Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
If you’ve been reading this column the past few weeks, you’ll know my No. 1 priority has been to provide you with fresh, informative and entertaining X-Men content every Monday morning, because we’re all stuck at home and new comics are on hold. This week, I decided to go all-in by not just attempting to make X-Fans happy, but to celebrate them as one of fandom’s most astonishing communities! Yep, it seems I’ve become the John Krasinski of X-Men journalists.
And before we get started, how about this week’s X-Men Monday image, featuring canon fan moments from the comics?
It was created by AIPT’s Content and Media Manager David Brooke (who I’m a fan of!). And special thanks to the following Twitter users who helped point out these moments: @XavierFiles, @NirevelOpinions, @marcofari, @TonyBWood, @ISnowNothin, @maliciousglee, @mistertoybox, @chrisarrant, @BlindedMeWSciFi, @AngstyX, @jimccorvey, @RickyDricky, @8_eyed_spy, @1312Allenby, @neilshyminsky, @hownowbrownmow, @stermer, @MentalMonarch, @FeyLaVie, @AdamTheAlien, @stove_and, @Lots47, @jimmy_wizzle, @LetsAcademyX, @kat8811 and @thisisponytoast. (So many helpful X-Fans!)
SO–what are we doing? What’s an X-Fanstravaganza?
Well, it’s an in-depth interview with Jordan Blum, the Co-Creator and Co-Executive Producer of Hulu’s upcoming M.O.D.O.K. animated series and–as you’ll soon discover–a GIANT-SIZE X-Fan himself!
It’s a chance to spotlight the artwork of passionate X-Fans who are also X-Tremely talented!
How do you top all that? Well, for an encore, we check in with X-Fan-favorite writer Vita Ayala and share a special message with all you patient Children of the Atom fans!
TL;DR? The X-Men Monday X-Fanstravaganza’s a whole lot of fun, so let’s jump into all the eXcitement with our other favorite Jordan, Jordan Blum!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Jordan! Let’s start with a basic question: When did you first fall in love with the X-Men?
Jordan: I know the issue–it was that Evolutionary War annual and it had Art Adams art. The main story was fine, it was fun in the Savage Land, but I loved the backup with Mojo and the X-Babies and I knew maybe a few of them and then it lit this fuse–”Well, I need to figure out who Longshot is and Havok” and it kind of just sent me digging. And that’s probably the experience for a lot of X-Men fans–just dropping into an issue and having to make sense of Claremont’s 17 years of continuity that you’ve taken a plunge into.
But Secret Wars was probably my first exposure to the X-Men. I remember being in a grocery store and my mom buying me one of those cardboard packs that had four or five comics in it and it was just random issues of Secret Wars. I loved that it wasn’t clear whether the X-Men were good guys or bad guys. They were kind of isolated away from the Avengers and all the other heroes in that series and there was something very dangerous and interesting about them. It felt like that’s where I was in the evolution of my reading. I came in as a Superman fan, and that’s the perfect way to go, then you’re looking for something a little more adult or a little more mature than Superman, so you go onto Batman then maybe Teen Titans and I think I was just at that point as a 6-year-old or however old I was–”I think I’m ready for the X-Men.”
AIPT: So clearly, you’ve read a lot of X-Men–do have a favorite era?
Jordan: In the ‘90s, obviously, I loved the Jim Lee stuff. But the stuff I was more excited about was Peter David’s X-Factor. It hit me at that right time where it’s my sense of humor, Madrox I completely connected with, and Strong Guy–that friendship. I love that Larry Stroman art. It was so different, unique, poppy and jumped off the page. I liked having humor infused into my X-Men because they were always so mopey. I always loved Iceman and then you had a whole book filled with Icemen with that cast.
I also loved X-Force–especially that Greg Capullo era with Fabian Nicieza. I thought that stuff worked great. There was this whole history of them being kids I hadn’t read but now they’re these soldiers breaking out on their own and they were angsty and teenage and supposedly cool and I was all about that. And then I was reading blue and gold and all that stuff but I would go back and reread more X-Factor than some of the early Jim Lee stuff.
AIPT: Based on what I’ve seen on your Twitter page, you have quite the X-Men collection. Could you talk about all your X-Men action figures and assorted X-nick-nacks?
