Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Before we launch into this week’s article, I need to flag that quite a few of the questions X-Fans submitted last week have already been answered. I know, a true X-Men emergency!
X-Fans… you are reading each and every edition of X-Men Monday from beginning to end, right?
We may be on the 79th installment, but I remember each and every one. So when a question comes through that I know has been answered, all sorts of alarms go off inside the Cerebro helmet I use to put these articles together. So let me just address two real quick…
- What led to Vita Ayala stepping in to write Marauders? A great question that was actually asked twice–and answered once in X-Men Monday #75!
- If Wolverine’s been resurrected, how does he have his adamantium skeleton? Jonathan Hickman himself tackled this one in X-Men Monday #32 in brutally honest fashion. It was great.
There were also a few questions that can easily be answered by looking at previews and solicitations, so those were skipped. But yeah, if you’ve missed a few editions of X-Men Monday, I highly suggest you carve out some time and catch up. It’s probably the best weekly X-Men interview column on the internet–but that’s simply my unbiased opinion.
With that out of the way, here’s X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White with answers to your latest round of X of Swords questions!
AIPT: Welcome back, Jordan! I’d like to kick things off with a question of my own. Last week, we saw an eXtra-sized issue of Marauders and one story spread across two regular-sized issues of Wolverine and X-Force. I’m curious, is this deeper exploration of Logan and Storm’s individual sword quests a reflection of the changes you were allowed to make because of the pandemic delays?
Jordan: I don’t necessarily want to get into telling everybody, “Here’s exactly how it changed, step-by-step,” but the quick version is everything had more room to breathe and to be as big of a story as we wanted it to be. Whereas before, we felt like, “How are we going to do all this?”
I don’t think the Marauders issue changed in size. I think it was always going to be a 30-pager. There were other aspects of it that were slightly different in the old plan, but it was always going to be the length that it was, and I think we were always going to tell the story we told with Wolverine. I’m not 100% sure that it would have been two issues in the original conception. It might’ve had to have been jammed into one.
AIPT: Well, we don’t always get to spend this much time with individual characters in crossover events, so it was refreshing. We also finally got to meet the much-teased Solem. And we got a lot of questions about Solem–so clearly he made an impact! What are the origins of this Swordbearer of Arakko? It was mentioned in X-Men Monday #75 that Jonathan came up with the concepts for the Swordbearers, but did Ben Percy then flesh him out? X-Fans Emmanuel Boyd and Wengchini want to know!
Jordan: Well, let me think about how this exactly went down. Jonathan came up with the idea in the looser sense of “Oh, we’ll have a guy like this, but blah, blah, blah.” And he said to Ben, “That’s in your issue, have that guy do this.” Like, just the briefest idea. And then Ben took that and went, “I love that” and ran with it and fleshed it out. But Ben is the one who showed us what he’s like by having him be that slippery and seductive guy. Ben is the one who realized it on the page and I think it turned out great.
I think Jonathan had the idea that he was in prison for having killed War’s husband and Summoner’s father. But again, Ben was able to go in and put so much of a stamp on it and so much of a spin on it. And I think it’s clear that Ben enjoyed writing that character so much and hopefully we’ll continue to enjoy reading the character.
AIPT: So far, X of Swords has allowed readers to really get to know Arakko Swordbearers like Solem and War. Is X-Fan Kenny right in assuming the other Swordbearers of Arakko will receive similar treatment?
Jordan: Oh, for sure, for sure. You’ll get more and more about them. Not necessarily like this week, but over the course of the event for certain. And I think all of them get a really cool chance to shine across the writers involved in this–everybody has different favorites and different preferences for which swordbearers they think are the coolest and, therefore, they have been kind of jumping to give them awesome moments.
AIPT: One more question about everybody’s new favorite Swordbearer from X-Fan ArK: Is Solem’s adamantium skin his mutation or is it something more artificial like Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton?
Jordan: I think that remains to be clarified. And I don’t want to say things off the page that I think are best revealed on the page.
AIPT: Well, speaking of pages, X-Fan Wengchini also asked who’s been tackling the Otherworld data pages. Is it a single writer or are they a group effort?
Jordan: One writer has been tackling the Otherworld data pages.
AIPT: I’m assuming those are laying the seeds for future stories?
Jordan: For the future, yeah. For all sorts of future stuff, but yes they are. I mean, they’re relevant to X of Swords, very much so. And probably, I want to say they’re more relevant to the comics they’re in than people realize. I don’t want people to look at them like some conspiracy theory. There’s no mystery for them to crack. Like, you don’t have to pore over the pages now. It will become clear is what I mean.
AIPT: So, we also received a lot of questions about Storm’s actions in Marauders #13 and the impact they’ll have on her relationship with Black Panther and Wakanda, in general. I, personally, feel like the theft of Skybreaker, the choice Ororo had to make and T’Challa’s response clearly set up future stories. But X-Fan Nitefury asked for confirmation the consequences of this issue will eventually be confronted. Can you confirm, Jordan?
