Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Did you know it’s been eXactly one year since it was announced Leah Williams would be writing a new X-Men series? It happened at the very same 2019 Comic-Con International: San Diego panel where the world was introduced to the Dawn of X. But it’d be quite some time before we knew what that series would be.
Jonathan Hickman, the Head of X himself, teased it in the now legendary X-Men Monday #32 when he said, “But what if there’s a mistake and you think someone’s dead, but make a copy anyway? Well, again, that sounds like a story… and we even have a series built around resurrection problems coming out next year.”
And when I spoke to X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White about Leah’s teased series in the Giant-Sized, end-of-2019 edition of X-Men Monday (#41!), Jordan said, “some things you’re going to hear soon and other things you’re going to hear further away because Jonathan’s a long-term planner.”
Well, not long after we learned about Leah and artist David Baldeon’s X-Factor, which in pre-COVID-19 times, was set to debut in April 2020. We all know what happened there…
But finally–FINALLY—X-Factor #1 will hit shelves this week! So, of course, I wanted to have Leah swing by X-Men Monday to field some of X-Fans’ burning X-Factor questions.
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Leah! I spoke to David Baldeon about X-Factor a few weeks ago and asked him what he loves about collaborating with you. So I’d like to kick things off by asking you the same question about working with David.
Leah: Everything!! David is my co-conspirator in all things and I deeply cherish getting to work with him. There have been nights where I’m up late noodling with a script and then I’ll see that David’s also awake and working, so I’ll message him and ask for feedback on something while I’m in the guts of a script. He gets excited about the nitty-gritty details, too. He’s brilliant and definitely responsible for some of my favorite aspects of this book; not just visually but the meaning and intent behind a lot of the art.
Sometimes also, I’ll see something David’s doing and then readjust the script to highlight it. Aurora was more of a “catch and release” character until I saw David’s design for her costume; and I loved it so much that now she’s integral to the book. I’ve been pressuring David to write and draw an issue of X-Factor because I’m privileged enough to hear a lot of his ideas, and I think he’d knock it out of the park. We’re so much on the same page and sharing the same brain worms with this book that not only do I fully trust David, but it’s a joy working with him.
AIPT: David’s great, I had a lot of fun chatting with him. Now, our first X-Fan question comes from Robb Ur-Robb (@RobertSecundus), who said it seems like X-Factor Investigations is a major influence on the new X-Factor. Are there any hardboiled/noir detective stories beyond that you see as an influence on your work here?
Leah: This might be a frustrating answer, but I actually draw equal inspiration from works of noir and works of magical realism. I think an investigative scenario set in a Krakoan environment is conducive to both.
AIPT: OK, let’s get into some character questions. Heroine Addict (@MutantMusesX3) wanted to know what your thoughts are on Polaris’ connection and relationship with her father Magneto. Moving forward, will it get attention, be developed and progress?
Leah: They’re learning each other. Neither of them has ever really had the opportunity to explore this relationship before; or their individual roles as father and daughter. Developing this out is definitely one of the most important potential story opportunities in casting Polaris.
AIPT: Chris Serwacki (@chriswacki) said Rachel as a character has been mind-controlled, tortured, enslaved, abandoned, overlooked and diminished over the past two years alone. How does this affect how she views her role in X-Factor and Krakoa, and how others view her and her abilities?
Leah: Rachel clicks with Polaris and Northstar right away, but it takes longer for the others to warm up to her. They’re respectful but afraid, more or less–even Daken. Eye-Boy thinks she’s the coolest person he’s ever met though, and looks up to her.
AIPT: In the Dawn of X, you and New Mutants‘ Ed Brisson have a chance to continue developing characters you wrote in the Age of X-Man. For instance, Glob now has chickens on Krakoa, just as he did in NextGen. Would you say what Northstar experienced in X-Tremists affects how you write Jean-Paul in X-Factor?
Leah: It definitely affects the way I write Jean-Paul. I think AOXM was a traumatic experience for him. For them all, granted; but in terms of your question here–Jean-Paul is a gay man who was telepathically brainwashed into serving as Nate Grey’s secret police. In order to serve in that capacity; he was made to believe that his twin sister was dead, his husband Kyle never existed, and his sexual identity was entirely erased. It’s an unintended consequence of Nate Grey’s loveless “utopia” that the psychic reconditioning everyone was subjected to also inadvertently shoved queer characters back in the closet.
Jean-Paul is canonically anti-establishment and proud of his identity as a gay mutant, so coming out of AOXM would have very clear implications on his emotional state. He’s angry and traumatized and has always been an agitator who pushes against the establishment. Asks a lot of questions. Instigates. So tracking down missing mutants is a righteous and natural fit for him, now.
