After a huge crossover event across multiple titles, it is often the case that many of the supporting characters of said comics are ignored or forgotten completely, sometimes for years. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Marvel’s X-Men line of comic books.
At the conclusion of the “Messiah CompleX” event, Cyclops disbanded the X-Men. What did this mean for the various characters of X-books and where did they land? Well, thanks to “X-Men: Divided We Stand Book One,” we learned the answer to this question as it concerned several beloved heroes.
The book features a bevy of writers and artists, including Mike Carey, Matt Fraction, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, and Skottie Young. And guess what? They are all here this week to answer your questions about “DWS” - well, all except Kyle, who is off working on your favorite Marvel animated adventures (like “The Spectacular Spider-Man”).
As a matter of fact, the “Divided We Stand” creators were having such a good time answering your questions, X-editor Nick Lowe had to jump in and join the fun. And check out the exclusive art from “X-Men: Divided We Stand Book Two!” It’s our biggest X-POSITION ever!
Of course, having all these writers in one place proved too much to resist, so we kicked things off with a few questions of our own.
Regarding the characters chosen for this book - why were they were selected? Is there more coming up with them? Or was it felt like they each had interesting stories to tell for in this format?
Nick Lowe: There were a few factors in choosing the characters. The main one was going after characters that weren’t getting their stories told in the rest of the post-“Messiah CompleX” books. I also wanted to make sure that we had a good cross-section of the mutant community, so that all the different groups and teams were represented.
Matt Fraction: I asked my partner on the story, Jamie McKelvie (“Suburban Glamour,” “Phonogram”), who some of his favorite characters were - who he'd most like to draw. I think a lot of guys like us who came up through indie books have an abiding suspicion that we're going to be pointed at (a la Donald Sutherland in “Body Snatchers”), labeled impostors, and escorted from the building, as it were. So if you've only got the one shot, you want to make it count, right?
Anyway, so we both agreed Nightcrawler was cool. And I always wanted to write a confrontation between Nightcrawler and Scalphunter.
Skottie Young: Anole just felt like the natural choice. Drawing him in “New X-Men” for a year really let me figure out who he was. Because he didn't have a ton of backstory, there was a lot of room for me to fill in blanks; like where he's from - Fairbury, IL, population 3000. That's where I was born and lived until high school.
As for the question, “Is there more coming up with them?” - I won't lie, I would love to write and draw more Anole. I wanted him to leave at the end of the story so that hopefully, one day, I can jump back in there and show everyone where I think he's gone.
Christopher Yost: Craig and I had always wanted to get to Nehzno’s story in “New X-Men,” but there just wasn’t time. We’d written out his history and backstory way back when we introduced him, but only when we got to “Quest for Magik” and “Messiah CompleX” did he really get a chance to shine. And yet, despite knowing next to nothing about him, fans seemed to like him.
Fans and Nick Lowe are the reason for this story. Nick loves Nehzno. So when Nick suggested Nehzno for DWS, Craig and I quickly agreed.
Pretty much every X-character has an interesting story to tell throughout “Divided We Stand.” Hellion stood out a little more because his fate was so up in the air. More than anyone else, he really missed everything. And as you saw, he didn’t take it well.
Mike Carey: The cool thing about DWS - which has been pointed out in some of the reviews - is that you get the sense there are as many potential stories as there are mutants: that these snapshots are skimming the surface of something much bigger and more widespread. In that sense, it adds the reverb to what's happening in the regular X-books; it reminds you how the events that are playing out there have knock-on effects for characters we don't see so often.
Within that, every writer was really given the freedom to follow up characters who were particularly fascinating to them, or whose part in “Messiah CompleX” seemed to cry out for a character-specific coda.
I wrote Cannonball because - after being spectacularly and centrally involved in “Blinded by the Light” - he's really sidelined in “Messiah CompleX.” I knew that was something that would keep on gnawing at him. And I wrote Beast for the second volume because I wanted to reflect on the mansion's past and present from the POV of someone who's very introspective and has been there from the very start.
Some of these characters are being cued up for further appearances, but DWS is far more than just a placeholder: it's a set of variations on a powerful theme.
Skottie, you wrote and drew your story. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re fairly new to the writing side of things.
Young: Yeah, I'm pretty new at it…well, the getting-it-published part anyway. I wrote and illustrated a “Legion of Monsters” story last year at Marvel and have been writing a few things of my own the last few years.
