Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
And welcome to Reign of X, the neXt eXciting era of X-Men eXcellence! (I really need to lay off those capital Xs before I break my keyboard.) I would ask if you’re just as ecstatic as I am, but at least 300 X-Fans submitted questions for this particular edition of X-Men Monday–and among those readers, many asked more than one question!
TL;DR: A lot of questions didn’t make it to the final round but could certainly pop up in future installments of this column, so stay tuned.
Of course, the reason for all this enthusiasm is this week’s guest, the Head of X himself, writer Jonathan Hickman.
It’s always an event when Jonathan steps through a Krakoan gate to join us here at X-Men Monday, and in true, unpredictable Hickman fashion, he brought along a special guest: fellow X of Swords mastermind and Excalibur writer Tini Howard!
So, without further ado, here are Jonathan and Tini reflecting on their sprawling epic and looking ahead to Krakoa’s future.
AIPT: Jonathan, welcome back to X-Men Monday! Let’s start with a few X of Swords questions. X-Fan Josh Link was curious to learn how the co-writing process worked between you and Tini on X of Swords: Creation, Stasis and Destruction?
Jonathan: I dunno, let’s ask. Tini?
Tini: I guess it was kind of like a road trip? Jon and I both realized we had the idea to take a trip to the same place, and he invited me along. We’d talk, plan our ‘routes,’ remind the other that we wanted to stop by Otherworld’s Largest Ball of Twine or something, get on the phone and discuss how to go that way so we’d both have a great time and so would everyone else working on the event. We tend to talk, and then break to go turn things over in our heads on our own, and then come back together, etc., repeat.
Anyway, yeah, it was like a road trip. Very long and tiring, but ultimately lots of fun. Lots of breaks for chips and soda. Pepe and Marte picked the music.
Jonathan: I just remember looking at everything you had kind of built up to that point, and like you said, knowing some places we wanted to go, and knew that it would all kind of Voltron together into a cool story where we could pivot the entire line while also seed a bunch of stuff that’s going to be coming up in the next year or so.
I really loved what we did with Otherworld. Kind of cleaning everything up and taking decades of Otherworld strata and making it one big, cohesive thing. And, yeah, Pepe really was cooking on the designs of that stuff.
AIPT: Welcome, Tini! And speaking of Otherworld, Jonathan, X-Fan Veitha pointed out that you’ve used the Captain Britain Corps in stories pre-X of Swords. What do you two like about the Corps and Otherworld the most, and what new addition to their lore are you most excited about moving forward?
Tini: I love Alan Moore’s story work on Captain Britain so much–that moment where he zooms out from the earlier stuff and makes the national hero trope (which can seem clumsy at times, in general) into a defender of all reality? That’s it for me. I’m excited that I feel like we’ve gotten to do something similar with expanding Otherworld and changing the Corps. The Captain Britain Corps is so fundamentally weird that these sort of inside-out flips of the whole concept don’t feel disrespectful to the original, they feel in line with it. It’s fun.
Jonathan: Yeah. And as for what it gives us moving forward, the answer is a lot. We actually built each of those Otherworld kingdoms as a separate story engine that feeds into one or more of the other kingdoms. So there’s a progression baked in. And a good bit of that mythology leans toward Tini’s main book and the evolving Captain Britain drama.
AIPT: X-Fan Matthew Perpetua said that based on various pieces of preview art, it looked like Magneto was originally planned to be a Krakoan swordbearer. Was this an early plan that changed or was this just misdirection?
Tini: I don’t actually remember. Part of this event was that I feel like every possibility was discussed at some point–it’s a big part of how our whole group works. I think that was a misdirect, though.
Jonathan: I hate Free Comic Book Day comics because Marvel wants to use it to pump the upcoming events and then everyone acts like it’s a foul when you do a teaser that gets collected in the event’s first issue because it’s actually important to the story. I did it with Infinity and here as well, but when we started to get some static about it I said let’s just lie to everyone and say it’s different by changing some background art or swapping out a character and print substitute tarot reads, etc.
Whatever. The point is, Magneto was never going to be in it.
AIPT: Another X-Mystery solved. Now, we met a lot of new characters in X of Swords who have already endeared themselves to readers. X-Fan Chris Eddleman asked if there was a particular inspiration for the existence of the Arakkii. They remind Chris of the medieval Prester Jon myths.
Jonathan: There was, but it wasn’t that. Good pull, though.
AIPT: And while we’re talking new additions to the X-Men mythos, X-Fan Far far Acquaye was wondering if when Isca’s power makes her change sides, does it also affect her mentality so that she is actually loyal to that side?
Tini: Good question. I’d probably read a comic about the answer to that, and you probably would too, so I’m going to guess we’re going to decline to answer that here.
Jonathan: Proud of you right now.
AIPT: One more X of Swords questions before we move on: X-Fan Zack “My Wife” Jenkins said (presented with minimal editing on my part – CH) the Krakoan era–and X of Swords, specifically–has been largely driven by “wife guys” (or gals). Cannonball, Cyclops, Captain Avalon, Mystique, Cypher and Apocalypse have been defined by screaming “my wife” like Borat and doing dope s--t because they love their wives so f-----g much. What makes the “wife guy” such an interesting archetype to explore in the Krakoan era?
