Si Spurrier has a few irons in the Marvel Universe fire. Whether it’s his current run on “X-Men Legacy” set to end at issue #24 or the recently-announced “X-Force” title ready to debut later this year, the writer is well-embedded in the X-Men’s current lore. But with “Legacy” coming to a close, Spurrier is ready to transition to a different dynamic: a new X-Force team assembled by Cable in the wake of a mysterious incident.
As he makes that transition, Si Spurrier joined X-Position this week to discuss what’s in store for Legion as the series heads into its conclusion, the mission statement behind “X-Force” and more with a philosophical flair.
CBR News: Si, before jumping into the questions about “X-Force” (and there are quite a few!), I wanted to touch on “X-Men Legacy” — David’s getting hammered on the Astral plane both psychically and emotionally. What further challenges lay ahead of him before the series wraps?
CBR News: Hello, hello, last “XML”-related X-Pos. I’m a little bummed about that. Excuse me while I guzzle some leftover cheaply-manufactured holiday-season chocolate. Also, crudely plant the suggestion in your readers’ minds that a bit of chocolate would be quite nice right now too. It’s okay, guys — you can get away with having just a little bit. It turns out this X-Position will be quite long, so you might as well put your feet up with a nice cup of tea and some chocs. Nobody else needs to know. Mmmmm, textual manipulation.
So, yes indeed, we’re climbing — or possibly spiraling downward, depending how you look at it — toward the climax of my run on the series. As you will have seen in #21 right now David’s having to contend with the “golden Xavier” (I’ve been calling him “Professor-Y” in scripts) who’s been lurking in his head from the outset. I’ve seen a few comments expressing surprise that this particular Grand Confrontation is all kicking off now when there are still quite a few episodes to come. I’m quietly pleased about that reaction: it tells me people have somewhat taken the bait I’ve been cruelly dangling for nigh-on twenty episodes. To whit, that Professor-Y is the one and singular Big Bad.
Which he both is and isn’t. [Laughs] I’m sorry, it’s so hard to talk about stuff at this late stage in the game without giving a lot away. Part of the beauty of writing these last few episodes has been that the whole process was quite literally a case of flicking a domino and watching payoff after payoff go tumbling down; tied-off loose end after tied-off loose end. And man, there are a lot of those things, from our golden-skinned pal right through to the minor matter of David’s unhappily-prophesied fate. And that’s not even touching on what I’d regard as the real crux of the story: the emotional and perceptional gristle that passes for David’s ability to trust others, his relationship with his father’s memory, and his sense of self worth. And last but oh-my-god by no means least his “doomed” love for Ruth.
You all know, by now, that the one thing “XML” has never been is conventional. (Bloody-mindedly contrarian, maybe. Deliberately obtuse, quite possibly. Perilously close to pretentious, even. But never conventional.) And yet, as per the past episode, the showdown with Professor-Y has an undeniable ring of The Familiar about it — at least in the sense that it looks like being a fairly straightforward smackdown between our hero and an unrepentantly evil Ã¼bervillain given to cackling loquaciousness. With a whiff of the old multidimensional nuclear Armageddon thrown in to boot. Let me reassure you that Said Conventionality is a dream, a temporary state, a bait-and-switch. As you shall soon see, the real test — the real assault upon David’s collapsing strength — takes a very different form indeed. In fact there’s a scene at the end of #22 of which I’m quietly proud, which redefines who or what Professor-Y really is and has been all along. Or, more accurately, what he represents.
I’m dodging the question of course. You asked what further challenges lie ahead and (characteristically) I’m reticent. My aim here is simply to suggest that the obvious challenge — i.e. trading blows with the mincing bad guy — is not the Big Show at all.
This will be dreadfully smug, forgive me, but I suddenly have a mad desire to break the fourth wall — hello readers, how’s the chocolate? — and gently whisper, “Have you been watching closely….?”
You really had a chance not only to develop Legion, but Blindfold as well. When you started the series, did you anticipate how much the character would end up tying into the series as a whole?
