This coming June, Kitty Pryde and Colossus will be the latest X-Men to tie the knot in X-Men Gold #30 (hope they survive the experience). Ahead of what Marvel Comics has hyped as the “wedding of the century,” I thought I’d take a look back at the union of the X-Men’s most iconic couple: Cyclops and Jean Grey.
X-Men #30 was published March 1, 1994, not long after Wolverine had the adamantium ripped from his bones in X-Men #25, and presented a surprisingly moving moment of happiness in the chaotic lives of Marvel’s mutants. There are no battles with Mister Sinister or Apocalypse. Instead, the original X-Men team up to figure out how to tie Scott Summers’ bow tie. And while Jean Grey isn’t tempted by the Phoenix Force in this particular issue, Storm must work with Jean’s mother to prevent Jean from… fidgeting while getting dressed.
Revisiting this issue as an adult over two decades after I first read it was a real treat. The detailed art courtesy of Andy Kubert is a stunning complement to the special occasion, and the script by longtime X-Men scribe (and Deadpool co-creator) Fabian Nicieza is surprisingly mature. Perhaps the issue’s most moving scene comes toward the end of the wedding, when Jean asks Professor Charles Xavier to dance with her–with a telekinetic assist. At the time, Xavier and Jean weren’t publicly known to be mutants. But Jean doesn’t care if any lingering human wedding guests learn the truth–that being a mutant “should in no way limit the happiness” she can enjoy.Beautiful writing like that made me want to revisit this 24-year-old story with the writer who brought it to life. Fortunately for me, Nicieza agreed to talk X-Men #30 and take me behind the scenes of this classic comic.
AiPT!: Every former X-Men writer seems to have at least one story about editorial mandates. So, was the wedding of Scott Summers and Jean Grey a story you initially wanted to tell, or something you were asked to incorporate into your X-Men run?
Fabian Nicieza: It was something [editor] Bob Harras, [Uncanny X-Men writer] Scott Lobdell and I all agreed was a logical story direction to take for the characters without any disagreements. We were all of age where we were starting to get married, so it was something that was on all of our minds–for good and bad!
AiPT!: You can never tell which stories will resonate with readers, but the wedding of one of comics’ most famous couples seems like a good contender. Did you feel any pressure tackling this assignment, or was it just another issue of X-Men from a writing perspective?
Nicieza: I remember feeling a lot of pressure, but as much for the characters as how readers would perceive it or whether it would “stand the test of time.” If you’re doing your job right on sequential monthly superhero titles for Marvel and DC, then the characters tell you what the story needs more than you telling the characters what to do. But Scott and Jean’s wedding was a tricky one because they had had–to say the least–a very complex history to their relationship. I didn’t want to write a wedding issue that was so happy and positive that it denied the reality of the lives they had led.
The key for me was having Xavier narrate it since we could see the rollercoaster ride of Scott and Jean’s relationship through his eyes.AiPT!: Re-reading this issue close to two decades after it was first published, as an adult, I’m amazed at how mature it is. This is very much a story about characters, who pretty much remain ageless, growing up and taking the next step in their lives–from Scott and Jean to Xavier and Logan. Was that a theme you wanted to get across in this story?
Nicieza: I haven’t re-read it in over 20 years! I was always dissatisfied with the final issue because Bob rewrote a lot of my narrative for Xavier to “soften” it a bit. Honestly, the original script was probably MORE mature and bittersweet than the final version. But yes, I purposefully wanted it to reflect the challenges Scott and Jean had faced and that meant being optimistic but acknowledging just how hard the road had been for them.
AiPT!: Aside from Logan’s foot kicking Sabretooth to the ground, I’m impressed that this superhero comic featured no action and managed to bring together all of the X-teams for a happy occasion–not a major crossover. This story took place between Fatal Attractions and the Age of Apocalypse. Was it in any way designed to be a breather between epics?
Nicieza: I think we were all so crossover-ed out at that point and knew more were on the way, so it didn’t have to be a superhero vs. supervillain extravaganza. Bob loved “slow down issues” and this one served as the perfect spot to do it.AiPT!: Back to Logan for a second–having a major X-Men story without Wolverine seems risky–especially in the ’90s. While Logan’s presence was felt, what was the thought behind keeping him off-panel for the entire issue?
Nicieza: In light of how chaotic so many storylines were back then, its kind of amazing when we did stick to one and not waver. Bob and Larry Hama were doing their thing with Wolverine and it was working really well so why mess with it? Considering the complication Logan had always posed to the Scott and Jean relationship, it just didn’t feel like the right place or time to drag that all out, so a cameo worked perfectly.
AiPT!: There are some wonderfully moving moments in here, from Jean and Xavier’s telekinetic dance in which she doesn’t hide her mutant pride to Scott and Xavier’s final talk in which Scott thanks Xavier for all he’s done for him. Was it your intention to make this as much Xavier’s story as Scott and Jean’s?
Nicieza: Partially yes, considering what had happened to the character in the previous year. Scott and Jean were a great reflection of all the things he had done wrong and right and the wedding a great opportunity to examine Xavier’s “dream” and see how his students lived with it–and sometimes died with it.AiPT!: The big two seem to spend just as much time marrying characters off as they do finding ways to break them up. Scott and Jean are no longer married, with Scott currently dead and Jean recently back from the dead. Having written such an iconic wedding issue, where do you fall in terms of marrying off characters and maturing them, in general?
Nicieza: I think marrying characters is problematic for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that few writers know how to handle a married couple! But the truth is that monthly comics are about finding a way to make the sausage appetizing to the audience. That means you have to mix up the ingredients once in a while and that also means eventually the creative teams will go back to an old recipe.
It is creating the illusion of change without changing to the point that you damage the core DNA of the characters.
AiPT!: Finally, when you look back on your time contributing to the never-ending X-Men mythos, are you ultimately proud of your contributions? And if X-Men #30 isn’t your favorite X-comic you wrote, what is?
Nicieza: I am satisfied that we entertained a lot of people for several years and sold a tremendous amount of comics. I don’t know that “proud” would be accurate in that–for a wide variety of reasons–I was rarely happy with the printed issues.
My personal favorite X-issue was X-Force #19. That one issue was probably the smartest one I did and the comic in which the book that printed was the closest to the content I submitted.
Thanks for taking the time to reminisce, Fabian! It should be noted Marvel will release “X-Men: The Wedding of Cyclops and Phoenix,” an oversized hardcover, this May ahead of Kitty and Colossus’ nuptials.