Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Actually, it’s Marauders Monday, because we’ll be digging into what the future holds for Captain Kate Pryde and her crew in the Destiny of X era with new series writer Steve Orlando all day here at AIPT! But before we get started, how could we have a Marauders Monday without a word from the writer who started it all: Gerry Duggan!
Gerry Duggan: Marauders was such a fun comic to help bring into the world. I had the best collaborators and some of the best characters, and we hope everyone enjoyed the show. Our hope was that in success, we could make Marauders a new legacy title for the X-Men line, and Steve Orlando and his collaborators are making that a reality with their brand new direction. I’ve read ahead, and the best Marauders stories are still to come. Hold fast!
AIPT: Thank you, Gerry! And welcome back to X-Men Monday, Steve! Congratulations on your first ongoing X-Men series! You and I first spoke about X-Men in this column way back in August 2019 at Terrificon in Connecticut for X-Men Monday #23. Then, we spoke in X-Men Monday #101 in April 2021 ahead of X-Men: Curse of the Man-Thing #1 and Heroes Reborn: Magneto & The Mutant Force #1. So I’m curious, when and how did you officially get into the X-Office and become the new Marauders writer?
Steve Orlando: It’s been a while, but it hasn’t been that long. What is time in 2020 or 2021, you know? So I’m confident that [X-Men Senior Editor] Jordan D. White reached out to me last year. It must have been, because by the time I was in the office talking about Marauders, the Hellfire Gala stuff was going to print. So it was much earlier than people found out. I was probably working on Marauders for at least five to six months before the announcements started coming out.
I think a lot of folks will look at my history and be like, “Oh, this was always the plan.” But if it was the plan, I sure didn’t know, because when I did Magneto & The Mutant Force, it was like, “Oh my God, if I never get to write the X-Men again, I’m going to get everything into this one issue.”
And the funny thing is, the same thing happened to me on Wonder Woman. I wrote Wonder Woman #51 and it was supposed to be an inventory issue. So I was just like, “Well, I may never get to write this character again, so it has to be a banger.” And then, as we’ve seen, it ended up being like a five-issue run and then cumulatively about a year and a half altogether. Similarly, I had done Curse of the Man-Thing with the X-Men, and we introduced Magik and the Dark Riders, but it was mostly wishful thinking. I thought it was a fun idea. And then we had Magneto & The Mutant Force and that was a different office and it was me and the folks editing that — all X-Men fans — being like, “Oh, we got our hands on these toys, we need to go crazy.”
Anyway, I got a message from Jordan and he said you can pitch something from scratch or we have this book that Gerry Duggan’s coming off of, maybe you’re familiar with Marauders. And at the time, of course, I was familiar with Marauders. I’ve been reading the whole line as a fan and reader.
And you know, the book started out with this two-prong mission of a team that is going to deal with Hellfire Trading and deliver Krakoan medicines to folks who can’t receive them otherwise. And then they also rescue mutants who can’t get to Krakoa under their own power through a gate. And for one reason or another, probably because Emma Frost, Kate Pryde and Sebastian Shaw are great, a lot of the previous run focused on the Hellfire intrigue and things like that.
So me being someone who’s done disaster relief — it’s relatively well known because I can’t stop talking about that I was down in Panama City, Florida, after they got hit very hard by a hurricane doing disaster relief. And my experience there made taking Marauders versus building something from scratch an easy decision because the relief and rescue is very personal to me and something I’ve been part of.
It really came down to the fact that all the pieces were there. When I stepped in the room, you had a team that does something that I’m extremely passionate about in an office and in a world of characters that I’m already extremely passionate about. So it just makes sense for me to slip into the captain’s chair, especially once I found out that Gerry was making his move over to the Tree House.
AIPT: It’s a given that there’ll always be new creative teams helming the flagship X-Men title, but as far as franchises go, Marauders is still pretty new and, aside from an amazing single issue by Vita Ayala, very connected to Gerry Duggan from a writing perspective. How did you approach taking over this series and did you do so with any trepidation?
