) and Brian Stelfreeze (Day Men), fans have been clamoring for more Wakanda, and Marvel should give it to them with Onome. Onome was first introduced in FF #19 when she guided the kids of the Future Foundation on a field trip to the Wakandan Resevoir that her father engineered, and quickly earned her place among them when she dispatched with the group of Hyena Clan warriors that were there to steal the water. She’s a young super-genius who has travelled the cosmos with the FF (and was last seen, like Alex Power, heading off to recreate the multiverse) and has more than enough potential to have new stories told about her. Not many other Wakandans have ventured as far outside the country as Onome has, and she’s a prime candidate to show the world what Wakanda has to offer, and where better to do that than alongside her super-peers?
Cullen Bloodstone is the son of legendary monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone and the younger brother of Elsa Bloodstone who, in a rite of passage, was left in a demonic dimension by his father who would return to retrieve him the next day, if he survived. Unfortunately, it was Ulysses who died that very day on Earth, leaving Cullen stranded in the dimension for over two years, where he was possessed by a monstrous tentacle demon. When he finally returned to Earth, he was sent to the Braddock Academy, which he was stolen away from by Arcade and forced to participate in a deathmatch with other teen heroes. After surviving all of that and then being briefly mind-controlled by the Son of Satan, you’d think Cullen would have earned his place in the MU, but he hasn’t been seen at all since the end of Avengers Undercover in 2014. Cullen is also gay and—much like Karolina Dean—doesn’t fall into the trap of that being his defining character trait. Cullen’s fascinating struggle to tame his literal inner demons, and his experience with magic (something the Champions lack) make him a perfect choice for a new recruit.
A mysterious bone dug up by the paleontologist parents of Humberto Lopez granted him the ability to shapeshift parts of his body into dinosaur parts, which he used under the codename Reptil. First introduced in a 2009 one-shot before being a regular cast member of Avengers: The Initiative, Avengers Academy and Avengers Arena, Reptil had a fairly constant presence in the Marvel Universe up until the last couple of years. Not only does his unique powerset make him worth consideration for Champions membership, but he also brings multimedia exposure too. Kids who were watching Marvel’s Superhero Squad Show were introduced to Reptil only a couple of months after comic book readers were, and with that being seven years ago now, there are certain to be some young teens just getting into comics that would recognize him. And really, why would you not want a guy who can turn into dinosaurs on your team?
With the ability to feel no pain, and the enhanced strength and reflexes that come with insect DNA, Noh-Varr, also known as Marvel Boy or Protector, would be a powerful addition to any team. But with a Ms. Marvel and a Captain Marvel running around, it’d be nice to see Marvel Boy be brought into the pseudo-Marvel family, especially since he hasn’t been seen much since the end of the last volume of Young Avengers. Marvel Boy is a genetically modified Kree from another universe, and has proven himself to be a powerful force for good—that is, after he stopped being a Dark Avenger. It’s only a matter of time before Noh-Varr meets Kamala Khan, and introducing him as part of the same team could create some interesting friction between the two, who share a name, but certainly not a temperament. Ms. Marvel is sure to have some choice words for him over using her idol Captain Marvel’s name when he was a Dark Avenger.
The second gravity-manipulating hero on this list, Gregory Willis—the aptly-named Gravity—was part of a push for young characters that Marvel did in 2005 called “Marvel Next,” which included Araña, X-23, Young Avengers, Runaways, Machine Teen, and more. Gravity may be stretching the “teen” thing a bit, since he was graduating from high school at the beginning of the self-titled miniseries that introduced him, and attended college for at least a year or two, in between joining the Fifty State Initiative and the Young Allies, dying and coming back, getting caught up in the Beyond! and Fear Itself crossovers, and a handful of other adventures. Gravity has certainly earned his stripes for a young hero, and he deserves to have another shot at the spotlight.
Just because an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, doesn’t mean it has to stay there. At first, the “defective” clone Bentley-23 was intent on following in his father’s—the Fantastic Four villain known as The Wizard—mad scientist footsteps, but after being taken in by the Fantastic Four and being a founding student of the Future Foundation, Bentley used his natural prowess with the sciences to create inventions that helped rather than harmed. It would be great to see Bentley join the Champions in a tech-support type role, providing the team with gadgets, weapons, armor or whatever their mission might call for. His redemptive arc across Jonathan Hickman’s runs on Fantastic Four and FF is a touching one, and it would be fantastic (pun intended) to see Bentley continue to escape his father’s shadow in a role of significance to the MU.
If there’s one thing the DC Universe definitely has more of than Marvel, it’s speedsters. Aside from Quicksilver, the rest of Marvel’s best fleet-foots have languished in relative obscurity. That’s why Quicksilver’s nephew, Tommy Shepherd—the Young Avenger known as Speed—should not be allowed to fall back into comic book limbo. Speed’s fate after the end of the last volume of Young Avengers was left pretty ambiguous, but that’s never kept a good superhero down. An archetypal powerset, a rambunctious personality, and the legacy of a classic Avenger are all ingredients that make Speed a perfect addition for the Champions.
One of the most popular new X-Men characters of the new millennium, Megan Gwynn—the mutant known as Pixie—has been seen around the Xavier Institute since 2004, and has gone from trainee to fully-fledged X-Men member in that time. Pixie hasn’t let being voted “Friendliest Student” stop her from being a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, utilizing her abilities to fly, cause enemies to hallucinate, teleport, and use magic—primarily through a “soul dagger”—to prove herself an invaluable asset to any team. As I mentioned with Cullen Bloodstone, the Champions could use someone experienced with magic, and Pixie would fill that role perfectly. She hasn’t been seen much lately, though she did make an appearance as one of the many heroes who defended New York City in the first issue of Civil War II.
Abby Boylen didn’t want to be a superhero, she just wanted to fly. Unfortunately for her, she began flying around the time of Civil War, and so if she wanted to use her powers, she would have to be official about it. She was recruited for the Avengers Initiative by War Machine and while at Camp Hammond she mastered her cloud-manipulation powers that allow her to fly, in addition to being one of the best sharpshooters they had. After her training she ended up on Montana’s Freedom Force team, but she has since quit superheroics altogether, now that she can fly without fear of being tossed in prison. While it would be a shame for Cloud 9 to be forced out of retirement, it would be even more of a shame if she was never seen again. She was a very interesting young character that was uniquely impacted by the fallout of the first Civil War, and she would be able to provide some insight to the Champions, who are forming in the wreckage of the second.
Robbie Reyes, the hot rod-driving, all-new, all-different Ghost Rider, hasn’t been missing for as long as some of the other heroes on this list—he was last seen just under a year ago in the pages of the Ghost Racers tie-in to Secret Wars, and his own series ended a few months before that if you don’t want count alternate reality versions—but he’s perhaps the most prominent, and puzzling. Robbie has quickly become a cult-favorite character, and it would be crazy of Marvel not to try and keep his momentum going, but it’s been nothing but radio silence regarding his status post-Secret Wars. Robbie is one of Marvel’s best Latino characters and is definitely part of the same generation as Ms. Marvel and the rest of her team, so he’d fit right in, and would also fill that supernatural void on the team that I keep mentioning. And besides, the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider was part of the lineup of the original Champions, so it would be a nice call back to the team’s namesake.