The Young Avengers are a team of adolescents who formed in the wake of the Avengers: Disassembled storyline in 2004. In terms of publication, there have been two complete volumes of stories, the first by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, the second by the infamous comics team of Gillen/McKelvie in 2013. They were initially assembled by Iron Lad who used a secret Avengers Fail-Safe Program to find them. The Fail-Safe Program was designed by the Vision, who was recently deceased in this storyline, to find and recruit the next generation of Avengers in case the worst ever happened – and the worst just had happened.
We are exploring the Young Avengers because, recently, Marvel has been introducing a lot of those characters in their Disney+ shows and films and it just feels like they are secretly building up that team.
Thus far, we’ve covered Patriot, Wiccan, and Speed. This week we will introduce you to the Teddy Altman, aka Hulkling – the Prince of Space and the handsome hulky boyfriend of Wiccan.
Who Is Hulkling?
Hulkling’s backstory is not quite as complicated as Wiccan’s, but that does not mean it is not without its complication. It started off simply enough, being born to a single mother, Mary Jo Altman, who named him Theodore Altman, though he’s gone by “Teddy” since his introduction in Young Avengers #1.
Initially, he is shown displaying the powers of Hulk, even transforming into a green behemoth when he jumps into battle. To our knowledge, it’s never really discussed as to when he first displayed these powers or when he discovered them; he’s just had them ever since his introduction in Young Avengers and that he believes he is a mutant.
This is his story all the way up until Young Avengers #9 – that issue changes everything for Teddy Altman. It’s in that issue where Teddy is kidnapped by Kl’rt, the Super Skrull, who says to him, “Have no fear hatchling. In the name of the Skrull Empire, I have come to bring you home.” Teddy is able to escape and tells the Super Skrull that he’s not a Skrull, he’s a mutant. After all, Teddy would know better than anyone that’s he’s not a Skrull as he’s been human his entire life. However, after Teddy and the team get away and find his mother to keep her safe, the Super Skrull tracks them down and reveals to Teddy that his mother is, in fact, a Skrull – right before the Skrull kills her in front of her son.
Except that Mary Jo Altman is not actually Teddy’s mom; she was actually an adopted mother. It turns out that she was actually the chambermaid to Skrull Princess Anelle, herself the daughter of Emperor Dorrek VII. It was Princess Anelle who was actually Teddy’s mother. And his father was none other than the Kree hero Mar’vell – a.k.a. the first Captain Marvel.
Due to the mixed heritage of being born to a Kree military hero and actual Skrull royalty, Skrull Emperor Dorrek VII wanted Teddy executed as he presented a threat to their empire. So his mother did the only thing she knew how to do – send him away to Earth to be raised in secret among the humans that live there, never being told of his true identity. This is all revealed between Young Avengers #10-11 by alternating flashbacks, told by a captain of the Kree Armada and the Super Skrull, who are both there to lay claim to him as the rightful heir to their respective empires.
Teddy suddenly finds himself the subject of an intergalactic conflict. Some Skrull factions see him as their rightful ruler, some Kree factions see him as rightfully their’s, and still, others see him as belonging to both and, therefore, the prophesied leader that will finally unite the two cultures that have been at war since time immemorial. This particular storyline concludes when the Super Skrull impersonates Teddy and agrees to live with both cultures for a number of months before coming to a decision about where wants to live, essentially planting a spy into the heart of the Kree empire and giving Teddy the chance to live unbothered on earth for some time.
Which is great, because all Teddy wants is to be allowed to love Billy Kaplan and fight for the only planet he’s ever known – Earth.
So – this is where it could get a little more confusing because we need to briefly touch on the Kree/Skrull War and its origins with the fight against the Cotati.
Let’s go back in time to Avengers #166, from 1975, where we first meet the Cotati.
They are a plantlike race that are native to the Kree homeworld of Hala. In the time before the Kree/Skrull War, they were known to be a peaceful people, unlike the Kree who were a violence-loving race of warriors from their first days. The Skrulls were a much more advanced race and they visited Hala hoping to make a peaceful alliance with whomever they saw as the dominant species – the Kree or the Cotati. To determine who they perceived as dominant, they held a contest – but the Kree essentially cheated and killed all of the representatives of the peace-minded Cotati, sending the rest of them into hiding and allowing the Kree to make the alliance with the Skrulls – where the Kree basically stole all their tech and turned against them soon after. Like we said – the Kree love war. Here are the panels from that comic to give the story in full.
