The heroes of the Marvel Universe are famous for their flaws and the mistakes they often make, even the god-like ones. Take David Haller for instance, the immensely powerful son of X-Men founder Charles Xavier. When David’s mutant powers first manifested he was suffering from an extreme case of Dissociative Identity Disorder which led to him being stuck with the mocking code name of Legion and a battle with some of his father’s students.
Over the years David’s turbulent mental state has led to numerous clashes with the X-Men, and even the occasional team up. In the wake of his father’s death David has made a conscious effort to try and further his father’s dream of peaceful coexistence between man and mutants, but in his own way. He hasn’t had an easy time of it either. The battle to control his vast powers and the mutant personalities that lurk within his mind is a constant one. Plus, he’s discovered a prophecy that states his new girlfriend, the X-Man known as Blindfold, will either destroy him or die by his hand.
On top of that, David doesn’t always make the best choices in his interactions with others. In the current storyline of the comic he stars in, “X-Men Legacy,” he made a bad situation worse by choosing to psychically manipulate British spy Pete Wisdom and several other mutants from the UK. Comic Book Resources spoke with “Legacy” writer Simon Spurrier about his current and upcoming plans for David which will bring Haller face to face with his estranged mother and the man responsible for the death of his father, Scott Summers AKA Cyclops.
CBR News: Simon, it appears one way the recent “Invasive Exotics” arc impacted David is he now believes other super powered heroes can be useful. I’m wondering, does he understands just how useful they could be? Does David see other mutants, like the ones that appeared in issue #13, simply as pawns? Or does he understand that a group of friends that care about him and believe in him could be another way to help him control his powers and his turbulent mindscape?
Simon Spurrier: That’s a big question. And it’s kind of cutting right into the meat of what Episodes 13 & 14 are about, as well as a more general ongoing contemplation, so I’m shifty about getting too specific about that one. What I’ll say is that, right now, I think David’s somewhere in the middle of that ideological divide. He’s acknowledged — reluctantly, perhaps — that surrounding himself with Real Actual Other Humans, rather than just warbling figments of his mental landscape, can be a good thing — and now he’s working on exactly how to make gregariousness work for him. He’s lonely — he almost certainly wants friends and allies — and yet he’s powerful enough — and impatient enough — to know that he can also achieve his ends by simply making people do what he wants.
Of course, the cutesy Hollywood narrative way of playing it out is that David realizes, amidst sprays of rainbows and the bleating (neighing?) of capering unicorns, that Real Friendship Can Solve All Problems and Manipulating People Is Bad, Mmkay.
[Laughs] No. As with all things “Legacy,” it’s always going to be more complicated than that. The more I write David the more I come to see him as the archetypal Coyote trickster: the lovable-yet-not-too-lovable rogue, the irascible one, the inventor, the unconventional and insolent problem solver — but also the manipulator, the user. Characters like that, loving them comes with a cost — and the cost is accepting that sometimes they’re going to go too far, or bloody their hands, or achieve their goals in less-than-noble ways. In “Legacy” — in purely mythic terms — Blindfold plays the role of the mollifier, the conscience, the sense-of-perspective. She’s David’s anchor — and, like all anchors, she can be both a blessing and a hindrance.
Anyway, that’s a whole passel of waffle which doesn’t really answer much, so the short version is: that’s one of the things this story’s centrally about. Just — watch this space.
And since we’re talking about the idea of friendship, I’m wondering about David’s people skills. It’s clear he means well, but does he have the patience, tolerance and persuasive ability to deal with people who don’t want to help him? In issue #13 he appeared to enter the minds of Pete Wisdom and the other mutants in the bar after they refused to listen to him. Is that the case? Or are we only seeing things from Blindfold’s point of view at that moment?
Again, that’s a wait-and-see one. I’ll tell you one thing though: I think David has a mean streak of petulance which comes out from time to time. Maybe it’s because of his late-onset childhood, or maybe it’s just because I can’t bear to invest the poor guy with the sort of dreary moral perfection his father (supposedly) represented. Maybe it’s his fatal flaw, maybe it’s his biggest strength. He’s not always prepared to see the best in people, he’s not always prepared to let people make their own mistakes, and he’s not prepared to suffer fools.
Basically, he’s only ever a gnat’s whisker away from a really violent knee-jerk response. It’s something we’ll see during Episode 15. Something — well, I can’t say much, but let’s just say something really bad happens, and David’s response is this thoughtless instant of devastating violence. Not angry, not crazy — just calm, which makes it worse, somehow.
