Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
If you smell smoke, it’s because the Inferno has started to burn! This particular blaze was started by writer Jonathan Hickman, artist Valerio Schiti, color artist David Curiel and letterer Joe Sabino. Oh, and as far as deadly fires go, this one was eXcellent.
Of course, all eXcellent reads breed questions. Fortunately, X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White agreed to return to X-Men Monday to dig into Inferno #1! (His first appearance in the column in 13 editions!)
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Jordan — you’ve been missed! This is the first time we’ve talked on the record since the Krakoa-shattering news about Jonathan Hickman stepping away from the X-Men dropped. So, when did you learn that Jonathan would be departing from the X-Office and was Inferno something he presented to the X-Slack or did everyone work together to arrive at a logical transition story?
Jordan: Oh, interesting. The answer is that I’ve known he’s going to step off for a long time. Jonathan has talked a lot — I mean, in X-Men Monday — about the change. But I feel like no matter how emphatic he is about it, people still kind of misconstrue it — that Jonathan came in with a plan and then everybody poo-pooed that plan so much that he left and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Jonathan came in with a plan and then the plan changed based on the actual unfolding of the story and how everything played out.
It wasn’t a case where Marvel said to him, “We don’t like your idea anymore — change it.” Or where the writers said, “We don’t like your idea — change it.” Everybody loved Jonathan’s idea, including me. But after seeing how things started to unfold, Jonathan said, “I think we might want to not do this.” It was his suggestion and I think he said the whole time that he came in — even when it was the three-act plan — he came in going, “But who knows how long act one will last.” In fact, at first, we didn’t call it three acts. We called it “year one,” “year two,” “year three.” But relatively early on, we stopped saying that because it’s not a year. Like, “year one” could be 10 years — we don’t know how long it will be.
So the plan didn’t change because no one liked Jonathan’s plan. The plan changed because Jonathan changed his mind about what we should do. There are absolutely aspects of it that are going to happen. And there are at least some aspects that won’t happen. But that’s all part and parcel. And, of course, I can’t say too much about any of that, because that’s all the future of the comics. As you saw from a bunch of social media posts last week, Jonathan is still heavily involved in what we’re doing. He was at our summit all three days, helping us plan out the next three years worth of stories basically. So, his influence is going to be felt very heavily going forward. He just isn’t going to be writing a monthly book.
But to your question about Inferno, it’s been awhile. It has been a long time that I’d known he was leaving — all of us have. A lot of the things we’ve been doing and setting up have been getting things in place for that. And Inferno — originally it wasn’t called Inferno. It was called something else. But the other thing it was called is a title we’re going to be using shortly. So I’m not going to tell you what that title was, but it used to be called something else. And it was always going to be his finale since I knew he was leaving. This is not the end game of his many, many years-long story, but this is where he said, “This is the story I’m going to tell and then I’m going to step away.”
And again, I’m sorry, I just need to emphasize, he’s not stepping away with any disappointment or anger. He’s stepping away with love. He’s very happy with what we’re doing. He’s very excited about all the plans we have. He and I worked so closely with every single writer working on the line. I know he’s really proud of them and the work that they’re doing and that’s why he’s comfortable stepping away.
AIPT: And will Jonathan still be considered the Head of X?
Jordan: No. I mean, again, he’s working with us because he cares about the story. He wants it to be the best story possible. And again, he is like our partner and collaborator on these things, but he’s not going to be Head of X. He’s not going to be working on the books with us going forward. He’s just making sure we had a great plan, which I think we did.
AIPT: So will a new Head of X be appointed or is that title retired?
Jordan: I don’t believe there will be a new Head of X.
AIPT: So I can’t become Head of X?
Jordan: I mean, once it’s not in the comics, I guess it’s up for grabs and you can just put that on your resume.
AIPT: I can put it on my license plate.
Jordan: Make a license plate — I mean, listen, if you said, “X-Men Monday by the Head of X,” first of all, you’d get a lot more hate mail because everyone would then assume you’re responsible for all the stories, but I guess you can do it, yeah.
AIPT: Meh, I’m used to it. You mentioned the recent X-Summit. How’d it go?
Jordan: It was great, it was a blast. We’re still working remotely — we’re not in an office anymore. So back in the day, literally two weeks before the pandemic struck, you might remember all the X-Writers were in a physical room together at C2E2 with an omelette station.
AIPT: I never forget an omelette station.
