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X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Comic Books

X-Men Monday #247 – Ann Nocenti Talks ‘Giant-Size X-Men’ #1

Plus, an eXclusive preview of ‘Giant-Size X-Men’ #1!

Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!

There are a lot of X-Men characters. Just… so many X-Men characters. So when Marvel announces a one-shot like Giant-Size X-Men #1, focusing entirely on Warren Worthington III — sometimes Angel, other times Archangel — you better believe I’m going to dedicate an entire edition of X-Men Monday to it. Not only does Warren have fans, but the Fall of X hasn’t been very good with him… what with Gambit blowing him up in Dark X-Men. But all that’s in the past now, and X-Men legend Ann Nocenti is writing him!

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly comics podcast!

Read on to hear what Ann has to say about Warren’s adventure in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (on sale May 8, 2024), as well as her thoughts on the classic Uncanny X-Men story “Lifedeath,” which she edited and is now an X-Men ’97 two-parter. Let’s get started.

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Ann Nocenti’s X page

AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Ann! First, how did the chance to write a modern-day Angel story in Giant-Size X-Men come about?

Ann: The editor Annalise Bissa called me and explained that Giant-Size issues reprint an old story and then match the character with a new story. She said, “Which X-Men character do you want to write about?” I started naming X-Men, and she was like, “Oh no, they’re busy, oh, no, they’re in the Negative Zone, oh no, they’re a vampire.” Then I remembered a story I had done with artist David Mazzucchelli a long time ago with Angel that asked, what if he couldn’t speak and was viewed by an old religious lady as an actual angel? 

When you think of the Marvel Universe billionaires, there are good billionaires and bad billionaires — and he’s always been one of those questionable ones that’s kind of arrogant. So I thought, maybe there’s something there. He was born wealthy with a silver spoon. 

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

In the ‘80s, there were these things called EST and The Forum, where people would sit in an auditorium and you couldn’t even go to the bathroom. They grilled you with this kind of enlightenment bootcamp. And I thought, what if Arcade had trained an assistant? And I came up with the idea for this girl, Maze. And you know, Arcade is just a sadist. He gets you in there and slaughters you. But what if I gave people an out, like an escape room? If you told the truth, you could get out of the trap. So she calls her game “Truth or Die” and gives Angel a chance. 

If you really look at it, it’s like, “You were a rich kid, you were arrogant, you were a little clueless. And then you became Archangel, you joined the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, and you became murderous. Tell the truth — who are you? You’re no angel.”

AIPT: Since you mentioned it, X-Fan Hakka84 wanted you to know she loved your Marvel Fanfare “Chiaroscuro” story. She said it’s a jewel and, in her humble opinion, one of the best stories made with Warren (even if he’s not even the main character and doesn’t speak!). It doesn’t suffer the passing of time nor the weight of an ever-evolving canon. It stands alone, you don’t have to know all the canon to understand it, and whenever you pick it up — no matter what’s happening in the X-Universe — you can enjoy it. 

Ann: It’s one of my favorite stories I’ve ever done — it’s up in my top 10. You know, when you have a long career like I do — 40 years of comics — you definitely have a bunch of stinkers. You have a bunch of stories where you just were like, “Oh my God, what was wrong with my brain that day?” But this is one of the handful of comics that I did that I think are really, really good. So I love that story. Thank you for that comment.

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

AIPT: And now Hakka84’s question: Is there a trait of Warren’s you find particularly interesting from an author’s point of view? Also, which one of Warren’s two facets do you prefer — high-flying Angel or metal-winged Archangel?

Ann: I think the beauty of some superheroes is the odd resonance between what they look like and who they are. Angel looks like an angel, which means if you saw him walking down the street, you’d be rippling with all kinds of religious, haunted, otherworldly thoughts. But then, in reality, he’s kind of arrogant and raised wealthy. He’s definitely a bachelor. He was always played the way Tony Stark was played, as someone who had lots of girlfriends. So there’s a resonance there. Whereas, with Spider-Man or Wolverine, the personality matches the look. He looks like an angel but he’s no angel.

