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X-POSITION: Kalan Unpacks “Spider-Man & The X-Men’s” Trip to Mojoworld

by  in Comic News Comment
X-POSITION: Kalan Unpacks “Spider-Man & The X-Men’s” Trip to Mojoworld

Spider-Man may have it tough, what with his perpetual money woes and sporadic debacles with clones and alternate reality versions of himself, but he’s quickly learning that his problems have nothing on those of the X-Men. As the Jean Grey School’s new ethics instructor, Spidey has learned that the X-Men get attacked at home by bad guys that have no problem picking on mutants half their age. In the first few issues of “Spider-Man and the X-Men,” the wall-crawler and his class have gone up against the combined dino-might of Sauron and Stegron and survived the trickery of Chameleon and Mojo.

COMMENTARY TRACK: Studying Kalan’s “Spider-Man & the X-Men” #1

This week, “Spider-Man and the X-Men” writer Elliott Kalan joins us once more at X-Position and answers your questions about everything from Gambit’s cameo to Mojoleon and Spider-Man’s tempestuous interactions with Storm.

CBR News: Glad to have you back again, Elliott! First up, Gibbler1989 has a question about the dastardly duos you’ve put your heroes up against in the first few issues.

Mojo and Chameleon teaming up in issue #3 was a great development. They’re two characters that you wouldn’t think would work together — they don’t even have being dinosaur people in common like Stegron and Sauron — but they complimented each other well. How did you decide on pairing them together? Were there any other candidates considered for this issue’s duo?

I’m very happy you enjoyed seeing Mojeleon (that’s their celebrity couple name)! My original thought was to team Mojo and Mysterio, Spider-Man’s most show-bizzy villain (well, aside from Hypno Hustler). Alas, Mysterio’s agent and I couldn’t come to an agreement on compensation. He wanted 30% of gross, but I demanded it be net… The point is, I started thinking about Mojo’s M.O., which is all about throwing people into crazy situations, getting them off-guard, deceit and illusion — and when he can’t get the person he wants, just copying them (a la the X-Babies). That reminded me of Chameleon and I thought it would be fun to see him running loose as a kind of agent of imbalance in a world where the heroes already can’t be sure what’s safe around them. I also assumed Dimitri might be looking for a new line of work after all the trouble he’s had to deal with as a crime boss. If I had done this as a multi-issue story I would have delved into Chameleon’s thinking behind hooking up with Mojo more.

Your book includes a couple of fan favorite characters in the cast. HeWhoSlapsAll has a question regarding a few of those heroes’ future.

Are there any future big plans for Hellion, Rockslide and the rest of the “New X-Men” kids? …I’m well aware that they’ve been getting a bit more love in “X-Men” volume 4 and “Amazing X-Men,” but are there maybe plans to bring them more to the forefront? I am enjoying your run with “Spider-Man and the X-Men,” but with “Secret Wars” on the horizon, I fear these characters will be left in the dust in the grand scheme of things.

As a lucky tourist in the Marvel U, I’m not aware of the larger plans for those characters. They’re rich, interesting personalities, though, so I’m sure Marvel will mine their potential. They’re too intriguing to let slip away. That being said, even if they don’t have high-profile positions in the near future, the great thing about comics is that no character ever really vanishes. You young’uns may not remember 20 years ago when nobody ever believed Bucky would be seen again. Heck, in my GLA [Great Lakes Avengers] story for “Fear Itself: Home Front,” I brought back Asbestos Man who hadn’t appeared in a book for nearly 50 years at that point. No character is truly gone as long as someone remembers them.

X-POSITION: Elliott Kalan Swings Into “Spider-Man and the X-Men”

HeWhoSlapsAll has another question about an upcoming issue.

Also, Venom Hellion and [Venom] Rockslide, are happening, right? I mean it has to. Don’t tease me, bro.

While we will see some characters get Venomized, I can’t promise you Julian and Santo will be among them. They both play important parts in that story, though! Stay tuned!

So far we’ve seen a bit of tension between Storm and Spider-Man. RLAAMJR has a question about their dynamic.

Will we see a team-up between Storm and Spider-Man like they used to before?

The focus of this series is more on the young X-kids and less the old-timers. By the end of this storyline you will get to see some Spidey/Storm teamwork action, but only a taste. And I know there’s been some disappointment in seeing Storm portrayed as not the biggest Spider-fan. Keep reading! Nobody can hate that guy forever! Except maybe J. Jonah Jameson.

Beyond Stegron and Chameleon, Alucard2099 has a question about other Spidey characters.

Are more Spider-characters going to make cameos in this book?

After issue #3 the book veers more heavily into X-territory, but issue #4 has some Spider-villains I don’t think anyone expected to see. I’d name them, but you’d be all, “Wait, what? Come on…”

Purplevit has a question regarding a certain Ragin’ Cajun.

I loved X Kids reaction when they found Gambit and that entire Gambit/Chameleon scene. Do you have any plans for real Gambit to appear?

Thanks! No plans for the real Gambit. While I was writing this run he was busy in the masterful hands of the God Among Men named Peter David. Just as well since fans of my podcast, The Flop House, know that I’m not Remy LeBeau’s biggest fan. And in fact I should take this opportunity to give credit to my Flop co-host Stuart Wellington for first describing Gambit as a “cajun pirate ninja thief” — though I stole that from him fair and square!

