Generation X is back. Over 15 years after the end of the first “Generation X” series, the title is being relaunched as part of ResurrXion. The new series will debut in spring 2017 along with other new X-Books (including “X-Men Blue,” “X-Men Gold” and “Iceman”) and it will put the Xavier Institute front and center once again.
Written by Christina Strain with art by Amilcar Pinna (“All-New Ultimates”), the new “Generation X” series will focus on a new band of misfit mutants that don’t really fit in anywhere else at the newly reopened Xavier Institute. Under the tutelage of original Gen Xer Jubilee, a new group of teen mutants will come together and deal with their drama. CBR has the exclusive first interview with “Generation X” writer Christina Strain, a Marvel Comics veteran as a colorist for series like “Runaways” and “S.H.I.E.L.D.” Ahead, Strain reveals who’s who in her Generation X class, discusses her transition from coloring to writing comics and teases the struggles that await this teen team.
CBR News: There have been so many different takes on the X-Men’s school, the most recent being the Jean Grey School. Can you give us any info about what your Xavier Institute will be like?
Christina Strain: For years, the Xavier Institute has been a sort of safe haven for young mutants. Society rejects them, they go to the Institute, and then they’re taught how to control their powers, usually in hopes of eventually becoming X-Men. But it’s dangerous. People die — sometimes by the busload. So when we take a second to be honest about it, maybe not all mutants are cut out to be X-Men? They’re not all going to be Cyclops, or Storm, or Jean Grey. And some young mutants have powers that just don’t make sense in a battle situation (I’m lookin’ at you, Cypher). So, in the interest of keeping more of their young alive, the Institute’s thinking it’s time for a restructure.
Now in Central Park, the rechristened Xavier Institute has taken this move as an opportunity to re-evaluate their students, internally dividing the student body into three classes: The Next Generation of X-Men, the Next Generation of Ambassadors, and the Next Generation of… well, lovable losers. These are our Gen Xers. And they include mutants with benign powers, mutants who are considered liabilities during missions and/or battles, and mutants with personalities ill-fitting of an ambassador. They’re basically all mutants who just don’t seem to fit in anywhere — including the very school where they were promised they would fit in.
Picking an X-team roster has to be a daunting task. How’d you settle on the characters you’re working with?
Well, I knew that I wanted a member of the original Generation X to lead, so Jubilee seemed like the obvious choice. I mean, she is on 90% of online “most useless mutant” lists. But whatever, I grew up loving her in the ’90s, so I wanted her.
Everyone else was a pain to pick though. I literally spent weeks reading up on a ton of the younger mutants. Weeks. I think [editor] Daniel [Ketchum] wanted to murder me. But in my defense, I was looking for some very specific things, and you’d be surprised at how hard it is to find young mutants with weird/”weaker” powers or personality flaws that made them more of a liability than an advantage during a fight. Luckily, Quentin Quire’s such a coin flip that he was a pretty obvious choice. And for all of his entitled jackassery, I’ve always liked that at his core he’s really just a lonely adopted kid looking for a family.
Another stand out for me was Eye-Boy. Dude has an eye on his tongue. How’s anyone going to want to make out with that? And while his heightened level of perception gives him insight into his cisgender, heteronormative, white privilege, it doesn’t really give him the ability to run faster when a Sentinel’s trying to stomp him dead.
And then we’ve got Benjamin Deeds. The best thing that’s ever happened to that kid was Emma Frost steamrolling all over him in Atlantic City. I want more of that. And then maybe afterwards, for him to grow a fully-formed spine. With his ability to morph his looks, Benjamin should be leading covert missions. But until he grows himself a bucket of self-confidence, he ain’t goin’ nowhere.
I was also interested in working with lesser known, pre-existing characters that I could have fun further developing. Because while I didn’t want to create an entirely new cast, I love the idea of adding a little definition to some relatively blank canvases. I mean, Nature Girl exists. Why not give her an actual voice? And maybe a penguin bestie. And I can identify with Bling!’s unrelenting drive to define herself beyond the scope of what her parents want for her. That’s rough.
And then there’s Nathaniel Carver, the one character I did create. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m just going to admit that Nathaniel’s half-Korean because I’m half-Korean — but I swear we come carrying completely different baggage. I just didn’t think I’d be doing [“Totally Awesome Hulk” writer] Greg Pak or I any justice if I didn’t create a hapa hero. Anyway, his ability’s psychometry (seeing something/someone’s past via touch) so he’s at the Institute trying to avoid his fate as a crime solving coroner. Good times.
As an alum of the first “Gen X” series, Jubilee is the obvious connection between these two volumes. What’s your take on Jubilee, and how does being a mentor suit her?