What was writing the story like for you?
Young: I loved every minute of it. Any writer that I've worked with recently (Zeb, C.B., Chris) will probably tell you that I get in their business a little too much...haha. I love story and am not shy about hopping on the phone and hashing out ideas for the books.
Luckily, these writers were all pretty much kick-ass at what they do, so it really helped educate me on writing for comics. It has helped working with Nick Lowe and John Barber on the editing side of things. Both of these guys were there to give me some pointers and let me know if I was screwing anything up too bad.
Did you have to switch your mindset much?
Young: Not too much. Drawing comics is just telling a story with the pencil and pen. Honestly, when I put those down I felt a little more freedom to really push past what I might do with an illustration. Then I remember that I have to draw it too and yell at myself for writing so many panels per page...haha. I think if the character has depth then my job as a writer and artist is pretty easy.
What did you find most challenging?
Young: The page limit. When I found out what the ending of “Messiah CompleX” was going to be, I had the idea for a story in my head. Well, not really a story, but I had an opinion on what this meant for the younger characters in the X-world. Sometimes we forget how young some of these characters are, and when we throw them in these giant events we tend to treat them like all the other adults or young adult characters. But Pixie is around 14, Anole is 15...and so on.
These characters shouldn't be dealt with in the same manner. So I instantly had an idea about how this would affect the children, but didn't think I would ever tell the story. When Nick Lowe offered the job and I picked Anole, I knew I had a chance to not only give a commentary on the situation but also how we see and approach characters as creators. I just had no idea how to accomplish it eight pages.
I sat in front of a blank screen for almost a week and then I thought…Northstar. I remembered seeing him elbow Anole in the face in an “X-Men” issue sometime last year and thought that I could bring that in. Once Northstar was in the picture, things fell into place. Hahaha...you see? I told you the answer to your question in the first sentence, yet half a “Harry Potter” book later, I'm still redundantly answering. Now you know why eight pages was difficult.
Matt, you’re co-writing “Uncanny” (with Ed Brubaker) and jumped into the X-universe with a Nightcrawler story. Why Nightcrawler? What characters are you most excited about writing? And does this DWS tale give readers a glimpse of the tone and direction you’ll be taking characters in?
Fraction: These are the things you need to know about Nightcrawler:
a) Nightcrawler is a catholic.
b) Nightcrawler teleports all the time.
c) The purpose of the Nightcrawler is to flip out and forgive people.
d) Also, sometimes he is a pirate.
I think that answers why.
I don't know that there's any one character I'm most excited to write, so much as I want to get them together in a room and see what happens, you know? It's the dynamics I'm excited about, both interpersonal and on the battlefield. The X-Men all have the coolest powers and I love writing them working together, coming up with weird combo moves, and all kinds of cool stuff like that.
The DWS story is, I hope, just a nice little character piece about a couple different pieces on the game board. I know both Ed and I always loved the little one-off, slice-of-life stories focusing on single cast members (outside of whatever arc or super-arc was in motion), and we both wanted to get back to those when we started to work together...so I guess it was a callback to those vignettes. Some of which are conveniently collected in a book called “X-Men: Vignettes.”
That is convenient! Now it’s time for the readers to have some fun. Ricky D410 kicks things off for us…
1) Skottie, I love you. What upcoming projects do you have that we should know about?
Young: Wow, scary - I love me too. I'm illustrating the adaptation of the “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” at Marvel. I've talked with a few of my editors, and I think that the writing side of things is still very much alive. With some luck, you'll see some longer stories from me in the coming year.
2) Chris and Craig, with “Uncanny X-Men” #500 coming up, it appears the X-Men are about to relocate to San Francisco. Will this affect “X-Force” at all, or will your book stay self-contained for the most part?
Yost: It will come up. Our team isn’t kicking-ass twenty-four hours a day, you know? And if they all suddenly disappear, the X-Men will ask questions - so they’ll be around.
3) Also for Chris and Craig, the July solicits just came out and we saw Archangel on the cover. At CBR (and a few other forums), there has been some debate about whether or not that Archangel on the cover is Warren or not. Some people have even speculated that it’s Icarus. Any comments from you?
Yost: Icarus is buried in the Guthrie family plot in Kentucky. And yet, somehow in issue #4, his name comes up...
