Marvel's X-Changes Conference Call Transcript

Marvel Comics held a conference call earlier today to discuss the upcoming creator changes on "Uncanny X-Men" and "X-Men" this July with writers Ed Brubaker and Mike Carey take over the titles. We have a full transcript of that call that featured "Uncanny X-Men" writer Ed Brubaker, "X-Men" writer Mike Carey, Editor Mike Marts, Editor Nick Lowe and Assistant Manager of Sales Communication Jim McCann. Mike Carey was scheduled to take part in the call, but was unfortunately unable to attend.

Mike Marts: As you guys can probably figure out, July is a big month for us. We're really excited about Ed Brubaker and Mike Carey coming on board. Both of these guys have done work for Marvel in the recent past and each project they've done with us has been better and better. It was an easy, logical and fun step to take by naming these two guys the narrators of the X-Franchise, for lack of a better term. Both of these guys are well into their respective runs. They've written a few issues into each of their stories. From a readers perspective, this stuff is dynamite and we're backing that up with Chris Bachalo and Billy Tan on artwork. We're really excited to have both Ed and Mike join the X-Team. Ed, do you want to say anything?

Ed Brubaker: Sure! When you were first talking I thought you were going to say we're inheriting the Monkey's Paw of comics!

MM: That happens about mid-way through the run.

Ed: Yeah, that's when the curse hits. [laughs] I just have to say I've been a fan of the X-Men books since I was like seven years old and it was so weird to get to do "Deadly Genesis" last year and, now, to be given "Uncanny" and the opportunity to run off and do my own thing with it, while all these other huge events are happening, is just a total blast. I get excited every time I get pages in the mail from Billy. I couldn't be happier. I just hope we'll be putting out a book that fans will like and retailers can really sell.

MM: One of the great things about bringing Ed & Mike onto these books is that both guys were hard core X-Men fans growing up. They were already familiar with all the characters, the complex histories, the continuity and everything, so there was very little to do in terms of education. There was a lot of research on their parts, as Ed can probably tell you.

EB: Yeah - thanks '90s! [laughs]

MM: That was the great thing about bringing both of those guys on board. As you can probably see by some of the promotional material being put together, one of the unique things we're doing with both of these books is we're mixing up the cast a bit. Both Ed and Mike's storylines are very character driven and rely heavily on the characters, the relationships between the characters and the decisions they make as the storylines progress.

EB: That's always what the X-Men was best at. Having just gone back and reread the first 200 issues of the modern X-Men stuff, from the '70s onward, other than Spider-Man, it was the first time a team-book really became a soap opera and I thought that was really cool. Even as a kid, you cared more about the characters than you did about the bad guys or the overall plot. You just wanted to see what would happen to Storm or Wolverine next. I got that when I was reading Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men," which made me think maybe I could write X-Men. Joss was clearly more concerned with the characters than anything else. That's how it worked then and that's the best way to do it now.

MM: "Uncanny X-Men" isn't the first X-Men project that you've done with us. You started things off with "Deadly Genesis." Could you give the guys listening a quick recap on what "Deadly Genesis" is?

EB: I was brought in by Brian and Joe after the basic idea for it had already come up, which was to do some sort of creepy mystery surrounding "Giant Sized X-Men" #1 for the 30th anniversary. "Deadly Genesis" was sort of the revealing of one of Professor X's dark secrets - that the team he put together of Wolverine and Nightcrawler and Colossus and everybody to go rescue his X-Men was not the first team that actually went in, and that there was a previous team he quickly assembled and sent in and failed and that he thought had died. Basically, two of them didn't die. One of them was Scott & Alex's younger brother who has a really complicated origin that's tied into their Dad being tied into the Shiar and all of that. Through that story he became a major X-Villain and with "Uncanny" we're sort of following up that storyline in a sort of round-about way.

EB: I never think about overall direction. I think about overall plot direction, but I never think about that sort of where are they now and where I'd like to see them. I guess I'm not that kind of a "meta" kind of writer. My goal with "Uncanny" was to recapture what I thought was really cool about the books in the late '70s, early '80s era and combine that with the way modern comics are told differently. To just sort of touch on the things that have always been really great about the X-Men and that fans have always dug, but not to do just the greatest hits of the X-Men.

