There are few writers that have had as much impact on the X-Men universe as Kieron Gillen. The current “Iron Man” writer served as steward for the lights in “Generation Hope” and as head writer for “Uncanny X-Men” post-“Schism” all the way through “Avengers Vs. X-Men.” He also explored the fallout of “AvX” during the “Consequences” miniseries before moving on to other parts of the Marvel U for Marvel NOW! Although he’d been away from the X-Universe proper for a bit, Gillen returned for the New Year with “Origin II,” which further explores the beginnings of Wolverine.
This week, Kieron Gillen joined X-POSITION for a look back on his time with the X-Men as well as some discussion about his present and future with “Origin II.” The writer also touches on the complexity of the Wolverine/Sabretooth relationship and how he views knowledge of the future when crafting a story set in the past.
Kieron Gillen: Hullo X-axis friends.
Hi, Kieron! This week, we’re kicking things off with Renaldo, who has a few “Origin II” questions.
1) What was the bear reference about in issue #1? Was it to show that even when Logan tries to do good, something bad seems to come from it? This was a very torturous domino effect.
What the bear means is one of the things which runs through the whole story. The second issue is primarily from the perspective of Logan’s hunters, but in the third, Logan’s right to the fore — and the question swiftly becomes what does the bear mean to him? What does the Lone Wolf mean to him? What did Grey Scar mean to him? They’re all very different images of how Logan could be.
In a less literary hand-wavy fashion, the origins of the bear in a more practical plot-based way come into focus in issue three as well.
2) Clara’s a very interesting character and again it seems to set up this sort of triangle between her, Creed and Logan. Did you opt for this or did editorial hand it down? (as this seems to be a typical M.O. for a Logan book)…
I’m not a big believer in the word “should” as applied to fiction, but — generally speaking — origin stories should speak to the core of the character. This is what they are and this is why they do what they do and this is why we’re interested in them. Trying to do a story with that kind of mythic purity was right to the fore of my mind in this.
I’d say Logan’s tendency to find himself in these triangles is certainly a key part of him. Thinking along those lines, I ended up with the story of Clara, Creed and Logan, and realized why that would be so important for Logan.
That’s totally a non-answer, innit? Sorry. The more basic answer would be “No, it wasn’t an editorial diktat.”
3) Mr. Essex is at the fore here. What motivated you to push for his presence given that many would think his past would quicker pop up with a Summers?
Essex is looking for mutants. Logan is a mutant. It’s a match made in an Englishman’s heaven!
I’ve said before a working title of the story was “Origin of the Species,” as I was interested in the emergence of mutantkind in the 20th Century. Clearly, Nathaniel has met mutants before, but time-travelers and ancient beings aren’t exactly the same thing as an honest to god modern day contemporary sample.
4) His care for the wolves was a great nod to the prequel but also foreshadowed so much of him as a teacher at the Jean Grey Institute. What inspired you to chime in on this origins — seeing as we’ve swam in it in film and in comics past — and how do you plan to make it different and fresher than the rest?
I talk about some of this above, but basically I want to foreshadow the nature of the character and also comment on it. I mean, Logan as a loner who is terribly attracted to surrogate families. There’s something deeply sad there, and I think it goes right to the heart of him. If it goes to the heart of him, it should resonate in the Origin.
Next up is Northstarfan, who is a big fan of your work, and wants to know a bit about some of your past X-Men stories.
Hello, Mr. Gillen. I’ve been following your work for a while now. Was lured through the door with “Phonogram: Singles Club,” became a fan for life with “Young Avengers,” and quite glad to see you contributing to the X-Men line again. Thanks very much for all the fun stories over the years.
This isn’t a question, but I like it.
A couple of questions:
1) Illyana stripping away Colossus’ delusions about her true nature toward the end of your “UXM” run was one of the most brutal, yet satisfying emotional payoffs the X-Books had seen in some time. What made you decide Colossus needed just one more twist of the knife after what he’d been through since his return to the living?
