Welcome, X-Fans, to a very special–dare I say… MARVELOUS–edition of X-Men Monday! That’s right, this week, we’re celebrating the Age of X-Man, which will come to a close in Age of X-Man: Omega, on sale July 17. It’s been a wild ride, and it’s true what they say: time flies when you’re trapped in a sexually repressed reality. All kidding aside, this thought-provoking X-Event has produced fan-favorite mini-series like Prisoner X and X-Tremists and convinced readers that Psylocke-Blob is the X-Couple they never knew they wanted.
Before we get into our Age of X-Man celebration, a quick word from your friendly neighborhood X-Men Senior Editor, Jordan D. White!
Jordan: Hey there, guys–I am so busy working on House of X and Powers of X that I don’t think I can do the column this week. It’s a lot of work changing everything about the X-Men forever! Fortunately, all my Age of X-Man writer pals volunteered to help out and answer all your burning questions about the world that Nate created. I was gonna swoop in and cover anything they didn’t… but it looks like they actually have everything well in hand! I gotta go back to wrangling Jonathan. HE OWES ME SO MANY CHARTS.
AiPT!: Thanks, Jordan–you get those charts! Without further ado, how about we dig into those X-Men Monday questions? First up, a compliment and a request! Evan Mc (@evanmccarthy) said he absolutely adored the Age of X-Man and would love to hear more about how this event was originally pitched and how such a touching and creatively daring event was greenlit.
Lonnie Nadler: First off, thank you. We’re very proud of how it turned out so it’s always nice to know when it hits home. As for how it was pitched, Zac covered most of it. Zac and I are both huge X-Man fans. One of the first books we ever pitched to Marvel was an X-Man reboot, and so we had no shortage of ideas. We knew creating an event like this would be really difficult because so many have been done in the past. We wanted to find a way to honor what had come before, pulling from our favorite events, while also pushing the limits in terms of what an event book could be. Zac and I knew we wanted to do some sort of meta dystopia/utopia that really broke down what the X-Men mean, while also serving as a commentary on the current social landscape. It also had to make sense that Nate would create this world, so it was grounded by his personal philosophies. Nate’s had nothing but tumultuous relationships since his birth, and the same can be said about the vast majority of the X-Men family. He also has a history of being spiritual and altruistic as a result. So, ultimately we came to this idea of doing a sort of reverse Brave New World scenario where all relationships are forbidden and the world is a significantly better place because of it.
Zac Thompson: Lonnie and I got a call in the summer of last year that basically was like, hey this is how “X-Men Disassembled” is ending. We know it goes into a new world created by Nate Grey but beyond that we need to fill out the details. We came up with a variety of different pitches for how this world could work. What made each of them tick, and how each of them would play out on a grand scale. Eventually, the one that readers got was a strange marriage of two of those ideas that came together really nicely. Once we came up with the general concept, we set some ground rules with the editorial team and then things were rolling rather quickly!
There’s still one of them that I’d love to do one day but it was far too crazy to work.
AiPT!: Intriguing. Now, I have to say, several months later, much of the Age of X-Man is still a mystery. While bits and pieces of this world’s history have been teased in various comics and on blind bag covers, I have to wonder… is the full and detailed history of this reality and its mutants written down somewhere in an Age of X-Man bible? And will we ever see it?
Leah Williams: In my FANFICTION, maybe.
Zac: We have written an entire detailed history of the world. There’s a lot of X-Men continuity that we’re toying with but we chose a point with Jordan where things started to deviate. Then we wrote out exactly what happened to create the world as you all know it. We decided not to tip our entire hand because it would keep readers guessing as to what happened and how the X-Men came about buying such a story. Everything had to work off implication and in making that choice it made the world all the more stranger for those living in it. But, rest assured, Lonnie and myself have an entire detailed bible about what happened, when, who it happened to, and why these events were toyed with by Nate. I’ll give you a hint for where it deviates–Cable and Hope are involved. 😀
Lonnie: Yes. It does exist. Zac and I know pretty well every detail of this world and its alternate history, but in the end that stuff isn’t what matters. There are too many alternate histories already and so it’s almost superfluous. What does matter is the world that spun out of it.
