Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
And surprise! X-Men Monday is proud to eXclusively announce Original X-Men #1, a one-shot written by Christos Gage and illustrated by Greg Land, starring the original five X-Men in an all-new, multiverse-spanning adventure for the X-Men’s 60th anniversary. You won’t be able to read this story until it goes on sale December 2023, but we’ve got the solicitation, Ryan Stegman’s cover, and plenty of artwork. First, that December solicitation.
ORIGINAL X-MEN #1
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Greg Land
Cover by Ryan Stegman
THE OG 5 ON AN ALL-NEW ADVENTURE!
Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman and Angel – the first and greatest heroes to bear the X-Men name – once traveled into their own futures and reset the course of history. Now another multiversal mystery calls them forth. When the dust settles, one hero will remain, trapped in the world as we know it. With shocking surprise guests and heart-pounding twists and turns, Christos Gage and Greg Land kick off a story that will shake the whole MU!
Oh, and we also have an eXclusive interview with Christos, who is certainly no stranger to X-Fans, having written X-Men Legacy, X-Men/Spider-Man, and other mutant-focused stories. Read on for more details about Original X-Men and a whole lot more!
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Christos! Before we dig into Original X-Men, let’s go back to your beginning. What was your first X-Men experience?
Christos: My first exposure to the X-Men was reading Amazing Spider-Man #161, where he met and fought Nightcrawler, and there was a cameo of some of the other All-New, All-Different X-Men. My first actual X-Men comic was Uncanny X-Men #107, which really blew my mind because there was a cast of, well, dozens if not thousands, and it was clearly the middle of a big cosmic epic. Instead of being confused, I was mesmerized. Despite that, the next X-Men comic I got wasn’t until Uncanny X-Men #139, when Kitty Pryde joined the team. I was hooked from then on.
AIPT: Original X-Men isn’t your first time writing Marvel’s mutants, having written mini-series and runs on series like X-Men Legacy and Astonishing X-Men. Is there a previous X-story you worked on you’re especially proud of?
Christos: I feel pretty good about most of the X-titles I’ve been lucky enough to work on. I recently got to take a look at X-Men Legacy and thought it held up well, which is mostly due to the genius of artists David Baldeon, Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragonna, and of course, those stunning Mark Brooks covers.
But I think my favorite X-title I’ve done is World War Hulk: X-Men. Now, you might say that was just a giant three-issue fight scene with all the X-Men fighting the Hulk… and you’d be right! That’s exactly what I pitched to the editor when he approached me about the book. But what I think worked out well is that, with the help of the wonderful artist Andrea DiVito, we were able to put in enough character moments that made it all resonate, and at the end, even though the Worldbreaker Hulk pretty much wiped the floor with the X-Men, they had each other and he was alone, so it felt like they won. Anyway, I look at that mini-series and feel like, yeah, that’s one my kid self would read and look at my adult self and say, “Not bad, old man.”
AIPT: OK, onto Original X-Men. What’s the elevator pitch for this comic?
Christos: Essentially, the original X-Men are plucked from their era by an older Jean Grey, a.k.a. Phoenix, from a different timeline. This is a middle-aged Jean Grey who wasn’t replaced by the Phoenix Force; instead, she found a way to coexist peacefully with it. But now she’s become aware of a deadly danger on another Earth in the multiverse… a problem even the Phoenix can’t solve. Only the original X-Men can. Why? Because the problem IS them. On this world, the original X-Men grew up and took over the world, amassing tremendous power… so much that they’ll soon be turning their attention to other realities.
Old Lady Phoenix chose these particular original X-Men because they have already been to their future and met their adult selves (in the All-New X-Men series that began in 2012) so they have some experience with this sort of thing. It’s up to them to find a way to either convince their older selves that they’re making a horrible mistake or somehow defeat these far more powerful versions of them. Basically, it’s about your younger, idealistic self coming into conflict with your older, jaded self who’s made compromises and given up dreams in order to survive and do what they think is best, even if that means making hard choices along the way.
AIPT: How did the chance to write this story, celebrating the X-Men’s 60th anniversary, come about?
Christos: I got an email from editor extraordinaire Sarah Brunstad asking if I’d be interested… and I really was, but I didn’t think I’d have time in my schedule, especially when I learned it would be an oversized, 30-page issue. Luckily we were able to make it work, and I say “luckily” because I subsequently found out the artist would be Greg Land, who I’ve been a huge fan of for many years! I remember getting a sketch from him at San Diego Comic-Con back in 2003, a few months before I got my first job in comics. So it’s incredibly cool to be doing a story with him… about the original X-Men, no less!