So now, fast-forward to the present day where Teddy Altman, a.k.a. Hulkling, has decided to finally answer the call of both races and preside over them as a way to bring peace to the galaxy – finally ending the millennia-old Kree/Skrull War. However, both sides have pointed him towards finally, once-and-for-all, wiping out the Cotati who have grown to threaten all animal life in the galaxy. And the only way to assure that they accomplish this is to detonate the Earth – which Hulkling orders his Kree/Skrull Armada to do. But Teddy’s boyfriend – who has recently become his husband when they eloped in Vegas – knows that the Hulkling who ordered the Earth to be decimated is an imposter because, when they were married, as Billy tells Captain Marvel, he was, “…symbolically bonded to Teddy. And magic is metaphor, so symbol and reality are the same thing. As long as he’s alive – I can feel him. I can feel him right now. And I can find him.”
It’s in this way that Billy is able to locate the real Hulkling and reveal that the imposter is his grandmother, the former Skrull Empress R’Klll, telling her, “My magic brought me right to him. Locked in your brig, in a Skrull inhibitor mask. Just one more nameless P.O.W. alone in a cell.”
In the end, Teddy – known now as the King of Space, along with his Kree/Skrull Alliance, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four are able to stop the traitors, defeat the Cotati and save both the Earth and the galaxy. Teddy then inherits his name, Emperor Dorrek VIII, and marries – officially in both Kree and Skrull ceremonies, as well as a Jewish ceremony for Billy Kaplan – he’s Jewish, by the way. In getting married, Billy is then named as “Prince Consort and Court Wizard to the Kree/Skrull Alliance.
Now, the question is – why did we get into all of that if all we wanted to tell was the story of Teddy Altman and his powers? There are two primary reasons.
The first reason is that it’s important to see the true power of his and Billy Kaplan’s love story. Their romance is larger than them as much as it also involves them. To have one is to have the other, and vice versa. Even when they are not together, even when they are on separate teams, even when one is in space and the other is on the Earth or in another dimension – their love for each other spans the fabrics of all realities. In this way, they come as a pair.
Not only is this important for the fabric of the Marvel narrative, but it’s of critical importance for the LGBTQ+ community who, more often than not, do not see their love reflected in a meaningful light in any sort of mainstream media. But here, in these comics, we see two tremendously powerful, tremendously visible men in what could arguably be one of the most romantic, most meaningful, most poetic relationships in the Marvel canon. There are plenty of relationships in the Marvel universe, but most of them are on-again/off-again types. But Billy and Teddy have a relationship on par with Peter Parker and Mary Jane, though more steady, and on par with Reed and Sue Richards, though more romantic and passionate. And now, not only are they very much in love and very much married, but they are two young, gay men who literally rule a galaxy together.
The second reason we wanted to highlight this particular element of his backstory is to speculate on where we might first meet Teddy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We know from Captain Marvel that there has been a Kree/Skrull War for millennia in the MCU and that the Skrulls have been dispersed and are living as a scattered diaspora all over the galaxy, using their powers to blend into whatever society so as to hide from the Kree, who are clearly trying to track them down. It seems safe to imagine that Teddy Altman is part of that diaspora and is living on Earth, in secret, away from the searchlight of the Kree Empire. It is also entirely likely that, like his comic book counterpart, Teddy Altman on earth is unaware that he is Kree and that his mother was killed as part of the Kree annihilation of the Kree. Whether he will be related, in any way, to Mar-Vell or not remains to be seen.
Perhaps the MCU will reverse it somewhat and have their version of Mar-Vell, played by Annette Benning, falling in love with a Skrull Prince, with Benning’s Mar-Vell giving birth to Teddy while she hid out on earth?
We’ll have to wait to find out what Marvel is planning.
In the meantime, if you want to cheer your heart out for one of the sweetest relationships in all of comics, go check out the Empyre storyline.
Next week, we’ll be taking a closer look at Hawkeye! Not Clint Barton, but Kate Bishop!
This article was originally published on 8/24/21.