So I love that tension, and I was able to play with that in that first story because he doesn’t speak. The old lady can see him as the angel she wants to see him as because if he had opened his mouth even for a minute, she would’ve been like, “He’s no angel.” I love that Louise Simonson and Walter Simonson did the Archangel thing because that is the mirror image in the angel mythology. It’s the fallen angel. So I think both of those sides of Angel work really well together because the mythology of an angel has both sides. 

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

In the story, there’s the conceit that Maze knows all this about him. So in the “Truth or Die” game, she just keeps needling him about things that have happened in his life to get him to tell the truth about who he thinks he is. He’s been a hero and a villain and everything in between. So, is he going to tell the truth as to what his real nature is? It’s kind of creepy. It’s as creepy as if somebody said to me, “Hey, Annie, are you a hero or a villain?” I would go, “I don’t know. Both? Neither? I don’t know.”

AIPT: In Giant-Size X-Men‘s preview pages, we see Warren in a room full of his past love interests like Candy Southern. Did you do a lot of research on his past for this story?

Ann: Oh, yeah. I always research as much as possible. I mean, Warren Worthington being one of the original X-Men — you’re talking about 60 years of history. You can’t read 60 years of stories, so I asked Annalise to lead me to a couple really good ones.

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Candy was kind of his long-suffering girlfriend whom he didn’t treat well, and then she was killed by his best friend. And everyone flirted with Jean Grey — I mean, famously Logan — but everybody flirted with her. But the idea that Angel compulsively flirted with her and any repercussions that would have, because, you know, the X-Men are a team. Imagine a group of your friends and one of your guy friends is always hitting on all the girls in the group. So it’s kind of like, what repercussions did that have on them as a team on their battles? So that comes up. And then the rest of the girls — he had dated Betsy Braddock, he had dated Wanda, and so on.

In the story, there’s a club for Angels, and it’s kind of funny, I had Angel being offered chicken wings, but they’re angel wings to eat. And all his girlfriends are the waitresses. Since it’s from his point of view, of course, it’s a chauvinistic view of women. All his exes are waitresses. So that was like a specific male point of view on the women he has known. Like, of course, I’ve had all these women, and here they are still serving me drinks.

AIPT: X-Fan Random said Angel has been an interesting character due to his contradictions. He is either powerful or useless, joyful or depressed, clueless or observant. He is a character that has weirdly wandered all over the place. What new or old characterizations can we expect in your story?

Ann: I mean, I think that’s a great question. And the questioner said it better than I could really, but they’re absolutely right. There are Marvel characters that are just so solid that you always know what they’re going to say and how. Angel is sort of the opposite of that. He can be arrogant and then sweet and then lazy, and then do the wrong thing. So he’s a little different. 

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

What kind of makes him interesting is he was raised rich. I don’t know if you know any billionaires. I don’t know any personally, but I have some wealthy friends and I’ve encountered some billionaires. It’s a weird way to be raised. It’s like being raised in a bubble and it’s really interesting because you expect the world to fall at your feet, and yet you can’t really trust the people you know because they want your money. And that’s why you have situations in real life where billionaires end up in these weird bubbles where everyone around them is telling them how wonderful they are. So I think it’s a very complicated character and I tried to get across that kind of cluelessness. 

And the artist Lee Ferguson is really gentle. His artwork is really delicate and gentle. And that added a level of cluelessness to the story.

AIPT: X-Fan Til is very much looking forward to Giant-Size X-Men and wanted to know how you think Warren views his place with the X-Men?

Ann: I mean, he’s a legacy character. He’s one of the originals. When you think of the energy of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and the ‘60s, it was a wide-open field. When you think of it now, every cool animal or icon has been taken up. Back then, it was like, “Oh, a beast, and a guy with ice, and a guy who can stretch his limbs.” I think Angel was kind of a natural part of that early ‘60s enthusiasm. What can we throw in the pot? The characters eventually get defined by their skill set. You know, he can swoop in and that’s his basic skill — he can fly up and swoop in.

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

But the wings are cumbersome. So, you know, there’s always that behind-the-scenes detail of how he walks around in a hoodie. Do those giant wings have some telescoping ability to turn into nothing? To me, I think that he would never feel like he was the center of the story because of being born wealthy and also the cumbersomeness of his wings. 

