After a week off (sort of), X-Men Monday is back! Did you all have an eXtraordinary Memorial Day weekend? I sure hope it was relaxing, because today’s edition of X-Men Monday is as epic and eXtreme as it gets. Today, we’re talking X-Events!
“Mutant Massacre,” “Inferno,” “X-Tinction Agenda,” “Phalanx Covenant,” “Age of Apocalypse” – I could go on and on, but the point is there have been a lot of X-Men crossovers. Because just as X-Fans know the Phoenix will always rise again, they also know it’s only a matter of time before they’re reading every chapter of the next major X-Event.
So, as the X-Men are currently caught up in the Age of X-Man, and House of X and Powers of X are just weeks away, there’s no better time for X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White to share his views on past, present and future X-Men epics!
AiPT!: Welcome back, Jordan! Let’s start with a general question… what’s your favorite X-Event of all time and why?
Jordan: Probably “Inferno.” It was so nutty and had such a crazy setup that provided books with really weird tie-in opportunities. My first exposure to it was the Spider-Man issues, where stuff was turning into demons and attacking people, it was such a weird backdrop to just slip into books, but I had fun reading those. Only much later did I read the actual X-Book tie-ins and learn the actual story. Again, I just think it was such a crazy way to smash the X-Books into one another, and I love that it was how they resolved the Jean/Maddy issues. I think it was a pretty clever solution, even if it did contribute to the ongoing idea that all redheaded characters are Jean Grey in one way or another.
AiPT!: Obviously, the ’90s were known for mega crossovers that spread across multiple titles, to varying degrees of success. With that said, Ross is just here for the geekery (@RPHutch1975) wanted to know what, in your opinion, was the best X-Event of the ’90s?
Jordan: Well, I mean… it’s “Age of Apocalypse,” isn’t it? That event casts a LONG shadow. I definitely remember reading “X-Cutioner’s Song” and “Phalanx Covenant” as they were coming out and enjoying that hopping-from-book-to-book styles story that promised to leave something changed in every series… but “AoA” was a legend. People could not believe it was happening. This was before it was commonplace for books to end and restart at Marvel, so stopping all the books was CRAZY. Books ended because they didn’t sell, not as part of a story! And the world we got thrown into was so crazy and interesting… it was a really engrossing read. I will admit, I was not reading the X-Books anymore when it came out, it took a friend coming to me with the entire series stacked in reading order in a bag and saying I had to read it for me to give it a go. I did and I loved it, even though this friend also swore by putting hot fudge on McDonald’s fries.
AiPT!: Fudge fries? That’s terrifying. Moving on, Apocalypse Orgy (@MarvelMan616) asked, as an editor, what do you think makes a comic book event “work” and, conversely, “not work”?
Jordan: So, the toughest thing about answering this is there are a lot of very different things that get the word “event” slapped on them–sometimes by Marvel, sometimes by fans. I don’t know that there is an accepted definition of “Event.” There are two ways I can think of to judge them, off the top of my head, depending what sort of story you’re labelling “Event.”
First off, there is the most obvious and straightforward way–does it work as a story? Is it entertaining and does it justify whatever hype or hoopla surrounded it, or more simply, are people satisfied with it when they read it? I don’t think I need to explain much about how this works–it’s pretty straightforward.
The other, though, is less about how the story of the event itself goes but what opportunities it provides for other books and ongoing stories. Some events are bigger than just their own story–they have tie-ins and spinoff mini-series and such, and I think the measure of the success on that front is how well the event sets the table for other books to tell good stories, stories that don’t just serve the event, but work in and of themselves. The event provides a new status quo, or a specific upset in the status quo or something like that. To go back to “Inferno” for a moment, reading the Spider-Man tie-ins, or later reading the Excalibur tie-ins, those were fun because the event provided a fun setup for them to tell stories that furthered their books, not just things that fed back into the “Inferno” storyline.
