The X-Men’s world has been pretty rough for the past ten years. Ever since the mutant population’s numbers were depleted in the wake of 2005’s “House of M” event, the X-Men have faced infighting and outside persecution while hovering near extinction. Just in the past few years, readers have watched Cyclops kick off a radical mutant revolution, Wolverine open a new school for gifted youngsters, the mutant population bounce back from the brink and the original five teenage X-Men leap forward in time and get stranded in the present. When the dust kicked up by “Secret Wars” settles this fall with the launch of the “All-New, All-Different Marvel” initiative, the X-Men will find their world drastically changed.
In the eight-month gap in between the closing chapter of “Secret Wars” and the first issue of “Extraordinary X-Men,” a new series from writer Jeff Lemire (“All-New Hawkeye,” “Animal Man”) artist Humberto Ramos (“Amazing Spider-Man”) and colorist Edgar Delgado, something big will have happened between the Inhumans and the mutants. The Terrigen Mists will start affecting mutants in an unforeseen way and a number of the X-Men’s heavy-hitters — including Cyclops — will have vanished. A new team led by Storm and comprised of both new and old versions of iconic X-Men will emerge and kick off what Lemire — as revealed in this exclusive interview with Comic Book Resources — hopes will be a run to remember.
CBR News: Looking at Humberto Ramos’ cover for “Extraordinary X-Men” #1, we can see that the team is shrouded in what appears to be Terrigen Mist. We also know that the Inhumans are going to have a role to play in the book — and some X-Men readers might be worried about that. So, to address those fears up top, what are the Inhumans doing in an X-Men book?
Jeff Lemire: I’m not going to spoil my story, obviously, [Laughs] but I will say that in the missing eight months since “Secret Wars,” something has occurred between mutantkind and the Inhumans. A major event has occurred which has reshaped the position of both Inhumans and mutants in the Marvel Universe and repositioned them in a different way that maybe fans aren’t used to. And that’s where our story picks up and that’s the story we’re telling. Beyond saying that, I’m not going to say anything else right now.
I had to try!â€¨
No, that’s cool!
The other big conceit of the X-Men’s new status quo is that some major mutants, like Cyclops, have gone missing during the eight-month gap. Will the search for them be a major focus of your book?
I’m not trying to be coy or anything, but I’m a big believer in letting people read the stories and not spoiling things ahead of time. But yes, Cyclops and a number of other prominent X-characters are missing due to this event with the Inhumans, and beyond that I’m not going say anything [Laughs] because it’s just — yeah, it’s all part of the story we’re telling in the first couple arcs.
What is your history with the X-Men and where are you coming at them from?
I think it’s no secret to people who follow my work that I kinda grew up more of a DC reader than a Marvel guy. I think when I was a kid there were two doors — you either went to DC and read the “Teen Titans” or you went to Marvel and read Chris Claremont’s “X-Men.” I went through the “Titans” door but there were a few Marvel things that you always kept up on, even if you were a DC kid. The X-Men was always one of them. I’m a kid of the ’80s so Chris Claremont was in his height when I was a kid. You certainly kept up on that stuff, “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past” and things like that were, even as a DC kid, those were both Marvel books that were touchstones.
X-Men has always been something I’ve been a fan of and when Grant Morrison took over the X-Men in 2001, that was one of the books that got me back into reading comics again. There was a little lull there in the ’90s where I fell out of reading comics for a little bit other than stuff from Vertigo and whatnot. When Grant started doing “[New] X-Men” with Frank Quitely, I started buying monthly superhero comics again. That ride just blew my mind and really got me excited about superhero comics again. I’ve always had this relationship with the X-Men stuff, and I really enjoyed Morrison’s run and Joss Whedon’s run and [Brian Michael] Bendis’ as well. The X-Men’s always been a part of my fandom, for sure.
You’re picking up right from Brian Bendis in the wake of this fall’s “Uncanny X-Men” #600, and you have a couple of cast members from his run as well. Is that the time-displaced teenage Jean Grey in your cast?
Yeah, we have Jean Grey. I really love Brian’s run a lot. There’s a lot of stuff in there that I really wanted to mine and use. Bringing the original X-Men back was brilliantly executed by Brian. It could have been one of those ideas that didn’t work at all but he did it really well and made you care about those characters. Teen Jean was, for me, the one I fell in love with — but I’ve always loved Jean Grey. This take on Jean Grey was really special, so she’s on my team for sure. She’s the only one of the original X-Men on the team, but she’s really important. She’s sort of, in many ways, developing into the embodiment of Xavier’s dream. I think she’ll be the heart of this X-Men team.
