Bobby Drake and Hank McCoy have over the years been crucially important members of the X-Men, with whom they operate as Iceman and the Beast, respectively. The two mutants began their heroic careers in the team’s original line-up and since then have left and rejoined the auspicious group a number of times. Next week, in two separate Marvel comic books taking place during two different time periods, writer Mike Carey takes a look at what the X-Men mean to Iceman and Beast. In “X-Men: Manifest Destiny #1,” Carey and artist Michael Ryan kick of a story that sends Iceman across the country and towards the next step in his journey with the organization. And in the one-shot “X-Men Origins: Beast,” Carey and artist JK Woodward re-examine the adventure that first lead the Beast to become a member of the Marvel universe’s premier mutant team.
Carey’s Iceman story in the “X-Men: Manifest Destiny” came about because he enjoys anthologies, but the writer also wanted to move Iceman’s story forward. “I feel of the original five X-Men, with the possible exception of Angel, Iceman is the one who’s been most inconsistently developed,” Carey told CBR News. “Every so often he’d just default back to being the joker, the wisecracker, and the rookie, which he empathically isn’t. He’s got as much combat experience as Cyclops and Beast. He deserves to have that reflected in the way he’s portrayed. So in the adjectiveless ‘X-Men’ title and other places I’ve been playing with Bobby’s character, developing his powers and personality, and trying to move him into the place where I think he ought to be.”
Generally, Jean Grey is thought to be the most powerful of the original X-Men — who also included Angel, Beast and Cyclops — but Carey feels that when you consider the full range and implications of Iceman’s powers, one could make a case for Bobby Drake being just as powerful as Jean Grey. “We’ve heard in the past that he’s an Omega level mutant and at the height of his game he definitely is,” Carey said. “He has powers that can influence the ecosystem of the entire world. We seldom see him operating on that level though. Things that he’s been able to do in the past aren’t always acknowledged as being part of his core power se. We’ve seen him get partially destroyed and recreate himself, which is something I had him do again in an adjectiveless ‘X-Men’ arc. He gets blown apart and than he just grows himself back again because he’s made up of ice and ice is a crystal. With a crystal, every single part contains enough information to recreate the whole. I think the potential of his powers is almost limitless.”
|Pages from “X-Men: Manifest Destiny” #1|
However, Carey continued, “You obviously have the problem, though, that if you make one of the heroes in a book too powerful you skew the story dynamics to a certain extent, but with Iceman it’s possible to explore some of the ramifications of his powers a lot further before you get to that point.”
Mike Carey feels one of Iceman’s best personality traits is that emotionally Bobby Drake is like the ice he manipulates — not cold but transparent. “He’s devastatingly honest. He is very up-front with his emotions and his thoughts all the time,” Carey said. “Also, he’s obviously incredibly brave both in terms of facing external, physical danger as well as facing up to unpleasant situations and admitting his own mistakes.”
When “X-Men: Manifest Destiny” #1 begins, Iceman’s mistakes are weighing heavily on his mind. “I think it’s fair to say that he’s haunted by the recent past and has got something to prove. In the events leading up to ‘Messiah Complex,’ he got blindsided by Mystique and I think that’s still preying on him to a large extent,” Carey explained. “So we’re definitely revisiting some of those events. Bobby is questioning his role as a member of the X-Men and contemplating his trip west to San Francisco, but he’s not entirely sure what his next move is going to be.”
Carey’s Iceman story in “Manifest Destiny” takes place before the recent “Uncanny X-Men” arc that saw Iceman arrive in San Francisco, and follows as Iceman as he travels west on a cross-country trip to the X-Men’s new home. “It will be by road, by air, and a variety of other means,” Carey laughed. Iceman’s road/air/other-trip unfolds in eight-page installments featured in each of the “Manifest: Destiny” mini-anthology’s five issues. “It’s forty pages total, so you can kind of see it as a two-issue limited series. Doing it as five episodes, though, allows us to really punctuate the journey,” Carey stated. “Each episode is in a different place, a different part of America, as[Iceman] gradually moves west.”
Bobby won’t have much time for sightseeing as he journeys across America. Instead, the hero will deal with a relentless and familiar foe. “The plot of the story brings Bobby face to face with an old enemy, somebody who he is perhaps ill prepared to meet at this point in his life,” Carey revealed. “So it becomes kind of a duel to the death across the face of America with Bobby’s future as an X-Man and his very identity at stake.”
