Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
The House of Ideas’ Marvel’s Voices series has been a wonderful, recurring treat, allowing a diverse collection of creators to give fan-favorite characters the spotlight they deserve. And, for your humble X-Men Monday organizer, it provides a chance to talk to writers new to the column.
For Indigenous Voices, X-Men Monday had Darcie Little Badger talking Dani Moonstar. For Pride, it was Terry Blas, Kieron Gillen and Leah Williams discussing Anole, Prodigy and Jessie Drake, respectively, as well as Anthony Oliveira and Steve Orlando talking Iceman and Daken. Most recently, it was Christina Strain revisiting Jubilee for Identity.
This week, we’ve got award-winning writer Alex Segura (The Archies, The Black Ghost, Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall) here to discuss his Sunspot story in Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades #1 — on sale November 10!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Alex!
Alex: I’m so excited to be here, Chris. Big fan of the column. Thanks for having me.
AIPT: Of course! So, first up, what was your first X-Men eXperience?
Alex: My earliest X-Men memory was when I was around 6 or 7 — my dad bringing home a copy of Uncanny X-Men #237, by Chris Claremont and Rick Leonardi — which was midway through Claremont’s first Genosha storyline. Also in that stack was New Mutants #30, also by Claremont with stunning art by Bill Sienkiewicz. In hindsight, it wasn’t the most “new reader friendly” set of issues — but I was pulled in immediately by the story, the amazing artwork, and most importantly, these flawed, compelling characters that were unlike anything I’d read before. I was hooked, and loved the way I had to piece things together over time to get a sense of the bigger picture.
At the time, Marvel was printing Classic X-Men alongside the main X-Books, so I would read the older issues, written by Claremont, and featuring the art of icons like Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, and Paul Smith, and try to keep pace with the new stuff. By middle school, I was a dedicated X-Men and Spider-Man reader, totally hypnotized by the work of artists like Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, and more. The stories also gripped me — after Claremont’s departure, I really connected to the plots from people like Fabian Nicieza and his contemporaries.
The main Claremont run is a major touchstone for me as a fan and writer, and I try to go back to it every few years to enjoy the novelistic approach he took to those characters — which was completely unheard of at the time. Just wonderful stories and character development.
AIPT: Clearly, you’re a fan. How did you become involved with Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades?
Alex: It was fairly straightforward. The fantastic editorial team on the book, Sarah Brunstad and Lauren Amaro, reached out and asked if I wanted to be involved. I don’t think I’ve ever responded to an email faster! It came together pretty quickly — we went back and forth on characters and then we were off to the races.
AIPT: You’ve said Sunspot is one of your favorite X-Characters. (Click here to listen to Alex talking all things Roberto da Costa on the eXcellent Cerebro podcast!) Obviously, Roberto’s pretty great, but what is it about the character that most appeals to you?
Alex: I’m a Cuban-American kid from Miami, and I was raised in a bilingual home where we had this constant sense of — for lack of a better term — “over there.” Meaning, Cuba — this country my parents had to escape to find freedom here in the U.S. I loved all the superheroes I read about as a kid, but few felt like they really represented me, or came close. With Roberto, I felt an immediate connection to him — not only as one of the New Mutants who was pulled from his home for a bigger cause or mission but because I felt like we shared some similarities in terms of our backgrounds.
Now, as anyone will tell you, the Latinx experience is not monolithic at all, so it was not a one-for-one thing — but I could relate to Roberto and Sunspot in a way I hadn’t with any superheroes up to that point. I had a similar experience with Miguel O’Hara, the 2099 Spider-Man. It was eye-opening, and an important moment for me as a reader and eventually as a writer.
AIPT: OK, I have a two-part question: What is the best Sunspot story and what is an underrated Sunspot story that doesn’t get enough love?
Alex: I’m not sure if it’s the best, but I always go back to Roberto as drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz — I think the artist that perfectly captured the visual aspect of his powers. Of Bill’s run, I’m most fond of the three-part story that featured Cloak and Dagger, and Roberto’s powers going out of control. That story was soon followed by the Gladiators tale I mentioned earlier, which saw Roberto under their thrall. I think I liked both of those tales because it featured Roberto being overcome in some way, but still fighting his way back and succeeding — which is a major part of his character: overcoming adversity.