— Jordan D. White (@cracksh0t) March 2, 2020
Jordan: Those kinds of summits were the tradition. You’re in a room together for like eight to 10 hours straight. And then there’s also, you know, drinks and dinner afterwards and stuff. So it’s like a real solid day of doing stuff. Now, obviously that is almost impossible now because first of all, we’re not all getting together, given the world situation, but as far as even Zoom goes, we can’t do a 10-hour Zoom because we’ve got writers on the West Coast in California. We’ve got writers in England. That’s what, like an eight-hour difference? Like that’s too big of a divergence to make everybody get up that early and stay up that late.
So what we ended up doing was we did three days in a row, three hours a day on the East Coast. It was 12 to 3 p.m. and it turned out really nicely. It’s not like we literally have a plot that we can just hand to someone else and let them carry out our plans. Like, it’s all still pretty malleable because like I said, it’s three years worth of stuff. But we planned out the biggest beats on the big directions that we’re going to be going in. It’s definitely going to change over the course of three years. All sorts of things change over the course of three years. But it’s a really nice roadmap that we’re very excited about.
AIPT: And Leah Williams posted a screenshot on Twitter with two writers’ faces blurred out. Were those the only two mystery writers there or were there others?
From the x-summit this week. I wish I remembered what we were cracking up about when I grabbed this. pic.twitter.com/X0jkwYNlV5
— Leah Williams (@mymonsterischic) September 24, 2021
Jordan: There were two writers that are unannounced as of right now. And I should mention, just to clarify, one of them unfortunately was not Victor LaValle, but that’s not because he’s not involved, it’s because he unfortunately couldn’t make it to the summit because he had conflicts. But Victor is still working with us and we’re very excited about the stuff he’s doing with Sabretooth — it’s a really great series that’s going to be fun. But no, there are two writers that we haven’t announced, which isn’t to say there won’t be more writers, but there were only two who were at that summit.
AIPT: OK, we’re here to discuss Inferno #1, so let’s pivot, starting with an X-Fan question from aleX, who asked: What’s the X-Office’s mission statement with Inferno?
Jordan: I don’t know how to answer that question… to do an awesome comic everybody’s excited about? And also sell books?
No, I mean, again, this is a big story that Jonathan’s been planning to tell for a long time and he’s been working really hard on and it addresses some of the ongoing mysteries that we’ve been letting percolate over the course of the X-Books.
I guess the question is sort of implying that my answer will be to wrap up everything or something like — “The end of the Krakoan era!” It’s a really big story that has some really awesome and big moments for some really important characters.
Sorry, I want to say it’ll change the X-Line going forward — and it will, but I want to interrogate that sentence for a moment because obviously, “everything will be different now” is the thing that gets said a lot in comics stories. So I think it’s worth talking about what I mean when I say that. So back at the summit we were just talking about, I said we planned out three years worth of stories. Now, what I mean by that is not so I can tell you, “Then in August of 2023, this is what’s going to be happening in Marauders.” Like, that’s not what I mean. What I mean is we are planning the kind of larger direction of the line. This is the uber story that the X-World is going through in each individual book that can affect it in lots of different ways and that’s up to the individual writers and artists and editors to work out how that fits into the bigger picture.
So when I say Inferno will change things for the X-Line in a big way, that means that it’s a place where big things happen for the uber story of the line.
AIPT: And then there were two questions about when Inferno takes place. X-Fan Kingdom X asked if it takes place before or after X-Men: The Trial of Magneto and X-Fan Kenny wanted to know if Inferno is running alongside the regular X-Titles or after?
Jordan: Great question. The answer is the large bulk of Inferno takes place after most of the current X-Titles, including The Trial of Magneto. The large bulk of it takes place then, but that said, Inferno takes place over a period of time. So some of it doesn’t and I think how much and what will become clear. Think about House of X and Powers of X, especially just issue one. It’s not clear from issue one the timing of everything. It becomes clear over the course and the same is true with this. By the time you’re done reading Inferno, it should be very clear how long has passed and what parts of it took place earlier than the rest of it. You could probably even guess at some of that, but that’s where we stand right now.
AIPT: Now, I know you’re a fan of these characters so be straight with me, Jordan… did Orchis kill the Technet?
Jordan: Oh, there’s no way that they killed the Technet. I’m sorry. It looks like they should have — they’re super deadly, but listen, I can’t let that happen! Somehow, at the last second, China Doll shrunk everybody else down into tiny miniatures and Scatterbrain confused everyone and they all escaped. Like I’m sorry. I can’t let them be dead.
AIPT: Get that Wikipedia page updated, Technet fans! Moving on, I loved seeing that the “apes with PhDs” from X-Men #1 wasn’t just a throwaway gag. When it comes to the inclusion of characters like Dr. Smyth and Dr. Jones, are these characters and plots Jonathan always intended to bring back or are these types of fun moments the result of the ultra-collaborative X-Slack?