No, absolutely not. In fact when I first came to pitching for “XLeg,” I really didn’t know much about Ruth (as did, I suspect, very few of us). All I knew was that I needed a foil for this capricious, broken, occasionally arrogant young man who we’d be building our story around. My immediate instinct was to go for someone good-natured, trusting and well-adjusted — maybe a mentor figure or a quasi-rival against whom David could strike sparks. So when my editor Daniel Ketchum suggested one of Joss Whedon’s oft-overlooked castoffs as a spiritual nemesis — a blind wallflower with a potentially annoying speech pattern and the sort of nebulously-defined powers that can torpedo any sense of story logic below the waterline — it took me a while to realize his genius. The key, of course, lay in the simple reciprocity of these two characters’ problems, affections and interactions. As individuals neither one has, historically, been the subject of much enthusiasm from the readers, and their sheer not-quite-normal-ness marks them both out as problematic if all you want to do is tell a middle-of-the-road story that everyone can relate to. (Naturally, that’s not exactly what I intended anyway.) But a romantic arc in which both parties could be healed, made whole, made better by the affair? That’s a wonderful and special sort of story, and not something you see much in comics — in which, far more often, it’s about a Character With A Problem trying to persuade a Perfect Object Of Desire to accept him/her. The only remaining task was to insert something fucking horrible to prevent these two Perfect-For-Each-Other nerds from having an easy time of it. Hence the “one must kill the other” thing. Poor kids. I’m afraid the obstacle I lay before them may prove to be more insurmountable than I guessed.
Anyway, yes: what an incredible young woman Ruth has turned out to be. Far from her origins as the answer to my slightly mathematical plot-requirements she’s stepped-up and taught David (and me) the value of trust, of guiding rather than forcing, of asking for help rather than taking it. Through thick and thin she’s been the moral anvil against which David batters his own ambition into shape, and for all her perceived frailness and insecurity — as we shall shortly see — underneath it all she’s made of fucking steel. She’s stronger — and no, I don’t mean that in a bloody, “Who would win a fight between…?” sort of way — than possibly any other character in this series.
With that, Ned kicks off the reader questions with a compliment and a query about whether “X-Men Legacy” leads into “X-Force.”
Si, I’ve been blown away by your work on “X-Men Legacy.” You were able to take a character that had been used as pretty much just a plot device since his creation and make him fully three dimensional without ignoring what had gone on before in the character’s history. Also I couldn’t go without mentioning your ability to craft plots and ploys that build up throughout the entire run on a level which rivals Mike Carey’s fantastic “Lucifer”. It’s going to be sad for me to say goodbye to David and his plans, but I’m very excited for X-Force.
Hello Ned — and thanks, very kind words. Mike C. is one of the smartest guys working in the field today (I just got the chance to read a preview copy of his next novel, “The Girl With All The Gifts,” which is utterly brilliant and oh-so-highly recommended) so that’s high praise indeed. As you may by now have heard, “X-Men Legacy” #300 (which runs the month after my individual run ends with #24) will be a 30-page one-off co-written by Mike, Christos Gage and yours truly. We’ve got something a bit special in mind for that. It’s a privilege just to bounce ideas, let alone work closely, with two such extraordinary talents.
Now on to my actual question. Will the events of X-Men Legacy and it’s conclusion play any role in the plot of X-Force? Will we see David show up in the new title’s pages at any point down the line?
I can only give you an infuriating No Comment for that, I’m afraid. If you’re determined to get something unequivocal out of me then I can tell you that David definitely won’t be in the first arc or two of “X-Force,” which is entirely concerned with a different group of characters.
The bigger question here, which people ask me a lot, is about whether there’s any sense of story-continuum — literal or spiritual — between “Legacy” and “Force.” It’s difficult to give people the very short answer for that, i.e. “Nope,” without watching their faces fall. So the slightly longer answer is this: although the suite of characters, themes and preoccupations in “X-Force” aren’t the same as those you’ve found in “Legacy,” there’s a denominational bedrock which links the two. A feeling, a vibe, a resonance. That’s just as you’d expect, after all — if only for no other reason than they’re both written by the same surly Brit whose interests/obsessions/obstreperous approaches to spandexery will be the same wherever he points them. Which is to say: I think if you enjoyed “Legacy” you’ll get a kick out of “X-Force.” It’s about several fascinating but deeply flawed characters trying to do their best under bizarre circumstances — which, as lowest-common-denominators go, doesn’t get much more all-encompassing. But (let’s be blunt) we’re obviously aiming to get a whole lot more people aboard the new book than solely those loyal, vocal, discerning awesomenauts who’ve made my time on “Legacy” such a joy, so it was never going to be a direct sequel or retread.
