Since their first appearance way back in September 1963’s “The X-Men” #1, the titular characters have been fighting to protect a world that fears and hates them because of their mutant powers. Forty years later, the X-Men’s long struggle had made them one of the Marvel Universe’s premier super teams, but in the climax of January 2006’s “House of M,” the reality altering mutant known as the Scarlet Witch used her ability to depower most of the mutants around the world and keep new mutants from being born. Suddenly the X-Men weren’t fighting to fit in; they were fighting to survive.
Hope seemed lost until the X-Men found a glimmer of it in the 2007-2008 storyline known as “Messiah CompleX.” In that storyline, a new mutant baby was born. She became a symbol the X-Men could rally around, a possible mutant messiah that might be able to reignite the mutant race. The X-Men’s leader, Cyclops, had such faith in the baby that he sent her into the future to be raised by his time traveling son, Cable. In the “Cable” ongoing series, the baby came to be known as Hope and the title character raised her from infant to teenager.
In the latest X-Men crossover event, “Second Coming,” the teenaged Hope and Cable returned to the present day. It was a brutal and violent tale that found the X-Men under siege from anti-mutant forces that wanted to kill Hope and destroy mutant kind forever. At the end of the storyline, Cyclops’s faith was rewarded as the mutant finding computer Cerebro lit up with five lights representing new mutants whose powers just activated. In the current “Uncanny X-Men” storyline “The Five Lights” the X-Men are racing to find this next generation of mutants. Then in November these new mutants will take center stage as writer Kieron Gillen and a currently unrevealed artist begin their new ongoing series “Generation Hope”, which was announced today at Marvel’s X-Men panel at the San Diego Comic Con. CBR News spoke with Gillen about the project.
For several years now the X-Men have been hoping and praying for new mutants to appear in the world. In “The Five Lights” and “Generation Hope” they’ll discover that they should be careful what they wish for.
“Something strange is going on. Things are not right. The process that caused mutants to develop is slightly out of wack. The ‘machinery’ isn’t making mutants as they should be. When they activate they become both a danger to themselves and a danger to the world. Basically there’s something mysteriously wrong with these mutants and the X-Men are hoping they can stabilise them – and find the method to do that,” Gillen told CBR News. “So the idea that things are all right with the world post-Second Coming is deceptive. New mutants are appearing but things aren’t back to “normal”. The X-Men have fought and some of them died for this mutant messiah but it’s not a case of the sun coming up and everybody living happily ever after. This is a mutated mutation. It isn’t exactly what they’re used to. Generation Hope’ is about making sure that these new mutants that are appearing don’t hurt themselves or others.”
The five new mutants that compose the new cast of “Generation Hope” come from all over the world. At the end of “X-Men: Second Coming” #2 Cerebro’s lights came on in the countries of Mexico, Canada, Nigeria, the Ukraine, and Japan. “We wanted an international cast with their own views on the world,” Gillen said. “These are mutants and “pure” is probably the best way of describing their powers. Mutants aren’t based on power sets. Their based on an ability they’ve developed because of mutation. So me and Matt [“Uncanny X-Men” writer Matt Fraction] spent a lot of time trying to work out some different takes on traditional powers; ways to make them interesting and dramatic. And a lot of it is based on personality types, because fundamentally this is a group of teenagers between the ages of 14 through 19.”
The young cast of “Generation Hope” will most certainly need instruction in the use of their mutant abilities, but the mysterious new nature of mutation and the unique position these new characters find themselves in means that Gillen’s new series isn’t your typical young mutants in training book. “It’s an extreme take on that concept. That may be be one way of looking at it. They are a group of new mutants but when the X-Men find these new mutants they might not necessarily want to be in training,” Gillen explained. “Some of these people are superhero types but this book is about saving new mutants. So saving them might not necessarily mean taking them in and training them in how to use their powers to save the world. Some of them may not have any control over their powers and are in danger because of it. So this book is about saving the future of the mutant race.
“It’s a very character driven book,” Gillen continued. “Early on, when Matt and I were discussing these characters, we were instantly like, ‘Oh yeah! This guy would do this, this and this.’ There is one character, the Ukrainian, where I’ve got a list of scenes I’m waiting to write. It’s like when he first meets this X-character he’s going to do this. He’s almost a force of nature in that way.”
The main cast of “Generation Hope” won’t just be composed of new characters. Other X-Men will regularly pop up in supporting roles, and the mutant messiah Hope will become a core member of the cast. “She’s a very developed character now, and she’s a lot of fun to write. She’s conflicted and very angry. She’s really resisted the idea of being a messiah, at least so far. Will that maintain? During the ego trip days of adolescence you can go back and forth between certain roles,” Gillen stated. “Your ego is a complicated thing. You’ll often resist things that are thrust upon you and occasionally flip around and embrace them.”
Gillen told CBR that he is enjoying the chance to write the teenage cast of “Generation Hope.” “Obviously, teenagers are people. They just haven’t been exposed to everything that limits their perception. So when it comes to change, especially the kind of accelerated changes you see in comic books, teenagers tend to take that really well. They’re exactly the same as everybody else but they get to the point quicker,” the writer remarked. “That’s how they process things. Their brakes don’t quite work, which is interesting. They’re out of control vehicles. I like looking at people who are like that.”
