The X-gene that endows the mutants of the Marvel Universe with super abilities seems especially powerful and prominent in certain families. The Guthrie clan has had several mutant members, most notably the X-Men known as Cannonball and Husk. The Summers family, of course, has produced four notable mutants: Cyclops, Havok, Vulcan, and Cyclops’ son Cable. The Xavier family hasn’t produced as many mutants as the other two households, but in terms of influence and raw power it’s easily the most powerful mutant family in the Marvel Universe.
Readers know Charles Xavier founded the X-Men and his telepathic abilities allow him to read, control, and alter minds. His son David Haller (AKA Legion) can do even more. David is so powerful he can alter and manipulate the very fabric of reality itself, and that’s just one of the many mutant abilities at his command. Unfortunately, David also suffers from an extreme form of dissociative identity disorder. Every day for him is a struggle to control his powers and the various identities that live inside him.
This Fall, David will attempt to use his powers to become an active force in the Marvel Universe, but will the world and his other personalities let him? Writer Simon Spurrier and artist Tan Eng Huat will begin to answer those questions and more this November when they expand the Marvel NOW! initiative with the launch of an all-new volume of “X-Men Legacy” that focuses on Legion. CBR News spoke with Spurrier about his plans for the book and David Haller.
CBR News: Simon, you have some history with Legion having written “Age of X: Universe,” but what made you want to explore the character in such a big way with “X-Men Legacy?” Which aspects of his character do you find most intriguing?
Simon Spurrier: He’s just such a gift of a character. So much complexity, so much raw emotion, so much potential and tragedy — and all of it broadly unexplored.
(“No it’s not!” the Internet cries, “He’s been in loads of stories!” True, but the fact is he’s been handled by so many different teams it’s really tough to say “this is what David is like” or even “this is what David sounds like.” Frankly he’s become a bit of a walking, talking plot-point, y’know? Like, “We need a crazy super powerful liability character who can’t control himself, who can be relied-upon to freak out and annihilate half the known Universe! Quick! Get David Haller!” Thbbbbpppt.)
So what we’re looking to do instead is present a definitive version. To really get to the bottom of what makes David, David. All those turbulent thoughts and feelings about his father, all the fear and guilt of who he is and what he’s done, and all the uncertainties about his own future. As you can imagine, the shadow of Charles Xavier — and Charles Xavier’s dream — looms large over the guy.
At its core this is the story of a young man who’s one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, but who can’t trust his own diseased brain. That’s a fucking brilliant starting-point right there.
When you’re writing Legion you’re not in charge of just one character, but a whole host of them. What can you tell us about David’s state of mind and mental health when your series begins? Has the character’s core David personality grown in strength? Or is his consciousness up for grabs?
Can’t really talk much about that, except to say that — as you’d expect — David’s state of mind plays a very central part of the story. As with the character’s voice and core personality there have been countless different attempts, down the years, to rationalize and visualize David’s dissociative disorder. So it was really important that we hit the ground running in “Legacy”#1 with a clear, compelling, exciting, plausible means of explaining that status quo. I think the solution we’ve hit upon is pretty awesome — and very “Marvel.”
‘Course, that’s only half the story. Nobody’s going to give a sandy sod about David’s mental condition if they don’t also have a reason to care about him as a real person. So the sense of “Meet David Haller: an Awesome Good Guy with a problem” is all-important in the first few episodes.
David’s various personalities wield different powers. We learned some of them in his initial appearances and near the end of Mike Carey’s run on the initial volume of “Legacy” we began learning about more of David’s personalities and the powers they wield. Plus, in the aftermath of “Age of X” he was given a way to access them via his power dial. So from your perspective just how powerful is Legion? About how many super abilities does he posses? Have his limits ever been documented? Or will you be discovering them in this series?
Ha — again, I can’t go too far into that. Honestly, I think it’s kind of a danger for people to get too hung-up on David’s “power-set” (I bloody hate that phrase — people don’t really talk like that). I mean — I could sit here and rattle off a list of a hundred different “powers” — it’s really not that difficult to invent new things — and I still wouldn’t feel as though I was doing something original or creative or worthy. Nine times out of ten, in good superhero fiction, the powers are at most the mechanism — and usually far less than that — which drives the action. Never the story itself.
