Welcome, X-Fans, to the first uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT of 2021!
That’s right, it may be a new year, but we’re still delivering the same eXtraordinary X-Men Monday content you’ve come to eXpect. (And, yes, the occasional capitalized “X” for eXtra emphasis!)
We’re kicking off 2021 with a SNIKT, as Wolverine and X-Force writer Benjamin Percy’s here to answer YOUR questions, X-Fans. It’s been almost eXactly a year since Ben got an X-Men Monday all to himself (X-Men Monday #45 to be eXact!), so we’re pumped he took the time to talk story inspirations, tease what’s to come and so much more!
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Ben! Let’s kick things off with a question from X-Fan Peter Holt, who said you seem like a willful loner–similar to our favorite Adamantium-laced, hirsute Canadian, perhaps. Has it been awkward adjusting to the extroverted world of the X-Writers’ room? And how much has collaborating with the group influenced your choices in your own X-Titles?
Ben: There are two sides to my brain.
I am one of those weirdoes who is uniquely suited for space travel or arctic expeditions. I enjoy solitude. I’m sure the way in which I grew up in rural Oregon contributed to that. We lived out in the woods—near Eugene—and then out in the sage flats—between Bend and Redmond. My parents didn’t socialize, and every weekend we would either be hunting or camping or fishing or digging up fossils and geodes or scouting out archaeological sites. Not much has changed. I live in the frozen north and my company is best suited for the woods.
But then there’s the other part of me. The one that’s been traveling all over the country—and the world—for the past 15 years. Sometimes to write magazine articles. Sometimes to promote a book or teach at a conference or festival. Sometimes for pure adventure. I’ve learned how to be around and engage with every sort of person. And if I was in trouble, I could call up a pal in just about every city in this country for help, and I know they’d answer. And I’m grateful for that community.
What I’m describing about myself is reflective of my writing life as well. On the one hand, I’m a novelist (who spends thousands of hours writing thousands of pages by myself). On the other hand, I’m a comics writer and screenwriter (who works with teams).
These different approaches—to living and writing—feed me in different ways. I’m glad I have both in my life.
And the X-Team is an especially welcoming, tight-knit, and creatively generous place. We’re all trying to tell the best story possible—in our own series, yes, but also the larger narrative of Krakoa that we’re ultimately weaving together. I’m grateful to be part of the crew, which functions a little bit like a TV writers’ room. I don’t think it’s an easily replicable collaboration.
Let me take a second to shout about how amazing it is to work with artists like Joshua Cassara and Adam Kubert. They’ve become close pals and constant collaborators. We’re in touch every day about our characters and storylines. More than anything else, I want to keep them happy and excited about what we’re building.
AIPT: Joshua actually submitted a question for you to answer… but more on that later. You mentioned Adam Kubert, who along with characters like Maverick and Patch, really give upcoming Wolverine issues a classic feel. What made you want to take the title in this direction in the Reign of X?
Ben: Well, issue 8 is also legacy issue 350, so it was especially important to tip our hat to history.
But as you’ll soon see, this ain’t no greatest hits album. We’re situating some of these historical elements within the context of Krakoa. This is particularly important because Wolverine is traditionally a haunted rogue (and Maverick, Patch, and Madripoor are all lawless iterations of that identity)—but has gone through a significant transformation in this Dawn (and now Reign) of X.
In a way, my response here is a mirror to my answer to your first question. Wolverine has a history as a loner, a mutant of no nation, but he now has a country and a sense of family and even a feeling that could be defined as gratitude, happiness.
What happens when the past catches up with the present?
AIPT: I’m curious, what about Logan’s Patch identity appeals to you as his writer?
Ben: I read a lot of X-Men as a kid—and that’s how I first encountered Wolverine—but it was actually the Patch era when I first collected the solo series. I still own those ragged copies that I read over and over and over as a fourth- and fifth-grader.
So in part, it’s me channeling that early love. But if you think about X-Force as the CIA of Krakoa, it certainly makes sense to include some spycraft, and Patch is a secret identity (a hilariously bad one, yes, but still).
Don’t worry. There will be no black onesie.
AIPT: Well that’s a relief. It’s been a while since readers last saw Maverick. X-Fan Tycon X (from the Krakoa Discord) asked what are some of your favorite Maverick-defining stories?
Ben: From the very first meeting we had as a group, the X-Writers made specific decisions on who to include and who to keep hidden in the wings. Maverick is somebody I knew I wanted to play with—but I liked the idea of him living up to his name and choosing to go his own way, separate from Krakoa.
I dig all the Weapon X and Mercenary and Agent Zero stories. You’ll see that we’re homing in specifically on the Team X work he did with Wolverine and Sabretooth.
