The future of Marvel's X-line continued to roll out today as the focus of the publisher's MMXI relaunch of the books turned towards "Uncanny X-Force." Writer Rick Remender joined the talk with members of the press along with editors Nick Lowe and Jody Leheup, and CBR News was there with all the news on the future of the black ops book.
The team started out by talking about the teaser centering around May's "Uncanny X-Force" #11 (whose cover by Esad Ribic is on the right). "These characters have been off the board for a while...and we wanted to try something a little different with it," Remender said. "It's tricky because we've announced that they're coming up, but we don't want to spoil too much...we have a group of X-Men and X-Force that will go to the Age of Apocalypse world...it's connected to some of the different arcs we've done in the book."
The writer and Lowe said that the Dark Beast character from the original "Age of Apocalypse" series will play a large role not just in the coming arc but the future of "Uncanny X-Force" as a whole. "This is not just a fun 'Age of Apocalypse' story that will have no bearing on the Marvel Universe. It will have a HUGE impact on the 616," Lowe said. "You do run the risk of telling stories that don't matter," Remender added, noting that he wanted to find a story that was worthy of taking the 616 X-Men cast into the world of Apocalypse.
"I think that there are fans out there going 'This is what Marvel always says...that'll it'll change everything!' but this really does change things," Lowe said.
When asked what sets this X-Force team apart from previous versions of the franchise, Remender said that the fact that the team of five heroes can't talk about their missions makes them a unique, true X-Men family. "People who are taking it upon themselves to assassinate the very evil [of the world]...I wanted to take it upon myself to be true to how that plays out."
Apocalypse himself came up, and Remender confirmed "The version of Apocalypse we know is dead," meaning that after the first arc, the classic take on the character is not coming back, but after long talks with his editors, the writer feels that he'll be able to tap into the villain's mythology from his connection to the Celestials through his obsession with evolution and find a real purpose towards an epic story. "The first 17 issues of X-Force is one big story told in five chapters," he said.
"Apocalypse is not the big bad in this story...he's dead. They killed him," said Lowe. "That does have to have meaning in this X-Force book or any death won't mean anything...The other reason this book is so attractive is that it dances on the skinny branches. It takes a lot of risks, and that makes it very enjoyable to me."
"Early on, we wanted to make sure there wasn't a lot of murder," Remender said. "It's an ethical slippery slope...that has to be give the weight it deserves. And beyond the ethical things we deal with, we have momentum on the book. We went through the first six issues and cut out the fat. Everything was boiled down to its core."
Remender reinforced that the long planning on the series has opened him up to seeding small details in a way that brings the book more in line with his work like "Fear Agent" and "The Punisher." Fans who stick with the series will see payoff from the very first issues even as the scribe remains flexible.
"The Age of Apocalypse world will be defined for you. The rules will be defined," Remender said before adding "I never, ever assume that anybody has read another X-book besides this." As the broad story has been built, only pieces introduced within the story will play a key role rather than simply throwing fan favorite concepts into the mix simply to drum up interest.
"Archangel is not there for a reason, and it's a reason you don't expect." the writer said of the absence of the winged X-Forcer from the book's teaser and cover. He also said that they're looking for a natural way to expand the team membership. "While there are some new members coming up, I don't think people will see it coming."
The issue of Deadpool's role in that family/team dynamic and his recent deflection from pure joking mayhem addict was raised. "People who are constantly joking, it's something of a defense mechanism," said Remender. "When I get into the character, I start seeing a three-dimensional character...killing a kid for me was something he had an issue with. I know this sounds strange, but I do see a bit of vulnerability in Wade. He'd be the one who was up late at night."
An appearance by the Age of Apocalypse version of Nightcrawler came up. "There was more and more to be mined out of [this world]," the writer explained. "Beyond the high-paced version of it, there is a lot of drama here." Wolverine's relationship with the Age of Apocalypse version of Jean Grey and Nightcrawler, and the latter will be a much more violent and active character than fans might expect from Kurt Wagner as this version was raised in hell.
As for how the team makes it to the AoA world and why they go there, "
There is something in the Age of Apocalypse or someone in the Age of Apocalypse that they need for some reason. When you're dealing with dimension-hopping, one thing that is incredibly important is to find a way to make it significant," said the writer. "One thing we've spent a whole lot of time doing is that when we knew we had to go there for this mission, we also had to find a way for this to move the story forward.