So if Jean’s the only original X-Man in your cast, then it’s safe to assume that that’s adult Iceman in your lineup.
That’s adult Bobby. I guess we can go through the cast: we have adult Bobby, young Jean Grey, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Magik and Old Man Logan.
With Iceman, a lot of fans are definitely going to want to know if you intend on following up with the recent revelations regarding his sexuality — revelations that we haven’t yet seen adult Iceman deal with yet.
Oh, of course. Absolutely. I’m not going to talk in specifics because Brian’s [“Uncanny” #600] hasn’t come out yet, but yes, I will be continuing what Brian has established with Iceman and the character, his coming out — both the adult and teenage versions of him sort of dealing with that in the modern Marvel Universe. I will have the adult Iceman on my team and that’s something I will continue to explore with his character for sure.
Old Man Logan is also on the team, a holdover from “Secret Wars.” What can you say about his headspace coming from that event into this new team situation — especially a team filled with people that he killed in his timeline?
Yep! There’s a lot there to play with, that’s for sure, and he’s a really rich character. I don’t want to get into specifics of how I’m going to deal with it because I don’t want to spoil my own story, but you’ve alluded to the fact that Logan’s coming from a future where he killed all these people. He’s seen them all die once already and his mindset — at least at the beginning of my story — is very much that he’s seen them all die once at his hands and he’s not going to live through that again. He’s very much resistant to joining the group or being any part of it, putting himself anywhere near them out of fear of what could happen. That’s where we’ll start with Logan. In terms of where he goes and what his role in this book will be is something that you’re just going to have to wait and find out.
Your roster also reunites a classic X-Men trio — Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler. They all joined the team together forty years ago, and now they’re in your lineup. How did you land on those iconic X-Men characters?
I chose my own team and I, basically, it’s a combination of my favorite characters and then characters I thought embodied the X-Men team I wanted to write. To me, Storm is very much the leader of the team. In many ways, she’s going to be the benchmark for all mutantkind and set the tone. I love Storm. I think she’s an incredible leader. Colossus has always been my favorite X-character. As a kid, I adored that character and his sister Magik. Both of them are among my favorite X-characters. Having that brother/sister team and the family dynamic to play with within this other sort of family of the X-Men has been a lot of fun. And Nightcrawler is one of the coolest characters around. [Laughs] Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus — those three, that goes back to my love of the John Byrne, Chris Claremont stuff.
I really want this to be an iconic X-Men team, much in the way when Joss Whedon took over. It felt like a little bit of a callback to Chris Claremont, but he filtered all that through his own sensibilities and made it very modern. I want to do the same and create a very iconic, classic feeling X-Men team but also add my own voice and my own style and my own ideas to it, and filtered through my imagination, and hopefully to have a really great X-Men run. There are so many great X-Men runs before, so there’s a lot of pressure to live up to some of those. But I feel very confident in what I’m doing and an artist like Humberto helping, I feel like we have something very special.
Humberto Ramos is such an energetic and kinetic artist. How has it been working with an artist that brings that much energy to every page? Does that make you lean into the action more?
A guy like Humberto, when you think of his work you think “energy” and “dynamic.” There are certain characters that lend themselves so well to that; for instance, Nightcrawler and Humberto were born for each other. Just wait until you see his Nightcrawler. There’s a little glimpse of him in that promo image, but it’s the coolest Nightcrawler ever. There’s stuff you know when you right an action scene that Humberto’s just going to excel at the movement and the kinetic nature of it, and that’s really great to know that those scenes are never going to be flat. They’re always going to pop off the page. There’s a certain amount of leaning into the action scenes but at its core this is a character driven book. The X-Men when it’s at its best has always been character driven. The action should make you care about the characters and not the other way around. Humberto, as much as he’s known for his energy and his action, people will be shocked to see the character stuff he’s doing and those emotional moments. It’s really gorgeous work and really emotionally affecting as well.
It’s interesting to hear you talk about creating a modern, classic-feeling X-Men team. For a while now, the core X-Men titles have either heavily featured the school and a large faculty or they’ve featured big rosters where the team would shift based on missions. There are sometimes dozens of characters hopping between multiple books. Is the group of seven depicted in Ramos’ art the extent of the cast?
