What a boring weekend. Absolutely nothing happened. Especially at San Diego Comic-Con. Am I right, X-Fans?
The “Dawn of X” is upon on us, and with it, boatloads of eXcitement as X-Fans await the launch of new X-Titles, such as Tini Howard and Marcus To’s Excalibur and Gerry Dugan and Matteo Lolli’s Marauders!
Me? Personally, I can’t wait for X-Men #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu. At long last, a series devoted entirely to comics’ most dysfunctional family: The Summers-Grey clan! Uh… and Wolverine.
I feel like X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White has been dodging X-Fan questions about the Hickman X-Era since we kicked off X-Men Monday 21 editions ago, but I think we can all agree the mystery only made this past weekend’s reveals more rewarding! And speaking of those reveals, obviously, Jordan’s been pretty busy, so he won’t be fielding any questions in this week’s edition of X-Men Monday. Fortunately, David Brooke, AiPT!’s Content and Media Manager was on the ground at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend.
Not only did Dave do an eXtraordinary job live tweeting all those X-Reveals and interviewing Hickman himself, but he also did me a solid and chatted with a few former X-Creators so you, the uncanny X-Men Monday audience, would have something cool to dig into today! So without further ado, let’s dig in, starting with former Uncanny X-Men writer–and acclaimed comics scribe–Kieron Gillen!
AiPT!: What contribution to the X-Men mythos are you most proud of?
Kieron Gillen: It’s funny, the bit that unusually came to mind is the bit with Doctor Sinister–Doctor–he is a doctor, though… Mister Sinister! He clones Scott Summers’ eyeballs and uses them in a gun to fire at people and that’s a pure level of dumbness in that–like, that’s clearly what Mister Sinister should be doing. He should be doing really stupid cloning experiments for shits and giggles. But I’ve always liked Mister Sinister. I loved all the stuff I did with Sinister. But in terms of all the ideas in the books, just using the X-Men as bits of meat, as technology and the idea of really dehumanizing them. He looks at the X-Men and thinks, oh that’s interesting, we can use that. That’s kind of like the Frankenstinian aspect of Sinister. That appealed to me.
AiPT!: I recently read the first volume of your Uncanny X-Men Complete Collection and I couldn’t help but think, where Cyclops is now, you inspired so much of that direction.
Kieron: That’s really kind. For me, it felt like i was picking up… I think Cyclops from about after Whedon took over… I think that’s probably one of the great bits of work-for-hire writing of the last 20 years–Cyclops’ arc. I always felt like I was basically taking over Breaking Bad at season 4 or 5. I’m taking over Cyclops as he’s doing this–heel turn might be too strong–but definitely close to that. Here’s a man who’s basically gone to Hell. Good intentions at every single step of the way, but he’s still going to Hell and I always felt I was building on the work that came before. What they did with Cyclops was, we’re going tell a story of this man–this is what happens when you take a boy and raise him as a paramilitary from the age of 16. For me, I always took Cyclops intensely seriously. For me it was always a tragedy. He’s a guy we love–he made a couple of failings of logic or humanity, really. I’ve read Hickman’s first two issues–they’re amazing. But it was a fun run, I did a lot of stuff.
AiPT!: Yeah, you made a reference to Iraq early on and how they needed a team to go out there–I was like, ‘Wow, this is so political’!
Kieron: I was very much inspired by the student riots in the U.K. at the time in, how does a youth organization find leadership among themselves… how they navigate that. I think it could have been more political. I think if I had stayed on the book, I probably would have done more, but I was happy where it went. It’s X-Men–if they’re not political, whats the point?
Next up, Nightcrawler artist and real-life Spider-Verse Peter Parker, Todd Nauck!
AiPT!: What was it like to work with Chris Claremont on the Nightcrawler series?
Todd: Oh my gosh, I grew up reading Chris Claremont X-Men, which I think almost anyone of our generation can say the same. I was starstruck. Getting Chris’ scripts was exciting and overwhelming. It was like the 15 year old in me was coming to work every day. I think it took about six issues before I felt like I could calm down and go, OK, this is legit, I’m a colleague with Chris. So it was a thrill to get them and to get to tap into what I remember reading. I could translate that into the stories I was working on with him. I had read his Nightcrawler. And we had Storm and Wolverine and Kitty Pryde guest-starring in our series, so knowing their interactions or relationships through the comics I read with them informed what I was going to do when translating the visuals of the series.
AiPT!: That’s a cool approach–so you were thinking of Chris’ versions of the characters as you illustrated.
Todd: Yeah, everything I remember reading–those continued stories, those continued relationships. That brotherly-sisterly connection between Storm and Nightcrawler–just tapping into that, because he wrote ‘Marvel Style’ and my editor kept pushing me to play with the layouts–take the story and take it further than what Chris has given you–really extrapolate that. So that really allowed me to tap into what I experienced and bring it to life in these new stories we were doing.
AiPT!: Do you have a favorite X-Men storyline?
Todd: “Inferno.” I love “Inferno.” I was a senior in high school when that came out. I loved every chapter, from X-Terminators #1 all the way through the Uncanny X-Men and X-Factor issues. That entire thing, all the crossovers, that’s probably my favorite crossover event story.
AiPT!: So, we’re at a convention and you’re doing commissions. What’s the character you get the most commission requests for and what character do you have the most fun drawing?