Jordan: Yeah, of course. I mean… [Laughs] I don’t even know what else to say other than, of course. That’s the nature of comics, you know? Things happen and then other things happen. So yeah, no doors have been closed. Nothing has ended. Nothing is over. We intend to be telling these stories for many, many, many, many years. Nothing is over.
AIPT: You know, the questions about Ororo and T’Challa’s relationship–along with the frustration I often see from some X-Fans regarding Scott and Jean, Scott and Emma, Scott and Logan and countless other X-Couples that don’t involve Cyclops got me wondering… why aren’t romance comics more popular in today’s comics industry? Because it seems like a lot of readers just want to read about characters’ relationships.
Jordan: It’s a really complicated question. I mean, honestly, I think it probably goes into all sorts of problems and misunderstandings and very particular circumstances of our industry in major ways, because it has to do with who the primary audience is for the comics. It has to do with the ways that the industry has trained the audience to respond to things and what it should value in a comic book.
And here’s a minor part of it. If you say “soap opera,” it’s often viewed as an insult, which, OK, that’s fine. Probably there’s a good reason for that in that soap operas are produced quickly and cheaply. So if you think of soap opera as meaning low-quality, sure. I don’t know that that’s necessarily right across the board, but I think when people say that, most of the time, what they really mean is focusing on romance drama, right? Focusing on every character, cycling through every other character as a romantic partner, as they tend to do on soap opera shows–at least back when I experienced them through watching them with my grandmother when she was babysitting me as a child.
But I think that emotional stuff is the stuff that people love about comics. If you look at old Spider-Man comics from the ‘60s and ‘70s, what you will see is that the bulk of the comic, if you say they were 20 pages, like 17 of those pages would be about Spider-Man punching Electro. And three of those pages would be about Spider-Man and his love life, or Spider-Man and what Aunt May needs to stay well, or whether he’s keeping his job–things like that. But the bulk of the comic is devoted to the action premise, which is ostensibly the hook of the comic. The thing you want to read as a reader of a superhero–if you’re the target audience in that era–is you are buying this because you want to see Spider-Man fighting another guy with superpowers.
And they were thought of as a disposable genre, so you would pick up an issue, read it, and hopefully, they want you to read the next one. That’s why they have a cliffhanger and stuff, but you might not because you just go to the newsstand and you sometimes get it and you sometimes don’t. But as the readership has changed to mostly being made up of people who read all of the issues and who want to read it on an ongoing basis, that focus has shifted. Because again, those three pages of Peter Parker’s ongoing life–those are there for the people who are reading it every issue.
When you look back at the run of the first 200 issues of Spider-Man, let’s say, there are always going to be superhero stories that stand out that are like the big moment when this happened. But you know, again, he might fight Electro five times. What happened the third time he fought Electro? I don’t know, he put rubber shoes on. Right? But you’ll be more likely to remember that time when he and Mary Jane broke up or the time when this person started doing that because that’s the ongoing plotline that you are following. And the priorities shift from being less concerned about the thing that is ostensibly the reason the book exists–the punching–and you’re more interested in the ongoing romantic subplots.
Oh my God, I’ve gone on for so long. Sorry.
AIPT: That’s alright.
Jordan: Now, again, I’m just telling you my understanding of things. I don’t have a judgment of they’re wrong to feel that way or who’s right about what books–sorry, sorry–one more thing about that, though. The place where I think it’s most clearly visible–I just talked about early Spider-Man, right? So early Spider-Man, the bulk of the comic is going to be fighting. But let’s shift over to Ultimate Spider-Man, which very famously has a six-issue opening arc, where he only becomes Spider-Man at the very end. That’s a series where the pendulum has definitely swung. And, of course, we want him to be Spider-Man and we want him to be in action-adventure stuff. But the soap opera plot has, if not been made the main plot, at the very least has taken much more of the percentage than it was taking in the original.
So I think that’s a very clear contrast to go look at the way they handled it back then, and look at the way that, I mean, they’re both back then at this point, but look at the way they handled it in the ‘60s and look at the way they handled it in the early aughts.
AIPT: Well, you’re an editor, you make comics for a living, so let me ask you a very direct question. Do you think some readers don’t know what they want? Because I’ve been doing X-Men Monday for almost 80 weeks, and I’ve read a lot of X-Fan questions and reactions to this column, and there is that percentage of readers who do seem to want comics that are just Scott and Jean, for example, discussing their relationship or characters living nice lives free of drama. And while I want my favorite fictional characters to be happy… I also realize that’s not how serial storytelling involving decades-old characters works.
Jordan: I have a good friend who is a huge Punisher fan. And he’s always so unhappy whenever anything bad happens to the Punisher. And so I said to him, “So what, you want to read the comic where Punisher goes, ‘That’s it. I did it. Crime’s done. Let me settle down, go into a house, relax. And I’ll just hang out for the rest of the time.’” And he’s like, “Yeah, absolutely.”
