Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Dark Ages: Originally teased last summer in Free Comic Book Day: X-Men #1, writer Tom Taylor and artist Iban Coello’s alternate-universe Marvel epic is finally weeks away (on sale September 1)! Seems like the perfect time to answer the question on every X-Fan’s mind: “Should I add Dark Ages to my pull list?”
Good thing Tom agreed to return to X-Men Monday to answer that question and others related to Dark Ages, along with his beloved runs on X-Men Red and All-New Wolverine and more! (And you read correctly — I said returned! If you missed it, here’s Tom’s first X-Men Monday appearance from #21!)
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Tom! Before we dig into Dark Ages, I’m curious — what was your first X-Men eXperience?
Tom: That’s a tricky question. I’m not 100% sure. X-Men comics were hard to get when I was growing up in Australia. So, while I definitely had some Chris Claremont and Jim Lee era X-Comics, I came to X-Men later than most. I loved the animated series, then X-Men Evolution.
Then, I was fully in by the Ultimate X-Men universe, Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, The era around Messiah Complex, etc. I was also pretty mad for Wolverine comics — and went back and bought the Essential collections.
AIPT: You’ve said Dark Ages is the biggest story you’ve ever told at Marvel. How far back does the idea for this story go and what made the idea of exploring Marvel characters in this alternate universe setting so appealing as a writer?
Tom: We started talking about this in January of 2020. For anyone who knows me, I love a good ‘What if?’
There’s a rule in continuity comics that you can’t break the toys. The appeal of writing in an alternate universe is you can break the toys, but you can also go further. You can also take some heads off the toys and stick them on other figures. With Dark Ages, we’ve taken this as far as imaginable. We’ve broken the whole world. Now we get to see what comes after.
AIPT: As this is an X-Men column, I have to ask… how do the X-Men factor into this Marvel Universe epic and why do X-Fans need to add this title to their pull lists?
Tom: This is a Marvel-wide story. That means you will hear a Snikt and a Bamf alongside a Thwip. This is a story for all Marvel fans, but anyone who knows me knows I love the X-Men, having written Wolverine for years, followed by X-Men: Red. In Dark Ages, the world has changed, meaning you will see X-Men in roles you’ve never seen them in before.
AIPT: Jean Grey has appeared in Dark Ages preview art, and A LOT of Jean fans loved your take on the character in X-Men Red. As a result, A LOT of Jean fans wanted to know what type of role she might play in Dark Ages. Anything you can tease for X-Fans Calvin Gadde, Jean Grey Brasil (@infojeangrey), jeanpsionic, Jim Gray and Keitsune_?
Tom: I can’t tease much as there’s not much I can say about issue 2 of Dark Ages. Issue 2 is where EVERYTHING changes for the Marvel Universe. And, yes, Jean Grey has a part to play in what comes next.
AIPT: Without spoiling too much, X-Fan AppleJ was wondering if any mutants appear in Dark Ages you hadn’t written before that you’re excited you got to tackle?
Tom: I’m bringing back some of my X-Men: Red faves in Wolverine, Honey Badger, Jean Grey and Storm, but there are definitely others I’ve never had a chance to write before. It’s no secret Apocalypse is a large part of this and, just today, I’ve written Jamie Madrox and Colossus for the first time. Crossing some big hitters off my bucket list, right there.
AIPT: So many of your stories are about hope and optimism. And I know the pandemic delayed Dark Ages. I’m curious, were you writing any parts of Dark Ages during the heart of the pandemic and did it in any way impact how you approached this story of heroes striving to restore hope in the universe?
Tom: Yes. I’ve been writing this through the pandemic, and I’m sure it’s had an influence, yes. But it was also already in my head that I didn’t want this to be your regular post-apocalyptic dystopia. I’ve had enough of those. I wanted to imagine a different kind of world, one where good people came together to try to make something better. One that isn’t all badlands and roaming cannibals.
AIPT: You’re a writer who’s never short on ideas. So with that said, X-Fan icephoenix asked if X-Men Red was always intended to be a 12-issue run, or did you have ideas for additional story arcs?
Tom: I would have loved to tell more X-Men: Red tales, and we debuted as Marvel’s biggest seller. But soon after, there was a bit of a shake-up in the X-Office and then Jonathan Hickman was coming in with a very big, awesome plan. Fortunately, this happened early in my run, so I knew exactly how much time we had and I was able to plan the biggest story I could with the issues we had. I’m very proud of what our whole team did with that book and it’s great to see people still talking about it — especially in terms of Jean Grey’s heroism and leadership.
AIPT: You co-created Gabby Kinney, who quickly became a beloved member of the X-Men universe. How did this character come to be and X-Fan Emmanuel Boyd wondered if you ever expected her to become so popular?
Tom: Honestly, when I began writing All-New Wolverine, she wasn’t a big part of the ongoing plan. Laura was supposed to have another person in her life to balance out the dark. But as soon as Gabby first showed up in Laura’s kitchen, our whole team, and the fans, fell in love with her. She’s such a pure, empathetic character, but she also has a straight-shooting edge, that everyone responded so well to. I’ve always said characters change stories. Gabby changed ours for the better in every way. It was obvious she and Laura were supposed to be together. Our series went from a solo series about Laura Kinney to a story about a small family who needed each other.
AIPT: You spent a lot of time developing Gabby’s big sister into a fan-favorite character in All-New Wolverine. How does it feel to see Laura on Krakoa’s X-Men team – AS Wolverine?
Tom: It’s wonderful, to tell you the truth. Laura came so far in those years. Her character development, what she dealt with and what she overcame, meant a lot to so many. She truly became something more than a letter and a number. She became more than X-23 — the name assigned to her by the abusive people who sought to control her. So, seeing Marvel recognize this and keeping her elevated as Wolverine makes me pretty happy. I didn’t create Laura but I am definitely, like, a proud uncle.
AIPT: Finally, D. McElroy of 1407 Greymalkin Lane wanted to know, if you were a mutant in the Marvel Universe, which X-Men era would you choose to live in?
Tom: The next era. The era where mutants aren’t seen as anything to be hated or feared. Where mutants aren’t seen as different. The era where they’re accepted and loved by all. We’ll see if we get there.
AIPT: Love ending an interview on an optimistic note! Thanks for taking the time to chat, Tom — and thank you to Marvel for these eXclusive lettered preview pages from Dark Ages #1!
But wait — there’s more! Here’s an eXclusive first look at the cover and solicitation to Dark Ages #3!
DARK AGES #3 (OF 6)
TOM TAYLOR (W) • IBAN COELLO (A/C)
Variant Cover by RYAN STEGMAN
VARIANT COVER BY LOGAN LUBERA
VARIANT COVER BY TAKASHI OKAZAKI
AFTER THE LIGHTS GO OUT — STRANGE THINGS LURK WITHIN THE DARKNESS!
The Earth has been plunged into darkness, and Avengers and X-Men have begun vanishing in the night. They have been taken and twisted by Apocalypse to serve an evil older than the world. A group of heroes will assemble to travel across the dark planet in a desperate attempt to rescue their friends and save a civilization already on its knees.
That’s a lot of eXclusives! I’ll understand if you need to take the rest of the day off, everybody.
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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