Jordan: As I was becoming a bigger and bigger X-Fan, I got hit by that perfect storm of X-Men #1, the animated series and the toys and it was just like, “This is all I need.” Forget the Avengers, forget the Justice League, I could just live in this–there were so many titles, you ended up spending all your money on X-Men stuff but I didn’t care.
And I remember loving a lot of the toys. I had the Secret Wars Wolverine with the pop-on claws and I was always just dying to find more of that. Before the ‘90s animated series, you had Pryde of the X-Men taped off TV the one or two times it aired and the best you could do were little PVC X-Men. Then the floodgates opened and suddenly you had not just Wolverine but Strong Guy. Like, I bought Quark, the goat guy from Mojoworld–I didn’t care, I just wanted to have all of it.
I was in my teens–13 maybe–and I was like, “Oh, they came out with a Generation X, well I don’t have a Jubilee, I need Penance.” I couldn’t stop, it was like an addiction. Then I kind of cut it off when I was older and college made it very hard to spend money on toys. But I saved them and now I have a 6-year-old. So when we go to my parents’ home, he just raids it and gets to take a bunch home. He’s more into creatures than superheroes–he’s a Godzilla guy–so he’s obsessed with the Brood toy. That’s his favorite.
AIPT: What’s your favorite piece in your collection?
Jordan: I remember Stan Lee would go on the Home Shopping Network. So I read he was going to do that and I watched 3 hours of it, not knowing when it was going to come on. Then it was him and maybe like Joe Quesada or someone else and they were selling comics on there. I bought a signed X-Men #1–the Jim Lee one, which is funny because Stan Lee had nothing to do with that specific issue. But I was like, “That’s the prize right there.” So I ordered that with the certificate of authenticity. It’s still in its case it came in. I always thought it was neat. Less like, “Oh cool, I have a Stan Lee thing” and more “I can’t believe I endured that much Home Shopping Network to get this.”
AIPT: And you’re still buying the comics?
Jordan: The comics I treasure. My goal is to have every X-related comic and I’m not that far off. There are a few obscure late ‘90s mini-series where they were just publishing 10 a week that are dollar bin finds. I even have all of Alpha Flight. I’m a big Alpha Flight fan. Secret’s out.
AIPT: What are your thoughts on the current X-Books?
Jordan: I love it. I think it was the shake-up everyone’s been waiting for. It’s the best it’s been since Grant Morrison. I’m a big New Mutants fan, so I love how those characters are being written. They feel like the grown-up versions of the Claremont/Simonson New Mutants I love. Then I think Gerry’s just crushing it on Marauders. I think Marauders is probably one of the strongest books out there. It’s everything I want in a Kitty Pryde book, an Emma Frost book–because I very much agree with the popular sentiment–I think the best X-Characters are women. There isn’t really a weak book in the line and they’re so cohesive and feed so well into each other. I think it’s everything X-Fans hoped for after going through all that Inhumans era stuff. There are some hidden gems in that era, but I think the X-Men are where they should be.
AIPT: So, you and I have something in common, based on a tweet of yours I saw. We’re both big Cyclops fans. Why is Scott Summers your favorite character in all of fiction?
Jordan: I’ve always loved the leader character. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Lion-O. I didn’t want to be the cooler tiger guy–I forget his name. I like the idea of the burdened leader and I think Cyclops is the best version of that. He’s the first of the X-Men. He’s the one who’s next in line, he’s the heir. I was never a Wolverine guy. I would think, that guy’s a pain in the ass. He should get in line and listen to Cyclops–that guy’s such a great leader. I like Wolverine but I like him in small doses. He works well on the team. Scott has to pull shit together. When Proteus has taken out half the team and done a number on their mental states, he’s the one who throws coffee in Wolverine’s face to pull him out of his trauma. At a young age, I was like, “Ah, I connect to that.” Now, as a father, I definitely connect with that–not being the fun one who has to keep everyone in line. I thought after House of M, him becoming militant and doing whatever it takes–whether that turns him into a villain–to keep mutants alive is so compelling. The brilliance of Schism is you watch him and Wolverine switch roles. Wolverine becomes headmaster and Cyclops becomes the soldier and you watch his fall. I don’t know if Cyclops was right, but in the moment, I was behind him. That book Consequences, to me, that was my favorite Cyclops. He feels remorse for killing Xavier but in his mind he did what had to be done. Trying to write a character that complex and so one-sided in his beliefs–I find it fascinating. As far as Cyclops goes, watching that eight-year arc–I think it’s one of the best-written character arcs in fiction.
