David Haller, the protagonist of Marvel Comics’ “X-Men: Legacy” and son of X-Men founder Professor Xavier, didn’t have the easiest relationship with his father, partly because David is an immensely powerful mutant whose Dissociative Identity Disorder made him a danger to the very fabric of reality.
In recent years, David and his father renewed and repaired their relationship. Then, Charles Xavier perished while attempting to save the world from the Phoenix Five in the “Avengers Vs. X-Men.” The death of his father shocked David and shook up the progress he was making with the various personas that resided in his mind. It also inspired him to honor his father’s memory by continuing the battle for mutant equality, but in his own proactive way.
So far, David has found himself in several interesting situations, including an encounter with Wolverine’s branch of the X-Men and a burgeoning romance with the young X-Men member known as Blindfold. We spoke with “X-Men: Legacy” writer Simon Spurrier about these exploits and his upcoming plans for the series.
CBR News: Simon, after reading “X-Men: Legacy” #8 and taking into account David’s struggles from earlier issues, I can’t help but think that one of the things this book is ultimately about is the constant battle to be comfortable in one’s skin. Or is what you’re aiming for a little more complicated than that?
Simon Spurrier: No, you’re dead right. Or at least, that’s a part of it. I tend to think the overall picture is broader: it’s about David coming to terms with everything — both internal and external. His place in the world, his feelings towards his father, his path towards the future, his powers, his relationship with the rest of mutantkind, the (supercritical) role he’ll play in the wider MU, etc.
That’s not the sort of thing you can normally do in the context of an ongoing solo-character book. There’s this ages-old assumption that spandex characters should periodically restore to a recognizable status quo now and then, just so everyone’s comfortable with who/what this person is. Oh, maybe the status quo itself changes over time, but — yeah — there are always these enforced plateaus. “Here’s who he/she is, here’s what he/she does, here’s why he/she does it — now TWEAK – now REVERT – *NOW REPEAT*.”
The inevitable consequence is that most of the change in these characters’ lives — growth, decay, evolution, devolution, whatever it is — occurs externally. The rise-and-fall of nemeses, new home, new car, dead cousin, long-lost mother, new boyfriend, new girlfriend (oops, spoke too soon, back to the ex), yadda yadda. But generally, the M.O. remains the same under it all, and typically, so does the character’s outlook on the world. I’m generalizing horribly, and yes I can think of a bunch of exceptions — but I bet if we revisit this stuff in 10 years, most of those exceptions will have restored to their original status quo at least once. Shit, maybe David will’ve done so by then too — but I kinda hope not.
See, if David does have such a thing as a status quo it’s: broken man seeks repair. It’s defined by its mutability. As a result he keeps evolving, keeps growing, keeps changing. Oh sure, there’ll be times when he achieves something profound — when he demonstrably succeeds or fails at a particular goal: saves her, kills him, fixes this, annihilates that–but there’s always another goal. Always another obstacle to be overcome at the very core of who he is.
I think the team and I have basically stumbled onto something a bit unusual in the masks-n-capes canon. There was a point at which readers just suddenly seemed to get it — the point they realized the book is intentionally the way it is, I guess — and since then we’ve been getting incredible reviews with the same little phrases again and again: “Marvel-does-Vertigo,” “spandex-with-soul,” etc. Which is flattering and lovely and very welcome, but frankly all I’m doing is writing the sort of book I’d want to read. I’ve always hoped there’s room in the Big Two universes for this kind of hyper-personal, hyper-weird, hyper-transient, hyper-hyper story — the sort of tale that actually can be about someone coming to terms with themselves — without it also being alienating or pretentious or just plain fucking impenetrable. For now, it seems we’re doing okay.
Anyway: all of which is the very, very, very longwinded way of saying, yes, it’s about David trying to be comfortable in his own skin. And — as with real folks — that’s not the sort of quest where one can easily ever say, “Yep, finished!” Alas, unlike real folks, when David isn’t comfortable in his own skin, he’s got to contend with, say, the fear of accidentally wiping out humanity, or the fear of spending another few years in an enforced coma, or the fear of belching a technicolor astral horrorfiend into the massmind, or turning half the population into unicorns, or reversing time, or bestowing the gift of sentience upon his own fingernails, or… or… or…
Some of the ways that David is trying to get comfortable with himself is by giving himself a purpose and pursuing a relationship with Blindfold. How intertwined are these two things right now? David’s goal is to be proactive and try to change the world for the better for mutants, but I’ve noticed the missions he went on in “Legacy” #7-8 directly involved Blindfold. Is he relying on Blindfold to give him a sense of self worth that he doesn’t really have, or is his relationship with her a little healthier?