4) Matt, you've said your new “Uncanny” cast will be a large ensemble. In particular, you mentioned that Karma is going to have a spot in #501. Are there any other characters that have not had much (or any) focus in recent years that we should look out for?
Fraction: Yes, there are!
5) Also for Matt, Greg Land's cover for #500 showed almost all the recent X-Men, but also the New X-Men and the New Mutants. Does this mean the New Mutants will finally become active members of the X-Men? Will this tie into what’s happening in “Young X-Men” at all?
Fraction: We really wanted to reflect the...I'm hesitant to call it a “new direction,” but maybe the “new focus” we'll see in the book post-issue #500. The whole X-family is precisely that - a family, and cast members will rotate in and out as their unique talents and perspectives are required.
The idea was - let's show all of mutantkind banding together against the insurmountable darkness. I think, post-“Messiah CompleX,” that the mutants have come to realize that all they have left is each other.
But, you know, it's a comic book, so instead of a group hug in the family room, you get Alex Ross to paint an epic damn panorama of the whole cast running, screaming, flying, and generally looking like the most awesome thing you've ever seen ever.
Lowe: I’ll chime in here, as well. “Young X-Men” definitely ties in to the rest of this. Once you see where the timing of all of this fits in, it should be a lot clearer.
6) Mike, I absolutely love “Legacy.” After the twelve issues are up (the length of “Legacy,” correct?), will you stay on and write another team X-Men book? Please say yes! Your X-Men run was one of my favorites ever. And please say Rogue and Iceman will both be on your team again. They really were both amazing under your pen.
Carey: Thanks, man! I'm really glad you enjoyed the book. Will I stay on after “Legacy” is done? If I'm still on Marvel's Christmas card list, nothing in the world will stop me. I love writing in the X-verse, and I've got plans involving both Iceman and Rogue. I'd like nothing better than to carry on being one of their storytellers.
And on that note, Philip A Moore had a request for a story he’d like Mr. Carey to tell…
Mike, I really liked the Cannonball story. Without spoiling “Young X-Men,” is there a chance we can see you write a miniseries starring the Guthries?
Carey: Probably not a miniseries, Philip, but a story in which some of the less-often-seen Guthries play a part would be very cool, and it's something I've thought about pitching. In any case though, look to be seeing more of Sam and Paige.
And speaking of “Young X-Men,” do you have any info on why Sam would be “evil” in that book?
Carey: I do, but I'm not allowed to say. There are some big revelations coming up in the course of that story arc. All I'd say up front is that the story respects every character and handles them in a believable way.
Hakael is up next, asking questions that they’re not supposed to ask…
1) Recent issues of “Uncanny” have hinted that disbanding the X-Men was a ruse - that Cyclops was just looking to set up shop elsewhere after laying low to avoid backlash from events in “Messiah CompleX.” Some of the X-Men appear to be in on this plan, but others do not.
“Divided We Stand” seems to be filled with characters who think the X-Men disbanding was real, and they're dealing with it like it is. Did they not get the memo about everyone meeting up for a party on the West Coast? If so, why not?
Fraction: You're, uh, sort of blowing the ending there. I know because of the vagaries of publishing and the long lead time we need, we've tipped the west coast thing (of course, if you're reading “Uncanny,” you've already seen this coming like a parade float down main street).
All I can say is, the transition is legit, the characters actions are sincere in the moment, and the X-Men don't have access to Previews or Marvel solicit copy. As you follow “Divided We Stand,” all will be revealed.
2) If the government doesn't think the X-Men exist anymore (due to Scott lying to Tony Stark), why haven't they approached people individually to participate in the Initiative?
Fraction: How do you know they haven't? How does Scott know they haven't?
3) After the Anole and Hellion stories in “Divided We Stand Book One,” I'm beginning to think that X-23 got the best deal out of the New X-Men. Laura's back to doing what makes her most comfortable with “X-Force,” while her former teammates were left to blow in the wind.
Yost: Read “X-Force” issue #4, then decide if Laura got a good deal. (HINT: No.)
Obviously, Vic and Julian aren't happy with their current situations and put the blame on the X-Men. Did Scott and Emma believe that separating the students (and leaving them to their own devices) as a necessary evil? Or are they just overlooking the details while thinking of the big picture plans?
Lowe: I’d say your latter guess would be closer.
