Reunions can be tricky things. For every spoft-spoken, tear-filled get together with old friends, there are a dozen cases where reconnecting lets old conflicts boil back to the surface. Considering that, fans may have a bumpy ride in store when the students of Marvel’s classic “New Mutants” series reunite for a new, May-launching ongoing helmed by writer Zeb Wells and artist Diogenes Neves as announced this weekend at the 2009 New York Comic-Con.
Making their original appearance in a self-titled 1982’s Marvel Graphic Novel, the New Mutants were created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Bob McLeod and served as the first major expansion to Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters since the All-New X-Men years before. Over their original 100 issue run (which also featured the artistic hand of creators from Bill Sienkiewicz to Rob Liefeld), the core team including Cannonball, Dani Moonstar and Magma amongst others confronted both growing up as mutants and facing down supervillains for the first time. The new series (which will replace the soon-to-wrap “Young X-Men”), promises to feature the majority of the original book’s core cast after graduation in a much more dangerous world for mutantkind than they once faced. To parse out the details, CBR talked to Wells for an early look into why the team is returning, which old faces will play the biggest roles and how this series deals with the events and traumas of recent story lines featuring the characters.
CBR: Zeb, could you tell us about your background with the New Mutants in general? The original series seems to be a keystone book for a lot of writers in your “generation” of Marvel creators. What was it about the series that left such a strong impression?
Zeb Wells: Well, having a revolutionary run by Bill Sienkiewicz never hurt any book, but I think there was also a tone that Claremont cultivated that really got to me when I was young. Everything seemed so dramatic and important. The characters felt everything so intensely, you couldn’t help but get caught up in it.
That said, the original series dealt very much with some issues of its time featuring characters who were teenagers. Considering the fact that we’re 20 years out and those kids have grown up considerably…how do you make this series work in a way that isn’t just about recreating something that a lot of readers are nostalgic for?
I think there’s a lot of potential in addressing those issues head on…the fact that they’ve grown up and are in a different place. I don’t have the crutch of them constantly reminding each other that they’ve got to work as a team. They’re past that. It’s time to extrapolate from the past how these characters would behave as adults. In the tapestry of the New Mutants story, the 80’s/90’s series was Book One. It’s time to move on to Book Two. And in doing so we can bring back characters and villains that people might be nostalgic for, but with a different perspective, an eye towards the evolution of these characters.
Simply put, what’s your mission statement for this series? Where do we come back into these characters lives, and what motivated them to get the band back together?
The New Mutants are the only group of youths aside from the X-Men who have “graduated” Professor Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters. For all intents and purposes they are the next X-Men, just as Xavier intended. That’s my mission statement for the series, to show what if means to graduate Xavier’s. To that end, we come back to these characters at a time when all of them have been off doing their own thing, and they realize that if they’re going to be on a team, they’d just a soon be on a team with each other. They’re family at this point…they want to take care of each other.
I think when you grow up with a group of friends and go through a lot, you feel a lot of responsibility towards them. If something bad happens to them, you feel like you should have been there. The book is about these characters making a conscious effort to be there for each other again.
The driving force of the X-Books in general over the past few years has been a survival aspect, most recently seen in the form of the new X-Men mutant sanctuary in San Francisco. How do those elements play backdrop to your New Mutants series?
Mutants are fighting a war. And its no longer a war for the hearts and minds of humanity, it’s a war of survival. The New Mutants are young characters, yes, but they’ve grown up in the middle of this conflict. They lost their youth to this conflict. It really informs who they are, and it informs their new identity as a team. Cyclops doesn’t have time to dick around with them in the Danger Room, repeating ad nauseum that they’ve got to work together as a team. He’s got enough to worry about. It’s more like, “Okay, you guys are trained, you’re graduates, get out there and make the world a safer place for mutants. It’s your responsibility to figure out what that means.”
In a more direct story sense, there’s been a lot going on in the stories of the X-Universe over the past year or so, and many of them directly impacted the New Mutants characters. In what ways does this series serve as a continuation of books like “Messiah Complex” and “X-Infernus”? How did looking at those stories help prep you for this book?
With any book, context is king. You have to know where these characters are coming from so you can write them believably, and in that sense the more recent stories are invaluable. It’s great that I can look at Empath’s capture in recent “Uncanny X-Men” issues and think, “Oh, what would Magma think about that? She’s had a complex relationship with Empath, what’s her take?” The more plugged into the tapestry you and the characters you’re writing are, the better. It gives the characters a better chance at suggesting the stories to you, as opposed to you trying to shoehorn them into something.
Diving into some of the characters from the original team and how they’ll appear, Dani Moonstar and Sunspot are a pair who have recently turned their roles as general X-Men support staff into teaching roles with the Young X-Men. How have their more adult positions in the Xavier organization changed how they interact with their peers?
Well, I honestly believe, looking at both those characters and their histories, that they would be itching to get out of their teaching jobs as quickly as possible. I don’t know how old you are, but did you have a burning desire to teach in your 20s? If you’re in your 20s, do you feel like you have a lot to offer a 14-year-old? Dani Moonstar is a bad ass. Sunspot is a hothead and a ladies man. Time to stop teaching and time to start doing. What’s that saying, “You can teach when you’re dead” or something like that?
On the flipside of that, we’ve got the all-action duo of Wolfsbane and Cannonball. Aside from being some of the most active members on the superheroing side of things, both of these characters have dealt with a fair amount of trauma lately. What does reuniting with their teenage teammates offer these guys in terms of comfort and stability, and how might that not be enough considering the drama they may carry with them?
With Sam, the drama he’s seen adds to the weight of responsibility he’ll feel in his new leadership role. He loves the rest of the New Mutants like family, obviously, but its his job to keep them all safe. He has to make sure they all come home at the end of the day. So for him the team is less about comfort and more about watching his friends’ backs.
Wolfsbane won’t be playing a large role in New Mutants, as she’s being used (and used incredibly well) by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost in “X-Force.” If she ever becomes available we’ll see how she fits into the team, but I’ll admit that I’m in no hurry to see that happen.
Finally, in Karma and Magma we’ve got two cases of yet untapped potential. How will they step up to more prominent roles in the issues ahead?
Karma is at the center of the first arc of the series, and she’s really the emotional heart of it. By the end of it we’ll have a better idea of who she is and why her character is so strong. I’m actually really into her right now, and excited about where we can take her.
Magma, out of all the characters, probably considers herself to be the most mature. She’ll be keeping an eye on things, and comes into conflict with Illyana a lot, who is a bit of a loose cannon.
What can you say about the first story arc in terms of where things take off, what the conflict centers on and any villains or supporting characters we might see along the way?
Well, I don’t want to ruin too much of it, but the first issue will see the return of a classic villain that will change their lives forever! Bet you’ve never heard that before…
On art chores you’ve got a good mix of established talent like Alex Ross and Adam Kubert and, of course, the legendary Bob McLeod helping out with covers and a relative newcomer on interiors in the form of Diogenes Neves. What was your response to the cover lineup, and what kind of style does Diogenes bring to the interiors that make the book unique in terms of X-Comics?
The cover line up is truly mind-blowing…I couldn’t be more excited. But what’s really great is what Diones is putting into the interiors. His lines are so clean and expressive. He’s really bringing a feeling of intensity to the book. He’s killing it.