Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
And yes, you’re reading correctly–this is the second half of the GIANT-SIZE X-Men Monday interview with the legendary Louise Simonson and Walter Simonson! In part 1, the Simonsons discussed their new X-Factor story (which kicks off this Wednesday in X-Men Legends #3), Apocalypse, Archangel, Madelyne Pryor and more.
And in honor of Maddie, a character so many X-Fans feel very strongly about, let’s return to the conversation, starting with the always-fascinating relationship between fans and the characters they love.
Walter: You know, you’ll create something and it will mean so much to somebody that they’ll get furious at Scott for [leaving his family]. And you’re thinking, “Well, you know he’s not real.” I feel like William Shatner going “Get over it!” What was that, Saturday Night Live? He had offended millions of his fans.
But it’s been kind of thrilling to be able to create stuff that your readers will be so involved with. I mean, I think it’s one of the pleasures of anybody who is a creator, whether it’s writing or drawing or movies or television, that you could make something that people ingest, whether as readers or as viewers. Whatever it is, they’ll be so taken with it they can’t set aside the fact that it’s fictional. It’s like the heart overrules the brain. I think if you can create something like that, it’s very satisfying.
Louise: I think that I feel this responsibility to the people who really believe. Because I think in a way, I did too, but I’m talking about these characters having, you know, their interactions–not thinking of it as a story, but thinking of these people who are moving through their own universe, meeting people and having interactions. Even when you get thrown kind of an oddball thing, like Scott being pulled away from his family, you try to make a story out of it that makes sense–emotional sense. There’s a responsibility to that too. It’s one of the reasons why I would never say something was just a dream or an imaginary story. I’d find a way to make it real because people read those issues and it was real for them. To just tell them it wasn’t real isn’t fair. You’ve got to make it real, but logical.
Walter: And one of the things Weezie does, which I do not do, is if Weezie kills a character in a story, she always knows how she can bring them back. But mostly, I just figured if I kill somebody off and have to bring them back, I’ll figure it out. They’ll get better.
Louise: There’s always a way that they can come back because they’re somebody’s favorite character. Like Magik, she was a great character. I couldn’t believe it took them so long to bring her back. I mean, I couldn’t believe people actually thought she was dead.
Walter: Don’t you guys read comic books?!
AIPT: A lot of times it feels like they don’t. Now, as you put the finishing touches on your X-Men Legends story, I’m curious, has the process of making comics become easier for you, or is it more challenging than it was back in the day?
Louise: For these two issues, it was easier. Well, just as easy–it wasn’t more difficult. That’s once I got over worrying about [editor] Mark Basso, who was being really generous and letting us work this old-fashioned way. I think we might have made him a little nervous with it, but he was very brave and he let us do it. I felt so guilty. For us, it was the easy way. But for him, it would have been the hard way. I mean, he was getting first-issue art without a script, which I don’t think is almost ever done anymore.
Walter: There’s a freewheeling and lose quality about doing it “Marvel Style” that I think brings a lot of energy and excitement into the comic. It’s like working without a net, but that’s really not the way anybody works these days. So the first issue was kind of a learning process for all of us as to how to get it squared away in a way that we kept Mark in the loop.
Louise: The first issue is really good but the second issue is even better. It looks fabulous. John Workman also did the lettering. So that’s another thing that’s different and it was really kind of him to do that. He did a good job.
Walter: Computer lettering largely looks like a layer sitting on top of the art. It does not look organically like it’s part of the artwork itself. And, of course, it’s not. But I think it looks like that for the most part. I get letters essentially at the layout stage rather than at a finished pencil stage. And that means that when I get the boards back from John, I still have to tighten them up with pencil, but I can make any adjustments I need to make in the pencils to elaborate effect or resolve compositional problems or interests that I have because I know where the balloons are going to be.
And I can compose to that because the balloons are all positive shapes inside each panel. And that way, when I make other positive shapes, I can account for the balloons and create art. Personally, I’m more satisfied with it–I don’t know about my editor–but I like it better and I feel it produces, at least for me, better-designed artwork.
AIPT: So we have another X-Fan question. This one comes from X-Fan Syl, who’s noticed that in your work, there are a lot of sentient spaceships: Friday from Power Pack, Ship in X-Factor, and Skuttlebutt in Thor. What is it about the concept of a sentient spaceship that interests you?
Louise: You know, I’ve always loved the idea of the ship that is a being. I remember reading a book when I was young by Anne McCaffrey called The Ship Who Sang that had human intelligence wired into the ship. And I know a lot of science-fiction has done that.
