Gillen & Aaron "Schism"-atize "Uncanny" and "Wolverine and the X-Men"

Years ago Charles Xavier had a dream that the super powered mutants of the Marvel Universe could peacefully coexist with humanity. To help make his dream a reality Xavier formed the mutant super hero group known as the X-Men and tasked them with protecting a world that hates and fears them.

Time and time again the X-Men have weathered various challenges to Xavier's dream. They've fought super villains, anti-mutant hate groups and even the threat of extinction. But what happens to Xavier's dream of coexistence when the members of the X-Men decide they can't work together? Jason Aaron and an all-star team of artists answer that question in July when they kick off "X-Men: Schism," a five issue miniseries that revolves around an ideological dispute between Wolverine and Cyclops that divides the team for good.

The philosophical gap that opens up in "Schism" won't be easily bridged either. In October an era comes to an end as writer Kieron Gillen and artist Greg Land bring the long-running "Uncanny X-Men" series a close with issue #544. That same month signals the beginning of an "All-New, All-Different" era that Marvel is calling a "Regenesis." It all begins with the launch of a new ongoing series, "Wolverine and the X-Men," by Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo. Then in November, Gillen returns to relaunch a new volume of "Uncanny X-Men" with a new #1 issue featuring artwork by Carlos Pacheco. CBR News spoke with both writers about their respective titles and the future of the now-fractured X-Men.

CBR News: Kieron and Jason, we know that "Schism" has been in the works for awhile, but when did planning for a new volume of "Uncanny" and "Wolverine and the X-Men" begin?

Kieron Gillen: My first ever X-Summit was last year after the San Diego Comic-Con. I remember the two books being discussed then, so they were in the works at least by then. Jason is the elder statesman in the room though. He can correct me if I'm wrong.

Jason Aaron: I've only been to a couple more Summits than Kieron, but things have been moving toward "Schism" for awhile now. Whenever you're working on a big beat for the X-Universe and the Marvel Universe you always want to have an idea of what the next couple of beats are. So we've know for awhile that this is the direction we were moving in, but I don't remember the exact moment we realized that two new books would arise from the aftermath of "Schism."

I know me and Kieron certainly talked about it at the last summit, and at the last little mini-summit that we had the discussion of, "Okay, what characters do you want? And what characters do I want?" We started to fight it out.

Gillen: It was like Fantasy Football

Aaron: [Laughs] Right. We had a mutant draft. So when we got down to the seventh and eight rounds when we were fighting over Maggot and Marrow we realized things had gotten out of hand.

Gillen: [Laughs] You'll take Maggot from my cold dead hands.

Speaking of fighting, it sounds like the philosophical differences of "X-Men: Schism" will carry over to these two new books?

Gillen: I would say they inform the two titles. That's the way I'm thinking about it.

Aaron: In "Schism" each member of the X-Men is going to have to choose a side and go one way or another. This is not a situation of X-Men shaking hands and going, 'We're going to be over here. You stay there and sometimes we'll get together and play baseball and everything will be fine." This is a "Civil War" situation where it's brother against brother and friendships are torn apart. So it's not a throwback to the era of the Blue and Gold Teams. This is a very different situation than that.

Gillen: It's an important to note though that when the books begin the two teams aren't at war. This is an ideological schism and my side of the argument views the other team almost in a patronizing sort of way. They're like, "You're being children. Essentially we're going to look after you." They're almost paternalistic about it.

Aaron: Right. Neither side looks at the other and shakes their fist in the air and says, "You're villains and we're going to spend every day now trying to bring you down." These groups look at the other side and think, "They're doing it the wrong way and we're doing it the right way." Both sides feel that way.

One of the things we talked about with "Schism" was that we didn't want Scott or Logan's sides to be the villain of the book. They're two defensible positions. You can argue vehemently for either side and have a great case for both sides. Neither one of those characters can be vilified because of their arguments.

So this won't be like the immediate aftermath of "Civil War" where you had one Avengers team trying to arrest the other? If the two teams meet they're more likely to throw insults than punches?

Gillen: Yes, but they're covering two very different fields. Because of their differing philosophies, the things my group are interested in are very different from the things that Jason's group will be interested in.

Aaron:These groups have diverged and now they're on two different paths going in very different directions. So for now these two groups are taking a, "I'll leave you alone, if you leave me alone" approach. Now that may not always be the case of course.

So it sounds like the two groups' different viewpoints and different interests means that there will be different types of stories in these books?

Gillen: It's sort of frustrating to have to talk in general terms, but the "Schism" will push my side to take what they were doing previously and kick it into high gear. For the last couple of years the X-Men have been trying to act more like super heroes and make people hopefully like them more. So now they're going to take that to the highest level by aspiring to be the most important and public super hero team on Earth. They're going to try and change world wide opinions of mutants in that way. At the same time they're still being feared and hated. So There's an implicit threat in the existence of my team. This is a very powerful group and their feeling is, "Yes. We're going to save the world, but fundamentally we're a group of nukes. You don't want to mess with mutants ever again."

