An interview with Marvel’s ukulele-loving, X-Men Group Editor Jordan D. White!
Since their debut in 1963, the X-Men have sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them. But you know what? Here at AiPT!, we’ve got nothing but love for Marvel’s mighty mutants! To celebrate the long-awaited return of Uncanny X-Men, AiPT! Brings you UNCANNY X-MONTH: 30 days of original X-Men content. Hope you survive the experience…Who is the X-Men’s true leader? Before this devolves into a Schism-like Cyclops vs. Wolverine debate, I’ll cut right to the chase and tell you it’s none other than Jordan D. White, Marvel’s current X-Men Group Editor. This is an eXciting–and very busy–time for White and the X-Office, with Uncanny X-Men making its highly anticipated comeback. But White’s no Mister Sinister, deviously pulling the strings from behind the scenes–he’s actually very friendly and was nice enough to chat with AiPT! about all things X-Men! And… They Might Be Giants, of course.
AiPT!: So, Jordan, what is the average day like for the X-Men Group Editor?
Jordan D. White: Lots of email, lots of reading. I get in to the office around 8 a.m. every day, put my iPod classic on shuffle (an essential part of keeping my sanity, it currently just shifted from Oingo Boingo to Bad Religion) and dive into the mountain of email that came in overnight Scrooge McDuck style. In there will be art coming in from various pencilers, inkers and colorists across the X-line, scripts from writers, and notes and questions from all of the above that need to be responded to. A lot of the job is kicking things to a person in the production process then waiting for them to send something back and then reacting to what they sent–giving them notes, praise, etc. and then moving things to the NEXT person in the process.
In addition to the scripts that we need to read, we’ve also got the lettering proofs of the books going to press that week. For books I edit, the lettering proof gets read by proofreading, then my assistant on the book, then me, then we send the proof with our notes to the writer for revisions–a process we tend to do twice for every issue. I also will read a proof of any of the books the folks who work for me are editing that week, so every book the X-Men Office puts out, I’ve read and given notes on.
At some point in there I go to lunch–usually with a bunch of the other folks from editorial, with whom I will talk about how crazy Riverdale was that week, whatever horrible thing has popped up in the news that day, and what our pitches are for stupid movie sequels, like the nine sequels to Titanic we worked out one day that involve Jack commandeering the ship and sailing it through hell. After that, back to a fresh pile of email and new stacks of proofs to read until I leave at 5 (most days) to go pick up my little baby from daycare.
AiPT!: In your opinion, what makes a good X-Men comic?
White: Obviously, it starts with the things that make any good comic–finding the right combination of writers and artists who can collaborate in synch to make a good story. Tom Brevoort has said before that casting the right people on the right book is 90% of our job, because if you get that right, everything else is so much easier. That and working with people who have a passion to make the story as good as it can be at every step of the way are essential to any great book.
But as for what makes it a great X-Men comic specifically… honestly, it’s something I think about a lot, and I have not come up with one answer that I think is right all the time. Most of the time, though, I come back to the logline of “hated and feared by those they choose to protect.” That the X-Men are heroes not because it gets them anything–they only get more hatred hurled their way by drawing the spotlight onto themselves–but because it’s the right thing to do and it’s who they are, they continue to be the heroes the world needs.
AiPT!: Past X-Men creators often tell stories about past editors interfering with their X-Men runs. Do those stories influence how you oversee the line or provide feedback and direction to the creators you currently work with?
White: Like I said before, comics is a collaborative medium. Unless one person is writing, drawing, coloring, lettering and self-publishing a creator-owned project, it’s going to be people working together to create one product that, hopefully, is better than what one person could conceive on their own. With a Marvel book, one of those collaborators is the editor, whose job it is to be a caretaker for the characters and series. I am not going to say there has never been an overbearing editor–of course there has, and that can be as disruptive as when any collaborator is too aggressive. I try to be a good collaborator as much as I can, encouraging and helping the story the writers and artists want to tell whenever possible.
AiPT!: Uncanny X-Men’s first arc looks to be 10 issues of non-stop action on an epic scale. Is it safe to assume there’ll still be time for character drama, romance and all the other soap opera elements that X-Fans know, love and crave?
White: NO ASSUMPTION IS SAFE.
But there might just be some soap opera in there… when they are not punching everything!
AiPT!: I feel like anybody who currently works on an X-Men comic and has Twitter has been bombarded with pleas to bring Cyclops back from the dead. Why do you think Scott Summers has developed such a loyal following since his passing?
White: I am not sure it only happened after his death–Scott’s been around a long time, and a lot of folks have been in his corner most of that time. Back in the Schism era (when I was but a wee assistant editor in the X-Office), folks on Cyclops’ side of that divide were pretty fervent in their defense of him. In addition, he’s been a lot of things to a lot of people over the years–there are folks who love him from his militant era, there are folks who love him from his boy scout era, there are folks who like both… I had a non-scientific twitter poll for who is the best X-Character, and Cyclops took OVER TEN PERCENT of the votes! 212 out of 1,800-something votes. I was blown away that he was THAT much more popular that Wolverine (who only got 119).
AiPT!: What can you tell me about the upcoming “Age of X-Man”?
White: Right now, all I can tell you is that it comes after “Disassembled,” kicking off with the Age of X-Man Alpha issue by Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler and Ramon Rosanas. Also, that it involves at least one X-Man.
AiPT!: Beyond “Disassembled,” what does 2019 have in store for the X-Men line?
White: Pretty big things that it’s too early to even tease. Readers have no idea where we are headed yet… it’s going to be a crazy ride. 2019 is gonna change everything for the X-Men.
AiPT!: It’s very refreshing to see a Marvel editor so active on Twitter and willing to engage with X-Men fans on a regular basis. Why is it important to you to offer that level of accessibility to readers?
White: Honestly, I do it because I love comic books, I love the work I do on them, and I love talking about both with other fans. Marvel doesn’t ask me to get on Twitter and talk to people or do X-Men Monday tweets, I just like interacting with X-Fans and so… there I am, sitting on the train home, listening to They Might Be Giants or The Indelicates and answering questions about what my favorite X-Series was (Excalibur, naturally) and which X-Man is most likely to play the ukulele (which I said was Beast, but I’ve been informed that maybe Dazzler already plays one, except the jury is out on that one, as it had six strings…).
AiPT!: Now that you live and breathe X-Men, is there anything you’ve learned about the X-Men and their fans you never realized?
White: That EVERY X-MAN, no matter how obscure, no matter how many issues or even panels they appeared in, has HARD CORE, Ride-or-Die fans who are just as passionate if their fave is Lifeguard as they are if it’s Nightcrawler.
AiPT!: You just mentioned They Might Be Giants… you recently posted a great ukulele cover of TMBG’s “Thunderbird.” As a fellow fan of the band, I have to ask: What’s your favorite TMBG album and your favorite TMBG song?
White: Oh my god, why is the hardest question the TMBG question? I love them so much, having to pick one is insane to me. I mean, the album “Flood” is a classic for a reason, and the fact that I’ve been to more than one concert where they play the whole thing has been really amazing. It’s probably their best… but I love every one of their albums for different reasons because I have been a fan for SO LONG. Likewise, picking a song is killing me. “Letterbox” was the first song that leapt into my mind, but what about “Spoiler Alert”? Or “Dinner Bell”! Or “Welcome to the Jungle”! Or “Experimental Film”! Or “Weep Day”!!! Too many to choose from.