Tini: For my part, my husband is really my favorite person. I think it’s cool to marry someone you’re super into, someone you’re challenged by, someone who knows you better than you know yourself. I think it’s cooler than being married to someone whose role in the story is to just die or whatever, like “you were assigned a liability by the story gods.” Snooze.
Oh, you forgot one, Dr. Gregor is kind of a wife guy too back in House of X and Powers of X! Hm. I guess Jonathan and I are just both weirdo creative types who realize the value of having another person help hold your s--t together. Sure helps.
Jonathan: Tini’s husband is my favorite person too.
AIPT: Before we switch gears, I want to remind readers who may have missed them that there are NINE X of Swords editions of X-Men Monday featuring X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White fielding X-Fan questions. OK, now let’s go fishing for spoilers. X-Fan Nola Pfau asked if we’d play two truths and a lie, Reign of X edition. Go!
Jonathan: Sure. I’m drinking a lot, yet somehow not drinking enough, and Tini is sticking around for this whole interview.
AIPT: Hm, there was nothing in there about when we’ll next see Dazzler, but moving right along, X-Fan GraySkull asked what theme would you say characterized the Dawn of X and what theme will characterize Reign of X?
Jonathan: I don’t really think about things in that way. I tend to work ideas and not themes (those just kind of seep out) but playing along I’d say FOUNDATION and EXPANSION.
Or something like that.
AIPT: X-Fan Noah wanted to know if you can give a hint as to who will fill the two empty seats on the Quiet Council now that Apocalypse and Jean are off it?
Jonathan: I think the problem with the question is that it assumes that there are only going to be two missing seats to be filled in the near future. Seems like a pretty big assumption. Anyway, you will get everything you need and nothing you want.
AIPT: Wouldn’t have it any other way! But while on that topic, X-Fan Cadillac_baby was curious what we can expect from Scott and Jean now that they’ve gone against the ruling of the Quiet Council.
Jonathan: Hands down, my favorite shenanigans from House of X and Powers of X until now is that for over 100 issues of X-Men comics, I got away with there not being an actual superhero team called the X-Men.
So what can you expect from Scott and Jean from here on out? A little thing called the X-Men. Mutant heroes doing hero stuff.
AIPT: Consider me eXcited. Now, the end of X of Swords means big changes for Krakoa. X-Fan Everest said with so many new mutants coming to Krakoa from Arakko, can we expect more additions to the Omega-level mutant list?
Jonathan: I believe the comic book you’re looking for is X-Men #16. Drawn by the amazing Phil Noto. Also colored by the amazing Phil Noto.
AIPT: Hey, that comes out this month! And X-Fan Winona Vader Ginsburg made the point that Mutants from Arakko are seers and prophets. How will this affect Moira-X’s rule of no precogs?
Jonathan: The problem with rules in a situation where you also have laws is that the former often have no teeth. So it could be a problem. It could also be a minor problem compared to other complications Arakko represents.
AIPT: I’m curious, who is the character every X-Fan will be talking about a few months into Reign of X?
Jonathan: Probably Storm or Nightcrawler. There could be others. You never know what kind of ridiculous nonsense X-Fans will glom onto. Could be anyone. Who the hell knows?
AIPT: Well, your answer’s a perfect opportunity to ask about these beloved characters. X-Fan @ororoswind said from her very first scene in House of X to her arc in the X-Men books, to her Giant-Size issue to X of Swords, it seems like you have always had a plan and a specific trajectory for Storm and where she’s going next. Without spoiling what’s next, do you mind talking about what motivated this particular arc for her? Since she pulled the Death tarot card representing metamorphosis, can we expect any change for the character coming up?
Jonathan: For lots of reasons (creative, logistical, etc.) we actually ended up throwing away most of our initial Storm plans, which is why it’s taken a little while to get to where we wanted to with the character. The shutdown, obviously, didn’t help with the timeline.
I actually think all of this turned out to be a blessing, however. Because the new stuff everyone came up with–and the way it resonates through the entire line–is so very much cooler than what we had initially planned for Storm. So, while it’s taken longer than we hoped, yes, you can expect some pretty big things for the character this next year, and yes, lots of changes.
Very, very excited about what’s in front of us.
AIPT: Also in front of us–possibly new Warren and Monet content, at least based on the Reign of X teaser image. Many X-Fans–including Rod Custerman–are wondering if the X-Corp and Moira series are still in the works.
Jonathan: Yes, we’re doing the X-Corp book. Everyone is very excited about it. We actually locked down both the interior and cover artist this week. I can’t remember which month it’s actually going to debut because the company has some funky scheduling coming up and we’re shifting things around, but there will be a formal announcement with the creative team and roster and all that soon.
The Moira book is a more complicated answer that I’ll get into below.
AIPT: OK, back to Nightcrawler. X-Fan Ben S. said we haven’t seen too much from Kurt since that tantalizing tease about him wanting to start a mutant religion. Based on the Reign of X teaser art, is it safe to assume we’ll learn more about Kurt’s efforts in the months ahead?
