Mike Marts is an editor with years of experience — especially when it comes to the X-Men. In the 2000s, Marts curated some of the most memorable and significant X-Men books of the era, many of which shaped the direction of Marvel’s Merry Mutants all the way through this year. Heavy-hitter books like Grant Morrison‘s “New X-Men” and Joss Whedon‘s “Astonishing X-Men,” as well as cult favorites like “Exiles” and Christopher Yost and Craig Kyle‘s “New Mutants”/”New X-Men” were all under Marts’ watch.
After he left Marvel in 2006, Marts rose to prominence as an editor at DC Comics, where he headed up the Batman titles. However, earlier this year, it was revealed that Marts would come back not only to Marvel, but to the X-Men, coming on as the publisher’s newest Executive Editor once again in charge of the X-Universe.
For this week’s X-Position, CBR spoke with Mike Marts about transitioning back to head of the X-Books, his long association with the X-Men and some of what to expect from the X-Office moving further into 2014.
CBR News: Mike, first of all, congrats on coming back to Marvel. How does it feel?
Mike Marts: It feels wonderful. I keep telling people that it was funny being away from the company for a bunch of years and looking over and seeing how the company had grown in that time, and what wonderful things it was accomplishing. There was a sense of pride there in that this was a place that I used to work, and I was very happy for them and extremely happy with what they had done. But to be given the opportunity to come back to that, it meant so much. It was like, “We’re having such a good time over here, it’s such a good party, why don’t you come over and be a part of it?” So that was extremely flattering and really cool.
You had a big hand in the success of the X-Men titles in the early 2000s, editing Grant Morrison’s “New X-Men,” developing “Astonishing X-Men” — countless titles that had a big effect on the Marvel Universe of that era. During your time away, what was it like for you to see those concepts you helped develop evolve in the way that they did?
It was a lot of fun. When I left the books, I really felt like I left them in a good spot for whoever was going to take over. I was really happy that my co-worker Nick Lowe had been given the opportunity to take over the books at that point. When I left, people like Ed Brubaker, Mike Carey, Chris Bachalo and Billy Tan were working on the books. It was such a nice way to transition and pass the baton because I didn’t feel like I was leaving the books in the lurch or leaving any messes behind. It was a bittersweet time having to leave the books then, but I felt like I was leaving them in good shape.
What do you see as the current X-Men line’s strengths, and how do you hope to see it grow and develop under your watch?
There’s a few great things — first and foremost, what an awesome opportunity to come back to the X-Men books and be told, “Hey, your main writer is Brian Bendis.” That’s been amazing and in the first weeks I’ve been here, my conversations with Brian have been nothing but great. We have some awesome stuff planned.
But the other thing that’s been outstanding is while the X-Books haven’t been afraid to take chances in the time that I’ve been gone — especially with things involving Cyclops and Professor Xavier, Jean Grey — so many characters have been put through the wringer and to me, that’s when you get the most exciting story; when you’re not afraid to take chances with the characters. So many cool things have been done with the characters in my absence.
You mentioned Brian Bendis, and I’m sure it’s exciting to come back to Marvel and work with him, considering your paths didn’t really cross the last time you were there. You’re getting to work with him quite a bit — you’ve taken over “Guardians of the Galaxy” as well following Steve Wacker’s departure. This isn’t the first time you’ve overseen a book leading up to a major Marvel movie launch. You were in charge of the X-Books in advance of Bryan Singer’s first “X-Men” movie. What kind of contrasts have you drawn between then and now?
Back when the first X-Men movies were getting off the ground, I was working on the X-Books, I was working on all the movie adaptations. That was uncharted territory. It was really a new thing for the company at the time and we were figuring out things as we went. I feel we did it pretty successfully, but the difference this time around is that with the majority of the Marvel movies being handled by the company itself, there’s so much more cohesion, so much more synchronicity between what the studio is doing and what the comics are doing. To come in and be able to work on “Guardians of the Galaxy” before a major movie’s going to be coming out is an amazing opportunity.
We’ve talked a bit about the changes that took place while you were away, but one of the things that didn’t change is that Jean Grey is technically still dead after almost ten years! Were you surprised to see that her present self is still not around after nearly a decade?
A little bit. [Laughs] It’s funny, sometimes you see a character die while you’re working on books and then come back. Colossus and Psylocke were two characters that died — if not under my direct watch, then while I was working on X-Men books — and then to see them come back, it’s always part of a plan. Being away from the company, I didn’t know what the plan would be with Jean Grey and I didn’t know whether she would come back, and part of me kind of expected her to, but look at this: we’re ten years later and the plan is still in place. That’s kind of exciting.
