As the first major launch of Marvel Comics' new Marvel NOW! publishing initiative in November draws closer, the publisher has continued to build interest with a series of special press conference calls with some of the minds behind the new relaunches. Whether it's Si Spurrier on "X-Men Legacy," Mark Waid and Leinil Yu on "Indestructible Hulk", Brian Bendis on "All-New X-Men," Gerry Duggan and Tony Moore on "Deadpool" or Rick Remender and John Romita Jr. on "Captain America", Marvel certainly had a diverse group of creators and titles to choose from.
After speaking about "Thor: God of Thunder" last week, Jason Aaron returns to the press conference call circuit along with series artist Nick Bradshaw and X-Books editor Nick Lowe to discuss an existing Marvel favorite: "Wolverine & the X-Men" with some hints at what's in store for the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning following the events of "Avengers Vs. X-Men" and how the book will be affected by Marvel NOW!
After some brief discussion of the status of Hurricane Sandy on the east coast of the U.S., moderator and Sales & Communications Coordinator James Viscardi kicked off the call recalling the massive gut-punch of "Wolverine & the X-Men" #18 with the death of a student and asked Aaron for his plans moving forward.
"I feel very thankful and lucky that I've gotten to do an offbeat X-Men book like this," said Aaron. "This is our first Marvel NOW! issue, issue #19, so if anything we're trying to get back to where we were before the 'AvX' madness. It picks up right after the events of 18. There were a lot of angry people on the Internet, which was great. It made my day."
Aaron stated the book would return to the same type of stories the creative team was doing before "AvX" and the core cast of teachers will be getting into some adventures outside the school. Speaking about "Wolverine & the X-Men" #19 specifically, Bradshaw said it was a great issue to jump into. "I got to draw a lot of awesome characters," he said. "It's a fun issue because we're peppering what comes up in the next story arc. As an artist, I just had a blast. We've got some really cool situations coming up that we allude to in this issue."
Characters Bradshaw got a chance to draw include Sasquatch, Werewolf-by-Night, Gorilla Man and more -- in fact, some of those characters Aaron stated he wanted to add to the cast, which is already huge. "This issue sets up everything to come for the bulk of the next year in this book," said Aaron. "It's one of those proverbial great jumping-on points, but obviously the stuff at the end of 18 is going to seed the stuff that carries into next year."
At the beginning of issue #19, Husk has left the school and the X-Men have to hire a new teacher, hence the number of new characters. Two new mutants will also be introduced in the issue, including one of Aaron's favorites named "Eye Boy," aptly named due to his massive number of eyes.
The upcoming arc has to do with Frankenstein's monster, and Aaron describes it as a "circus arc" hearkening back to Beast walking into a circus and all the X-Men are circus acts. Aaron plans to bring all the teachers at the Jean Grey School into a kind of death circus at the hands of Frankenstein's monster. "Over the course of that arc, it's not just an excuse for Nick to draw the X-Men in circus costumes," said Aaron. "This whole arc is seeding everything that's coming after. By the last page of this arc, you'll have a good idea of the two big arcs we're heading toward later will be."
In terms of research for a circus arc, Aaron stated he's pretty well researched in most things child-related due to his 7-year-old son.
Bradshaw said he loves drawing the characters and "getting to play with this new crop of kids is a blast," and due to his love of horror movies, it was especially fun getting to draw Frankenstein's circus. "Getting to throw X-Men characters in that kind of visual situation is [awesome]."
Storm comes on as the newest teacher in the Wolverine school, and Aaron said he seized on the opportunity to add her to the cast. "I like having strong women in the book," said Aaron, who referenced Kitty and Rachel specifically. "Even though Husk has left the staff, that's not a story that's ending. As a side note with her, one of the things I'd like to do with her is before 'AvX,' we had a lot of Twitter accounts for students and staff. Husk will be out of the book for at least a few issues, it'll be a while before we see her again. If you want to know what's up with Husk when she's not in the book, you can follow her on Twitter. It'll be like a Twitter mini-series."
Lowe expanded on the Twitter accounts, saying the Jean Grey School were hoping to get the Twitter accounts up this week, but will see a delay due to the hurricane. However, this Wednesday, there will be a very special Halloween live tweet in honor of issue #19.
"We've been building to Iceman and Kitty going on their first date, and there's obviously something going on with Logan and Storm as well," Aaron stated of the romantic relationships in the book. In terms of other relationships, there's going to be developments to come (not necessarily romantic) with Idie and Quentin. There will also be things to come with Genesis with a new relationship and another surprising relationships with another kid in the book. "Rick Remender and I have talked about a plan for Genesis," said Aaron. "It's a story that he and I have been shaping together." There are developments for Genesis planned through 2014.