Todd: The character I get the most requests for–this doesn’t really fit X-Men Monday–But Spider-Man. But who do I have most fun drawing? Colossus. He’s big and massive and that banded metal texture is always fun to draw. And then rendering him in marker and getting to play with those blues and grays. And then the reds and yellows of his costume are a lot of fun visually. So I always have fun drawing Colossus.
Now for some talk with Tom Taylor, writer of X-Men Red and All-New Wolverine!
AiPT!: What contribution to the X-Men mythos are you most proud of? And is it Honey Badger?
Tom: It is without a doubt Gabby Kinney. I mean, what else could it be? She’s amazing. I just saw my first Gabby cosplayer in the flesh, like a young girl dressed up and she had a little Jonathan in his suit–beautiful!
AiPT!: Ah, that’s so cute! God, must bring a tear to your eye.
Tom: Completely. She was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so excited, you made my day’! I was like, you’ve way more than made my day–so cool.
AiPT!: Could you imagine something like that happening when you first created the character?
Tom: Well, she’s been in 50 issues now, you know? She’s been in 35 issues or whatever of Wolverine, then in X-23 and X-Men Red. And then she was in Secret Warps with Quicksilver. And was it Prisoner X that Vita was writing?
AiPT!: Yeah, that was so good, she had a nice attitude in that.
Tom: And that’s the thing, just seeing her go on and she’s been in Hawkeye… it makes me so happy, man. I don’t know what happens to her now with Hickman, but hopefully she’ll be around.
AiPT!: You mentioned X-Men Red–how did you go about redefining Jean Grey for a new generation of readers?
Tom: Look, I tried to put myself in her shoes for one thing. I get bored by the love triangle thing and I wanted her to not have any of that. People were like, ‘who is she going to hook up with’? I was like, who cares? She’s got a world to save. I’m going to worry about that first. But also, just the idea of coming back to life in this day and age at a time of real anxiety and a time of a very divided world, and for someone who can feel people, who is that empathetic and can feel what’s going on–to come back and feel that and just go I’m not going to be overwhelmed by this, I’m going to change this, I’m going to weaponize truth. Once I got a handle on her, I basically took where she was heading with Grant Morrison and just kept going toward where I thought she should be.
And finally, classic X-Artist Whilce Portacio!
AiPT!: What contribution to the X-Men mythos are you most proud of?
Whilce: Bishop. Because it’s really cool coming in after a world is built. Like, after I built his character, I ended up with a character who was powerful, capable and bad things like war and fighting didn’t bother him–that’s what I ended up with. What kind of world would create that? I couldn’t figure it out in today’s world, it just didn’t work. Then, wait a minute, Chris Claremont… Days of Future Past–it instantly struck me. What if a totally capable person was born a fighter, was born into that environment where if you didn’t know how to fight at an early age, you were dead? So he was genetically predisposed to be able to fight, but because he was born into fighting like Conan–born on the battlefield–fighting to him wasn’t a struggle, it wasn’t something he had to concentrate on and practice all the time, it was in his genes. So fighting is nothing to to him. So I then imagine, oh, so during the daytime he’s out there fighting Sentinels and other people, and then he comes back down underground–imagine a T2 world–and goes, where’s the next party? Because relationships and everyday life is what’s important to him. War, being a hero, being a fighter, fighting the good fight–that’s just something he can do.
AiPT!: Which X-Men character is your favorite to draw? Is it Bishop?
Whilce: Bishop is my cerebral guy, but the funnest has always been Storm because I’ve always loved that dichotomy that she is the ice queen, and that’s why I did that cover of her crying in the rain–but you cant tell she’s crying in the rain because it’s raining. But she did have one loose element to her that was her hair. She had a mohawk phase, a Marilyn Monroe phase, so it was great drawing her always stoic, but her hair was like Medusa, all over the place, but we never talked about it or played with it.
AiPT!: Do you have a favorite Storm look?
Whilce: I love the mohawk because I love taking it from punk into glamour, like extending it in the back and the front and that’s because I’m heavily influenced by Japanese aesthetics.
AiPT!: You’ve been doing quite a few recent X-Covers, including those for the final issues of Uncanny X-Men. What was it like getting to revisit all those characters?
Whilce: Oh, it was great revisiting the characters. My only lament is today’s world is different. I do appreciate the opportunity to do cover gigs after 30 years of page in, page in, page in. Now I can take up to a week to do one image and really think about what I want to do. See, back then, the incentive to doing the interiors was that you knew the plot, so you knew what to do for the cover. So as a cover artist, I’m so separated from the plot that I didn’t even know I knew that would be my last cover. It’s just concepts. I did the Storm one with the rift [Age of X-Man: Omega], and all I was told was, OK, this guy’s version of Storm in his world and the original X-Men coming in and butting against that world. And so it’s an easy, obvious concept right there, but that’s all it is. They just give you a concept and you try to go as far as you can with it, but then again, you don’t know the real details.
AiPT!: Interesting stuff! And on that note, we wrap up this special SDCC 2019 edition of X-Men Monday! Thank you to Kieron, Todd, Tom and Whilce for taking the time to talk X-Men! And a HUGE thanks to David for running around the show floor to get these answers! As the summer convention season is in full swing, we’ll be doing a few more of these, so stay tuned!
Also, just a programming note, X-Men Monday is taking next week off. But the column–and Jordan–will be back Monday, August 5!
It’s OK, though… I feel like something X-Men-related is coming out real soon that should keep X-Fans preoccupied…