Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
And no, the Ladies Mastermind aren’t playing tricks on you — this is an all-new installment of X-Men Monday on a Tuesday! Don’t worry, we’re not rebranding (sorry, #XMenTuesday hashtag), we just didn’t want to make you wait any longer for the promised Marvel’s Voices: Pride edition of this column. Originally set to run May 31, more and more creators wanted to join in on the fun, so it only made sense to give them additional time to provide answers. We’re talking about so many creators, in fact, with so much to say, that this is only the first of two Marvel’s Voices: Pride interviews you’ll get this week.
OK, so with that said, I guess you’ll need to wait a little longer for the full Marvel’s Voices: Pride X-Men Monday eXperience… but a conversation with Terry Blas (Anole), Kieron Gillen (Prodigy and Speed) and Leah Williams (Black Cat and Jessie Drake) is a pretty great start, wouldn’t you say? Let’s get started!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, everybody! Let’s start with a general question: What made you want to write the character or characters featured in your story?
Terry Blas: I love Anole. I’ve always felt a strong connection to him and I have also been wanting to tell a story about gay friendship. The interactions that he has had with Jonas Graymalkin seemed perfect for that.
Kieron: It came from how [Editor] Sarah Brunstad explained the project to me. I was originally resistant to writing a script because I felt that I’d have the privilege to be able to write a lot of explicitly queer stories both at Marvel and elsewhere — most obviously, the whole of The Wicked + the Divine. I felt someone else could have the place. Sarah said various (very complimentary) things which made me blush, but also said that at least part of the point of doing it was a walk through the history of what Marvel had done. Young Avengers was a significant book in that particular story.
Which made me think that if I did something, it should touch in on Young Avengers. Was there anything I had left to say there? One little thing struck me, in terms of David, and using it as a way to write about something I hadn’t really written explicitly about before. Young Avengers was all about the Truth Through Overactive Metaphor, and this was very much that.
AIPT: You kind of just touched on this, Kieron, but X-Fan Kas asked if there was one thing you wish you could have done in your Young Avengers run but wasn’t able to, what would it have been?
Kieron: Given [artist] Jamie McKelvie a few extra months to work on it, so it was less grueling on him.
AIPT: His hard work was very much appreciated. Leah, you told Marvel.com it’s an honor to introduce readers to Jessie Drake, “Krakoa’s newest superstar.” Could you talk a bit about how you tackled a character who only appeared in two Marvel comics but has such an important legacy?
Leah Williams: My goal was resolutely connecting her to Krakoan life via this new opportunity in the anthology — a solid, fun, little short story with her and Black Cat. It’s a meet-cute under duress; the “duress” being that it takes place in the Fortress. And if you know Jessie, then you know what this location means to her. The short story references Jessie’s harrowing past there without diminishing it, but most crucially; the short leaves a door wide open for the most important stories about Jessie still to occur.
I definitely agree with you that her legacy to both Marvel and comics writ large is critically important. But as a cis writer who just so happens to love Jessie Drake, I also know that I am definitely not the defining voice for Jessie, nor should I be. But I did find an alternate avenue to open a Krakoan gate for her, and I’m happy about that.
AIPT: As a writer, what was the appeal of pairing Jessie with Black Cat?
Leah: This actually started out as our editor Sarah Brunstad’s idea! The way it came about was through brainstorming ideas for this project together.
I had mentioned wanting to tell a story with Jessie Drake and Sarah had previously brought up that Black Cat hadn’t been snatched up yet for the Pride antho, and then she suggested a story with them both and pointed out some really intriguing common ground between the two women. I got excited by the prospect immediately and couldn’t stop thinking about the potential connection either.
AIPT: Terry, X-Fan William said that Anole holds a special place in the hearts of many despite being a more obscure character. What do you think makes Victor unique in regard to mutant stories?
Terry: He’s a super-powered mutant who isn’t necessarily a muscled, handsome superhero ideal, physically. He’s one of those mutants whose mutation has affected the way he looks and it makes him insecure. I think quite often, women and gay men deal with having to live up to some sort of ideal body type and that can be really damaging in so many ways.
AIPT: X-Fan Anduinel is grateful to see Anole getting a bit of spotlight, as he’s not a character who tends to get much long-term attention. Anduinel was curious if there were any previous stories you decided to go with as a guidepost for your take on the character?
