Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
When Anthony Oliveira made his X-Men Monday debut ahead of Marvel’s Voices: Pride‘s release this past June, there simply wasn’t enough room in the interview for all the X-Fan questions AIPT received. Anthony’s popularity and thoughtful answers (not to mention his eXcellent Iceman story) made it clear he wouldn’t be a one-time X-Men Monday guest.
When would Anthony return, though… that was the question.
And then, Marvel dropped unlettered preview pages for The Last Annihilation: Wiccan & Hulkling #1 — featuring Avalanche — and it was clear: The time had come for Anthony to get his very own edition of X-Men Monday.
Are Billy and Teddy considered X-Men characters? Does it matter? Anthony’s back and we once again received so many eXtraordinary questions, you’ll find this X-Men Monday’s a bit lengthier than usual. So we better get going!
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Anthony! X-Fan Nat from the Krakoa server said, since you’re appearing in X-Men Monday, what’s your favorite X-Men storyline?
Anthony: Oh boy. Obviously, the main one is very important to me — Charles and Erik, fighting with lethal force for the soul of their people and still loving each other deeply the entire time.
The classic Chris Claremont era’s high points (“The Dark Phoenix Saga,” “Days of Future Past”) but also his careful attention to characters like Rogue, and her poignant inability to be touched, or Nightcrawler’s yearning to be loved for what he is, or Magneto coming to grips with his own trauma and his desperate attempt to ensure his people’s future. Grant Morrison’s huge, bombastic renovation, and imagining seriously what a minority culture like mutantkind’s might look like. Rictor and Shatterstar figuring it out messily together, and Iceman figuring it out quietly, very much alone.
And in lighter fare: I was a ’90s kid, and my big tacky heart loves the goofy mess of “X-Cutioner’s Song” and Stryfe, which was my first X-Men comic. And of course, Bobby and Sam going undercover to infiltrate the Graydon Creed campaign and ~oh no there’s only one bed in the hotel room~ was very important.
AIPT: Good stuff all around! X-Fan mukund was wondering what inspired your story for Iceman in Marvel’s Voices: Pride. Did personal experiences factor in at all?
Anthony: I knew I wanted to honor Bobby’s long, long history in the closet (writers have been writing him as gay since basically 1985 but been unable to pull the trigger), so my initial idea was to go back to all the moments where he almost came out in old issues (to Jean in that Barnes & Noble, to Emma on that rooftop, to Cloud, to Northstar, etc).
But I found in working on the story that (one of) the earliest queer moments was best: X-Men #14, when Bobby helps Warren straps down his wings, and asks him gently if it would be so bad if people knew, and how casually cruel Warren’s response must’ve felt to a boy hiding himself (in the ’60s!) to survive.
The conversation with Magneto is more or less a transcript of my own first coming out, which was also to an older authority figure with whom I had, let’s say, a classically adversarial relationship, and found a kindness we didn’t expect.
Bobby and I have very similar biographies and traumas — he’s not like, say, Wiccan and Hulkling, who found each other early in life, and had accepting family and friends. Wiccan and Hulkling encounter homophobia, but as an external threat; Bobby was poisoned by it by people he loved. Bobby’s was a lonelier and thornier road, raised first by cruel parents and then by Charles Xavier’s respectability politics and encouragement to conceal difference, and his relationship to his identity is more vexed. I feel very deeply for him.
AIPT: Another question about Bobby — X-Fan Dusk from the House of X wanted to know what you think, over the years, has made Iceman such a difficult character for so many writers to fully understand and give focus to.
Anthony: I think the Great Unspoken Fact of Bobby has always been a roadblock for writers, but it has been a strangely generative one.
Part of it is a simple editorial mandate: before Brian Michael Bendis officially made canon Bobby’s queer status, many, many writers tried. Marjorie Liu’s story is clearly about a man trying to process his closet trauma; Mike Carey uses his relationship with Mystique to show (and aggravate) his great fear of sex; Chuck Austen has Northstar needling him about it, and before that Emma tried to help him deal with “what was holding him back.” He almost comes out to Jean before the Onslaught crisis, he panics when Cloud reveals their gender status, etc, etc. Bobby’s story only snapped into focus retroactively, but I think, slow-burn as it is, it is a very authentic one.
I think Bobby can be challenging for straight writers because weirdly our broader culture doesn’t actually know what the story of an adult gay man is. And that, to me, is actually what Bobby’s story should be, because I’m not actually sure that he knows either — he had his head down for so many years, he worked so hard for a world of acceptance, and now in many ways, Krakoa represents the realization of that mission.
Now what? What does it feel like to walk in a world with scars that the younger people you fought for in many ways do not understand? What does it feel like to finally take a breath, and know yourself? That’s the story I would tell.
