Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
This is an eXciting one, X-Fans, because author Victor LaValle is finally getting an X-Men Monday all to himself to discuss his new mini-series, Sabretooth! I say “finally” because it was X-Men Monday #100 where we first learned Victor had joined the X-Slack. And that was way back in March 2021!
Well, Sabretooth #1 goes on sale this Wednesday and Victor was kind enough to answer your questions, X-Fans — so let’s get started!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Victor! What was your first X-Men eXperience?
Victor: My first X-Men experience — the one I remember most vividly — is watching Magneto using his powers to free the dead bodies of two Black children that have been killed and left hanging in a schoolyard with the word “Mutie” on their corpses. Of course, I’m talking about God Loves, Man Kills, but it’s that scene in particular that horrified and electrified me. It made me understand how high the stakes were in this comic. I was hooked.
AIPT: This week’s first X-Fan question comes from Kenny, who was curious to learn how you made your way to the X-Office. Was Sabretooth a series you pitched or was it pitched to you?
Victor: I pitched Sabretooth to Jonathan Hickman and Jordan D. White. I’m friendly with Benjamin Percy, we’re both fiction writers who’ve crossed paths in that world, and he let them know I was a lifelong comic fan and that I’d be interested in writing something. When we had our meeting, they asked what story I was interested in telling. There was only one answer for me: what the hell has been happening with Sabretooth? I had some ideas of what might be going on and both Hickman and Jordan seemed to like what I was thinking. Even better, they started tossing their thoughts in, too. And the idea only got bigger, knottier, and more fun as a result. Soon after that, they told me I could tell that story if I wanted to. And I wanted to, real bad.
AIPT: And the rest is history! Next, X-Fan George Park asked, what’s it like taking on such a deplorable character and, as a writer, how do you get inside Sabretooth’s head?
Victor: I like writing the villains more than the heroes, but even by villain standards Sabretooth is a piece of work. The question, for me, became whether or not the situation would offer me a new way into depicting Victor Creed. While we’ve seen him hopping across dimensions, serving Apocalypse, and even turning into a good guy, we haven’t seen him locked away quite like this, not for this long and not — in essence — in the middle of paradise. What might that do to a mutant like Sabretooth? What might he be willing to do in order to escape, especially if his usual methods of clawing and killing might not be all that easy down in the Pit.
AIPT: You just touched on Sabretooth’s long history. Do you have a favorite Sabretooth story of all time?
Victor: I’m a sucker for the “Mutant Massacre.” First, it’s such a big wild story and second, it loops in one of my favorite communities: the Morlocks. I’m a New York kid, born and raised in Queens, spent plenty of my childhood in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn, too. I admit, I identified a lot more with the mutants living in the sewers of NYC than I did with most of the mutants living posh in a New York mansion. And Sabretooth is an absolute horror show down in those tunnels! And I love a good horror show. He’s had other adventures where he’s been more front and center, but it’s the “Mutant Massacre” storyline where I first felt excited by him.
AIPT: X-Fan Mr. Shoebill asked, which comics, books, movies or other media did you read or watch in preparation for writing Sabretooth?
Victor: I went back and reread the Sabretooth stories I’d enjoyed back in the day, like the “Mutant Massacre” and also Larry Hama’s mini-series. It was good to read them again, remind myself of all that was happening there, and to get a different sense of those stories with an older reader’s/writer’s perspective. I’d read some of the Exiles comics, but hadn’t read the whole run of it. That was a lot of fun to dive into. I reread a few old books nonfiction and fiction, in particular, too: Blood in My Eye, Cloudsplitter, Down These Mean Streets. And PJ Harvey’s early albums. She’s second to none when it comes to an atmosphere of doom and menace.
AIPT: In his long publishing history, Sabretooth has been both villain and hero. X-Fan Gabi was curious to learn your thoughts on how X-Men villains and heroes are unique in their ability to change their positions and views — which has been on full display in the Krakoa era.