Terry: Yes! Amazing X-Men #13 with James Tynion IV (writer) and Jorge Jimenez (artist) was really influential to me. In that issue, Anole struggles with going on a date and also with his physical self-confidence, which is something I continually deal with as well. It’s a great issue that I go back to every once in a while.
AIPT: Kieron, X-Fan Nat wanted to know what it’s like to now write David and Tommy as a couple after you set up their relationship and other writers picked up on that thread.
Kieron: Just delightful. Honestly, picking up their energy that folks (no pun intended) ran with and then taking a bit further was fun. The dynamic between the two of them was always charming, and that I only managed to do it for an issue in Young Avengers meant that they still felt really fresh to me.
AIPT: Terry, X-Fan Luke asked what your favorite visual interpretation of Anole is — small and slim with one hulking arm, average-sized with a slightly misshapen right arm or the big, buff version from the Omega World? Do you prefer him rough-skinned, scaly or spiky?
Terry: The way that Jorge Jimenez drew Anole in the Amazing X-Men issue is definitely my favorite look for him. I love him in his school uniform, with one huge arm and somewhat slim. It’s an interesting silhouette. Also, I prefer him with what I call his artichoke head, like in that issue, as opposed to his skull cap with spikes.
AIPT: While we’re talking visuals, Leah, the one panel from your story we’ve seen so far is pretty striking — Black Cat and Jessie walking away from an explosion. What was it like getting to write for artist Jan Bazaldua?
Leah: To be honest, I didn’t know I was writing for Jan Bazaldua! At the time I wrote the script, an artist hadn’t been attached to the project yet. Can you imagine my reaction to finding out I was working with Jan Bazaldua for the first time when I was sent the completed inks for the entire story? It was like Christmas morning. The art is spectacular.
AIPT: Kieron, we know you’ve got pretty good taste in music. X-Fan Anel was wondering if you could tell us what songs Prodigy is listening to currently.
Kieron: I somehow feel that only Leah, the Keeper Of Prodigy, gets to answer this one. I’ll ask her.
She notes given the nature of Prodigy’s powers and experience, that he’d be really eclectic, and I’d agree with that. He gets to sample.
She also notes that I listen to a lot of Yves Tumor and bets Prodigy would too, so that’s my answer.
AIPT: Yeah, thanks, Leah — it’s like an interview within an interview! Leah, final question: What does it mean to you, personally, to get to contribute to Marvel’s Voices: Pride?
Leah: I am proud to be a part of this generation of queer Marvel writers. All of the names you see contributing answers to questions for this are folks I consider friends and love dearly, and being a part of something so fun and special is an immense honor. We all made playlists.
AIPT: And Terry and Kieron, to wrap up, X-Fan and comics writer Joe Glass said it’s wonderful to see Marvel putting together an anthology to celebrate the LGBTQ+ characters at the publisher, as it feels like a big step forward. But there are clearly strides left to go and be taken. In terms of LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation, where would you like to see improvements made? What would you love to see, personally, from Marvel next?
Terry: Personally, I’d like to see stories about the newer queer characters supported more. It doesn’t help us to make new queer characters if nobody knows about them and they fall into obscurity. So I want to see more of Anole, more of America Chavez, more of the new, gay, Captain America: Aaron Fischer, and more of Somnus just to name a few! Help us know that these characters are out there and doing fun things! I also selfishly wouldn’t mind seeing more of Julian, Humberto Lopez’s cousin in the new Reptil series that I’m writing. Just more!
Kieron: Short answer is: more, at every level. Circa I was doing Young Avengers, the main calls were for more representation in characters published. Since then, we’ve moved into more calls for authentic voices writing those characters. That can go in all sorts of directions, but I’d like to see more opportunities for those creatives to write characters other than characters with whom they share an identity. But it’s endless, and that’s not a problem. “Progressive” is a moving target, and that’s the point. We can always be better.
AIPT: Well said and a great note to end on. Terry, Kieron and Leah, thanks for taking the time to chat about your stories in Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1, which goes on sale June 23! There’s a whole lot of X-Men in this anthology, X-Fans, so be sure to grab a copy before your local shop sells out.
And remember, X-Fans, X-Men Monday at AIPT has more conversations with the writers behind this eXciting anthology coming this week. Before we wrap, here’s an eXclusive page from Terry’s Anole story, featuring art by Paulina Ganucheau and layouts by Kendall Goode!
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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