Jordan: Well, I want to say both, except this is Jonathan’s story. So, we all knew Jonathan had this. I mean, people have certainly suggested things to Jonathan that he’s taken, but I would say the bulk of the suggesting happens in the other direction with him coming up with great things that we’ll figure out ways to incorporate. I think Jonathan just had that idea to have that scene happen because it’s insane and ridiculous. And I don’t know that he was like, “There will be a scene where these apes talk to the Hordeculture.” But I think he was like, “Yeah, obviously we’ll bring them back there.” They’re super smart apes. Like, of course there’ll be back.
I don’t want to speak for Jonathan and his writing style entirely, but if I remember correctly, I feel like I’m thinking about a book Stephen King did about writing — and it’s been a long time since I read it, so I’m sure I’m going to say this wrong. But the way I remember it is I remember him talking about not necessarily having all the things planned out and kind of going, I write in a way that puts things in place that I can use later. Like, it’s not like I necessarily go, here’s this thing and here’s how I’m going to use it later. It’s that I go, here’s the thing that I can use. And then as the story comes together, I tie those things together. Of course, in a novel, you can also go back and change things. It’s a lot harder in comics because things usually are published, so we can’t go back and have them say something about this to reference that.
So you do have to plan a little bit more that way or become more clever about how you set things up. And I think Jonathan is good at both of those things. I think Jonathan is good at both planning incredibly far out and at writing things in such a way that it leaves him maneuverability and the ability to pick things up and use them again.
AIPT: Based on the scene with Bishop’s promotion, I get the sense the Captains of Krakoa work hard but also play hard. There seems to be a real sense of camaraderie there, even if we haven’t seen much of it on panel. How would you describe this group’s culture?
Jordan: Wow, that’s a really great question. I mean, I think this scene is the first time we’ve ever really seen them in that light. And I think it’s pretty awesome. For the most part before this, the only time we’ve really referenced the Captains is in a crisis. One of them will take control or be commanding in a situation. But this scene really explored the idea of like, what are they together? Like, do they talk, do they consult? And I think that is a fascinating thing. I wouldn’t mind seeing it. I know that Gerry Duggan did a lot of work with Bishop talking about things like his plans and his war college. I would absolutely love to see more of both of those things and it’s just the question of if we can find the real estate for it. Like honestly, a Four Captains of Krakoa mini-series would be pretty awesome. You never know, maybe we can make that happen.
AIPT: I’ll get on that.
AIPT: So we’re not going to see them cut loose in Madripoor?
Jordan: No, the rest of that scene, I’m sorry, is not continued. There’s bigger Inferno fish to burn.
AIPT: OK, before we wrap up, in House of X #6, Charles said “It’s distasteful, I know… this business of running a nation.” While we’ve definitely seen the strong bonds between Charles, Erik and Moira in the past, by the time we get to Inferno #1, do you think these three would even consider each other friends anymore? Or are they so dedicated to their mission that they’ve moved past concepts like friendship, love, trust, respect and so on?
Jordan: Well, that’s heavy, man.
The answer is I think their relationship is certainly complicated. If you take the pairing of Xavier and Magneto, though, I think their friendship has already been incredibly complicated over the years. Could they have been said to be friends that whole time? The answer is no, of course not. Except, the answer is also kind of yes. So I think that no matter how tense and crazy and draining and taxing overall the burdens of Krakoa become, they have something that is beneath that all that will survive it. There’s something that underlies the relationship that every once in a while things happen that strain it. And then it comes back together somehow even when they are bitter enemies, not the whole time, but a lot of the time you see that underlying bond and understanding that they have of each other and affection that they have for each other.
Moira is very complicated. It’s a much more complicated proposition because we have not seen the truth of Moira in all of those comics. I mean, you can easily look and go, well, if you look at their relationship over the years — but we’re not seeing their whole relationship over those years because it’s only with House of X that we’ve revealed her true nature. So it’s difficult because you have to map that against it.
And listen, I know the fans have done the homework and will tell me that there are scenes where it’s very hard to map against. That’s what happens when you do a 60-year story written by hundreds of people — not every page of it lines up, but we try to be as consistent as we can anyway. So you map that and you have to kind of do a little bit of the work to go, “What was her thinking in that moment? What was her thinking in their relationship when it looks like they’re just good friends and she’s agreed as a brilliant scientist to be their maid for some reason.” [Laughs]
What is her real end game? I think that right now she’s pretty freaking mad at them, because she gave them two jobs.
AIPT: They’re also tracking her.
Jordan: She was pretty shocked, but like, she kind of should have seen that coming. I want to say they’re not trustworthy, but it’s more of the thing of, you can always trust them to be themselves.
