Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Like countless other comics, Giant-Size X-Men: Tribute To Wein & Cockrum #1 would have been in your hands by now if not for COVID-19. While the pandemic’s far from over, Marvel comics are shipping again and this new take on a classic story will finally go on sale September 30.
In anticipation of this one-of-a-kind tribute to comics legends Len Wein and Dave Cockrum–featuring art from 37 artists (!!!)–I thought it’d be fun to go behind the scenes with X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White (and ask a few X-Fan questions along the way).
But first, it should be noted this isn’t the first time Jordan and I have chatted about the remixed Giant-Size X-Men tribute. Shortly after it was announced, we discussed it in March’s X-Men Monday #50. So as a refresher, here’s the tribute-focused part of that conversation.
AIPT: Speaking of specific types of stories, both Jonathan and Russell Dauterman’s recent Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost #1 and the upcoming Giant-Size X-Men anniversary special could be viewed as covers. As someone who enjoys covering songs on the ukulele, do you find these projects especially appealing?
Jordan: So the Jonathan and Russell issue I was nervous about. Are people going to be happy with this? Is this going to be OK to do this? The thing is Russell is so amazing, he makes that issue absolutely work, even though it’s the same idea of a psychic rescue that ends with them saying what they learn. It was 100% obviously a reference and was meant to be, but he makes it look so great and tells the story so well that I think it works and I’m really happy. I was really, really impressed by him on that.
For the Giant-Size X-Men tribute, that was my idea. I just thought that would be a really fun thing to do because, as you said, I do love cover songs. This is a book everybody loves, it’s the 45th anniversary of the book–so what can we do to honor it and celebrate it? And the idea of artists paying tribute to it by redrawing the pages in their own style just seemed really neat. And every single artist I reached out to about it felt the same way. They were all just like, “Oh that’s so cool” and as the pages come in it’s awesome.
Oh, you know what? I’ll give you a scoop. It’s not that big of a scoop, but I’ll give you a scoop. Other than two names–there was a mix up as to who was doing what page–but other than two names, which are swapped, the names as listed in the solicitation are the order they appear in the book. So Alex Ross drew the first page and so on. So it’s been really awesome. Alex Ross on page one was so cool. I was talking to some folks and they were like, “Oh man, it’s going to be like the best page then what’s going to happen when they turn to page two?” And as I was having that conversation, the panels from page two from Kevin Nowlan came in and they look so great. I said look at this and they were like, “Wow, OK.”
AIPT: And it’s all the original script? Nothing was changed?
Jordan: No no, we’re not going to rescript it. That seemed like a step too far and a little weird.
AIPT: So no nods to Krakoa’s status in the Hickman era.
Jordan: Honestly, we thought about it, but it was just like, when you redraw it, that’s a different artist’s interpretation of the same event. It’s still the same thing happening. If you rewrite the words, then it becomes a–wait, so is this what happened? Or is this a different world? We’re just going to keep the words as written, but it’s so cool. It’s really exciting to work on.
I figured that was some good insight into the origins of this project–and a reminder of how eXcited Jordan is about this comic. And now, on with the all-new, all-different interview (I had to)!
AIPT: Welcome back, Jordan! I’m so glad we’re talking about Giant-Size X-Men one week after we discussed the original 5 X-Men. Let’s kick things off with a question from Tyler Swanson (@GiantTomHanks): In your opinion, what about the All-New, All-Different X-Men lineup makes them so iconic?
Jordan: As we mentioned last week, I’ve been reading the Pre-Giant-Size X-Men books, one per day, and it really casts into stark relief how much everything changed after the All-New team debuted. The O5 are great (yes, even Warren, sorry Angel-fans) but at the end of the day, they were not that dynamic of a team. They were all from a relatively similar background and all of a relatively similar temperament. They were five prep school kids and their teacher going on adventures. Giant-Size turned that on its ear–it took the larger idea, that mutants are a new part of this world, hated and feared by the humans they live amongst, and widened the scope away from one prep school class to… everywhere. A team with members from seven different countries, whose ideas and temperaments didn’t align, but who were united by a common bond. And from that bond, because it was revealed to be so deep, they grew into a family as well. They are a much more interesting team than the O5.
AIPT: Now, this one comic features 37 artists. Ross filthy X casual (@RPHutch1975) was curious about how you went about the artist selection process. Did you reach out to everybody or did some come to you when they learned about the project? How did you decide which page an artist would tackle?
Jordan: My assistant Annalise Bissa was absolutely vital in making this project run as smoothly as it did. The two of us drew up a list of folks we knew we wanted to get on the book together. The first thing was that there are only two splash pages in the entire book, so we wanted to get those squared away first. The very first person I contacted about the project was Alex Ross, to ask him to draw page one. The idea of him doing the first page, opening the book and seeing Cockrum’s classic splash image of the team coming out of the ashes rendered out in his full painted glory would set such a high bar for the issue, I knew we absolutely needed to make it happen.
