The students at the Jean Grey School were just starting to understand what it means to be a mutant in the Marvel Universe when the rules changed completely due to the aftermath of “Avengers Vs. X-Men” as more mutants began emerging across the globe. The high-profile roles mutants played in the global events of “AvX” changed the way people saw the X-Men and emboldened some of their enemies. Perhaps the most confusing change of all was teenage versions of the original five X-Men suddenly appeared on campus grounds.
Writer Jason Aaron chronicles how the students and faculty of the Jean Grey School handle this brave new world in “Wolverine & the X-Men.” In the series’ most recent arc, Aaron pitted the cast against the bizarre and dangerous Murder Circus run by the legendary Frankenstein’s Monster. CBR News spoke with Aaron about the aftermath of the X-Men’s recent big top encounter and the writer’s future plans for the series — which include a special “Date Night” issue and a field trip to the Savage Land where the cast will run afoul of Wolverine’s villainous brother, Dog.
CBR News: Jason, in these last few issues you’ve really been enjoying the post “AvX” world because it’s allowed you to add new mutant characters to your cast. Let’s talk about two of the newest mutants who really got involved in the last adventure in a big way: Eye Boy and Shark Girl. What inspired the creation of these characters and what do you find most interesting about them?
Jason Aaron: Coming out of “AvX,” we knew that there would be new mutants popping up. There was some space in the cast because Kid Gladiator went off to Shi’Ar space and Broo got shot in the head and has been in a coma. It opened up space to bring in three new mutants: the young, winged Chinese mutant who we first met in “AvX,” Shark Girl and Eye Boy. All three of them will be part of the next arc that takes place in the Savage Land.
I always liked mixing new characters in with the old. I think it’s important to do that. Every generation of X-Men readers needs their own characters; the ones where they feel like they’re getting in on the ground floor. I liked the idea of mixing that up and when we first started the book we had a mix of characters from all different eras of X-history. We’ll continue to explore those characters going forward. Like I said, they’re all a big part of the Savage Land arc and we’re still just getting to know them.
So far, they’re pretty compelling characters with especially interesting visual hooks.
Right, and we’ll continue to learn more about that going forward. We still don’t understand how a couple of their powers work or even what their powers are. So there’s still a lot to unfold with those characters.
As a Tom Waits fan, I often find myself referring to Eye Boy as “The Eyeball Kid.”
[Laughs] That’s okay, too. I like Eye Boy a lot. He’s a character that I thought artists would hate to draw because he’s got so many eyes. Nick Bradshaw really liked him, though, and went crazy with the character. He added four more eyes than I had envisioned.
Visually, I think he’s a great character. Plus I think the emotion that Nick brought to the character is just wild. Ramon Perez is also doing a great job drawing him in our next arc.
You’ve also got some new established characters in the book’s cast — the time displaced original five X-Men. Will these characters be a big part of “Wolverine & the X-Men?”
Those characters won’t be a big part of “Wolverine & the X-Men.” They’ve got their own book, “All-New X-Men,” but we do see Jean Grey in issue #24. There’s a fun little scene between her and Quinton Quire.
Going forward, we may see those characters from time to time. They’re all operating out of the school, but the original five are not going to become a big part of the cast. I think my book has a very clear mandate. Plus, my cast is big enough as it is. I don’t need to add any more characters to the mix.
Let’s talk about the recent developments with the regular cast from the Frankenstein’s Murder Circus story arc. What can you tell us about the emotional states of Idie and Quentin Quire after issue #23? It seems like Idie may be more lost than ever and Quinton might be dealing with some troubling realizations.
Yes, Idie certainly seems to be more lost than ever. She’s been through the wringer these last couple of arcs. Of course, “Schism” was sort of the beginning of the downward slide that she’s currently in the midst of. Plus, we saw how the recent shooting of Broo affected her and how the Hellfire Club is trying to manipulate her.
All of that stuff is leading somewhere. We’ll see that develop again in the Savage Land arc and it will explode in a big way later this year.
Idie says something interesting to Quentin in that issue: “I knew you’d understand,” and Quentin replies, “Yes, I’m afraid I do.” The look on his face suggests he’s dealing with something difficult or painful.
I think Quentin realizes what’s going on with Idie. He knows where this is headed and knows that it’s probably not anywhere good. Quentin is wrestling with his own identity issues, though.
Issue #25 is a pretty pivotal issue for him. Something happens to him in that issue that puts him at a crossroads. So the next two arcs will be big for his character and where he’s ultimately headed.
Quentin is a lot of fun to write. He’s the typical rebel without cause, super smart, super gifted kid, but he’s a guy who’s always played the part of anarchist and insurrectionist. It’s a fake front in that he’s not as angry or as much of a bad guy as he wants people to think he is.
So Quentin and Idie are heading some interesting places and we’ll see their arcs continue to play out over these next few months. There’s also the fact that we’ve seen they have a pretty strong connection to each other. We saw in issue #4 that their future selves seemed to be a couple. Then at the end of the “AvX” tie-ins we saw them share a kiss. So we’ll see where all that leads. Are they going to become the next big X-couple or not?