That's the core concept of "Uncanny X-Men" and the moral questions related to that.

Aaron: My book will be very different. It stars a completely different cast with a completely different set of goals. It will be the sort of X-book we haven't seen in quite awhile. So between these two books you're going to get some very different flavors of X-Men stories.

We understand that you can't really get into the line ups of each team but, Jason, since your book is called "Wolverine and the X-Men" is it safe for us to assume that Wolverine is the team leader of your book?

Aaron: Yes you can assume that. Wolverine is clearly stepping up into a completely new role for him. He won't be shouldering the leadership burden by himself. He will have a couple of old friends by his side who will also step into unfamiliar territory to help him shoulder that leadership burden.

The idea of friends and co-leaders brings up another question that you guys may be able to talk more about. How big is the cast in each of your respective titles?

Gillen: My book focuses on a small field team, but there is a support network around them. Normally though there will be the same nine people in the field.

Aaron: My book on the one hand has a huge cast, but like Kieron, I'm trying to focus it down to a core group. Like I said, Wolverine is the team leader, but he'll be surrounded by a group of some old familiar faces, some brand new characters, and a few second tier characters who are forced to step up in a big way.

We imagine the group's respective leaders will be committed to the philosophical drives of each of the teams, but what's the feeling among the members of the various groups? Is everyone a believer? Or do some people need to be convinced?

Gillen: There's a spread of opinions inside my team, but there is a sense of, "We have all decided to do this together." That's the key thing that binds them together. They've heard the arguments and they've made their decision. There are some people though who they really had to work to convince. When the line up of the teams is revealed you'll see that some persuasion was involved to get some particular characters to go along with things. That's what makes it drama though. If everybody agreed with everything all you would need is one character and a bunch of robots [Laughs].

Aaron: My book is the same way. You'll see the full range of opinions. Once this split happens there are some characters who sign up from the word go. There are other characters who have to be talked into it, and in my book there is one character that literally has to be dragged along in chains.

So you'll get the full mix, and going forward it will continue to be a shifting situation. Just because a character chooses one side or another it doesn't mean they'll stay on that side. You can have people going back and forth. This separation between the two groups will continue to be an evolving dynamic.

Since the two groups will have different philosophies and different agendas, will they also operate in different areas? It seems like if both stayed in San Francisco they'd be constantly getting in each other's way.

Gillen: Yep. This town ain't big enough for the both of us [Laughs].

Aaron: It's safe to assume that. I can't really say anything beyond that though.

Fair enough. We've talked about the teams' philosophies, memberships and methods of operation. Let's move on to how they'll be perceived by others. Will the general public be aware that the X-Men have broken into two teams?

Aaron: It will quickly be known by the entire Marvel Universe. It's not a secret. The events of "Schism" are very public. Everybody sees the events and ramifications of "Schism" as they unfold. This new dynamic will have a ripple effect on the entire Marvel Universe. Like I said, when we're putting one story beat into play we're already working out what the next few are going to be. So we know where we are going beyond this and certainly the ripple effects of "Schism" will affect the entire Marvel Universe in such a profound way going forward into next year.

Gillen: My team is really going to step up the PR initiative they began in recent issues of "Uncanny." They're so much in the open that the man on the street will have an opinion on them. They're the complete opposite of a covert team. They might as well carve their name into the moon [Laughs].

With word out about the split, we have to wonder how the members of the X-Men's Rogues Gallery are going to take things. Can you speak on the villains that will initially appear in "Wolverine and the X-Men" and the new volume of "Uncanny?"

Aaron: We haven't had the villain draft yet! We need to do that [Laughs].

Gillen: I've already grabbed what I want. So hands off them [Laughs].

Aaron: In my book the main adversaries coming right out of the gate will carry over from "Schism." In that mini-series a new version of the Hellfire Club emerges. So they lead directly into the pages of "Wolverine and the X-Men."

Gillen: My first arc features a classic X-Men villain who's been completely reinvented in a way which I hope is quite interesting. He/she/it is stepping up in the same way my X-Men are.

Let's talk a little bit about how these two teams will relate to the other heroes of the Marvel Universe. You would think with Wolverine's membership in the Avengers that his team would be the more connected of the groups, but is that necessarily the case?

Gillen: There's a line in the first issue, I believe, that says the X-Men have been essentially dealing with stuff that comes to them and just trying to survive. So this new volume of "Uncanny" is about something else. They're trying to genuinely change the world in a proactive and deliberate way. So they're going to engage with the rest of the world in that way.

Jason, Will Wolverine's leadership of an X-Men team mean that he has less time for his other teams like X-Force and the Avengers?