AiPT!: OK, Zac and Lonnie, Dan Grote (@danielpgrote) said, when it came to divvying up your spreadsheet of characters among the books, how were dibs determined? Was it like gym class, where each dodgeball captain picks one at a time? If so, Dan wants to know who was last picked.
Zac: For most of the books, Lonnie and I created the teams. Once the general world was built, we had to create books that felt like they explored different pockets of this utopia. So when it came to the individual titles and their functions in this world, we pretty much divvied them out based on where we believed these characters would go, or how Nate would place them in this world. Everyone on Department X is there for a reason, same with the jail, the Marvelous X-Men is comprised of heavy-hitters that would figure things out first, etc. It was all about doing the math so the dominos fell in the most unpredictable of ways. Then giving these characters to the creative teams who could best excel at telling these stories. Which is all to Jordan’s credit. Lonnie and I just made the teams and the general concepts, the creative teams deserve all the credit for their phenomenal stories.
There was one book that came together last and we had to do some juggling to make it work. But that’s not my story to tell.
Lonnie: It’s a tough thing to do because when you’re given a spreadsheet with almost a hundred characters you’ve loved your whole life, your first inclination is to just pick the ones you like the most. But then you end up with a team of 12 and no real reason for them to be together. Does anyone really want a team that’s Nature Girl, Legion, Glob, X-Man, Storm, Colossus, Bishop and Armor? Other than Zac and I, no. That’s bad for story and bad for motivation. So, Zac and I divided the characters for the most part onto the teams that would make the most sense for them. We tried to look at character personas, their situation in the “real world,” and to make decisions based on where they would land in the Age of X-Man. We never wanted any team to feel like they had a character just because they had nowhere else to go. And I think, every character plays a vital role in their respective books.
Leah: Each of the short-pitch mini-series tie-ins came with a suggested cast of characters and the first three names on my suggested list were Iceman, Jubilee and Northstar which I could immediately picture working in my head. I asked lots of questions and had a long conversation with Jordan about who was even still available just to make sure I was picking the best possible team dynamic, and a lot of the characters I asked about were already spoken for–even Maggott! But I think I ended up going with, like, four of Zac and Lonnie’s original suggestions because they worked so well–Jubilee, Iceman, Northstar and Psylocke. Blob was my addition.
Tim Seeley: I got a list of who to use from the guys and Jordan and was totally OK with figuring out how to make that work. I was familiar with Kitty, Dazzler and Apocalypse, and I just had to do some researching on Eye Boy and Evan. I was also given the chance to create a new character, ala Blink from Age of Apocalypse, so I devised Unveil. I was surprised at how flexible Zac and Lonnie were on this whole thing. Chill dudes to collaborate with, and I think everyone on the team worked really well with their characters.
Vita Ayala: When I saw the outline, there were suggested team breakdowns already, they had encouraged to deviate if I wanted, but aside from adding one character, I was very happy to hang out with the squad that was provided. Bishop was one of my first gateway characters into comics, so to be able to write him was an honor.
Seanan McGuire: I got asked to write Nightcrawler, and started out with no supporting cast, so I was just rummaging through the toy box of who would pair best with Kurt, and who would work best in a propaganda machine. My last picked was Magma, because there was some initial confusion about who was and wasn’t available, and I had originally filled her role with a character who turned out not to be a viable choice. So the slow-down on her wasn’t about not wanting to write Amara, it was about thinking my plate was full. I got almost everyone I wanted!
Ed Brisson: There were things that we’d been setting up in “X-Men Disassembled” (We being Matt Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and I) that I wanted to sort of follow up on after–primarily the “kids” and their story. So, when it came time to do NextGen, I’d asked to keep most of the same team. Clearly they don’t have any idea of their history (save for Glob), but I like the idea of them being drawn together as a group over and over.
AiPT!: Speaking of Glob, Trent Seely (@InstaTrent) said Mr. Herman could have been paired with any animal and it would have been charming, but the mind wanders–how exactly did the creative team come up with chickens named after dead X-Men?