Thank you. It was a brutal scene to write, and a brutal scene to plan. I mean, that plot started all the way back in “Fear Itself,” so I was writing all those scenes with Illyana and Peter knowing that Illyana was having a dual meaning behind every single thing she said. I was soon feeling complicit and guilty in the treachery. I wanted to take Pete out to the pub, put my arm around his shoulder and tell him “Dude — your sister is totally messing with you.”
But I didn’t. I am a bad Englishman.
What was I trying to teach Peter? Self-sacrifice is a necessary part of being a superhero, but Peter had a tendency to just mess it up entirely. I tended to think he tended to do it as a first action, almost in a way of avoiding a harder situation. Self-sacrifice which isn’t necessary is actually just masochism, and will only make your life harder for yourself and everyone around you.
And Illyana wanted him to know exactly who she is. There are no snowflakes in hell, after all.
cora reef shifts back to “Origin II” with a question about connections to the present.
Dear Mr. Gillen, Logan is such a complex character, and one of the things I liked about the original “Origin” is that it was its own story and connected only very tangentially to modern-day (Rose looking exactly like Jean, for example). “Origin II” has much more tangible connections to the X-Men — what was your decision process behind tying it a little more to the present?
We’re a little closer to the present, so some of it is creeping in. There were a lot of things I wanted to explore, but one of the areas that seemed most interesting was Creed. This would be the place to do this story. That instantly makes it more into the X-Men’s world. In the approach to the story, I tried to keep the similar way of telling it. In the same way Rose being a redhead is only something that resonates with people who know the rest of the X-Men lore, the aspects to “Origin II” are something that you see clearly because you know it so well. I mean, if you’re a brand new reader to Marvel, you’re going to have a very different impression of Nathaniel Essex than you or I would, if you see what I mean.
harashkupo is up next with a query about “AvX: Consequences.”
I just discovered “Uber” a couple days ago and finished it in one sitting. I have to say that one of my favorite parts was the end of each issue where we get to hear your thoughts and the massive amount of detailing that goes into building that world. On that note, I would like to hear a little about your process before writing “AvX Consequences.” With just five issues you really elevated that whole event and gave me some of the best character moments.
Thank you. “Uber” really is not like anything else. It involves a hilarious amount of work. You should see the tower of books about The Manhattan Project that are just over on my left at the moment. Anyway! The main process of “AvX: Consequences” was actually excited panic. It was a book that was written with less room for contemplation than most of the stories I write — and that it was as well received and much loved as it is does make me wonder whether I should do that more often.
I actually had one really big advantage with “Consequences” — in that there was all the emotional tension of “AvX.” The event was a rollercoaster ride. There wasn’t time for any of the characters to actually sit down and go face to face about what was really going on. When you’ve got that amount of pent up emotional energy, when someone sits down to actually write those scenes, they’ve got enormous power that just crackles. You just need to work out how best to articulate and dramatize it.
JimTheTroll wraps us up with a question about Wolverine and Sabretooth, followed by a query about knowledge of the future.
The relationship between Wolverine and Sabretooth is easily one of the most complex in the history of the Marvel Universe. How did you approach building it up from the very beginnings of Logan’s origins knowing all that we know about what they’ll go through in the future?
I’d agree with all of that. How did I approach it? Nervously and cautiously, as if I was actually trying to stalk Sabretooth himself. You want to add something to the poetry of it. And, much as if I were stalking Sabretooth, I’m aware it’s probably best I keep quiet until I finish the task in hand.
With such a link to the present/future, did you find knowledge of the future an advantage or a disadvantage to building relationships between characters and story? Why or why not?
My initial urge was to write “advantage,” but that’s not really true. It’s neither an advantage or disadvantage. It’s simply what is. The terrain is the terrain, and the story must be positioned in it. That we know so much about what’s important to Logan means that it dictates a lot about Origin. It’s not as if I could have reasonably had done “Origin” as a cheery madcap keystone-cops-esque caper. That doesn’t resonate with the darkness that lies right in the heart of these woods.
Thanks to Kieron Gillen for joining us this week!
Next week, dear readers, you get to take the week off! We spoke with returning X-Editor Mike Marts about his new post as head of the X-Men books, and that’s coming at you next week. Be sure to come back to see everything Mike has to say about the line and the transition from Gotham City to the Marvel U.