R. Smith is up next with some questions about Cable and his interaction with the new team.
Si, I am greatly looking forward to your take on “X-Force” next month. Sounds very “Uncanny X-Force” like in tone, but with more political relevance thrown into the mix. A few questions:
1) What is Cable’s status at the start of the series both physiologically and power-wise? Is he still T-O virus free and just using an exoskeletal metal arm, or has it come back and made him a cyborg again? Does he have his traditional powers or just the precognition that he developed in the recent “Cable and X-Force” series? What’s up with that weird headgear and eyepatch he’s wearing?
Those mostly fall under the “wait and see” bracket, alas. All will be revealed. And all I can tell you is that if at any stage you start to suspect that either a) I’ve screwed up and not thought something through or b) all is not what it seems, I’d urge you to favor “b” as the likely candidate. Which isn’t to say I’m incapable of screw-uppery, just that I’ve spent a looooooong time thinking this all through and I think the little puzzlebox of mysteries and, “Huh, whats?” I’m going to be laying down before you will come together quite nicely in a timely sort of way.
So, let’s tease a few things. The new “X-Force” story begins about a month or two after an event which Cable refers to as “the Alexandria Incident”. All we know about it, at the start, is that a lot of people died and folks are generally blaming mutantkind. One of the major threads in Arc 1 will be about the team — and us — finding out first what happened and second who was behind it. And, oh so much more importantly, third, how it affected the people who were there.
Cable was there.
More prosaically: his power set is pretty wonky. Like I said above, the “flawed but determined” dynamic is something I’m keen to champion, so in general I prefer to avoid super-powerful characters in full control of their gifts. In Cable’s case his starting point spins directly out of how he’s left at the end of the current “Vendetta” crossover, so I must be a tad circumspect about giving things away.
2) I like the teaming up of Cable and Psylocke in this, as it’s kind of a mash-up of classic “X-Force” and “Uncanny X-Force” in that regard. Is this in anticipation of the “X-Force” movie, which is rumored to be a combination of the two, or just a coincidence?
I know nothing about the movie, sorry. That said I don’t trust coincidences, and in simple Good Common Sense terms it makes perfect sense to include two recognizable and compelling characters, both with a historical association with the title, in the same place. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if whoever’s making the movie felt the same way, but that’s pure conjecture on my part.
@timdogg98 wants to know more about the story structure of “X-Force.”
Are you building a long-term story in X-FORCE, or will it be shorter story arcs?
Both, actually. I’ve waffled-on endlessly elsewhere about my instinctive dislike for Stories Without End. The older I get the more certain I become that “story” (that is: a three-part process involving beginning, middle and end; or thesis/antithesis/synthesis for the more Doc-Nemesis-minded among you) is a critical and unique but completely abstract concept permitting human beings to digest information. Just as our notion of the visible spectrum of colors would be completely alien to, say, a mantis shrimp, who can see like a billion other colors you can’t see, so do our brains restrict our ability to process data by parceling it up into little bundles of satisfying code we call story. Every act of creation, every human event — painting a picture, singing a song, telling a joke, having a conversation, going for a walk, or, yes, writing a tale — is at its most satisfying, most memorable and most emotionally resonant when it is easily expressed and easily absorbed as an entity with beginning, middle and end.
Fuck, I’m getting nonsensically trippy. Ignore me. The point is that this is the sort of stuff I get very excited about, but not really something readers desperately need to know about or care about if they don’t want to. But in my experience it definitely tallies that stories achieve maximum value, maximum punch, maximum importance, when they have an ending.
Which, of course, is problematic when you’re embarking on a theoretically unlimited ongoing run on a new series. My personal solution is to regard an ongoing book as a Series of Serials. A modular tale, if you will. Every so often everything draws together, the story gets its ending. And then launches afresh with a new theme, a new controlling idea, a new set of theses to be rattled against their personal antitheses. It doesn’t matter if some or all of the characters are still around, it doesn’t matter if the new controlling idea is an evolved extension of the last one: all that matters is that writer and reader alike are able to say here a story began and here a story ended. What lies in between is a discrete and wholly-satisfying narrative.