My goal with this twelve-issue story - the Shiar story - was to do a story that had some lasting impact and that mattered. I think that's something that I liked about Marvel Comics and the X-Men when I was a kid reading it. You always felt like stuff mattered and you never knew when there was going to be a status quo change or if the old status quo would ever come back. I think that's kind of cool. That was something that Marvel Comics really had in the '60s through the '70s. You assumed the Thing would eventually rejoin the Fantastic Four or that Cyclops would come back and take over the X-Men, but you were never sure. Adding that sort of level of tension and excitement to it, for me, getting them off Earth, was the way to do that for my cast - to pick some characters that I felt like I could still do something new with and throw them into a story that they weren't necessarily expecting. Basically, I pitched an idea where I could really shake things up in a realm of the Marvel Universe that hadn't been shaken up for a while. I was looking at it and thinking, "This is a little bit stale. What can we do to liven this up and really get people excited about it?" People who think "I hate the outer space X-Men stuff," well, maybe you won't hate it if it's really shocking and exciting and things actually happen that have lasting impact. For me, that was the goal really, to do what the X-Men do best, but not to do it in such a way that the reset button is hit.

I'll speak for Mike Carey because he's a friend of mine and I've read his first three "X-Men" scripts and I gotta say, Mike is such a classy writer. I told somebody that reading his first scripts kind of scared me because it was as if Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore had been given the assignment to digest everything that had been done in the first 100 issues of the original "Uncanny X-Men" from issue #94 to #194 and just sort of redo them in this intelligent, but still exciting way. For people who think Mike's stuff is a little too quiet and intellectual for super hero comics, they're going to be really stunned because I think he really just knocked it out of the park and was born to write a book like "X-Men." I think this is his place to sort of prove that he can do that big super hero stuff and can do a team book like X-Men and do it justice.

Nick Lowe: One of the things about the two different books that really struck me is what Ed is doing is this giant, epic story in the spirit of Shakespeare or "Lord of the Rings" or something very large with huge emotional arcs and a lot of characters. Mike's going in a different direction, where he really captures the feeling that anything could happen at any moment. It's really exciting stuff. They're taking two very different directions with these books.

EB: You take one look at the cast that Mike chose and peoples reaction is, "What the hell is this? Who are these people? Why this particular group of people?" Just like Nick said, the things that Mike does with the characters are completely unexpected and you just don't know what to expect next.

MM: By the way, Mike Carey's "X-Men" cast includes Rogue, Cable, Mystique, Iceman and Cannonball. And Victor Creed's Sabretooth will be helping them out in a certain way. I don't want to say he's a team member, but he will be helping the team out.

Ed's "Uncanny X-Men" cast includes Professor Xavier, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, Warpath, Havok and Polaris.

EB: Do we want to reveal the secret? Or should we wait?

MM: Let's wait. There's a secret member coming up in our second issue. #476.

Jim McCann: We're double shipping both "Uncanny X-Men" and "X-Men" in July.

MM: You can expect two issue of both in July. That's just another way of saying what Jim just said. [laughs]

Ed, how is working on this different for you compared to "Deadly Genesis?"

EB: The main difference is this is something that I totally came up with on my own. I wouldn't say "Deadly Genesis" was editorially driven, but it was brought to me with three or four main elements already in place. The basic idea was sold to me and then I was told to take it and make it mine. Having the bad guy end up being the third Summer's brother was totally my idea. So, I had some boxes that needed to be checked during that story. I've worked on cross-overs and stuff like that before, so I'm used to do that stuff. But for "Uncanny X-Men," it was me talking with Mike and him asking, "Would you like to do 'Uncanny' at some point?" I told him the story I wanted to tell and that was the main difference. The next thing I know is I'm being forced to write "Uncanny X-Men!" [laughs] Which, you know, is a terrible thing and a terrible problem to have! [laughs]

The other difference is, there's a different pacing to this. Where "Deadly Genesis" was sort of the combo of a thriller and a retelling of the original "Giant Sized" story, trying to shine a different light on that. This is nothing like that at all. This is more about Professor X assembling a team and goes off on this big, epic quest. For me, that was the real challenge. Like Nick said, I wanted to do a big epic because everything else I'm doing with Daredevil and Cap are single-character stories - one's kind of noir and one's kind of like an espionage super-hero - and I really wanted to do an epic X-Men character drama. A lot of the superhero team stuff - especially the X-Men - is best when instead of referencing the superhero comics that came before, you should think about giant, epic ensemble pieces like "Macbeth" or "Lord of the Rings" and try to bring that kind of scale to it. That's what I really wanted to challenge myself to write. Write a different kind of comic, but still make it feel like it is written by me.