In some ways, Jubilee is the perfect mentor for this group. She’s been a student and she’s been an X-Man. She was a mutant and now she’s a vampire. She’s been around the block enough times to know that you don’t need the title of “X-Man” to help save the world. As an unrelentingly hopeful well of motivational sayings, Jubilee’s kind of the ultimate den mother for this bunch of misfits. Then again, she’s also got a toddler running around now, so… let’s see how well she handles playing a mom 24/7.
Quentin Quire has a strong personality. Jubilee has a strong personality. Is there any chance of these two getting along? What does Quentin think of her?
What does punk-ass Quentin Quire think of most people? Not much. But Jubilee’s saving grace is that she’s resilient, possibly to a fault. He can shove her as much as he wants, Jubilee’s not going anywhere. So there are definitely going to be clashes, but that’s a good thing because you can’t have drama without a few fireworks.
And no, that was not a Jubilee pun.
Are there any other ex-students that might pop by in a mentor role, like any of the original Generation X crew? Any specific characters you’re dying to write?
Chamber. Chamber, Chamber, Chamber, Chamber. Did I mention Chamber? After all, Jubilee’s gotta have someone to confide in, and who doesn’t love a sad boy? And there are a few other members of the original Gen X crew that I’m definitely interested in checking in on, including Husk — but don’t expect a Chamber/Husk romantic reunion. As for other ex-students, I do have an affinity for Dani Moonstar and Magik, so I imagine you’ll see them popping up at some point. And I don’t know that Andre Mexer counts as an ex-student, but hear me now: he’ll be around.
X-teen books always start out focusing on the school aspect but, of course, dive into adventures and peril. What balance are you looking for when it comes to classwork and superheroics?
Tough to say, because I think that’ll ultimately be dictated by story. Like, each arc’s going to be different, but “Runaways” is probably my touchstone comic in terms of balance. It was so good about mixing the character stories with super heroics, so that’s the sort of balance I’m looking to achieve.
You made a name for yourself in comics as a colorist, most notably your stellar work on “Runaways.” How did you make the jump to writing?
Aw, thank you! I still really miss that book, and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to watch “Runaways” as a TV show. I can’t wait to see Josh [Schwartz] and Stephanie [Savage]’s spin on it. But let’s get back to your question!
After coloring for Marvel for about seven years, I had a bit of spandex fatigue. I just needed a palette cleanser. And because I’m proactive and prescribe to the idea that you’re the master of your own destiny, I decided to write the kind of story I wanted to work on, which ended up being a Korean supernatural horror webcomic called “The Fox Sister.” And it really reignited something in me that I hadn’t felt since I first started coloring, which eventually made me realize that writing was something I should pursue.
So, after ten years of working for Marvel, I officially retired from coloring and went to grad school for screenwriting. After graduating, I was fortunate enough to land a job as a staff writer on Syfy’s “The Magicians” and when I told my editors (who I kept in touch with because they’re amazing), [editor] Chris Robinson responded by asking me if I was interested in writing a seven page White Fox story [in “Civil War II: Choosing Sides” #6]. Which, of course, I was. Next thing I know, I’m back at Marvel, loving life as a writer. Circle of life.
Does your history as a colorist influence your writing process in any way — specifically where it comes to working with your artist Amilcar Pinna?
Very much so. Overall, there were certain things that annoyed me as a colorist that I try to avoid doing too often in scripts that I write. Things like ten-plus people in panels, a million dialogue balloons covering up all the art, pages with more than seven panels on them… typical things that most artists get annoyed with.
But I also adapt my writing to accommodate for my artists’ tastes and strengths, which is totally something I did when I was a colorist. Everyone’s different so it didn’t make sense to me to color everyone the same way. So I apply the same sort of logic to writing. If I’m working with an artist who prefers less panels on a page, I’ll aim for that. If I’m working with someone who needs more visual direction, I’ll beef up my panel descriptions. So the more I get to know Amilcar, the more my scripts are going to be tailored for him — it’s just the nature of collaborating. From my experience, a lot of writers who work with pencillers in the long term do the same thing.
As for my future colorist though… I promise I will try so hard not to be all over you with notes/direction. Pinky swear!
Amilcar Pinna’s work on “All-New Ultimates” and one (absolutely phenomenal) issue of “Astonishing X-Men” shows a fantastic ability to capture modern and emotive teens. And Chris Bachalo’s ’90s “Gen X” was super alternative and stylish. What can you tell us about the design and style of this “Generation X”?
You basically tapped right into it. Amilcar’s art is distinctive and it has so much personality. A big part of the reason Daniel and I wanted him for “Gen X” is because, like Chris in the ’90s, Amilcar’s style is alternative and stylish. One of the things I loved about the original “Generation X” was that it showcased what was interesting and complex about the younger generation at the time — and that’s exactly what I want for this iteration of “Generation X.” Just with a millennial twist.
“Generation X” #1 from Christina Strain and Amilcar Pinna arrives in spring 2017.
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