Walter: If you go back to our age, there was Robert A. Heinlein, a science-fiction writer who wrote fabulous books. I don’t know if he’s at all read these days. He died a long time ago, but he wrote a bunch of books that were really cool. One of which was The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. In it, there’s a computer that arrives at sentience.
Louise: When all the computers on Earth and the Moon are finally linked up, it gains sentience. And I just love that. I don’t know, there’s something about it that I find very appealing. It’s like a real being with its own life and experience of existence that’s not human and a really positive character. I mean, it’s not an enemy–it’s a friend.
AIPT: I’m curious if you keep up with or are aware of what’s going on in current X-Men comics. Characters you co-created and developed, like Rictor and Wiz-Kid, are now major players, and Scott and Jean even wore their classic X-Factor uniforms in a recent comic.
Louise: No, we used to find out more of that stuff when we went to conventions, but that was several years ago now. Fans would come up and tell us things. Somebody recently said that Apocalypse was sort of in charge of the X-Men, which apparently is not true. Apparently, he’s just made some sort of alliance with the X-Men and all the other mutants in the world.
AIPT: Yeah, Apocalypse was part of the ruling council on Krakoa alongside Professor X, Magneto and other characters.
Louise: So yay! I said, “I’m sure he was very happy about that.” And I was told that he had some wife and child from another dimension or something.
AIPT: Yeah, that was in a crossover event called X of Swords. We met his long-lost wife and four children, who also happened to be the original Horsemen.
Louise: You know, it’s kind of cool, because you make up characters and you’re part of their lives for just a flash of time. And then you go away and other people help them evolve as you’ve done that for better or worse to other people’s characters. And it’s kind of cool that they go off and have a life of their own. I think its cool that Wiz-Kid is actually showing up again.
AIPT: Well, another character you both created who’s become a breakout star in the modern era is Nanny. What can you share about Nanny’s egg design and Orphan-Maker and how they came to be?
Walter: I’m not sure where the egg came from. Maybe it’s chicken-or-the-egg. I just needed something, you know, that had that relationship to early childhood. I don’t know what that was, but something like that. But I will say this about Orphan-Maker–he was hard to draw and I don’t think he’s ever been drawn correctly since I left. And that’s because he has a young child’s proportions. I mean, he was like 6 or 7 feet tall or whatever–he’s big. But if you look, he’s got a big head and a smaller body and that’s because he was proportioned as a child.
AIPT: That’s interesting.
Walter: I never took the armor off, so I didn’t really see him. So whether he was really a big child on the inside or something else, I don’t know. But I deliberately made him in a child proportion in his armored form. I didn’t do it in an exaggerated way and I’m not sure if any artists picked up on it.
AIPT: Do you know what Nanny looks like inside that shell?
Walter: I sort of think the egg may be it.
Louise: [Laughs] There’s some small, little woman in there who’s small and thin, but I don’t know if I ever had any idea.
Walter: I love the idea of it being a really little woman, like a tiny woman. There was a cartoon a million years ago called Brave Raideen, which came to America in the late ’70s, I’m going to say. The hero is a young boy and the giant robot is named Raideen. When things went bad, the boy would ride his motorcycle and shoot off this ramp and fly into an opening in Raideen’s chest. And he was tiny compared to Raideen. And the name, apparently–I don’t know if this was really true or not–came from the phrase “ride in” in English. And he would ride into the robot.
So with Nanny, I have a vision of like some really tiny, little woman that’s maybe like a foot or 2 feet high–tops–encased in the egg yolk or whatever’s inside there and locked in. And she runs it from the inside. But I have no idea.
Louise: Yeah, I don’t know either. We eventually would’ve come up with something if it had been our turn, but it wasn’t our turn. I’m sure somebody else came up with something great.
AIPT: No, she’s still locked in there–we have no idea.
AIPT: She also wears lipstick now, on the shell.
Louise: Oh no!
Walter: Oh man.
Louise: That’s so funny.
Walter: I will say, boy, those were characters I never expected to have any afterlife at all. At the time we did them, I think if they got much reaction, it was a little more on the middle of the road to negative than it was in the middle road to positive. So I just expected them to die a quiet death with all the ancient villains that no one goes to anymore.
AIPT: No, they’ve definitely become fan-favorites. And speaking of, X-Fan–and co-creator of the upcoming Hulu M.O.D.O.K. series–Jordan Blum said you’ve created so many memorable and fan-favorite characters. Jordan was wondering if there’s one character you had high hopes for that never caught on.