Anyway. People skills are clearly something he’s still learning. And, again, something that Ruth’s proximity helps him to both master and sidestep.
It was clear from his scenes and narration in issue #13 that you enjoyed writing Pete Wisdom. Have you written him before? And what’s it like bouncing him off a character like David Haller? It’s still unclear exactly what’s going on, but could a spy like Pete appreciate and understand being manipulated by David if it was indeed for the greater good?
Never written him before, no. It is quite funny writing all these quintessentially snarky Brit-types (you’ve got Pete, Chamber, Pixie, Psylocke and David all cracking wise) in the one episode. To me they’ve all got very different nuances, accents, grades of sarcasm, etc. — but I’m sure to the first-time reader it just feels like a one-size-fits-all barrage of UK smuggery. Which, actually, is fine by me.
For me, Pete’s a really fun mash up of mutually-exclusive tropes: slick secret agent and swaggering Essex wideboy. A proletarian James Bond, if you can imagine such a thing.
As for whether he’d be cool about being manipulated, as long as it’s all for the greater good — well, no. No, I can categorically state that Pete would very definitely not be cool about that. He might understand it, he might even forgive it, but he absolutely wouldn’t be happy about it. Hypothetically speaking.
Pete Wisdom was just one of the British and Irish characters that appeared in “Legacy” #13. Some of them are well known like Pixie and Psylocke and some of the were obscure like Liam Connaughton and Dolph, the Jigsaw Man. So in many ways it feels like this story is a celebration of sort of the UK corner of the Marvel Universe. Was that your intent?
Yeah, pretty much. I’m always a bit nervous about getting stuck too deeply into continuity, so when it happens I tend to restrict it to surface details or easily-explainable things. I think continuity should be a reward for well-versed readers, not an obstacle to casual ones.
In this case, I know there’ll be a lot of quiet “squee” moments from those with a soft spot for these obscure characters, but I don’t think it gets in the way of the story if you don’t recognize any of them. The aim was simply to celebrate what’s great about Britishness — and to an extent to condemn all that’s mealy-mouthed and shitty about it. Above all, this little arc is all about doing something very very very different with “what it means to be a mutant in the Marvel Universe.” But I can say no more.
Issue #13 ended with a hell of a cliffhanger. So what else can you tell us about issue #14? Is this the conclusion of the story that began in #13, or does it carry over into issue #15?
I think I said about as much about #14 as I’m allowed to above — if only with the usual infuriating “can’t say much about that” bullshit. Sorry. As for whether the story-thread carries through: yeah, definitely. My aim with all of “Legacy” has been that each episode — even the ones which are clearly just part of a wider definable arc — should feel like a little start/middle/end story-entity in their own right.
Equally, each new entity should flow organically from what came before and into what comes after. In the case of this little bit, #13/14 are clearly a matched pair, but #15 emerges directly from the aftermath, and plays with a lot of themes set-up therein. The more experience I get with this Ongoing Spandex Comic malarkey, the more I’m confirming to myself that the trick of doing it right is to make sure nothing feels like an accident, nothing just pops-up out of nowhere, nothing is deus ex machina. There’s nothing more rewarding then when a carefully concealed Chekov’s gun goes off.
We do know that David’s mother Gabrielle plays a role in issue #15 and it feels like there’s a bit of awkwardness in that relationship, especially on David’s part. How would you describe the relationship between David and his mom going into issue #15? Are there any big events in the past complicating that relationship that some readers might not be familiar with?
I’ve been very careful to weave the backstory of David and Gabrielle (or at least my version of it) into the meat of #15, so it should make sense even to the uninitiated.
For those who know their Haller history, my feeling is that David has this deep knot of resentment and confusion whenever he thinks about Gabrielle. We’ve seen him trying to build-up the courage he’ll need to contact her, and never quite managing it. Events in #13/14 finally make their confrontation unavoidable.
From David’s point of view his mother basically abandoned him when his powers became too hot to handle, “deserting” him on Muir Island. Of course that’s a pretty harsh reading of events, and she’ll inevitably see it very differently. She gets a chance to justify herself in #15, and I’ve got to say that her explanation is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written for Marvel. It’s like a little microcosmic reflection on everything I’ve been trying to do with “Legacy”: putting mutantism, spandexism and heroism under a very different light and being mischievous with perspective.