As another example, during Gerry Duggan’s run on Deadpool, we tied in with every big Marvel event we could… but we did our best to make sure that every time we were taking the setup the event provided and using it to further the story we were telling about Wade. I cannot claim we always nailed it, but we did our best and I think did pretty well. So… during “Original Sin,” Deadpool’s friend’s learned a horrible dark secret about him that fed into the ongoing plot about him being manipulated. During “Axis,” Deadpool turned into “Zenpool,” throwing his life into chaos since so much of it is built on violence. And we used “Secret Empire” to have Wade cross the final lines of ruining everything good in his life by making the easy decision. This was all the direction we would have gone without any crossovers, generally, but we were able to use the building blocks they provided to put it get us there while mixing in the ongoing story of the Marvel Universe. And I think the best events make that easy for their tie-ins.
AiPT!: A similar question from Cory (@corybthosaurus), “Events” have taken many forms over the years, from crossovers and mini-series to multiple standalone books. Do you have any thoughts about choosing the best format for a given event?
Jordan: I think the best form is the one that fits the tale being told. There are definitely sales and marketing ideas about what would sell better that we have to consider, but in an ideal world, the form of the event is tailored to the story or sometimes vice versa so they go hand in hand. A crossover event with chapters within the runs of the titles tying in should work and feel different than one that unfolds in a mini-series–there is an implicit promise to each of the series that this story will matter to that series, that as a reader of the run of the title, you will want and need to read this whole thing. With a mini-series event, there is less obligation to those titles. For example, if you have an event taking place in X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force and X-Traneous, you want someone who only reads X-Force to feel like they got something out of reading that event. If you put a story out that is just the X-MEN: X-TRAPOLATION mini-series, you can feel free to have the main characters be Cyclops, Storm and Boom-Boom. It could (and ideally would) still be a huge important story that affects the overall status quo of the X-Line in general… but it need not service the X-Factor characters’ stories specifically like it should if it were happening in their book.
AiPT!: “Age of Apocalypse,” “Age of X,” “Age of X-Man” … Zack Jenkins (@XavierFiles) wanted to know why alternate realities have been such a touchstone for X-Men events?
Jordan: Well, “Age of Apocalypse” was not meant to be an alternate reality, much like “Days of Future Past” was not meant to be one, and “House of M” was not meant to be one. They were meant to be this Earth altered by time-travel, or this Earth in the future, or this Earth altered by Wanda. But I think all three of them were stories that captured fans’ imaginations so much that people kept wanting to bring them back after they no longer existed, and alternate realities allowed for that to happen. That and the fact that there is a pretty strong Excalibur/Captain Britain streak running through X-Fandom and C-Creatordom and alternate realities are such a big part of those stories.
The other reason, of course, being that alternate realities give us the opportunity to mess with the characters in ways we don’t get to in the normal one. That was the fun of all three of those stories–that it was the X-Men you know and love but all in a completely new place and context.
AiPT!: Speaking of alternate realities… if you could go back to any X-Event and change one thing as an editor, what would it be and why?
Jordan: Oh man, you are going to get me in trouble. OK… I am going to go for broke and give you the real answer.
I would not have done “Decimation.” Maybe “Decimation” itself isn’t an event, but then I would not have done “No more mutants” at the end of House of M. I understand the criticism that people were creating mutants too freely, that it was too easy to just create a character and when coming up with a backstory just say “they are a mutant” … but I think you solve that problem internally by telling the writers to stop doing that. Actually wiping out the large bulk of mutantkind was something I didn’t think was the ideal choice and led to a lot of things I was not keen on in its aftermath.
To me, having mutantkind reduced to 198 people means they are not a minority anymore, they are a statistical zero. Hating and fearing mutants goes from being small-minded to nonsensical–you will never meet one, there are less than 200 in the world. It would be like hating left-handed people from Europe with the middle name Stefan–there are probably a few out there, but wasting your time thinking about them is silly.
AiPT!: I once met a left-handed Stefan from Europe–he was actually quite pleasant! Anyway, let me ask you–is there an “Age of Apocalypse” version of a character you think is way better than their 616 counterpart?
Jordan: Probably Sabretooth, but mostly because I really loved Exiles and watching him go through everything that he did in that series was pretty great.
AiPT!: Are there any X-Events from your time in the X-Office that went in very different directions than originally planned? If so, could you give an example of how the direction of the story changed?
