Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Well, OK, this installment of your favorite weekly X-Men column is more than uncanny–it’s out of this world because S.W.O.R.D. writer Al Ewing’s here! I’m so eXcited to connect the critically acclaimed creator with readers, especially because I received so many eXcellent questions. Truly, a testament to the power of an eXtraordinary debut issue.
But before we get into the conversation, a fun piece of X-Men Monday trivia: This isn’t Al’s first appearance in the column. He, of course, appeared briefly in the now-classic X-Men Monday #75 where he successfully got X-Fans’ speculation engines running. But way before that, in October 2019, I walked up to Al’s table at New York Comic Con and asked if he wanted to talk X-Men. If you missed that chat, be sure to give X-Men Monday #31 a read!
In fact–I even reference that conversation in my first question! (How’s that for a segue?)
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Al! When we last spoke 1:1 at NYCC–way back in October 2019–you told me how big a fan you were of the Krakoa X-Men era and how much you wanted to see Marvel stick with it rather than reverting back to the status quo. How does it feel to not only be a part of the latest phase of this new era but also pushing it even further?
Al: It feels great! I think back then there were feelers out about me being part of things in some capacity, but I couldn’t have predicted the pieces falling into place like this. I couldn’t ask for a better X-Book to be doing right now–it’s the perfect place in the scheme of things for my particular set of skills, and I get to explore a lot of the threads I’ve been working on over the years in the context of some merry mutant mayhem. Also, the X-Office is an incredibly creative, generous and rewarding space to be working in.
AIPT: Our first X-Fan question comes from Zachary “Intellectual Overreach” Rabiroff, who asked if there are X-Men writers or X-Men runs from the past that have had a particular impact on you or your work on this series?
Al: The old Claremont stories had a big impact on me when I was a kid–X-Men comics had an emotional intensity at the time that not many other comics could match. I kind of drifted away for the ’90s, though, so I’ve had to do a lot of research to catch up–Fabian Cortez was a useful character in that regard, in that following his story gave me a pretty good potted history of the X-90s and that whole era.
Probably my favorite X-Run–present company excepted–would be the Morrison run in the early ’00s. I remember picking that up at the time and just being blown away by it–the gorgeous Frank Quitely and Phil Jiminez art, the mutant cultural x-plosion, the cool science-fiction elements–it all felt like a new era, and one aimed squarely at me. I don’t know how much it all holds up 20 years later, especially with all the continuity under the bridge since, but I’d still heartily recommend it.
AIPT: I did a full re-read a few months back–it holds up. Now, X-Fan Connor Goldsmith loved seeing all the returning characters in the first issue as part of the broader S.W.O.R.D. team. Connor said it was particularly nice to see faces like Risque and Voght who’ve gone unused for a long time. How did you go about choosing these characters?
Al: In the case of those two, I was looking up mutants with particular powersets and they fit the bill. Not being an X-Head of long-standing, I’m just now finding out how popular they are, so I’m finding things for them to do. Amelia, in particular, has a place in the ongoing story of Fabian Cortez–I haven’t forgotten that those two and Frenzy were all Acolytes together, so there’s history there. As for Risque, she’ll have a job on The Six for the foreseeable future and we’ll be seeing more of them.
AIPT: X-Fan houndsoflove asked, who’s been your favorite obscure oddball to bring back into the fold and why?
Al: The obscure part suggests Wiz-Kid–a great character who’s appeared a lot less than he deserves–but throwing “oddball” in there swings it to Peeper. He’s another who was brought in to fill a particular role on the Six, but when I went back and read his earliest appearance in an old Kirby Captain America annual, I was struck by his easy relationship with Magneto.
He’s throwing quips in at the ends of Magneto’s speeches, Mags is praising him for his work–I thought it’d be a lot of fun to give them this very long-standing, equal friendship. There’s something very charming about the thought of the two of them palling around in the background of the last 50 years of X-Men comics. Also, it’s a fun burn on Fabian Cortez, who’s terrible.
AIPT: I love it. X-Fan SoftButchLaura wanted to know if it’s possible to talk about where The Six came from conceptually?
Al: I had an idea very early in development that Manifold was going to go on a mission to the Far Shore to get a MacGuffin in aid of future shenanigans. (Those are the technical terms.) That very quickly became an opportunity to do something more ambitious and put together another “mutant circuit,” in the manner of The Five.
And then I think it was Jonathan who suggested making it a two-stage thing–a group of teleporters working together to shunt The Six to the edge of everything, and then The Six themselves doing their job there. Which suggested to me a kind of “mutant molecule,” with Eden as the joining component, and that was that–it looked too nice when I diagrammed it in MS Paint not to do.
AIPT: And a pair of related questions from X-Fan Justin Poteat–did mutants just create hyperspace travel without ships and are we going to see more new “mutant technology” in the future?