"Once you see what the results are, they're long lasting. If the dimension-hopping happened too much, it wouldn't work well. It works best on a limited basis."
Continuity came up in terms of where this Age of Apocalypse story fits with previous trips to this world. "It's ten years after the 2005 series. It's been a while. The world has changed and not for the better. The person involved in it is a big deal, and [the mythology of] Apocalypse plays a major role...it puts our team in a tough spot because these are alternate version of their friends, but they've got their own mission as well." Remender added that Jean Grey's role as well as that of the Silver Samurai will help place what fans know of Age of Apocalypse.
Remender's new role as the revitalizer of '90s franchises like "X-Force" and "Venom" was discussed as he said that despite the fact he had moved on to mostly indie comics during the heyday of the '90s and stories like Age of Apocalypse "I was deeply, deeply in the scene when Venom hit and X-Force hit and Deathlok...those things are so incredibly iconic that when I was presented with the job, I immediately had a year's worth of stories. I didn't expect that to be the case, but it was."
As for art teams coming up in the book, three issues by Billy Tan will be followed by Mark Brooks for three AoA issues, and the Jerome Opeña comes back after that to be followed by Remender's recent collaborator Greg Tocchini.
Finally, the writer spoke about stories coming sooner including the appearance of Captain Britain in issue #6. Remender said that because Psylocke falls in a family where one brother is a shining superhero and the other a madman, those relationships were important for him to dig into. "One thing we're going to play with here is how she sees herself in contrast to her brothers," he said.
Comics is kicking off a week of live conference calls announcing the incoming teams for the X-Men books, starting with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning on "New Mutants" with May's issue #25, and CBR was on the call to bring you all the news.
"The appeal has been there a very long time," said Abnett, noting that favorites of the team as younger readers included the cosmic books and the X-Titles. "We've said many times that we've been very lucky working on the Marvel stuff to do the stuff we grew up reading...to get to do the same with the mutant characters is wonderful," added Lanning.
The book under DnA's watch will start with an arc called "Unfinished Business" where the team will track down mutants who have been off the map including Nate "X-Man" Grey and Blink. "In past X-coninuity, there have been big stories erupting around events from the past," said Lanning. As leader of the mutants, Cyclops sets the New Mutants team out to nullify potential threats born from the past.
"One thing we wanted to do with the New Mutants is set them up as a team...that deals with loose ends," Abnett said as Lowe noted that the team never refers to themselves as New Mutants. "These are no longer kids. These are young adults...characters in their 20s who are fully fledged X-Men." The editor added that Cyclops has placed them together to groom the leaders of the future.
The makeup of the team will see some "pretty significant changes" by the end of the first arc, according to Lowe, but Abnett promised that any changes would be organic. No left field characters would just be dropped into the fray. "They made perfect, organic sense, and I think it's a very good sign when a team book does that and you don't even have to think about it."
Particularly with Nate Grey "X-Man, knowing the level of his power set, is a great one to start off with," said Abnett. "He's X-Royalty that needs to be relocated. He can't just be left hanging in the wind," said Lanning. "The last time we saw him, he was being taken off to be hooked up to the Dark Beast's machines."
The team joked with editor Nick Lowe about his frequent requests for them to put more kissing in the books and interpersonal romance, though they promised that they'd be playing with relationships already in development from writer Zeb Wells. Dani Moonstar's relationship with Sam Guthrie will play "as well as [us] introducing a real curveball romantic liason," Lanning said.
However in addition, Abnett joked frequently after being asked if surprises and twists would be on tap that if he reveals shocking turns were on the way, they'd lose their shock value. "There are relationships in the New Mutants crew that have been established but never developed...we like to progress things and see where they play out," he said.
The pair compared the team's dynamic to a soap opera like "Dallas" in regards to its big cast and crossing story lines.
Asked how they'd meet the challenge of keeping a book based on a classic X-title from sliding well into nostalgia territory. "Nick's actually encouraged us to go further and further with everything," Lanning said. "I don't think there's anything we've thrown at Nick that he's said 'No' to." Abnett adding, "We've been very impressed with the oversight Nick has over the books as a whole" with each book being able to stand well on its own while also existing in the same world of the other X-books. "It's incredibly satisfying to have Nick know exactly what's going on in the background...we can develop our story without stepping on the toes of anyone else.
