Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
What if… Jonathan Hickman’s revolutionary House of X and Powers of X happened a lot earlier in Marvel publishing history? Like, during the mega-popular, ultra-radical early ’90s, dude. That’s the idea behind the new mini-series X-Men ’92: House of XCII, written by Steve Foxe, illustrated by Salva Espin, with covers by David Baldeon. Before the first issue goes on sale April 6, 2022, surely, you have a lot of questions about this very fun concept.
Fortunately, Steve was more than happy to take the time to field a few X-Fan questions. So strap into the X-Men Monday time machine because we’re going back to ’92!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Steve! In Marvel’s X-Men ‘92: House of XCII announcement, you mentioned one of your earliest memories was buying a Garrison Kane action figure. For those who are unfamiliar with your writing and editing work, could you share a bit about your history with the X-Men?
Steve Foxe: And I still have that Kane figure (as well as the more detailed one they made later) in my parents’ basement! Along with Pokémon and the SNES, the X-Men are really among my earliest pop-culture memories. I was born in the late ’80s, so I was perfectly timed to enjoy the Toy Biz toys and the Animated Series and just the general X-blitz of the ’90s. I also stumbled across a VHS of Pryde of the X-Men when I was 3 or 4 and practically wore it out. You can imagine my confusion when Wolverine wasn’t Australian and Dazzler barely appeared in the Animated Series…
After that, there was really no looking back. I started a pull list as a kid and have never NOT followed the X-Men. My office has framed design sheets for Dazzler from her solo series, an animated tribute piece from Russell Dauterman, and a New X-Men promotional poster. I have a tattoo of Cyclops as a cat. A few years ago, I started a complete chronological read of every X-Men comic ever (starting with Giant-Size) and have just about looped back to where I started reading comprehensively as a kid, so there’s not much in the mutant realm I haven’t somehow taken in!
The fandom aspect aside, I went to college to study writing and editing and was lucky enough to intern at Marvel a little over a decade ago. I wore a tie and dress shoes and everything to my interview, and Jordan D. White, who’s now the editor of the X-Men line, walked in wearing a Sailor Moon T-shirt. Once I graduated, I started working full time in children’s editorial while writing and pitching on the side. Eventually, the writing took off enough that I left my day job. I’m pressing fast-forward here, and folks can see the other books I’ve written at SteveFoxe.com, but my licensed children’s work helped bring me to the attention of Scholastic, who offered me Spider-Ham as part of their partnership with Marvel. Jordan and I had kept in touch over the years, and he enjoyed Ham enough to reach out about X-Men ‘92. When he DM’d me to get my email address, I truly thought he was going to ask me for recommendations for vegan restaurants in the city or something, but this was much, much better.
AIPT: I’d say so! Now, X-Men ‘92: House of XCII sounds like such a fun concept — something that’s equal parts What If? story and cover song. How did this idea — and your involvement — come to be?
Steve: My involvement came about via spider-powered pig, as explained above (and if we’re getting technical, he’s kind of a pig-ified spider, but that’s a story for another book — two in fact, which you should order from your local retailer now), but the IDEA came from Jordan originally. He knew he wanted a 30th-anniversary project for X-Men ‘92, but wasn’t married to any specific plot. He threw out the wild idea of trying to condense the entire Krakoa era into five issues — much like how the Animated Series would adapt full arcs into one or two episodes — as one possibility. I’m such a huge fan of the current books and the creators driving them that I didn’t even consider pitching alternatives. I dove right into figuring out how to do the Krakoa saga justice while moving at breakneck speed and paying tribute to the iconic ’90s era of the franchise. Especially because there’s so much that seems incongruous — the high-concept cerebral Hickman stuff versus the excessive action and heightened emotion of the ’90s — making that contradiction make sense just seemed like the perfect premise. It’s more of a tribute band than a cover song.
AIPT: Noted on the distinction! This week’s first X-Fan question comes from Juju Pix, who asked if X-Men ‘92: House of XCII is based on the events of the ‘90s X-Men comics, the ‘90s animated series or a mixture of both?
Steve: Obviously the ‘92 comics are done with a heavy wink and a nod, but as I think my predecessors Chris Sims and Chad Bowers acknowledged when they wrote the prior ‘92 series, this is technically a self-contained continuity heavily influenced and inspired by the Animated Series. We’re not a tie-in to the upcoming cartoon, which is honestly great because, as a fan, I can’t wait to be surprised by what that team cooks up.
This also means I get to blend my influences a bit. I set a self-imposed rule of only using characters who appeared on the show or before 1992 and bent that rule just a handful of times for characters from ‘93 through ‘95. There are some characters who made it into House of XCII specifically because they randomly had a cameo on the cartoon, or I was always curious about their action figure but had no real clue who they were when I was 7 years old.
