[SPOILER ALERT: The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for “X-Men Legacy” #15, on sale now.]
“X-Men Legacy” is certainly in a corner all its own in Marvel Comics’ roster of X-books. With an independent feel, writer Si Spurrier’s take on Legion, Blindfold and some of Europe’s finest mutants has certainly done a lot to set itself apart from the pack — especially considering the developments in the series’ most recent issue. Although Spurrier brought back Legion’s mother, Gabrielle Haller, her return was short-lived as the issue concluded with her death.
In order to shed some light on the recent and future developments of “Legacy,” Spurrier returned to X-Position to answer your questions about the series as a whole, his approach to the title, the death of Gabrielle Haller and more.
ConfernallyEfused starts off this week’s X-Position with a question about the overall approach to crafting “X-Men Legacy.”
One of the things I like most about “X-Men Legacy” is that it has a feel unlike any other Marvel Comics title. It understandably has a very European feel, not unlike your 2000 AD work. When you approach writing “X-Men Legacy” specifically, do you find that there’s a different from when you’ve written other American comics?â€¨
Si Spurrier: Ooh, good question. Hence difficult to answer.
I’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about the distinctions between US and European comics (and, actually, British ones, which are probably about as different from continental Euro titles as the US spandex stuff). ‘Course, you don’t get far down that analytical route without making a load of really saggy generalizations, but, okay, yes — if you allow for vagueness — there are definitely some clearcut differences.
So then the question becomes one of intent. If your background — “the ‘2000AD’ route” in my case — brings with it a different set of stylistic traditions than the ones you’d normally associate with Marvel, do you try and adjust your approach to fit, or do you assume Marvel only wants you because of what you’ve done elsewhere, or, or, or…?
Basically: paranoia, over-analytical wank and disaster.
Ultimately you realize styles and traditions exist specifically to serve their stories, not for their own sakes. Different idiosyncrasies, different vibes, different densities and paces and thematic approaches: none of them are right or wrong, more valid or more dreary; they’re each better at achieving certain things than the others. My contention is that if you want to be a halfway decent writer in this game, you’ll make it your business to study and play with them all: to tweak and learn and experiment. In the end it’s not about “Euro,” “US,” “Asian,” “British” — it’s about having a whole bunch of tools to deploy as and when they’re needed.
“Legacy” often feels best, to me, when it’s paced as a series of quite jarring jolts: jumping from periods of extremely dense storytelling to big beats of space and detail and stillness. Very schizophrenic, very unbalancing. Plus there’s the very internal and very frank perspective-narration, the oscillating between GrimReal and CrazyDaft, the constant twists and misdirections. All things which — back to those gross generalizations — are probably more classic “2000AD” than contemporary Marvel. But, yeah, they feel right for the character and for the book, so that’s the way I went. And even then only when the episode’s right. There have been (and will be again) issues where a very different vibe is called for.
â€¨Thank you very much for bringing back Pete Wisdom — and for making him kind of a patsy in Legion’s plans. Any chance of seeing the UK-based mutants you pulled for the issue turn into a new version of Excalibur? Is that something you have any interest in writing?â€¨
No plans at present. But I’d be delighted, yeah, to play with Excalibur, if only because I’ve got a bit of a broner for Pete Wisdom (discerning eyes will’ve noticed I’m drawn to any character able to call shenanigans on the inherent silliness of some of the stuff which has become spandex lore). That said I’m also a secret geek for all the misty-eyed Avalon/Arthurian stuff, so I’d have to find a way to play it straight and snarky.
Which. Hmm. Which I think I could do.
But no. Not right now. I’m superevilbusy. Stop making me think about these things, dammit — I get all excited.
â€¨Marcus wants to know more about the next storyline of “Legacy” as Legion encounters Cyclops and his Uncanny X-Men.
â€¨1) Your next storyline arc has Legion taking on Cyclops and his X-Men. This is also the first meeting between Legion and Magneto since Xavier’s death. How will you handle such a moment given that Legion once tried to kill Magneto, but his action led to a world run by Apocalypse?â€¨
The meeting between David and Magneto is — well, it’s one of the sequences I’m most proud of in the whole run. But, full disclosure, I think you’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting some grand raking-over of past coals, opening up old wounds, discussing all the convoluted continuity which links those guys together. That’s simply not what the Legion/UXM confrontation is about thematically — it’s very specifically this: David’s come to get Cyclops, and will go through anyone or anything who gets in his way. Plus that sort of expositionary [sic] sorting-things-out stuff kills the pace and alienates new readers. And apart from anything else there wasn’t space.