Jonathan: I think that is a safe assumption. Announcements forthcoming on that front as well.
The best thing about what we’ve built (and continue to build) is that we’ve tried very hard to make it so everyone has an X-Book that’s their cup of tea. If you like whimsical, ethereal stuff then you can check out Excalibur, if you prefer high-octane, testosterone books then go read X-Force. And on and on…
When Jordan told me Marvel was thinking about doing an X-Men Legends book and asked what I thought about it, I told him I thought it was great because, clearly, it’s an extension of the idea of a big umbrella X-Universe. And now, because we’ve pleased the comic gods–and along with a lineup of some other fantastic creators–Marvel is going to be publishing Walt and Weezie Simonson X-Stories again. Which is just perfect.
In addition to those, we do have a couple of surprise books that we’re going to be springing on you, and a few new creators coming into the office that everyone is very excited about. They’ll be working on titles and stories that we feel fit in perfectly into this idea of the line.
It’s going to be a pretty interesting 2021, I think.
AIPT: Something a lot of X-Fans asked about didn’t even happen in an X-Book–it happened over in Fantastic Four. X-Fan Michael asked if the recent decision around Franklin Richards’ mutant status change your long-term plans for the character?
Jonathan: Well, part of the problem with talking about this stuff publicly–and this is one of the (minor) reasons that I just don’t do it much anymore–is because it really doesn’t serve anyone to show how the sausage is made.
When I was writing Avengers, I was working from a tight outline. I pretty much knew where I was headed the entire run. Not everyone works that way, and it would be unreasonable for there to be an expectation that everyone work that way, but I do. None of that changes the fact that one day I woke up and had to deal with Old Man Steve Rogers, Superior Spider-Man, Unworthy Thor, and Iron Man a billion miles away from Earth in Guardians.
These are just the naturally-occurring complications of writing ‘Big Books’ at Marvel.
Now, obviously, we would not have laid down the track we did in House of X and Powers of X and X-Men/Fantastic Four if we weren’t planning on playing with that stuff–and who knows, we still might–but the truth is that Dan’s story evolved.
Which is kind of the larger point. Dan’s the writer of the Fantastic Four. He gets to write the book. And I support him the same way I’d support Leah on hers or Zeb on his, and on and on. Velocity and volume make the job hard enough, and none of us have the time or energy to spare on pointless territorial disputes.
And at the end of the day, you’re talking about characters that have been around for over 50 years. It’ll be fine.
AIPT: Our final question, from X-Fan Zachary Scholarship Rabiroff, is a nice follow-up to what you just explained. Now that the Dawn of X has ended, have you found that any of your initial plans for where your overall story’s going have changed?
Jonathan: I think this interview gives you a good idea–if you’re going to successfully navigate this stuff at Marvel–of how you have to be open to adapting your plans while still maintaining the overall direction, and narrative thrust, of your story.
Frankly, I’m pretty good at that. I don’t get lost and I normally see continuity changes as opportunities to dynamically reorient what I’m already doing narratively. It kind of acts like an external force denying perfect orbit around a story. You want turbulence, right? You want to go on a ride, because that’s drama. So I see it as kind of an anti-boredom engine instead of an inconvenience.
That’s just a matter of perspective. Whatever.
This X-stuff, however, has been different. I intentionally didn’t go into it with markers for specific issues (issue 5 Orchis is formed, issue 15, Mother Mold is reborn, issue 30, Orchis invades earth, issue 45, Nimrod joins the X-Men, etc.). Instead, what I pitched the company was essentially a three-act story. Where each act would last as long as we wanted or needed it to, and then when we were ready, we’d officially begin the second act.
Funny thing about that is, while rendering things out in real time, the two methods, though seemingly similar, are a million miles apart in execution. They just don’t work the same way.
Which has been very cool to watch.
So, have plans changed? Yes, absolutely. But that’s a conversation we can have after the Hellfire Gala.
AIPT: Is… X-Men Monday invited to the Hellfire Gala? What would I even wear?? Must impress Emma… OK, I’ll worry about this later. Jonathan and Tini, thank you so much for taking the time to field all these X-Fan questions–can’t wait to do it again! And even though X-Men Monday’s regular guest Jordan wasn’t here this week, he did take the time to pass along seven eXclusive preview images from upcoming comics.
Good stuff–thanks, Jordan! As you’re no doubt aware, next Monday (12.14), new New Mutants writer Vita Ayala will swing by X-Men Monday to answer YOUR questions, so mark your calendars. Then, keep it tuned to AIPT’s Twitter and this very website Wednesday (12.9) when the call for questions about Al Ewing’s first issue of S.W.O.R.D. goes live. (I’ve read it–you’ll have questions.) Al will then appear in the 12.21 edition of X-Men Monday.
So yeah, lots to be eXcited about on the X-Men Monday front this holiday season. BUT, I also want to make sure each and every one of us gets to enjoy these articles–and life itself–in good health. So please, PLEASE continue to wear your mask and make smart decisions that don’t put your loved ones, strangers or yourself at risk.
Let’s be eXceptional!
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