MM: I think we'd be more concerned had "Deadly Genesis" not done so well. But, with the success of "Deadly Genesis," the way it was received and the way it was ordered, it did really well for us. There's not a whole lot of concern about launching Ed's run off that mini-series. In fact, I think it's probably going to help us out a lot.

EB: Yeah and in the first couple of issues we recap what you need to know a bit. I always try to make sure that every comic, while not necessarily being enormously new reader friendly, is new reader friendly enough. We were very conscious, though, of making sure that the right details got out there in the first couple of issues.

Also, the "Deadly Genesis" trade will be out. [laughs]

For a lot of comic book writers, they look at books like "Uncanny X-Men," "X-Men," "Amazing Spider-Man," what have you, as their dream assignments. Is "Uncanny X-Men" a dream assignment for you?

EB: You know, I didn't think I had any dream assignments until I got to Marvel, actually. I'm not as much as a team-book kind of guy, so for me it's more of a writing challenge. It's becoming a dream assignment as I get the pages in. Wait till you guys see the first couple of issues, Billy just knocked it out of the park. There's a lot of competition for dream assignments right now. I've got "Daredevil" and "Captain America" which were my favorite comics growing up other than Spider-Man. I'm having a blast on it. For me, I look at the X-Men in a different way because I grew disenchanted with it when I was younger, in the early '80s. I had read it for a good 80 or 90 issues and just sort of got tired of it for a while and didn't read it. So, I come to it more from the perspective of what I loved about it as a kid and what can I do to recapture that in my work.

It's more of a challenge than a dream, because also if you look at the number of talented writers other than Claremont who've taken on this book and somebody at Marvel pointed out to me that if you get the X-Men and don't do a good job on it, it can really chew you up and spit you out. It is a monkey's paw. It can bring you great things, or if you mess it up, you could really have a lot of fans know your e-mail. I already mouthed off to Wizard and got a bunch of e-mail from Gambit fans! [laughs] I'm having a blast on it. I just want to do a good X-Men book that's different than all the other X-Men books that are coming out at the exact same time because there are so many.

Ed, why pick the characters you chose? What dynamics do they bring to the cast to help you tell the story you want to? And also, who's the one character you wanted that you couldn't have?

EB: I guess Cyclops is the one character I wish I could have had. The characters I picked all were characters I either liked a lot or needed. I think Rachael Gray/Marvel Girl is a really cool character, but I felt like personally -- other than a few stories here and there and the recent thing Claremont did with her was one of the best things he's done with the character in a long time -she still was living too much in the shadow of her history and I felt like we should move her forward. She's this incredibly powerful telepath and telekinetic and she's been inhabited by the Phoenix force, she's gone through a ton of stuff, but every single time she's in a comic, the first panel you see she's talking about how she's from an alternate future where the Sentinel's took over, etc., and I felt like she's been around for 18 years and she should have other stuff going on in her life by now. For me, I needed a telepath for the story. She has a huge connection to the Shiar thanks to what Chris recently did and I just thought she was the logical person to bring along.

Havok and Polairs I've always loved since reading the Neal Adams issues as a kid. Havok, of course, has the connection to Vulcan, being one of his brothers. I couldn't have Cyclops, so I had to have Havok. I also felt Havok is a character still with a lot of untapped potential. Let's get him outside of the influence of his older brother and let's see who he becomes. So, there's a lot of potential for him.

Nightcrawler is an incredibly cool character who I've now found is incredibly hard to write while doing stuff, because he can be anywhere at any second, so that's a bit of a challenge during fight scenes, but thankfully Billy's doing a great job on making the crazy stuff I ask him to do look good. Nightcrawler I needed. I needed one of the "Giant Sized X-Men" team and needed one of the core X-Men characters to be on this. I was thinking, "What if I brought in Angel?" Well, Angel's not a whole lot of good on a space ship. What's he going to do, fly down the halls? [laughs] I thought about it and Nightcrawler also has this immense loyalty to Professor X. Even with all that's happened since then, Professor X changed his whole life for the better and so, I felt I needed somebody like that who'll be there just out of loyalty, even after everything that Professor X has done with the whole Danger Room thing and "Deadly Genesis" and "House of M."

Warpath - I've always liked the character ever since he kidnapped Professor X and was going to kill him. I just thought this was a really cool character and I saw a lot of untapped potential for him. I wanted somebody who was more of a brawler, more of a hands-on kind of guy. He's really stolen the show in the first couple of issues already and Billy draws him great. One of the reasons why he's there has to do with how much he used to hate Professor X. Everybody that's on this team, this is sort of the redemption story of Professor X, after the things he's done he's hoping to redeem his past mistakes. He's hoping that having somebody along like Warpath, who once hated him, will give him insight into Vulcan, who clearly hates him because of everything that's happened in the past. That connection is why he's there, even though he clearly doesn't hate Professor X anymore and isn't some angry bad boy, but he has that in his history.

