Marvel made headlines back in 2015 when they announced that Iceman-one of the original five X-Men-was gay. Then, in June 2017, the character received his own solo series. It was Marvel’s first ever ongoing title with a gay male lead, and it’s no secret that we dug it; Iceman topped AiPT!’s list of 2017’s top queer comics. Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with series writer Sina Grace about his time on the book, as well as what he hopes readers will take away from it once it concludes with issue #11.
AiPT!: In prepping for your time on Iceman, were there any past storylines or versions of the character that you found influential or otherwise particularly enjoyed?
Sina Grace: The fun part about prepping for Iceman was that-as an X-Fan-I’d been following books by the artists (not writers), so I really enjoyed reading the entirety of Mike Carey’s run. I definitely had to go over everything Brian Michael Bendis laid out… then I went through and re-read my favorite eras through the lens of Bobby… it was fun getting recommendations from Iceman fans, too. Todd Nauck’s a big Bobby fan, he directed me to some cool X-Factor stories.
AiPT!: What aspect of moving from more autobiographical works (i.e. Nothing Lasts Forever) to fantasy series set in larger continuities has been the most challenging? The most rewarding?
Grace: The process of working with Marvel Comics was an awesome boot camp in terms of learning how to roll with the punches about which characters to use and how to use them. I think the current stuff with Daken is a great example. When I pitched his coming back, there were already plans for his return in Wolverine. Editorial felt confident with both takes because he’s an antihero who likes to play both sides… we just had to temper how vicious Daken is in my take, y’know? The autobio stuff pushes me to say “how do I use illustration to reinforce why this story is a comic” and I think Marvel/”Big Two” stuff pushes me to ask “how do I use action to reinforce this story is a comic.” Like, Juggernaut representing the unstoppable nature of things (like, say, coming out to your parents) was maybe the best thing we did, and that definitely sprouted from editorial’s guidance.
AiPT!: You’ve played a lot in Iceman with expanding Bobby’s power set and pushing it to its limit. What has your process been like coming up with new ways for him to use his abilities, and has it been a back-and-forth of ideas with the series’ artists (Alessandro Vitti and Robert Gill)?
Grace: I’m probably gonna fumble the metaphor here, but Bobby’s got a perfect Magic: The Gathering deck with his skillset. I’d say he’s playing a blue deck. So, I go through all the options (is his turn an offense, defense, or???), try to come up with what I think works the best for the fight/ looks the coolest on the page. Then, with the artists, I also say “if you think of something cooler, go for it.” Robert and Alessandro both love fight scenes, so unless there’s a specific meaning to his use of powers, I let them go wild. Like, issue three I micromanaged the use of ice powers because everything was linked to the deeper tensions and meaning with the Purifier exchange. The fight with Daken in issue 9? I let Robert go wild.
AiPT!: One aspect I’ve enjoyed about the series is how Bobby’s relationship with his parents doesn’t feel perfectly linear; they’ve had poignant ups as well as major downs (i.e., the events of issue #8). How did you approach crafting this part of the narrative?
Grace: The two things I’m interested about with Bobby’s parents is that they’re set in their ways, and their insistence that they love their son (even though all they do is badger him). We’re all tired of “my parents are @$$holes” stories, and I just interviewed a lot of friends who had more conservative parents that tried dealing with their kids coming out to get a fuller picture of that journey. Life tends to be two steps forward, one step back… so it made sense to have both parties try their best but sometimes disappoint.
AiPT!: How did you decide on Daken as the series’ most recurrent antagonist? What about his dynamic with Bobby is most interesting to you personally?
Grace: If I’m being honest here (because that never gets people in trouble), I wanted to set Bobby and Daken in a romantic way. Not as a couple, but I wanted them to have a Gambit and Rogue, Warren and Betsy vibe. In my opinion, there was no organic way to take a recently out man and pair him with an incredibly experienced and confident bisexual man right out the gate, so I had to settle for at least planting the (apocalypse) seed. The way their arc ends positions them to have more significance in each other’s lives. Should writers in the future wanna play with that chemistry-rad.
When I started writing Daken, I felt like he had the ingredients for a really good foil for Bobby. From a powerset perspective, he’s just impervious and scrappy enough to hold his own against an omega level mutant. I don’t know, they just are so much fun together.
AiPT!: Iceman #9 featured brief cameos from Northstar and Rictor, plus mention of Shatterstar. Would you be interested in writing any of these characters again in the future, or any of Marvel’s other queer heroes?
Grace: If there was a story that required my specific touch with those characters, I would be down! I’m mostly excited to read what Matt Rosenberg is gonna do with Shatterstar and Ric in New Mutants. I guess I’d be more interested to play with grown-up “out” characters, as I could speak better to what it’s like to try and manage a relationship than being a young queer person in 2018.
AiPT!: With Iceman set to end at issue #11, what do you hope readers will take away from the series as a whole?
Grace: My hope with the Iceman run is that I added some flesh and bones to a character who maybe didn’t always have a fair shot at the limelight. I wanted to get Bobby Drake in a more confident position, so that way future stories can focus on the character wanting more for himself. Yeah, those were my goals: Bobby learning to love himself, and learning that he wants more from this world than assisting in the background. I wanted to make him a real human being, and a real hero.
AiPT!: Do you have any other current or upcoming projects to promote? Where can fans follow you online and keep up with your work?
Grace: Lots of fun stuff coming up! I have been talking with Marvel about [REDACTED] and maybe even doing something with [REDACTED], so I’m crossing my fingers on those! I have a cute Jem & The Holograms story coming out next month about The Misfits in the Dimensions series. Some cool stuff is in the works at Image… I always keep busy.
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