With David, there were two key things to get straight from the outset. The first was to define the stakes and the “rules.” In [issue] #1 we’re going to give you a glimpse of what David can do if he’s unleashed, unrestrained, uncontrolled. The second key thing was to define the character’s limitations — that’s how you create internal drama, after all. My take on David is that his limitations have precisely sod-all to do with his (ugh) “power-set” and everything to do with his brain, his disease, his psyche and his emotions. Unlike most superheroes — whose thought processes (you’d imagine) would tend to revolve around how they can manage to Hit Shit Harder, Run Faster, Make Things Go Explodo More, Be Better/Stronger/More Productive — unlike them, David’s is a story about control. He’s already got all the power in the world. He just needs to figure out how to use it without immolating half the planet.
David’s father, Charles Xavier, recently got involved in the action of “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” but Legion appears to be sitting the conflict out. What’s Legion’s status quo when “X-Men Legacy” begins? What are his immediate goals? And will David be dealing directly with any of the fall out from “AvX?”
When we join him David is safely (hahaha, that’s a relative word) ensconced in a place of healing and learning. As ever, he’s trying to fix his broken brain, to control his disease, to learn how to manage all this power bubbling about inside him. It’s a very cool place, with some very surprising fellow-residents. Can’t say much about that.
We quickly learn that David’s father brought him there — part of his ongoing quest to help his son — but had to leave to attend to the events of “AvX.” Those events, and the ways they change the Marvel Universe, are the direct catalysts for David’s solo story.
In terms of plot and themes what is your initial “X-Men Legacy” story about?”
C’mon. As if I’m going to tell you that. [Laughs]
Tell you what — I’ll give you a crop dusting of infuriating hints and teases, howzabout that? Best I can offer.
So. There’s a golden age mystic. There’s a string of recognizable faces. There’s a pair of levitating eyeballs, a killer on the loose, a delve into some pretty grand histories, some mountain-based action, a bloody enormous crow, a neon city, a miniature Cthulu-monster with ten mouths, a seething steampunk correctional facility, a liberal dollop of chaos theory, a manipulative bastard, a girl with no tear ducts crying blood, several skull-shatteringly amazing explodo fights, an insane Russian and something very, very, very nasty scuttling about in the darkness.
Thematically? Ohhhh, y’know, nothing too heavy. Guilt, loneliness, shame, disappointment, adulthood, self-realization, aggression, parental responsibility, filial pride — light, breezy stuff like that. With added snark.
Going forward, what types of stories are you interested in telling in this book? From your perspective what’s the thematic significance of the title “X-Men Legacy?”
Story-wise, we’re keen to divide things between two atmospheric extremes. On the one hand I’m a big sucker for [Chris] Claremont-era craziness — madcap villains, a constant parade of awesome ideas, sneaky hints of things-to-come, all that stuff. We’re going to be bumping into a bunch of classic bad guys and a lot of Big Name heroes, as well as generating a (ha!) legion of completely new characters. So there’s that.
On the other hand David’s specific issues — and the weirdness inherent to them, which is a) kinda my thing and b) exactly how I got the gig — mean there’s a really dark psychological “internal” side of things to be explored too. So we’re walking a tightrope between the two vibes, and playing all sorts of cunning tricks with juxtapositions, segues and feedback crackling back-and-forth from thread to thread.
Gloriously, it’s where the two threads meet that the “Legacy” title is at its most appropriate. I mean — yes, there’s the aspect of the word which covers the whole gamut of the X-Universe, the years of history, the catalogue of characters and places we’re going to be exploring. But more importantly it’s the crux of the story. It’s what David is all about. For his whole life he’s been defined by his relationship with his father, and suddenly he’s got the opportunity to try to be himself. What’s he going to do? Is he going to try and take over? To become mutantkind’s steward (whether mutantkind wants him or not)? Does he have some separate agenda? Or does he simply want to lose himself — to have a normal life, no longer dominated by his father’s struggle?
So, this is a story about looking forward. About how mutantkind in general, and the name “Xavier” in particular, will resonate in history.