AIPT: And I hope you get to do just that eventually. Now, switching gears to a few of the many Billy and Teddy questions we received — X-Fan Joe was wondering what you think makes Hulkling and Wiccan such a wonderful couple for Marvel.
Anthony: They were the blueprint. They truly were. When I was a kid, I couldn’t believe what was happening when I was buying those comics — I truly believed I was making it up, that it was wishful thinking. Two scions of pillars of the Marvel Universe — the sons of Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel themselves! An heir to two empires, and to the Avengers legacy! — built into the heart of its stories, and unabashedly in love. So fully three-dimensional, with so much chemistry and affection. It was magic. It still is.
AIPT: X-Fan Az (@transbillykplan) wanted to know what your favorite qualities are about Billy and Teddy’s dynamic.
Anthony: I think above all, their patience and kindness with each other. They are each other’s favorite person, and they are endlessly fascinated and delighted by each other’s strange quirks, odd turns, passions and frustrations, and fears. They’re two sweet nerds who found one another, against all odds, and then also happened to find out they also have superpowers. That is a rare gift — it is not something everybody gets.
AIPT: X-Fan Taylor John said there have been times when it’s felt like Billy and Teddy lose their individuality and act as a unit. How did you find navigating their personalities and bouncing them off each other?
Anthony: Actually, this is precisely the joyous challenge of The Last Annihilation. In the present day of the story, Billy is on Skrullos, Teddy is on Hala; they never speak to each other.
And so the issue is full of flashbacks throughout their lives, and we see how much impact they have had on each other, how much they have chosen to commit to each other. And meanwhile, in the present day, they are confronted with the same question: who, then, are you alone? And the forces confronting them rush to tell them what they are, that they are not enough, that they are monstrous or compromised or weak.
And I think importantly, the point was not to say: you must be strong enough to stand on your own. The point was to think instead about what kinds of strength a relationship this giving and generous and loving can provide. I think that is a question a lot of newlyweds have to ask. When they parted in Emperor Hulkling, they promised each other they’d never be alone, no matter how lost they felt — I wanted to think seriously about that promise, the radical generosity of it. “Love dares the self to leave the self behind,” as Anne Carson said. This is a story about that dare.
AIPT: X-Fan guilherme | @poisonwiccan on Twitter wanted to know who you identify with the most: Billy or Teddy.
Anthony: Oh, that’s hard. There are pieces of me in both of them. I have Billy’s unsureness about himself, his anxiety, his tendency to retreat into fantasy and geeking out, and we both channel that anxiety into a need to be perfect, to study hard and get it right and impress our will upon the universe until it looks the way we want it to look. And so the flip side of that is the wild, creative parts of himself — but also the tendency for the world to go white, and for him to wonder what just happened, and to deal with the fallout.
And I think in Teddy I see the part of myself that wants to give the world its trust; that wants to risk being vulnerable to see if something greater can come of it. We built the spine of Emperor Hulkling around a motto I hold very close — be brave enough to be kind, which ended up being a large part of his arc as he came into his kingship in Empyre. It takes radical hope and risk, but I think it is risk worth taking. Teddy has lost so much, been asked to do so much, and it would be easy to let that embitter or harden him. He does not let it. I aspire to that.
AIPT: A fun question from X-Fan Christopher Fokken: Which of Billy’s lewks do you enjoy the most? This, of course, applies to his costumes or civilian wear, but more importantly, his HAIR.
Anthony: Haha I would never presume to pick a favorite costume (though I miss his dorky gay messenger bag from his first appearances, which as a messenger-bag-gay I also have, and which we brought back for a cameo in this comic), but my favorite civilian outfit we’ve ever given him was this cute pajama look from “Brunch with Loki” with his ratty old Dazzler concert tee. I absolutely want that shirt, and Nick Robles is a MASTER of curly rumpled hair.
AIPT: OK, now we’re going to slowly segue back to the X-Men questions. X-Fan Dann was curious to learn how you chose the mutants appearing in The Last Annihilation: Wiccan & Hulkling.
Anthony: Oh boy lol. So the deal with S.W.O.R.D.’s freelance staff is: Abigail Brand wants loyalty at affordable prices, and not an overmuch of questions. And baby, that’s when you get AVALANCHE!
When I came onboard, Al Ewing and Darren Shan (two of the loveliest humans you’ll ever meet) let me pick like a kid in the candy store, and while some of my pulls had to be no’s, a lot of them at least made their cameo.
I love Thumbelina so so much because I think she has a great, unique power-set and I like that a plus-sized woman gets to a) be super cute and b) kick ass, both of which are very rare in a superhero comic, so she was my first pick. I’ve adored her and her dynamic with her brother since I was a kid.
And I love the trash-bag club-kids in the Nasty Boys, so Gorgeous George and Ruckus were on the list too. I love that these glorious old friends from when I was a kid are there, kicking ass alongside the perhaps more dignified S.W.O.R.D. a-listers like Frenzy and Paibok.