Louise: You never know. You put as much effort into the characters that don’t take off as the ones who do. It’s up to the readers, what grabs them and what doesn’t. I always kind of liked the Animator in New Mutants, which was a villain that I’d created when I’d first taken over the book, who was making animal people, essentially.
And he just died. I mean, he went nowhere. So you just can’t tell, you know? Not that I thought he would be the genius breakout character, because you never know. But I thought, gosh, he was pretty cool. I guess not. So there you go. You can’t tell what’s cool. You can make up things that you think are fun for yourself, but you have to wait and see what other people think. You don’t know what toys they’ll pick up and play with and which ones they won’t.
Walter: Yeah, I don’t think I ever created a character and thought, “Wow, I wonder where he’ll be in 30 years.” Especially when we were doing this stuff–Thor in the mid ’80s, Weezie with New Mutants and X-Factor with me in the late ’80s. There wasn’t a lot of reprint material. That was just starting to come in, but it hadn’t been around much. So really, the characters’ lives were still dependent on the monthly comics that came out.
Mostly, you expected to put this stuff out and have it evaporate the following month when the next issue of that book came out, and then that issue would evaporate. And there was no real sense, at least not for me, of creating material that was going to be around longer than the newsprint it was printed on.
So I don’t think I created any characters with an expectation, “Oh, this is going to be the next big thing.” I just tried to create the characters that I thought would work in the comic and it helped me tell a good story, knowing that those stories would evaporate when the issue went away.
AIPT: Well, they definitely didn’t evaporate, and X-Fan Utopia Paraiso Mutante was curious to learn what story from your X-Factor run you’re most proud of to this day.
Louise: Oh, gee.
Walter: The three-part story where Archangel is introduced. I liked that.
I liked the covers. I liked the insides on those. Yeah, they were pretty cool. I didn’t go back and reread all of our run when I was preparing for this book. Weezie did the heavy lifting.
Louise: Some of it was surprisingly fun. Infectia was fun.
Walter: Oh, she was fun to draw.
Louise: I just thought she was fun. You know, I’m surprised nobody has picked her up. Walter did a wonderful job drawing her with a lot of personality. The “Inferno” stuff–I liked that whole run with the demons. It just brought all this stuff together. What a grab bag of material–demons on Earth and in Limbo and, you know, the New Mutants and X-Factor and everybody. And then there’s just all this craziness involved. I thought that was really fun. Just that whole whirlpool of insanity.
Walter: You and Chris were brilliant.
Louise: Well you were brilliant too, honey.
Walter: You guys had an event, I just had to draw it.
AIPT: Let’s keep the praise for one another going–what’s your favorite thing about each other as a collaborator?
Louise: Oh, gee. I give Walter a story and he makes these gorgeous pictures. It’s even better than the story. It’s all brilliant and even better than the stories deserve. Going back and reading the old X-Factor issues, which I hadn’t read in 40 years, and then it was like, “Wow, this guy is really good.” And seeing the new material–it was being visualized in surprising and exciting ways. I think that’s the best.
Walter: Well, I love Weezie’s writing, but I think what I really love is that we’re able to collaborate so smoothly. Years ago, we wrote a book called Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown, which we wrote and Jon J. Muth and Kent Williams painted. It was a Havok and Wolverine storyline, and one of us would write and write and write and probably just be exhausted and couldn’t write anymore and go, “OK, I’m done.”
And you’d get up from the computer and the other person would sit down and just start writing at that point and just take off. And now, looking back at it, I haven’t the faintest idea what Weezie wrote and what I wrote. I hate to use the word–it’s so modern–but it’s pretty seamless in the way it all came together. And that’s a treat. So when we collaborate, it really is like a fusing of a couple of different aspects of stuff that can become one whole in a way that I certainly can’t achieve by myself. So that’s always a delight.
One of the reasons I really wanted to draw these couple of issues was just so I can work with Weezie again. I hope that down the road, we can do something else together in our spare time.
Louise: When Mark gets over the trauma of having to deal with us.
AIPT: You can tell us what Apocalypse is up to with his family.
Louise: [Laughs] I’m sure that story’s been told. I should probably go back and actually look up Apocalypse on Wikipedia and just find out what his life has been like since I left him.
Walter: So actually, if I was going to go back now with Weezie, there were two stories I would love to tell, probably as limited series–but I don’t have the time, don’t call me. One of them is a fabulous Silver Surfer story that she did half of years ago. Marvel was in a retracting period and they contracted the book right out of existence. It was going to be 12 issues. And then the money people said, “Oh, we’re going to lose money after eight issues, so we’re going to make this a six-issue arc.” And then they said, “Oh, well now we’re afraid we’re going to lose money after the fourth issue, we’re going to make two three-issue story arcs.” It was the incredible shrinking book. And it was this great idea for a 12-issue series. And eventually, I think six issues came out.
