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“We’re going in a radically different direction”: Jonathan Hickman talks the new era of ‘Dawn of X’ at SDCC

Jonathan Hickman talks the philosophy behind writing X-Men, and going in a bold new direction with ‘Dawn of X.’

The Marvel’s Next Big Thing panel was by far the biggest comics panel at SDCC 2019 with a heck of a lot of reveals, especially if you’re an X-Men fan. I live-tweeted the panel, and judging by your reactions, the Dawn of X book reveals are rocking your world! Right after the panel, AiPT! and three other press outlets had the opportunity to talk to Jonathan Hickman directly about the new books and his approach.

Hickman talked about a lot of things in the short six or so minutes we had with him. He discussed how this is a repositioning of the X-Men comics, similar to what Brian Michael Bendis did with the Avengers, how this is a radically different direction compared to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s run, and which of the books he’s writing is his favorite. X-fans, be sure to read to the end, as Hickman hints at a future book he’ll be working on that “no one else would do…it only exists because I want to do it and it’s going to be my favorite thing ever.”

Here’s the full transcript of the interview:

Polygon: What was going on that made you feel like it was time for a new era, and what are we moving away from more from and what are we moving to?

Jonathan Hickman: Well, there’s a lot that’s been going on since I’ve been at Marvel over the past ten, twelve years or something like that. During that period of time, a lot of our priorities were different, you know, in the books that we were pushing and all of that. You know, I have always loved the book, right? And I mean, really loved the book, right? Like, that was the thing that I read. But I always wanted a crack at it. But it was one of those things where it wasn’t going to be, you know, the biggest priority. I had to go write Avengers and, you know, there were other books I had to write.

I was actually — I had been gone for a couple of years and then I was sitting around and Dan Buckley called me and wanted me to come back and one of the things that we talked about was how do we make the X-Men the giant X-Men that it was most of my life, right? And so I came up with what I thought was wrong or tired or needed changing. And you know, in the same way, that Brian [Michael Bendis] repositioned the Avengers during “Disassembled” and all that kind of stuff. What is that version of the X-stuff? And we came up with this. What needed changing? A lot. What did we change? A whole lot. But it feels like the X-Men is the important thing. It feels like it was the book that we read a long time ago but it’s not. It’s this new thing. And I think that’s the key right? That’s how we kind of unlocked it.

Credit: Marvel

AiPT!: Sounds like you had a pros/cons list.

JH: I had a lot of lists, man. A lot of things that we wanted to do. The plan that we have is extensive and broad and long-reaching, and how it works inside the Marvel universe and all of that kind of stuff is cool. What we’re getting ready to do is really cool and exciting — where we’re going is gonna be really, really interesting.

Newsarama: I wanna ask you a follow up to what you just said about the things that were working and not working.

JH: Sure.

Newsarama: Obviously there have been themes in the X-Men that have kind of existed for a long time. In 2019 with this new vision, this generational story that you’re telling. What do you see as the through-line for mutants? What’s the thing that you’re trying to communicate with the X-Men that only the X-Men consider right now?

JH: Well, I’m not going to answer that, because that’s kind of the premise of what we’re doing in the House of X and Powers of X. But generally, I think that the X-Men have a unique place in the Marvel Universe, and that that’s the thing that they do, right? Like, that’s kind of what the book is about — the other kids, right? Still, at its DNA, primal DNA, a very much a — in the same way, Steve Rogers was a scrawny kid who couldn’t do what he had to and he was transformed. Still the same kind of thing, but you know, it took on that extra societal importance. And we’re super hyper keen about that. You’re gonna have to wait and see. I’m sorry.

IGN: So back in [Grant] Morrison’s New X-Men, he kind of tried to push the franchise past that original Xavier/Magneto dynamic and start something new, and I feel like since then, some of the books have tried to continue with that and others have sort of reverted, so in your mind how much does that dominate the run? How much are you trying to move forward from that?

JH: I think what happened after Grant and Frank [Quitely] did their thing is that you got that version of the X-Men and then there’s been this nostalgic version of the X-Men. The karaoke version, right? Playing the old hits kind of stuff. And those two things have been fighting with each other, probably since that run. You know, that stuff that works that Grant did, and then, “No, we want to do the older, more nostalgic stuff.”

And I think what we’ve done… it’s not similar to what Grant did, in many many ways, because Grant was faced with — we need to reduce the number of mutants, we need to make them special by making it less and all of that kind of stuff. So there were constraints that were going on that were radical. We’re going in a radically different direction. But I think the code that we’ve kind of cracked is how to marry those two things where you give the sexy new Grant-thing, right? But it feels like the old stuff. And again that’s super vague.

AiPT!: Do you approach writing mutants in any way different than you would other characters?

JH: Well, my experience doing this has been completely different than how it was on all the other Marvel books that I’ve done, because I knew all of this stuff already. I didn’t know much about the Avengers or the Fantastic Four or anything like that. I mean, I do now. But you know, this comes pre-baked in a way that anything else that I’ve done at Marvel has not been. And as a result it feels less like… “homework” is a bad term but I’ll use it. It feels less like homework and it’s just more fun. Again, it’s kind of not just a joy. And so that’s a big difference.

Polygon: The six books announced today, of the ones you’re writing, do you have any favorite? Or you’re excited to get it out in the world?

[Skottie Young pops his head over]

JH: I’m sorry, I saw this handsome man and I got distracted.

Skottie Young: Why is everyone hovering around — oh, you’re interviewing.

JH: Marauders is an amazing book. Marauders is an amazing book and it gets the world of what we’re doing in a way that is perfect and unique, right?

[Hickman turns to Jordan D. White]

Jordan D. White: Absolutely. I said the same thing.

JH: But the other books are cool — like, they get it. But Jerry had a distinct advantage because he has been in the writer’s room every time I’ve pitched this, so it’s been in his head, right?

JDW: Yep.

JH: For a longer period of time.

Credit: Marvel

JDW: I think he first pitched Mauraders to us like a year and a half ago or something like that.

JH: Yeah, he heard my pitch and was like, “Oh my God, I want to do this book!” And so Jerry’s been in a long time and so his stuff is just kind of more cooked. But they’re all interesting books. Listen the stuff that we’re doing going forward — it’s just so different. It’s just so different. And well done to this point. We’ll try to keep the level up.

Newsarama: Was there a philosophy behind the six titles that you chose? You got some deep cuts in there — was there an overarching idea of like, we have to have this and not this?

JH: Well, one of the things that I like to do is I like to take old names. Familiar names, and do the new version of them. And so we looked at a ton of titles of books. We talked about X-Factor and we talked about other X-type books. These are the six that we settled on right now, but you’re going to see in the way that comes after we’re doing that in a broader way as well. But you know, it’s X-Men — it’s all deep cuts.

AiPT!: You seem like a big science guy, right? Big ideas.

JH: Every once and awhile.

AiPT!: Are you getting to do things that you’ve been wanting to do for quite a while?

JH: There’s a book that I’m going to be doing. I’m not sure when. But there’s a book I’m going to be doing that is probably… no one else would do it. It only exists because I want to do it and it’s going to be my favorite thing ever. So…

AiPT!: And it’s an X-Men book?

JH: Yeah, no, absolutely.

It all begins with House of X #1, which will be available in comic shops next week, July 24th!

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