Marvel Comics’ premier team of mutant heroes may be known as the X-Men, but female characters have been an important part of the team since its inception. During the legendary “X-Men” run of writer Chris Claremont the team’s ranks became even more complex and compelling thanks to the introduction of strong female characters like Storm, Rogue, Psylocke, Kitty Pryde, Jubilee and Rachel Summers.
This April, those six mutants will join forces to become the protagonists in a new volume of “X-Men” by writer Brian Wood and artist Olivier Coipel. Comic Book Resources spoke with Wood about his plans for the new Marvel NOW! series, which include an appearance by the villainous being known as Sublime.
CBR News: Brian, you’re a huge X-Men fan and I imagine the biggest draw of this book is the cast of characters you’re playing with. How did this cast come about? What made you want to include these particular characters in this series? And besides the obvious traits of gender and X-Men affiliation what else do these characters have in common?
Brian Wood: They have history with each other, and that’s something that appeals to me as a writer and is also mechanism of the story – they are not a team in the sense of a formalized organization, but they come together in a time of need because of this history they share. As far as the creation of the line-up, it’s something of a rambling story, but the shortest version is: this grew out of the “X-Men” run I was doing last year, and it went through a few changes as we, my editor and I talked, but what kept happening was the scope and importance of it kept getting amped up. Originally I think we were just talking a soft relaunch for issue #40 with a couple lineup changes, and then it became a new #1, then a Marvel NOW! title, and so on. And with each step the cast was refined to this point where we have a powerhouse lineup of marquee characters. My one request through the process was to keep writing Storm, and obviously once I heard Marvel wanted Jubilee to have a prominent role, I was absolutely into that as well. The last time I got to write Jubilee was in 2000 [in “Generation X.”]
Speaking of Jubilee, your recent USA Today interview mentioned that she was sort of the star of the book. What kind of role will she have in this series? Is she our point of view character? Will the book primarily be about her or is it more of an ensemble cast?
She is the focus of the story — I’m not sure I would call her the star if that suggests that the others aren’t as prominent. It’s very much an ensemble of equals, but Storm is the de facto leader of this team, and it all kind of revolves around Jubilee and her return to the X-Men, at least for the first couple arcs. So yeah, she’s front and center but all six characters get good screen time.
That was really important to me, to give everyone that attention, but also give them a real reason for being in every scene they’re in. I’m desperately trying to avoid that thing where characters stand around mute in the background in lieu of a more active role in a scene.
In addition to Jubilee your cast includes members from three different X-teams with very different mandates: Storm and Psylocke of Uncanny X-Force, Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers from the Jean Grey School, and Rogue of the Uncanny Avengers. What can you tell us about the initial dynamic of this group? Will the philosophies of the other teams these characters are affiliated with color their perceptions of what they’re doing in “X-Men?”
Sure, it’s meant to be a book that belongs with the others, it’s not off and doing its own thing (like my “X-Men” was last year). Taking one as an example, Psylocke is up to a lot over on “Uncanny X-Force,” obviously, and it’s going to clash with what she’s doing here. She’s going to have to struggle to keep it separate, since her role or her mandate here is pretty different. But that just makes for great stories, great character moments. One of the best things, I feel, about my previous run on “X-Men” was how the characters were pulled in different directions, how they had to make choices and pick sides and reconcile loyalties. It’ll keep things interesting, and will give readers a more complex character.
Will this team be together when the series begins? And what else can you tell us about your initial arc? From the USA Today interview it sounds like Jubilee’s discovery of an orphan baby kicks off a cosmic style epic involving Sublime, a threat from outer space and the future of mankind. Is that correct?
Yeah, that’s all true, but a little simplified and compressed, since I think that info is what was put into the solicitation copy. Without giving too much away, Sublime surrenders to the X-Men because he has a serious problem of his own that he can’t handle, and the X-Men, being his most formidable opponents, are his best source for help. We get right into that, as he walks onto the grounds of the Jean Grey School and surrenders to Rachel and Psylocke.
Elsewhere, the others are picking up Jubilee who calls in a panic, having travelled halfway around the world to make it back “home” to the X-Men, and yeah, she’s got a baby with her. How these two story lines connect is what I’m not getting into just yet, as well as the cosmic thing and the threat to the planet. And the baby, I promise you, the baby is not evil nor does it die.
What about Sublime made you want to include him in this story? And what is his — or, I guess, its — initial goal when this story begins?
I was simply having a look at villains, early on in the pitch process, and he seemed interesting to me. I devised this story around him, this first arc. He won’t be the only villain in the book, and he’s actually not the only villain in this first arc. At the end of issue #1 there’s something of a reveal, exactly what this problem is that Sublime needs the X-Men’s help with. No other villain could work in this story, and I’m looking forward to adding a few more layers to his character.
Artist Olivier Coipel is drawing Sublime and the other characters in your story. What do you feel be brings to the book as an artist?
Shitloads of talent? [Laughs] I’ve never met Olivier, but he’s clearly a massively talented artist and readers love him. I’m blessed.
Let’s wrap up with some questions about how the team operates, others elements of your stories, and how “X-Men” ties to the larger X-Universe. First, will this group set up their own base of operations somewhere? And if so what can you tell us about their headquarters?
Well, no HQ just yet. Much of the team is already operating out of the Jean Grey School, and that’s where they will sort of group up and get to work. Since a lot of these characters are in other books, I’m not sure I’ll be able to formalize them as a discrete team with a home base. Maybe over time, but at first they are a team born out of necessity, friends and colleagues that help each other out in the face of a common threat.
Both the X-Men and Avengers books have long included soap opera style elements that deal with character’s lives outside of whatever mission they’re currently on and it sounds like you’re very interested in having that be part of this series. How important will your characters’ personal lives be in your initial arc and upcoming stories? Can you hint at some of the developments we might see?
As much as “X-Men” is going to be an action comic (heavy on the action), it’s also a book just as you describe, and I think this is something that plays to my strengths as a writer. So I would say “utterly” in response to your first question, and as far as the second, I might need to wait until we’re closer to the release date to let those spoilers out. But broadly speaking, you can see from the solicits there is a child in the mix, and I’ve said in earlier interviews that I’m looking for opportunities to give these women lives, and that includes love lives and, naturally, sex lives. There’s no need to be puritanical about it, not on my part or on the part of the readers. The X-Men have sex, and some of them have been women! [Laughs]
When it comes to personal lives will you be tackling their preexisting relationships from other books like Kitty with Iceman, and Psylocke with Fantomex or are you more interested in developing new relationships for characters who don’t really have significant others at the moment?
Right now, this far out, probably the latter more than the former. There’s nothing like this planned for the first arc so honestly it’s all a little abstract right now when it comes to relationships. But my gut tells me if another writer is dealing with any one character’s relationship in another title, I’m not going to horn in on that and take it over. I’d much rather originate something in my own book.
Finally, can you talk about how the formation of this new X-Team will affect the other X-Teams and the Marvel Universe? Will groups like the Jean Grey School, the Uncanny Avengers, and Cyclops’ team of X-Men be aware of your cast and have an interest in what they’re doing?
They will absolutely be aware — the very first issue has some SERIOUS stuff go down within the halls of the JG School (and in the labs, with an appearance by Beast). But as far as how the teams will interact or crossover or otherwise be all up in each other’s business, it’s a bit early to say and not for me to decide on my own. I’m talking to other writers like Bendis and Jason Aaron, so we’ll see how we can coordinate things.
“X-Men” #1 by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel goes on sale in April as part of Marvel NOW!