Whether it’s the X-Men of the classic Marvel Comics Universe or those in the Ultimate Universe, writer Brian Wood has readers covered. In “X-Men,” Wood’s run has taken Cyclops’ extinction team and added a whole new dimension to the mutant race even as he continues to delve into the political impact of “Divided We Fall” in “Ultimate Comics X-Men.”
For this week’s X-POSITION, Brian Wood took on all questions about his role as a scribe in the X-Men’s various playgrounds and spoke about character development, his approach to 616 versus Ultimate, and the differences between work-for-hire and creator-owned projects.
To kick things off, Time_to_Zap brings a few questions about the Ultimate versions of 616 characters.
1) I thought seeing Quentin Quire in the latest issue of Ultimate X-Men was so cool, not to mention Husk! Did you start out with a list of characters you wanted to “Ultimatize” and find ways to work them in, or put them in as the story required?
Brian Wood: Yeah, of course. I still have a lot of affection for the Generation X kids and I wanted to find a way to use one of them. Husk has a minor role right now but very shortly she’ll explode across the pages in a very pivotal scene. And Quentin — he too has a minor role and probably rather short-lived but he will leave his mark in a big way. And there’s more coming! Once we move out of the “United/Divided” event, we’ll see a large secondary cast of mutants in the book. Some very familiar names, some rather obscure.
2) I’ve heard several authors mention a technique they use to better know and portray their characters, in which they base characters (or at least aspects of them) on people they know in real life. Have you ever done this, even with those that weren’t your original creations like Kitty? Care to spill on which characters have real-life counterparts?
I’ve never done that literally, base a character off one specific person I know, but I have done it in part. Quentin Quire, for example — I feel like I’ve known a few people like that, insecure jerks that cover it up with arrogance and bravado. I was probably that guy at times in high school, I’m sure. That’s how I wrote Quire in that Wolverine miniseries and found it both an easy character to relate to and, at times, a little painful.
3) “X-Men” and “Ultimate Comics X-Men” are both team books featuring mutants with vastly different missions. How do you differentiate in your approach to writing these two books?
I keep a lot of notes. When starting a new script I go back and read over the previous ones to switch the gears in my head and get it straight for the task at hand. It’s not as difficult as it seems, and I have very talented and diligent editors there to catch the mistakes I make. I juggle a lot of monthly books and have done so since 2007 or so, and I’ve always found that copious note-taking is the key. I have separate notebooks for each project I’m working on.
4) With Ultimate Cap becoming President, can we expect the Ultimate X-Men to get a little bit of a break anytime soon?
Where’s the fun in that?
He’s not the only one with questions about Cap’s presidential bid. Marcus wants a few more details about how President Cap will affect the Ultimate X-Men.
With the recent news of Ultimate Captain America becoming President, based upon various interviews it seems that he has a plan for mutants. As the writer of “Ultimate X-Men,” how does this affect your plans for the title down the line?
You’ll see pretty soon. Captain America and Kitty Pryde will sit down and talk about what the future holds for mutants in this fractured America he needs to put back together. That’s all I can say right now, since this is where the future of this title starts, in that actual meeting. You’ll see in November.
mr_infinite has a hankering for the advantages of doing creator-owned for your work outside Marvel.
Hi Brian, You’re a unique writer in that you’ve managed to find great success in both creator-owned and work-for-hire endeavors. How do you maintain that balance and what do you see as the major advantages of each?
Almost all the advantages belong to creator-owned, in all the obvious ways. I’ve been writing comics for 15 years and it’s really only in this last year or year and a half that I’ve been deep in the work for hire world. My identity is still that of a creator-owned guy but after my contract at DC Comics ended, I got so many job offers, some of which were too good to turn down. Iconic books like “Conan,” “Star Wars,” and the X-Men. And the advantage to doing those is some added recognition, exposure to readers who may not follow creator-owned books or haven’t read mine yet. And, especially in the case of something like “Star Wars,” readers outside the direct market world who just might not read a lot of comics at all.
As far as maintaining the balance, I find that working on a variety of books helps me overall, keeps my mind active and energized and I rarely get bored or lazy.
Renaldo has some questions about the core characters in the Ultimate crew — including their leader, Kitty Pryde.
1) Brian, you’ve taken Jimmy down a dark path in the Ultimate Universe, much similar to that of Logan, violent and merciless. Why did you opt for him to follow such shoes rather than try to be the opposite of his dad?
Honestly, I’m not thinking about Logan when I write Jimmy. Jimmy’s being shaped by the circumstances in the story. Right now this is pretty much Kitty’s show, it’s her mission they’re on, and he’s stepped up and into a support role for her. As we move past this event he starts to take initiative and do his own thing, and I don’t see any of it as reading particularly “Logan-esque”. Maybe you’ll agree.