That doesn’t mean you can’t also build a web of escalations and foreshadowings which link stories together, of course. I hope “XLeg” readers will agree things have interrelated in these little modular units and in the wider sense as we’ve gone along. But I would argue the best way to generate that continuous sense of heading towards something is if, no-brainer, you actually are. So, to answer the unasked question: Yes. I know broadly how my stint on “X-Force” will end, regardless of how quickly we get there.
And what intrigued you about Marrow to choose her for the team?
Oh crikey, so many things. The simplest one is that she’s one of Those Characters — we’ve all got them — who despite being relatively Z-list and under-cherished by the majority of readers flips a little switch in your brain saying so cool. You don’t really have to analyze it too much to get excited about the prospect of using that character in a story.
It will surprise you not at all to learn I have, nonetheless, analyzed it. I think — and this is a work-in-progress — my instinctive attraction to her is that on one hand she totally embodies what I think is the most valuable function of superhuman powers in fiction, but on the other hand is so completely and gloriously unconventional.
On the first hand: it’s no secret that superpowers can work very nicely as an externalized metaphor for a character’s principal inner-characteristic. In Marrow’s case I think it’s about as elegant an analogue as it gets: this spiky, brittle, explosive core of hurt and loneliness which comes bursting out to keep people at arms’ length because she can’t handle intimacy. Actually, here’s a funny thing: isn’t it interesting that she’s called Marrow instead of Boney? It’s almost as if her real self lies underneath all this attitude and ugliness and spiky rage where nobody ever thinks to look. Just a thought.
On the second hand: she’s not some classically beautiful swimwear model who can show off her chest and her ass all at the same time (although, actually, given her ability to regrow bone she quite possibly could legitimately sever her own spine to self-enable a Classic Superhero Pose. Not that she would). She spent her formative years living in the sewers and a healthy chunk of time in a bubble-dimension for grotesques. She’s had remarkably little exposure to, well, normal life. And yet — poor woman — the one and only thing that has prevented her from fitting in, her powers, was taken away from her during M-Day. So she’s a… well, a mess. A rage-fueled outcast who’s been robbed of the one thing that validated her exclusion.
She is, in short: elegantly complicated. Like all the best characters. And hey, if that complication manifests — on first sight — as a woman who takes childlike glee in violence then her place in an X-Force team is already justified. And that’s not to mention the real reason Cable offered her a job, which I’m not going to spoil here.
Champaign is up next with some questions about Psylocke and Fantomex.
Thanks for the X-Po, Si!
My pleasure. It’s this or work.
Since “X-Force’s” announcement, many fan complaints involve the backward characterization of Psylocke and the team’s inclusion of Fantomex; however, I don’t agree with those assessments, which brings me to these questions:
(Wait — people complaining about the backward characterization of Psylocke? How’s that? Nobody’s read a single episode yet, as far as I know. How does anyone have any idea about which direction I intend to ch–
[sound of gears clashing, pause for blinking, then slow ahhhh as Si remembers we’re talking about the Internets here, aren’t we, that paradisiacal farmland where the teensy seeds of speculation grow seamlessly into the spooky orchards of assumption — hanging heavy with the oily fruits of outrage — and all of it without a single nourishing drop of Fact.]
Let’s eat some more chocolate, shall we? Om nom nom.)
1) Psylocke doesn’t want to kill, yet she joins a kill squad. Is this because she feels obliged to make sure this team doesn’t go too far across the line; thus, acting as the team’s moral center (like how her back is turned on Kim’s amazing “X-Force” #2 cover)?
Yeah, that’s a wait-and-see, I’m afraid. But don’t fret: I haven’t forgotten that Psylocke is attempting a tao of non-lethality. And yes, I know that makes her inclusion in X-Force an odd choice. I refer you to some of the above wafflement, particularly the bit about If It Looks Like I’ve Made a Mistake or Gone Against Continuity It’s Probably Because There’s a Really Good Reason. Which there is.
