Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT! Oh, and Happy New Year! That’s right, the year may have changed but this column remains committed to bringing you behind-the-scenes scoops and eXclusives straight from the creators behind your favorite X-Series!
Don’t tell X-Force.
But speaking of favorite X-Series… you’re all reading the Dawn of X’s most magical title, Excalibur, right? based on the number of X-Fan questions AIPT received for the series’ writer Tini Howard to answer, it’s safe to assume the answer’s yes! So before you read this week’s Excalibur #5, take a look at what Tini had to say in response to some of your queries.
Tini: Oh, we’re starting out with a brainy one.
I’ve been a longtime fan of magical theory. Even if you don’t believe in anything you can’t see, it’s fascinating to look at the ways we develop ‘magical thinking’–how and why people have historically discussed what we can’t see or explain. I don’t pretend that [A]’s thinking is my own purely–I took elements of his thought from Aleister Crowley to Alan Moore, I did a lot of reading and research on the things that seemed right to my inner [A].
Ultimately so much human magic is about the exceptional nature of the individual, the focus and training they have to endure to access the power, etc. etc. And I think that’s because humans have historically thrived in group agricultural settlements and sought to stand out from a crowd. But mutants have been denied that, so the theory is that mutants have a superior strength that exists in the communities they’ve never before been able to form and be protected. Like, maybe the powers and abilities that mutants have are just incidentals to protect them from exterior forces and the group itself is the goal, you know?
Just a theory. Like everything else.
AIPT: While on the topic of magic, Chris, but a future robot or something? (@tragiculous) asked if there are any particular non-Marvel Arthurian texts or media that inspired your take on Morgan le Fay or the Matter of Britain more broadly?
Tini: I was raised and told stories by a guy who’d read Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in the 1485 Middle English translation and loved to tell me about it, so… I don’t know a time when I didn’t know these stories. I was raised on swords and sorcery, scoured all of Disney World for Sword in the Stone merch, could recite Python as a kid and had developed an intense fondness for witches. I devoured many, many versions of the myth and rejected some as I aged beyond what I felt were simplistic takes. What’s fascinating is that rather than trying to create a coherent narrative of the Matter of Britain in my version of Otherworld, I’m trying to create an interesting landscape based on it? Which is a completely different exercise and a lot more fun.
AIPT: Alright, let’s get into some character talk. Julian Keller (@alittlebittorn) wanted to know how the idea of Betsy Braddock becoming Captain Britain came about. Also, was anyone concerned it might actually hurt Betsy in the long run since Psylocke is a far more popular brand than Captain Britain?
Tini: That was just a pure magic moment. I came into the room with “Here’s my take on mutant magic and who should do it and how it should go,” and I remember Jonathan and Jordan just looking at me across the table and being like “This sounds like our Excalibur book” and we all sort of realized simultaneously that’s Betsy’s next step. The Captain Britain of the new Excalibur. I think we even all said it at the same time.
That brand thing never came up once. Kwannon is still Psylocke and she’s great–we still have an amazing Psylocke sans Betsy. We didn’t seek to ‘prioritize the Betsy brand’ or anything. I want a long history of learning more about Kwannon and watching Psylocke be Psylocke.
AIPT: AppleJ (@JackiEv87585672) said that when we last left Rogue in Mr. and Mrs. X, she had gained control of her powers. Now she seems to have lost them again. Will we be finding out why?
Tini: One of the things I’m enjoying about characters like Rogue and Rictor–and part of why I chose to write them–was because they were two characters I felt would be incredibly empowered or altered by the physicality of what Krakoa is and the resulting status quo shift. So, yes, you’ll see some more of that explained and explored coming up.
AIPT: Time to talk Apocalypse (Atalkalypse?)! Raken (@rayquwan) said one of his favorite things about House of X and Powers of X was how it united all of the mutants, so seeing Apocalypse on the team is so cool. What interested you in bringing him onboard and making him the team’s dad? Also, is there a correct way to pronounce • –|A|– •?
Tini: It warms my heart to see how respectful the fans have been with regard to using Apocalypse’s name. It really just is a testament to how thoughtful folks are about these books.
But, ah, well, as we saw in the very rad X-Men #4, we’re filthy humans and his true name is not for us to utter. We can call him Apocalypse ’cause he might just be, for us. The thought was that he wouldn’t want his people to call him Apocalypse. He doesn’t seek to end this, so Apocalypse no longer fits him. Like we’re humans, so we can still call him “mister death” but like you wouldn’t want your friends parents to call you that at dinner. He wants them to call him [Apocalypse’s Krakoan true name.] I asked Jon for a special symbol and he made it happen and was in on my crazy idea.
I just say ‘Apocalypse’ and type it as [A] usually for shorthand.
