Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Notice that nifty logo at the center of this week’s feature image? That’s right, X-Fans — X-Men Monday’s weekly coverage of the Hellfire Gala begins here! You’ve got questions and X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White has answers.
But before we start, I thought it’d be fun to look back to X-Men Monday #89, this column’s final installment of 2020. Why? Because that’s when Jordan first teased June’s line-wide event.
AIPT: That seems like a good segue to what comes next. What about Reign of X has you most excited?
Jordan: Oh man. I think what we’re doing in the summer. It’s awesome. I’ll just say that it’s a big thing that we’re going to do that is so exciting that we have been planning to do for so long and the time is finally right. And we’re all really pumped for it, but there’s especially one part of it that is so neat and cool. And people are going to really love it.
Hm… it may be too early to agree on what that “one part” Jordan teased actually is. I guess I could always ask him later in the month, but for now, there are too many other eXcellent questions to get through, so let’s get started!
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Jordan! Let’s begin with a question about the way the story of the Hellfire Gala is unfolding. X-Fan Chuck Marsh is digging the Rashamon-esque vibe of the Hellfire Gala and wanted to know how hard it was to put the overall story together. Did the X-Slack create a timeline for the Hellfire Gala and then decide who wanted to focus on what, or something else?
Jordan: Well, we did put together a timeline, but it was the other way around. We put together a timeline to fit in all the stories that we wanted to tell. Gerry [Duggan] came up with the idea to have the Gala and we knew a few of the big, huge things that would happen there. And that started the discussion.
I mean, the X-Group is really all about talking about story and coming up with ideas together. So when the idea for the Gala came up, it was mostly an idea for an idea. Then we all brought ideas to the table and those ideas all ended up in the soup. And for the most part, the stories that are in each issue are just the things that that creative team wanted to do with it. We found the ways that those things came together and where one thing led to another. And sometimes, people would see the idea someone was doing in one book and went, “Oh, that means if you’re doing that, then that leads to this happening in my book.” And I know we talk a lot about how collaborative the X-Office is, but it’s no joke. We really do get on these calls and talk for hours about how to make the stories work and how to bring them together and how to have them reflect each other.
The one thing I’ll also say about the Hellfire Gala is that the original idea was to not tell anyone that we were doing it. The original idea was to just go, “Hey, it’s just issues of the books.” And then when you start buying them this month, you’d go, “Wait a minute, these all take place at the same thing.” And then we kind of thought better of it — and also the marketing people would have murdered us.
So, everybody gets to tell their own story. There are huge things that will affect all the books. And there are huge things for each book that will just affect that book. Both happen, but it’s not a series that has a part one, part two, part three, part four. It’s a bunch of big things that all happen on an incredibly important night in the X-Men universe.
AIPT: And that’s refreshing, because I accidentally read it out of order, starting with Hellions #12. And then I soon realized that didn’t matter.
Jordan: So let me actually address that really briefly, which is to say, people often will talk about the reading order page at the back of the book. There’s actually no reading order page in the back of the book. There’s a release order page at the back of the book. Now, technically, within the weeks they are not always alphabetical. So you can look at it and go, “Well, they’ve listed Marauders first, so I guess they’re suggesting I read that first.” Yeah. That is what we’re suggesting. But also, do what you want. That’s the nature of this event — you can read those issues in whatever order you want. It will give you a slightly different experience.
If you’ve read the issues, you know it’s not a simple timeline. Like Marauders doesn’t happen before Hellions or X-Force — they happen intertwined. So reading them in whatever order you want is a great idea. And that kind of happens throughout, by which, I mean, if you had all the issues that tie into the Hellfire Gala and you were to just read all of them, if you had them all in front of you — other than the fact that X-Force and Wolverine are kind of a part one-part two situation — you can pretty much read them in any order you want. There are things that we structured the way we did for a reason.
So there is a certain track — a certain big thing that happens over the course of it that we set up in week one. But that’s an experience for the readers who are reading it week by week. And when we put it in a collected edition, obviously, we’ll structure it that way. But even there, I bet you could read them in whatever order you want and still have a great time. People are smart. They’ll figure it out. I mean, again, you read Hellions first. It’s not like — I assume — it’s not like there was anything where you were like, “I totally was lost during Hellions until I saw that Emma Frost said welcome to the party.” You know what I mean?
AIPT: No, I actually gave up after that — I was too lost.
AIPT: Well, while we’re on the topic of reading order, can you clarify what the red issues are? I’ve seen a lot of people — including creators — talk about them, but I’m not sure there’s ever been an official explanation.
