A GIANT-SIZE WELCOME, X-Fans, to the 75th edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
A whole lot sure did happen between X-Men Monday #50 and X-Men Monday #75. We talked Cable with Gerry Duggan, Hellions with Zeb Wells and Comedy Bang! Bang! host Scott Aukerman even answered a few X-Fan questions before the comics industry–and the wider world–completely shut down. And while it may have been “pencils down” for many creators, acclaimed writers such as Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson, along with fan-favorite artists like Todd Nauck and Ray-Anthony Height were more than happy to swing by this column to share their love for the X-Men, as well as their own personal quarantine stories.
A special thank you to all those creators who helped make these troubling times a little more bearable! (And, you know, gave me something to do on those lonely pandemic weekends.)
Now, the world is still very much a mess, but starting this Wednesday, we’ll have an all-new, all-different distraction–a 24-part distraction called X of Swords!
Anticipation for the first major event of the Dawn of X era is at an all-time high, so we at AIPT are proud to bring you this eXtra-large (and ridiculously fun) X of Swords-focused interview featuring–DEEP BREATH–X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White, Assistant Editor Annalise Bissa, Editor Mark Basso, writers Vita Ayala, Gerry Duggan, Al Ewing, Tini Howard, Ben Percy, Zeb Wells, Leah Williams and the Head of X himself, Jonathan Hickman!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday #75, everybody! Let’s kick things off with a round of general X of Swords questions. New Kid Cable OTB (@GraymalkinKid) asked when planning X of Swords, how were crossover events, in general, discussed among the creators?
Gerry: Those other crossovers were not as good as you remember, this one, however, is great.
Leah: The discussion was like, “We have to make this one the best.”
Jordan: You will not even remember they exist and these will be known as “X of Swords-style Crossovers” from now on. But really, the X-Men has a long tradition of these multi-part, line-wide crossovers and we wanted to be true to that legacy, even as we put our own spin on it. I have a fond memory of tracking those stories across titles into books I was not used to reading.
Ben: From the very beginning–when we first gathered in the Marvel offices to drum out story beats and team charts for the Dawn of X–we’ve understood that we’re writing individual titles, but we’re also writing one big story. In a way, X of Swords is just another version of what we’ve been doing all along, but with the volume cranked and universe-shaking stakes.
Jonathan: What everyone said above is true. There was certainly an underlying sense of urgency baked into this whole thing that now seems a little absurd as I type this out. There was a point, after everything started shutting down, and the Diamond news had hit, and the title count had been reduced significantly, where the X-line of books were going to represent a much bigger percentage of the line than they even do now. Knowing that, we actually tore up most of what we had come up with at our X-Retreat in Chicago and reworked everything. Now that it’s about to come out, we all feel pretty good about it–it’s a lot of fun–but it also feels like it was created in a completely different time period. It’s Marvel’s first-ever (please god also be the last) Post-shutdown, but Pre-new normal, X-over.
AIPT: Please be the last indeed. Now, there are a few cases where new writers are jumping onto series or co-writing chapters. How did this idea to mix it up come about and how did those who step into new roles for X of Swords find it?
Gerry: The story told us who it wanted, and we obliged. Vita was destined for Storm and Marauders. For Ben and I, it was simply practical that we wrench on them together rather than do drafts back and forth. The writers’ room just continued onto the page.
Vita: There was a real feeling of wanting writers to be involved in the issues (and with the characters) that spoke to them for the event. I think it’s no secret that Storm is my favorite, and Gerry was more than supportive about me coming onto Marauders to play.
Leah: Once we had our overall story and concept in mind for the event, we brainstormed as a group to figure out our individual roles within it. It’s a story-first, very holistic process. My X of Swords chapter came about because I got excited about an opportunity to show the resurrection side of things; which is an angle we first workshopped together.
Jordan: What they said! This whole thing has grown out of the story we wanted to tell–it started when the track Jonathan had laid down early on dovetailed with where Tini was going in Excalibur, and when that fusion was brought to the whole group, everyone had ideas to pitch in as to where it was going. There are ideas from all sorts of folks that ended up in other people’s issues, everyone is giving notes and pitches for one another–it’s a very generous collaboration and I think everyone is into it.