Lonnie: Simply, Ed Brisson is a genius.
Ed: I’ve always wanted to give Glob a pet. With the events of Age of X-Man, Glob has no one to talk to and I thought that it would be fun to have him sit and talk to chickens, just to get it all out. Of course, the chickens don’t give a crap about him or what he’s saying. They just want their feed! As to naming them after dead X-Men, it just seemed to fit. Glob trying to keep a bit of the old-world with him.
AiPT!: We can’t really talk about the Age of X-Man without mentioning the Marvelous X-Men’s biggest threat. Jack Fisher (@MarvelMaster616) said that love guru Apocalypse is his favorite version of the character. Jack asked, what’s your opinion of this version of Apocalypse and is there any chance that his persona could go beyond the Age of X-Man?
Tim: I thought this version was a lot of fun to write. The tension between what he is and what he says was crackling with potential for future stories, I think.
Zac: Love guru Apocalypse is one of the best things we’ve ever gotten away with. It was one of those things that felt too crazy to work, and here we are. I love this version of the character because it still explores most of what makes him tick, but in a very opposite way to how he usually views himself. There’s no survival of the fittest here, just regressing, being animal and base. We really wanted to upend Apocalypse in a dramatic way in this world because he feels like the dynamic opposite of X-Man in many ways. They are two sides of the same coin. As for him popping up after Age of X-Man, I think that’s a question for Jonathan Hickman.
Lonnie: I love him. Zac and I wrote regular, evil, deftly-intelligent-to-the-point-of-hypocrisy Apocalypse in X-Men Black last year and we also have an affinity for that version, but we took a sick joy in tearing away everything away from ol’ En Sabah Nur and transforming him into the opposite of who he normally is. I’d love to see this version pop up again somewhere down the line.
AiPT!: And while we’re talking love, X (@nouveauxmutants) said, after the failed wedding in X-Men Gold #30, it seemed like the constant “on and off again” relationship between Kitty and Piotr was finally over. But now it seems their relationship is being used as a major plot point in the Age of X-Man. Is there a reason why these two characters continue to be brought together despite their relationship never working out? Especially in an alternate universe like the Age of X-Man that seems like it was made to explore new relationships (like Blob/Betsy and Jean/Bishop) rather than reliving decades-old ones?
Zac: That was a distinct choice. It was all about exploring how some of us are drawn to our pasts because we can’t figure out who we are on our own. For us, it was all about the X-Men going in circles. It seems that a lot of the X-Men are drawn to the things that cause them the most pain. Colossus is most interesting when he’s tortured and we wanted to explore the aftermath of what it meant to be drawn to something or someone that you didn’t fully understand. It was like his old life kept gnawing at the back of his skull but in the wrong way. If only he spent more time painting…
Tim: I personally, had no idea fans hated the Kitty-Colossus pairing, but from very early on, we knew that the failure of their relationship in the 616 would be used as a central point of why this universe was unraveling. And I think we did it by playing against expectations and created something new from a ‘decades-old story.” That’s the job.
Seanan: I feel like we saw everyone circling the idea of who they used to be, and who and what they used to love, because they were still themselves, even under the psychic screens and surgeries.
Lonnie: Some people are just drawn together, even if there’s tragedy in their blood. The whole point is that there is some almost innate connection between Piotr and Kitty. Whatever world they are in, no matter what version of themselves they are, they will find one another somehow. And that’s the kind of melodrama I love about the X-Men.
AiPT!: We should probably talk a bit about the mutant who made this whole event possible. So a very serious question about X-Man… whose idea was it to have Nate Grey ditch his super-tight T-shirts and fingerless gloves and start dressing like mutant Jesus?
Lonnie: Don’t ask me. I was all for the mesh shirts and too-tight jeans. But in all seriousness, I think this Jesus-y look works for Nate’s return to shamanism. Also, he’s the creator of this world so… ya know.
Zac: I believe that was a choice that was made before Age of X-Man. But coming into Marvelous, we wanted to redesign his outfit again so it felt more shamanistic. It was important that Nate seemed spiritual but also wise. His outfit is supposed to represent his sort of free-flowing nature in this world, and that he’s completely given himself over to being one with the Earth. We wanted him to grow up. To leave all the angsty teen $%&# behind. Although, it seems it may have been a front.
