Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
The times, they are a-changin’. It’s an evergreen statement that could apply to the X-Men in any era, but seems especially appropriate following the news that rocked Krakoa. As revealed by Entertainment Weekly, following Inferno, Head of X Jonathan Hickman is finished writing Marvel’s mutants… for now.
Understandably, X-Fans had questions. Over 200 questions, in fact! Fortunately, Jonathan agreed to return to X-Men Monday to field a few of them ahead of Inferno #1’s release September 29. After sifting through the questions, I presented a streamlined list of about 40 to Jonathan. Read on to see which ones he chose to answer… for now.
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Jonathan! X-Fans GraySkull and Sho Sternlicht wanted to know, what made you choose the iconic “Inferno” name for your final story?
Jonathan: Well, let’s be honest, it’s a very cool name. It’s also appropriate as we’re setting a lot of things on fire, so, you know, fire in the disco, fire in the gates of hell.
AIPT: I feel like X-Fans have a pretty good sense as to why Xavier and Magneto are in Mystique’s crosshairs, but for all the fans who asked (shout-out to X-Fans Claire and Mel), what can you tease about Emma Frost’s role in Inferno?
Jonathan: I think that it’s a mistake to assume anyone is on any particular side forever. I mean, part of what we’ve done is presented the idea of the Nation of Krakoa being monolithic and a higher cause that all mutants submit their personal one’s to. Mystique is interesting because she’s the one who’s really pushed against the idea of that, for love, if you can believe it. And Emma’s interesting because she bought in when we thought she might not, and was it ‘one more time’ or ‘one last time?’
All of this stuff is grist for the mill, but these questions are hard ones and they’ve been coming for a while.
AIPT: X-Fan Juancho believes that Moira is perhaps the most fascinating character in comics right now. All the pain and suffering she’s endured for hundreds of years, all to end in mutants continuing to lose. So, Juancho’s question is: After Moira was burned by Pyro and up to Life X, do you think there was a moment where she was actually happy?
AIPT: Haha, perfect. In your X-Men run, what made you want to make it an anthology series centering around Cyclops and his family?
Jonathan: I dig the whole Summers clan, but the original idea behind the book was kind of a travelogue for Krakoa, with Cyclops being our guide. It was supposed to just be 12 issues and very different when it was first planned out, and that obviously changed a lot by the time I got to write issue one.
A big thing that I really regret not getting to try was how we wanted to execute the launch of the entire X-Line. My initial idea was to use the X-Men title as a springboard for the other books. So, X-Men #1 would have been about the Hellfire Trading Company and then we would have launched Marauders two weeks later. Then two weeks after Marauders #1, and because of the complications introduced in that story, X-Men #2 would have been about the need for a mutant CIA, and then we would have launched X-Force #1 two weeks after that…
And on and on for the entire line.
The thinking behind this was, sure, number one issues are already really, really tricky, and this would be a cool cheat code for that, but these new titles had even heavier lifting to do than normal because they were introducing concepts, characters, and themes, against a backdrop that unfamiliarized familiar titles.
Those plans changed for a lot of very good reasons — including bandwidth and time — but it’s definitely an experiment that we need to do at some point because I think it might be a super effective way to launch an entire line in a really streamlined manner.
I guess we’ll see.
AIPT: I feel like there are so many X-Fans who crave spoilers. It was on full display in the questions I received for this edition. They seem to constantly want to know what happened or what’s going to happen next — or just have everything spelled out for them so there’s only one, definitive interpretation of events. I think it’s safe to say the X-Men line became a lot more mysterious while you worked on the books. You didn’t do many interviews and previews were often two pages (if that) compared to other Marvel previews. I know you spoke about this in a recent newsletter — the desire to bring back the element of surprise to comics. Based on your time with the line, do you feel like X-Men comics, where fan speculation and theories are just baked into the experience, benefit from a sense of mystery?
Jonathan: Just to be clear, if I had my way, there would be no previews of anything ever, no cover reveals, no review copies, and no embargoed coverage.
This is especially true at the page count and price that we’re charging. It’s just a bad transaction that robs readers of joy and kills the fun of actually telling stories.
I’ve tried to sell us just lying about everything when we solicit and market stuff, but something something about fraud and constipated lawyers but what do these people expect, I get paid to lie for a living.
Let me do my job.
Anyway, of course it makes things exciting. It’s why you wrap the presents instead of just sitting them under the tree.
AIPT: Looking ahead, does what comes next for the X-Line have your fingerprints on it in any way? Or was your job very much focusing on Inferno and queuing the rest of the X-Slack up for success?
Jonathan: Pretty much the last thing I’ll be doing in the office is a big three-day X-Summit that’s the precursor to us presenting Marvel with what the next few years looks like. I’m sure we’ll be answering questions the company might have about the storytelling choices the group is making, but that will be easy to do in this case because we’ve been individually working on this for a while. The summit is where we’ll be taking everything that everyone has planned, integrate that with the bigger ideas regarding the direction of the line, seeing how it all lines up, and then making sure it has some kind of structure and rhythm.
It’s all in very good shape. I’m sure I’ll feel even stronger about that after the summit.
As for ‘fingerprints’, you know, what I’m adding right now are just plans and ideas. Some framework. Some cool hooks. A few character beats. Things like that. But the books that will come out after I’m gone are where this stuff will live — where it will matter. I’ve gotten both too much credit and too much blame over the last couple of years we’ve been doing this. I don’t mind the blame, I do mind the credit. Which is always unfair. Especially in this sense. When I’ll be out the room when the stuff is being produced. I dunno, man, spread the love, right?
AIPT: Dave (Comic Book Herald) was wondering if your new Marvel projects connect to the work you’ve done on X-Men in any way. Or will they be something completely different?
Jonathan: It’s probably too early to talk about my next thing. Especially in any way that would answer your question in a satisfying manner, but it’s definitely not X-related. In fact, unless I come back into the office to do something later on, I’ll intentionally steer clear of doing ‘mutant stuff.’
At best it would feel like commentary, and at worst something like that would probably read as me ‘writing over’ everyone. And that, obviously, doesn’t interest me at all.
AIPT: Finally, KingdomX asked, throughout your X-Men run, is there a character or characters you gained a newfound appreciation for?
Jonathan: I’ve said this quite a few places, but the X-Men is pretty much the Marvel that I read when I was a kid. Everything else was DC. So, in the decade that I’ve been doing Marvel work (and excluding obvious cheats like sticking Bobby and Sam in Avengers), this was the first time I’ve gotten a crack at these characters I really love.
I knew I would hit the Magneto stuff pretty hard, and that was fun. In fact, the entirety of the Council was a great time. So many great characters on there.
I guess the answer’s probably Apocalypse, though. That was a surprise. You put Xavier and Magneto in a room, and outside of Emma, you expect them to eat all the candy, but nope. It was the blue guy.
AIPT: I know you’re pretty busy, Jonathan, so thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions! And thanks to X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White for these eXclusive preview images from Inferno #1, featuring stunning Valerio Schiti art!
Wow, is it September 29 yet?
Speaking of the not-too-distant future — I hinted at this earlier, but Jonathan isn’t finished combing through that giant pile of questions, X-Fans. You know I never let a milestone go to waste around here, so look for more reflections from Jonathan on his X-Men run in the giant-sized X-Men Monday #125 — coming in September!
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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