AIPT: Well said. Now I want to pivot away from X-Men for a bit and talk about your TV work. You’ve worked on American Dad and Community and now M.O.D.O.K. How did you break into the industry?
Jordan: I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was in high school, so I was just making stuff all the time and that kind of continued into college. I kind of started writing out of necessity–if you’re a director, you need material, and that led to screenplays and moving out here, getting an agent and stuff. But I did what everyone does, I started at the bottom. I was a director’s assistant and I walked dogs and picked up dog shit and changed toilets and broke up with his girlfriend for him over email. I did horrible, terrible things where you’re like, I can’t believe I went to college for this, but you pay your dues, eat shit then kind of stick it out here and write all the time. It’s almost like you have a second job–when everyone’s going out on weekends, you’re writing, writing, writing. On my first show I worked my way up from PA to assistant. Actually Chris McKenna from Community and Spider-Man and Ant-Man fame was a writer on American Dad where I was working and read my stuff, liked it and passed it along to his agent. Chris also hired me on Community, so he’s been a guiding force in my career. I kind of fell into TV. I thought I was going to be a feature guy. I think TV was changing when I got into it, right around when Lost came out, it made me reevaluate what I thought television could be.
As for M.O.D.O.K. I’d actually done a pilot with Patton Oswalt previously for FOX that never went anywhere, and Ben Schwartz was in that one as well. Patton and I had always stayed in touch and after taking a meeting with Marvel I pitched him on the idea of doing a M.O.D.O.K. show. Patton said he was born to play this character and we created the show together and we got to bring in some of the people we wanted to work with again, like Ben, into the show. It’s been like Heaven for both of us. We’ve got such a shorthand where you just say “Kirby crackle” and there’s no “What? Excuse me?” He’s just as ingrained in this world if not more. We have a great working relationship and we knew exactly what toys we wanted to play with on M.O.D.O.K. It’s really been one of the best working relationships I’ve ever had.
AIPT: Since this is an X-Men column, maybe there’s someone out there reading who’s unfamiliar with M.O.D.O.K. as a character. So what’s the elevator pitch for your show?
Jordan: So M.O.D.O.K. is one of the greatest Jack Kirby designs of all time. He’s a giant floating head with tiny baby arms and legs who shoots mind blasts and runs an evil organization called AIM. And basically, in our show, he runs AIM into the ground trying to kill the Avengers and various heroes and bankrupts the organization. Then, a Google-like company swoops in and says we’ll rescue you financially, you have some of the most brilliant minds working here, you can keep trying to kill superheroes, just deliver us a hot new tablet by Christmas. And it ends up being the opposite of that–it ends up turning into a very Silicon Valley workplace that M.O.D.O.K. can’t stand. He has to answer to a board and HR–this megalomaniacal control freak has suddenly lost control of this company. And on top of that, we’ve created a family for him. Who knows where MODOK goes when he leaves AIM–we wanted to follow him home and create a world for him. So in the pilot, his wife asks for a separation, so he has to move out into a tiny, shitty bachelor pad with the Super Adaptoid, his loyalish robot who aspires to live and create art but M.O.D.O.K. just treats him like a toaster.
So M.O.D.O.K. has lost control of his organization, his dreams of taking over the world and now his family and he has to figure out how he’s going to reinvent himself to get back to things he now realizes he values. That’s kind of the gist of the show and being a Marvel fan, we use really big characters and we’ve found some really fun obscure characters that may have appeared in say one issue of a Hercules comic in the ‘80s and got a lot of comedic mileage out of them. We have respect for the Marvel Universe but also want to find the humor in it. The show is very serialized, it can be dramatic at times too. We really spent a lot of time crafting the seasonal arcs for all the characters and the journey we’re going to take M.O.D.O.K. on. But we really lean into the fun and the sci-fi and all the stuff that came out of the original Jack Kirby and Stan Lee comics that built the foundation for Marvel.
