Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
A lot can happen in a year — especially when you’re the X-Men. Since I haven’t spoken to writer Gerry Duggan about just the democratically elected heroes of Krakoa since before X-Men #1 went on sale, I felt it was the perfect time to reflect on the series’ first 12 issues. Fortunately, Gerry was down to chat!
Read on to learn more about year one of X-Men, as well as a few teases for what X-Fans can expect in year two — featuring the next great X-Men team!
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Gerry, and congratulations on wrapping year one of X-Men! Looking back on those first 12 issues, what are you most proud of?
Gerry: When I submitted my original proposal for the X-Men following Jonathan [Hickman], I discussed the need to make sure we had some fun new villains that might be important gifts to the line. Obviously, Pepe Larraz will make those gifts look lovely, and be important.
Now that we know who, or what, Dr. Stasis is, or what he purports to be, we’re off and running into some really dangerous days for mutants, and some fun days for readers. If my time on Uncanny Avengers had been my only opportunity to write some mutants and work with Pepe, I could have died happy. But getting a chance to collaborate on X-Men with him was a dream come true. I’m proud of every comic in year one. Nobody will guess where we go from what we have built.
AIPT: You mentioned Dr. Stasis, who is apparently the original Nathanial Essex. It’s a bold reveal and one we’ll surely learn more about in stories to come. But for now, what can you share about the genesis of this idea?
Gerry: The secret of Dr. Stasis goes back to the 30-page document I sent to Jonathan, Jordan D. White and C.B. Cebulski about what I identified as a core need for this line moving forward to reinvest story in villains. Of course, we are writing them as the heroes of their story, and the stuff they get up to now is going to be devastating.
Stasis, Feilong, Nimrod, Omega Sentinel, and then Moira. It’s a murderers’ row of murderers. I hope mutants survive the Orchis experience.
AIPT: We’re living in times where — for some insane reason — doing the right thing and simply telling the truth has become an act of courage. As a result, it was easy to applaud Cyclops and Synch for their actions in X-Men #12. What made you want to center the series around the secret of mutant resurrection and Scott’s decision to defy the Quiet Council and do the right — and honest — thing?
Gerry: Truth and justice are the cornerstones of great things, including our beloved comic book worlds. It is said that we are living in a post-truth world, and I hope that is not true. But it does not have to be and it shouldn’t be and the X-Men should always be aspirational. We love these heroes. We want to see them do great things and overcome tremendous adversity. Some of my favorite Marvel stories are the ones in which Ben Urich plays a significant role and when we literally and figuratively planted our Treehouse in New York, the possibilities began to present themselves.
The timing for the Quiet Council and for Emma Frost, in particular, is bad with the paper dropping on the eve of the Hellfire Gala. It feels like an important Marvel story because that is exactly what it is. The first year of X-Men has put characters and stories into the proper orbits for a giant confrontation.
AIPT: While X-Men is a Marvel superhero comic, one big way it swerved from that genre — and past X-Men stories — was the complete lack of interpersonal drama among the X-Men. This team not only got along but really seemed to like and support one another — even when a member mindwipes a respected journalist. It was refreshing to see. Could you talk a bit about the direction you took with the positive team dynamic?
Gerry: I think I am known for characters and teams that have presented as dysfunctional. The Uncanny Avengers when I wrote them could barely stand each other at times, and I knew this team needed a different approach. We’re talking about a team of powerhouses lead by Jean Grey and Cyclops, and they weren’t even the most experienced mutants on the team after Synch’s journey into the Vault. I hope year one was a love letter to superhero comics and the X-Men in particular.
AIPT: You picked up the baton from Jonathan and continued to cement Synch’s status as an A-list X-Man (and potentially a new “Omega mutant”). Everett’s made it clear he isn’t going anywhere, and almost feels like a third team leader at this point. What have you most enjoyed about writing and developing Synch?
