Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
Zac. Is. Back!
That’s writer Zac Thompson, of course. Zac will always have a home here at X-Men Monday. When this column launched at AIPT, way back in February 2019, Zac and Lonnie Nadler’s Age of X-Man event was underway and featured prominently in our eXclusive preview images. And when COVID-19 was shutting down the comics industry, Zac and Lonnie were there to provide some much-needed fun with X-Man Monday. Most recently, Zac stopped by to discuss his excellent Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land mini-series.
For all these reasons and more, I was very excited to see Zac working with the X-Office again on the current Marrow-focused X-Men Unlimited arc, ‘Unbreakable.’ We dig into how that happened and much more in this edition, so let’s get started.
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Zac! It’s exciting to see you playing in the X-Men sandbox again. How did the opportunity to write an X-Men Unlimited story arc come about?
Zac: It’s great to be back! Thanks for having me! The opportunity came along after I reached out to X-Men Unlimited editor Lauren Amaro to specifically rant about Alex Paknadel and Julian Shaw’s excellent arc centered on Maggott. That arc really spoke to me in the way it shifted the spotlight to a mutant who’d never otherwise get the space to explore their POV. I basically said, “Hey I’m obsessed with this and if there’s ever an opportunity to do another story like this one, I’d kill for it!”
Luckily a space came up later in the year where we were able to make it work. I pitched a few different lesser-known mutants who didn’t have a clear status quo in the Krakoan era and we landed on Marrow.
AIPT: That seems to be the magic of X-Men Unlimited. So, your past X-work, like Cable and The Marvelous X-Men, were in the traditional comic book format. How did you find writing for artist Phillip Sevy in the scrolling Marvel Infinity Comic format this time around?
Zac: First of all, let me just gush about working with Phillip Sevy. He’s a powerhouse storyteller and incredible collaborator. His art on this arc is nothing short of incredible. He’s really elevated the infinite scroll format and brought so much emotion to Marrow and Feral in every issue.
When it came to planning the arc, we’d sit down with each new issue and have a discussion about what we wanted to bring to the chapter and how we were going to embrace the scrolling format. I really leaned into writing issues that had visuals that were vertically interesting and tried to up the ante with each subsequent chapter. Phillip was doing much the same, so that’s why we’ve got issue #77 that’s pretty much one long De Luca-effect fight scene. There’s something really seamless about writing in this way that feels more like screenwriting to me. So it was a really fun exercise in thinking about comic-book storytelling less as a series of separate images and more as one long continuous image, if that makes any sense!
AIPT: I was a film major in college, so that makes perfect sense. Now, X-Fan Moonage00daydream said, other than Callisto, the most prolific Morlock is Marrow. That said, her appearances since the ‘90s have been brief and swung wildly between “startling new status quo” and “back to basics.” It seems creators have struggled to show readers what makes Marrow a compelling character. What about Marrow compels you?
Zac: I think it’s the insecurity, really. Which we can all relate to. Even though she has nothing to be insecure about. Let’s be real, Marrow’s incredible, she’s visually dynamic and has this wonderfully gross power set. For a long time, she was hung up on being “ugly” and unlovable. I wanted to push her past that and move her into a place where it’s like — I’m in this new mutant paradise, I’ve served on all these teams and right now I don’t seem to have a place here. I think that’s an interesting starting point for a character who’s long had doubts about their abilities and place in the world of mutants.
So I felt compelled to explore that and give her a little more voice and agency than she’s had in the last few years. I sorta see Krakoa as this opportunity for “therapy” for the X-Men. This place where you can catch your breath, finally feel safe, and look at your life and say where do I go from here?
AIPT: Similarly, Feral’s a character who definitely has her fans, but doesn’t get much spotlight these days. Why did you choose to include Feral in your ‘Unbreakable’ arc?
Zac: Again, Feral is a character I absolutely love who hasn’t had much of the spotlight lately. I see her as incredibly powerful and endlessly fascinating. She’s been through so much and has a lot in common with Marrow. As a fellow Morlock, I knew she’d also really care about Leech going missing. So it was a chance to organically involve her in the story and develop Marrow as they work on their friendship.
I really looked at her story with Marrow in the Women of Marvel special as important and impactful for both characters. So it only felt right and logical to keep exploring their relationship in this arc. In keeping with that idea of Krakoa as therapy, I see Feral as this character who’s gone through incredible trauma and needs someone to define what the future looks like for her.
AIPT: X-Fan Sara aka biggest Marrow fan ever said, Marrow has had many, many looks over the years, some better then others but all iconic for her. Excluding the current run, which is your favorite version? One of Sara’s favorites is Marrow’s Weapon X look with the lavender skin — just a wee purple porcupine, Sara says.
Zac: I’m a sucker for Carlos Pacheco’s Marrow with the green and blue suit. The bones in the ribs, the short pink hair, and the heavy bones on the back and knees — it’s my favorite design from one of my favorite X-Men eras.
AIPT: I was reading Carlos’ X-Men comics in the tail end of my middle school career, which makes them extra special in my memories. One of my all-time favorite X-artists — he is missed. Something I really loved in your first chapter was when you described Marrow’s two hearts — one beating with anxiety, the other with anger. It got me wondering, how do you think having two hearts shaped Marrow into the mutant she is today?
Zac: My head-cannon is that those two hearts are the sense of anxiety that Marrow carries with her. So they’re both always beating with a different sort of emotional energy. Beyond that, I also think it emboldens this sense of strength and invincibility. There are very few other characters in the Marvel Universe who can survive having their heart ripped from their chest!
AIPT: X-Fan Priya wanted to know, which are sharper/more unbreakable: Marrow’s bones or Feral’s claws?
Zac: Marrow’s bones. Sorry, Feral fans but if you get a really large nail clipper you can cut those claws down to nothing!
AIPT: A fleshy little sonic-boom ball. A power-dampening necklace made of Leech’s fingers (yikes!). How much fun did you have getting weird with Maximilian Frankenstein?
Zac: So much! The funny thing is some of these inventions came along before Maximilian was even involved in the story. Originally I had an idea to create some sort of body-harvesting baddie and then realized that Maximilian was not only a descendant of the original Dr. Frankenstein but hung out in Madripoor, and the story I outlined would really fit his MO. Including him really emboldened the narrative and he’s almost the perfect antagonist for Morlocks. He’s this exploitative, consumptive freak who loves corpses and embodies the worst tenants of Capitalist greed. So, you know, the type of villain I love to write.
AIPT: As we wrap up, I honestly don’t know if this is a popular theory in the X-Fan community, but X-Fan @FabulousCosmicStar submitted it in two different forms, so let’s tackle it! Is there a possibility that Marrow is a lost daughter of Wolverine?
Zac: I mean, through the power of a shared universe — anything is possible! But I personally think that robs Marrow of what makes her special.
AIPT: Zac, you could have confirmed it and cracked the internet in half. Sigh. Finally, though, what can you tease about the remaining “Unbreakable” chapters to come?
Zac: Lots more bone-crunching action, lots more anxiety, and a breakthrough for Marrow where she finally comes to terms with what’s holding her back. Oh, and a little trip to one of my favorite locations visited in Ben Percy’s Wolverine.
AIPT: No doubt searching for her father. I kid, I kid. But on that note, thanks for swinging by X-Men Monday, Zac — it’s always a good time!
Also a good time? X-Fans getting a glimpse into the future courtesy of eXclusive preview images. Fortunately, X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White has a fresh batch for you, straight out of the X-oven!
Calm yourself, Tom — we’ll be back next week.
Until next time, X-Fans, stay exceptional!
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