There is some X-Men stuff in M.O.D.O.K. Some small things, like if you’re a Lila Cheney fan like I am, you’ll enjoy the pilot. And we have some pretty big X-Villains show up–it’s a villain show after all.
AIPT: Very nice. So what’s the current status of the show?
Jordan: We’re deep into production. Our cast is unbelievable–the ones that have already been announced and some big surprises we can’t talk about yet. Obviously there are some hurdles given the state of things–but we’re lucky to be able to work remotely on the show.
AIPT: Well, I was going to ask–how has quarantine life been for you?
Jordan: I’m not reading as many comics as I wish because I have two kids running around, but you know, trying to stay sane, stay healthy, stay safe. I think what has been helpful is I’ve filled our house with lots of Marvel escapism and my son and I run around in Spider-Man costumes and have giant Marvel Legends action figure battles and we’re watching a lot of the old cartoons on Disney+. That escapism is so important to me. I feel like it saved me as a kid.
I loved X-Men because I think, like a lot of readers, I felt like a little bit of an outsider. I was one of the few Jewish kids in my very Irish-Italian-Catholic town and always felt like I didn’t fit in, like an other, which is probably what led me to X-Men. It’s every kid’s fantasy of finding that place of found family, of acceptance, where you belong and fit in and also have really cool optic blasts and knife hands. So escapism is what I’ve always loved about X-Men, so it’s been fun to go back and show my kids. But my son Sawyer’s a Wolverine fan. I don’t get it.
AIPT: He’ll grow out of it. Is there anything you’ve written for TV that was influenced or somehow inspired by X-Men?
Jordan: Well, Patrick Stewart is a regular on American Dad, so one of the best experiences I ever had was the first episode I ever wrote for that show, we recorded him remotely. So he hadn’t read the script yet and we had to wait and he was on the line and you could just hear him, “Haha, that’s pretty funny.” And you’re like, “Oh my God, Professor X is laughing at a joke I wrote, this is it, this is as good as it gets.” Then one time we got to record in the booth and I told him, “Look, X-Men is my everything, I think about it 20 times a day, every day, no matter what, it’s a part of me.” He was like, “Well, let’s talk about X-Men” and it was right before Logan came out and he was pitching Logan to me. Some of my greatest memories are due to Patrick Stewart being the best human being in the world.
But I did write an X-Men joke for him that got into an episode where his character–the head of the CIA–was teaching a class at the CIA Academy and the joke was, “They actually call me Professor X” and Stan goes “Why? Because you look like that actor?” And he says “No! Because I’m their ecstasy dealer.” He was very game to make fun of Professor X. I Was always trying to do a bigger story. At the time, it was a FOX show, so I would say let’s do what Family Guy did with Star Wars–let’s do the X-Men–you can have Steve go to the school. It never happened but I pushed hard. As a writer, the Claremont run has influenced everything I write. It’s longform storytelling at its best. I reference it in every writer’s room–the long game, how to seed things. You’ll find him in everything I write.
AIPT: You mentioned the FOX films. What is one thing you want to see from the MCU X-Men that Fox didn’t get right?
Jordan: I think it’s letting the other characters be in the spotlight. I think putting characters like Storm and Kitty and Emma and Cyclops at the forefront of these movies and letting Wolverine just be one of the guys on the team and maybe not making every story about Professor Xavier and Magneto–we get it. But yeah, there are so many great characters that maybe got 10 minutes of screentime and they’ve got a thousand stories in them and I’d love to see those done properly in the way the MCU nails the essence of these characters. I have a lot of love for the FOX stuff. I really love Days of Future Past and X2 and I’m sure I’ll like New Mutants when I see it. I’m being tortured as a New Mutants fan right now.
AIPT: Have you ever thought about writing comics? Is that a personal goal?
Jordan: Every day. I told everyone at Marvel when I toured the New York office a few months ago, this show is just a long con so I can come in and walk around the Marvel offices and talk to people who make comics. Those are the only people I get really starstruck around. Meeting Claremont or Sienkiewicz–I don’t know how to tell these people how much they mean to me. But you know, some things are in the works. I can’t really talk about them yet. I don’t want be one of those Hollywood assholes who just comes in. I’ve been studying this my whole life, I would love to do more comic work if anyone is listening.
