COMIC CULTURE: Talking with Mike Carey


Volume 2, Number 1

Welcome one and all to the second volume of Comic Culture. For those of you scratching your heads (or other extremities) with curiosity as to what exactly this feature is and how there can be a second volume of it when you never saw a first volume, here's some hopefully brief, non-long-winded history.

Two-and-a-half years ago I pitched a monthly column to Herorealm.com called "What About Bob?" (I've been reviewing on that Web site for five years). Several boring name changes and content modifications later it became Comic Culture, a weekly interview column.

Every week I would interview one or more of the best and the brightest in the industry. The column serves not to simply hype the creators' upcoming and current releases (though it sometimes does). I talk with the creators about everything from breaking into the comic industry to mistakes they made in the past in their work.

A month ago Hero Realm informed me that they were canceling Comic Culture, effective almost immediately. The Web site was changing their output to concentrate on only reviews, and therefore all columns would be immediately cancelled (although I still see that their perennial "Spidey Kicks Butt" column is still advertised as being active on their main page). I was devastated, I threw things and moaned to all my friends at length (sorry guys), and then I started searching for a new home for the column. Less than a week later my savior, CBR's Jonah Weiland, picked up the column and here I am.

Damn, that was long winded.

Anyway, the point is I'm back and better than ever. While we're launching this first edition of the new column on Monday afternoon, future editions will be found on Comic Book Resources every Sunday afternoon. Look here every week to get the lowdown on your favorite creators.

First up we have the amiable Mike Carey. Carey's historic runs on Vertigo books like "Hellblazer" and "Lucifer" helped him develop a devoted, if small, following. As Carey ended his run on "Hellblazer" and prepared to finish "Lucifer," his workload shifted over to Marvel Comics. He worked on a number of smaller scale projects, including a highly lauded two-issue run on "Ultimate Fantastic Four" and several one shots for the company. Then it was announced he was taking over the writing duties on "X-Men," joining with Ed Brubaker on "Uncanny X-Men" and Joss Whedon on "Astonishing X-Men" to help redefine the X-Men franchise again. I sat down with Carey to talk all things X.

Robert Taylor: Hey Mike, how's life?

Mike Carey: Life is great. If the rest of 2006 is as good as the beginning, I'm set.

RT: So, how'd you get the X-Men gig?

MC: I've been doing a number of smaller-scale projects for Marvel in recent months, including the recent "Ultimate X-Men/Fantastic Four" miniseries that just finished up this month. One day I got a call from (X-book editor) Michael Marts and he asked if I would be interested in pitching for X-Men. I leave it to you to imagine what my reaction was. Mike invited me to tell him what I would like to do with the X-Universe and who I would put on my dream X-Men team. He seemed to like the ideas I came up with, so then we talked again about what was happening in the Marvel Universe right now and what was about to happen over the next few months. I built that into the pitch, and it was greenlighted. Green-lit? Both. That's basically how it happened. I'm ecstatic.

RT: You are known as a writer who likes to think in the long term when coming onto a book. How long are you planning on sticking with X-Men?

MC: Well, right now we have to look at fan reaction to my first few issues. But I do roughly have my first year planned out, leading up to issue #200. My ideal would be to stay on the book for at least three years, because the longer you stay the more layered and interesting your storytelling can become.

RT: What is your opinion of the current state of the X-Men books in the aftermath of "House of M" and in the midst of "Deadly Genesis?"

MC: Well, obviously, since I found out I'm on the book I'm now reading everything. Before I had that first conversation with Mike I was reading Whedon and Cassaday on "Astonishing X-Men." I was following Milligan's work, of course, and "Cable/Deadpool." Now I'm trying to fill in the gaps by getting the rest of the line. I thought "House of M" was really fantastic and powerful storytelling, and what an epic conclusion. It just opens up in so many directions. Hopefully I'll be able to capture at least some of the great drama that has been happening in recent years because it's given me such a fascinating backdrop, especially considering the events of "Deadly Genesis."

RT: Who's on your dream X-Men team?

MC: My dream X-Men team is the team I'm writing right now. Mike Marts said very early on that I should pick anyone I like, so I did. I was aware that there would be very few of the current X-team available, so I grabbed Rogue and Iceman as the anchor around which the new team would assemble. The new team has Cannonball and Cable, who are brought in to bring some stability to the team. But we've also brought in some out-of-left-field characters like Mystique and Sabretooth. I feel like I've been given the biggest toybox in the world and told to help myself. There are so many classic characters here who you can play with, and their relationships are so interesting and diverse. I think the characters I've chosen have terrific potential, terrific narrative tension.

