A question often asked of the comic book industry is, “Why aren’t there more women working in comics?” As of late, Marvel has done its best to answer by soliciting a number of books written by women, including a few that specifically highlight the females of the Marvel U (“Girl Comics,” “Marvel Her-oes”). However, just because there is a larger feminine presence at the House of Ideas, don’t expect to see the “softer side of Marvel.” These women can bring on a “Clobberin’ Time!” just as well as any of their XX-chromosome counterparts.
One particular woman writer who has done just that – and has done it much longer than many of the scribes on the stands today – is Louise Simonson. Throughout her years in the industry, she’s given fans some extraordinary highlights, including the introduction of Cable, the creation of X-villain Apocalypse, and bringing the Power Pack into existence!
Two of her most acclaimed runs as a writer were on X-books: “X-Factor” and “New Mutants.” Recently, Simonson has had the fortune of returning to the former team exactly where she left them with comic “X-Factor Forever.” This book poses the question of what Simonson would have done with the team had she never left the book, and readers appear to be enjoying her answer! The writer joins us for today’s X-POSITION and responds to all your emails. Ready? Let the good times roll…
Marcus Martin kicks things off today with a series of questions that dive right into the heart of the latest Simonson masterpiece (in addition to a few other fun topics):
1) What originally made you want to come back and do “X-Factor Forever?” Did you feel you had unfinished business with the team?
Actually, it never occurred to me to come back to the original X-Factor until editor Mark Paniccia asked me. Even then, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. When I get off a book, I sort of put in mental cold storage and don’t even think about it again. It’s somebody else’s turn to play with those toys.
But in rereading the old comics, I realized that there was a story I’d been setting up that hadn’t been told. So I decided to tell it. And, no, it’s not the story of the Twelve. Sorry. I’d need longer than five issues with to tell that one properly.
2) Even though you wrote the first incarnation of “X-Factor” using the original X-Men, does it feel strange coming back to these characters after all these years?
Nope. Feels completely natural.
The good thing about a “cold storage” mentality is that, when you pull the work out again, it’s like time hasn’t passed for it.
I knew these characters very well, back in the day. It’s like visiting with old friends.
3) As one of the original Marvel women writers, how do you feel about the representation of women writers in comics at present?
There still aren’t that many of us female types, compared to the guys, at least in mainstream superhero comics. But then, the superhero readership is predominately male, so maybe that explains it, in part. (Manga has been more hospitable to women authors, artists, and audience.)
That said, there are some really good women writers out there in superhero land. Devin Grayson, Jo Duffy, Anne Nocenti, Barbara Kesel, Gail Simone, Katherine Immonen, Elaine Lee (well, her work is more sci-fi but it’s really cool). And then there are writer-artists Colleen Doran, Wendy Pini and Jill Thompson.
And women novelists like Marjorie Lieu, Nancy Collins, Diane Duane, Jodi Picoult, and Tamora Pierce, who write comics sometimes, too.
Okay, I’m sure I’ve forgotten a batch of folks, but there just aren’t that many of us who do superheroes. And fewer still who write comics full time. That said, it might be worth checking out the “Girl Comics” anthology. It features women writers (and artists too) from superhero and manga universes and even “real life” comics. It’s great to see some very talented writers and artists getting the spotlight.
4) Do you have a favorite Marvel heroine that you like to write (or would like to write)?
Love writing Jean Grey of X-Factor. Love writing Julie and Katie of Power Pack. Oh, and Illyana/Magik of the New Mutants, though Rahne and Dani were fun, too. And Boom Boom in X-Factor. And…
Obviously, it’s hard to play favorites.
