With over fifty years in publication, a lot of writers have written a lot of X-Men stories. During his two-and-a-half year run on “All-New X-Men” and “Uncanny X-Men,” Brian Michael Bendis has unquestionably made a mark on Marvel’s mutants. His run kicked off with the introduction — or return? — of the original five teenage X-Men as Beast pulled them into the present day. Since then, we’ve seen these teenagers undergo remarkable changes. Jean Grey has developed new powers, Angel gave himself over to cosmic power, Cyclops reunited with his space pirate father and Iceman acknowledged his hidden sexuality. Modern day X-Men X-23 and Kitty Pryde have also received significant development during Bendis’ tenure as writer.
Now, with the final issue of “All-New X-Men” approaching fast, Brian Michael Bendis joins us in the first of two X-POSITION interviews to discuss recent reveals and hint at what lies ahead for the teenage team after “Secret Wars.”
CBR News: Welcome back to X-POSITION, Brian! First up this week, we have a question from The Thunderbird about one of “All-New X-Men’s” first dangling plotlines.
Will the reason that the O5 X-Men couldn’t return back in “Battle of the Atom” be touched upon in your run? Also, with the changes that have happened to the O5 X-Men recently, can we even be sure if they are still the actual past versions of their adult counterparts?
This is people who read X-POSITION’s worst nightmare, but there’s another issue of “All-New X-Men” to go and [Uncanny X-Men] #600, which is all of the X-Men, and a lot happens — none of which I want to spoil! But, obviously a big part of the storyline is the time-displaced X-Men and what their legacy is moving forward, what their legacy is in regards to time travel. Issue #600, as some people know, is titled “The Trial of Hank McCoy.” The big sin, that some people see as a sin, is that Hank McCoy is guilty of is breaking the time-space continuum rules and bringing the original X-Men here, so from that, take what you will.
I know people who read X-POSITION, their worst nightmare is that someone goes, “Wait and see! Next issue!” It sounds like a non-answer but at the same time, it’s literally the only answer I could give. But everything is written, it’s all been produced and you will find out!
Next we have a question about teenage Jean Grey’s powers from Sardorim.
What was the main drive for giving Tean (Teenage Jean) her own unique ability of a merge of Telepathy/Telekinesis, which even separates her from her adult version?
I’m very interested in nature versus nurture, and environment versus — you know what I mean? Probably because I grew up watching “Trading Places” — it was the only good movie on cable when I was a kid. But, there’s something very interesting about what about you thrives in what situation. Some of us even wonder, “Maybe I’m a great piano player? I’ve just never played.” What if I sat down for an hour and I’m a virtuoso guitarist and I don’t know it? Maybe I am the greatest tennis player of all time — I dunno. So the superhero version of that is very interesting to me, because you’ve been in one environment or one situation or one mindset the whole time, what would happen if that mindset was changed and that environment was changed? What about you would be different? So this is the superhero version of that. It’s something I’ll probably look into more in other things.
It does perplex me and fascinate me, and probably because I’ve met people from so many different walks of life. I have one daughter who was born in Ethiopia and she’s thriving here in Portland; she’s so smart and athletic, and what would her life have been if she had stayed in Ethiopia versus what it is now? What she’s interested in, the kind of music she likes — it’s in my life every day so I tend to write about it.
I did it a little bit in “Jessica Jones” years ago, like, how would you know you could fly? Maybe I could fly if I jump off of something, but I don’t want to jump off something. I’m glad for X-POSITION that I have one good answer for the fans!
MarvelMaster616 has a question about the future of “All-New X-Men’s” most talked about couple.
What can we expect from the Angel/X-23 relationship? How will Angel’s new cosmic abilities affect him moving forward?