AIPT: And while we’re talking about Jean-Paul, Legendary Planeswalker – David Rose (@StevenOfWonder) said someone who gets overlooked a lot of the time is actually Northstar’s husband, Kyle. Will he have a roll in the book and, if so, what will that be? Legendary Planeswalker added that Kyle’s seemingly brilliant PR guy and could be pretty valuable to Krakoa as a whole, theoretically.
Leah: He absolutely has a role in the book beyond just that of being Northstar’s husband. His PR past does figure into it, but I don’t want to give too much else away about that.
AIPT: tycon X make more mutants (@aliastager) was curious to learn how Prodigy is taking this new golden era of mutantkind in? Especially being a part of arguably the most traumatized generation of X-Kids.
Leah: I have a fairly traumatized cast so my answer for Prodigy here is my standardized answer that I could have said for Rachel, Polaris or Jean-Paul in the previous questions. I adopt the same approach for everyone’s relative trauma, which is: we carry it forward together. I’m not interested in belaboring an individual cast member’s internal strife; I’m interested in their healing. I am deeply committed to how Krakoans build community to support each other instead of ostracising any one mutant for being different, so I’m far more invested in exploring the ways they’re able to thrive in an adaptive environment than I’m invested in story-mining the traumatic pasts of Prodigy, Rachel, Aurora, Jean-Paul, Polaris, Daken, etc. It is a part of who they are, of course, but no one is alone with that burden. We carry it forward together.
AIPT: Alright, cover your ears, Daken fans (or eyes, I guess)… TD Mollusk (@sirbriang2) said, let’s face facts: Daken is the worst. Just the worst. What about his character appeals to you? Aside from him being horny.
Leah: He’s not the worst! I totally disagree with that. And “horny” is such a reductive view of his thot crimes. He’s a really layered, complex character–totally loyal to his sisters, dry wit, deeply charismatic, but has enough of a chaotic neutral streak in him to keep things spicy.
Not to mention he’s an investigative powerhouse–his pheromone ability can relax killers into confessions, he can track a subject by scent while masking his own, heightened senses, can move with preternatural inaudibility, etc. He’s OP as a stealth agent. I’m going to make you love Daken so hard that we’ll revisit this question with laughter in a few months.
AIPT: That wasn’t so bad, Daken fans! Hunter (X-Men but Gay) (@xmenbutgay) said the resurrection protocols are rife with potential to explore what it means for a mutant to come back as their true self. Are there plans to explore the resurrection protocol potential for trans characters that we’ve seen hinted on the data pages?
Leah: Exploring resurrection protocols and gender identity is a definite fascination for me, absolutely. So I would say yes to this question with the obvious caveat that plans are not set in stone, and readers should still hold us responsible for trans representation in Krakoa. Me just talking about it doesn’t count.
AIPT: Has the way the pandemic unfolded changed any of the stories you wanted to tell by giving you more time to think about them, or how the story would relate to the real world? JD (@JD_ComicNerd89) wanted to know.
Leah: JDW [Jordan D. White] will catch me if I can’t actually say this, but everything that happened this summer really reaffirmed my desire to show what makes Krakoa work as a society. There’ve been times where I’ve excitedly advocated for this on X-Slack conference calls. I genuinely believe in what we’re doing.
AIPT: We know that Mojoverse will play a role early on in X-Factor. As a result, Levi Lavi (@LeviPTompkins) wanted to know if any particular Mojo stories define your idea of that realm and its characters.
Leah: Ann Nocenti’s and Arthur Adam’s original Longshot mini-series wherein Mojo first appears is still breathtakingly prescient to me. Ann was getting her master’s degree in media studies at Columbia University at the time she was creating this world, so she was reading a lot of McLuhan and Chomsky and internalizing the complexities of mass media and public consumption.
She created a visceral horror of a zeitgeist with the Mojoverse and in the Longshot mini-series we see this hellish visibility navigated by a non-macho, more or less androgynous protagonist. Ann Nocenti is one of the ground-breaking pioneers of Marvel storytelling that I owe my livelihood to.
AIPT: OK, final question before we wrap. You mentioned elsewhere that Fred Dukes will appear in X-Factor. How does it feel to revisit Fred, who you made so many fans fall in love with in X-Tremists, and how do you feel about his new role on Krakoa?
Leah: I’m a big fan of Freddy’s new role in Krakoa. It was actually Ben Percy and Josh Cassara’s idea when they were setting up the Green Lagoon in X-Force #9, but it meshed so perfectly with my existing plans for Freddy in addition to situating him in a more central location so he could be available for even more appearances across other books.
AIPT: Awesome! I’m very eXcited to see you continue writing Fred on Krakoa. And Leah, thanks so much for swinging by X-Men Monday to answer some X-Fan questions!
You know, all you loyal readers have been waiting so long for X-Factor #1, you deserve a treat. How about an eXclusive first look at RB Silva’s variant cover for X-Factor #4?
Welcome back, Lorna! Here, have a sword.
In case you missed them, check out the preview pages for X-Factor #1 below. Have an eXceptional week, X-Fans!