NYCC: Back to the Future with "X-Men Forever"

Set the Wayback Machine for 1991, Sherman. Our target: "X-Men."

Professor X is leading the team. Jean's alive. Magneto's not.

It was announced Friday at New York Comic Con by Marvel Comics that legendary writer Chris Claremont is returning to the X-Men as though he never left. Picking up where "X-Men" Volume 2, #3 left off in 1991, he and fan favorite artist Tom Grummett ("Thunderbolts") are launching "X-Men Forever" in June.

In May, Marvel will release "X-Men Forever Alpha," which collects "X-Men" Volume 2, #1-3 plus an all-new, eight-page story.

CBR News spoke with Claremont about what to X-pect in "X-Men Forever."

CBR News: First off, it was announced today that "X-Men Forever" picks up from where "X-Men" #3 left off and Jean is still alive. So is "X-Men Forever" set in the 1990s out of regular Marvel U. continuity? Or is the team active in current continuity?

Chris Claremont: "X-Men Forever" is set in 2009, which means that the first three issues, regardless of when they were originally published, are likewise set in early 2009 or possibly late 2008. It isn't set in regular continuity. The intent here is to blaze wholly new trails across the landscape of our heroes' lives and the world they inhabit.

You moved to "X-Men" from "Uncanny X-Men" for what was expected to be a landmark run with Jim Lee in 1991 but stayed for only three issues. Is "X-Men Forever" allowing you to revisit some ideas you had planned for that initial run but were never able to use?

"X-Men Forever" allows me to play with ideas and concepts I had back then and also to incorporate fresh and original concepts that grow out of the challenges facing our world in this opening decade of the 21st century. The great advantage of "Forever" is that, being set in its own universe, we're actually freed from the most primary of publishing tropes, the editorial requirement that characters cannot be killed or otherwise damaged.

For the first time, we have a book where the benchmark cast can actually find themselves at risk. Happy endings are not guaranteed, life is not a guarantee, people can die and if they die they won't get better. Stories - and characters - can actually have endings, perhaps then allowing for the introduction of new concepts that might well cast the series off in wholly different directions. This isn't a matter of 'revisiting,' but of truly seeing what happens next.

What do you have planned for the team in the first big arc? Who is the villain?

The first arc throws open the door to those first three issues. We learn that what seems like a minor inconvenience by a small-time player is just the tip of the iceberg. No one can play the I-know-what-happens-next guessing game. This series is not a case of revisiting old favorites, no matter how much we might have adored them; frankly, there are books galore that can provide that particular satisfaction. We want to go exploring through uncharted, undiscovered country, to shake up the very foundation premises upon which the X-Men saga has rested for all these decades.

From those first three issues, that so many have read, a door will open into the X-Men universe that none of you has foreseen. I'm not talking about just another villain. I'm talking what it means to carry that genetic marker and how it scars you - forever.

Can you run down the lineup for us, please?

Charles Xavier, Nicholas Fury, Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Hank McCoy, Kurt Wagner, Kitty Pryde, Anna Raven, Remy LeBeau and two characters who must, for the present, remain surprises.

Do you have one or two favorite characters on the team?

The basic problem with a question like this is that there have never been just 'one or two' favorite characters for me on this team. In a sense, they're all favorites, including the two who must remain unnamed. What I love about them is that, to me, they've always been people. That writing the X-Men is, in large measure, telling the story of their lives and events both good and bad. And one of the never-ending challenges is the fact that while a major part of me hungers to give them all the happiest of endings, events don't always turn out that way. Occasionally, as with Jean Grey, stories - and characters - take on a momentum of their own. The writer then faces the inexorable choice between yielding to his deepest wishes or staying true to the world that's been created. You may not like the ending, because it costs you a character you dearly care for, but at the same time it presents the others in the book the challenge of living their lives to the fullest because there is a risk, and a potential cost, that has to be faced. And, at the same time, it also opens the way for someone altogether new and different to enter the cast and perhaps reshape the series dynamic along radically different lines.

What can you say about the work of "X-Men Forever" artist Tom Grummett? How would you describe his take on the X-Men?

Marvelous, to put it bluntly. Not to mention just plain lovely.

Finally, tell us one thing your long-time fans will love to hear about your return to "X-Men."

We're in this for the long haul. This is a very rich tapestry. There are so many questions that have never even been raised, let alone answered. Ever wonder why there are no old mutants? Try that one, for starters. One of the great frustrations about leaving the series was my own sense that too much of the X-Men's story had been left untold. With "Forever" comes the chance to finish that tapestry.

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