Bottom line: it’s about how David chooses to manage the future of his father’s Dream — both in the muddled morass of his own head, and on the world stage. Can you think of a better title for that than “X-Men Legacy?”
Who are some of the obstacles and adversaries you’ll pit David against in “Legacy?” Which types of characters make the best foes for Legion?
I can’t really answer that, sorry. I think I’ve probably waffled enough about the two different sides of the coin our story’s going to be flipping. It probably therefore goes without saying that the most terrifying adversaries David will face are those who wield an influence — whatever form it may take — in both spheres of his life: the internal *and* the external.
So. Expect some familiar faces. And expect some bloody horrifying newness.
We’ve talked about foes what about friends? Who are some of supporting players in “X-Men Legacy?” Will they primarily consist of Legion’s other personas? Or will other X-Men be on hand to offer assistance?
Broadly speaking, “X-Men Legacy” is not — and never really has been — a team book. So it won’t come as much of a surprise that, to start with, David and the X-Men aren’t exactly all on the same page. That’s not to say we aren’t going to be spending a lot of time with the X-Men, because we will: even the most diehard team freak is going to get their fill of spandex. But — well, try to see things from the X-Men’s point of view. David’s a kid who — through no fault of his own — is quite possibly the most dangerous human being on the planet. Would you feel comfortable with him wandering about on his lonesome? I mean, he says he’s a whole lot better at controlling his raging brain, but — well, that’s quite possibly not the case. What do you do…?
Which is the weaselly way of implying that, hey, mmmmaybe-just-maybe the X-Men’s natural instinct will be to — well, to attack the hell out of the poor kid.
But things change, situations evolve, and I promise you that I’m not telling a straight-out villain story here. David doesn’t see himself as one of the X-Men’s antagonists, and he’s going to be taking action to bring them — or some of them, at least — on his side. Very quickly.
While we’re on the topic of other characters will we see how the rest of the Marvel Universe reacts to Legion? If the Scarlet Witch’s mental problems during and prior to “House of M” worried other heroes like the Avengers, it seems as if they would be terrified of Legion. Is that actually the case?
Ah. That, sadly, is a contractually-obligated “You’ll have to wait and see” answer. And see you shall.
Fair enough. And speaking of the Marvel Universe, where will the stories in “X-Men Legacy” take place? Are you dealing primarily with just one geographic location? The entire globe? Or will Legion’s adventures take him all over the Marvel Universe?
A huge range of places. And by no means all Earthly. Bwa-ha-ha!
Nice. We’ve talked about story so let’s start to wrap things up by talking about art. “X-Men Legacy” reunites you with your “Silver Surfer: In Thy Name” collaborator Tan Eng Huat. What’s it like working with Tan again? What do you feel he brings to a book like this?
Tan’s incredible. His style somehow manages to be crisp, concise and clear while still being utterly unique, gloriously expressive and mind-meltingly inventive. Twice now he’s designed minor elements offhand which I loved so much I determinedly gave them greater roles in subsequent episodes.
It looks like nothing else on the shelves at the moment — and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s dynamic, it’s explosive, the splash pages pop like crazy and the storytelling is second to none. I couldn’t be happier.
Finally, under Mike Carey the core concept of “Legacy” mutated several times. I’m curious, is your Legion story in “X-Men Legacy” a finite one? Or do your current plans call for David to be the protagonist for as long as you’re writing the book?
As things currently stand, I’m sticking with David for the foreseeable future. That said, you can’t approach any story without a very vague notion of where you’re heading, so I do have a nebulous sense of “an ending” which might arise sooner or later, depending on the vagaries of my imagination and the readers’ wallets. So — never say never.
But for now, it’s very much the Legion show. I can’t imagine ever running out of ideas relating to such a rich, weird, conflicted character.
If you want to learn more about my plans for “X-Men Legacy,” I’ll be waffling about rumors, processes and behind-the-scenes fun throughout the whole run over on twitter at @SiSpurrier. Come say hello, come tell me what you think of what you’ve seen so far, and I will shower you with NoPrizes and Sticky Digital Love.
“X-Men Legacy” #1 by Si Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat debuts in November as part of Marvel NOW!