But there’s also no hard and fast continuity you need to know to enjoy the series. It’s not like X-Men Legends, where stories are set in very specific windows of narrative time. The idea is to embrace the most iconic version of the franchise and characters we have trapped in amber in our memories and build the story off of that golden nostalgic feeling of the team. They’ve leaped off a lunchbox or T-shirt and into this story.
AIPT: You’ve mentioned this story doesn’t just cover House of X and Powers of X. Without spoiling too much, what can you tease about the ground covered in this mini-series, and how did you pick and choose which story beats from the Dawn and Reign of X eras to explore through the ‘92 lens?
Steve: Yeah, as soon as the first solicit went live, I realized folks might not realize that we are going HARD on the Krakoa era and covering a lot of ground. Right from the beginning, the pitch was to take this massive, sprawling era and distill it into five issues, including a wholly original ending, since Krakoa isn’t anywhere close to slowing down in the 616, thank Apocalypse. This also got rolling before a single issue of Inferno was finished, so that fifth and final issue was an extra-big question mark. Jordan offered to tell me some Inferno plot points early but I wanted to experience them fresh as a reader!
When it came to narrowing down the plot beats to adapt, I gravitated toward the moments when the various books crossed over — the all-hands-on-deck events. That’s not to say other fun bits didn’t sneak their way in, but it wouldn’t feel like Krakoa without some sword clashing and fancy dancing, now would it?
AIPT: Swords and dancing are as essential to Krakoa as resurrection. NeXt up, X-Fan Chuck said one of the things that made HoX/PoX work so much is that the X-Men had walked through such deep levels of trauma and horror that the idea of them getting a safe place like Krakoa was such a deep revelation, and while the ‘92 squad have been through hell and back, they are in a lot of ways more innocent than our 616 X-Men. Did that difference complicate your path to making this Krakoa feel as revolutionary?
Steve: That’s a great observation and one that we didn’t even fully appreciate when we got started. I was telling a friend about a brief scene in the Crucible when he asked what purpose it served if this timeline had never lived through “No More Mutants.”
That said, whether in the comics or the cartoon, the X-Men had experienced quite a bit by the early ’90s, including mutant enslavement on Genosha, a look into at least one future where mutants had been rounded up and targeted for extermination, and the rise and fall of Asteroid M. In fact, I’d say the Animated Series foregrounded the “hated and feared” aspect even more than a lot of the comics did at times.
One of the things that struck me when I started my chronological X-read is that there are large swaths of the comics that barely *actively* engage with the mutant metaphor because they’re focused on fun, exciting plots about aliens and other dimensions and magic and whatnot. That’s not a criticism — the line can’t always be about just one thing — but as a kid, I remember the cartoon hitting that beat very consistently. I mean, the pilot sees the X-Men acting as freedom fighters (and their critics would use a less flattering term) for the cause of protecting fellow mutants from government registration.
So I do think the X-Men of the early ’90s would feel just as relieved and grateful for a safe homeland and would be just as willing to fight for it. Especially if, say, a prominent character died just before the series opens, further inspiring the ones left behind. Cough cough hint hint.
AIPT: Interesting… also interesting, X-Fan Hickman (hmmm…) said that some major characters, like certain members of the Five, weren’t around in the ‘90s. Others, like Emma Frost, have changed a lot. How will you deal with this in your story?
Steve: Big fan, Mr. Hickman! I touched on this a bit above, but I was pretty strict with myself when it came to character debuts. There are just two appearances in all five issues from characters created after 1995, and it’s because they were too important to write out — and I wanted to see how Salva would reinterpret their designs to fit!
When it came to aspects like the Five, that meant looking at who was on the playing field in 1992 who might work in similar ways to folks like Hope and Elixer. You’ll get to meet our Five in issue #1, and then in issue #2, you’ll meet our entire Orchis board as well as our counterpart to the Quiet Council, and some other groups around the island who might seem both familiar and different than what you’re used to in the main line. Heck, we even have a few mutants who don’t count as mutants anymore, but did back then!
As for characters who’ve changed a lot since 1992, it took a ton of restraint not to indulge in some of my very favorite characters. It was particularly difficult for me to keep Emma Frost mostly on the sidelines, and to use Dazzler only sparingly, but both barely appeared on the cartoon and were in the middle of being written out of the books circa 1992, so it just wouldn’t be faithful to the era to prop them up here. That extends to folks like Iceman, Nightcrawler, and Colossus, all of whom I love, but who just don’t make sense for major roles in this version of the story. That’s not to say they don’t appear — I found a way to use everyone I possibly could because Salva is brilliant and every character deserves to be depicted by him — but they’re not going to get the spotlight in the same way Rogue and Storm and Jean will.
