EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan Hickman Peels Back the Curtain on His X-Men Run

The month of July marks the release of House of X and Powers of X, two series which kick off writer Jonathan Hickman's upcoming tenure on Marvel's X-Men. Illustrated by artists Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva, respectively, the pair of six-issue miniseries will eventually lead to an all-new era for Marvel's merry mutants under Hickman's guidance.

With fan excitement surging about the writer's Marvel-ous return to the House off Ideas, CBR spoke with Hickman about House of X and Powers of X to find out more about the mysterious series. And while key story details are being kept under wraps until their debut this summer, Hickman did share his thoughts on the X-Men franchise, ended speculation on a few fan theories about the beginning of his run, and teased extra content fans can look forward to.

RELATED: Marvel, Hickman Have Plans For at Least Two Waves of X-Men Books

Plus, as you read on, Marvel has shared some exclusive artwork from July's House of X #1 and Powers of X #1.

CBR: In your interview last week, you mentioned when you were pitching ideas for the X-Men, you thought about what the X-Men line needed. Specifically, what do you think has been missing from the line over the last several years?

Jonathan Hickman: Well, that's a super loaded question.

I can assure you that what hasn't been missing is talent. A lot of very good creators have worked on these books, and in the previous decade I was at Marvel, many of them were good friends of mine. You can certainly make the argument that when Bendis was writing the books he was doing interesting stuff and was working with a murderer's row of artist -- I honestly can't remember when the X-line has looked better than that. But I remember the day he quit those books, and why, and it's important to keep in mind that a lot of this job of ours is alchemy, not chemistry.

Sometimes the company's interests lie in other places. Sometimes your timing is bad and the market conspires against you. Sometimes the real world gets in the way of how a story is perceived. Sometimes competitors knock one out of the park and eat all the oxygen in the room. These are things it takes a colossal amount of effort, time, and money to control.

There, of course, are factors you can control, and one I think about a lot is value.

Powers of X #1 art by R.B. Silva.

I don't know if you've been paying attention to what Tomm Coker and I have been doing over at Image on The Black Monday Murders, but we started experimenting with larger issues at a higher price point. We'd do an issue with 30 pages of comic art and 20-30 pages of data that supports the story and what we found was 1.) it provided a much denser read -- there was way more meat on the bone compared to a normal monthly comic, and 2.) because all the data was interspersed throughout the book it had an asymmetrical read that changed the normal monthly comic reading rhythms.

And by that last bit I mean that if you are reading a 20 page comic, you know what's happening on page 19. You've consumed enough pop culture that you're not going to really be surprised when you turn that page. I mean, you might be, but you certainly saw something coming. Doing the books the other way changes all of that. The reader gets lost in the dueling sections. It's really interesting.

Anyway, I bring that up because it's what we're doing with House of X and Powers of X. I know for the first issues of both the solicits say 40 pages / $5.99 but that's incorrect. The books are bigger than that because if we can provide good value, then it increases our odds the book will be judged solely on 'is it good?' And that's a challenge we're eager to undertake.

Oh, I should also probably note that we're working with designer Tom Muller on the data pages. Very excited about that. Muller's got some serious game.

Let's go back a few months to the Mark Brooks promo art for House of X and Powers of X. It contained a good number of recognizable mutants, both heroes and villains, but a few new ones stand out. Most notably, there are two characters -- a man and woman -- who appear to be combinations of different X-Men characters all merged together.

The woman has metallic skin like Colossus, is holding Magik's Soulsword and has pigtails like Dani Moonstar. The man has Nightcrawler's body, but red skin. Both appear on the cover of Powers of X #1. Can you shed some insight into what is taking place with these characters? Are we interpreting things correctly by assuming those are familiar X-Men who have undergone some radical changes, or are they all-new characters?

I feel like you're using the royal 'we' there, and I'm not sure how down I am with your aristocratic bent.

I will tell you that 'we' are not telling an Alt-Universe story.