But I think that’s why that line you quoted from House of X is so appropriate because I think they are characters to whom this setting of nation building is appropriate. They’re not Captain America, you know? They’re not Captain America who says there are ideals and you do not go against them. And you’re always striving for the ultimate goal, but there are lines you don’t cross it order to get there. There are no ends that justify certain means. Like, that is not any of these three characters. They are much more the characters that say, “I will do what needs to be done in order to achieve the goal that we have.” And unfortunately, in the world that we have all lived in our whole lives and the world that we’re writing about on Krakoa right now — there rarely is a nation state ideal. They are very frequent and well — I guess I don’t have the authority to say literally always, but it certainly feels that way — always making compromised decisions out of their interests, many of which are self-interests. They will do bad to achieve good. And does that taint the whole thing? That’s the question.
I mean, again, Professor X is especially a hard one. He started out kind of a dick always. But at least at first he was a dick who just wants something good. And then the longer the story went on, it was like, oh, he’s not just a dick, he’s really done some awful things. There are points at which — and I’m not going to lie — there are points as a reader at which Professor X seemed like irredeemably tainted. And that’s happened to many characters over the years. And I think the more stories you put out about them, you can get away from that a little bit. You can kind of put some distance between the character and the thing that they did that seems like they can never come back from. So I think he has moved past that a bit. He’s certainly not perfect and that seems kind of in keeping with the leader of a nation.
AIPT: It’s so interesting. I mean, you know this, that’s why you’re doing it. But it’s so fascinating to see how Krakoa affects people differently. You look at two original X-Men. You have Beast, who admits he’s become a bastard out of necessity. Then you have Cyclops, who’s finally able to just enjoy life.
Jordan: Well, and that’s again the complication of the world. And I know some people — probably for this reason — don’t like what we’re doing, because they don’t necessarily want their superhero comics to be this complicated morally. There are things that the United States has done that are extremely negative. But I also love living here and I love my life. And like, so much of that is because of what has been built here. So is the whole thing awful? Is the whole thing Good? The answer is no on both counts. Is there a little meter that will teeter to one side of good or bad and declare what it actually is? That meter doesn’t exist. It’s inside of every person and they get to decide for themselves. And it’s the same with Krakoa. Scott has found a really beautiful place that he finds worth protecting. He doesn’t necessarily know about the dark things that are happening. He knows some. We’ll see, we’ll see what happens.
AIPT: He also loves elephants.
Jordan: Well, the X-Men, in general, love elephants.
AIPT: I tweeted the panel from Uncanny X-Men #3 of Cyclops blasting a circus elephant after X-Men #3 came out.
Jordan: Well, that was well before he ever met Mammomax and now he’s changed entirely.
AIPT: OK, it’s time for “This is What Comes NeXt” — what can you tease about Inferno #2?
Jordan: What can I tease about Inferno #2? Certainly not a lot. You will find out the for sure truth about what’s up at the end of that scene at the end of Inferno #1. And more problems will arise too. Things get worse.
AIPT: Destiny takes her mask off and she’s actually Madelyne Pryor and it becomes a direct sequel to the original Inferno.
Jordan: I will spoil that that’s not what’s going to happen.
AIPT: But we do know Maddie is maybe coming back in Hellions.
Jordan: I can’t say. You’ll see. But I will say she’s not Destiny — I will absolutely confirm that.
AIPT: I’m just trying to muddy the waters.
Jordan: [Laughs] No, she’s actually in disguise as Mr. Sinister. It’s a very good disguise.
AIPT: And refresh my memory, who’s the artist on Inferno #2?
Jordan: Inferno #2 is Stefano Caselli — it’s gorgeous. We’ve already sent it to press. It’s a terrific issue. We’re well on our way on Inferno #3 and Inferno #4 is being drawn as well. It’s going to be pretty epic. It’s going to have a hell of an ending. And I think people are going to love it.
AIPT: I just remembered Valerio had a question. He shared the call for questions and asked if the deadline for Inferno #4 could be extended.
“Can we extend the deadline of Inferno #4?” https://t.co/Ur7pV6lD6D
— 🔥Valerio Schiti🔥 (@ValerioSchiti) September 29, 2021
Jordan: [Laughs] Terrific. I love it. No, I’m sorry. Get your pages in.
AIPT: I tried, Valerio! On that note, Jordan, thanks so much for taking the time to chat about Inferno #1! Looking forward to doing this again after Inferno #2 goes on sale. I know you can’t wait for that day, X-Fans, so here are a few eXclusive preview images from that very issue, courtesy of Jordan, to tide you over.
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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