That said, there is a Jean Grey in the X-Universe again, along with four of her friends. What was your initial reaction to the original five coming back in “All-New X-Men?” Now that you’re working as editor on the book, what’s your feeling about it?
It was one of those instances where I step back and I say, “Wow, that is a cool idea. I don’t know if I would have come up with that myself, but I really applaud them for coming up with that idea.” Not just the idea of bringing characters from the past or the future into the book, but making them core characters of the book and almost giving them the book all to themselves. It’s not something that happens all the time. To me, that was another aggressive move on their part that was outstanding.
In a broader sense, what have been some of the more challenging aspects of having to step back in as editor in charge of the X-Men and coming in to the new Marvel post-Disney?
Well, it’s still a learning process for me. There’s some catching up to do. I read most of the books while I was gone, but not every single one that was put out, so there’s some catching up to do, some education on my part — but that’s the challenge of the job and the fun aspect of the job. As far as the Disney part of the equation, that’s all new to me; and that’s been something new and exciting for me to figure out.
I want to talk about your editorial post over at DC in charge of the Batman books, overseeing a large and popular portion of a publisher’s output. What are some of the important lessons you learned while heading up the Batman books that you hope to use in your new post in charge of the X-Men?
With the Batman books, I always tried to surround myself with writers and artists with similar ideologies and ways of thinking. I definitely found that over there in guys like Scott Snyder and Gregg Hurwitz and Pete Tomasi, James Tynion — a bunch of others. Having a common vision really helps when you’re trying to build a franchise. I think the same holds true here of the X-Men. You have to have a group of guys and girls who have a similar direction — different voices, but who agree on where these characters are going and how they should be getting there.
“Astonishing X-Men” was a huge achievement for the X-Books when it launched, and it’s currently not one of the ongoing books published by Marvel. Do you think it’s possible we’ll see it again?
Oh, I think anything’s possible, sure. There’s so much equity and value in that title — everything that Joss [Whedon] and [John] Cassaday and people after him like Marjorie [Liu] did — they put so much energy and new ideas through that title that I could totally see it returning at some point in the future. That’s an example of how such a great body of work actually created buzz behind a word. That adjective “Astonishing” wouldn’t work so well in books these days if they hadn’t done the work that they did there. It’s a testament to what they brought to the table.
You were actually one of the first Marvel editors to work with Joss Whedon, and here he is now, shepherding the entire Cinematic Universe. Did you have any inkling that this was something he was capable of back in the day?
I had no doubt. [Laughs] Any of Joss’ brilliance, it’s all him. To this day, he was one of the most exciting people I ever worked with. I’m not surprised at any of his success or anything he’s brought to the table. The man is just brilliant. Everything he does is so creative and surprising and fresh and new — I don’t think we’ve seen the bulk of it. I think so much more is to come from him.
In the current X-Men Universe, what are the projects that excite you? What’s been most exciting to work on for you?
I’m excited for what Cullen Bunn is bringing to “Magneto,” I’m excited at what we have in “Amazing X-Men” with Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness; the adjectiveless “X-Men,” great artwork coming from Kris Anka. There are so many books to be excited about — what Paul Cornell is doing on “Wolverine,” we have plenty of cool things coming this summer here. Lots of great stuff.
There’s certainly a lot going on in the X-Men Universe at the moment, especially with “Original Sin” on the horizon. Is there anything you can tease about the X-Books in 2014? Any specific title that readers should keep a special eye on?
The Bendis books, readers will most definitely want to keep their eye on. I’m getting familiar with Jason Latour’s plans [for “Wolverine and the X-Men”], and I would keep an eye on that. There’s a lot coming readers’ way. There are also some interesting changes coming in “Amazing X-Men” that I think will have past X-Men readers very excited.
Our loyal X-Position readers would probably kill me if I didn’t ask about this: we have a lot of fans of the old “New Mutants”/”New X-Men” books by Christopher Yost and Craig Kyle. The students are showing up in a few other books, but are there any plans to develop a teen X-Men title?
[Laughs] Anything is on the table — and I will say I’ve been talking to those guys. Anything’s possible.
Special thanks to Mike Marts for joining us for his first X-Position!
Next week, it’s time to head back to adjectiveless “X-Men” with Brian Wood! Got a question for Brian? Send your questions over via e-mail with the subject line “X-Position or in a 140 character question via Twitter. Either way, make sure those questions are in by Friday! Do it to it!