Jordan: Well, I am a real nerd when it comes to time travel, and I really think that if you use time travel you have to push for airtight logic, or as close to it as you can get using fantasy ideas. So when we started working on “Battle of the Atom” and it was clear that it was going to involve a lot of time travel shenanigans, I tried really hard to get everyone to make the time travel follow logic. Like… that whole idea that if Teen Cyclops dies in the present that reality starts to break apart? It’s a cool dramatic moment, but I would argue that it does not follow, logically. The fact that the teen X-Men leaving the past and coming to the present did not result in them arriving in a changed present where they disappeared as teens never to be seen again means that as far as “reality” is concerned, they have already gone back in time and resumed their lives.
So I was pushing to make it so, rather than someone almost dying making reality almost break, rather some sort of change happened that meant they COULD NOT go back in time until they solved it. I think my immediate suggestion was Teen Beast losing an arm–they know that he had two arms in history, so now until they can somehow give him a new arm so he would go back the way history says he was, they are stuck there.
But instead everyone told me I was overthinking it. #AssistantEditorLife
AiPT!: Cyclops recently appeared in a “War of the Realms” tie-in issue of Champions. What’s the process like when another Marvel Editorial office wants to borrow a character from your toy box?
Jordan: Mostly it’s done through editors coordinating things. That’s part of the reason we’re all here in an office together.
In this particular case, I’d already been in communication with Tom and Jim about the series because they had asked if they could include a teen mutant in the book and we’d landed on Dust, so when Tom Brevoort reached out to me to ask if, since we’ve got Cyclops back as an adult with all his memories of being Teen Cyclops intact, he could appear in Champions during “War of the Realms” to have a reunion with his fellow Champs I figured that would work out great. I talked to Matt Rosenberg about it, put Matt and Jim in touch about the Cyclops idea so they could know what each other were doing in “War of the Realms” and plans for it were locked in. When Tom got a script in for the issue from Jim, he sent it my way so Matt and I could take a look and make sure everything fit from our side of things. I don’t remember if we had any notes–if we did, it was probably something small, like concerning the timing on Dust not coming to join Cyclops’s team or whatnot. Overall, this one worked out great and I am glad we were able to make it all link up.
AiPT!: In your opinion, is there an underrated X-Event you think every X-Fan should check out?
Jordan: I don’t know about “underrated” … but I really love “Schism” and everything it set in motion.
AiPT!: It’s clear Jonathan Hickman wants readers to rethink everything they know about the X-Men. What can you tease about “events” in the Hickman X-Era?
Jordan: Obviously I cannot say anything yet… but I am sure we will figure out a way to make them as new as his X-Men ideas are across the board.
AiPT!: Finally, for your weekly song recommendation… what’s your favorite “epic” song?
Jordan: Epic you say? How about the half-hour long, three movement Prog Rock masterpiece off of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1973 album “Brain Salad Surgery,” “KARN EVIL 9”!
I’m not sure why I love this song, but I definitely do. The whole song is set in some terrible future, and after setting the scene there, the first movement takes us to a crazy future carnival where we are told of all the insane exhibits they have by the barker. The second movement is entirely instrumental, but then the third movement comes in talking about a space war which they seem to win at least in part by using AI, except that then the AI takes over. Yeah, it’s nutty. But it’s awesome. I saw them perform it in concert once, which was terrific.
AiPT!: Yep, I’d say that qualifies as an “epic” song–well done, sir! And on that nutty note, we bring this week’s edition of X-Men Monday at AiPT! to a close! As always, thanks to Jordan for taking the time to share insight into the inner workings of Marvel’s X-Office, and a big thank you to all the X-Fans who submitted questions.
Just a reminder that Jordan recently appeared on the AiPT! Comics Podcast, so if you missed episode 22, you can listen here. In addition, I recently spoke to writer Leah Williams about her stellar mini-series, Age of X-Man: X-Tremists–you can read that interview here.
With Dark Phoenix in theaters this week, next X-Men Monday will be all about the first X-Woman, Jean Grey, so look for the call for questions on AiPT!’s Twitter tomorrow morning (June 4)!
Sorry, Jean, you’re right–OR, get a head start in the comment space below! (That better?)