Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Interviews. Some creators love to do them, others prefer to let their work speak for itself. And then, there are writers like Simon Spurrier who have turned it into an art form. I mean, just read his X-Men Monday debut from March 2021! For that reason, the fact that Way of X #1 was one of the best first issues I’ve read all year, and several others (like the fact that Onslaught’s back), I was eXtremely eXcited that Si agreed to make his triumphant return to X-Men Monday.
As is always the case with Si, there’s a lot to dig into, so let’s get started!
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday and congratulations on the birth of your daughter! First, how is fatherhood so far, and second, does being a new father impact how you write or view the relationship between Legion and his own father, Charles Xavier?
Simon: Thank you! She’s actually my second — my son came along three years ago. All going pretty well so far, with the usual caveats, anxieties, terrors, illnesses, sleepless nights and general oh-my-god-what-are-we-doing panics. She is mighty and beautiful and ferocious, just like her mother, and I am a very proud dad.
Since minispurrier-the-first arrived I’ve certainly caught myself becoming far more preoccupied with — well, with all the ideas you’d expect from a recent parent. All the worries and What Ifs that circulate like poison through the brain in those endless nocturnal watches when the little bugger just won’t go to sleep. In fact, I’ve just shot a glance at the projects on my slate right now and all of them — no exceptions — are informed in one way or another by this stuff. It’s often in pretty unexpected or invisible ways, but it’s there. Legacy, love, obligation, transmission of ideas, indoctrination, blood and water, pride, power, betrayal, sex, inheritance. It’s pretty fertile soil.
Legion and Chuck… that’s been a meaty bone to chew on since long before my own dadhood, to be honest. Fascinating things happen when parental/filial relationships play second fiddle to ideologies. I’m generalizing, but the kids of renowned activists, freedom fighters and other celebrated figures tend not to have had a particularly loving relationship with their notorious parent. It’s as if the human heart only has the capacity to burn white-hot about a single thing at a time. You can save the world or you can adore the ground your child walks on. Try and do both and one or the other suffers. Obviously, that’s an unpalatable reality, and very un-Hollywood, so let’s all hope it’s as reductive as it sounds. But in Xavier and David’s case, it certainly fits the bill. Professor X is a helluva guy, but — whisper it: he can be a bit of a prick, y’know? And, hell, you can shout this one: a really s----y dad.
Charles has always been the guy who does what needs to be done. Duty first — duty to His People above all — then emotional care and familial consideration second. (There’s a perverse reading of Krakoa-era Xavier’s actions that implies he’s done more to keep humanity and mutants at ideological loggerheads than any placard-waving bigot ever did. I don’t quite subscribe to that view — things are never that simple — but you can easily imagine he’s not an easy man to be around. He does not bend.)
Sometimes you need people like that in the world. The problem is if they’re good at it — if they fight the good fight with success and triumph — then there comes a point that they don’t fit into their own hard-won paradigm anymore. We’re taught to believe righteous warriors fight to secure peace, justice and equality… but god help them if they have to live with it.
All the best saviors come with in-built obsolescence.
To be honest, I’m far less interested in the things that Xavier has gotten wrong than I am in the ways his legacy — the shadow he casts, the decisions he’s made, the approach he takes to problems in the present — affects David. That manifests in all sorts of dramatic ways — a disaffected kid will often tend to take a contrary position to their parent, whether it’s right or wrong — but the one I find most compelling as I type right now speaks to the nature/nurture of it all.
David has recognized within himself a frightening tendency to treat people like things. To forget that they have hearts and minds. To poke and prod and compel, “for the greater good,” rather than empathizing, nudging, suggesting. We’ve seen him do it a few times in Way of X — with Lost, with Mercury and Loa, even in that meeting with Xavier in the Green Lagoon. He’s like a sledgehammer trying to break nuts. He assumes he’s the right person to interfere, he goes wading in, then gets surprised when things go horribly wrong. He thinks first, feels second.
What’s especially horrifying about recognizing all this, to him, is that it’s very much a trait he’s always seen in Xavier. Manipulate Now, Worry About Other People’s Trauma Later.