AIPT: Moving from Logan’s past to his more recent past, this next X-Fan question spins out of X of Swords. Everest asked, what new sides to Logan does Solem bring out that you thought were particularly interesting to explore?
Ben: Adam and I have a big, hairy storyline about Solem that will launch out of the Hellfire Gala this summer.
Everybody knew Solem was going to be a fan favorite, coming out of X of Swords, and we wanted to give him a worthy spotlight. He is, as I’ve said before, the Loki to Wolverine’s Thor—so just you wait. There are enough twists in this coming detective story to snap your neck.
AIPT: Well, hopefully, it doesn’t come to THAT. Let’s segue from Logan to his co-workers in X-Force. X-Fan Kenny said they love the current take on Beast in X-Force and think it’s a natural progression for the character. What stories influenced you to take Hank down this current road?
Ben: We’ve said from the beginning: X-Force is the mutant CIA. It has two divisions: intelligence and field operations. The head and the fist. Beast epitomizes the head, Wolverine captures the spirit of the fist.
Xavier has given X-Force permission to work from the shadows, to make the hard calls, all in the name of preserving the dream. The mutants, as we know from House of X/Powers of X, always lose. But not this time. Not if X-Force can help it.
Beast is making bad decisions for the security of Krakoa. He’s cold and schemingly utilitarian in his approach. The greatest good for mutantkind is his concern, damn the consequences.
If you look at his past, he’s already made a lot of morally sketchy choices. Look at his history with Dark Beast, the Inhumans, MGH, the Illuminati, the Legacy Virus… I’m building upon a very firm foundation here.
I’m also telling a long story, and I knew Beast’s ending before I ever started scripting my first issue.
AIPT: It’s been a fascinating journey to follow. Now, multiple X-Fans asked some form of this next question: Can we expect any Sage-centric stories in the future? X-Fans Chris Garcia, Kas, KB and Michael Painter need to know!
Ben: Every character will get a spotlight, including Kid Omega and Black Tom and Forge and Sage. You’ll start to see some interesting shifts in her arc this spring and summer.
I’m a novelist. I write the long story. I’m not in a rush.
AIPT: While we’re on the topic of long stories, this next question starts all the way back in X-Men Gold. X-Fan Rod aka Rodcommathe said after Colossus and Kate Pryde’s wedding fell apart, Peter was extremely heartbroken. Even in the pages of Age of X-Man, he couldn’t stop thinking of Kate. Now he’s with Kayla. We see Kate has truly moved on in Marauders–but has Colossus? Or is he just rebounding to the first person to comfort him?
Ben: As a big guy all around, Colossus has one of the biggest roles to play—not just in X-Force, but throughout the line.
Which is why I ain’t saying nothing. You’ll just have to wait and see. We’ve been building toward some game-changing craziness from the beginning.
AIPT: X-Fan Phoenix from Virginia said it looks like Jean Grey left the intelligence side of X-Force. Will she still be a prominent player in the team? Or will she just be guesting here and there?
Ben: I love writing Jean, so stay tuned.
AIPT: And similarly, can we expect any changes to the X-Force roster in the Reign of X? X-Fans Cifrinha and Justin Poteat were curious.
Ben: There is no status quo for ANY of the X-Books.
AIPT: As you also wrote a Weapon Plus one-shot, X-Fans Avery and Emmanuel were wondering if there’s a chance anything Weapon Plus could work its way into X-Force or Wolverine?
Ben: I really enjoyed writing Man-Slaughter’s origin story, and you betcha: readers will encounter his shaggy monstrousness soon in the pages of X-Force.
AIPT: Awesome! Finally, that Joshua Cassara question I teased earlier. Joshua wanted to know… can you do a flip?
Ben: When I was a stupid teenager, I attempted a backflip on a ski jump. I landed on my head and skidded 50 yards downhill while all of my friends laughed. This is my origin story.
AIPT: I feel like we’ve learned a lot about you over the course of this interview, Ben. Whoever keeps your Wikipedia page up to date’s got a lot of work to do. I would do it–but I’d rather share these eXclusive preview images from upcoming Wolverine and X-Force comics X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White passed along!
Cassara and Kubert continue to kill it. Thanks for the images, Jordan–and Ben, thanks so much for taking the time to field a few X-Fan questions!
X-Fans, as you no doubt noticed, we’ve reached X-Men Monday #90, which means we’re officially on the road to #100. I guess I need to figure out what we’re going to do for that, huh? Well, I’ll go do that and, until neXt time, everybody do me a favor and continue to be eXceptional!
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