Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Actually, calling this another “uncanny” edition is so 2011. It’s so… Utopia. This is an Immortal edition of X-Men Monday because Immortal X-Men #1 writer Kieron Gillen is here to discuss the first launch of the Destiny of X era. (OK, and a little about his pre-Krakoa X-Men work.) But a lot happened in that first issue, so naturally, X-Fans had a lot of questions — so let’s get started!
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Kieron, and congratulations on Immortal X-Men #1!
Kieron: Thank you! Lovely to be back. I survived the experience once, and I’m giving my luck a second try.
AIPT: I’m sure you’ll do just fine. This week’s first X-Fan question comes from Cathal. Early in the issue, Sinister refers to Krakoa as “Utopia: The fresh summer remix!” As a writer who has now written the X-Men during two of their island-nation phases, Cathal was wondering how you feel Krakoa is different from Utopia.
Kieron: The easy one-liner is that they’re the absolute opposite. Utopia could only be thought of ironically — it was a couple of hundred mutants with their backs against the wall, tottering on the edge of an existential chasm. Krakoa has them as arguably the dominant power on the planet, taking the spotlight on the galactic stage. But you look at that a little harder, and you still see similarities. You can be Hated and Feared for many reasons. “Being envied” has always been in the mix, but never more so than now. The existential chasm is still there. It’s just perhaps even more awful when they’ve gained so much, and achieved such wonders.
Another primary difference is my page rate has increased.
AIPT: Well, that’s the most important one right there. Now, as Immortal X-Men #1 was a Sinister-centric comic, we received quite a few questions about everybody’s favorite system. First up, X-Fan Kenny asked what inspired you to lean into the campiness of Sinister in your Uncanny X-Men run? Did you expect it to become so character-defining?
Kieron: You don’t expect anything. When I’m doing big reworks on a character, I’m normally writing with a back door so other writers can rewind the clock rather than write what I did. With Sinister, you even see him tweak his personality at the start of my run. One of my things was stressing that he’s a living petri dish, and that always gives a chance to change the recipe. If someone wanted to dial him back to what he was before, they could. In fact, they did — the first appearance of Sinister post-me was Business As Usual.
That said, there’s no more sincere compliment in WFH comics than other writers using your ideas. The first time I realized for sure Jon [Hickman] actually liked my work was when Sinister arrived in his high-camp multi-body glory in Secret Wars. Thanks, Jon, you sweetie. So I’ve been delighted to see folks run with that, and folks pick up from there. I thought it was a neat way to take him, and I’m glad folks seemed to agree.
I think the most interesting thing is also the drift across the period though. Modern Sinister may have started with what I did… but it’s not JUST what I did. It’s been a process of editing and tweaking and finding new ways to work. So when I come back to Sinister, I’m not writing the same guy I was in 2011. I’m writing the guy as he is in Krakoa, with all that entails. 2011 Sinister was aggressively 19th century in his foppiness, and it’s clear that he’s changed his own personality cocktail mix since then…
But what inspired it? Man, Marvel should run my big document of What I Think Is Wrong With Sinister I mailed over to Nick Lowe back in the day. Or maybe not, as it was typically convoluted and probably offensive. As per most of my gigs, I’m normally trying to work out how to make something hit harder. The short of it is that Sinister was always campy, and I just turned up the dial and made him more self-aware of it. There’s a line I think of a lot — just because I’m funny, don’t assume I’m joking. That was what I wanted to bring forward in the mix. It’s all a game to Sinister because he’s a moral abyss with no bottom floor.
Were I to say something I want to try and bring more to the fore in Immortal is the fact it’s a mask. Just because he’s making jokes, never assume that he wouldn’t tear your neurons out one by one.
AIPT: Good stuff, thanks for sharing all that. The second Sinister question is from X-Fan Nimrod (Definitely not the machine, totally), who wanted to know, of all the mutants on Krakoa, who does Sinister “respect” the most? Not fear, like with Exodus, but a degree of grudging, “hmm, that was good…” kind of respect.
Kieron: Hmm. I’d say he’s a big fan of the Nathaniel Essex guy.
AIPT: That tracks. X-Fan Natty from the Krakoa server asked, of those candidates who put themselves forward in the montage (Angel, Penance, Gorgon, Vulcan, Brand, and Beast), who do you think got the closest to a seat?
Kieron: If we go outside the montage, we have to say Selene did a good pitch, right? I think that’s part of the fun. I could make a decent pitch for all the characters there. The X-Men have a deep bench in terms of people who could be strong leaders in a Quiet Council position.
But dodging a question is cheating.
I think Brand would have had the most convincing pitch. This is very much what she’s good at. Sadly, she’s not good at being good, but you can’t have everything.
AIPT: Now, you can’t have an X-Men Monday without a little romance talk. X-Fan Jamie said, apart from Destiny and Mystique, whose relationship has been so important to the Krakoa saga, all of the mutants on the current Quiet Council are (currently) more or less single workaholics. While Immortal X-Men’s focus is very much on the politics of Krakoa, are we going to see a more personal, ‘human’ side to the cast as well? Do they have time for any sort of social life or dating on Krakoa?