2) Kitty and Rogue have a pretty interesting dynamic to them and you’ve upped the ante by making them stronger and pivotal females in tumultuous times. Where did the inspiration or ideas come from to post them that high in the limelight?
Kitty’s the star of the book as far as I’m concerned. I had that conversation with the editors early on and they agreed that we would focus the book on her. We needed a strong central character, and she fit the bill. I saw an opportunity to get her out of that repressive Shroud identity, which I personally thought was doing her no favors, and into the limelight and with an open identity, strong and proud. Rogue’s carrying around a lot of psychic baggage and is taking longer to get there than Kitty is, but with this new subplot co-starring Quentin, we’ll see some big changes for her there.
3) The Nimrod attack, the tearing of the fabric of the political landscape…and now, Cap sworn in as the Ultimate President…how do you fathom all of these having a lasting effect on the remaining mutant populace?
Oh man, it’s coming. The upcoming “Reservation X” storyline is fully about the question you just asked.
4) With Conan and the Massive doing so well, which do you prefer writing more — a big company title or a creator-owned title?
That’s such a general question — on a book by book basis, it’s hard to say since they are so different. Writing “Star Wars” and writing “The Massive,” the experiences and processes are polar opposites, really. Same with “Conan” and the X-Men. I can’t compare them. I believe that ultimately creator-owned comics are where we should all be working, but I’m having a great time now on all these licensed books. Writing them uses different creative muscles.
5) Lastly, what would be your dream book to work on at Marvel if you were given free rein and which artist would you want to work with?
I like writing the X-Men, and I’d love to do more of it with David Lopez. Second to that, I’d love to write a new Runaways book and a Thor MAX that’s heavy on the Viking stuff.
mrtrae is sad to see your run finish out on “X-Men,” but needs some clarification on the origin of mutants.
I really love your run on X-Men. I will be very sad to see it end.
Me too. It ended for me a few months ago when I wrote the last script.
I am a bit confused as to the actual importance of the ancient mutant DNA and the Proto-mutants. If Apocalypse is recognized as the first mutant, then the X-Men have known there were mutants as far back as ancient Egypt. It makes their reactions seem… odd. For example, why does Psylocke mean when she says (in #33) “Being a mutant… it means something different now.”
All that means is they have a greater understanding of their shared history. The proto-mutants weren’t just ancestors, they were a whole different species, one that died out. It would be like if we, as humans, just now discovered that there were Neanderthals. It casts everything that came after it in a new light.
Starleafgirl is jonesing for some Ultimate Generation X action from some possible character appearances in “Ultimate Comics X-Men.”
I was so psyched to see Paige Guthrie appear in the pages of Ultimate Comics X-Men, but the main question on my mind is: Will any of her former Generation X teammates be joining her? Ultimate versions of Penance and Chamber would be so cool! And did I see Monet and Skin in “Ultimate Comics X-Men” #16 or is that just wishful thinking on my part?
I didn’t write Monet or Skin into the script — maybe the artists added them in for fun? And I love all those characters. Right now, I have no plans for any others to join the book.
Too bad for major Generation X-fans. Moving on, cora reef is one of many disappointed to see the end of Brian’s “X-Men” run.
Hi Brian, Thanks for taking our questions! I was sad to hear that your run on “X-Men” is coming to an end. 1) What has been your favorite experience so far in writing the book?
If I had to say just one thing, it would be finding a great partner in David Lopez. Sometimes you work with an artist and something about it just feels right it just click with your words in the perfect way. That’s how I felt about David’s work, and I keep coming up with new project ideas for him to draw.
2) Was there a character that you weren’t crazy about at first that you turned around on by the end of your run?
I wouldn’t say I wasn’t crazy about any of them, really. Some of them surprised me. Considering how well received my Storm was, I really had a strong vision for her as a character at the very beginning. But once I started writing the first script, it all clicked into place and I was like, “Oh yeah, this is working”. And so it went.
3) What’s the likelihood of you returning for another 616 X-Men run?
People at Marvel can answer that better than I can. I hope the chances are 100%.
As always we conclude with our “Behind The X” question: What nonfiction book did you most recently read and what was the topic?
I’m finishing up “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis. The topic may sound dry to some — its about the 2008 economic collapse and Wall Street’s damage to our economy — but it’s gripping as hell and terrifying and amazing and the sort of book you wish would never end, that you could just go on and read forever. I can’t recommend it enough. He also wrote the book “Moneyball” that was turned into a movie, which people might know of.
Thanks to Brian Wood for joining us for another installment of X-POSITION!
Next week, it’s time to welcome back “X-Men Legacy” and “First X-Men” scribe Christos Gage as he tackles your best questions about the modern and old-timey mutants of the Marvel U. If you’ve got a head-scratcher for Christos, go ahead and drop me a line with the subject “X-Position” — or, if your question can be summed up in 140 characters, go ahead and submit via Twitter! Just be sure to have your questions in by Friday!