Next up, coveredinbees has a rather in-depth question about the current delineations — or lack thereof — between segments of the Marvel Universe.

I enjoyed the play between the Chameleon and Mojo and I thought Stegron teaming up with Sauron was fun, as well. I generally like team ups and a connected Marvel Universe, but the overlap in books has made the MU seem a bit crowded lately. The characters don’t just have strong ties to one another; they meet up frequently. Do these guest appearances dilute the franchises or give strength to the canon? …Do Spider-Man’s team memberships make it more difficult for him to be seen as a soloist with a secret identity?

I have to admit I sometimes have trouble with the extreme interconnectivity of the Marvel Universe and the complications this can create (as seen in some of the parody bits I did in the humor one-shots “Shame Itself” and “Now What?!”). But I also love that the Marvel Universe is so thick with character relationships and shared history and the great thing about such a large, complicated universe is there’s room for all kinds of tastes to have something to enjoy, and you can ignore the corners and storylines you aren’t so into.

I also think that as long as Spidey’s written well he can be both a team member and an individual. It all comes down to whether his unique personality is being expressed and taken into account. I like to think he’s a brilliant solo musician who occasionally plays on his friends’ albums.

Kalan Heads Back to School with “Spider-Man & the X-Men”

With so many characters to choose from, Anduinel has a question about the ones you haven’t used.

Were there any X-Men or villains you would have liked to use in “Spider-Man and the X-Men” that were unavailable or that you just couldn’t justify bringing into the story?

When it comes to heroes, I was happy with the characters I got to get my hands on. As for villains, though, there are so, so many I wish I’d had the space for. Basically, all of them, though especially Sebastian and Shinobi Shaw. I had a good story for them that I just couldn’t fit into the arc. I have a particular love for the villains of the ’80s and ’90s, since that’s when I was growing up, so if I could have done a story about the Reavers or the Upstarts, I would have been pretty happy. When it comes to Spidey villains, I was hoping to do a Hydroman story, but same problem — just no room.

Speaking of story, TheDazzleDog has a question about how you structure the tales you spin.

“Spider-Man and the X-Men” #3 was unique in that it was a self-contained adventure, and you hit pretty much all of the Mojoverse highlights! We’re starting to see a lot more done-in-ones lately as opposed to the decompression of the early ’00s. Do you like one style of storytelling over the other, and what challenges does a done-in-one like “S&TXM” #3 present?

This is an interesting question. I don’t know if the pendulum is beginning its slow swing back from six issues being the standard length of a story and years-long epics. I know that as a reader I prefer shorter stories because it means I don’t have to invest enormous amounts of time to get a full experience. I also hate the feeling of putting down an issue and thinking, “Okay, nothing really happened here and the characters are in the same place they were when the issue started.”

As a writer I don’t have much experience with decompressed writing, since most of my previous work for Marvel has been 8-pagers and single issues. Plotting and scripting over many issues is still new to me, and I’m far from done learning how to do it effectively. In the hands of the right people, it can be amazing and well worth the reading time/energy put into it, but maybe because of my past work experience, it doesn’t come naturally to me.

The main challenge with an issue like #3 is cramming all the events into one issue without overloading every page. You don’t have much space to let emotion or action beats breath. If I had spent four or five issues in the Mojoverse, I could have let [artist] Marco [Failla] spread his wings a little more with splash pages, double-spreads, action moments, vistas and so forth. I would have ideally loved for the scene where Spidey breaks the news of Wolverine’s death to Lil’ Wolverine to be a full page so it had breathing room. But on the other hand, it’s hard for me to think of a story set in the Mojoverse that’s worth a whole trade paperback’s worth of issues. The only one that comes to mind is “Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine,” which is a great book but Mojo’s a fairly minor part of it.

Ultimately, for me as a neophyte writer and long-time reader, the challenge of a single issue story is the flipside of its appeal — it has to be quick, packed with stuff and might leave the reader’s head spinning. But I’d rather have readers feel rushed than bored!

Lastly, MCBT has two questions about the past and future of “Spider-Man and the X-Men.”

What exactly attracted you to the idea of this ongoing?

In two words: “Spider-Man” and “X-Men.” Spidey is my favorite fictional character of all-time (close second: Nick Charles from “The Thin Man”), and I’ve been reading X-Men comics for over 20 years. To get to play with these characters was really exciting. To put Spidey in a mentoring position is something that I love, and to have him butting heads with people before winning them over is an arc that I like and relate to. But I was almost as excited about getting to give Glob Herman and Ernst some real stage time. Most of all, the opportunity to take them and the readers on a fun, crazy ride was impossible to pass up.

Any hints of future story arcs you’d like to mention?

Well, we are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. When it comes to the far future, I have no idea. But as to the near future, I can predict space monsters, science gone mad and Glob finally getting the respect he deserves!

Special thanks to Elliott Kalan for taking on this week’s questions!

Next week, X-Position welcomes “Deadpool” writer Gerry Duggan. Have a question for Gerry? Go ahead and send ’em in via an e-mail with the subject line “X-Position” or if 140 character questions are more your speed, try Twitter. But get ’em in quickly, because the deadline’s Friday! Make it happen!

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