AIPT: Fingers crossed! OK, final question: As an X-Fan, what other X-Fan-created content are you into?
Jordan: I’ve never missed an episode of Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men. I think they should teach a course and I would take it in a minute. I love the way they evaluate the text and the weight they give it and also how funny it is. That’s the place to start. Battle of the Atom I think is really fun. I love hearing things ranked. Though I disagree with a lot of their opinions, I think that’s a really fun podcast to go to. I love War Rocket Ajax–I think it’s a fantastic comic book podcast. I never grew up with a comics community and have kind of always been looking for one. I had a friend here and there who read the comics or bought the toys but it’s been really interesting to see that on Twitter and connect with some of these people and in the comics world. I love that I can get excited about an issue of Marauders and text Gerry and fanboy out on him. My comics community has now become people who are working in it and that’s so cool. And I’m missing my store. That was my other community, especially with Dawn of X. I’d go to the coffee shop next to Golden Apple and there would be people with their Hickman X-Men comics because no one could wait to go home to read it. So I miss that a ton.
AIPT: Well, hopefully we’ll be back at our comic shops before we know it. But right now–Jordan, thanks so much for swinging by X-Men Monday and best of luck finishing up M.O.D.O.K. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I can’t wait to see it!
As for all you X-Fans still reading–we’re not done yet.
Have you heard about The ColleXion? This X-Fan-made set of 58 trading cards is a true labor of love and one more eXample of how fans of Marvel’s mighty mutants are not just crazy-passionate, but crazy-talented too! On the front to any one of these cards, you’ll find an original piece of art from one of 27 emerging artists. On the back, key character information, reading lists, trivia and creator quotes assembled by the project’s research team.
I reached out to Scott Modrzynski, a New York City ad agency designer and the mastermind behind this project, to learn a little more about the creative process behind The ColleXion.
“For me, the X-Men are all about these wildly different personalities, people and powers coming together under one roof with a common goal,” Scott said. “The international flavor, the traditionally beautiful side-by-side with the unconventional and downright ugly. That’s X-Men. I wanted to put together a series of trading cards that reflected that through disparate styles of art, some that you’d never in a million years ever even see in a comic book, and tie them together with a uniform design that makes them all shine.”
Scott assumed the role of both project manager and art director for this project and spent 36 straight hours linking nearly every comic, article and TV episode referenced on the interactive backs of the cards. His passion for the project was so strong, all that linking didn’t even phase him.
“I really hope fans with access to Marvel Unlimited use the features and find some character-centric gems here and there, and more than that, find an artist or two (or 27) they like, and follow their work going forward,” Scott added. “There’s pretty much something for everyone, artistically speaking.”
Now, regular X-Men Monday readers know we typically feature a few eXclusive preview images from upcoming X-Men comics. But just as Marvel had to hit pause for a few weeks, we too had to pump the breaks on those sneak peeks. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of original X-Men art out in the world you’ve never seen before. So I put out the call and several talented creators replied with their X-Art. Be sure to follow the links to see more of their work!
Wow, we’ve covered a lot this week. Am I forgetting anything, Children of the Atom fans? Just kidding. And now, a word from Vita Ayala!
Just wanted to pop into X-Men Monday and thank y’all again for all the support you have given the COTA team, and the kids. As sad as we have been over the delays, your enthusiasm has really lifted our hearts. We are all giving our best to bring you comics that will return the same feeling of love and excitement that you have blessed us with.
Now, I have to get back to work. Gotta make sure that these young’ins don’t get into TOO MUCH trouble while I’m not looking!
Happy Monday. Stay safe and be good to each other!
Well said, Vita–Thanks!
(And once Children of the Atom’s finally on sale, you better believe Vita’s getting the X-Men Monday spotlight they deserve!)
Now we’re done, X-Fans. I know the pandemic is affecting everybody in different ways, and my thoughts are with everybody struggling right now. Hopefully, this edition of X-Men Monday brought a little joy to the start of your week. Until neXt time, stay smart, safe and have an eXceptional week!
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