Oooh, really good questions. And, actually, these are pretty directly tackled during episode #9, so I can’t say too much.
I guess the broad-strokes way of looking at it is this: David quickly figured out that his self-control — his ability to use his skills without, y’know, psychically crotch-punching the Earth or whatever — is intrinsically linked to his sense of self worth. The more confident he feels, the better his ability to fight his inner-demons and control his powers.
With new self confidence came his first, tentative, shy steps towards romance. And — ohhh, the beauty of love! — it’s a feedback loop. The more time he spends with Blindfold, the more confident he feels.
So is he using her? No, I don’t think so. If anything, he’s intoxicated by her. He enjoys her company, he respects her viewpoint (as we saw during #8), and above all he loves how she makes him feel.
With episodes 7-9, you’re right: there’s this funny uncertainty–is he doing all these missions as a way of showing-off to Ruth, or is he showing-off to Ruth so he’s got the self-control to do all these missions?
The answer’s probably “both”. But, yeah. Wait for #9. All will be revealed.
Blindfold isn’t the only relationship that’s loomed large these past few issues. We also saw more of the goblin-like persona that appears to be able to stop David’s powers by shaming him and confronting him with uncomfortable emotions. He often does that by taking the form of David’s dead father. And when the persona confronts David this way it’s often able to take control of his mind and body. Then we saw the persona help David in issue #8 deal with an inner demon. So I have to wonder about the motivations of this persona. Is there anything you can tell us about what it wants?
Nnnnnno, I don’t think there is. Sorry — I know that’s shit. So much of “Legacy” hinges on the gentle dissemination and solving of mysteries (something else which is uniquely possible thanks to David’s mutability and non-status-quo-ey-ness, which is totally a word), I can’t really give much away.
We learn a lot more about the golden-skinned entity — whom the team has taken to calling “Professor-Y,” just for the record — in episode #10, which is when the arc titled “Invasive Exotic” begins. Dum dum duuuum.
This persona seems to have power over David primarily because he panics whenever he sees it in the form of his old man. This suggests to me that David hasn’t fully dealt with the death of his father; like subconsciously he feels responsible. Is that true? Or is it too early to draw conclusions?
Too early to draw conclusions? No, I don’t think so — though it’s probably too early to assume that’s all there is to it. I think the important point is that David’s feelings towards his father are (as you’d expect) complicated, often contradictory, often overwhelming. We’ve seen how at times he’s desperate to simply not think about it — his life’s hard enough as it is. What you can assume from that is that particular jumble of love, respect, guilt, shame, abandonment, yearning, etc, is going to take a while to unravel.
For what it’s worth, I happen to know exactly how I want that particular emotional arc to finish — it’ll end with five little words. But there are a few more knots to untie before we get there
You mentioned the new arc “Invasive Exotic” that begins in issue #10. What else can you tell us about this storyline?
It’s a three-part tale that’s about all sorts of things, but in broad strokes, it’s about David crossing paths with an Anti-Mutant group. As with so much of “Legacy,” part of the goal was to provide X-readers with a familiar (and, arguably, “comfortable”) concept, something we’ve seen a hundred times, something bordering on the passe, then twist it arse-over-tit into something completely new. In this case: an influential group of people who oppose mutant proliferation–but who are reasonable, rational and frankly, just plain nice. These aren’t the usual frothing right-wing, bigoted bastards, the paramilitary fascists, the xenophobic thugs. These guys’ve taken a long hard look at what the existence of mutants has meant for the world over the years, and they’ve reluctantly concluded the planet is almost certainly fucked if someone doesn’t do something about it. They’re not hateful, they don’t despise mutantkind, they don’t advocate violence.
And yes, those episodes contain all the searing action and craziness you’d expect — albeit never in the ways you’d expect — but, yeah, it’s the sort of subverted-expectation I love playing with in “Legacy.” What do you do when your worst enemy isn’t some crackling steroidal freak trying to hit you, but a friendly guy who wants to shake your hand and Discuss Options?
Aaaand, ha ha ha, as you shall see, it turns out maybe David’s interest in these guys isn’t about defeating them at all.
Anyway — that’s a way off yet. Before then, we’ve got Ep #9, which is titled “Judgment of Diana,” which takes place almost entirely on the surface of the moon. And which forms a fairly major milestone in the developing relationship between David and Blindfold. It brings to a head a lot of the stuff which has been going on in #7 and #8, and it sets us up for the arc I was just waffling about above.
