EXCLUSIVE: Archie Readies The Debut of "Mega Man X"

Next month, things are going to be getting darker in the pages of Archie Comics' "Mega Man."

The Capcom video game adaptation is just getting over a major shakeup with the "Curse of Ra Moon" arc which found its lead character facing a depowering and some major destruction to his world, but longtime fans of the video games are perhaps more interested in the debut of Mega Man X as a backup feature in February's "Mega Man" #34. Originally a spinoff of the classic game that debuted on the Super Nintendo system, X was so popular, it became its own series of games, presenting a redesigned version of the robot-fighting hero in a dystopian future ruled by the malevolent Sigma.

With "Mega Man X" kicking off in issue #34 and continuing in Archie's Free Comic Book Day special in May, CBR News spoke with series writer Ian Flynn and editor Paul Kaminski about the character. And in addition to sharing new, exclusive art by Patrick Spaziante, they detail how the future imperfect serial will mesh with classic Mega Man, why their story starts before the original "Mega Man X" game and how the future of the franchise will play out in two timelines.

CBR News: Gentlemen, we're one big arc out from the events of the Mega Man/Sonic crossover "Worlds Collide," and I felt like you came out of that with a desire to take both of Archie's video game series back to their core concepts. What was the big idea driving these books into 2014?

Ian Flynn: We knew that there would be a lot of new people coming in because of the crossover, and if they were to jump right back into the middle of where the stories had been before the crossover happened, it wouldn't necessarily be as new reader friendly, let's say. So helping the new folks ease into what we had going and catch them up with where the folks who have been reading the books forever seemed like the best course of action.

Paul Kaminski: With these books, it's always a fine line of "What is alienating to a new reader?" versus "What is fun in this world?" Ian can split that difference really well. Not a lot of writers can balance in that way. So being a time of transition for all the video game titles at Archie, we've been treating this as a fresh start. It's all about what you said -- going back to the core of the characters, with some action-packed stories that would be interesting to new readers while also being thought-provoking and question-inducing for the returning audience.

With "Mega Man," you've really gone a long way with the idea of adapting storylines from the various video games to match the continuity of the comic world. Even your most recent story, "The Curse of Ra Moon," did that. How do you plan on expanding the title into new territory using that model in the future?

Flynn: The beautiful thing about Mega Man is that it's got so many games out that have such a structure to them that the basic framework is already provided. From there, it becomes a question of "Here are the elements per game. How do they make sense in a narrative?" Because "Mega Man runs right and shoots things" gets kind of stale after the first issue. [Laughs] Just taking what's there and applying some real world thoughts to it like "If this happened here, what would it mean on a personal level to the characters?" really feels like a logical progression. To me, it's just thinking out how this would all happen and seeing it fall into place.

So "Mega Man X" is the next logical step in that progression. I get the sense that this has been in the works for quite a while. Has it always been a part of your plans for the franchise?

Kaminski: It might have been in our very first fan letter. We get tons of e-mails every single day asking almost exclusively just for this, so it was something that was very much on our radar from day one, but it was also something we weren't able to do for a little while. It became a priority of ours, particularly in the aftermath of "Worlds Collide," because that story ended up being a gigantic success for all three video games titles. Now, for "Mega Man," we need to make sure that the fans continue to have the kind of cool events they've been asking for. One of the best things about "Worlds Collide" was that it was wish fulfillment for fans. That had never happened before -- Sonic and Mega Man getting together. So it became a priority for us to get "Mega Man X" locked in place after the crossover so the love letter to the fans could keep going.

How does this work in a story sense? The "Mega Man X" game was a bit like "Star Trek: The Next Generation" for that franchise -- repeating the core concept many years in the future. The core "Mega Man" title has been focusing on a power down for the whole world and a stripping down of the characters powers. Does that set up the story of "Mega Man X"?

Flynn: The beautiful thing about the classic version of the X franchise is that there's a 100-year gap on which there's almost no information whatsoever. So when we meet X in the future, you know that he was built by Doctor Light. You know he was found by Doctor Cain. And once he's awakened, it's his own story that really is virtually independent. There's still a link to the classic Mega Man, and you can play with that link, but we can really still tell classic stories and X stories without them falling over each other. And when we get to X, I think we found a very elegant way of bridging the two timelines without stepping on the toes that beloved mystery that is the century that's gone missing. We're able to present the two universes as their own compelling stories.

Kaminski: To Ian's point, starting X the way we're doing it, as backup stories in "Mega Man" #34 and 35, lets us introduce the world slowly to readers who might not be familiar with it. It also sets the stage for what's to come. It will also help separate the X story out from "Ra Moon" which we wanted to give some breathing room. You can't crowd out the longer form game adaptation stories or even a longer form comic original story with something big like X, which deserves a slow burn and to be treated like the special event that it is. So it was important for us that it be far enough removed form what's going on now so that it have its own room. Those two backup stories in #34 and 35 will introduce the world and will feature artwork by the returning Patrick Spaziante, whom I begged and pleaded with and who finally agreed. He's turned in some great pages that are in the tradition of Spaz, overly detailed pages that will totally blow everybody away.

And how are Patrick and the other artists contributing to the series approaching the character design? Unlike classic Mega Man, the X character has had a few different versions of the year.

Kaminski: Spaz is a gigantic Mega Man and Mega Man X nerd going into this. Ian, I can't recall whether you gave him a lot of direction on the design in the scripts.

Flynn: There was some, and as we get more into X there will be more changes to the design. All that comes chronologically. We're not going to be taking the "Mega Man X: Command Mission" design and throw it in at the very start. But the art direction will start with Mega Man X 1.0, and then if possible, the designs will all flow from that. I say "if" because this all depends on fan feedback. The more they tell us they love it and want more, the more we can do with X.

There's also a special Free Comic Book Day one-shot featuring Mega Man X. What's the plan for how you're crafting the stories there and in the main book? Does this feel significantly different than writing the "Mega Man" series proper?

Flynn: Yeah. There's a tension behind X -- especially in the way we approach it. The stories we're telling take place before the first "Mega Man X" game -- before Sigma makes his big rise to power. We're establishing the world X comes from first, so if we get to all the games, you'll be able to see the terror and the devastation that comes from Sigma's uprising. So veterans of the series will see us building this world and establishing this framework, and there's that tension in there because you know it will fall apart at some point. Those who don't know anything about X and who are coming in fresh will still get that vibe from it. There's all this talk about hope and a bright new future and opportunities, but there's always an edge to it where you know something is going to happen. It's just a little bit darker than Mega Man classic, which is what people love about X.

Kaminski: Everybody loves a dystopian future! [Laughter]

So between the powering down of the world in the main serial and the impending dystopia of X, is the Mega Man franchise about to take a darker turn overall?

Flynn: There's always that dawn and that hope. Something I don't want to lose from classic is that it's the happier, brighter series. The characters will still acknowledge and deal with the things they're facing, but there's always an optimism and a sense that good triumphs over evil built into the story. With X, it isn't quite that cut and dry. Things don't always turn out for the best. Not everyone comes home. And that keeps the two totally different without either one of them feeling like they're going to come up short.

"Mega Man X" debuts this February. Stay tuned for more on the future of Archie's video game comics on CBR.

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