But yeah. I think people will be pleased with how this meeting-of-two-heavy-hitters plays out. It’s a bit of a classic “Legacy” bait-and-switch. It’s all set up to be one thing, and then it’s completely another.
â€¨2) Should Cyclops be a bit wary of Legion given the powers that Legion possesses?â€¨
Yeah. Yeah, a bit.
â€¨3) I have always wondered this given their unique similarities when it comes to father figures, but will there ever be a moment where Legion encounters the Incredible/Indestructible Hulk on his journey?â€¨
Ooh, now that would be fun. I… don’t think that’ll happen — certainly not any time soon — because of reasons, but yeah, that’s the sort of lateral-challenge I think “Legacy” can handle quite well. How would David stop an unstoppable rage-monster? I dunno, but it wouldn’t be a boring Who’s Got The Strongest Powers sort of smackdown.
Did anyone ever calm The Hulk’s mighty rage by tickling his feet? That’d be my first shot at it.
â€¨cora reef has questions about Legion’s ability to plan ahead, as well as a question about Gabrielle Haller.â€¨â€¨Dear Mr. Spurrier, How far ahead is Legion actually able to plan? The last issue had a complicated con with a huge payoff, but it seems like it would need more setup than a normal plan. How intelligent and efficient is Legion that he’s able to come up with these 8-steps-ahead plans and then execute them to perfection?â€¨
Oh, I think David’s a pretty smart cookie. He’s got the genes for it, for sure. Plus you don’t spend years of your life as an isolated shut-in without getting very good at puzzle-solving, scheme-building and scenario-predicting. I tend to imagine him, in the gaps between episodes, lurking in abandoned motels and out-of-the-way places: thinking, thinking, thinking. His brain takes him by surprise so often, you can be sure he’s going to do everything he can to make sure the rest of the bloody world can’t do the same.
â€¨I’m very excited to see an appearance from Gabrielle Haller. Any chance you could let us in on a bit of what’s going to happen when she and Legion finally have their reunion?
[Editor’s Note: This question was submitted before “X-Men Legacy” #15 was published on August 21.]â€¨
Ah, as per episode #15 we’re past that point now. I guess, as a fan of Gabby, I should be hitting you with a heartfelt apology.
Here’s a slight sidenote, by the way. I saw a comment the other day that their meeting was a classic case of “Girlfriend In A Refrigerator”: a term coined by the brilliant Gail Simone to describe a particular and icky practice in spandex comics. Let’s not play the semantic game: it’s not really just a matter of “girlfriends,” it’s a matter of female characters being trivially bumped-off for no other reason than to motivate a (male) superhero to revenge.
That’s not what the [spoilers!] death of Gabrielle Haller in “Legacy” was about. Apart from anything else David’s revenge was instant and unthinking: this wasn’t about some elongated plotline being put into action. But far more importantly, to me GiaR is defined by a lack of sensitivity in one’s characterization and a lack of respect for one’s characters. GiaR applies when a (female) character has been created for no other reason than to play the part of the victim, or when an established character’s suffering has been undermined or glossed-over to magnify the effects on her boyfriend. In other words, GiaR applies when the story being built around the violence isn’t about the victim in any way, shape or form. It’s icky.
My feeling is this: if you’re choosing to depict violence it’s automatically about violence. It’s automatically about shocking or thrilling or adrenalizing your reader. If that’s not your principal aim, and if you haven’t given any thought to the secondary effects of that depiction, you need to tread carefully. I don’t ascribe to the view that violence can’t or shouldn’t be used as a narrative tool, or as a way of casting light on characters, but I do think it’s crap as a shortcut, I do think it should be handled with great care and, above all, I do think it needs to be managed with respect. If a writer doesn’t respect his or her characters, why should anyone else?
All of which is the longwinded way of saying I’d given this whole thing a lot of thought before I wrote #15, and my conscience is clear. The whole episode is about reintroducing Gabrielle. This isn’t some Bechdel-dodging girlfriend introduced on page 1, given half a line of dialogue on page 2, and bumped-off on page 3. This is a living, breathing woman, who steps into the story and says amazing and interesting things. She changes David’s life, and he changes hers. She’s a real character.