Isn’t it a problem in that Quentin, one of the school’s biggest troublemakers, is the only one to catch on that one of his fellow students has become a walking powder keg?
The X-Men certainly have had a lot of stuff going on over the last few months. Maybe some of what’s going on with the kids have slipped below their radar. The Savage Land arc really is about Logan trying to address some of that and spotlighting the kids who are troubled and the kids who need the most help. So those kids are going to get some help. It’s the Wolverine brand of help, which is not what you would get from most teachers.
The Savage Land arc is the first time we see Wolverine step up a big way and try to help these kids. He’s going to help them the way he knows how and the way he was brought up. It’s a way fraught with lots of danger. [Laughs]
One of the X-Men’s youthful villains is also going through some difficult times. “Wolverine & the X-Men” #23 sees Max Katzenelnbogen of the Hellfire Club begins referring to himself as Max Frankenstein.
Yes, he’ll be Doctor Frankenstein from here on out. This has been kind of a recurring joke with him going back to “Wolverine & the X-Men” #1 and his first appearance in “Schism.” We’ve known that he was a descendant of the original Doctor Frankenstein who rejected that family name and was vehement about not wanting to be called Frankenstein.
Then finally we see him embrace that name and embrace the fact that he is a Frankenstein. He is one of the worst of the bunch and going forward we’ll see him doing his best to live up to that legacy.
Is he now committed to being the monster that his descendant’s creation believes him to be?
It certainly seems that way. It seems that he’s embracing family legacy and everything it entails. However, at the end of the last issue of the Murder Circus arc Max set Idie free in the sense that when he leaves he goes against Kade Kilgore’s orders, and puts an axe in the head of the robot they were using to try and manipulate her.
Even though Max did turn his back on her when he had a chance to try and save her life when she was being attacked by his descendant’s monster, he’s not as bad of a guy as he seems or wants people to think he is; because he still felt some kind of sympathy for Idie and did her a small favor at least
He’s not as bad as Kade Kilgore, is he?
It doesn’t seem like it, but he’s still a pretty scary kid.
Max may have changed his mind about the Frankenstein legacy, but the end of “Wolverine & the X-Men” #23 showed that Frankenstein’s Monster is still committed to the destruction of that family. Do you plan to revisit this character in the future?
I don’t have any immediate plans to bring Frankenstein back. I love writing that character. I knew I wanted to do this arc with the character since I knew Max was going to be a Frankenstein.
In our first arc we saw the gun that shoots Frankensteins, but I knew I wanted to bring the real monster into the book. He’s the same character that’s been at Marvel for years and used to appear in his own ongoing series, but I liked the idea of making him a full on bad guy again. Especially considering what DC had done with Frankenstein over the last few years. I loved the Grant Morrison Frankenstein and what Jeff Lemire has done with the character. All that stuff is great, but since they were doing good guy Frankenstein I liked the idea of leaning hard into the bad guy Frankenstein again.
Going forward though, who knows? Maybe we will see him pop up again. I did get to scratch my itch of having Wolverine fight Frankenstein, which is something I had wanted to do for a while, but I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing him back again.
At the end of “Wolverine & the X-Men” #23 you revealed the re-appearance of the demonic being known as Azazel. The initial X-Men story that Azazel appeared in was controversial in terms of fan reactions. Why bring the character back? What do you find intriguing about him?
The reasons to bring him back are many-fold, as we’ll see over the course of the next two to three arcs. I didn’t really worry about the fact that the original storyline he appeared in was very divisive. I don’t think there are any bad characters. It’s more how you write that character and what you do with them.
I’ve had plans for Azazel for a long time and his return means we’ll start to see the explanation of why there are Bamfs in the Jean Grey School. That, of course, goes back to our very first issue. This is all stuff that’s been in the works for a very long time and will come to a head later in the year in what will probably be the biggest arc we’ve ever done with “Wolverine & the X-Men.”
Since you’re going from Frankenstein to a demonic character it seems like you enjoy throwing in occasional elements of fun, ’70s style, over the top, Marvel horror.
Sure. You can see that in a lot of the stuff I do. Plus with the X-Men there’s a history of that. These stories aren’t the first time the X-Men have crossed paths with Frankenstein or otherworldly demonic entities. So that’s certainly something that’s been a part of these last few arcs and I’ll continue to play with that stuff going forward.
It’s like my “Wolverine” run, where over the course of several years I mixed things up from arc to arc. In our second arc of “Wolverine & the X-Men,” we had Wolverine and Quentin going into space to an alien casino — I like playing with sci-fi elements as well. I of course like doing super hero stuff and I like doing horror stuff.
Our next arc, the Savage Land arc, has a lot of big character driven stuff. It’s a story with a fantastic setting but it’s really more of a character driven arc. So I like doing a little bit of everything. When I can mix things up from arc to arc it keeps me from getting bored.
Coming up is “Wolverine & the X-Men” #24, the one-off “Date Night” issue. Can you hint or tease some of the developments readers will see in this issue?
