EXCLUSIVE: "X" Makes His Dark Horse Return With Swierczynski

It's not only the New 52 and Marvel NOW! that are getting in on the superhero relaunch game these days as Dark Horse Comics shares plans for its second superhero revival of the year.

CBR News is happy to share the exclusive word that this December, the publisher will relaunch its vigilante superhero X with writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Eric Nguyen taking control. The somewhat unhinged masked man who gives criminals only two strikes to straighten up or die will follow in the footsteps of Dark Horse's "Ghost" character by debuting in "Dark Horse Presents" #19 for the first of a three-part serial before graduating to his own title in 2013.

Introduced in 1993 in the eighth issue of the "Dark Horse Comics" anthology series, X was part of the company's "Comic Greatest World" imprint of superhero series. As such, the character was created by a collaborative team of Dark Horse editors including Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley, Barbara Kesel, Chris Warner and particularly Jeremy Prosser. After creating his introductory tale with artist N. Steven Harris, Prosser passed the character to writer Steven Grant who chronicled the majority of X's solo stories through the '90s with art from Doug Mahnke, Ron Wagner and others. A complete run of "X" stories were recently reprinted in two "X Omnibus" volumes.

Swierczynski explained that while he read each Omnibus cover-to-cover in anticipation of the gig, he and Nguyen's version of X will be a totally fresh and dark start for the avenging superhero of the mystery city called Arcadia. "I read through those, but I also talked to the guys at Dark Horse about what they wanted to keep and what they wanted to focus on," the writer told CBR. "It's funny. There are some parallels between X and [my Valiant character] Bloodshot in their previous incarnations, and I wasn't sure I wanted to repeat myself if that's the direction they wanted to go in. Fortunately, the direction they wanted to go in was very much a real-world, un-super powered nutcase vigilante. How long can a regular guy do this, and how long can he survive at it? That's at the core of what I'm trying to do here.

"This is my first Dark Horse title. It's brand new," he added. "I've been a fan since way back when they put out a Harlan Ellison anthology, but I never got a chance to work with them. So when they called, I just said, 'Yes!' It's also my first entry into the Dark Horse superhero universe. It's weird. I've been offered a lot of properties that were huge during a time when I wasn't reading a lot of comics. Like how Valiant was big in the early '90s. That's when I was in college and not super able to buy comics when I was trying to stay afloat school wise. The same thing with Cable and now X. All these characters had their heyday when I should have been paying attention but wasn't. So I'm doing a lot of catch up work now."

Carrying over from the original series will be a heavy role for the city of Arcadia within the world of X. "Arcadia appealed to me because it's a chance to show the city as a character in the story, which I'm a big fan of. And Arcadia is not based on any one city, but to me, I'm almost kind of basing it on Camden, New Jersey. That may sound strange, but it's the city that's right next door to Philadelphia. And years of political corruption and things failing have just left it a really war zone like area. It's run amok and is kind of a barren zone. I thought something like Arcadia is a place where the corrupt and elite are left to feast, and what's left over is this horrible city. I'm picturing it as the city across the river a little bit."

Some characters and situations from the original run will play a role as well, though Swierczynski was quick to say that his three-part "Dark Horse Presents" run would provide multiple opportunities for readers unfamiliar with the world of X to get to know the vigilante. "The opening three-parter is three short stories that are all linked. It shows you what life is like in Arcadia, which is really fun."

"This definitely builds up towards issue #1," the writer added. "You meet X and some of these minor bad guys, and it all builds up. The end of the third short has a definite conclusion, and I suppose you could stop there if you wanted to, but it definitely kick starts the first issue in a twisty way, I think. We're planning on a four-issue mini series for a start beyond that, and I've got a cool big bad in mind for that. I've also got another character I'm excited about who's a former journalist. She was downsized out of a job and is now left anonymously blogging news. She just can't stop reporting. I always wanted to do a cool journalism story like 'Shattered Glass' or 'All The President's Men.' I love those kinds of stories, but little did I know that when I did one, X would be involved."

The writer also spoke highly of Nguyen's contributions to building a new feel for X's world. "I saw the art for the first story and am now seeing things for the second story, and it's great. It's hyper-real, but it's also somehow fever dream gritty. You don't want to live in that world. It's almost like the David Fincher movie 'Seven' where it's really ultra-gritty yet grounded in reality. This is really what I was looking for.

"X is really scary," he concluded. "I hesitate to call him a hero because he's a scary dude - especially in how he's portrayed by Eric. I think it's really an intense book, and people will be shocked when they see how gory and how gritty it gets."

The new "X" debuts in "Dark Horse Presents" #19 this December.

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