Jordan: There’s not a clear definition, by which I mean, we don’t go, “Oh, did it meet the red-issue criteria? Let’s bring out our checklist.” We do it when we think it’s the right thing to do. We haven’t done it a ton. I think since Jonathan Hickman came on, there have been like six, seven? There really hasn’t been a lot. I know some people have been questioning whether Marauders should have been a red issue. Here’s the thing, it’s the first issue of the Hellfire Gala, and the Hellfire Gala is going to be a huge deal. And I know I just said you can read them in any order — you can. But the concept of the Hellfire Gala flows from Marauders. So yeah, we have very specific reasons for the issues we made red, and I think they’ll be very clear. So there you go.
AIPT: Alright, so X-Fan Henry wanted to know how you decided who got invited to the Hellfire Gala and who didn’t — especially for humans and aliens.
Jordan: That’s a great question. I think it was mostly instinctive in the sense that we would go, “Who would they invite? Who was an important person? What are the goals that they have with this Gala and who serves those goals?” And they invite their friends and they invite their enemies because it’s a show of power, but also because they want to make things happen with them. Of course, they would invite the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
We did have a bit of a debate on whether or not Spider-Man would be invited. And I, who love Spider-Man said, “No, of course he wouldn’t be invited.” Why would he be invited? He’s just some guy. And most of the time, he’s down on his luck — they would not invite him. So, sorry, it’s not a spoiler, there’s no Spider-Man.
AIPT: And what about the real-world celebrities? I assume that’s more of a Marvel marketing effort.
Jordan: When we were talking about the story, the folks in our sales and marketing department suggested that idea. They reached out to a ton of people who they know love Marvel Comics. And we got a pretty awesome sampling of folks who were interested in being in the books. And it was definitely a lot of fun and tricky to get everybody in and find places for them. And I know some people might feel it’s distracting, hopefully not too much for the most part, they’re just in the background or off to the side. But we did have to draw them nicely, obviously.
AIPT: All I know is that Conan O’Brien has now been in an X-Men comic and that means he can appear in an upcoming edition of X-Men Monday, right?
Jordan: Oh yeah, I assume, I assume. But it was a lot of fun and the people who agreed to do it were excited for it. And it’s neat that we got to do that. There’s that big splash page in the Marauders issue, and there’s another awesome, gorgeous, gorgeous splash page in X-Men this week. That has a couple of really good ones in it. I can’t wait for people to see it.
AIPT: And you were there! You were a part of Rhapsody’s telepathic concert. What was that like?
Jordan: It was amazing. That was a concept that Gerry pitched pretty early on in the process, too — the idea of a psychic concert, where you hear the music, but you also experience playing it. So that’s amazing, obviously. That’s a super, super cool experience. Can you even imagine what that would be like? That would be so neat to be a master musician for a moment.
AIPT: I mean, you were there — you tell me!
Jordan: I’m telling you, it was amazing. And I was saying, you can’t even imagine it.
AIPT: [Laughs] So since you were there, you also know what happens at the Gala — you know the big mystery.
Jordan: Oh yeah. I know what happens. I’m shook.
AIPT: OK, moving on, X-Fan Ahri asked, how old is Orphan-Maker?
Jordan: He’s pretty young…
AIPT: Obviously not old enough to drink based on Hellions.
Jordan: No, I think he’s early teens. I don’t think he’s an older teen. I mean, his armor keeps him from manifesting his mutant power, if I remember correctly. So that means he’s passed or at least somewhere into puberty, because otherwise it would be manifesting and he wouldn’t need the armor. But he’s pretty young. Although, I was going to say clearly he’s young because of the way he acts, but he’s also had a messed-up life where he’s been kept kind of sheltered and manipulated by Nanny for a long time. So he’s probably slightly older than you think, but not that old. Like, I don’t know, 15? That’s my guess.
AIPT: OK, we’ll update the wiki.
Jordan: No, no, no, listen, don’t update the wiki because everyone hates my opinions about how old characters are, because that means he’s more than half Cyclops’ age.
AIPT: Yeah, let’s not go there. Now, X-Fan Daniel Farias said that we’ve seen a lot of Madrox lately. For instance, he’s a waiter at the Hellfire Gala. But Daniel wants to know, when will we see Layla Miller?
Jordan: Soon. Very soon.
AIPT: Well, there you go, Daniel. So, it’s clear that Krakoa, as a society, is beyond the concept of heroes and villains. Former enemies now work side by side. But, after X-Force #20, do you think Beast could be considered a villain? I feel like his desire to protect the world at all costs is veering into Ozymandias territory.