Ben: We all email and text and Slack constantly, and once a week, we get together on Zoom and talk through what we’ve been writing and what we’re going to be writing. It’s a true collaboration, absolute co-authorship. As X of Swords continued, and the various threads began to twine together, it only made sense for Gerry and I to join forces and beat out our stories in alignment.
Jonathan: I remember when you guys said you were going to do that and I just laughed. Whatever. Just make it cool.
AIPT: Chris Monsoon (@ckgarcia07) was curious to learn how you ensured the tone of this crossover stayed consistent across so many chapters written and illustrated by multiple creators.
Gerry: By working our asses off.
Tini: What Gerry said. When this is done, I’m going to build a little wall around myself with swords and take a nap.
Vita: We are a very collaborative group. We are in constant communication about the merry band of Mutants and their island. We were already in the practice of working together, so when it comes to coordinating the event, it is as much of a chance to flex and show off our ability to problem-solve and function like a team as it is a challenge!
Leah: I love this collaboration style because it makes everything we do remarkably cohesive. Everybody looks at everything; as a group. I got really amazing notes not just from Jon and JDW, but from other X-Writers.
Jordan: But Gerry is right–they all worked incredibly hard on this to make it come together. When we hit the delay of books due to the pandemic, we devoted any extra time it gained us to making this story bigger and better, and everyone busted their butts to follow through on it.
Ben: Working our asses off is right. Discussion after discussion, draft after draft, micro- and macro-level attention to detail and structure. But the majority of the credit goes to Hickman, Tini, Jordan, Annalise, Mark and Lauren for the large-scale oversight. This story is massive, and they had to keep the whole monster in their heads.
Annalise: The key is to keep everyone in communication. It starts with the writers—we’ve been in close contact on Slack and on calls through the entire process, from planning to the outlines to the eventual lettered books. For the artists, Pepe and Marte threw down the gauntlet in Creation, which set the tone for the chapters that followed–and all of the artists have been outdoing themselves within this X of Swords sandbox. I think every single chapter has at least one completely new character/location/sword/etc. in it, and having a front-row seat to the writers and artists building those things together has been awesome.
Jonathan: I think the only thing that got left out of these answers is how little drama there was from the entire team. Everyone did their work. Zero ego. Everyone knew the notes were in service to the story.
AIPT: In the Dawn of X, you had to decide which mutants would sit on the Quiet Council. With X of Swords, you had to decide who the 10 sword-wielding mutants would be. x jonah x (@mavortianX) wanted to know what the process behind selecting these characters was like.
Vita: Imma be real, I just remember chanting “Storm, Storm, STORM” a bunch and pounding the table. I am sure there was a lot more nuance to the rest, but I think I just went feral and they indulged me…
Leah: I think Storm was a given, actually–we all implicitly understood the only possible correct choice was to definitely put a sword in Storm’s hand, one way or another.
Jordan: I am trying to think if there were a lot of people suggested that DIDN’T end up as Krakoan swordbearers, and I can’t think of many. It was at our C2E2 summit that we made the final list, taking all the ideas and locking it into the 10 swords we ended up with. I can think of one or two that I thought were going to be on there that were not… but there were good reasons, either for the people we ended up with or to NOT include some of the ones we did so we could use them otherwise.
Ben: Ain’t no doubt about it, bub. We had to have some Muramasa blades in the mix.
Jonathan: When we were flying out of O’Hare and the panic was just starting to marginally freak everyone out, I was walking to my gate and there was one of those chair massage places–totally empty, of course–and the massage lady was basically wearing a full-blown hazmat suit. So I walked up to her and asked if the suit was to protect her or to protect me? She said, it’s to protect us both, dummy. Now do you want a massage? I said, yes, and it was weird, but solid, and when she asked me what I did after I paid her, I told her I was writing a thing about swords. She told me to leave. Her last name was Pogg.