AiPT!: Ah, Nate Grey angst. On a similar note, Nir Revel (@revel_nir) is asking for a friend: How much of Nate’s anti-love agenda is caused by his creepy Oedipal… uh, “thing” with Madelyne Pryor?
Lonnie: At least a third.
Zac: That certainly has something to do with it. But his whole love life has been a disaster. And from his perspective, he has watched from the outside as the entirety of the X-Men have destroyed their lives and the gains their people have made because of petty relationships. It’s hard to watch that from the sidelines and not decide to do something about it.
Leah: Zac and Lonnie’s is the more official answer to this, but what you’ve said, Nir, is exactly how I justified it in my head–he’s obviously got a fraught relationship with love and there may be other forces at work with his character. I don’t think he’s beyond redemption after this, either.
AiPT!: Let’s pretend Jonathan Hickman wasn’t about to turn the X-Men’s world upside down for a second. Isah (@Frostitute4ever) wanted to know, if there was something you could bring into the regular Marvel Universe from the Age of X-Man reality, what would it be?
Ed: Jonathan’s doing what now?
Zac: Nature Girl as she was on Marvelous. She’s a character who’s been vastly underused and has such an intriguing powerset. Lonnie and I are in love with her and would love to do more with her. She’s got years of stories left to tell.
Lonnie: I second Zac’s Nature Girl opinion. If I got to choose a second, it would be Magneto’s beard.
Vita: The mutants that Germán and I got to create for the prison. There was a lot of stuff I know about them that couldn’t go into the book, I would love to see it explored!
Seanan: Am I allowed to say Tenia? There’s no guarantee she’d grow up to be the new Nocturne, but I miss Talia, and it would be joyous to watch Kurt and Meggan try to deal with her existence–and Brian’s reaction would be amazing. Barring that, everyone’s memories. Watching them try to figure out how to reconcile who they are with who they were would be so delicious.
Leah: NEZUMI AND HER BABY. I miss her already. I had grander plans for her backstory and more details about her life I plotted out and wanted to explore in X-Tremists but just didn’t have the page space for.
AiPT!: Charlie Etheridge-Nunn (@charlie_en) was curious about X-Men who weren’t in the Age of X-Man, like Cyclops. Jordan’s said before, Scott Summers is incapable of staying single. So had he made his way over to his son’s reality, how would Cyclops have handled a world where he couldn’t romance a single telepath? What would he do with his life?
Seanan: Birdwatching. Lots and lots of compulsive birdwatching.
Leah: It would have given him a very sad, and very empty kind of peace. End-of-times tranquility.
Zac: He’d definitely be the leader of the horny cops. Then he’d probably find himself in jail.
Lonnie: That’s true. Scott can’t keep it in his pants. He would likely have been in prison for crimes against individuality.
AiPT!: Haha, all of that has to be canon now. Moving right along, even though it was structurally and thematically really interesting, Robert Secundus’ (@RobertSecundus) favorite thing about the event was just how much character work it involved. So with that said, what was your favorite character moment? Either something you wrote, or something you read.
Leah: Bishop I was expecting to fall in love with after just hearing Vita talk about him, but I wasn’t expecting to instantly fall in love with Vita’s Polaris in Prisoner X–there’s a discordant aspect to her character here that allowed me to see parts of her canon that haven’t been explored in a long time. Most of the time in recent comics, Polaris is desperately working to hold herself together and present a polished, strong image–a leader. But in Prisoner X, she is treated as what her history always presented as a threat– “here is a crazy woman.” But the difference in Vita’s portrayal is the positioning of that lens (which was also a really fitting theme for every character in Prisoner X, generally), and it’s “here is a woman the world treats like she’s crazy.” It was tender and raw and sensitive to her. I was also really moved by Seanan’s work with Meggan in Amazing Nightcrawler, too–Meggan hasn’t had this kind of loving spotlight in a long time, let alone one that explores and respects her Romanichal heritage.