Jordan: And I said, “No, you don’t. You don’t want to read that comic.” It would be the most boring comic of all time, that’s not what you want. And he’s like, “No, of course, I do.” Well, OK, that’s fine. The fact is, I don’t want to say that readers don’t know what they want because wanting is not something that I can control. But what I know is at the root of what all readers want is a good story, a good comic, done well. And when it comes to the specific details of, “I want Jean and Scott to be happy” or the opposite, “I want Jean and Scott to never speak to each other again.” Those are the opinions of what they want. But I think at the end of the day, if you give them a good enough story, it will affect what they want and it will make them want to know what happens next and read more.
I mean, I as a reader have definitely read stories that, if you said to me, “Hey, here’s what happens in this story? Do you want that?” I would say “No,” but if it’s well done, I’ll read the story and go, “They brought me around, now I want that.” And really, that happened to all, well, I don’t want to say that exactly happened to all readers, but all readers at some point started out not knowing about the characters, not knowing about the specifics of what they would ideally like to have for them, you know, in their hearts and just read a good story and that good story is what made them want that.
Everybody who loves Scott and Jean read a really good Scott and Jean story. Everybody who hates Scott and Jean either read a really bad Scott and Jean story or read a really good Scott and Jean story about them not being good together. Right? And so our focus is never on, “Let’s find out what people want and do it.” Our focus is always “Let’s use our best judgment to tell the best story possible, given all the pieces we have in play.” And we have to believe that making a good story is the most important thing over all other concerns. Because the minute we start believing that making a good story is not the most important thing, we’re going to end up making terrible stories.
AIPT: So bringing it all the way back around, do you think romance comics could work today?
Jordan: Well, again, I don’t think that the people who are buying comic books in the direct market on a regular basis are people who would be necessarily willing to buy a comic that was overtly a romance comic and not something else. Because I think, again, that’s the audience we have captured and the audience we have trained how to read comics. In the same way that every once in awhile, Marvel will do comics that are not what you’d expect from Marvel. They’re not just a superhero comic, they are a romance or they are a fantasy comic or this and that. I’m sure we will continue to do that. I’m sure we’ll continue to try to expand and grow.
But a lot of times they don’t take off. And I think part of the reason for that is not because there’s no audience for those things, but because the audience for those things doesn’t look to Marvel because the audience, in general, goes to Marvel to read superhero comics. And again, I think as we work on things, we will grow past that. You know what I mean? Now we have Star Wars again, we have Conan, I’m sure more things will come out that will take Marvel and the company’s ability to tell stories in different directions. I think we can tell good romance stories, but I think if romance readers don’t know where to find it, it won’t be able to take off.
Let’s say we’re just going to do a Millie the Model comic again. She’s going to have different boyfriends and work on being a model. I think that our audience, even though they enjoy romance as an aspect of superheroes–I don’t know that they would instantly go for that. It would be great if they would, so maybe they would prove me wrong. My guess would be it would be very difficult to get a successful romance comic off the ground right now.
AIPT: I didn’t expect for us to discuss that question for so long, but I think that was pretty fascinating, so thanks! OK, finally, what can you tease about Hellions #5, New Mutants #13 and–speaking of Scott and Jean–Cable #5?
Jordan: Cable is going to pick up where we left them off. They’re working together as a family. Papa Cyclops, mama Jean and a little baby Cable up on the S.W.O.R.D. station. And we’re going to see what they encounter up there, which I think is really fun and interesting.
Hellions goes off in a direction I don’t think anybody was expecting, which is kind of the story of that book going off in a direction no one was expecting and being amazing. Zeb is killing it on that book and continues to do so in this issue.
And then New Mutants is reckoning with the fact that Doug Ramsey is getting into a swordfight, which is not necessarily his strong suit.
AIPT: And I saw Rod Reis is back doing the art for that, which is eXciting.
Jordan: He’s been doing some great art across the board, but I think this issue looks great and the stuff he’s working on right now, honestly, is even cooler. He’s just so great.
AIPT: Well, I’d say that’s a great note to end on! Thanks, as always, for taking the time to talk, Jordan–and for tagging along on lengthy tangents about romance comics, apparently. X-Fans, you’ll want to thank Jordan for supplying these eXclusive preview images from this week’s comics–specifically the one where Nanny’s riding a horse.
Amazing, isn’t it? Thank you, Carmen Carnero.
Alright, X-Fans, if you have questions about this Wednesday’s X of Swords chapters, you’ll need to wait an eXtra week, because X-Men Monday’s giving Jordan a break while we talk all things Dani Moonstar with writer Darcie Little Badger ahead of the release of Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices. We’ve already received some eXcellent X-Fan questions so be sure to check back next Monday to see what Darcie has to say!
Until neXt time, X-Fans–stay safe and continue to be eXceptional!