The solicits for issue #12 suggest that the backer behind the anti-mutant group David runs afoul of in “Invasive Exotic” is the Red Skull. Will the Red Skull make an appearance in this story? And if he does, what’s it like playing him against David? Does David know what the Skull did to his father’s body in “Uncanny Avengers?”
I have to be a little careful, as you’d imagine, about what I say. So, yes, the Red Skull is featured. Yes, David and he confront one another. And yes, David knows this guy has his dead father’s brain grafted inside his own cherry tone noggin.
No, it does not play-out the way you would expect, at all.
The appearance of the Skull is bound to have some readers wondering how David feels about another group currently attempting to realize his father’s dream, the Uncanny Avengers. Will they be a part of this storyline? Does David see them as being any different than the X-Men?
I think you can confidently predict that sooner or later David will cross paths with just about anyone with a direct stake in the future of Xavier’s dream. Right now, our boy’s solidifying his own philosophies, working out precisely where he stands in the context of that dream. I think if you asked him right now, he’d say that he has no particular problem with anyone who claims to be pursuing the goals of ending mutophobia (political and social), achieving equal rights for mutants, ushering-in an age of cooperation and respect. But I also think he’d probably say that the UA group are going about achieving that stuff in completely the wrong way. But hey, as long as they’re not hurting anyone who doesn’t deserve it, no skin off his chin–as long as they’re not hurting anyone who doesn’t deserve it.
Apropos all the “mutable status-quo” stuff I was rambling about above, it’s entirely plausible David’s feelings on the subject may have shifted subtly if and when that confrontation occurs.
I have plans. Oh yes, I have plans.
Let’s move from story to art. The next few issues are illsutrated by Tan Eng Huat, and issue #12 features work by Paul Davidson. What can people expect from these guys’ work on issues #9-12?
Tan did #7-9 (The guy’s a machine: It’s possible he draws quicker than I write), Paul’s doing #10-12.
I guess I’d characterize Tan’s work as, well, batshit crazy? Except in the most wonderful way possible. He has a gift for exaggeration and emphasis which gives every moment a thousand tons of added dynamism and drama. Which, let me tell you, can be very helpful during those fiddly conversational moments.
Paul and I worked together on the “X-Club” mini, which remains one of my favorite pieces of work, so I can’t wait to see what he can do here. His stuff is weightier and less hyperbolic than Tan’s, but never po-faced. He also has an amazing eye for character design and detail, which are going to help him enormously during his run.
With issue #12, you will have done a year’s worth of “X-Men: Legacy” stories in about six month’s time. How does it feel to reach that milestone? Can you offer up any hints or teases about what’s in store for David in your second ‘year’ of “Legacy?”
I know, right? The schedule’s insane. I mentioned earlier Tan’s insane art-speed: the upshot is that I’m usually writing two arcs in parallel to keep all the artists fed (ie: having finished #11 I’m jumping ahead to #13 before going back to #12, then #14, then probably #16). It’d be a lot easier if I wasn’t so fussy about wanting disparate stories to link-up, plus all the foreshadowing, Chekhov’s gun type stuff. But I am, so everything has to be very carefully plotted in advance.
Still, it feels amazing to reach that milestone. Not just because it’s my first ongoing with Marvel, but also because the specific mix of unconventional ingredients engendered so much doomsaying up front. We’ll never rest on our laurels because — let’s be clear — a book which deliberately sets out to do something different is only ever a market downturn, or an ebbing of enthusiasm from our word-of-mouth loyalists, away from the danger zone. But right now, we’re more than solid. Review-roundups are frighteningly good, and we’re daring to make some very ambitious plans.
On which note, ha ha ha ha, no, I can’t say much. My working title for episodes 13-15 is “Land of Hope and Glory,” though I might change that to “Never Shall Be Slaves,” or I might change it to something completely else. But which may, at least, give you an idea of where it’s set.
There will be more Gabrielle Haller. More S.W.O.R.D. More Blindfold, Chamber and Pixie. And several things you won’t see coming until they fly like a silver bullet right through your face.
I’d like to conclude by offering up a big fat “thanks” to the readers, really. They took a risk on something different — in many cases, they didn’t have a clue what they held in their hands until that special little click moment occurred and the penny dropped (often after several issues) — and to reassure them that my one and only aim is to repay their loyalty and advocacy with more crazy, creepy, subversive, feels-packed fun–right up until someone makes me stop. And, of course, the usual appeal: tell yer pals, people.
Also worth mentioning: I’ve been running a workblog Tumblr all about “X-Leg” where you’ll find notes, previews, sneak peeks, directors’ commentary-style brainfarts on each episode, and similar. Questions, submissions, fan-art, etc., are thoroughly welcomed.