RELATED: Hickman Explains Why He Convinced Marvel to Cancel the Entire X-Men Line

The House of X art also shows the revived Charles Xavier, presumably from Charles Soule's run on Astonishing X-Men, alongside Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Magneto and Wolverine. Their costumes come from different eras of X-Men history, especially Jean Grey's -- are we looking at Xavier plucking X-Men from different eras for his master plan for mutantkind, or do they simply signify the five most recognizable figures in the X-Men franchise?

I'm not telling a story that deals with time travel.

The plant-like object they're stepping through on the HOX #1 cover is also seen in some of the interior preview pages. For example, we see Jean walking through it with a group of young mutants. There is also a significant amount of plant life on the POX #2 cover. Without going too heavily into spoilers, what can you tell us about this? Is Krakoa a member of your X-Men team?

Okay, so this is the third question in a row that I'm ducking because I'm just not going to spoil the story for everyone who's looking forward to reading it.

Back in the day I absolutely would have, I think. When I first started doing this I honestly wouldn't shut up. I wanted to talk about 'my process', and what I hoped to accomplish in an issue, and then when the book came out I wanted to point out what everything meant just to make sure the reader knew exactly how clever I was. It was awful.

I remember I was at a show and a fan came up to me and told me about this elaborate theory they had about what I had meant in an issue of, I dunno, I think it was Fantastic Four. Anyway, I remember how crushed this person was when I told them that their theory was wrong and why. I mean, this dude was wrecked, and all I could think was, 'Why did I do that?'

House of X #1 art by Pepe Larraz

Because I remember when I was kid, I used to do the same thing, I'd read the book and imagine where the story went, or what happened to that side character, or what the author was really talking about. And I think that's something we've lost in the intersection of 'behind the scenes' and 'community opinion.'

So I don't do that anymore. I feel like it's my job to tell the story. Then I give that story to you. And after that, whether you love it or hate it, my sole job is not screwing up that experience for you. Because it's yours.

Anyway, that's how you duck a question.

Have you come across any X-Men in your writing that have turned out to be far more intriguing to work on than you originally thought? And can we expect to be introduced to a lot of new mutants during the dual miniseries, or just a few?

Generally, I don't like to make up a bunch of new characters when I take over a book at Marvel. Sure, there are times when a story I'm telling needs a certain something and I have to, but for the most part, I kind of want to write the pre-existing characters.

That's especially true with X-Men because there are already so many of them and, well, I've waited my whole life to write Goldballs.

We now know the current X-Men line will end right before HOX and POX launch. How closely did you work with Marvel to synchronize the ending points for books like Uncanny X-Men, Age of X-Man, etc.? Were there any notes provided to the creative teams on where you needed characters like Cyclops, Wolverine, etc. to be before HOX and POX kick off?

When the decision was made that everything was going to wrap before we did House of X and Powers of X, the big question was what to do with the books leading up to July. Leaving the schedule open was never a serious consideration as, you know, Marvel prides themselves on their editors having a job to do and the company actually publishing comics. So, after some back-and-forth, knowing what I had planned, Jordan and the writers put together a mix of very intriguing stories and series, and outside of a few extremely minor things, no one was given story beats to hit, or departure points, and I personally didn't give anyone notes. Both House of X and Powers of X start in a really clean place. So those lead-up books had a very particular mandate, which was basically, ‘just go nuts, swing away, and knock it out of the park.'

RELATED: What Marvel's New X-Men Teaser Tells Us About House of X & Powers of X

I do want to add that I am a little disappointed that some people are saying the work that's been done -- that the stories that have been told -- don't matter because I'm doing my thing after that. Personally, I think what matters when you buy a book, or say, see a movie, is did you enjoy it? If the answer is yes, then it was worth it. If the answers no, then it wasn't worth it.

That might be facile, but it's how I feel.

As someone who was very pleased to see you bring Cannonball and Sunspot into the Avengers fold during your popular run, can we look forward to you bringing them home now that you'll be working on the X-Men?

I won't be bringing them home.

EXCLUSIVE: Immortal Hulk #25 Preview Reveals a Broken Universe

More in CBR Exclusives