AIPT: What can you tell us about this “multiversal mystery” the original five get wrapped up in?
Christos: I don’t want to get too deep into it for fear of spoilers, but basically, there’s a question of why the adult original X-Men have gotten to this point. Is it just a case of people’s values changing as they get older, like the hippie turned hedge fund manager? Or is there something more nefarious afoot?
AIPT: Everyone has a favorite X-Men team. As a writer, what do you find appealing about the original five and their dynamic?
Christos: My personal favorite team is probably the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne era, the one I first encountered. But part of that involved seeing the original team referred to as these sort of legendary figures who started it all. Then, when I was actually able to read some of those stories through reprints in Amazing Adventures and back issues, it turned out they were teenagers who usually felt like they were in over their heads! So that’s really a big part of the appeal for me. It’s like reading about the founders of our country and finding out that some major event happened when they were, like, 20 years old. I try to think about what it would be like to be that age, dealing with the things young people are facing at that point in their lives, and then also confronting all these life-and-death situations. Which isn’t that unusual, frankly… teenagers enlist in the military every day or contend with life-threatening illnesses or natural disasters.
AIPT: Those Silver Age X-Men stories are also pretty kooky. Do you have an all-time favorite original five story?
Christos: I mean, sure, they can be – and our one-shot opens with a nod to that as the original X-Men are battling the Plant Man. But if you can get past the occasional goofy villain like the Locust and the swingin’ ’60s dialogue which sounds dated now, there’s some pretty heady stuff going on. Parallels to racism, prejudice, and the civil rights movement; fear of nuclear technology; and the basic premise of teenagers trying to come to grips with who they are and who they want to be with all the pressures of the world weighing on them. I know these stories informed my run on Avengers Academy; many of these themes are universal.
But as to my favorite original five story, it has to be issue X-Men #35, in which the original X-Men met and fought Spider-Man for the first time. Back in the prehistoric days of 1981, with no internet and very few comic shops or conventions, back issues were an exotic mystery to me. When a new comic titled Amazing Adventures started reprinting original X-Men stories, dividing them up so half an original issue shared a book with one of the X-Men’s origin stories, I ate it up. And in one of the issues, like a tease of hidden treasure, was a reprinting of the cover of X-Men #35 – the original X-Men vs. Spider-Man! What?!? I had to read this epic! So for my birthday, I begged my parents to let me order it from one of the back-issue ads in then-current comics for the insanely high price of five bucks. It seemed like it took an eternity to arrive, but when it did, it was worth it. The teen angst! The misunderstanding that led to the fight! The smell of vintage newsprint! I was hooked on back issues forever. I still have that issue, by the way, over 40 years later.
So while other issues from the original X-Men run might be technically better – it’s hard to top the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams/Tom Palmer run (and I got to work with the late, great Neal Adams on an X-Men mini-series a few years back, too, so I really have been insanely lucky) – nothing will ever tug at my heartstrings the way X-Men #35 does.
AIPT: I know you recently wrote Jean Grey and the original X-Men in your Gwen Stacy mini-series. Which of the original five has been the most fun to write this time around?
Christos: Honestly, it varies. Jean is a lot of fun to write from the perspective of what we know will end up happening, both in terms of the Phoenix and how powerful she will become with or without the Phoenix force. Iceman is entertaining because he’s such a wise guy. I also enjoyed writing adult Beast in a form I haven’t gotten to tackle before… this reality’s version is more like the “tortured monster” version from Amazing Adventures #11-17, right after he transformed into the gray, furry form. (He later turned blue. Which isn’t that far-fetched… I had a Siamese cat once who went from mostly white to mostly black as she got older!)
AIPT: Finally, the solicitation for Original X-Men #1 teases one of the X-Men trapped in the world as we know it and larger ramifications for the Marvel Universe. What can you share about the scope of this story beyond Original X-Men #1?
Christos: So there are definite ramifications beyond the one-shot. The story will continue. However, it’s kind of intentionally vague. I’m not promising it’s one of the original five X-Men… if they even survive this adventure… though I’m not saying it’s not! And that might be better phrased, “larger ramifications for the Marvel MULTIVERSE”…
AIPT: Those original five X-Men… always causing problems! But on that note, thanks for stopping by X-Men Monday to tease your upcoming story, Christos! Remember, X-Fans, Original X-Men #1 goes on sale this December, so be sure to reserve a copy.
Until next time, X-Fans, stay exceptional!
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