The “Date Night” part of the issue should be self-explanatory. We’ve been building to Kitty and Iceman’s first date for a while now. So, we’ll see that happen.
Does it go well or does it turn out horribly? Those are the big questions that you’ll have to wait and see get answered. If you’ve seen the cover, you know that there’s something going on between Wolverine and Storm. We’ll find out what that is. It has big ramifications for the Jean Grey School as a whole going forward.
So issue #24 is like one of those issues I’ve done a few times now where we reset the table and focus in our cast. We set up where everybody is and deal with a lot of the relationships with both the teachers and the students. That kind of sets the stage for where we’re going next.
Next up is the trip to the Savage Land. Interestingly enough, it’s a tale that has some pay-off for readers who have been following your work on books like “Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine” and “Wolverine” with Logan’s brother, Dog, stepping up to become a major adversary.
Yeah Wolverine’s brother, Dog, comes back in a big way. So a lot of the arc, especially the second issue, really focuses in on Dog and it doesn’t matter if you’ve read “Origin” or not. This tells you who he is and why you should care about him.
I always liked the idea of bringing him back, but not as some sort of cackling arch villain. He’s not a guy who shows up to say, “Man, I hate my brother and I can’t wait to kill him.” I think Dog is a very tragic and sympathetic character in that all he did wrong originally was being born to a terrible, alcoholic father who abused him. He grew up under these terrible circumstances and watched this kid who was his only friend, James, grow up in the big, rich house on the hill and have this life that Dog could only dream of.
Then one horrible night he finds out that James was actually his brother. So Dog feels cheated. James was no better than him, but he got all the things Dog never did. Dog has always lived in his shadow and this is Dog coming into the present to really try and show up his brother. He’s going to show him that Wolverine’s not the better Logan and that Wolverine doesn’t even know what it means to be a Logan because he didn’t have the upbringing Dog had. Dog has really come to teach Wolverine what he thinks it means to be a Logan.
Is Dog a dangerous character simply because of his schemes, or does he pose a physical threat to Wolverine as well?
Dog doesn’t have any powers. He’s just a regular guy with big Wolverine scars of his face, but as we showed in “Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine,” he’s been kind of been bouncing around through the time stream. When he shows up in the Savage Land arc, he is able to go toe to toe with his brother.
He’s not an exact copy of Wolverine, though. He doesn’t have claws or a healing factor. He’s a guy who’s had to fight and earn everything he’s gotten in life. He’s a hardscrabble mountain man who was born around the turn of the century, and he’s still very much that guy.
Wrapping up, you’ve got a heavy-hitting rotation of artists for the next couple months. What do you feel they bring to the stories you have planned?
I continue to be very lucky with “Wolverine & the X-Men.” Nick Bradshaw, who is the main artist on the book now, just wrapped up the Murder Circus arc and I think he did some of the best stuff he’s ever done on this series.
David Lopez comes in for issue #24 and does a gorgeous job with the Date Night story. I especially love the way he draws Storm in that issue.
Then RamÃ³n Perez comes on for the arc after that. RamÃ³n is a guy I’ve wanted to work with for a while. If you don’t know his stuff, you should pick up “A Tale of Sand,” the Eisner-winning graphic novel he did last year. The “John Carter” mini-series he did last year as well with Sam Humphries was also really great, too.
RamÃ³n is doing amazing work on this arc. I think people will really flip when they see the first issue and the second issue is even better. We do a lot of flashbacks with Dog and RamÃ³n did painted work for those sequences.
So again, I’ve been very luck with the artists I’ve gotten to work with on this book. And Nick Bradshaw will be back for the arc right after RamÃ³n. So we’ve got a pretty impressive rotation going on with “Wolverine & the X-Men.”
Finally, can you hint or tease about what’s coming further down the line in 2013 for “Wolverine & the X-Men?” You did mention that you’re building towards one of the biggest arcs you’ve ever done in this book.
I think we’ve got two of the biggest stories I’ve ever done coming up for these characters. The Savage Land story begins to set up a lot of that. These seeds have been planted before.
We’ve already seen that Glob Herman is a mole at the school that is working with the Hellfire Club. We’ve seen that the Hellfire Club has been trying to manipulate Idie for some unknown reason. Then at the end of the Murder Circus arc we see young Max Frankenstein walking into a building with a marquee overhead that says, “Hellfire Academy.”
So that gives you an idea where some things are heading for the arc right after our Savage Land story. Then on that same page where we see the Hellfire Academy we see Azazel and a bunch of red Bamfs. That one page tells you what our two big stories are coming later this year.
When we last saw Kid Gladiator he was leaving Earth and headed off to Shi’ar space with his dad. We will catch up with him. We’ll continue to explore those three new students we introduced. We’ll learn more about them and see them integrated into the cast with some of the preexisting kids. We’ll also answer the question of whether Broo will ever get better and come out of his coma. And the relationship between Kitty and Iceman will continue to move forward. There’s a lot of big stuff coming. I think the biggest stuff ever for this book is in the future.
“Wolverine & the X-Men” #24 hits stores Wednesday, January 23.