David hates it, he hates seeing it in himself, and he wants to be better. That’s part of the journey he’s on. It’s what makes him and Nightcrawler such a great odd couple. In reduced terms: one is a creature of mind, one is a creature of heart. Together they’re pretty unstoppable.
Anyway. That’s just to give you the thin end of a wedge we’ll be exploring further. There are some biblical parallels to find if you want to look for them. The patriarch shall see the promised land but never set foot in it — and all that jazz. In the short term, David’s remedy for all this — and this is a thematic echo of the ending of my run on X-Men Legacy — is to remove himself from conventional interaction.
I won’t spoil it — you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about from The Onslaught Revelation — but he’s found a way to give mutantkind something his father never could. Something which, he hopes, will not only improve everyone else’s experience but also make him a better person. It’s pretty out there.
AIPT: You just touched on this a bit, but X-Fan Ramazan Dauletkali was curious to learn what your thought process was when creating/writing the dynamics between Legion and Nightcrawler.
Simon: Classic Spurrier: answer a subsequent question by mistake while in waffle-mode on a prior answer. To reiterate: “David is a creature of mind, Kurt is a creature of heart.”
That’s a painful generalization that will ultimately fall apart under scrutiny, but it’s a nice way to regard the status quo as we go into The Onslaught Revelation and beyond.
Speaking solely from my own perspective, I’m far more inclined to trust someone who says, “something is wrong and I want to help fix it, but I don’t have all the answers so I’m going to think about it, look at it from other people’s perspective, and try to come up with a plan which helps the most people in the best way, even if that plan ultimately turns out to be ‘butt out, this ain’t your fight’”… than I am to trust someone who says, “I see a problem and I am absolutely the right person to fix it, obvs, now stand back and watch.”
Kurt is — and, I believe, always has been — the former. David’s trying very hard not to be the latter.
The greatest weakness in the former approach, it goes without saying, is that it sometimes looks like dithering. There’s definitely a reading of Way of X in which Nightcrawler spends the first four issues wombling around and trying to figure things out, without much dynamic decisive action.
(One of the biggest tricks of this arc has been finding ways to dramatize and adrenalize a journey which, if you really boil it down, amounts to, “I don’t know where to start, someone help me.” That’s not supposed to work, in story terms. But I kinda think we pulled it off, if only through sleight of hand, and by the time we get to Way of X #5, and definitely by the time we come to The Onslaught Revelation, we’re seeing a Nightcrawler who’s very much on the right path.)
For what comes next — after the Onslaught Special — NC’s motivating anima could not be more solid.
AIPT: X-Fan @FacuNeiras pointed out that Legion is in a similar situation to Mystique right now. Do you think he would also burn the island to the ground if he found out that his beloved Blindfold is banned from being resurrected?
Simon: Heh. You’re talking about a guy who has ended reality more than once. Sometimes without even meaning to.
For what it’s worth, I think the version of David Haller we’re telling tales about now isn’t the sort to throw a tantrum and shatter worlds just because he can’t get his way.
He’s the sort who would simply go and Get His Way. With a friendly but unnerving smile.
How that plays out is, I’m afraid, something about which I must be circumspect. But answers are coming. Soon. And probably not the answers you’d expect.
AIPT: So, we’ve been getting reacquainted with Onslaught, but X-Fan Anthony hill raises a good question. Is the Onslaught in Way of X the same Onslaught from the ‘90s, or a completely different Onslaught?
Simon: That’s… a really good question. Hence very difficult to answer.
I think it’s probably one of those things where a reader’s specific headcanon should be permitted to have primacy. As long as I’m not trampling all over anything that’s gone before — or at least, doing so with enough elan and exhausted British verve that nobody cares too much — it’s all good.
For what it’s worth, I tend to see Onslaught as a sort of personified mood or emotional state — a living craving for domination — whose hunger, and false sense of reward-gratification, allows it to parasitize on those it destroys. It has been diminished down to almost nothing, it has been transmitted and re-transmitted many times, it’s mutated and been manipulated…
Does it have the same core sentience as it always has? I’m not sure that matters.
