When Britain’s premier superhero team “Excalibur” reassembled in the aftermath of “House of M” and “Decimation,” it was under the direction of writer Chris Claremont. Recently, an illness has forced Claremont to take some time off from the book. Frank Tieri is currently filling in as writer of “New Excalibur” while Claremont recovers and rests up for his return to the title. Tieri may be a fill in writer, but his stories won’t be just simple filler. “New Excalibur” fans should prepare themselves for shocking revelations and developments over the course of Tieri’s run. CBR News chatted with Tieri about some of the surprises to come.
Tieri’s run began in issue #9 with a big surprise for Jonothan Starsmore AKA Chamber, who was one of the many mutants who lost their powers during “Decimation.” Chamber’s loss of his powers resulted in a crippling, near fatal injury. In issue #9, Chamber was abducted from his hospital bed by the sinister Clan Akkaba, a secret society fanatically devoted to protecting the legacy of the villain Apocalypse. The clan healed Chamber, altered his appearance to make him look like “Apocalypse Jr.” and might even have restored his mutant powers. The end of the issue suggested that Chamber’s story was far from over, but it won’t be resolved during Tieri’s “New Excalibur” run. “We do have plans beyond that,” Tieri told CBR News. “Marvel didn’t have me change Chamber into Apocalypse Jr. without another plan in mind.”
In Issue #9, Excalibur, which was originally assembled to help those who suffered from the aftermath of “House of M” and “Decimation,” offered to help the newly transformed Chamber. “What’s been stressed to me by the X-offices is that Excalibur’s role is that they’re the post ‘House of M’ group,’ Tieri explained. “They’re helping others deal with the fall out from ‘House of M.’ That’s what they were doing in the issue with Chamber. They defend England and try to help mutants after ‘House of M.’ That’s what they came together for in the first place but as missions tend to do, it branches out.
“In many ways I think before they can help other people they’re going to have to help themselves,” Tieri continued. “Particularly with the Juggernaut and people like that. They’re going to have to look at themselves first.”
In looking at themselves, Excalibur will have to address many of the underlying tensions between team members. “On this team in particular I see a lot personalities that clash,” Tieri said. “Everybody interprets characters differently and I interpret some of the characters differently than Chris. My Pete Wisdom, I think he’s a little bit more of a dick. That’s how I see the character and I think that’s fine. Just like regular life, there are people who are cool and there are people who are assholes and Pete Wisdom is an asshole. I think it’s perfectly all right to write him like that.
“One of the things that will develop in my run is a lot of friction,” Tieri continued. “Two characters in particular that we will see friction between are Pete Wisdom and Captain Britain. They share a history of being on a previous team and they weren’t the greatest of friends there. Captain Britain originally didn’t want Pete Wisdom on the team. I see these two guys as not getting along.”
The issue of leadership of Excalibur will be one of the contentious issues between Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom. “I think Pete Wisdom sees himself as the leader because he feels, ‘Hey! I put this thing together and I’m funding things, so, I’m the fucking leader!’ But I think people tend to follow Captain Britain into battle because he’s Captain Britain! Who would you follow into battle? You’re in England; are you going to follow the guy with the big British flag on his chest or the creepy guy in the trench coat smoking cigarettes? That’s where their issues will be.”
Whatever Pete Wisdom’s issue may be with Captain Britain, that doesn’t mean he’s not a loyal and dedicated member of the team. “Wisdom is a very interesting character,” Tieri stated. “I see him as a ‘greater good’ type character. He’s done a lot of fucked up things in his life, but I think he’s done them in the name of the greater good. He’s done these things, but it doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy; he’s just a guy who will do what needs to be done. And I think that brings him into conflict with other people.”
In the current storyline, “The Last Days of Camelot” which began in “New Excalibur #10 and continues through issue #12, the members of Excalibur will find themselves transported into the past and in conflict with mysterious forces. “Basically what’s happened is Camelot has been destroyed before its time,” Tieri explained. “King Arthur, Merlin, all those guys are dead. The lone survivor is the original Black Knight, Sir Percy. So he goes on a quest and learns that the only thing that can save Camelot is Excalibur, not the sword but our Excalibur, the team. In part one, we’ve seen that he’s gone through time and caught up with Excalibur. In the next issue, they go back with him and we’ll see exactly what it was that destroyed Camelot and I think a lot of people will be surprised by what it was exactly.”
It’s Sir Percy that enlisted the aid of Excalibur in saving Camelot, but to do so the Lady of the Lake propelled his spirit forward in time and into the body of his descendant Dane Whitman, who operates as the Black Knight today. So, Tieri promises that “The Last Days of Camelot” will answer many questions about those who bear the ebony blade and the title of the Black Knight. “We’re playing a lot with the Black Knight’s history,” Tieri said. “Black Knight fans are going to really want to pay attention to what we’re doing because there will be some revelations about the Black Knight and the history of the blade. We’re going to be answering questions like, ‘If the sword is so dangerous, why does it always find a way back into Dane Whitman’s hands?’
