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((I have no clue how to format this to look like a newspaper article, but hopefully you won't mind.))

The Pulse: Wiccan
By Kat Farrell

It's been almost seven years since I first had the opportunity to interview him, but it feels like it was just yesterday. He's Wiccan, former member of the group that the press had then dubbed the Young Avengers. As he sits down, I can't help but notice both the differences and similarities of then and now.

The similarities are easy enough to spot. His hair still styled in its same way, cascading over the circlet on his forehead. Those eyes still appear to take in the world and try to see past its face value. His uniform, of course. But it's been a long time since Wiccan has held himself up on an active team, so the occasional upgrade in uniform hasn't struck him just yet.

The differences are a bit harder to spot beyond the obvious. There's of course the age. He'd been a boy then, and even though he held up a mask of maturity at the time, one could never quite be convinced of anything other than innocence. Now, his eyes seem a bit more world-weary as he's been exposed to the realities of what his life had been then. He still smiles, as we sit down to talk at a picnic table in Central Park, both of us with coffee we'd gotten at a nearby shop. After a bit of trivial conversation, we both sit down and get to bare bones.

First, I'd like to thank you for taking me up on this interview. I was almost sure that you wouldn't.

Image credit to emmav at DeviantArt.

(He laughs.) "Honestly? I'm a bit surprised, myself. I haven't been active in this business for a long time. I didn't even know what you'd be talking to me about."

We'd recently seen you helping out a few members of the caped community around the city, then once again during the efforts to free London after that massive attack instigated by the god Loki, and more recently with the rebuilding of the demolished island in Tokyo. Perhaps this is a return to active status?

"Not in the least, Ms. Farrell. My time as an active vigilante's done and over with for the most part. There are probably tons of men and women out there just as capable as I am, not to mention the men and women who work for this city's police and fire departments, as well as the uniformed services. Do they really need one more spoon in the pot? I mean, if my help's really needed, I won't hesitate to help. But there were some major reasons for why we dissolved the Young Avengers. We were just a bunch of kids at the time, and we may have made a bit of difference, but the cost eventually became too great."

You're referring to your old team members? Stature and Vision?

"Yeah, them. (He nods and looks away, and for a few moments, it seems as if he's about to drift away from everything.) We always kept in mind that we were doing something dangerous. That at any moment, any one of us, or all of us, would die. But we were still kids, you know? I'm sure every one of us had felt that it would never happen to us. Death was something that happened to someone else, but not us. We'd barely been active for a year and were already taking on people that the Avengers had problems with- Kang the Conqueror, the Kree and Skrulls- and we were winning. So when we finally fought Doom, the possibility of going down just seemed so slim."

He's referring to the events that led up to the reappearance of Avenger Wanda Maximoff, better known to the Public as the Scarlet Witch. During an unexpected appearance of Latverian king Victor von Doom, the man had managed to best the combined forces of the X-Men and the Avengers before a sudden and stunning defeat, which cost the lives of Cassandra Lang (Stature) and an incarnation of sentient android Vision. The event marked the return to active status by Maximoff and the dissolution of the Young Avengers.

The Young Avengers, circa the Skrull Invasion. From top: Wiccan, Stature, Patriot,
Hawkeye, Hulkling, Vision.
Image from Young Avengers Presents: Hulkling. Art by Harvey Tolibao.

You were a founding member of the team. What exactly was your intent with it?

"Really? At the time, it was because the Avengers had disappeared and no one seemed to care, even when things started to get bad. Maybe it's not for every hero, but the world needs the Avengers. What with all the weird things that happens, protectors are needed. So we; Iron Lad, Hulkling, Patriot, and myself; we took it upon ourselves to be those people. I don't think there was a moment where we had it that easy. Things just kept piling on, and we couldn't really stop at that point."

But the Avengers eventually did come back. Why did you keep going?

"Like I said, we really couldn't stop. We learned a lot of things about one another that made us friends, and the cape was the biggest tie in our bond. Some of us did it out of a sense of responsibility. Others did it for some sense of honoring a relative or getting more answers. Still, other of us thought it was all there was to our lives."

And what about you?

(More nervous laughter.) "A little bit of most of those? I had a few issues that I couldn't quite work out before Iron Lad showed up and made the offer. A gay kid who just so happened to be a mutant? Add on to the fact that the day I found out about my powers was the same day that I found out the Avengers, my biggest heroes growing up, had dissolved? I was devastated. So when he showed up and told me I could actually be the new generation, I pretty much jumped. It wasn't until later that I realized just how important what I was doing was."

Can you elaborate on that?

"Sure. I'd been bullied for being so many different versions of outcast in school. When we started making headlines in New York, I started reading the reactions on forums. And after our first interview, when Hulkling and I came out publicly, there was all this back draft on the internet. 'Oh, look. Now the gay has infected our heroes! Fags! Mutie homos!' All that kind of crap. It wasn't that encouraging.

But I remember this one time, someone came up to me. An older woman, who said her grandson had nearly committed suicide because he was gay. They stopped him on time, but apparently what pulled him out was that interview. He saw what you'd written about us and it gave him hope. And that's just the one I know about. I didn't know just how much it would mean when we did it. We just didn't want to hide our relationship from the world. But she told me that story, and I realized that we had a responsibility. I know Spider-Man drums that one out like a busted drum, but I didn't realize just exactly how far it went. I mean, superheroes were obviously my own role models growing up, but it was the first time I felt like it meant something to me. People were looking at us, the Young Avengers, and taking our actions and words to heart. I couldn't quit just then."

What changed?

Everything. M-Day, our Civil War, the Skrulls, Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R, and then finally we had that whole thing go down with Magneto and the Scarlet Witch, and it cost the lives of two of my closest friends. I was devastated, and it put things into perspective. We were so young. As much as we experienced, and as much as we prepared, we were never really ready for what happened to us. We got lucky every time we came out of a battle unscathed, which was rarely. We might be better suited for it now, but I doubt most of us would come back. Cassie died so that we could be safe. I think all of us realized that."

And you?

"Me? I don't know, yet. Cassie's death isn't something I think I can get over, not entirely. I have a good therapist. One of the best, but it still doesn't stop me from feeling responsible for what happened. So, I'll be ready for whatever may happen, and I'll gladly help, but I won't fight blindly, and I won't forget the people that have been hurt by the things that I and people like me have been responsible for in the past."

We finish our coffee, and after a game of chess (He's not that great at it, but he puts up a decent fight) he escorts me out of the park. We exchange our goodbyes and he takes off to wherever it is he and the rest of the Young Avengers have gone off to since that fateful day in Mutant Town. He was a cheerful young man, but his guilt perhaps weighs heavier on his heart than he thinks people realize, and then I remember once more just how young he was when we'd first met with a pang of empathy in my heart.
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Billy Kaplan

August 2012


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