Does it represent the absolute worst instincts and compulsions that lurk in the hearts of mutants, from its original “fathers” right on down to Random Krakoan #3? Yep.
In other words: it’s the same Onslaught from the ‘90’s in the same way that when you get the flu, it’s the same flu that arose in the far east 8,000 years ago.
AIPT: In Way of X #3, X-Fan Niko said it was mentioned that Mercury’s senses differ from those of flesh and blood individuals. So, how do you imagine she perceives the world compared to someone with biological senses?
Simon: Ooof, that’s a story waiting to be told. I’m fascinated by Cessily. Her backstory, the experiential particulars of her mutation — there’s a helluva book in it.
For the purposes of Way of X, she joined our cast only briefly, to help illustrate something I waffled about earlier, with regard to David. It’s my fervent belief that beautiful, consensual attempts to try new things tend to go wrong when other people impose their values or manipulative designs upon them. That’s the core point I was hoping to communicate in the Mercury/Loa scenes. There’s no crime which can’t be reduced to Treating People Like Things.
In that sequence we had a straight white dude with insane levels of power interfering in the opening stages of a shy relationship between two women. Of course it blows up. It has to.
David gets called out on that, and — to reassure those who felt the point wasn’t made strongly enough in situ, for which I’m really sorry — this will have serious implications for the way he behaves going forward.
Loa and Mercury were also very much in the grip of the Patchwork Man — who we now know to be Onslaught — who was essentially dialing up all of their most destructive traits to 11, feasting on the discord and trauma that ensued. I think it’s important, in stories about relationships, to make the point that not everyone is perfectly compatible on a no-secrets emotional level — and that’s OK. What these two wanted was to get to know each other in a fun, consensual way — who knows where that could’ve led? — but instead, a bunch of outside parties interfered and wrecked it. Lessons learned all around. I’m very much leaving the door open for these two — at the very least I’m going to show them starting over in their own way, without any other arseholes involved. Maybe something becomes of that, maybe it doesn’t.
But to your question, whereas I don’t believe Cessily is a buttoned-down psycho who despises the Fleshy Ones for their moist nerve-cluster sensations, I do think there’s probably a really cool story to be told about the disconnect between her emotional existence and her physical existence. I’m not sure I’m the one to tell that story, but I’d definitely read it.
AIPT: X-Fan 4 horsemen of the eggpocalypse said that, like other mutants who have died in Otherworld, Gorgon has returned changed. How did you decide what effect this would have on Gorgon’s mind?
Simon: Gorgon’s become a really interesting bit of a X-room flotsam, basically. X of Swords was an extraordinary beast of an event in all sorts of ways that nobody quite foresaw. It’s like, there are events designed to create stories and there are events designed to end them. In my view, the former is always stronger than the latter. X of Swords did both, in a way, but its lasting legacy was to have presented so many beautiful new toys and deliberate loose ends that we’re still only just getting around to exploring now. The Arakko/Mars of it all is perhaps the most visible (my plans are very tied up in that too), but — yes. It caught my imagination in a big way that when one of our heroes died in Otherworld, it screwed with the much-vaunted resurrection process.
“What if the you who comes back isn’t the you who died?” is one of the most obviously unnerving questions you’d expect to be preoccupying people in a society like Krakoa, and when you’ve got Rockslide and Gorgon both coming back from the grave completely transformed…? Oof. Those worries only get deeper.
Quite what’s going on when this Otherworld stuff happens is something that we’ll collectively get to in due course, but the tabula rasa of it all is where the storyjuice lies, for me. Gorgon’s this monumentally powerful mutant with next-level martial skill and a lot of bad s--t in his past. When you erase the bad s--t but leave everything else, what do you get? Is all forgiven? Will the bad s--t come trickling back with predetermined predictability? What would you expect from a fantastically deadly individual whose most profound experience since he was “born” involves a fuzzy blue dude getting covered in ice cream? These are the big big questions someone needs to answer, dammit.
AIPT: Speaking of big big questions, X-Fan Azgx29 said, so… Dazzler and Nemesis. How did that come about?