As for folks I’d like to write but haven’t written…much? (I’m kind of a mutant lover, so I’ve had the chance to do a bunch of those guys!) Other than mutants…maybe Sue Storm, though the rest of the Fantastic Four are pretty great, too. Or maybe Crystal and Medusa of the Inhumans. Or maybe Sersi of the Eternals. Or the women of Asgard…Sif, the Enchantress, Karnilla…
5) In recent years, the other Marvel team you created, Power Pack, has resurfaced and is being used by many current Marvel writers. There have been four-part miniseries with the Pack teaming up with Marvel heroes in original modern day tales for kids (by Mark Sumerak, Fred Van Lente, and Alex Zalben), while other writers have used the team within the regular Marvel Universe (like Jonathan Hickman, C.B. Cebulski and Brian K. Vaughan). Tom DeFalco even used Katie Power within his “Spider-Girl” universe!
As the co-creator of the team, what is your take their recent comeback into Marvel comics?
When you write in a shared universe, you spend a lot of time making up stories about characters other people have created. So, when you create characters, you hope that other people will think they’re cool enough to include in their stories.
I think it’s very cool when people want to write about the Power Pack characters. It makes me feel very lucky, indeed.
6) Do you think you could return to “Power Pack” with a “Power Pack Forever” miniseries? Or would you opt for a modern day take on the team in the regular Marvel Universe?
If that was miraculously possible, I think I’d like to do a Forever series. Just ’cause I never got the chance to grow them up properly or see for myself the people they would become.
By the way, June Brigman and I did do a little seven-page Power Pack story set in the X-Factor Forever Universe (you can tell by X-Factor’s costumes) for the “Girl Comics” anthology. We had fun doing it!
Speaking of Power Pack, Andre4000 wants to do the time warp to find out more about this book’s creation:
I know this is an X-POSITION, but I’ve got to know more about my favorite team – the Power Pack! Can you tell me a little bit of how you came up with the team, their powers, and their origin?
Well…short answer, since it is an X-POSITION. (Wish I could say stop me if you’ve heard this before!)
Ages back, when Jim Shooter was editor-in-chief, he wanted his editorial staff to do some freelancing, so we could see what it was like on the other side of the desk. I didn’t want to take any existing work away from our writers, especially since I had a job. But I figured if I made us something new, that would at least be fair.
I’d always loved kids’ fiction. So, inspired by that (Robert Heinlein, Edward Eager, E. Nesbitt, Louisa May Alcott, Madeleine L’Engle, Jules Verne, C.S. Lewis and a host of others), I thought up Power Pack.
Four kids, because I came from a family of four kids, and there were often four kids in my favorite kid stories.
I based their powers on E=MC2 (Energy, Mass, Speed of light) plus gravity, cause it seemed like a good idea at the time. (It was up to June to figure out how to depict gravity, and she did a brilliant job!)
And their origin? Dunno. I just made it up. Probably the sci-fi elements harkened back to Robert Heinlein. Loved his “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” and “Podkayne of Mars” and his other kids’ books.
I always liked the idea of “With great power comes great responsibility” and loved the idea of little kids with a mission to save the world. That’s a pretty big mission.
And that’s the short version!
And now back to all things “X” with this query from MarvelMaster616:
Mrs. Simonson, I’ve been loving every moment of “X-Factor Forever” thus far. Your portrayal of the original five is spot on! I especially like how you’ve used Cyclops and Jean Grey. Nobody has done justice to those two in years. But are you really going to end it after just five issues? Is there any chance you’ll continue the series in some other form? Keep up the good work!
Thanks. It’s a five issue miniseries, and so far, I haven’t heard differently. Maybe, if it sells well enough, they’ll give me a chance to do a “Twelve” miniseries some day. That would be fun.
It appears The Vanguard would also like to see more of the X-Factor from your original run. Let’s see what the Magic 8 Ball says to this request:
I’m completely enamored with “X-Factor: Forever” so far. Is there any chance of seeing a “X-Factor: First Class” miniseries? Perhaps something that focuses X-Factor’s relationships with their charges?
The original X-Men torn between super-heroics and trying to mentor their merry band of orphans – it was a dynamic I really enjoyed and would love to see revisited. It seems like the ideal subject matter for a “First Class” book to me, especially when I reread the issues where the kids really stole the spotlight…
I think that would be fun. Maybe if people clamor for it. Wow. Rusty and Skids. Artie and Leech. Boom Boom and Rictor. Wow. I guess X-Factor does need babysitters. (I can just see it, can’t you?)