Vita: I think there were so many, it’s hard to choose! Blob talking about the pain of longing for someone but know it will never be; Nate’s struggle with wanting to make things perfect for people but realizing that people aren’t meant to be perfect; everything Glob goes through, like, period; Eye Boy’s discovery of Apocalypse being on the side of the enemy (I could hear his heart shatter); Nightcrawler making the choice to be the hero (so bittersweet)… Also, being able to write a scene between Dani Moonstar and Polaris was a blessing. That was maybe my favorite to work on.
Zac: I have to give Leah props for her work with Blob. That sort of character work will redefine him for a generation of new readers and basically takes a character who was a punching bag or the butt of a joke and gave him real pathos. You read superhero comics your entire life for a moment like that, and I’m just so pleased Blob is so much more now. People will be screaming from the rooftops for Age of X-Man Blob to come to the 616 for years to come.
Seanan: That I didn’t write? Blob’s confession of love was just gorgeous, and made me so happy. That I wrote? Meggan getting to speak Romany for the first time in the comics. It wasn’t much, but it was there, and that would have meant everything to me as a child.
Lonnie: I loved writing the scene in Marvelous X-Men #3 between Magneto and Storm where they are starting to put the pieces together and you get a good sense for just how intelligent these two strong-willed mutants really are. I also loved writing any scene with Nature Girl. She’s my dude. I truly loved reading all the other books, to be honest, and I think all the writers and artists brought something new to their cast of characters. Off the top of my head, I think Ed Brisson was born to write Glob Herman and there’s nothing quite as special as the scenes with Glob and his chickens. There are also some real quiet, haunting moments of Bishop alone in prison that got to me. Vita and Germán crushed that book.
Ed: In NextGen, it was the moment of the kids all finally turning against the “establishment” and attempting to break out on their own. I was really happy with how we wrapped the series, but hard to talk about why without spoiling.
AiPT!: Final question. Obviously, the Age of X-Man was meant to be a short-term event. BUT, we’ve returned to the Age of Apocalypse multiple times in many different ways. If you had more issues to explore the Age of X-Man, where would you go next?
Zac: I have this idea for a series called The Marvelous X-Man. Which is basically just X-Man inserting himself into different decades of X-Men continuity by way of the Age of X-Man world. I’d love to explore how Nate views his role on the team from a member of the original five onward throughout history as we know it. You can show just how much he’s revised things and how things would change if he was a functional member of the team. Or you can throw it all away and tell an entirely new history with X-Man at the center. Because his fantasy runs DEEP.
Vita: Cheating again, but I would want to follow some of the prisoners after the riot/re-entering a society that doesn’t even remember them. I loved those characters, and being able to really explore not just their backstories, but what it means to essentially be a stranger in your own land would be really interesting!
Seanan: I’d like to skip forward about 10 years to when Tenia shows up back at Studio X to steal her father from the propaganda machine she was forced to leave him stranded in. She is not gonna be a happy girl.
Leah: Reparations and revenge.
Ed: Glob & Chickens: Private Detectives
Lonnie: That’s hard to answer without spoiling the Omega issue, so I’ll just say that I think after that final page people will know exactly where we would take things.
AiPT!: And that’s a wrap on this giant-sized edition of X-Men Monday! First, a HUGE thanks to the entire Age of X-Man writing team for taking the time to reflect on their X-Event! (And, of course, thank you for the wonderful stories!) Also, as always, we need to send a BIG thank you to all the X-Fans who submitted questions.
Remember, Apocalypse and the X-Tracts #5 is on sale this Wednesday and Age of X-Man: Omega will be available next Wednesday.
Speaking of next week, we only have one more X-Men Monday before all those major announcements at Comic-Con International: San Diego. It sounds like the perfect time to look back on and celebrate the current Uncanny X-Men run–from “X-Men Disassembled” to non-stop rollercoaster ride that’s been Matthew Rosenberg’s solo run.
So start dreaming up those questions and look for the official call for queries on AiPT!’s Twitter tomorrow morning (July 9). The X-Excitement is building, X-Fans…
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