2) I personally love Fantomex to death, but how do you, as a writer, deal with a character who’s generally disliked by most fans?
Glad you like him, but let’s just quickly unpick the tail-end of that question there. “Generally disliked by most fans”? I’d lay odds — and please forgive me if my supposition is dodgier than your supposition here, but I’m in a betting mood — I’d lay odds that what we’re actually talking about here is a very vocal set of Anti-Fantomexers in one or more online communities to which you belong? In which case, that’s cool, I’ll address that in just a moment. But it’s always worth remembering that we humans are brilliantly programmed to assume that our own opinions, or those of our immediate groups, are reflective of the massmind. That’s the basis for every prejudice, every all-gang-together act of neotribal expression there is. I’m as guilty as everyone, and for what it’s worth you can see why our brains think this is a good strategy: nothing forms social bonds quicker than being united in negativity. Of course it’s super-easy to spot the flaw in this little behavioral subroutine when we hear about other groups getting all uppity about this or that when we ourselves don’t agree. (My personal bugbear at the moment is spokespeople for angry, frothing, racist little uber-rightwing groups here in the UK proudly declaring things like “We English have had enough of all these immigrants coming over here and…” blah blah blah. We English? Nobody fucking asked me!)
It’s a lot harder, naturally, to be objective about the relative scale of a group when you’re part of it. Of course I’m not for a second suggesting that people who disapprove of Fantomex are even remotely identifiable with the unreconstructed willfully-ignorant xenophobic outrage-junkies of the BNP and its ilk, but the point is obvious: just because an individual or a group claims to represent the majority doesn’t mean they actually do. As in all things Internet-esque, Spurrier’s First Law always applies: Factions speak louder than herds.
But okay, for the sake of the question let’s pretend that “most fans” really do generally dislike Fantomex. (Hell, maybe they really do, and all the time and energy and money Marvel spends researching and contemplating the relative saleability of its brands is completely wasted.) My feeling is this: if a character like Fantomex (who, to me, has so much potential for fascinating storylines and truly compelling character journeys) is generally disliked, then it’s quite simply my job to set things right.
From what little I’ve seen of the online complaints I’m guessing the major beef folks have with Fanto is that he’s sometimes crossed the line into a Joke Character whose capacity for interestingness has been sucked dry. I think a few people are also unhappy about the fact that Psylocke and Fantomex are in a book together when everything that need be said about their recent romance has already been said. As with the above comment about the “backward characterization” of Betsy, I figure people have leapt to a whole bunch of conclusions. They’re in a book together? Ugh, that means the whole thing will be about their bloody love life.
Rumor control, here are the facts: devoting even the teensiest bit of thought to who/what/how Fantomex is will provide you with a literal plethora of exciting possibilities about how he as a character could provide new, resonant and emotionally complex tales. I’ve chosen to focus on a couple of those possibilities in the first couple of arcs, but I don’t feel as though he’s in any danger of suddenly running out of worthwhile applications. (Incidentally, remember that a character doesn’t have to be completely and constantly likable to be serving a very important role in a story. Fantomex is undeniably obnoxious sometimes. That would only be a problem if the writer, the other characters, and more interestingly he himself was unaware of it.)
Psylocke’s emotional journey is one of the main reasons I got involved with this project. I don’t think it’s giving away too much to say that Fantomex’s role in that journey is 100% not “the boyfriend.”
3) Your writing of Pete Wisdom and the MI-13 in “X-Men Legacy” was extremely enjoyable, which enforces me to ask if he/they will be appearing/mentioned at all in “X-Force” any time soon?
Aw thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I’m a big geek for Pete. It’s definitely a no-brainer that MI-13 in general and Pete in particular would show up sooner or later, given the sandbox “X-Force” is playing in. So, yeah — probably, eventually. But not right off the bat.
Right, okay, fine, thanks all. I suppose I’d better go and do some bloody work. Ugh.
Maybe, just… one more chocolate?
Special thanks to Mr. Si Spurrier for taking on this week’s X-Position questions!
Next week, it’s a journey back to the world of Deadpool as Cullen Bunn returns to X-Position to expound on “Night of the Living Deadpool,” hitting stores this week. Got a question for Cullen? 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!