This month saw the return of fan-favorite writing team Chris Yost and Craig Kyle to the X-Men universe with “Amazing X-Men” #8, kicking off the duo and artists Ed McGuinness and Carlo Barberi’s “World War Wendigo.”
Yost and Kyle have a long history with the X-Men, dating back to the “X-Men: Evolution” animated series, during which they created X-23. The pair had a long writing stint on “New X-Men,” creating numerous fan-favorite characters that became infused in the X-Men mythos before heading on to a long run on “X-Force,” featuring the first incarnation of the X-Men black-ops squad. Following work on “Thor: The Dark World” with Marvel Studios, Yost and Kyle are back in comics as a duo, crafting a story that involves Wendigos, Alpha Flight, the return of Colossus to the School and more.
Yost and Kyle opened up to CBR News about their first arc on the series, what it’s like returning to comics as a writing team, the challenge of working their arc into a time filled with major developments for the X-Men, the significance of Colossus to the team and more. Plus, Kyle tells a story about how a scene from the “Thor: The Dark World” prequel comic made it into the final version of the film.
CBR News: Craig, Chris — welcome back to the X-Men! How does it feel to be back together writing for the X-Universe again?
Christopher Yost: It feels good, man! I love the X-Men. I think they’re fun. It’s been a while since we were really in the thick of it. We love these characters and it’s great to be back with them.
Craig Kyle: Yeah, Chris and I started our journey together doing X-Men stuff — it was in animation first, but then in comics, so there’s always a great familiarity to the stuff as fans; but also just to work together on this stuff is always fun. It’s always a good time, we love the X-Men. I think it’s still Chris’ favorite, but it’s always been my favorite. I love the X-books.
Yost: You know, I was a Spider-Man guy initially, but honestly, I’ve written way more X-Men than I’ve ever written Spider-Man. It’s tricky — I go back and forth.
Kyle: Maybe you’re just not as good at Spider-Man.
Yost: Yeah, that could be it. Or anything else, really.
Kyle: [Laughs] As a friend, I just put that out there. You think about it Chris.
Yost: That’s the kind of honesty this relationship has.
Your first issue of “Amazing X-Men” had a lot going on, along with the challenge of starting amidst a pretty good number of happenings in the X-Men’s corner of the Marvel Universe. What was the experience like in crafting an arc that would mesh with all these other moving pieces?
Yost: It’s tricky. You always want to be relevant with everything else that’s going on in the universe, but at the same time, you really want it excel as an evergreen story — something you can pick up without knowing much about the X-Men beyond who they are and what their general mission statement is. This is like a big blockbuster movie of an X-Men story. It really doesn’t rely on what’s going on in the moment in what’s going on in the vast tapestry of the Marvel Universe. This is really just a bare-bones natural disaster story with the X-Men right in the heat of it.
Kyle: Chris and I always have an eye to the stuff that he and I grew up with. To be fair, he had a very clean kick-off to this project, which was, “What if the Wendigo plague was spread very rapidly in an ingenious kind of way?” I loved it. I thought it was a great hook. It gave us a chance to take these guys that we loved so much, and put them under a tremendous amount of pressure. Our hope is that every time there seems to be a solid avenue for success or containment, it’s immediately shut down due to the extraordinary nature of the threat.
Yost: The other selling point for us was the inclusion of Alpha Flight, as well. Alpha Flight is always a team that’s been close to our hearts. I know Craig’s been talking about doing an Alpha Flight story forever, but this seemed like the perfect opportunity to really bring back those classic Alpha Flight characters and reintroduce them to current audiences.
A lot of Alpha Flight fans were very excited to see some of the team appear in your first issue. What kind of plans might you have for them moving forward beyond “World War Wendigo?”
Kyle: That’s a tough one, huh, Chris?
Yost: Yeah, because you don’t want to spoil any upcoming deaths or anything like that. I would say — look, the market kind of decides some of these things. Alpha Flight, as much as we love them, has never sustained beyond that initial 120 issue run. An “Alpha Flight” book a lot of times seems to be easy cannon fodder. Obviously, they’re in a tough situation here, but they’re going to be instrumental in the story to come. I would say keep reading and hopefully it’ll reveal what our plans are for them.
Kyle: Yeah, it always comes down to who gets a hold of ’em. We’re really happy we get to tell some stories with Northstar, because he’s already built in to the current team. Any character, any team, any storyline — it just takes the right mix of creators behind it to tell an exciting story. If Blade can be made into something special like it has in the features, then teams like Alpha Flight that definitely have their fan base — if they’re handled well and you can find why they’re unique, and make them shine in a story, there’s lots of great opportunities to be had with these characters just like anybody else’s various teams and universes. Hopefully, the people who care about this team will think we’ve done a nice job with the characters that we’re bringing it. We hope.