Steve: Well, I’m trepidatious with every book I take over because you care about these things so much, and you’re also sort of operating in a vacuum for most of the time. Right now, maybe 15 people know what I’m going to do in this book, but then tens of thousands hopefully are going to see it when it comes out.
I didn’t have any worry about taking over the book and what direction it would take, mostly because as I had said, this is something that I’ve lived, you know, and I’ve been there. But there is a general feeling of needing to up your game in the X-Office. Anytime you’re working on the mutants, I would say, but especially in this current era, because Krakoa has been so bold, subversive and great.
So that’s the real challenge, and Gerry’s been incredibly supportive throughout that. So I wasn’t really worried about the handoff, but when you’re in this room with these folks, people like Vita Ayala, Tini Howard and Leah Williams — and now we can talk about Kieron Gillen — he and I were the big secrets for a long time. And Victor LaValle — I could name everyone. That’s the point. Everyone is a killer. Everyone’s doing the work of their career. The call to arms to do the best work possible is there on every book, but it’s probably the most heightened it’s ever been being in the X-Office because everybody’s operating at peak efficiency. So my obligation is to do the same.
AIPT: We’ve learned so much about the X-Slack and the personalities in that virtual room. As one of the ‘new kids’ in the room, what type of energy does Steve Orlando bring to the group?
Steve: [Laughs] Uh, a PG-13 rating? Generously. I’m certainly more crass and stupid than everyone else in the room. But you connect with people in different ways. When I was at DC, a lot of people would often sort of connect me and Al Ewing because we’re both people who tend to pull some pretty deep cuts from our respective companies’ lore and put a new shine on them and show people why they’re great or connect things that folks didn’t know were connected before. And I will admit — you want to talk about trepidation — I was worried that there’s only room for one deep-cut guy in this company.
But quite the opposite has happened. I mean, Al’s been an incredible friend and incredibly welcoming. And if anything, we’ve only aggregated our interest in hidden gems and finding ways to make this lore work for the room and in new ways. And especially in this Krakoan era where half of the iconic villains are on the Quiet Council, there’s a real need to sort of go back and see who you could elevate and who could step up. And that’s one of the reasons that you’ll see Brimstone Love in Marauders Annual #1. It’s one of the reasons some other folks are going to be showing up because again, the pressure is on with how much has changed to craft new challenges and ask new questions.
And if anything, I think because I haven’t been there since the start, that’s one of the things I brought to the room. It’s easy to hit cruise control, but I’m jumping on that car right in the middle. So I certainly had questions about things that I think have made things better and, of course, everyone else has been extremely supportive of what I’m doing, but also there to help me make it better. And that I think is a benefit of the way that the X-Office works. And I’ll tell you, in comics, it’s completely unique. It’s easily the most creative and fulfilling office I’ve been in because we’re not just a room of individuals — which can happen sometimes — especially in a pandemic. But just having everyone there is an asset. If you have a question about someone else’s book, if you have a question about whether something works, or you just want to run stuff by folks, I think it’s the best. And also, to give you a gut check when you’re just so far up your own ass that somebody needs to dial you back a little bit.
AIPT: And speaking of collaboration, what can you tell me about working with artists Creees Lee and Eleonora Carlini on Marauders Annual #1 and Marauders the series, respectively?
Steve: Oh, and we need to remember David Baldeon too, who did the new Brimstone Love design. I’m super excited about it.
And Creees drew it on the interior pages for the first time and he did a great job. Creees also designed the Brimstone Love logo and much of the sort of world surrounding him you’ll see in the annual. The fun thing about this is that I do write a slightly different type of book than Gerry. So there has been a lot to design and rework and man, especially Eleonora, you’ve got so much coming. Oh God, I don’t think we can say their names yet, but we have new factions in the Shi’ar that have just incredible designs that Eleonora has been doing. They’re just visually stunning.