Gerry: Synch is a hell of a character, and one whose power is always fun to write. I think it’s fairly clear that everyone respects his 500 or so years in service to Mutantdom. He’s the future, but there is a cost to that greatness. The Hellfire Gala will reveal a startling revelation about what has been going on with him. I hope he survives the Gerry Duggan experience.
AIPT: X-Men has allowed you to delve into Jean’s guilt over the Phoenix’s actions and how it drives her to “balance the scale.” Following X-Men #12 — and the fact that Jean helped save trillions of lives — does Jean feel any sense of closure going into year two?
Gerry: Jean is always a delight to write for, and yes, I think she has the wind at her back at the end of X-Men #12 with the realization that her adventures at Gameworld saved millions of lives across the universe. For more on what Jean will think about all of that, you will need to read A.X.E.: Judgment Day and an excellent special issue of the event written by Kieron [Gillen] called “Death To The X-Men”.
AIPT: If you’ll allow a self-indulgent writer-to-writer question: In Cable, we got to see Cyclops the dad. In X-Men, we’ve seen Cyclops the mutant leader and mentor — but also less-explored and more artistic aspects of Scott’s personality. I’m talking about the fact that Scott felt “alive” when creating the Treehouse, that he’s a “big fan” of Ben Urich’s writing, and that he referenced 1958’s The Blob in battle to make a point. You’re pretty close to him, Gerry — does Cyclops have an appreciation for the arts?
Gerry: I think so, yes. People tend to forget that Steve Rogers is a damn fine artist.
Cyclops helped design the Treehouse with Forge, this was all his idea. He and Jean knew they would break from the Council and needed to re-introduce the world to the X-Men. There’s a neat scene in this year’s Hellfire Gala that touches on this a bit. What is really important. The Council or the X-Men, and Cyclops was right once again.
For obvious reasons, most comic books focus on the destructive side of these amazing mutant gifts, but I think in this new era for the X-Men, it has also become important for us to explore creation. Scott Summers shoots concussive blasts out of his eyes, and so his creativity must manifest in a different way. With Urich, he tells his story, and it becomes very important for the Marvel Universe. There’s another story within a story coming later this year that I find pretty intriguing to collaborate on.
AIPT: The Captain Krakoa identity served its purpose in your story, but per Forge’s note in X-Men #8, it wasn’t meant for Cyclops. Is it safe to assume we haven’t seen the end of “Captain Krakoa” … in some form?
Gerry: As a general rule, if anything new flows from Pepe’s pen, it tends to be important by the time you get to the end of the story.
AIPT: In X-Men #12, Rogue, Sunfire, Polaris, and Wolverine made it clear they’ll be moving on. Of these four, who will you miss writing the most?
Gerry: These are all thoughtful questions, but this one is a toughie… they may be leaving the team, but earlier I wrote that everything and everyone is in their proper orbit after year one… and that was a true statement.
AIPT: Finally, we’ll get to meet the new X-Men team very soon. What can you tease about their debut in X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1 and their team dynamic?
It’s true that there is another vote this year, and Cyclops may have jeopardized his position. One thing I can promise you is that the team is as unsteady this year as the first year was stable.
Thanks for reading and hope you survive the experience. It’s not hyperbole that the next year of comics are my favorite collaborations yet. Josh Cassara is joining us as the Vault comes to the forefront again, and then we’re telling a HUGE superhero story guest-starring some unlikely Marvel characters that I love, and the entire time we have Orchis problems to fight. Hope you all survive the experience!
AIPT: A lot to look forward to in the months ahead. Gerry, thanks for an eXcellent first year on X-Men and thanks for taking the time to chat! X-Fans, be sure to pick up X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1, on sale July 13.
Also, you heard Gerry mention Josh Cassara. I’m happy to confirm via Marvel that C.F. Villa will illustrate X-Men #13 and #14, followed by Josh Cassara on X-Men #15, which kicks off the Children of the Vault arc. Following that, both C.F. and Josh will handle art for X-Men on a rotating basis.
If you can’t wait, here are a few eXclusive preview images from X-Men #13 by C.F. Villa!
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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