Carey couldn’t reveal the identity of Iceman’s mysterious assailant or the motives behind the villain’s assault. “I’d rather not be too specific about this villain’s motives because there’s a sense that the character in question is not being entirely honest on that score,” Carey remarked. “The villain’s state of mind is just as fractured and conflicted as Bobby’s.”
The story in “Manifest Destiny” takes Iceman and his adversary to some very dark places and Carey is happy that Michael Ryan is bringing to life the journey. “He’s got a great sensitivity to visual storytelling and the ability to handle raw emotion, which is very much called for here,” Carey said.
Like the Iceman story in “X-Men: Manifest Destiny,” Carey’s work on “X-Men Origins: Beast” came about because he finds Hank McCoy to be an equally compelling character to write about. “I like Beast because he embodies contradictions. He’s this very intelligent, educated, and cultured man in the body of a wild animal. That sort of dichotomy always fascinated me,” the writer remarked. “I had always loved the character and I think his is one of the more interesting and bizarre origin stories among the X-Men. I thought it bore revisiting and retelling.”
When “Origins” begins, Hank McCoy is like many adolescents, desperately clinging to the hope that he can fit in and be somebody he’s not. “He’s still at Senior High and emotionally he’s in hiding,” Carey said. “He’s in hiding from his powers, who he is, and who he fears he may he turn out to be. He wants more than anything to be normal and live up to his parent’s expectations of him. These powers that are emerging actually seem more of a threat to that than anything else. So we find him camouflaged and lying low.
“Than we take him through the process of being outed — and I use that term because none of it was originally Hank’s agenda. He’s forced into a situation where he has to use his powers and to some extent blow his cover, although the story has a bizarre ending as far as that goes. We’re very much following the lines of the classic origin story that was told as a back-up story in ‘Uncanny X-Men’ we’re not changing history at all.”
|Pages from “X-Men Origins: Beast”|
Carey may not be changing any of the Beast’s already established origin but he did have room to flesh out and add to the psychological elements of the story. “We’re showing what this means to Hank in terms of his mental state and the mental state of his adversary in the story, the Conquistador,” Carey explained. “It deepens the situation in that respect. It doesn’t change the major beats but you could argue that it gives a different sense of what the major beats mean for everyone involved.”
The plot of “Origins” has the Conquistador forcing the teenage Hank McCoy to break into and rob the nuclear power plant that his father works at. “The Conquistador was a strange villain,” Carey remarked. “When he was first introduced, he was just a guy who dressed up as an armored Spanish soldier from the 17th Century. And he had a bunch of similarly dressed followers — guys who were happy to play at dressing up along with him. And yet despite this very retro look, in the story he wants to steal nuclear material. What I did was try to come up with an explanation as to how someone would get into that situation, that agenda, and that costume.
“Anybody who doesn’t know the original story will find that the ending takes them by surprise,” Carey added. “Not so much the final confrontation between Beast and the Conquistador, but what happens after that. The way in which the situation between Hank and his family and friends is resolved is strange and scary and, to some extent, feeds into the stories we’re exploring in ‘X-Men: Legacy.'”
|“X-Men: Manifest Destiny” #2 and #3|
Because Carey is being faithful to the Beast’s established origins, Professor Xavier and the other X-Men don’t appear until the final pages of “X-Men Origins: Beast.” “Apart from them, the other supporting players are Hank’s family and his first girlfriend, Jennifer Nyles,” Carey confirmed. “At this time she’s the love of his life and she has her own part to play in the transformation that he goes through.”
Carey has been repeatedly blown away by J.K. Woodward’s fully painted artwork for “X-Men Origins: Beast.” “It’s drop dead gorgeous,” the writer said. “It really is amazing. There’s a splash page towards the end which is Hank’s first meeting with the X-Men and oh man! You’ve just got to see it to believe it!”
Carey had loads of fun working on both “X-Men: Manifest Destiny” and “X-Men Origins: Beast” and has come to love telling shorter stories in both the anthology and one-shot format. “You can use them to different things,” he said. “The short stories are especially cool because you can develop and play out one idea and than walk away. It’s a single riff. The multi-part stories I write involve more planning, especially for ‘X-Men: Legacy,’ where you’re referencing a lot of past continuity. But it’s great because I love the continuity. I’m really an old time X-Men fan. I really like mining the stories I loved as a kid and a young man, and finding new angles to come at them from.”