AIPT: New Nasty Boys content is always welcome. You mentioned Avalanche — X-Fan AmazingXFan5 asked which Avalanche appears in your story. The original or the one who appeared in X-Men Gold. Too many Avalanches, Anthony!
Anthony: It is good old Dominic Petros, who is very used to working for ethically dubious bad-ass ladies in an official government capacity and not asking too many questions about the things they tell him to do. And, as usual, he hecks it up almost immediately. I love him so much.
AIPT: X-Fan Billy Maximoff said Wiccan has been seen in multiple alternate realities with the X-Men and even a future version of him pulled double duty as a member of the Sorcerers Supreme! What are your thoughts on Billy’s conflicting status with mutantdom? Is it time he tries to walk through a gate to Krakoa?
Anthony: God, yes please. I have so many thoughts about this — a very long document, actually lol. I have always, always wanted to do a Dynasty-style story about the 616 House of M — Magneto! Wanda! Lorna! Pietro! Billy! Tommy! All trying to work out their relationship to the Krakoan polis and their own status as the de facto royal family of mutantkind. Let us hope. X-Office, if you’re reading this, let’s do it! Call me! Oh God PLEASE.
AIPT: Another winning idea! Now, something X-Fan Chris_KG was curious about — would Billy and Teddy be friends with the New X-Men/Academy X kids?
Anthony: I think in many instances they already are! I was very happy we finally got Tommy Shepherd and David Alleyne to admit they were hooking up in Emperor Hulkling, which means those peer groups are overlapping at least sometimes (and we know they all partied together at the end of Young Avengers Volume 2), and Tommy was making trips to Krakoa in X-Factor.
It would be fun to bounce some of those kids off Billy and Teddy — what does Anole think of this picture-perfect gay couple? How is Surge dealing with the Tommy and David of it all? How do young mutants feel about Magneto’s grandsons? How do Billy and Tommy feel about their (belated? compromised? non-existent?) mutant status?
AIPT: OK, spoilers for your eventual X-Men run, but X-Fan Pame asked who you’d pick to be in your ideal X-Men team.
Anthony: Oh gosh… well, the team has to serve the story, and you never know what the other books are up to. But if it wasn’t the House of M team above, my shortlist would be one of each of these categories (I’d invite your readers to mix and match by picking one each!)
BRUISER: Colossus, Thumbelina, Juggernaut
ENERGY: Iceman, Sunfire, Pyro, Wiccan
TELEPATH: Karma, Rachel, Stryfe
CROWD CONTROL: Northstar, Tempo, Rictor, Speed
FIGHTER: Shatterstar, Akihiro
TELEPORTATION: Lila Cheney, Amelia Voght
AIPT: There you go, X-Fans! Mix and match your own teams and tag Anthony and AIPT on Twitter so we can see! As we wrap up, X-Fan Cyril is relatively new to X-Men and was wondering which X-Men characters would be most likely get into a funny Twitter discourse.
Anthony: Hmm… so the thing about Twitter is there are some who are funny enough but are too cool to use it (Illyana), and some who wouldn’t know how (Colossus), and some who would be GOOD at navigating it, like my sweet boy Doug Ramsey, but just wouldn’t have the draw.
But Pyro, no question, would be the king of Twitter. He’s a little messy, he’s a little mean, and as a romance novelist, he can turn a wicked phrase. And he’d regularly post some extremely tasteless pics of his butthole.
AIPT: Now someone’s going to create a Pyro account and do everything you said he’d do. Apologies in advance, Twitter! OK, final question. X-Fan Stephen Simon asked, what advice would you give to queer writers trying to carve out their own path.
Anthony: Find your peers, and lift them up — you will all rise together. Find your mentors, and listen carefully. Surround yourself with talent you admire. Be generous with your time, careful with your trust, and thoughtful with your words. Build a platform that is yours — you will need it. Be compassionate to those you work with and those who came before you. And when they give you the ball, kick it as far as you possibly can. It won’t be all the way. But someday someone else will kick it farther.
Remember that they will always resent queer art. They will try to bully you and stifle you and when you succeed beyond your wildest imaginations, they will belittle you and wonder why you didn’t do more or go further and complain that you’ve ruined something that was not yours to ruin. When this happens, remember your imperative.
And so this above all: to thine own self be true. And be brave enough to be kind.
AIPT: Well said. Anthony, this was as wonderful as I eXpected it would be — thanks for taking the time to answer all these X-Fan questions! And X-Fans, you can help Anthony by picking up a copy of The Last Annihilation: Wiccan & Hulkling #1 when it goes on sale this Wednesday!
Speaking of, here’s an eXclusive look at one page, featuring pencils by Jan Bazaldua, colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, letters by Ariana Maher and, of course, words from Anthony!
In the neXt edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT…
Until then, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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