In “X-Men Legacy” #16 you kick off a new storyline involving David and the man responsible for his father’s death, Cyclops. What can you tell us about the plot and themes of this story? What events set the story in motion?
Well, let’s see — As per my fuzzy manifesto-ing above, the events of the #16-18 arc (which, as a working title, I’ve been calling “Wear the Grudge Like a Crown,” because I’m a closet Tool fan and it’s just so perfect) grow organically out of the events of #15. I can’t say much about that without giving away something fairly massive. So, sshh.
#16 begins with the appearance of a New Mutant. But — not in a good way. It’s a big and unpleasant event at which Cyke and his team are the first to arrive. Plus all the requisite film crews, etc. So instantly David knows where to find the [Uncanny X-Men]. And he’s been waiting.
I’ve been at pains, up to now, to make sure “XML” isn’t merely characterized as a Big Fight Book And Nothing More. But this — well — If you’re going to do a fight, make it a proper fucking fight, right? David’s got a beef with Scott Summers — the minor matter of patricide — and you can bet the rest of Cyke’s team aren’t going to cheerfully step aside and let the godlike Hairspray Kid lay into their glorious leader uncontested. So you can expect some pretty amazing smash-bang-wallop there, which, in true “XML” fashion, never takes the most obvious course. And doesn’t always go the way you’d think.
And when David and Scott finally get the chance to, um, explore their differences? Well. That doesn’t play out quite how you’d imagine it either.
Basically, I wanted to do something really vicious. I wanted to write a fight which feels like a real fight. You ever been in a real fight? It’s clumsy and it’s brutal and it’s adrenalized and messy and bloody, and all your preconceptions about how graceful and clinical you’ll be when under pressure go right out the fucking window, and what’s left is skin and flesh and sweat and teeth and the thumping of meat against meat.
If my plans come off right, up from the heart of this bloody grudge match should arise something far bigger and far more intangible. In the mythology of the X-Universe, if you accept that Charles Xavier was the pantheistic overseer-King, then you come to see Scott and David as contesting brothers; opposing heirs to a bloody crown. Vituperative, mismatched, ideologically disparate and each determined to lead mutantkind into the future.
Can you say: “To the death?”
I don’t mean to get too grandiose about it, but — yeah. Episodes 16-18 are, basically, the Clash Of Kings. A question of succession.
Will David’s confrontation with Cyclops bring him into contact with any of the X-Men that work with Scott Summers like say Magneto? Can you talk at all about David’s current feelings towards Magneto; a man that he once tried to kill and a man who was his father’s best friend?
David does indeed encounter Magneto, yes. And it’s a scene I’m indecently pleased with. Writing it made me cackle like a fiend.
And no, I’m not saying another word about that.
It looks like Paul Davidson and Tan Eng Huat have become your regular artistic collaborators on “X-Men Legacy.” What do they bring to the current and upcoming stories of “Legacy” that we’ve talked about?
They both exemplify a lot of the thematic qualities at the heart of “XML” — weirdness, emotion, versatility.
Paul’s unbeatable when it comes to a really slick sense of madcap design and detail (I have two of his “X-Club” pages on the wall right here to testify to that). As a storyteller he can shift between tones and paces without seeming jarring or uncomfortable. Larger-than-life action sits easily alongside tiny moments of emotion — that’s a rare quality in a comics artist.
Tan’s the lynchpin of the “XML” operation. Not only does he bring an unrivaled sense of dynamism and morphic style to the page — without ever straying into the ridiculous — but he’s one of the fastest artists I’ve ever worked with. I’m aware that sounds like a crass and uncool reason to be impressed by a creative, but it shouldn’t. It sometimes feels like we in comics are obliged to politely avoid mentioning the fact that our medium is an endlessly grinding machine, but — sorry — it is. You put in ideas and time and sweat and talent. You get out comics. Over and over and over, until Forever. Hence those who can be both good and fast are worth a thousand of those who’re merely good. Tan’s fast and good and insane. My kinda artist.
Finally, could you leave us with some cryptic hints or clues about your plans for “X-Men Legacy” further down the road?
Ha! I think I’ve hintified [sic] and expounded more than enough for now, no?
All right, one more:
SILENCE! SPACE JUSTICE APPROACHES!
As ever, it’s worth keeping an eye on xmenlegacy.tumblr.com, where you’ll find notes, behind-the-scenesery and sneak-peeks as time and fortune allows.
“X-Men Legacy” #14 is on sale now.