Then, looking at the second splash, we reached out to Mark Brooks, knowing he would absolutely nail the shot of the full team in the mansion for the first time. From there, Annalise would reach out to a handful of artists every day, maybe 2-3, and ask them to be a part of it. We did it in small batches because then she could send them a PDF of what pages were left in the book and let them choose what they wanted to draw. As pages were picked, we crossed them off our list until we had the full issue.
AIPT: That sounds like a very fun puzzle–but also a potentially complex one! Bethany w. Pope (@BethanyWPope) asked what the most difficult part of constructing this project was.
Jordan: Well, a book with this many moving pieces is always difficult. There is a LOT to track, I think we have over 60 creators on this one issue where normally we have… 6 or 7? And while the assignments were mostly one-page long, that’s kind of like doing 36 projects at once. So it’s always tricky. But again, I have to give it up to Annalise Bissa for keeping things straight. Her spreadsheet work kept things on track and in order.
AIPT: Thank you, Annalise! So, this is probably a difficult question, but is there a page that’s a personal favorite?
Jordan: That is SO TOUGH! I’ve already talked about how great the splashes look. I remember when Kevin Nowlan’s page came in, while I was at dinner with Gerry Duggan at C2E2, and I was knocked out by it. RB Silva’s page looks amazing, it’s definitely a fave. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Gurihiru, whose page I love both because it is awesome but also because it highlights the variety of different styles we have in here. There is a two-page sequence that goes from Juann Cabal to Gurihiru in one page, they could not be more different, but they both look SO COOL. That’s what the project was all about, everyone coming together to pay homage to this book that means so much to them even though it took them in such very different directions.
AIPT: butterflykyss (@butterflykyss) said there are those who have read Giant-Size X-Men and there are those who could be coming into this story fresh. What will this tribute offer both types of readers?
Jordan: I am not gonna lie and say that it’s not gonna be a LITTLE weird if this is your first exposure to Giant-Size. Like I said, every page is a different artist re-interpreting the original. That said, the storytelling in the original was so great that I think it still totally works, and again, I think you will appreciate the incredible talent of all the artists involved and the love they clearly feel for the book.
AIPT: OK, as this is a Giant-Size X-Men-focused edition of X-Men Monday, I figured I’d take the opportunity to throw some story and character questions your way. Obviously, this is where we were first introduced to Krakoa. Was it Jonathan Hickman’s idea to bring back Krakoa and make it integral to the new X-Men era? If so, what was your initial reaction to the idea?
Jordan: Oh yeah, for certain. He definitely came with the idea of Krakoa as the mutant nation, and I thought it was a great spin on it right away. The island IS a mutant. It seems obvious in retrospect, but the best ideas always do.
AIPT: We haven’t seen much of Banshee or Sunfire on modern Krakoa. Will we be seeing more of these two in the not-too-distant future?
Jordan: Both of those guys have fans in the creators we’ve been talking to, and both have been brought up as possibilities for projects we have simmering. I cannot promise they will appear, but they are certainly threatening to.
AIPT: And then there’s Thunderbird. Vendetta (@Eman419Boyd) asked if John Proudstar is among the long-dead mutants now living on Krakoa?
Jordan: I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that we have had a lot of talk about Thunderbird and how this would work. Unfortunately, if you look at the timeline for when Xavier realized his full vision of Cerebro, downloading minds, it was after Thunderbird had already died.
AIPT: Hm… but that Xavier is pretty resourceful. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. OK, so this whole comic’s a celebration of Len and Dave. I’d like to know what Wein and Cockrum contribution to the X-Men mythos you’re MOST grateful for. There are tons, but for the sake of this question, you can only pick ONE.
Jordan: I mean, yeah, that is not fair. There are SO MANY. I want to spend my whole answer fighting with you about the premise of the question, but I will be nice and just pick one single drop out of the ocean. NIGHTCRAWLER. He’s one of the most popular X-Men around 45 years after his debut, his design is amazing, no one has ever topped his original look no matter how they tried, and the idea of this loving, good-natured guy who looks like a demon just… it just works on all fronts. Storm is a close second.
AIPT: Thank you for not fighting me. Final question: Is this type of tribute issue something you could see yourself doing again one day with another classic comic, or is this better as a one-time thing?
Jordan: I CANNOT WAIT TO. Working on this was a joy from start to finish. I know I will be revisiting it as soon as I can, assuming you folks all enjoy it!
AIPT: Oh, I’m sure they will. And you know what else X-Fans enjoy? A few eXclusive preview images from this artistic showcase (along with two eXclusive images that have appeared in past editions of this column)!
Gorgeous panels–this is going to be a lot of fun to read and compare to the original. Remember, X-Fans, this goes on sale September 30. Thanks for sharing them and answering this week’s questions, Jordan!
And a quick note before we wrap for the week: This is the 71st edition of X-Men Monday, so that means we’re counting down to the anniversary 75th installment of this column! If you’ve learned anything about me the past 70 editions, it’s that I never turn down a chance to throw a party. So I’ll get back to planning and you do me a favor and be like Cyclops here–keep wearing a mask and continue to be eXceptional!