Jordan: That’s a great question. And I think that’s why X-Force is so compelling to me. Because obviously, the whole concept of heroes and villains is a very simplistic idea. That is what comic books are based on, right? So of course, it’s sensible to try to apply it. But I think that what is happening with X-Force, specifically, and with Beast, in particular, is that it’s moving into a much more difficult area where there isn’t something called a hero and a villain.
We’ve always said that X-Force is like the CIA of Krakoa. And I don’t think it’s easy to say the CIA are heroes or the CIA are villains. Like, they have allegedly done terrible things. But those things are all also allegedly in the service of keeping America safe. Is that a trade-off that’s worth it? And that’s the great debate of history and of morality and of most espionage stories. If you ever watched a Homeland for the zillion seasons it was on, that’s the question — where is that line? And what I think is so interesting about Beast is that he keeps moving the line further. He thinks that he has really good reasons. And is he wrong? I think most people would say yes, clearly. But I think it’s a complicated question.
AIPT: And it’s not just Krakoa, he’s now talking about Avengers Mountain, for example.
Jordan: Ostensibly, he’s doing all that in the protection of Krakoa. Listen, there’s no easy answer and that’s what’s great about it. I understand why people who hate Beast right now hate Beast. And I was going to say, I would understand the other side, but I don’t think anybody’s reading the book going, “Beast is right!”
AIPT: No, I’ve actually seen that.
Jordan: Wait, you’ve seen it? That’s great! “Beast is right” T-shirts, let’s do this, let’s make it happen. I don’t think that he’s right, but you know how it is. This is how it is in real life. So many people say Obama is the best president we’ve had in a long time, but then we start talking about, “Yeah, but what about drone strikes?” “Well, that’s a great question.” And then we start talking about, “Well, he shouldn’t have done that.” “But wait, what about this reasoning that he had?” “Well, that’s true, but like, except for this.” That’s the real world that we live in and that’s what Beast is tapping into right now. I think that it’s pretty great, even if I don’t think he is necessarily making great decisions.
AIPT: It continues to be one of the most engaging aspects of the Krakoa era. Also engaging — this next question, which I found to be an incredibly refreshing and creative change of pace. I’m going to read it as it was submitted to me. X-Fan tripleTHREAT said in an X-Force #20 party crowd scene, Sunfire was shown carrying two drinks. Per chance, was one maybe for Polaris, in celebratory fashion around the X-Men vote? Or even… Iceman, as a friendly gesture of honor and respect possibly, for his elemental opposite? At first anyway, either would have to blossom into a full-blown, long-term, SWEEPING ROMANCE! Best-case scenario is he abstains from alcohol himself, and is doing it for BOTH of ’em!! If any of these aren’t the answer, don’t wanna know, will continue livin’ IN DREAMLAND.
Jordan: So then why did you ask the question? [Laughs]
AIPT: [Laughs] It’s very interesting!
Jordan: Alright, so let me see this. We’re talking about the Hellfire Gala, X-Force…
AIPT: It’s on the big splash page.
Jordan: I’m opening it up and scrolling to it… he is, he’s just kind of randomly standing there with two drinks. I’ll tell you, it’s not for Polaris.
AIPT: Yeah, I don’t see Polaris or Iceman.
Jordan: Well, the reason I say it’s not for Polaris in congratulation is just that at this point in the night, they have not yet announced who won the X-Men Election. So that’s not it just yet. You know what, it is 100% canon that he’s going to give a drink to Iceman. Because he’s his equal and opposite. Although, he’s not his equal and opposite. Iceman is his superior because Iceman is an omega. But that is it. It was in the script that way, in fact.
AIPT: Alright, that’s one more wiki update.
AIPT: X-Fan Joseph Hagen asked if each issue following the Hellfire Gala will be a new jumping-on point for readers.
Jordan: Will each issue following the Hellfire Gala be a jumping-on point for a new readers. Great question! I mean, most of them follow up on things that happened at the Gala. So in the sense that if you read the Gala and are like, “Oh, what?” and want to jump on and see what happens, that is totally true.
But yes, in general, I mean, they’re all the start of arcs. But you know, a bunch of them will be referencing things that happened at the Gala for sure. Thinking about each book, in particular, I mean, yeah, listen, the Gala is a big deal. It is doing stuff that will resonate in the books. So it’s not clean in the sense that if you didn’t read the Gala, but now you want to jump on, you’ll get all the information you need. But they’re mostly going to be reacting to stuff that just happened at this Gala. So you might want to check out some of the Gala stuff. Yeah, that’s what I would say.