Alpha Flight weren’t the only characters you brought into the book — after quite a bit of time away, Colossus is now back in the mix at the school. How important was it to you to get him back to the school and with the core X-Men team?
Kyle: Well, again, Chris and I go back to the team that we grew up with, which obviously is the core that everyone loves — at least if they’re fans like Chris and I. It’s Colossus, it’s Nightcrawler, it’s Storm, it’s Wolverine, Jean, Scott, what have you. When we were presented with the cast of this team, we were really excited because we got a good two-thirds of characters we absolutely loved. That said, Chris and I have had a chance to work with the young kids and a whole mix of newer creations. For us, if it’s going to be a proper X-book — I’ll speak for myself — you need to have some of those pillars that are the absolute greats. But, characters like the kids — whether it be Anole or Pixie or some of the wonderful kids we got to know well in “New X-Men” — they bring fresh life and fun and humor. If you mix a little bit of those guys in with the old school heroes, you get this great mix of age and youth; experience and novices — it just makes for more engaging interactions with the characters, but also chances for success and failure across the board.
So, while we especially like working with the greats, it’s nice working with the kids that will hopefully someday be the fan favorites of the readers of today. For me, and I do believe Chris, it’s always a nice mix of great X-characters new and old.
Yost: Yeah, I agree. I think Colossus is one of those classic X-Men you always want to see. You put Colossus on the team, and suddenly it’s the X-Men again. I really think those core characters can bring that fun and experience, and you mix them in with the new ones and it just brings a lot more opportunity for fun. This story in particular, re-introducing him to the team in the moment with this particular threat is one of those fun things where we can have amazing sequences of Colossus taking on 100 Wendigo. That’s going to be a blast.
Craig, I’m glad you mentioned “New X-Men.” Both of your run on that book is still very well-remembered by the CBR Community, and there are often questions about whether you have any plans to return to those characters. With “Amazing X-Men” set at least partially in the Jean Grey School, are those characters something you have plans to focus on during your tenure on the book?
Kyle: Well, because of the number of X-books and creative teams, and plans that editorial’s laid down with those teams, we’re sharing lots of assets. We need to be careful, if we want to grab somebody like Anole, that we’re not ripping him out of the hands of someone who has a great storyline for him. They’re great, and Marvel’s really good about huddling together and saying, “Here’s a wish list that Craig and Chris have. What are the possibilities? What’s a go?” If we really feel strongly about someone — like, Colossus is someone that Chris and I just love. He’s definitely my favorite X-Man, he’s someone we definitely wanted to bring in. We thought we had some fun ideas to reconnect with him and Kurt. We were really desperate about getting him in the book and it worked out in our favor, which was great.
With the kids, it’s the same thing. If we have a really compelling reason about why they need to be in the story, then we just have to put that forward and let editorial do a pow-wow, bring everybody together and see what’s possible. As much as we love those guys, we don’t want to get in the way of someone else’s story or somehow unravel the work that other teams are doing, because it’s very frustrating when you’ve got a plan in place and a story you’re excited to tell, and then someone tells you, “The character that’s the core of your whole story? Yeah, that’s not going to be available.”
Since we’ve been on that side of it, we try to only push when it’s important, but we wouldn’t have brought up the kids if we didn’t think they weren’t fun to put in our stories. Obviously, we would want to bring at least one or two of ’em in at least for a little while if we can.
Yost: Yeah. We spent two years on “New X-Men” and we love those characters for sure. To me, they’re now just part of the X-Men’s world. Even if it’s an X-Men story, they’re in the background. So in the story, you see Pixie or Rockslide or Quentin Quire just there. To me, that’s part of the job: This is their world, of course they’re going to be there. The chances of them showing up are good because, why not? They’re there to be used. All it takes for a character not to go into limbo forever is for a writer to have them show up occasionally. I’m always all for them showing up.
In the case of those kids, I love ’em. I don’t remember what the question was, but that’s what I’ve got to say!
[Laughs] Obviously, you’ve both had quite the career outside of comics as well, having worked on many Marvel films in recent years. It’s easy to see how knowledge of comics has been used to help unite the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but what kind of skills from your time in film have transferred over to how you approach writing comics?
Yost: I’ll let you know! [Laughs] You know, it’s funny — because obviously we worked on “Thor.” Craig has lived and breathed “Thor” for 100 years now. I had never actually written him in the comics before in the 616 and it’s interesting to reconcile the two, because they’re pretty different. I think if anything, it’s made me think about making the characters a little more human. In the comics, there’s really this heightened reality, whereas in the films — I know it sounds bizarre to say it — things are a little more down-to-earth. Again, we’re talking about alien gods and universes destroyed and all this stuff, but working on the movies really made me think more about the human elements.