RT: Why do you think they chose you for the book?

MC: Well, I guess my recent work has shown that I'm not afraid of working on big, epic, long-term scales. I love planting seeds and watching them grow. That's probably one of the biggest keys in writing an X-Men book: You have to think big. I think I did that successfully in "Hellblazer" and "Lucifer" and can do it here too.

That's one key, the other is getting the character beats right, grounding these fantastic events in believable human relationships and emotions. That's something I really want to do. I want to flesh out those six characters and make you interested in their journeys. Mystique and Sabretooth were not only involved, but they had a child together. Mystique and Rogue had this mother/daughter relationship that went sour. Cable invested a lot of time and energy into Cannonball, but their relationship has been trying and turbulent too. There are a lot of things there that I want to visit and acknowledge.

RT: What can you tell us about the first story arc?

MC: It's pretty damn big. It introduces a new race of beings into the Marvel universe, and a new power as well. We'll sort of be playing off of the finale to "House of M," with Wanda's decree of "No More Mutants." In "Decimation" we saw some of the consequences of that - the colossal shift of energies it brought about. One of those consequences starts my story - brings this new antagonist into play. And it's dangerous enough and uncontainable enough that it brings together characters who would never otherwise be together. Then as we steam on towards issue #200 we reintroduce an old X-villain with a new twist that no one would expect. As with Morrison and Whedon, I want the book to make you feel like anything and everything is at stake.

RT: How interconnected will "Uncanny X-Men" and "X-Men" be?

MC: Over the next year the interconnection will not be huge. There are going to be some micro-crossovers about six months down the line because something major happens in another book and it would be a shame not to have a crossover and some emotional fallout from that. Other than that, the three X-books are going their own separate ways. Perhaps after issue 200 there will be some more crossovers, but next year there will be few major points of contact - for good reasons which people will be able to see and appreciate.

RT: Tell us, who's your favorite X-Man?

MC: I sympathize most with Cyclops. I like the way he always seemed so cold because he kept his emotions so carefully in check. Underneath it all he is like a seething cauldron, but on the outside he is cold. I like the fact that he is underestimated and a lot of people are taken aback when he really cuts loose and takes charge of a situation.

In terms of storytelling, I love what is happening with Emma Frost since Morrison took her over to the side of good. I love the interplay between her and Kitty right now.

RT: Tell us about the artist you're working with, Chris Bachalo.

MC: Chris is really working at the top of his game right now. If you are reading "Uncanny X-Men," you'll notice that even characters who only appear for an issue or two have such amazing character design that you want to see more of them and get to know them better. There's a supporting character in my run who is only coming back because of the great job Chris did with the character design. There had to be more to her.

RT: With "Hellblazer" and "Lucifer" done, or nearly done, most of your work is coming out of Marvel now. Are you going exclusive?

MC: Well, I wouldn't say that was impossible, but it would have to be handled right. Yes, my run on "Hellblazer" is done, and "Lucifer's" final issue is written, but I also have two new books coming from Vertigo, a miniseries and an ongoing. They are both creator-owned, though. The work I'm doing for Marvel right now is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, and to be given this amount of freedom is just wonderful.

RT: What was your first comic book?

MC: "Wham!," an English humor comic of the 60s.

RT: Allright, now how about your favorite comic book of all time?

MC: "Starstruck," by Lee and Kaluta.

RT: Has there ever been a comic book that touched or changed your life?

MC: Yes, actually. "X-Men" #108. I was in my late teens or early 20s and wasn't reading comics anymore, but then I picked it up and it got me back into comics. So I wouldn't be here today without it, literally.

RT: If you could only write one book for the rest of your career, what would it be?

MC: Argh! I can't answer the question. At the moment the answer would be "X-Men," but that's because I'm still in the honeymoon period. Probably if I had to just stick to one book I'd stop writing.

RT: Fair enough. How about the best comic book movie ever made?

MC: "X-Men 2: X-Men United"

RT: Your weirdest convention experience?

MC: Having a guy sit in front of me and draw my picture while I was talking to people in a signing booth. He didn't ask or anything, just sat down and started drawing me. He gave me the picture and it was pretty cool, but I still don't know his name or anything!

RT: If you were remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

MC: "My Faith in Frankie."

Coming Up next week in Comic Culture: Ethan Van Sciver!

Contact Comic Culture Writer Robert Taylor at rtaylor@comicbookresources.com.

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