AIPT: Well, that story’s going viral. On the subject of blades, @ororoswind noted that Storm’s sword appears to have a traditional African design. Once you selected the 10 sword-wielders, what types of thoughts went into designing or selecting the swords themselves?
Vita: There was a lot of thought put into sword designs, from artists and writers alike!
Jordan: For sure. Sometimes we chose the character first, and sometimes we chose the sword first and it was obvious who would be wielding it. But the ones that had new designs–Storm’s is a great example–had a lot of thought put into what they would look like. I think we ended up with a really nice look there thanks to Vita and Matteo Lolli.
AIPT: X-Fans love a good soap opera. Can we expect some romance in-between all the sword fighting?
Gerry: That’d be nice.
Annalise: You better believe it.
Zeb: The whole thing’s based on a romance, really. Oh, did I just show up and say too much? Sorry, really wanted to get in here.
Tini: Zeb’s right and he should say it.
Jonathan: Hey look who woke up.
Ben: There’s plenty of emotional drama mixed into the mayhem. I can’t share anything too detailed, but there’s a lot of angles on… marriage in this thing.
AIPT: Juicy! Dylan (@NyXForce) said, outside of House of X, Powers of X and the various Dawn of X series, are there any older comics X-Fans should consider rereading to prepare for X of Swords or enhance their reading eXperience?
Jordan: That or read every X-Book ever published. One or the other.
OK, OK, I can’t leave it at that. If I were to recommend anything, it would probably be some of my favorite books to recommend, in general–anything with Saturnyne and the Captain Britains in them. Sorry, I stepped on the joke, Leah.
Leah: Dangit, Jordan! Usurping with earnestness! Now I have to clarify that my answer is just my confidence in how great the event will feel to read, even with zero prior knowledge of X-Men comics before HoXPoX. But yes, of course–if you read Chris Claremont and Alan Davis’ Excalibur, then that would definitely enhance your X of Swords experience.
Zeb: Yeah, I’d suggest reading the old Alan Moore Captain Britain stories. But that’s a standing suggestion in my house.
Ben: You absolutely should read all the Wolverine and X-Force issues over and over and over again. And give them to your friends and family members for good measure.
Tini: I guess I’ll say if you’ve been reading the X-Books but not Excalibur, you might want to catch up on the last few Excalibur issues. Now available at finer comic shops.
AIPT: James Dowling (@James_Dow1ing) was among the X-Fans who were curious to learn whether X of Swords is part of the Dawn of X or its conclusion before a new phase of the Krakoa saga begins.
Al: I couldn’t possibly comment.
Tini: Jordan, wait, do we still have jobs?
AIPT: Was that Al Ewing teasing something to come? No time to dwell on that–let’s dig into some character questions. AIPT’s own Forrest With Two Rs (@Forrest_txt) was curious to learn which X-Men character is least prepared to use a sword.
Jordan: I think, when you see the lineup of the swordbearers, that answer is obvious. It’s also a story point! NO SPOILERS.
Annalise: Evelyn, the X-Cow.
Leah: Butter Rum, the dead pony.
Jonathan: Pogg, the hazmat massage lady.
AIPT: I’m not sure if you all know this, but Betsy Braddock has some very passionate fans who especially care about her relationships with her fellow mutants. Can Brian Beardless (@AlbionsDefender) and Fifth Dream (@FifthDream) expect interactions between Captain Britain and both Storm and Cypher?
Jordan: Well, they are all in this together. All three of them have big things happen to them in this series as a result of the battle they take on together, but we’re not spending that much time on their history compared to moving them forward.
Tini: Betsy is on a weird personal journey right now, and those can be lonely. If it feels like Betsy spends a lot of time alone, hurting, and on missions, and precious little time allowing herself to be comforted and soothed by the people closest to her, well–that’s the Betsy we’ve always known.
AIPT: AppleJ (@BlindedMeWSciFi) was among the X-Fans concerned that X of Swords cover art suggests only a small group of characters play key roles in this event. Is it safe to assume they shouldn’t judge an event by its covers?
Gerry: We’ve been lying to you on covers for 80 years. Just lie back and enjoy the comics.