"I think we're also enourmosly fond of the classic era 'New Mutants' book," he added. "You don't want to just go back and plunder those stories again, but some of those things are ripe for further stories. There are themes and settings there that are absolutely New Mutants things that you can move forward."
Lowe added that he loved the classic feel of the X-line where the New Mutants would be eating popcorn in their book when suddenly the Uncanny X-Men would crash through the wall. One of his goals with the relaunch of these titles is to bring that connected feel to the line. "There's a nice blurring of the edges," Abnett said as Lanning added that this book was a different challenge from the cosmic line where they were entirely on their own.
Asked whether the Starjammer characters of Havok, Polaris and Marvel Girl might be a loose end to tie up, the writers deferred to Lowe who said "In the next calendar year, you will see your #1 pals Alex, Lorna and Rachel."
As for who the "Groot" of the book would be, the writers said that the phrase "I am Warlock" would soon be a catch phrase amongst Marvel fans.
And the question of whether Wolfsbane might show up, Lowe kidded that the team had a firm "no pregnant women in action" policy and that they hoped to confer with "X-Factor" writer Peter David
Blink's role in the book is different because she has less past with the proper X-Men characters, but the writers believed that using a heroine such as that helped open up new story potential. "It's a great excuse to go out and get vast collections of 'Exiles' books," said Lanning who was getting new ideas and character connections from learning more about Blink's history outside the 616 universe.
Finally, Lowe spoke on the artist of the book will be former "Hulk" and "Punisher MAX" artist Leandro Fernandez who also did the initial "New Mutants" teaser which hit online last week. "He is killing it on this book," the editor said. "When I saw his first pages for issue #25 I soiled myself...it'll end up being likely for most Marvel stuff where he does the lion's share of the book and other guys filling in." The editor noted that a second artist has already been signed on the book – someone he's worked with in the past who hasn't been available to Marvel in years – but he wouldn't reveal who that is just yet.
"We're well pleased, I must say," added Lanning of the second artist noting that the early background sketches for the series made their jaws hit the ground.
"New Mutants" #25 ships to comic shops this May from Marvel Comics. Come back to CBR all week for more X-Men-centered calls.
The terrific thing about Marvel Comics' various X-Men titles is that each book has its own unique "flavor." If I had to put a name to these tastes, I'd say "Uncanny X-Men" is an epic chocolate swirl, "X-Men: Legacy" is an intimate rum raisin and Victor Gischler's "X-Men" is an exotic mix of blood, sweat and strawberries.
Okay, that last title may not sound like something that you'd want to mix up in a bowl, but this confectionary delight consisting of mutants and vampires has been leaving X-Men fans with happy feelings in their bellies. In the half dozen issues Gischler has written, the scribe has turned the X-Men's world upside-down with some huge threats that have had devastating results.
In this week's X-POSITION, the novelist/comic book scribe joins us to answer all the questions you've sent my way over the past seven days. Gischler is up to the challenge too, and is ready to take a Dracula-style bite out of anything you've got to offer. Let's roll up our sleeves, cover our necks and jump right in!
Aspbros kicks things off with a few inquiries about Marvel's merry mutants and the year ahead:
1) What can you tell us about "Year of the X-Men?"
The X-Men continue their NYC adventure with Spider-Man in "X-Men" #9
Basically, what you've probably already guessed, Aspbros -- some great new X-Men stories launching in a number of titles. I think it's a really great time to be an X-reader right now.
2) I'm really enjoying your writing on the "X-Men" title. How much longer can we expect to have you on X-Men and how far out have you planned your stories?
Thanks! I've looked ahead a couple of arcs and we're cooking up some good stuff for you guys. The incredible Mr. Yost is coming in to write a guest arc and I'm back after that -- for how long is hard to say.
I'm keen to do it as long as the X-editors back at the home office are happy. Things tend shift around here in funny-book land. Sometimes a writer bounces around. Other times a writer can hunker down for a good long run on a book. I'll keep doing my best, and we'll see what happens.
3) What do you feel is the most difficult part about writing the X-Men that you didn't anticipate?
Well, it's a team book, so it can be difficult sometimes making sure all these great characters get enough face time. I've come to accept that not all of my favorite characters can always be the star every issue. The star one issue might find himself/herself in a supporting role next time.