Readers who pick up “New Excalibur” for the Black Knight will want to stick around for the storyline following “The Last Days of Camelot.” “The question is, ‘will the Black Knight join Excalibur?'” Tieri said. “I will say that he sticks around beyond the Camelot arc. We see him in the next arc; whether or not he’s joined the team that remains to be seen.”
The team will need all the help they can get in the arc following “The Last Days of Camelot” because in “Last Days” they will do battle with the forces that destroyed Camelot and their own worst enemies, themselves. “In ‘Last Day’ we will start to see the seeds of friction between the team,” Tieri explained. “We’ll start to see the little jealousies. There’s a love triangle and we’ll start to see it split the group apart a little bit and again we’ll have the friction between Wisdom and Captain Britain and Wisdom and everybody else. Things will happen to the Juggernaut. These things will lead into what happens in the next story arc ‘Unredeemed.’
“As we know the Juggernaut is not at full power,” Tieri continued. “To me, that would affect you mentally. Case in point, if you could lift 300 lbs in the gym and all of a sudden you could only lift 100 lbs, I think you would feel less about yourself. We’ll start to see that in ‘The Last Days of Camelot.’ It will affect Juggernaut and lead us into ‘Unredeemed.'”
“Unredeemed,” which runs through issues #13-15, will conclude Tieri’s run on the book. The storyline will feature appearances by villains like the Wrecking Crew and The Juggernaut’s ex-partner Black Tom, but the arc is really about Cain Marko’s villainous past. “One thing that they do in comics that drives me crazy is, and I always use Sabretooth as an example, we know Sabretooth killed eight thousand people in his life, but we’re going to put him in a nice new costume with a shiny X on it and everything is okay,” Tieri said. “I think that’s ridiculous. If Charles Manson said, ‘Hey, I’m cool now. I want to help people out,’ they’re not going to let him out of jail! Why do we think that this works in the comic book world? I don’t get it.”
Juggernaut may seem heroic to many readers because he’s been fighting for the side of right, but some people forget that the source of his super abilities is rooted in pure evil. “People forget that Juggernaut has been the main force, lackey, whatever for Cyttorak, who is a demonic being!” Tieri stated. “Which means he’s done a lot of fucked up shit. He’s done a lot of bad things. I don’t think people understand the scope of what he’s done. I think people have only seen it as Black Tom was the worst of the two; Tom was the more malevolent of the two. We’re going to find out that that may not necessarily have been the case.”
In addition to learning about Cain Marko’s past, readers of “Unredeemed” will also learn about the past of his alter ego. “We will be exploring a lot of things about the history of the Juggernaut itself,” Tieri said. “We were always lead to believe that Cain Marko was the only Juggernaut. We will learn exactly what it is that one has to do to become the Juggernaut.
“We will also learn why Onslaught, out of all the villains in the X-Men universe, like Sinister, the Hellfire Club and Apocalypse, why did he go after the Juggernaut first?” Tieri continued. “Why did he see the Juggernaut as such a threat that he went after the Juggernaut before anybody else? We’re going to answer those questions.”
Because he’s been working with heroes like the X-Men and Excalibur, some fans have been referring to the Juggernaut with a new and unflattering nickname. “There is a term that has entered the comic book world which I have to destroy in this arc,” Tieri explained. “Some people are starting to refer to the Juggernaut as the ‘Huggernaut.’ The mere mention of that word makes me throw up in my mouth! There is no reason on Earth that Cain Marko should be referred to as the Huggernaut and at the end of this arc I don’t think anybody will be able to utter that phrase ever again.”
Some fans of the current, heroic Juggernaut might be worried that Tieri is out to return him to his old, nefarious ways. “I think a lot of fans are concerned that when this arc is over, that he’ll go back to being a villain. That might be the case. There is a distinct possibility,” Tieri said. “I think the Juggernaut legitimately wants to reform but just because you want something doesn’t mean you can do it. When does it become that what you’ve done in the past is so terrible that you can’t be forgiven for it?”
Tieri recommends his run on “New Excalibur” to his fans, X-Men fans, and really, anyone who enjoys Marvel Comics. “As you’ll see in ‘The Last Days’ the fun thing about Excalibur is that it’s an X-Men team but not quite an X-Men team,” he stated. “The fact that you have members on the team who are not mutants and not typically known as X-Men members, like Captain Britain, is fun to play with and I think readers will have a lot of fun with this book. People are going to be surprised at a lot of the revelations and a lot of the stuff that we are doing during my run on the book. This is important stuff folks. This is stuff that will affect these characters for a long time to come.”