Kyle: It’s funny — Chris and I had an experience where we were doing this tie-in comic, and we really wanted to do something fun that really mattered; moments that really had impact in the features. We ended up doing — among a bunch of scenes — the reconnect with Loki and Odin and Frigga, and Kevin [Feige] got a hold of that issue when it came out and we were still in the post-process on “The Dark World.” He grabbed it and goes, “Where the hell is this scene?” [Laughs] I didn’t know we needed it in the movie! So, because the scene that Chris and I crafted where Loki is dragged back to Asgard and has a face off with his father after the events of “The Avengers” [appeared in the comic], we ended up tackling — Chris especially — a version of that for the feature. It was a moment where Chris and I wanted to do something that mattered to the fans that enjoyed both the features and the comics, and it ended up becoming a scene that went into the actual film when it was released. That was a crazy scenario.
Every medium takes different storytelling, and the more we work with these characters, the better we write them, the better we get to know them. Chris has got a hell of a head start on me, but we’ve had a great chance to work on a lot of things together. I think every story you tell, every character you work with, hopefully the better your stories become and the deeper your character understanding is. I hope people enjoy this first arc out, but we just try to do our best — whether it’s a comic, a TV series, a feature or anything.
You’ve both had some great experience doing team books — notably, “New X-Men,” X-Force” — and now, Chris is tackling “New Warriors.” As “Amazing X-Men” progresses, what most excites you about exploring the team dynamic between these characters?
Yost: It comes down to that core X-Men team. Now you have a team with Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus and Wolverine on it. These four characters have been through hell together and they’ve been around for a long time in audience years. What you’re seeing there is these four old friends who have their problems — they’ve done things like die and fight and come back and sleep with each other and all this stuff. They’ve got this shared history that’s kind of irreplaceable. To be able to explore that, these old friends coming back together again, back in the saddle as X-Men again, it all comes around. The classic X-Men have been through Schisms and Messiah Complexes. They’ve lived and died and now they’ve come back together. We get to explore how those changes have affected them, how their friendship can overcome what life has thrown at them. And they get to fight Wendigo!
Kyle: When I went on to feature producing and Chris continued to dig on as a writer and was heading up a bunch of our animated series and did a tremendous job on the “Avengers” run that he had, and he’s done numerous books — he’s written a few features at this point — he’s juggling a lot of stories. He’s been a full time writer now for over a decade. For me, I made a big switch this year: I’m going from producing these movies to writing them. It’s an exciting change and I’m thrilled to be back with Chris on the next “Thor.” It’s huge. But as I’m approaching this new chapter in my life, I approach every story one at a time. Who do I want to focus on, what do I want to see in these characters, how can we best squeeze them to reveal those truths or things that people might not have noticed before? It’s almost like being in AA — it’s a day at a time, it’s a character at a time, it’s a story at a time. I really delve deep and keep my focus as best I can, because I’m not at the point now where I want to juggle three comic book series, two features and a television show. [Laughs] While that sounds amazing from the financial side, if I can work on a feature, potentially develop another and keep one hand firmly in the books, and tell good stories there — I only want to do the work that will be enjoyed by the fans. It’s exciting, but for me, “World War Wendigo” is the focus for now, and when that chapter closes, we’ll move on to the next. It’s the same thing with the products outside of comics. “Thor” is firmly in my sights, and there are some things that are percolating, but until the trigger’s pulled, I like to focus on the world that I’m in and not get too overwhelmed with all the prospects that are out there.
Wrapping up, after “World War Wendigo!”, what’s next for the “Amazing” team? What’s in store for some of these characters?
Yost: We’re actually sitting down with Mike Marts, having phone calls left and right, and just trying to lay it all out. Like you said kicking this off, there’s a lot going on in the X-Men universe right now, so a lot of it is navigating where the “Amazing” book sits in there. The stories that we’re going to tell aren’t necessarily going to be the big continuity stories. What we want to tell are great X-Men stories on the largest scale possible and really try to earn the title “Amazing.”
And maybe Juggernaut. So, there you go.
Kyle: [Laughs] Look, Chris said it best. This is such a family project with so many different teams focused on different chunks of the universe. We just really wanted to kick off with a story that felt huge, epic, hopeless, fun and would hopefully appeal to old-school fans like Chris and I, but hopefully the younger fans that have come in and love the X-Men. If we do that, I’ll be thrilled. These worlds are so deep and they have so many avenues you can go down. It’s wide open. Hopefully the next story will be even better received than this one. Like I said — for me, it’s one story at a time, so I can’t even tell you what’s coming after this one!