But the fun flip side is getting to focus more on characters like Gambit and Beast who haven’t necessarily gotten a lot of time alongside their ’90s teammates in the titles recently. As much as I love seeing how these characters have grown and changed over time, it’s undeniably comforting to see the familiar dynamics back in place. Too bad [redacted] won’t be around to see it…
AIPT: Similarly, X-Fan Moira was wondering which character you ended up writing most differently from how they were portrayed in HoX/PoX. Basically, who’s changed the most in the past 30 years?
Steve: It’s undeniably Beast. Of all the main X-Men, Hank McCoy has had QUITE the journey from fun-loving intellectual to uhh… let’s be generous and say “morally flexible.” And if we’re being honest — that’s being VERY generous. Hank, my man — look in the mirror, buddy. Just pause and think about your actions.
Other than Beast, I’d say there are important but subtle differences with Wolverine and Cyclops, too. By the time HoX/PoX happened in the main line, both had died pretty horrific deaths and returned to find the state of human-mutant affairs in atrocious shape. Krakoa must have felt really darn good after perishing from M-Pox or being encased in adamantium. But the Scott and Logan of 1992 were in very different positions, so our Cyclops is cautiously loyal to, and trusting of, this new vision for mutant culture, while Wolverine is instinctively waiting for the other shoe to drop because in his life, that’s what always happens. He can’t fathom trusting folks like Sabretooth and Sinister, and he won’t allow himself to enjoy Krakoa when certain people close to him didn’t live long enough to see it. So while they’re fundamentally not too different from their modern in-continuity iterations, the subtle changes in perspective drive the characters to somewhat different choices.
AIPT: When the call for questions for this interview went out on Twitter, you asked for “fun nineties-tastic questions,” Steve, so I had to let the most X-Treme question through. X-Fan Dan McMahon (of GateCrashers) asked, how much Adam-X the X-Treme will there be?
Steve: Whoa, how did Dan know that Adam-X fills in for Moira, leads the Quiet Council, is elected to every spot on the X-Men, and single-handedly solves mutant-human relations???
The real answer is that Adam debuted in 1993, so I was bound by law from making him TOO intrinsic to X-Men ‘92. But who knows, if you keep your eyes peeled, you may just spot some blade-covered shoulder pads in the crowd.
AIPT: Right now, the blood of Adam-X Twitter is boiling with anticipation. As we wrap up, more of a general ‘90s X-Men question, but X-Fan Garupan was wondering if you could swap out some characters in the ‘90s X-Men Animated Series roster, what would your ideal cast have been?
Steve: As much as I want to answer Dazzler, repeatedly watching Pryde of the X-Men and playing the arcade game helped instill a deep love for her regardless of her scant appearances in the Animated Series.
If anything, I would have loved to see more of Psylocke, Bishop, and Forge. Growing up, I just didn’t have great impressions of any of them because they appeared only sporadically in the cartoon and started moving to supporting books in the mid-’90s that I wasn’t keeping up with as religiously. Plus none of their powers made sense to my kid brain — two gun guys and a ninja? What were they doing with my beloved weather controller and eye-beam shooter!? It took me a lot longer to understand their appeals, and I didn’t fully fall in love with them until I went back and read everything chronologically.
It also would have been neat to see more of the New Mutants. Cannonball and Warlock pop up, along with a kid version of Magik, but that’s it aside from very brief cameos of later additions. It’s fun to imagine a world where the mansion expanded to accommodate new kids like X-Men Evolution did in later seasons. Since I grew up with Generation X and then Academy X, I didn’t fully appreciate the New Mutants until I was much older and went back to read the original run. But part of the fun of writing this series is getting to control who shows up, and Krakoa has a lot of needs to be met, so…
AIPT: Finally, X-Men ‘97 is on its way to Disney+. As a fan, which X-Men story — not counting HoX/PoX — would you love to see adapted for the new animated series?
Steve: Oh boy — it’s tempting to say stuff like “E is for Extinction“ and “Supernovas,” but I’d love to see it stay in the ’90s milieu. Give me animated Maggott, Marrow, and Cecelia Reyes. Adapt “The Twelve” and “X-Cutioner’s Song.” Go to Britain and meet Kylun and Cerise. Tackle the whole Joseph thing. Let the ’90s reign!
AIPT: And reign they shall — when X-Men ’92: House of XCII #1 goes on sale April 6, 2022. Don’t forget to reserve a copy, X-Fans (you can read a few preview pages right now over at Syfy). Steve, thanks for taking the time to chat — can’t wait to read this mini-series!
Before we wrap up, how about a few eXclusive preview images from upcoming X-Comics courtesy of X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White?
LOVE that X-pool party homage!
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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