I hate to be that guy, but that is something that Sam [Humphries] and I both were very interested in. Angel is the character that, it takes people a second to realize how damaged he is. He might be even more damaged than everyone else’s future self; he just doesn’t wear it on his sleeve like the others. This choice that he has to alter his legacy is so dramatic and the two of them finding love with each other — I know of all of the choices that I’ve made in “All-New X-Men,” Angel and X-23 searching desperately for happiness with each other was a controversial one. Yes, that relationship could continue. Again, I won’t be writing the book after #600, but I know that the new writer/writers liked it and have big plans for X-23 in particular, and that anything that makes Angel interesting is good as far as I’m concerned. Sam and I gave a lot of thought and care to the choices we made with Angel and this relationship, so I’m very grateful for the people that have been shipping on them big time on Tumblr. Getting a lot of love for those two.
The one critique about the two of them as a couple has been that they’re not like each other, and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s kinda the deal.” I don’t know a lot of people that gravitated to exactly them. People tend to gravitate to people unlike themselves or are looking for something. Like my wife and I, our strengths are completely different. I think that’s what they needed. She needed a little bit of the shininess and he needed a little bit of her crankiness. The fact that they’re so different and have different views of the world is what’s attractive to them.
Now that fans have read Iceman’s big coming out scene in “All-New X-Men” #40, Viteh has a question about where this storyline is going.
There’s been a lot of discussion about what Jean did [to teen Iceman]. Some people argue that it was perfectly fine and justified, while others think the invasion of privacy and forcing Bobby out of the closet was wrong, but understand it’s something a teenager would do. Will she be called out on it in #600? As it is, it’s not really acknowledging the problematic of it all. Not to mention the bi erasure issues.
I’m so glad someone brought this up. Now that the dust has settled, I kinda want to talk about it. The two things people were mad about, the more enlightened commentary about Iceman coming out was about the idea that making him gay is bi-erasure, but it’s not. It’s only him dealing with his journey. And [the other critique was in regards to] Jean outing him. There were two camps in this, [one that said] “What a bitch, she just outed him.” And there was another camp that was like, “It’s kinda not cool to come up to someone and say that but I’m gay and I had a friend who came up to me and said, ‘Hey are you gay’ way before I was ready to tell anybody or even deal with it on my own, but it happened.” I’ve seen this happen; I’ve been witness to it, but I haven’t actually done it to someone. I’ve witnessed this interaction so I know it to be something that happens in the world where your friend will come up to you in the guise of friendship and say, “Hey, are you gay?” Not with any judgment or any damning or any agenda other than that they love them and want to talk about this — and if they’re wrong, can we talk about that.
People would write me the whole week, while I was being screamed at about this happening, how wrong it was that she did this. People would scream at me that it was wrong that she did this and then tell me it happened to them. You’re not convincing me that it’s bad writing if it happened to you. I know it happens, I’ve seen it happen. You might not have appreciated it, but that’s different than it being wrong and setting the stage for it not to be allowed. That’s not what this is about. It’s two specific people with very specific thing.
Some people got the wrong impression, and again it was because it was leaked and people didn’t read the whole scene where she pulls him aside. She pulls him aside out of earshot and they have a whisper talk away from the others. She didn’t stand up in front of the group and go, “Hey, are you gay?” That’s a completely different move and that did not happen at all. At the end of the conversation, he appreciated it. These are young people who are trying to find themselves in the world, and not everybody has all the education of all the issues out there that some people online have. Some people are very aware of all the sensitivities and issues that come within this community, but that doesn’t mean people don’t turn to their friends and say this.
I don’t think it was Jean being a bitch, I don’t think it was Jean being awful and I don’t think Jean should be punished. I get a lot of this, that Jean should be punished for what she did, she’s awful. She did it in friendship and it ended up being an act of friendship, according to [Iceman]. I’ve said this online a bunch and I’ll say it here: there are people that read that scene and think that’s the final statement on all of this. The scene, or this storyline, continues in “Uncanny X-Men” #600, and I happen to know from knowing the plans of what’s happening after me, [it continues] beyond me. So it’s a big part, and it will be interesting to some people. Whether they like it or not, I don’t know, but you’ll see a big chapter unfold in “X-Men” #600. That chapter will be drawn by Mahmud Asrar who drew the other part [in “All-New X-Men” #40]. I’m eager for people’s reaction to that.