Aaron also addressed the Kitty/Iceman relationship, which he said a lot of X-Men fans had been against. "You have two characters who were once upon a time the kids of the X-Men and now they're in a position where they're Professor X," said Aaron. "It doesn't mean they're head over heels in love with each other, but they want to see where it goes. It all leads to issue #24 -- date night."
Lowe spoke about the crossover between "Wolverine & the X-Men" and "All-New X-Men," describing them as the two flagship X-Men books. "They're where the most hardcore X-Men fans should go to get their fix," said Lowe, noting that all the trappings of the Jean Grey School are a big part of "All-New X-Men" #1-5. "You're going to see the stuff in 'Wolverine and the X-Men' #24 that will have 'All-New X-Men' interminglings." Modern-day Angel will show up in "All-New X-Men" #6 with more links to come. "We try to keep the continuity as together as possible without scaring away people."
Aaron stated that he didn't want to leave "Wolverine & the X-Men" during the creator shuffle of Marvel NOW! and there will be a number of crossover points with all the books in the X-Men Universe.
"Wolverine & the X-Men" #20 will be an Angel solo issue, which will see Angel find a new purpose in life and he'll run up against Mystique and the brand new Silver Samurai, designed by Steven Sanders. The issue also plants the seeds of what's in store for Angel and hearkens back to Rick Remender's "Dark Angel Saga."
Lowe described issue #19 as the start of something that culminates in June 2013. "I just want to stress how big Jason is thinking and how big the artists are thinking. This is a huge story that has a big ramifications for Wolverine, the Jean Grey School, Storm, Iceman, Kitty -- this is not a time to fall off the 'Wolverine & the X-Men' train."
While there will continue to be stories about the school, Aaron hopes to bring more core X-Men-centric adventures to the book, which will get set up by the next couple of issues.
"I've had my core cast of students I've focused on from the get-go," said Aaron, "but that doesn't mean we've forgotten about the previous generation of students. Rockslide shows up in the murder circus arc. One of the themes of this book, to me, is growing up. I'm not looking to have these kids forever stuck in the Jean Grey School in math class. At some point, all of these kids need to graduate." Aaron stated he has pages in his notebook about what happens to these kids when they graduate. "I wouldn't expect all of them to become X-Men. A few kids start to go in a [different] direction in issue #19."
Bradshaw described working on a book like "Wolverine & the X-Men" as a challenge due to the drama combined with the character work, and he referenced a scene with Broo after he went berserk and said he was pleased that he was able to convey the level of emotion that he did. Aaron stated he didn't ever want people to get comfortable with the tone of the book. "That's the mandate going forward, don't ever think this is just a silly book," said Aaron.
Lowe praised Bradshaw's work on filling out the world of "Wolverine & the X-Men" with minor details that give a lot of flavor to the book. "You are watching someone start to become a superstar here, in my opinion," said Lowe.
On his part, Bradshaw complimented Aaron's scripts, saying he loved drawing the book and it's been "a blast to work on."
Another fan-favorite character, Kid Gladiator, will be seen again, but he may not be seen with his old classmates. "We'll pick up with him down the road," said Aaron. "It's all a part of his story, it's all leading somewhere." Aaron stated one of his proudest moments was when his son said he wanted to go as Kid Gladiator for Halloween.
In terms of adding new characters, Aaron said he enjoyed bringing older characters on to the cast, but that a goal of the book is to provide a good entry point for new readers, which is why he hopes to provide a good mix of new characters and old characters to the book.
Aaron stated he uses other characters in the Marvel U to help connect the Jean Grey school to the greater expanse of the Marvel U. "I want the Jean Grey school to be a big part of the Marvel Universe," he said. "That school and these characters are a big part of what's going on in the X-Universe and the Marvel Universe in general. Especially as a part of Marvel NOW!, I like making those connections. Anything I can do to make those connections, I love doing. Getting to play in that big sandbox, that's what it's all about."
The Savage Land arc illustrated by Ramon Perez is "not your average Savage Land story" and brings in Dog (Wolverine's brother from "Origin" that Aaron last dealt with in "Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine.") to the Marvel U. "There's a lot of stuff to play with there," said Aaron. "If anything, I'm trying to create Wolverine's rowdy, redneck brother and bring him in in a big way."
"Dog is very different from what anyone is expecting," said Lowe. "I think what you'll find with him is that he's unlike any other family member of Wolverine's we've met before."
Jean Grey will appear in "Wolverine & the X-Men" #24, but Aaron revealed no other details about the appearance.
With that, the call wrapped. "Wolverine & the X-Men" #19 by Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw goes on sale this Wednesday.