So in terms of how he views his place within the X-Men, he probably feels like an appendage. He probably doesn’t feel like he ever got center stage. He’s literally a wingman.

AIPT: X-Fan Sascha Segan was wondering, what does Warren want in the world?

Ann: Despite his bad deeds, his ill treatment of people, and his wealth and his arrogance, I think Warren would like to be viewed as a hero. I think Warren would like to be forgiven for all that. And I think that he’s had a long, hard journey to deal with the fact that he did a lot of bad things. I imagine the hope for Warren is he comes out the other side of that. But then you would have a character that wasn’t as interesting. So he has to always slip into his bad ways, you know, because he’s a more interesting character when he’s straining against his billionaire upbringing. 

AIPT: Finally, I wanted to switch gears and ask if you’ve been watching X-Men ‘97. There was an episode that was split between a Mojoverse adventure and an adaptation of “Lifedeath.” You were also thanked in the credits.

Ann: I’ve been seeing clips of it, so I’m going to watch it. I’m getting a lot of DMs like, “Have you seen Mojo?” 

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+

But I love that “Lifedeath” story from Barry Windsor-Smith and Chris Claremont. It’s just such an exquisite story. I’m amazed they used that one because it’s not typical action, even though I think at the end of it, the Dire Wraith come in and they have to blast things away. But at its heart, it’s just a conversation between Forge and Storm. And of course, everyone now knows that Forge had created the weapon that took her powers away. 

I just did that Storm mini-series that takes place right before the betrayal. It’s Storm falling in love with someone who turns out — to use the modern term — to be gaslighting her. It kind of sets the stage for her suspicions of Forge. So yeah, I’m excited for the show. I always like it when someone sort of takes Mojo and has Mojo reflect the current Hell of the latest media. 

AIPT: Well, in the episode, it’s reflecting the ‘90s, so it’s a Nintendo-style video game.

Ann: Oh, how great. Wow, because when Arthur Adams and I created him, it was TV. There was no internet, so it was TV and people were addicted to their television. And now I would really be curious for some young person to do a story of how Mojo deals with AI. You know, he probably would have a chatbot built that replicates Mojo speak and sends it into everybody’s home.

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+

AIPT: The first part of the “Lifedeath” adaptation aired and the second half is this week. Since a lot of X-Men ’97 viewers are probably learning about the original story for the first time, is there anything else you can share about how it came to be?

Ann: I mean, the daily grind of work back then was Chris doing the X-Men, the New Mutants, and mini-series — he was writing so much stuff. And you know, we used to have these charts on the wall and these insane diagrams of how we keep track of all these characters and what they’re up to. And I think at some point Chris wanted to do a small story. He did it a couple times. He did a solo Wolverine story with Barry Windsor-Smith, where Wolverine doesn’t know who he is in a snowstorm with a little girl. And it’s very scary. Like, is he going to tip this little girl into the well like Frankenstein famously did?

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

So Chris wanted to do another quieter story and decided to do this romance with Forge. And when you have Barry Windsor-Smith, he needs a lot of time. But then you have the two Forge and Storm stories and they’re just masterpieces. So we had built in time to do them. And then Chris could get a breather from the normal 30 teammates flying around. So a lot of it just comes out of Chris needing a break, Chris wanting to work with Barry, and Barry wanting to do some X-Men. It was a really special book and it was a really special time for the X-Men.

AIPT: It was indeed. Hopefully you’ll get to see those episodes soon.

Ann: I’m waiting for the second “Lifedeath” to drop before I do the whole stream.

AIPT: Well, on that note, thanks for taking the time to stop by X-Men Monday, Ann! Remember, X-Fans, Giant-Size X-Men #1 goes on sale May 8, 2024. AIPT already ran an eXclusive first look a few weeks back, but now we can eXclusively reveal a few lettered preview pages.

Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artist: Lee Ferguson
Color Artist: KJ Díaz
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

X-Men Monday #247 - Ann Nocenti Talks 'Giant-Size X-Men' #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Until next time, X-Fans, stay exceptional!

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