An issue so important as this, this is where monthly comics and “to be continued” is good and bad. It’s good that people are talking about it, but it’s bad that so many people are quick to jump to conclusions about certain things and get their feelings hurt about certain things without actually waiting to see if the story is going to do any of those things.
But my recommendation, and some people were able to do this and some were not, is to step outside your individual story and feelings about how you may have been outed and how you outed yourself or where you feel about yourself along the spectrum and realize that so many people have so many different stories and so many different feelings about that. What I knew before and certainly learned it again this month, is that no one is wrong as far as people who are gay and represent themselves as bisexual or gay — whatever your feeling on that is completely right for you. But so many people have so many different opinions; people were mad about the bisexual nature of the story and other people were like, “I’m bisexual and I’m not mad at all; in fact I’m curious about why people are mad.” It was right down the middle. I felt bad that people couldn’t step outside their own experiences to see that other people have had different experiences. Iceman’s, with his ice powers and Jean’s psychic powers and time travel, is a very unique story and not in any way intended to represent all things to all people.
On that same topic, Kieran_Fros has both a comment and a question.
Firstly, can I add my voice to the numerous fans so grateful, and so moved with how you revealed Bobby’s sexuality. It means more to some of us than many will ever know — and it reflects the experiences of many of us, too. You explored a complex situation, and you did it so respectfully. I couldn’t be happier.
My nature, and the nature of many people, is to respond to the controversy. You don’t want people to put words in your mouth or to represent you in the wrong way. A little bit of that happened because the pages and certain panels leaked and the time and care that was put into the overall scene was removed for some people because they just read three panels on Tumblr. There was one thing that was going around that I saw that literally removed six pages of the story where Jean goes, “You’re gay” and Iceman hugs her. They took out the whole scene, which completely changes it! It broke my heart a little bit that for some people that was all they’re going to see of it. They were never going to buy it or read it, they just saw that and reacted, what looked like a simple, doofus version of the scene, and without those six pages that’s what it looked like.
That was the initial response. And then people read it and then I got a response just like yours. You’re so eager to be heard correctly that when people are complimenting, and I’m not one to publish a lot of compliments, but I got so many. Monday was awful, Wednesday was great. On Wednesday, people read it and [I got] a flood of good feelings just like yours, and it was so fantastic. It was just beautiful and I just had to remind people that for all the press and controversy, we didn’t do any of it. I convinced Marvel to not do anything weird on the cover. Don’t go, “Which mutant is gay?” Don’t make it a thing to sell, just tell the story and normalize it. That’s what we tried to do but it got completely out of our hands and I think people saw that once the book came out, there wasn’t even a mention of it on the cover and there was no special Iceman gay variant cover. It’s treated as we would treat any other character-driven piece of material. People responded to that a great deal and that I was very grateful for.
Again, it’s a long answer, but I just want to say that for all of those people who stood up and took the time out of their day to write something like that to me on Twitter and Tumblr, boy, I heard you loud and clear. Everybody did. I was so glad it found its right place in your heart.
Secondly, is there any story/sub-plot you won’t get to explore before you wrap up your time on the X-verse? Are you allowed to “spoil” a plot you wanted to do, but never found the time/were able to?
Nothing that I’m like, “I’m dying to do this.” I knew I was leaving a year before you guys knew. I made a list of things that I wanted to make sure I got to. Anything that was worth telling got told. There may be some things that weren’t, but there’s nothing that I’m like, “Oh my god…!” I had this with “Avengers” too where you look around and you go, “Did I miss anything?”
Just to add, like with [when I wrapped up] “Avengers,” I’m still at Marvel and I’m still under contract. I’ve just signed for many years to come. God forbid, I think of something else, I bet they’d let me find a way to tell it. It’s not like, “Oh my god, I forgot about Cyclops!” I’m sure I could find a way in, but the person taking it over is someone I have a very nice relationship with and I know in my heart that they are going to kill it. I feel very good about the direction of the franchise after me. What’s on my plate after X-Men is so all-encompassing that I probably will be very focused on that and stick to that stuff.
Now that teen Cyclops is back on the team after some time spent in space, sagiravi has a question about how Scott fits into “All-New X-Men.”
