For over four years, dedicated fans of Marvel's X-Men and the franchise's longtime lead writer Chris Claremont have been asking one question of the publisher at any available opportunity: when exactly will fans see "X-Men: Ragazze In Fuga"? Written by Claremont and drawn by Italian artist Milo Manara for publisher Panini, the stand alone graphic novella (whose titles translates roughly to "X-Men: Girls In Flight") will finally make it's way to the U.S. this July with the title "X-Women," the publisher announced today.
"Panini has been Marvel's publisher overseas for quite some time," Claremont told CBR News of how the project came to be. "I've been doing a creator-owned project with them for a number of years that started around the same time [we signed on for this X-Men story] -Â 'Wanderers' -Â with Phil Briones. The first volume of that came out last year, and we're in the process of getting the second done. But they wanted to do some original material for the European market and I suspect establish some contact with our classic European artists by introducing them to the American market and American characters. It all sort of synergized together."
For the story of "X-Women," a major driving factor in deciding what kind of story Claremont would tell came from the selection of Manara, who's best known for his erotic work in Europe. And while "X-Women" doesn't fall into that category, the writer had no problems finding a way to tell a story with his characters that fit the artist's strengths. "He has a certain affection for presenting figure 'au naturale' as they say - or as they said when I was a kid, 'starkers,'" the writer laughed. "And the utterly intriguing, amusing thing is how close he comes throughout the book in terms of presenting the character...how he just gets as close as he can to crossing over Marvel's line of disapproval but not quite. At the same time, he gets away with presenting the characters in all the glory Milo loves to do so. And I think it's wonderful."
For his part though, Claremont had more to focus on than the female figures at hand -Â namely building a world and characters that were of a piece with the X-Men yet still fitting for the project and market. "In this instance, they wanted to do a book that showcases, I suppose, their perception of Manara's strengths, which involves women as opposed to men and reality as opposed to superheroes. From my perspective, if you're going to go to someone like Manara, you don't go with classic Jack Kirby space adventure superheroes with monsters and and freakish looking characters and monstrously sized figures in armor. You find a story that is exciting and well grounded. By the same token, we're speaking primarily to an audience that may not be as religiously familiar with the American canon in terms of characters and the world itself, so you want to create a physical environment that is accessible to the broadest possible collection of readers."
On hand for the story will be the titular X-Women including Rogue, Storm, Psylocke, Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers. "In a primal sense, Kitty ends up being the viewpoint character because she very often is when I'm telling a story," Claremont explained. "The story starts with Rogue having a party at a Greek island mansion she inherited from Irene Adler, from Destiny. And things from there get very, very complicated. They get hijacked out to Genosha where we discover some things about Genosha that we've never discovered before. And much interesting and exciting adventures are had by all. A dastardly villain is revealed, a dastardly plot established. The characters are for the bulk of the story stripped of their super powers so they have to function as normal people and prove once again that the X-Men are just as dangerous without their powers as they are with them. And we thunder our way hopefully to a happy and satisfying ending. Oh...and along the way there's romance, pirates, severed heads galore, action-adventure and a magnificent sequence where Rogue discovers a skill for being a den mother/babysitter and doing lots of ironing. And Betsy discovers that she has a knack for feeding pigs."
Though while the story will obviously be built to some extent on the history the characters have with each other and with the Marvel Universe, the write pulled out overt references to past continuity and stories to make the book as fresh as he could for european readers. "It's intriguing and exciting for those who are familiar with the characters, but it also is interesting, irresistible and fun for those who aren't and vice versa. The thrust of the story is to get on, say your piece and get off. The reality is that it's only 46-pages, and there isn't a lot of time to establish the traditional bone fides. The more you throw in, the more you have to explain, the feel convoluted and restricted the story becomes. The idea was to take these half-dozen characters and put them in a reality that was exclusive unto itself because you're never quite sure [who's familiar with what.]
"When we did the book, the cast was reflective of the reality at the time in terms of how we presented Kitty and Storm and Rachel," he added of how the project doesn't necessarily need to fit into one specific place in continuity. "That's the reality of 2005, but the reality of 2010 is completely different. Storm is married. Rachel is no longer a part of the Uncanny team. Kitty no longer exists...at least this month. So you just have to accept that. By the same token, when I wrote this story Jean was dead...now she's sort of not depending on whether you're in 'Uncanny' territory or 'Forever' territory. So you want to keep things as uncomplicated and intriguing as you can. If you throw in any traditional tropes such as the mansion or other characters -Â which were in the earlier drafts, here Xavier and there Scott or whatever -Â the more complicated things become and the less relevant those characters and situations those ideas really feel to the story. It was a matter of pruning things down to the quintessential basics."