Yeah, this is the core team. One of the things I really established early when I was pitching the book and talking to Marvel about it was that I wanted to keep the team small and manageable and really be able to focus on each of the characters and give them their due. The mutant population and the X-Men characters are all so big that I think one of the problems many writers have with the X-Men is that there are actually so many great X-characters — there’s just dozens of them — and they all are pretty darn cool. I think it’s hard to limit themselves, they want to write all of them. I really wanted to just pick a core group of five or six characters like this and really drill down on them and give them each the time they deserve in the book and develop their characters as much as I could. That’s not to say there aren’t other mutants running around in the Marvel Universe after “Secret Wars,” but this is the core team that Storm’s leading. There will be a couple of supporting characters that aren’t featured in the image who will kind of be secondary X-members of the team — I guess there’s no point in spoiling them. I’ll let some of those be surprises too.
Ever since Morrison’s run, the school aspect of the X-Men has been at the forefront of the line. Will there be a school post-“Secret Wars” and if so, will it play a role in “Extraordinary X-Men”?
That’s a really interesting question because it’s a big part of the first arc. Where the X-Men are and where they’ll be operating from, we’re going to keep that a bit of a secret for now because there’s a bit of mystery about that. And whether a school is involved or not, I’ll let readers find out as we go along.
Your work at the Big Two has been primarily centered on solo characters like Animal Man, Hawkeye and Green Arrow, but you did write another team book — “Justice League United” — for DC. Does “Extraordinary X-Men” feel different from your previous team book work?
To be really frank, I feel like I’ve been pretty successful writing solo characters in the past. I feel like my “Green Arrow” and “Animal Man” runs were something I’m really proud of. The stuff I’m doing right now with “[All-New] Hawkeye” and “Bloodshot” I’m really happy with. But the team books I’ve written in the past, “Justice League Dark” and “Justice League United,” I’m not really happy with either of those projects. And that’s not for a lack of trying, but I feel like I didn’t really excel at team books the way I did at solo character books in the past. That was something I was very aware of when I accepted this gig, that in the past I hadn’t quite nailed it yet. A lot of taking this assignment came with me self-evaluating what I had done in those previous team books and how I could do it differently now and how I could approach a team book differently. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, to write the X-Men and steer the flagship X-Men title. It wasn’t something I was going to let slip by, so I’m really putting my all into this.
In terms of specifics to how I’m approaching it, I think in the past I got too focused on plot and lost characters a bit in the other team books. There’s a tendency to have plot plot plot, insert character moment here. For the X-Men, I’m approaching it much more where the whole book is a character moment with action stuff interspersed, kind of the reverse of that. Like I said, I’m focusing on these seven characters and creating stories for each of them to tell within the book. I think in the past, my solo stuff has been able to get a certain amount of emotion inherent to the characters that maybe I missed on team books in the past. I’m really, really working to do that here again, take the things I’ve done successfully with solo books and find a way of translating that into a team structure.
I’ve written the first three scripts now and I’m working on the fourth and I think I can safely say it’s the best team book I’ve written so far and I’m really happy with how it’s developing. Sometimes self-evaluation and being aware of how you missed in the past can really help shape a project. I think this is a case where I actually will prove to myself and readers that I can do a team book as well as I’ve done other books. I think “X-Men” will show them that.
Lastly, I gotta ask about the title “Extraordinary X-Men.” Where did the adjective “extraordinary” come from and how do you think your book will live up to it?
I think there was a desire to have something new for “All-New, All-Different Marvel.” We didn’t just want to fall back on the same titles that we’ve had in the past for some books — calling it “Uncanny” or “All-New” or things like that. We wanted something new that hadn’t been used before and “Extraordinary” almost felt like one of those ones where we couldn’t believe no one had done a book called “Extraordinary X-Men” before. It feels like an X-Men title as soon as you say it. [Laughs] It feels iconic and big.
For me, I went back and read pretty much every X-Men run in preparation for doing this and Claremont stuff with John Byrne and then even with John Romita [Jr.] and everyone else is sort of the gold standard. Stuff like Grant Morrison’s run and Joss Whedon’s and Bendis’ are really great as well. I really, really, really do want to do an X-Men run for the ages and one that holds up to all those great stories — one that reminds fans how extraordinary these characters are. Because they really are some of the best characters who have ever appeared in comics and they deserve to be loved and treated with respect and have really great, important, bold, extraordinary stories told about them.
You’re getting me a little choked up, here.
[Laughs] I really do love these characters. I love writing families, I’ve always loved that, whether it’s the Bakers in “Animal Man” or my creator-owned stuff, and to me, the X-Men are the ultimate superhero family. There’s just so much rich material to mine with these characters; they’re all so amazing and I can’t wait for the book to start coming out so I can share what I’m doing with everyone. You can’t please everyone, but all I can do is write the best X-Men book I possibly can, and I think I am.
Stay tuned to CBR for more on the future of “Extraordinary X-Men” and “All-New, All-Different Marvel.”