Al: Long-range space teleportation has been a mutant thing for a while–before Manifold, there was space rock star Lila Cheney, who’ll get a speaking role soon.
But mutants not really needing spaceships was a very early thing we chatted about–it’s the origin of the “space costumes,” and Magneto flying up to the station in his own metal ball. As for future “mutant technology”–The Five opened the door for it, so I’m pretty certain we’ll see more “mutant circuits” in due course.
AIPT: A lot of X-Fans are happy to see Abigail Brand back in a leading role. X-Fan Tyler Zinsmesiter wanted to know how you plan on further developing the character.
Al: Every time I write Abigail I think of another thing that she’s up to. She’s one of those great characters who’s always plotting something, and you hope that it’s a good something but you know she’s got the capability to get a little bit sketchy at the edges of her schemes.
She has a lot of faith in her own certainty, and keeps a lot of secrets, and I think both things are going to occasionally backfire on her. She’s one of those characters that kind of chooses her own direction to move in, if that makes sense.
Also, I’ve got some ideas percolating on who her Mum is.
AIPT: That does make sense–and her past relationship with Beast makes even more sense given his recent actions in X-Force. Tyler was also among the X-Fans who asked how S.W.O.R.D. and Cable will co-exist. Is Cable considered a regular castmember? And X-Fan Kyle Cambray asked if you and Cable writer Gerry Duggan talk regularly to ensure the two series work together.
Al: Me and Gerry are sorting out the Cable of it all–so far it’s working together so our stories inform each other as they go. I’ve said it before, but the X-Office is a hotbed of co-operation and collaboration, so I shoot the breeze with Gerry on story points fairly often.
AIPT: X-Fan Lia pointed out that Krakoa has established its contentious relationship with Wanda Maximoff and S.W.O.R.D. #1 touched a bit on how that affects the greater Marvel Universe-sphere. Can readers expect more of the Magneto/Billy/Teddy/Wanda drama being explored?
Al: Yes! We’re not letting that lie. There’s a scene I’ve got pretty much entirely plotted out in my head–I’ll just say that I think it’ll make for Good Comics and leave it at that.
AIPT: Speaking of “Good Comics,” our next question’s about Doctor Doom (star of Christopher Cantwell’s wonderful series of the same name–which ends this month!). X-Fan Aisha said S.W.O.R.D. #1’s stinger included a pretty excellent quote from Doctor Doom that hasn’t been said yet in any other canon. Should we expect a Doom cameo in the next issue or maybe a continuing supporting role?
Al: Doom won’t be around immediately, but I know exactly when he says that and who to. And I love writing Doom–I’ve had a blast every time I’ve got my hands on the character, and my plans for him in 2021 will be no exception to that.
AIPT: Awesome. Now, you’ve said this is a comic about a workplace. So, can we expect any office romance? X-Fan Rafael was curious.
Al: There’s always a bit of romance kind of crackling at my radar when I’m writing characters sharing a space–you’ll suddenly notice there’s chemistry between two people (and sometimes more) and you’ll sort of crane your head in that direction to see if it’s anything worth following up on. Not to mention there are a few panels Valerio drew where the sexual tension kind of jumped out in places.
Which is a good place to mention how absolutely top-tier Valerio and Marte are! Their art and color work is the absolute best I could possibly have wanted on this book–I love how gorgeous this book is on all levels.
AIPT: Hard agree on that point. OK, final question from X-Fan Obella: S.W.O.R.D. tees up some exciting stuff that all seems very “big-concept,” which also likely means big consequences. Can you talk about the pace at which we should expect things to move?
Al: Mysterium’s going to simmer in the background for a little bit, as we deal with the mysterious Protocol V, the escalating intrigue of the Snarkwar, and of course S.W.O.R.D.’s first full-scale alien invasion–all big concepts in their own right. But when it comes back, it’s coming back big. There are plans.
AIPT: Well, this is the end of the column, Al, so I’ll let you get back to those plans. Thanks so much for transporting over to X-Men Monday to answer a few questions! Before we wrap up, X-Fans, X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White was kind enough to provide these eXclusive preview images from upcoming S.W.O.R.D. adventures, including one featuring Mentallo. I wonder if Mentallo’s S.W.O.R.D.’s mysterious Psionic Analyst teased in issue 1. You decide, X-Fans!
Speaking of Jordan, he’ll be back next Monday to reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021. We’ve already done the interview–it’s a long one that covers a lot of ground and teases quite a bit. We also talk about Dazzler.
BUT, that’s next week. This week, I want to wish readers a happy holiday season! No matter what you celebrate, I hope you’re able to find some joy in the final stretch of this insane, stressful year. Oh, and revisit X-Men Monday #40 – Holiday X-Travaganza for festive fun from X-Creators and some original holiday-themed art from talented X-Fans.
Until neXt time, stay safe–especially if you’re whipping up a Christmas meal in the same kitchen as someone who once devoured suns for funsies.
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