It was really why Galactus exists, what Galactus is really about. And I thought it was–if I could use a four-letter word here that you probably couldn’t put into your interview–I’ll use anyway. It was a great f-----g idea. It was just great. So that’s one of the very few ideas out there that I’m very sorry never made it out in Weezie’s original form. I would love to have done that.
I would also love to go back and do a story about the Twelve. I don’t think there was a complete idea for it, and they did it at Marvel already, but I don’t know how well it was done.
AIPT: It wasn’t well received.
Walter: I didn’t want to say it to offend anybody who worked on it, because it’s one of those things about stuff like that, but when you see a bad movie, nobody’s trying to make a bad movie. You’re not trying to write a bad comic. You’re trying to make it better. And it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve got a few books from my past I wouldn’t mind not seeing again, but basically, you’re trying.
I heard a story once–I don’t know if it’s true–about George Lucas. He was in a screening room watching a movie that was being screened. And at the end of it, he clapped. And there were a couple of people there and somebody said, “Why did you clap? That was a terrible movie.” And he said, “Well, because somebody got it made.” He said, “It’s not easy to make a movie.” And I don’t know if that story is true. I sort of hope so because I would admire George Lucas for that. But the idea that you even got a movie made, whether it was the next Star Wars or Plan 9 From Outer Space, that you could do it is amazing. It’s tough to get ideas out there.
But I like the idea of the Twelve, even though I don’t think we ever had a complete story for that.
AIPT: So the Twelve was just something that was tossed out there with no endgame in mind?
Walter: I drew a panel that had some of the Twelve in it as heads. I think Cyclops was one, and probably Jean and Apocalypse maybe. Then the rest was simply outline profiles that were nonspecific. One of the things that give comics a degree of power is mystery. You don’t have to answer every question–and one of the things that’s impossible for comic fans to do is not answer every question.
Louise: The Twelve was actually a deliberate dangling plot thread I threw in. I remember that back in the olden days when I worked at Warren Publishing, Jim Warren was the publisher and used to say people love lists and numbers. So the Twelve, right? I don’t even know where that came from other than being a tribute to Jim Warren. But it was thrown in to pick up later.
AIPT: Thanks for sharing that. Now, obviously, everybody reading needs to pick up X-Men Legends #3 and #4, but is there anything else you’re working on you’d like to promote?
Louise: I’m doing a Power Pack story–it’s a mini-series–but it won’t be out until August maybe. I don’t even know if it’s worth promoting at this point. What about you, Walter?
Walter: The past bunch of years, in a slow way, I’ve been doing my own version of Thor called Ragnarok for IDW. I have three complete story arcs out. Each one is a six-issue story arc. The idea was Ragnarok, the twilight of gods and destruction of everything, already occurred and for reasons we’re not aware of, Thor was not there. And because he wasn’t there, nobody killed the Midgard Serpent. Because the Serpent wasn’t killed, bad guys won and the nine worlds collapsed into single giant land.
The Sun and Moon were eaten by the wolves, and the wolves, of course, died of indigestion. They fell to the ground and now the Sun and Moon radiate their beams out through the rotting corpse of giant wolves and the world is called Dusk Lands. It’s never light or day, there’s just light beamed through corpses. Thor comes back after several hundred years to find the bad guys run everything and everything he knew and loved is dead. So there’s a lot of mythology in it and I’m taking it places the mythology doesn’t. I’m starting the fourth arc, which is basically Thor going to Jotunheim. I can’t tell if it’ll be six issues or maybe even 12, but I’m having a lot of fun with it and really enjoy doing it.
AIPT: That’s great to hear, Walter–and surely classic Power Pack fans will be thrilled to hear more new stories are on the way, Louise! That brings us to the end of our interview. I’d like to eXtend a GIANT-SIZE thank you to each of you for taking the time to have such a sprawling conversation.
Remember, X-Fans, X-Men Legends #3 goes on sale this Wednesday, April 28.
And since we’ve spent so much time with the Simonsons revisiting the X-Men’s past, here’s an eXclusive look at things to come in the not-too-distant future, courtesy of X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White!
In the neXt edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT: The aforementioned X-Men Senior Editor will return to answer your questions about recent X-Men comics. The call for questions closes today (April 26) at 5 p.m. EST, so if you have anything you want to ask Jordan, click here to fill out the official form.
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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