When “Generation Hope” #1 hits stores, four of the five new mutants will have been found. “The last character is sort of a tricky one, and the first arc is essentially about them,” Gillen said. “Plus our first arc involves setting up all these different ideas. It’s not ‘Everything falls into line, mutants are back.’ In extreme cases, it can be very disturbing. Things may be trying to go back to where they are but the process that creates mutants in the Marvel Universe has fundamentally warped. It’s no longer working properly. Not that I’m saying there are mystical reasons behind how mutants are produced – but what’s going on here is a mystery and the book is about that.
“It’s also about the next generation of mutants. So what does that mean?” Gillen continued. “My cast is a bunch of kids and I’m interested a little in the idea of a generation gap. For five years now, there have been no new mutants. So these characters are separated from that community. It’s not like their immediately part of this big family. In ‘Second Coming,’ you saw how Hope was being treated. People are very interested in her. These kids are sort of in the same boat. So there’s definitely that element to it. It’s like what happens when people get what they want? It seems like those who pray for a messiah are often very likely to nail that messiah to a cross.”
While the X-Men and the larger mutant community of the Marvel Universe is based in San Francisco, much of the action in “Generation Hope” will take place in various parts of the globe. “The initial thrust of this book is that mutants are emerging and you have to go all over the world to find them,” Gillen revealed. “So I’m not saying that any more new mutants will emerge right away, but if they do, this is the book where we’ll go out to find them.”
People across the globe suddenly becoming mutants and developing powerful and dangerous super abilities is a phenomenon that’s bound to have political ramifications. “When these new mutants emerge they immediately become persons of interest to the world. We’ll ask questions like, what do these individuals actually want? And what do people want from them?” Gillen remarked. “Say a mutant arises in a country with a dictator. He’s not going to let the X-Men have the mutant, is he? Another example might be a mutant emerging in Iron Fist’s City Kun’ Lun. A mutant emerging there would have immediate societal impact. And as you can imagine, we can easily get plots out of how society responds to mutants based on what they can do and what the X-Men may have to do to make a situation ‘all better.’ And of course ‘all better’ has various kinds of definitions.”
The cast of “Generation Hope” won’t just have to overcome larger political forces. They’ll often find themselves in positions where the number one threat they’re facing is the situation they’re currently involved in. “How these characters’ powers emerge and what they are actually like when their powers emerge are big factors in this book,” Gillen said. “Things are tricky for a variety of reasons. It’s plain haywire. They are mentally unsuited for the powers they’ve been given. So the fundamentals of our plots come from who these people are, where they arise, and the conflicts that arise from that.”
That clash of powers, personalities and politics will allow Gillen to tell both large scale and very intimate stories in “Generation Hope.” “The first arc is quite deliberately epic on a sort of city smashing scale but there are stories that I want to do on the opposite end of the scale, which are completely intimate. Like an issue about a private loss of something precious due to the change,” the writer revealed. “That’s what interested me about the book; the varying scale of it, from the micro-to-the-macro. There are all these interesting things that come with becoming a mutant and people respond to them in different ways. When you become a mutant the life you had the day before is just gone. So what do you do when all this change is forced into your life? That’s a perfect question for generating stories with all sorts of different scales.”
In “Generation Hope,” the future of the X-Men and mutantkind has arrived. The themes and tone of the series will often be about the quest to decide what that all means. “To me this book is about the future; about various people wrestling with the concept of what the future is. We all try to decide what that is everyday and we usually reach a sort of group consensus. The group in ‘Generation Hope’ kind of forms around that,” Gillen explained. ” Individually there’s one member of the team who’s a complete nihilist. He doesn’t believe in the concept of the future. That’s the cause and the conceit of the first few issues were doing. And that’s kind of an overall theme of the book. That question of what is the future and how does it relate to youth and how youths relate to people in power? These are the big amorphous themes I’m thinking about when writing them.”
Gillen would love for “Generation Hope” to have a long and fruitful future because the writer has plenty of stories to tell about the next generation of Marvel’s mutants. “When Matt and I started talking about this I had some ideas. Then I went on a train ride to Wales and I started writing and writing. This was even before we got to the central core of the team and all the dovetailing character plots. There was basically three years of stories on that sheet of paper,” the writer said. “They’re not all good stories. I think only about half of them are quite interesting [Laughs]. But that’s just an example of how much stuff just gushed out, which is always a good sign.”
“With ‘S.W.O.R.D.’ I very much planned for five issues because I thought it might be canceled [Laughs]. I was aware that launching a new book is tricky… but I also knew that to launch a book you have to think of the long term character arcs and how long it would progress before the status quo would have to change dramatically,” Gillen continued. “And I know where the status quo will have to change with ‘Generation Hope’. In other words, that destination is really “So – what’s this generation all about then?” That’s a big question and should keep me busy for ages.”