AIPT: So, as we wrap up, I wanted to touch on Havok’s desire to learn more about the Quiet Council’s decision on resurrecting Madelyne Pryor. Are the continuous mentions of the controversy surrounding Maddie in the X-Books in any way fueled by X-Fans’ reactions to the stories, or was it always intended to be an ongoing, in-world criticism of Krakoa?
Jordan: I mean, that was the purpose of the story!
AIPT: But it keeps coming up — there are a lot of things that have been seeded that haven’t come up as frequently.
Jordan: Is it a reaction to the fact that fans are in a fervor? I would say it’s more a reaction to the fact that the X-Writers are in a fervor. I think everybody is interested. We’ve had hot debates about Maddie on our X-Calls. We’ve had heated debates about her and what will happen with her.
Honestly, there’s so much I want to say about it — I really can’t. I’m very interested in the response — I find it fascinating and really interesting, the response fans have to Maddie.
That’s it. I’ll stop there. But that’s not why it’s happening. It’s happening because of the stories that Zeb and Vita and folks want to tell. And again, that was the point. That was why we brought her in in the first place.
AIPT: I honestly never realized Maddie was such a popular character.
Jordan: Oh, here’s a secret: I’m not sure she is, by which, I mean, I think Zeb wrote an amazing story. I think he did a great job and I think he made a lot of Maddie fans. And listen, if you were already a Maddie fan and you’re mad at me for suggesting she didn’t have fans, I’m not saying she didn’t have fans — of course she had fans. But I’m saying, I feel like she’s more popular than she’s been in probably decades because Zeb wrote a really compelling arc about her.
AIPT: It’s really funny, when I talked to Louise Simonson about Maddie, she said Maddie was never a real person, which mirrored what Zeb wrote.
Jordan: She’s a clone. If a bad guy made five clones of Wolverine… do we have to resurrect all of them when they die now? Do we have to have six Wolverines from now on?
AIPT: You do — for sales.
Jordan: For sales reasons, you’re right. We probably should. But you know what I mean? How long do they have to be alive, separated from Logan before you go, that’s not Logan anymore. And the answer is, I have a couple of interesting ideas about solutions to this problem, but I can’t talk about them, obviously. We’ll see what actually happens in the books.
AIPT: Well, that example also just happened in Cable.
Jordan: Yeah, you’re right! There you go. So should we be like, well they have to get resurrected now because — URGH, you’re getting me so close to saying things I can’t say.
I can’t say any anymore. I have to stop.
AIPT: [Laughs] Well, final question — and you probably can’t say much about this either — but this is the first time we’ve talked since Jonathan Hickman’s Inferno was announced. Were the seeds of Inferno in place in Jonathan’s original plans or is this an idea that naturally came about over time?
Jordan: Both, always when it comes to Jonathan stuff. I’ve already seen lots of people pointing out the many references he’s made to Inferno since almost the very, very, very beginning. So I think it was just a matter of time before he did do a thing called Inferno, and most of the elements of this are things that he seeded then, or has been slowly seeding since then. That said, as with his plans at every step of the way, he has given over so much to what everyone else is doing, or rather been so open to what everyone else is doing so that it has changed in major ways as a result.
So I think he’ll say more about it at some point. I mean, obviously, he doesn’t want to give away too much of the process before it happens, but I think he’ll explain a bit more about his thinking on it and how and why things have changed. But yeah, I think this is going to be a really awesome story.
And I think by the time this is out — spoiler for everyone, we’re actually talking on Friday — I think later today, a little bit more Inferno stuff will be sent out. So by the time this goes live, people will have already seen this amazingly beautiful image promoting it. There’s a lot of cool stuff in there to check out and try to suss out.
And listen, I’m just going to tell people, I’m just going to tell you… this isn’t a Maddie book.
Jordan: I get why you might think that because it’s called Inferno and she was obviously a big deal in that one, but this is a different Inferno and if you’ve been reading along and you know where we announced it, especially, you know what sparks this Inferno. It’s not Maddie. It’s a different redhead entirely.
AIPT: It’s Jean.
Jordan: [Laughs] You mean Maddie? She’s the same person.
AIPT: OK, I need to end this article before Maddie fans riot. But this was a lot of fun, Jordan — thanks for your time and we’ll do this again next week! And speaking of what comes neXt, here are some eXclusive preview images Jordan supplied…
One quick X-Men Monday update — The Marvel’s Voices: Pride edition originally teased at the end of X-Men Monday #107 is still coming, it’s just faced a few delays due to all the writers involved. But good things come to those who wait.
The call for questions for week 2 of the Hellfire Gala will go live this Wednesday (June 9), so if you want to get in on the fun, look for that on this very website and AIPT’s Twitter.
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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