Aaron: I don't want to speak for ["Uncanny X-Force" writer] Rick Remender, but you will certainly see the events of "Schism" reflected in "Uncanny X-Force." Rick and I have been talking a lot, so "Schism" and Wolverine's decisions will have a profound effect on X-Force. X-Force will also have a profound effect on "Wolverine and the X-Men," so there will be give and take going both ways there.

And yes, Wolverine will still be on the Avengers, so no he's not going to suddenly drop out of the other 17 books he appears in. He'll still be a busy guy [Laughs].

His solo title, which you also write, is going to be impacted by "Schism" and its aftermath as well? Right now you're in the middle of a long revenge story that seems like it's going to have a big impact on the character's ability to relate to other people. Will "Wolverine" set the stage for the character's role in "Schism?"

Aaron: Right. That wraps up right around the time of "Schism." The current story is a wrap up of things going back to "Wolverine" #1. Once you read "Schism" you'll see how the two dove tail. You don't have to read one to understand the other, but if you read them both you'll see how everything fits together and you'll probably understand a little more of Wolverine's motivations and his head space throughout "Schism." And going forward after that, the events of "Schism" will have a big effect on Logan's solo book.

You mentioned "Uncanny X-Force." What about the other mutant team books with ties to the X-Men like "New Mutants," "Generation Hope" and "X-Men: Legacy?" Will we see these various teams align with the two main X-Men teams?

Gillen: Just like the two main books there will be some team books going one way and some going the other.

Aaron: When things begin I don't think there will really be third factions within the X-Universe. Each mutant is going to have to choose one side or the other. That means this break will be evolving as we go forward. If one team or one mutant picks a certain side they definitely aren't stuck there forever.

We've talked quite a bit about story. Let's chat a little bit about the colleagues that are helping you bring your stories to life. Kieron, for the first story of this new volume of "Uncanny X-Men" you're reunited with Carlos Pacheco who you worked with on the recent Point One issue of "Uncanny X-men." How does it feel to be back working with him?

Gillen: It's fantastic to be back with him. The Point One issue was a dream. I couldn't be happier, unless gold feel from the sky. And if gold fell from the sky I would only be a little happier [Laughs].

Aaron: Carlos also draws the first issue of "Schism." He did a great job.

Jason, for "Wolverine and the X-Men" it seems like you've been paired with a collaborator who draws a very distinctive and dynamic Wolverine, and that's Chris Bachalo. What can readers expect from Chris' work on this book?

Aaron: Working with Chris has been a blast. He's a guy I've been a fan of for years, and he's been on the short list of artists I'd like to work with.

On this book we're entering uncharted territory; a new world. So he's getting to design new characters, new locations, and pretty much a new corner of the X-Men Universe.

So in terms of visuals and story both, it sounds like "Wolverine and the X-Men" and "Uncanny X-Men" will be distinctive titles that can stand on their own. Will there be some interplay between the books for readers who want to read both titles and experience the full tapestry of the X-Universe?

Gillen: That's generally how the X-Office handles their books. That's an already established practice.

Aaron: Yeah, certainly. The X-Office is a pretty tight office. We all like each other or at least pretend to like each other when we're face to face [Laughs]. And we've got a strong hand guiding the ship in the form of Nick Lowe. So yes, you'll continue to see interplay among the two titles.
Certainly for the launch though, our books are so different we want to find our footing before we start. You're not going to see a big crossover between the two books three months down the line. We're both trying to build our own books and go our own directions, but certainly as things move forward you will see lots of interplay and crossover between all the X-titles.

Any final thoughts you would like to share about the new volume of "Uncanny X-Men" or "Wolverine and the X-Men?"

Gillen: One thing that's really fun about this is these two books are starting up really close to each other. I'll eventually be going head to head with Jason, who is a writer I love, and it's just really inspiring and entertaining to do that.

Aaron: We're going head to head?

Gillen: Yeah! We can dig a pit at New York Comic Con and have a wrestling match there [Laughs]. Two books enter. One book leaves!

Aaron: We can do a call in number like with Jason Todd [Laughs].

This is the first team book I've ever done. This is me diving into the X-Men pool for the foreseeable future, so I'm super excited. It was hard to contain my excitement while I was working on the first issue of this book. I'm getting to play with so many characters and elements that I've been wanting to play with for so long, and I'm getting to create new things. So this book has everything that I love about the X-Men. There are references to every different era of X-History that you can think of, going all the way back to the original Lee-Kirby stuff. I'm having a blast.

Gillen: I'm having a wonderful time too, but a couple weeks ago I realized the worst thing about this new set up. I no longer get to write Wolverine.

Aaron: Sorry...

Gillen: No it's okay -- It's okay, Jason. [Gillen adopts an overly dramatic pose.]

Aaron: Every once in awhile we can swap players. I'll turn it into "Colossus and the X-Men" or something [Laughs].

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