Jordan: Only X-Men fans see 20 characters fighting with swords and ask why so many characters were left out. 😛 There are a LOT of characters in this crossover, and more than just the swordbearers are important to it.
Ben: Another thing to add is that X-Fans are going to get treated to a whole new host of characters who will sweep them away. The toy box is getting bigger and richer by the issue.
Leah: I just instinctually tried to hundred-emoji react to what Ben said. This is a Google Drive document.
AIPT: Let’s talk Tarot! Robb Ur-Robb (@RobertSecundus) asked: Is Saturnyne considered to be “High Priestess” or “Empress”?
Jordan: This is one for Tini, for sure.
Zeb: Tini! Help!
Annalise: My take: more “High Priestess” than “Empress.” And throw some “Chariot” in there, why not.
Tini: To educate my collaborators (other than Annalise, who did the reading) the question is about two kinds of powerful “feminine” energy. The High Priestess is about interpreting the sacred mysteries of the future, a sort of distant power, and the Empress is more about ‘Earth Goddess’-type stuff: love, abundance, creation.
I’ll say this–the answer might seem obvious. But I don’t like writing the obvious.
AIPT: And we usually don’t allow these types of questions, but this one seemed fair and was asked by both Josh !! (@joshcornillon) and Tom Bacon (@TomABacon): Will the Hellion Tarot appear at all in X of Swords?
Jordan: We don’t usually answer these types of questions, but… depends!
AIPT: Point Jordan. Could everyone name their favorite Swordbearer of Arrako?
Mark: Solem–wait’ll you see what this guy gets up to.
Vita: Oh, it’s a hard fight between Bei and [classified]!
Annalise: I have a soft spot for Bei the Blood Moon.
Zeb: The White Sword!
Jordan: Isca and Solem are both great… but I think Solem just edges her out. Wait–did she just get beaten? I better say Isca.
Ben: Solem, Solem, Solem, Solem. So much so, that he’s going to be a major part of Wolverine in the future.
Tini: Is no one going to say Summoner? Also Bei.
AIPT: As we near the end of this interview, I need to try… what is something about Pogg Ur-Pogg that hasn’t been revealed yet that you can reveal right here?
Gerry: It’s not the size of your sword that matters most, it’s what’s in your heart.
Leah: [insert joke about swords going into your heart, too]
Ben: Yes. And I ain’t telling.
Tini: I still laugh every time I think about Jonathan vehemently insisting that Pogg Ur-Pogg have certain traits. He was very passionate about Pogg. I think you all are just catching those feelings.
Leah: Oh, my god, yeah–do you remember that night when Jon first presented us with the swordbearer concepts in the X-Slack and we were all losing our minds with glee about the way he explained Pogg?
AIPT: Pogg indeed, Jonathan. Hey, Hunter (XBG) (@xmenbutgay) asked what will it take to get an X-Men-themed Tarot deck?
Jordan: I think… 75 pieces of original art?
Zeb: Our collective dreams to come true!
Jonathan: This was actually going to be a real thing until the pandemic. I think we’re all still bummed about that.
AIPT: In all the time since the idea of X of Swords was born, has there been at least one game of Dungeons & Dragons between the X-Writers?
Zeb: No. Don’t rub it in our faces.
Vita: …*makes a note to bring up on next X-Meeting*
Leah: This is legitimately my dream.
Jonathan: Everyone turns to me and points: Chaotic Evil.
Tini: I’m the biggest RPG nerd so I have to run it, right? I guess you all name what mutant you want to play and we’ll stat ‘em up Otherworld-style.
Jordan: OH SNAP, we get to play as X-Men? Now I am super in.
AIPT: If you end up playing, record it and AIPT will happily run it! And speaking of role-playing, a few months back, Matthew Rosenberg was all over social media showing off his bow and arrow skills when promoting Hawkeye: Freefall. So, does anyone actually own a sword? Did anyone buy one for research purposes? Does anyone want one now?
Annalise: The approvals process to expense a sword is taking forever…
Gerry: Yes, I got day drunk once and bought the sword of House Reynolds during an auction. His TransAm went for more than I was prepared to offer, but the bidding for the ancestral blade of Sir Burt was slightly less competitive, and I won the day.