What about Xavier? Can we dwell on him for a minute? How can a human now lead the X-Men?

EB: Well, he's got an incredible amount of knowledge of all their powers and abilities. He's still a great tactician, even without his powers. He also knows, more than any of them, more about the Shiar and how to pilot their ships and all that stuff. He's not a guy who has any problems just sort of walking by somebody and stealing knowledge out of their brain. It's clearly been proven since the early days of the Stan and Jack run that he'll just take stuff from their brains. [loud buzzing begins] Clearly somebody doesn't want us to talk about Professor X! [laughs]

MM: Basically, I look for guys who turn their scripts in on time! [laughs]

EB: Wow, so should I start looking for a new job? [laughs]

MM: Really, what I'm looking for is someone who understands what the X-Men franchise is all about. It's a unique beast. It's a very tough assignment. As Ed mention before, other guys have come on and tried their best and for whatever reason it just didn't work out. It's not because they weren't good writers, it was more because writing the X-Men franchise is very difficult. Both of these guys come in with a good knowledge of the past history and they know what makes the characters tick and know what the characters are about. That's really what we're looking for. And also someone who can come to these characters with new stories and new ideas.

Also like Ed said before, a lot of guys come onto the X-Books and feel compelled to write the greatest hits or just rewrite their favorite moments. Neither of these guys are doing that - they're coming on to these books with new, fresh ideas, with new characters and new places to take existing characters. We're looking to take the X-Men franchise a few steps forward.

Ed, could you talk about the benefits and challenges of taking this team and putting them in a cosmic setting?

EB: Well, the benefits are that I don't have to worry about everything else that's happening in the Marvel Universe at the same time. [laughs] The challenge is how to make that work. I wanted it to be a bit of a space opera, but I still wanted it to feel like an X-Men comic. Having reread all the early stuff, I always liked those stories where they went and met the Shiar and the Star Jammers and fought the Imperial Guard and all of that. I wanted to recapture what I felt was cool about those things, but I still wanted it to feel like an X-Men comic. That's really the challenge, to make it feel like an X-Men comic and not like I'm just turning around "Star Trek," "Star Wars" or say "Legion of Super-Heroes."

Luckily, I think through "Deadly Genesis" I learned I have a bit of a knack for doing these characters. I guess because I digested their personalities at such a young age that I'm able to write these characters pretty well. They kind of write themselves - like, you get three X-Men in a room and five seconds later they're arguing about something. I remember talking with Warren Ellis about writing "The Authority" and he said it was the hardest thing in the world to get them to do anything because it seemed like all they ever wanted to do was stand around and snark at each other. [laughs] X-Men have a certain amount of that, but it's more like whining and yelling.

The benefit, too, was that I had thought of a story that hadn't necessarily been done that would reposition certain things in the X-Men world, like it would repositioin the Shiar and what they were and how it would change things up for the Star Jammers and change things up for this core group that I've sent out. They're going to go through a lot and be a lot different when they get back and some of them might not get back. The benefit was I could really shake some stuff up and really do a story that readers really wouldn't know what would happen next.

What in your first issue is really going to go out there and grab people and keep them interested in the series?

EB: The art! [laughs] Hopefully the characters. I sort of came back to the X-Men through reading the Morrison and Whedon stuff, then going back and rereading the old stuff. I remember talking with Nick when I was halfway through writing my first issue and just freaking out because I was like, "I have too much to do and can't get it all done in 22 pages!" Nick talked me off the ledge and had me go back and reread what those guys did so I could get a grip on it. Really, the first issue is all about the characters and setting up what's to come. I don't mean to say it's got no action - it's packed with action - but it's really answering those questions of why these characters, what's going on, what is professor X up to and where is this going to go from here. I hope between just watching Professor X put together this team and watching them in a really cool action sequence and getting the best art Billy Tan has ever done by far will bring people back to the title.

EB: Well, this story runs twelve issues and then there are a lot of possibilities for what comes after that. A lot of different directions. It's really up to Marvel and sales, I suppose. I have a lot of big plans. I'll be in the X-Office for a few years now, right Mike?

MM: Definitely. As long as you want to write stories, we'll have you.

EB: OK. Thank you.

Ahhh, it's a love fest! [laughs]

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