Victor: My favorite villain stories in the X-Men universe are the ones where they remain villains, but for reasons of expediency, or something else, they decide to work on the right side for a little while but everyone knows this truce isn’t going to last. I like that tension quite a bit. So I’ve enjoyed the Krakoa era, in part, because it’s never been hidden that the villains remain villains. They haven’t had a change of heart, if anything it’s the heroes who have to do the most changing. They have to accept that Sinister and Sebastian Shaw are on the Council with them and hope they won’t make too much trouble. And, of course, Sinister and Shaw have been nothing but trouble in their own subtle ways. All of that is a joy to me.
AIPT: X-Fan and ComicsXF Editor-In-Chief Zack Jenkins said that in your book Big Machine, you described the Unlikely Scholars as “spiritual X-Men.” So, which X-Man do you think would be the most likely Unlikely Scholar (spiritual or otherwise)?
Victor: I appreciate this question! And yes, I definitely was giving my wink and nod to some inspiration when I included that description in the novel. It’s no surprise but Kurt Wagner is easily at the top of my list. He was the perfect person to ground Si Spurrier’s Way of X for exactly this reason. I know he’s a teleporter but his other clear superpower is his faith. I have always loved that Kurt’s faith has never been used to make him look foolish or silly.
There aren’t all that many representations of faith in popular culture where the character isn’t the butt of a joke or underserved in some way. I loved the TV show Yellowjackets but they never did much with the Christian girl on that show, never let her be more than a kind of joke about faith, which was disappointing.
As for other X-Men, Storm has been a goddess so I imagine she’d be a very fine Unlikely Scholar. Magik might fit in quite nicely, too.
AIPT: X-Fan Robert Secundus, also of CXF, was wondering, for readers encountering your work for the first time in Sabretooth, which of your prose novels would you recommend they check out first?
Victor: If you’re a horror fan and you’ve ever enjoyed the work of H.P. Lovecraft, then I’d suggest my novella The Ballad of Black Tom. It’s a story that plays with Lovecraft’s themes while also taking him to task for some of his literary, and personal, shortcomings. All wrapped up in a 1920s Harlem that I hope feels vivid and surprising. Plus, the book is short, so if you hate it you won’t have to suffer through much.
AIPT: Don’t sell yourself short, Victor! As we wrap up, X-Fans ComicbookFanatic and Mr. Shoebill pointed out that in X-Men Monday #125, Jonathan Hickman mentioned Sabretooth would be part of a “triptych” you were working on. What more can you share about what comes neXt?
Victor: As seems clear, this first mini-series is the story of what happened to Sabretooth down in the Pit and, as everyone has guessed, how he eventually makes it out. But then what? He can’t just show up at the Green Lagoon and ask for a bottle of whisky and half a bear to nibble on. So the story I proposed is about what comes afterward. How does the Pit change Sabretooth? And the other mutants who will be down there as well. Victor Creed made a threat, or a promise, to Xavier and the Quiet Council in House of X/Powers of X: “I will make your line extinct.” The rest of my story is about how he does it.
AIPT: First issue isn’t even out and I’m already hooked! The final question is about you and Benjamin Percy. You’re both novelists. You’ve appeared in conversation together. You even praised his recent release, The Ninth Metal. BUT, you’re also Sabretooth’s primary writer and he’s Wolverine’s… so be straight with us, Victor — how many knock-down-drag-out brawls have broken out between you two since you rolled into the X-Slack?
Victor: Please believe me, I’m not getting into any brawls with Benjamin Percy. That man carries an ax everywhere and that’s just to butter his toast! Anyway, I’m a charmer, not a fighter. But me and Ben have definitely been talking about what might eventually happen between our respective wild men, we’ve discussed that a lot.
— Benjamin Percy (@Benjamin_Percy) May 2, 2020
AIPT: If that’s a possible tease… it’s definitely eXciting! But that’s all I have for you, Victor, so thanks so much for taking the time to chat! And remember to pick up Sabretooth #1 this Wednesday, X-Fans! Speaking of teases, here are a few eXclusive images featuring your favorite mutant wild men, courtesy of Jordan.
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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