After all, Chris Claremont is doing a “New Mutants Forever” mini picking up where he left off, so everybody’s still alive! (Doug! Illyana! Yaaaay!) Go, Chris!
We’ll see how that goes.
Joshua Hetherington closes down the party for us today with a nice long list of questions. Ready for a sprint to the finish?
1) Artist Dan Panosian previously twittered about drawing Banshee for “X-Factor Forever.” Was this simply a mis-lead, or can we look forward to a certain Irish X-Man appearing?
I know Dan, at least, drew Banshee…and very nicely, too. May have been based on something he was told before we settled on what we were doing.
Mark Paniccia asked that I keep the story focus pretty much on the original X-Factor. After all, we only have five issues. And, as it turns out, lots of villains. And an Apocalypse backup.
It would be fun to do Banshee sometime, though.
2) You’ve stated this isn’t your version of “The Twelve” story, but Master Meld screamed out “Death to the Twelve!” Wouldn’t that imply that the Twelve were around at that time during the attack? Or, at the very least, that Hodge knew who the Twelve were?
Yep. Hodge may well have known since he was tapped into the Master Mold who definitely knew. (He was yelling about the Twelve when he fought Cyclops in Alaska back in the day!)
I expect some of the Twelve were…around during that fight.
3) Will we ever see a ‘Forever’ version of your “New Mutants,” starring Cannonball, Sunspot, Wolfsbane and Warlock (as well as Skids, Rusty, Boom Boom, Cable and Rictor)? Would you be interested in doing that? I always thought Skids and Rusty were going to rejoin the team down the line, then they never did…
Well, that would be totally fun! For me at least! (I know what I’d do, too!)
But Chris is doing his “New Mutants Forever” version now. How many of those does Marvel actually need?
4) I loved Caliban being a part of your series. It was such a pleasant surprise to see the less advertised “sixth member” of X-Factor! Any chance he might break away from Apocalypse to rejoin his X-Factor team-mates?
Haven’t decided yet. Really. It could go either way for him. (Sometimes I think “Thumbs Up!” Sometimes I think “Thumbs Down!” Such power!)
You and I will both have to wait until I’ve written the fifth issue to find out what happens.
I bet you think I’m kidding. I’m not. Honest. My editors only wish I were.
5) By any chance, would the Twelve’s membership include Cyclops, Jean, Iceman, Beast and Archangel, as well as Opal, Chris, Timmy, Charlotte, Trish and Priya? That’s eleven, at least…
Perhaps some of the above. But you have a lot of non-mutants listed there. And the Twelve are definitely mutants. (Of course, the Master Mold thinks everyone is a mutant…and Timmy isn’t old enough to have manifested his power yet…hmmmmm!)
6) As far as costumes go, was it intentional to give all the character’s “new looks?” How were there looks decided?
Dan wanted to put his mark on the Forever book and drew some really cool costumes! I thought they looked great! So did our editors. So we went with them.
Great choice! And now, before you escape from our clutches, allow me to present today’s “Behind the X” question, where our readers get to know a little personal sumthin’ about the writers of their favorite X-books. Our query for you is fairly straightforward: outside of comics, what hobbies do you have?
Reading. Facebooking. Having fun with [my husband] Walter…? Not much of a hobby person, I guess. I’m trying to walk 10,000 steps a day. Does that count?
Whilst I mentally calculate the number of steps I take in a day (which is nowhere near that number), why don’t all of you think of some brain-tickling queries for our guest next week, “Uncanny X-Men” writer Matt Fraction! Just email me all those outstanding “ponderings and wonder-ments” that run through your head when you’re reading “Uncanny,” and we’ll try to get them answered for you. If you throw an “X-Position” in the subject line, I promise to show a little favoritism too. Hurry along, and I’ll see you in seven!