Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Or is it X-Factor Monday? Because this week, we’re joined by the talented David Baldeon, artist for the highly anticipated X-Factor!
And that’s not hyperbole–I have a Twitter account. I know what the kids are into. And let me tell you… The kids. Want. X-Factor! I mean, they were already eXtremely eXcited for this new iteration of X-Factor–written by Leah Williams–which was set to debut in late April.
And then COVID-19 happened.
Finally, this series is only a few weeks away (it goes on sale July 29 – check out this preview). So, I figured a chat with the artist set to present a whole new side of Krakoan culture might just tide X-Fans over.
(And everybody, PLEASE wear a mask and make smart decisions so we don’t have to shut down comics again and can actually get our hands on X-Factor #1.)
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, David! First, I’m curious, how have you been handling “quarantine life?” Have you been able to stay busy and keep your focus despite everything going on in the world?
David: Keeping focus has been hard because there was a lot going on in the world… and at home, since my two-year-old had to stay in. But I’m one of the lucky ones, my daily routine and the flux of work, focus problems aside, has not changed too much during quarantine.
AIPT: That’s good to hear. Now, I’m sure many X-Fans are already familiar with your artwork from series like Domino and Gwenpool Strikes Back, But for those who aren’t, who or what would you say have been the major influences on your art style?
David: I always say that this is a better question for those who see the work, rather than for me. I know who has impacted me, but I have no idea whether that really shows or is really present in what I do. But for me, if I have to choose the ones that got imprinted into my brain, it has to be Bruce Timm, Norm Breyfogle and Mike Wieringo.
AIPT: You know what? I can see it! Were you a fan of the X-Men before you started illustrating X-Books?
David: I have to be honest, I was an Avengers/Spider-Man kid. That’s what got more consistently to my little hometown, and that’s what I got hooked up to. X-Men love came later, in my college years when I finally got to a comic book store regularly and could read more stuff. Strangely enough, it was not the contemporary books but the classic mutants that got me. The Dark Phoenix Saga, God Loves Man Kills and so on.
AIPT: And that’s why they’re classics! X-Factor is your second collaboration with writer Leah Williams following Gwenpool Strikes Back. What do you love about working with Leah?
David: Leah is an amazingly smart writer. She has a way to write characters that is both absolutely coherent with their story, while staying unequivocally personal and recognizable. That hits all the right spots for me. I love character work on a book, and she does it beautifully. She gives me so many toys to play with in that field! I absolutely love to work with her. I learn so so much working with her.
AIPT: We’ve been told X-Factor will be a series that features mysteries, procedural work and clues. As an artist, how do you take the quieter, less action-focused moments in a script and make them visually interesting to readers?
David: As a demand of the book. It’s just part of the game, and one of the many things that make it special. We have already dealt with some of that in the issues we have done, and it’s one of the most fun parts. It’s not just about the simple mechanics of narration, or the superpower, but also about how do the respective points of view of the characters reflect their personalities. There’s a point in issue #1 in which the mechanics of one particular point of the investigation requires a certain narrative trick. But I also wanted it to reflect a very particular feeling that, to me, is an integral part of the character performing the action. I know it’s all a bit cryptic, I just don’t want to give away too much!
AIPT: Haha, totally understandable. Similarly, you’re working with mutants like Prestige, Prodigy and Eye Boy, who were selected to help with the team’s investigations. Is it a fun challenge, finding new ways to show off these characters’ powers–which aren’t as easy to display visually as those of Storm or Nightcrawler?
David: It may be a bit more difficult than drawing a “BAMF!” effect, but at the same time it is really interesting and challenging, in a good way. Again, it’s all about characterization. Powers and abilities are a window into these characters, into who they are and why they do what they do. When you see it that way, the challenge turns into an opportunity to dig into why they are so interesting and engaging. And they are!
AIPT: And they certainly look interesting too. I feel like your new costumes for the team are the first time in this new X-Men era we’re truly seeing Krakoan fashion. As an artist, how does it feel getting the freedom to completely redesign a cast’s costumes from scratch–including their logo?
David: Oh, it feels very exciting! I am a huge fan of the Jackson Guice designs [from the original X-Factor] and the redesigns that followed, so trying to tap into that legacy was an honor and a privilege. We were given a lot of freedom to toy around with concepts, influences and things to express through the fashion sense (or lack thereof) of these guys. They even let me do the logo thing, which was not in the design order, and I just did because the idea came into my head! It was a fascinating process, not in the least because I got to do it along with Leah, who has an amazing eye for this kind of stuff.
AIPT: When you mention these guys’ lack of fashion sense… you’re talking about Eye Boy’s Crocs, aren’t you?
David: Not only his Crocs! The “lack of fashion sense” thing is a bit too harsh on my kid Trevor. He’s looking for himself, and his place, and it shows in the fact that he’s bouncing from style to style to no-style.
AIPT: OK, well on the flip side, As X-Factor’s official designer, which team member would you say has the best street clothes?
David: Hm, that’s a tough one… I think I’m going to go with David. They all have a good eye, but David’s style rocks.
AIPT: You mentioned X-Factor’s logo. Could you say a bit about how you came up with it and the idea behind the missing “X”?
David: Well, as I mentioned, I love Jackson Guice’s designs for the original Factor, with big bold stenciled Xs on the suits. I wanted to do some kind of homage to it, but at the same time I wanted to try something different and try not to use the classic X logo.
So I was doodling some uniforms and stuff in an airplane, in a long, long flight back home, and I thought that our X-Factor was looking for deceased, missing mutants. Missing Xs. Hey, maybe we can turn that into a graphic sign of some kind? A mutant empty set symbol? So I toyed around with the Dawn of X’s X logo a bit, and I basically emptied the X out of it. Because our team looks for the Missing X. And so we got to the empty set X logo, which I started calling the Badge. And as it happens, it integrated itself into my ideas for the uniforms like a charm! So I went to Leah, Jordan White and Annalise Bissa with the whole idea for it… And they went for it! That’s pretty much the story of X-Factor’s Badge.
AIPT: Very cool. Is there an X-Factor character you’ve had the most fun drawing so far?
David: I seem to get a new favorite every issue. They all have had a bit of a moment for me to fall in love with them. Can’t really pick just the one.
AIPT: You’re drawing Krakoa and Mojoworld in X-Factor’s first few issues. As an artist, do you enjoy the chance to bring some of the Marvel Universe’s wilder locations to life?
David: Oh, yes, absolutely. And we have been able to toy around and add our own twist to these locations. Particularly in our little Krakoan corner, which you will soon see is pretty specific (for good reason). Like I said, there are many, many reasons why this book is so special. Defining, or redefining, these classic X-Locations under the light of Dawn of X (no pun intended) is fascinating.
AIPT: Finally, both you and Leah have been using the #XFAQtor hashtag on Twitter, which many eager X-Fans have–naturally–embraced. How has it been to see so much excitement and passion for this series, from the moment it was announced through the delays due to COVID-19?
David: Encouraging, exciting… A bit exhausting! We have been working on this for almost a year now. We’re so, so looking forward to the fans seeing what we have been working on! Hopefully, we’ll be up to the task and meet all this hype and the incredibly encouraging positive energy there is for the book. We’re pouring ourselves into it, and we have a deep love for the title and the team. I’m hoping it’ll show, and that the fans will join in for the ride.
AIPT: With you and Leah at the wheel, I have little doubt! Thanks for taking the time to chat, David!
That’s it for this week, X-Fans. Have an eXceptional week and, unlike far too many elected officials, I’ll say it over and over again: Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, wear a mask when you’re around others! Like our friend Chamber here–he gets it.