As far as a story that doesn’t get enough love — I think his X-Force era is quite interesting. Not a specific issue, but the idea that one of the original New Mutants would leave the team and basically go to the wrong side really intrigued me as a kid, because I had such a great affection for the character. Whether it was working with Gideon or the Reignfire stuff — it was always cool to keep tabs on what Roberto was doing while the core team carried on.
AIPT: Without giving too much away, what can X-Fans expect from your Sunspot story with artist Alba Glez, inker José Marzan Jr. and color artist Cris Peter?
Alex: Well, it looks beautiful — Alba is so talented and her line work is dynamic and evocative. I was so happy to see those pages coming in. But yes, without spoiling anything — I think fans will get a story that echoes Roberto’s beginnings and really tries to get to the core of who he is. It was such an honor to write and add to this great mythos. I can’t get over it.
AIPT: I can’t wait to read it! What does getting to participate in Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades mean to you as a writer?
Alex: I grew up an X-Men kid. I liked the Avengers and Fantastic Four fine, but the X-Men were my team — they were the outcasts, the freaks, and they did the right thing despite being hated. I think on some level, if you’re ever ostracized or picked on, you can relate to that. And the New Mutants were even more special to me because I was the same age as those characters — it’s like the sidekick idea: the sidekick represents the reader. Well, the New Mutants were a team of teens like me, who would hopefully one day graduate to become X-Men. Nothing seemed cooler than that. That was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with these characters and this world, so it was really a dream come true to be able to play in that sandbox and honor what was such a big part of my own life.
AIPT: You’ve written full-length comics and novels. How does writing a short comic story compare? Is it a lot easier or more challenging given the space limitations?
Alex: It’s a challenge — you don’t have the same kind of breathing room you would with a mini-series, issue, or a novel. You don’t have much runway, so your story is really a vignette — you have to give the reader enough to chew on, but you can’t really take narrative detours to emphasize your point or spotlight anything. It’s about character and theme, which is really challenging — but also fulfilling. You want to get to the core of your story and trim the fat because there’s no space for anything else. It’s a very rewarding puzzle.
AIPT: I’m curious, we all know Sunspot and Cannonball are BFFs, but speaking purely as a Sunspot fan, is there an X-Men character you’d love to see Roberto interact with more or for the first time?
Alex: Cyclops is my favorite X-Man, and I think he and Roberto have a lot of overlap in terms of character — they’re both conflicted, emotional, and very talented people who have also experienced their share of tragedy. I’d love to explore that dynamic or read about it in some way.
AIPT: Scott’s my favorite too. As we wrap up, a thought I had: You spent some time writing in the Archie universe. Do you think Roberto would have a blast visiting Riverdale?
Alex: I think so! He’d definitely liven up Pop’s Choklit Shop if his temper flared up.
AIPT: Finally, for the X-Fans who only read all things X-Men, what are some of your past, current or future projects you think X-Fans should check out?
Alex: If you enjoy reading about hotheaded teens like Sunspot, you’ll definitely enjoy my Star Wars novel, Poe Dameron: Free Fall, which reveals Poe’s origins and the events that defined him in advance of The Force Awakens. It’s out now via Disney Books.
My next crime novel, Secret Identity, is coming in March from Flatiron Books, too — and tells the story of a Cuban-American woman, Carmen Valdez, who moves from Miami to New York City to work in comics in the 1970s. She gets a secretarial job at a third-rate comic book company but finds no path toward writing — which is her dream. Desperate for a shot, she secretly co-creates a character with a colleague, which then becomes a huge hit — The Legendary Lynx. But shortly after the book debuts, her collaborator is murdered, so no one knows Carmen created this super-popular comic. She then has to basically try and solve the crime herself — to find out who killed her friend and to reclaim her character. The book is a prose novel, but will also feature illustrated comic book sequences drawn by Sandy Jarrell, telling the story of the Lynx, the comic Carmen creates in the novel. I hope people dig it!
AIPT: Nice, that sounds great! Alex, thanks again for stopping by X-Men Monday at AIPT — you’re welcome back anytime!
And remember, X-Fans, Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades #1 goes on sale November 10. Here’s an eXclusive look at the story’s first page, courtesy of our friends at Marvel!
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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