I don’t know if you can tell from the pic, but he had his last initial hidden on the sword.
Mark: Of course. And I made two swords out of a tree branch I cut down last month so I could hold them together in an X shape, too.
Vita: I own multiple (maybe 6 or 7), including a replica Xena sword made from Spanish steel. But I feel like my wife would not appreciate me wildin’ out in the house with it, so no social media stunts for now…
Leah: I have a Pokémon Sword.
Jordan: I have a lightsaber.
Zeb: No. As a rule, if Matthew Rosenberg zigs, it’s a good idea to zag.
Ben: I own two swords. One of them was blacksmithed by my buddy Benjamin Busch, a writer (who is also a wild man and an actor best known for his role on The Wire).
Tini: I’m really more of a spellcaster…
Leah: Here’s my earnest answer–I’ve actually been obsessed with swords for a very long time, but in a way that I don’t really know how to explain. The “political views” listed in my Facebook profile have been unchanged since 2007: “girls w/ swords.” I go nuts for sword and sorcery, high fantasy stories. I want a big fancy sword tattooed down my spine someday. I’ve taken sword-fighting lessons. Not fencing, but these enormous, heavy practice swords I struggled to lift. I loved it.
AIPT: Let’s switch gears from swords to music. Leah has famously created playlists for various X-Men characters. Can we expect an X of Swords playlist? And if not, what type of music do readers need to put on to get in the mood for this event?
Al: “Space For Man And The Case Of The Ancient Astronauts” by Peter Howell and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which you can find at your local thrift store on the “BBC Space Themes” vinyl record.
Vita: I have one specifically for Marauders #13, which I will throw onto social media when the issue drops!
Annalise: Oh man, there’s a Hozier song that shall remain nameless. That’s a big one. There’s a song called “Free” by Clara-Nova that also feels very X of Swords to me. Maybe the Dirt Road Version of “Empty” by Metric.
Leah: Tini, Vita, and I all have multiple X of Swords playlists for different writing reasons! We share songs with each other and help one another curate atmosphere. One of the X of Swords writing playlists I made that I’ve listened to the most is called “a very specific emotional ouch.” I’m also going to shamelessly use this opportunity to reenact Zeb and Gerry’s reaction to another one of my X of Swords playlists, which I curated with very specific skin-crawly vibes in mind before sharing it in the X-Slack:
Zeb: “This mix is NOT OKAY”
Leah: “Yeah, I should be arrested for crimes against good vibes”
Gerry: [two days later] “hahaha” [sax emoji]
AIPT: When the sax emoji comes out, you know it’s time to go. Let’s close with a question from Ali X – 1 Tran Rasputin IV Vigil. TM (@Ali_Galactic): Describe X of Swords using one word that isn’t “swords.”
AIPT: Good stuff. SO MUCH good stuff and SO MUCH ground covered! Everybody, thank you so SO MUCH for taking the time to talk X of Swords for X-Men Monday #75! But wait, X-Fans–there’s more in the form of six eXclusive preview images from X of Swords!
Good stuff! And on top of all that, there’s more X of Swords goodness on the way!
As we announced yesterday, throughout the crossover, X-Men Monday will be your destination for the latest X of Swords confirmations, clarifications and teases as this column goes all in on all things swords! How will it work? Every New Comic Book Day Wednesday–beginning this week on September 16–you’ll want to read your X-Men comics as soon as possible, because at 12 noon EST, AIPT will post a call for questions on this very website. Fill out and submit the embedded Google Form and then check back the following Monday to see if your questions were answered. But you’ll only have from Wednesday at 12 noon EST until end-of-day Thursday to submit questions, so be sure to review the rules and keep up with this list!
Well, just over 4,000 words later, that’s all for this week’s edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT! Thanks for celebrating the column’s 75th installment with us–your support means the world!
(And I guess I better start planning X-Men Monday #100, huh?)
Until neXt time, X-Fans–stay safe and continue to be eXceptional!