I’m trying to challenge her as much as possible, but it almost can’t be done because she just knocks everything out of the park. It’s not an easy book to draw, because like I said, we can’t be pulling punches in the X-Office.
I love her reworked version of Cassandra Nova. You know, we felt after her initial appearance in the book that it was time to sort of move her past the safari gear that she was wearing. She has changed, although much about her is very much the same. Just the core drive is different as you’ll see. We’re not really softening her as much as we are aiming her in the right direction. And I’m actually really happy with the way she plays in the book because she was bawling at the end of her last appearance and I don’t think that could be her forever or there wouldn’t be much of a character. But where we find her is a really good place and I’m excited about it.
We’re not making excuses for what she did there. Of course, there’s blanket amnesty in Krakoa. Listen, her co-creator Grant Morrison had her on the X-Men in “Here Comes Tomorrow” and they had noted that they planned a redemption arc for her. And I don’t know in a modern context if redeeming someone who did what she did is really the way to go. And I also don’t know if she wants that, but I do think she plays a really good role in the book — heightened by the fact that Eleonora draws her in an amazing way. And you know, she’s mutantkind’s evil stepmother, or I should say, very strict stepmother because she’s now defending them. But she’s just as mean — just directing it somewhere else.
So I got kind of off-track there, but that is all to say there’s a ton of new stuff — I wish I could spoil solicits because I have my most fun solicit for issue 4. But we have already said that we’re dealing with the first generation of mutantkind that were hinted at in House of X. It’s a mystery that goes back 2 billion years. And if you go back 2 billion years, there’s a hell of a lot of new stuff to explore and Creees on the annual and Eleonora on the main book have been amazing collaborators for that. We are not looking backward, except for literally because we’re traveling in deep time and that’s a really exciting place to be.
AIPT: Finally, as you steer the Marauder, where do you find yourself pulling inspiration from as a writer, whether from within comics or in other media?
Steve: Well, when it comes to the roster, it’s always about team dynamics, with the added factor of we knew what books were ending and what books were starting. We wanted to find places for certain people’s stories to continue. So you take factors like that and then you want people that are going to push and pull against each other. If everybody gets along, where’s the drama there?
But there were always going to be things like Aurora and Daken. You want to talk about other things that are important to me? I mean, Daken basically just is me. Personality-wise, he’s an angry bisexual, but it’s also important to me to say that, you know, bisexuality is still valid when you’re in what appears to be a heterosexual relationship. And when I write these characters, they’re never holding a neon sign that says that but it’s there in the way they act and it’s in the way that other characters treat them. So a lot of it is about the dynamics and when characters were going to be available for a spotlight.
Look at Somnus. He was always going to be on the team because I got to create him in the Marvel’s Voices: Pride issue and the chance to actually lock him in and show his role and show how his powers work — of course, he was going to be on that team. And of course, I was going to keep Captain Pryde. I mean, she’s been an icon for a long, long time, but I was especially a fan of the way that she’s grown in the past few years. I mean, even before House of X, but especially in the current era.
So it’s all about how characters are in a clash and not, so to speak. And when it comes to the team, it’s all about discovery. This is about rescue and discovery. I’m a Star Trek fan. This is not a Star Trek book, but this is a team that has a mission and is going to go where they need to go, not where the people want them to go. And we’ve got a headstrong captain who is absolutely willing to die to save even one mutant life. And to save mutant history in this case, living history, if we’re lucky. So this is always going to be a book about discovery. It’s going to be a book about, with the slightest fringes of radical compassion I was writing about in Wonder Woman, but with much more of an edge, and again, with an eye on how we deal with history, how we deal with society.
And that sounds like a book where people are just going to be sitting around and eating crackers all day. But the fact is that we’re dealing with these things across a space blockbuster that stretches 2 billion years into the past.
AIPT: “Space blockbuster” sounds like a great place to end the first part of this conversation. Thanks, Steve, and stay tuned, X-Fans, for the next edition of Marauders Monday, in which Steve breaks down what we need to know about each member of the Marauders cast!
Until then, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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