Having spent time with his space pirate dad Corsair, young Scott seems to have come back much more confident than he was before. What will his role be within the X-Men moving forward? Is there going to be new dynamic between young Scott and his teammates, especially Jean?
They’re not going to whine about it every day, but some of [Cyclops’ teammates] are like, “Dude, you walked away!” But they get it. He came back a little more jacked. It’s something that [initial “Cyclops” writer] Greg Rucka and I talked about when he started the book was that when he comes back, he’s going to be buff and he’s going to have seen some action out in space and had some confidence builders, like you do when you’re a kid. So he’s coming back. The next writer has got really great plans, like plans I’m envious of. One of their plans for the character, I literally went, “Oh, I never thought of that!” That is something you have to look forward to. Cyclops is a character of subtle variations and he is in the shadow of his older counterpart — a very controversial shadow. There’s a lot to be revealed with him.
You’re not the only Marvel writer using Cyclops right now, and Triniking1234 wants to know if you’ll address the character’s other appearances.
Recently in [Jonathan] Hickman’s [“Avengers” storyarc] “Time Runs Out” we were introduced to the fact that the mutants have their own territory known as Nation X. Is it possible that the foundation of Nation X will take place in the pages of “All-New X-Men” or “Uncanny X-Men”?
You will see a philosophical foundation, but you know, Hickman gave himself a nice little buffer with that eight months later. Eight months in Marvel time is like eight hundred issues. [Laughs] I’ve known all about Jon’s plans and everything, and if I felt there was anything where readers would go, “How did that happen,” I would have dug in [on it]. When all the dust settles on #600 and on “Secret Wars,” it’ll all make sense. And sometimes it’s fun to have just little bits where you go, “Ooooh!” A thousand Tumblrs were born because of stuff that happens in-between panels.
Iceman’s sexuality was in-between panels for years.
That’s a perfect example! That’s a perfect example.
jdgs wants to know when we’ll see the rest of the X-Men respond to the romantic surprise ending of “The Black Vortex.”
Hello Mr. Bendis. I love your work on both “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “X-Men,” and I think the crossovers were awesome. You and Mr. Humphries are a great team. Is there going to be some mention of Kitty’s engagement in “Uncanny X-Men” #600? Are we going to see the X-Men react to it? How about reactions of specific X-Men like Nightcrawler, Rachel, Colossus or old Iceman?
Yes, yes, yes! This is a shock to those that follow me, but Kitty will be front and center in #600. The Kitty subplots I never drop. You will see — here, I’ll give you something that people have wanted desperately and it does happen. The Magik, Kitty, Colossus reunion happens in #600. It’s clear at the end of, I think it was [“Uncanny X-Men”] #33 where they basically say they’re going to go find him, but that does happen.
And last for this week, Mighty Roman has a question about your process.
What is the biggest challenge in writing two interconnected titles? And what is the best part about writing two titles that are connected?
The biggest challenge is just making sure, particularly in this franchise, not only are there the main team characters but there’s a lot of — I won’t even call them ancillary — characters. Every X-Man is someone’s favorite X-Man. That was not the case on “Avengers.” There were a lot of people that had their favorite Avenger, but on X-Men, there’s not an X-Man that someone doesn’t just absolutely adore. The one that you hate is someone’s favorite and vice versa, and the one that’s my favorite is someone’s least favorite. And what they like about that character, they only liked in that issue in 1987 and they don’t want you doing anything different to them. Our job is to move things forward and change things. It’s all exciting stuff but sometimes that’s the most controversial stuff. Just making sure that the franchise in general feels attended to, if that makes sense; that you don’t have anyone standing there not doing anything for too long. At the same time, you want to make sure that everyone gets a little spotlight, because with X-Men, the moments that people love the most are the character first moments. “Uncanny” #600 is just full of them.
Special thanks to Brian Michael Bendis for taking on this week’s questions!
Next week is part two of or GIANT-SIZE X-POSITION where Brian Michael Bendis will answer your questions about “Uncanny X-Men.” You don’t want to miss it!
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