AIPT: Ali X Skywalker (@Ali_Galactic) was curious how you maintain such true voices for all the characters. And also wanted to know if we’ll ever see “Blue Dad” in print in an issue.
Tini: That’s very kind–they’re very distinct in my head. I’m a longtime tabletop role player, so I know my party well, I think. As for “Blue Dad,” I think I’d have to start paying out to Twitter users if I wanted to use that epithet. <3
AIPT: Liam (@liamshvdes) said Warren Worthington III and Shatterstar are probably Betsy and Rictor’s greatest relationships, respectively. Are you interested in developing these existing relationships or moving Betsy and Rictor forward past them?
Tini: That’s kind of a black-or-white set of choices, isn’t it? I don’t know that I am interested in either of those two options–not because it isn’t a good question, but because I don’t think either of those two options apply to how I write? I don’t necessarily want ‘back as it was before’ or ‘no more of that ever.’ I want change and flux and story. If they’re together, they’ll be different than they were before. If they aren’t, that doesn’t mean they never will be again.
I’ll say this–Betsy thinks about Warren. Rictor thinks about Shatterstar. They aren’t absent in any part of the book’s planning or the characters’ motivations.
AIPT: One more romance question–Jameson (@StyXcalibur) said thus far, the only romantic interactions in Excalibur have been between Rogue and Gambit. Are there plans to introduce or (reintroduce) a love interest for any of the cast members?
Tini: See above. Stuff is building, cooking. In my mind I know who they’re all thinking about, or not thinking about. Some of them are thinking of someone new. Some of them are thinking of more than one person and internally struggling (or not! it’s KRAKOA!) with that choice.
I just finished writing an issue with a plot-relevant kiss in it, so that was fun.
AIPT: Start speculating, X-Fans! Now, Lizanor Barrera (@blizanor) said the comics industry has predominantly featured male voices. What has been your experience in injecting a woman’s perspective into comics storytelling? Even more so, how does Betsy’s role as Captain Britain and the leader of Excalibur add to the conversation?
Tini: Sometimes I get tired talking about this stuff so instead I’ll highlight something cool–someone was saying I may have included what was the first mention of tampons in a Marvel Comics story in that data page from Excalibur #3? That’s neat. I know I would be wondering about it, and I think it’s cool to normalize those things. And ‘tampon’ is objectively a funny word.
AIPT: According to Avalon (@braddocklegacy), you mentioned on the Women of Marvel podcast that you worked really close with Jonathan Hickman for a future Excalibur arc that’s going to have a couple of massive issues. How was the process of working directly with him and how soon can we expect this arc?
Tini: I’ll drop the armor and be genuine, because he deserves it–Jonathan is an incredible mentor. His notes are intense and thoughtful, he’s never ever shy to tell me when something isn’t working and when it is, or when something’s almost working. I get a lot of ‘I see what you’re trying to do here’ from Jon and those notes are some of my favorite. He’s great at helping me become the best version of myself as a writer. He never wants us to do what he would do. He wants us to do what we’d do, and make our own good choices.
I love his work, and I’ve been not displeased with my own work of late, so I have high hopes that our collaboration will be the best of both. But I’m not telling you anything else. <3
AIPT: This week’s final question comes from Ross got fired from the X-Force Lab for reasons… (@RPHutch1975): Who’s the funniest person in the Marvel X-Slack group?
Tini: I know you want me to say ‘Chip’ but ‘Chip’ doesn’t tell jokes. He isn’t funny. For example, when ‘Chip’ finally got invited and he made his user pic a very old photo of Jonathan Hickman and it made Jonathan so mad he left the Slack, maybe forever??, that was a show of genuine appreciation for Mr. Hickman’s hard work, so I’m not counting it as ‘funny’.
AIPT: Well, now we know who to blame if Jonathan up and leaves the X-Books… Thanks, Chip!
And thanks for stopping by to answer these questions, Tini! We’ve got one more treat for Excalibur fans before we go. But first…
…A quick plug! I’m the guest co-host on the latest episode of the Battle of the Atom podcast alongside Zack Jenkins of the Xavier Files Media Empire. We discuss three X-Men stories from different eras, including Uncanny X-Men #48, which I never realized I loved so much until I reread it for the show.
It’s about robots. Anyway, give it a listen below and thanks to Zack for having me on!
In the next edition of X-Men Monday, X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White returns to discuss…
Yep! Just like Sunspot, the New Mutants and so many mutants before them, we’re going on our own fun space adventure, so get your cosmic questions ready for the official prompt on AIPT’s Twitter tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. EST.
Now, I promised an eXtra treat and here it is: A gallery of eXclusive images from upcoming issues of Excalibur! Enjoy and have an eXceptional week!