Simon: I mean… opposites attract. Pompous science-curmudgeons and warm-hearted empressess of glampop are destined to entwine. I don’t make the rules.
Nemesis is one of those wonderful characters with an IQ in the thousands but an EQ in the toilet. If he’s being determinedly mean to someone, there’s a pretty good chance he secretly fancies them. He’s essentially an extremely brainy schoolkid with fungushair.
And Dazzler… I think she’s just a ridiculously hard-working and endlessly creative soul who, moreso perhaps than any of the adult mutants in our story, is completely prepared to embrace the Try Anything Once doctrine.
I’m not saying they’re in love or anything. The whole point of Stacy X’s suggestion, which nudges them towards their little dance, is Dare To Try Something New. But (I didn’t expect this) I am getting a horrible unexpected “ping” on my compatibility radar. I reckon they’ll have some fun together, at the very least.
AIPT: Connor Goldsmith of the CEREBRO podcast was wondering what inspired you to bring Stacy X back. Connor asked if she got her powers back via the Crucible, or are we to assume she died at some point? Connor loves the idea of her as a foil for Kurt, sort of a Magdalene figure in his mutant cosmology.
Simon: She’s back because she’s an incredible and valuable character, to be honest. End of story.
I don’t have her down as someone who’d put herself through Crucible — she’s a little too shrewd for that, I suspect — although of course, she’d never judge others. If indeed she died to secure a repowered resurrection, the circumstances of how/what/why are her business and hers alone.
There’s certainly a future for her. She serves a critical role in the Krakoan paradigm, in my view.
As for being a foil for Kurt… sort of. I waffle a lot in interviews about Kurt being such a compelling character because of all his complexities, complications and conflicts. One such internal rough edge, which I think is there on the page but we don’t want to laser-in on too much, is that he’s always been a pretty sex-positive character whilst now also being an ordained Catholic Priest. You and I know there are plenty of sex-positive Catholics, and even plenty of (albeit a little more quietly) sex-positive Catholic ministers, but there’s clearly going to be some friction between instinct and doctrinal duty there.
So to an extent, as well as just being a stone-cold awesome character who fearlessly speaks truth to power, Stacy also serves the role of puncturing the layers of accumulated structural belief Kurt wears along with his dog collar. She can verbalize things that he probably already intuits deep down, but isn’t supposed to say out loud.
As I say, we really don’t want to go delving into the granularity of creeds in the story. We’re not in the business of trying to offend, and for all that Way of X was billed as a story about religion we quickly made clear we weren’t about to tell anyone their extant faith is wrong. We’re here to provide an additive societal connection, not a replacement. Kurt gets to remain a Catholic, Stacy gets to remain a humanist-pragmatist, Nemesis gets to remain a proactive atheist, etc, etc. The Big Idea they all coalesce around is beautiful in its inclusivity. But it is, of course, fascinating to ponder the conflicts, internal and external.
AIPT: X-Fan D. Canham wanted to know when you’re going to let Way of X artist Bob Quinn officially unleash Soft Serve on the X-Universe?
Simon: I couldn’t stop him if I tried. And I wouldn’t try if I could. Fully expecting her to headline Phase 5 of the MCU.
Me being me, I want to tell a story about what happens when Soft Serve discovers she’s lactose intolerant.
AIPT: Finally, you’ve touched on it here and there throughout this interview, but what can you tell us about X-Men: The Onslaught Revelation, what the future holds for the Way of X saga? Or, “season 2” as you’ve said.
Simon: Ha, not a great deal, alas. Let’s see…
If Way of X is a quest to find a big idea… and The Onslaught Revelation is the crisis that occurs when the idea is actually found… then what comes next must surely be The Idea In Action.
Look for gun, find gun, shoot gun. Or, more accurately: look for gun, find gun, realize it’s actually a transcendent rapture-inducer and tune out of reality.
You’ll know much much more about what to expect when you get to the back page — and the back-page-plus-one — of The Onslaught Revelation.
AIPT: So much to chew on here and great stuff as always, Si! Thanks for taking the time to talk all things Way of X and beyond. And speaking of great stuff — how about these eXclusive preview images from X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White?
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!