4) What are some of your favorite X-Men stories?
The X-Men fighting the Brood during the Claremont run. Also, Jean Grey going all Dark Phoenix. Classic stuff.
While the "classic stuff" never goes out of style, Marina appears to be much more curious about the present state of things. What can you tell her about "fangy folks" -- both in and out of the comic book world?
1) Can you give us any idea what "Throne of Blood: Birth of a Vampire" is about? And how does it tie into "Fear Itself?"
Marina, this is where I duck and dodge a bit. Sorry to be vague. But I will say we're introducing a character who will be a significant player in "Fear Itself" and hopefully stick around to provide more awesome entertainment beyond that.
2) Can we expect the X-Men to have more involvement with vampires for the foreseeable future? Or, between your novels and comics, are you feeling "vamped out?"
Well, not soon. But I can see these folks definitely crossing paths again sooner or later.
3) Do you have any interesting/crazy/strange vampire fans? And do you have any stories to share?
It would sure come in handy right now if I did, but, alas, no. The folks I've met at cons recently have been very cool and friendly and downright normal.
I'm happy to hear your convention experiences have been so sane, although I suppose it depends on your definition of "normal."
Captain Cavalier is up next, and he's been bitten by the writing bug. Can you help him out with this infection?
1) I love your novels even more than I enjoy your work on the X-Men! I'm a struggling novelist myself and was hoping for a little insight. How far do you breakdown the story of a novel before you begin writing?
I appreciate that, Captain. It's a strong hope of mine that the comic book readers might try some of my novels and vice-versa. I like to keep things spontaneous with the novels, not over-outline them.
For novels, a too-detailed outline is a real creativity buzz kill for me. Instead, I keep in mind four to five key scenes that are turning points (or important for whatever reason) and then write by the seat of my pants between these scenes. For others, a detailed outline is more essential.
2) Do you typically have any idea how long a novel is going to be before you get started?
Nope. Obviously, if it's too short it won't be marketable, but I try to let the natural flow of the story dictate how long it needs to be. The action of my most recent novel -- "The Deputy" -- all takes place in a single night. As a result, that novel needed to be a bit shorter.
3) What are some signs for you that the story in your novel is headed "off course" while you're writing?
If I start to bore myself, then I know. If my wife is offended, then I know I'm on the right track.
4) On your blog, you mentioned that the detective novella you wrote with Anthony Neil Smith ("To the Devil, My Regards") is available on the Kindle for 99 cents. I think that's awesome! Overall, what's been your take on digital publishing and have you been pleased with it?
I don't really know that much about it, but it seems more and more authors are having success skipping publishers and putting books on Kindle and Nook themselves. It's a situation I plan to watch closely. But there are some real bargains out there.
5) I always like recommendations for comics and novels from authors I like to read. Are there any titles out there that you can suggest at the moment?
Well, you already know I'm pals with Anthony Neil Smith if you've read my blog. But check out his novel "Yellow Medicine." Good stuff.
There you go, readers -- X-POSITION helps you to expand your literary horizons. TAG has the final two queries of the day, and he wants to know about the voices in your head…and in your pen!
1) When writing, which of the X-Men do you find speaks most closely to your voice? In other words, which character do you relate to most?
TAG, I don't really know. The more I write them, the more they're like real people and so I don't compare them to myself. I'm tempted to say Wolverine simply because I wish I could be that tough sometimes.
2) Are you going to bring any other mutants onto the core team soon? I know you get requests like these all the time, but there are a few lesser utilized muties out there that I'd love to see on the team! Can we expect a shift in the line-up?
I devote a hell of a lot of time thinking about this. It does sometimes seem like there is a lot of talent out there not being tapped. Partly, the story is going to determine the team. If we come up with a story and elements in the story demand we use Iceman or Colossus, then that might determine -- partly -- who shows up. On the other hand, I do want to get comfortable with a core which we can count on seeing most of the time even if we supplement with some other faces now and then.
Victor, now it's time for you and I to play a little Spanish Inquisition with the "Behind the X" question of the day! You've done a lot of talking about writing throughout today's column, so if you wouldn't mind, please tell us -- what hobbies occupy your time when you're not working on your latest masterpiece?
Twitter followers know that I often tweet from grill-side. I love, love, love to cook out. And I love the smell of charcoal. Reminds me of camping with my dad when I was a kid.