And then she dies. For no reason. It’s pointless and it’s gross and, if I’ve done it right, it’s absolutely the last thing you expect. And it hits you (and David) between the eyes. To me, that’s what depictions of violence should do. It’s not something to celebrate, it’s not something trivial: it’s something with real ramifications and lasting fallout.
And if you’re still not buying that, I humbly invite you to go watch “Bambi,” and then we’ll talk.
â€¨Siryn is hoping for a resurgence of the X-Club in the X-Men universe.â€¨â€¨I’m currently loving your work with Legion on “X-Men Legacy,” but I was wondering if you have any plans to write Dr. Nemesis or the X-Club again. I know a lot of people are dying to see what happened to Rupert the Starfish. And, as an often underused character, I think Dr. Nemesis would benefit greatly from a Legacy type book, especially if it explored his past with the Nazis. What do you think?â€¨
Oh, I’d love that. A solo Nemesis book, an “X-Club” ongoing; I’d give all five of my nuts to write those. But no, no current plans. I don’t need to explain the grim but simple commercial reality: if you’re an editor, do you commission a book about a character a million people like, or a character a few thousand people absolutely adore?
But! Never say never. Marvel are getting really good at taking risks (just look at “Legacy”), and if the right pitch came along I’m sure they’d consider just about anything. But I think it’s way more realistic that if I’m ever going to write Dr. James Bradley again it’d be in some other capacity, in an already-existing book.
About which I can say no more. But, y’know. Watch the horizon.
mr_infinte has a quick question about “X-Men Legacy’s” longevity as a title and where it might go in the future.â€¨â€¨1) How far ahead do you have “X-Men Legacy” planned? It seems like you’re playing a very long game with the book.â€¨
Yeah, I’m still learning the Trick To Plotting An Ongoing, but I’m pretty sure there is one. I tried to make it easy on myself with “Legacy” by deliberately thinking in modular terms: each 6-episode arc should feel like it reaches a very clear ending, then next story begins. But even then of course you need to be scattering hints and foreshadowing throughout, so nothing ever feels lazy or contrived. (And if your book is accorded that special mix of lucky and unlucky by being brought into a crossover, that obviously mangles up all your timetable.)
So, in the loosest terms: I knew from the beginning exactly how my run on the book will end. Everything’s slowly heading toward that point. In the interim it’s just been a case of plotting six episodes at a time and always having a nebulous notion of what the next bunch will entail.
â€¨2) You’ve now written books where it’s Legion versus the world and Legion with help versus the world. Which do you prefer so far?â€¨
Crap answer, but true: bit of both. Won’t come as a surprise that a lot of David’s ongoing journey has to do with the way he relates to other people. Can he successfully cooperate with others without just manipulating them to his own ends? Naturally, you can’t tell that story without switching between episodes where David’s alone and episodes where he’s mob-handed.
On balance I think I have more fun writing the solo stuff — you can screw about with storytelling a lot easier if you’re not worrying about servicing a range of different characters — but on the other hand it’s always a giggle to include voices and perspectives outside of David’s own.
â€¨And finally, our Behind the X question: If you could cast your own version of Excalibur, who would be on the roster and why?
Oh crikey. Think I’d just center the whole thing round Pete Wisdom running sneaky wetworks and black-ops stuff with a rotating cast of others, getting dragged into his schemes as and when he needs them.
I’m a bit of a geek for European folklore, so I imagine I’d wind-up folding some of that stuff into it too. We’re so used to reading in Marvel comics about these pseudo-religious figures who’ve transcended (or perhaps been demoted from) their metaphysical origins to become spandexy archetypes — Thor, Hercules, etc. — and I think there’s room in that tradition for a lot of shadowy European pagan deities too. Creepy stag-horned fertility gods, triple-headed goddesses, demigod berserker heroes and all the rest.
Also: Ghost Rider and Silver Surfer, together at last. I’d find a way.
Special thanks to Si Spurrier for his answers during this week’s X-Position!
Next week, X-Position welcomes back Rick Remender for a catch-up on “Uncanny Avengers” and the current schism of the team. Got a question for Rick? 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!