Kieron: You’re right, and this bugs me a little too. What’s an X-Book without romance and the personal? And sure, there are not many baseball games on the Quiet Council (you’re more likely to expect something akin to the baseball bat scene from The Untouchables). There is significant human stuff. I think the key thing which gets the soft humanity to it is the rotating narrator aspect. You don’t get that with Sinister, for obvious reasons, but the process of writing all the other issues had me walk away with a better understanding of the characters on a personal level. You don’t just learn about their plans… you also learn about them as people, what drives them. It’s surprised me — I’ve just finished the Shaw issue, and he absolutely revealed himself to me in ways I’ve never thought about. Er… I mean in an emotional way, not in a reclining-in-the-sauna-at-the-Hellfire-Club way.
That said, it does have a beating heart to it and smooches. When I was first in the X-Office, and writing Generation Hope, Editor Nick Lowe gave me one editorial mandate: you must have kissing by issue 5. That’s clearly something I’ve internalized.
AIPT: Kiss Watch: Immortal X-Men edition is in full effect. Next, X-Fan SeptumPapiBells was wondering if you could talk about how Hope’s youth will impact her role on the Quiet Council and the voice she brings to the room.
Kieron: I think SeptumPapiBells is entirely right. She’s the youngest person on the Council, and that has to impact things. She’s also spent the last year closer to the populace. Hell, she’s likely the first person every single mutant who’s been brought back sees. But there are other aspects to Hope — she’s not like a normal teenager. She grew up in a series of apocalyptic hells. Her life was spent skipping between Walking Dead-esque disasters, taught by the greatest soldier in existence. Her background is more akin to Robin than most mutant teenagers whose life was normal until the day their X-gene activated. She is a teenager… but not a normal teenager, in any way whatsoever.
Though what does “normal” mean anyway, right?
AIPT: X-Fan HopesOnlyFan wanted to know, from a writing perspective, who on the Quiet Council has the most untapped potential from a story perspective?
Kieron: “Exodus” is the easy answer, because it’s true. He’s a character who has been present in the Krakoan age but has not actually been an active player much. His whole history is a little like that — he’s certainly the character who I feel I’m doing closest to what I did with Sinister last time. Similarly to Sinister, I’m just looking at the pieces and taking the implications seriously. He’s a 12th-century crusader, who has spent the last 800 years in stasis — that’s Captain America on steroids. He’s a devout Catholic. He is also a mutant supremacist. How on earth do you square those two contradictory positions? With difficulty, but he tries.
AIPT: Well, speaking of story potential and Exodus… this “Nazarene Mutant” Exodus mentioned can be resurrected via The Waiting Room, right?
Kieron: This may just be me being all cynical, but if I were you, I wouldn’t assume anything the religious fanatic mutant-supremacist supervillain Exodus says is correct.
Plus: that’s not how The Waiting Room works.
AIPT: This is why it’s a good thing I don’t control Krakoa’s Resurrection Protocols. As we wrap up, we need to talk about Immortal X-Men #1’s shocking last page. X-Fan Joshua was wondering how exactly Sinister’s Moira clones affect the timeline. Joshua’s head hurts from trying to figure it out. We have to help Joshua, Kieron!
Kieron: It’s okay! I’m glad to help, Joshua. It affects the timeline badly.
Okay, serious answer? It’s a quicksave. The timeline resets to the moment that clone was created and had their gene activated. Whenever Sinister wants to create a save slot, he makes a new clone. He can choose where to go back to by killing whatever clone he wishes. He’s save scumming his way through the Marvel Universe.
AIPT: Finally, you’ve mentioned HBO’s Succession “has a lot of Immortal in it.” So, if the Quiet Council was the Roy family and their inner circle, who would be who? Who’s Logan? Who’s Shiv? Who has to be Greg?
Kieron: Well, I mainly mean in the high concept in the opening: “Who will succeed Magneto on the Quiet Council?” Of course, he’s much more lovely than Logan. Even Logan is more lovely than Logan. Speaking broadly, I wouldn’t map them directly — it’s perhaps a better map with Eternals, with grumpy old Uranos being the perpetually disappointed patriarch.
Also… if I said any X-Men character was Cousin Greg, I’m sure Twitter would be so outraged that I’d never be able to log in again. Don’t do this to me, AIPT. I want to survive the experience.
AIPT: Kieron, after an eXcellent debut issue, believe me, we want you to survive the eXperience as well! But on that note, that’s all I have for you. Thanks so much for taking the time to dig into Immortal X-Men #1. And before we wrap up, X-Fans, how about an eXclusive first look at art from upcoming Immortal X-Men issues courtesy of X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White?
It’s an eXciting time to be an X-Fan! NeXt week, Al Ewing visits X-Men Monday to discuss the extraordinary X-Men Red #1.
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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