Yost: Everything Scott Summers does is for the greater good.
So says Scott Summers, at least. Our pal msierra185 sent in a handful of questions that sounded fun to me. Let’s see what the X-writers think of them.
1) With all of these new changes going around in the X-Universe, what old school characters (good or bad) will be making a comeback?
Fraction: The Blob is now a diet and fitness guru that's huge - pardon the pun - in Japan. And then there's…what's that one guy's name? Weird hat, anger issues...that one guy from that elf movie played him in the other movie...Magenta? No, that's not it. Um...crap, I forget his name.
Carey: The second “Legacy” arc goes right back to Xavier's childhood. We’ll be seeing Carter Ryking again, Cain Marko, and a certain Doctor Nathan Milbury.
In terms of actual X-Men, nobody very big or interesting. I think just Gambit, Cyclops, Wolverine, and Rogue.
Yost: “X-Force” is the book for you, if you’re looking for comebacks. Who won’t be making a comeback may be a better answer. If you’ve read “X-Force” #3, you’ll see. The world is about to get a whole lot more dangerous for mutants.
2) I know what's going to happened to most of the X-students, but what will become of Indra, Trance, Loa, and Match? It would be a shame to waste interesting characters like them. I also wonder where Mercury will end up since she hasn't made any appearance in “Divided We Stand” stories or in any other X-book as of late…
Yost: I can’t believe Cessily won’t land somewhere. Great power, great look, and she’s a sweetheart to boot. We’d use her in “X-Force,” but we like her too much. As for the other kids, keep your eyes on “Young X-Men.”
3) Is there any chance the Initiative will clash with the X-Men soon? What about the New Warriors, since they were once mutants too?
Yost: This just isn’t possible. There is no chance of this. Sorry.
4) So, Chris & Craig - have you read “Young X-Men” yet? Is it hard to see your characters written by others? And what do you think of the direction the characters are moving in?
Yost: I have read “Young X-Men,” and no - it’s not hard to see the characters written by others. It’s not the first time, either - “World War Hulk: X-Men,” “Messiah CompleX,” Carey in “X-Men.” It’s interesting to see other people’s takes on them, but in a good way.
And any direction that has Rockslide fighting Magma is a good one.
Last, but not least, Derek Brunell closes up this week’s Q&A with his list of dreams and hopes…
1) “Divided We Stand” seems to be doing what a lot of fans wanted “X-Men Unlimited” to do. Is there any chance of this title becoming an ongoing for limbo X-characters?
Lowe: No plans for that right now, Derek, but that would be super cool.
2) Chris, has the third part of the “Emperor Vulcan” story been written? Will Polaris, Havok, and Marvel Girl be the ones to defeat Vulcan? Or will other X-Men join the fight?
Yost: There has been talk. I can say no more.
3) Mike, you said you were considering using Fontanelle in a “Legacy” story, but thought it would open up “a can of worms.” With all the internet resources available to consumers, do you think writers still need to shy still away from characters with complicated backstories?
Carey: I think you have to be careful, and you have to work out the balance between present and past pretty scrupulously. The thing is, if you bring in a character with a big weight of backstory, you have to acknowledge the backstory wherever it's relevant.
That can work out fine if your new story sheds light on the older stories or springs off from them in a way that puts them squarely in the spotlight. But it's not good to be bogged down in exposition about things that don't relate to your core story at all…and at the same time, it's not good to sweep them under the carpet.
So the question always has to be, What do I get from this character in terms of momentum and trajectory? Where is he/she going to take the story? There would have been a nice payoff to using Fontanelle in the second “Legacy” arc, but it would have changed the role another character plays and made that other character the center of the story rather than just a grace note.
After the story comes out, I'll be happy to explain that in a less coy and roundabout way.
4) Chris and Craig, do you think it’s believable for the kids to disband at Scott's say so? None of them were shown to have the greatest rapport with him. Why would they listen to him? Wouldn't they think they'd need to say together for mutual survival?
Yost: Yes. Survival was no longer an option at the mansion. Between M-Day, Stryker’s attack, the Acolyte attack, Belasco’s attack, the Sentinel attack and Predator X’s attack - I think the kids were pretty much ready to go. Not all of them, of course. Hellion was against it, obviously. But by and large, I think a lot of the kids would be ready to take their chances at home for a while.
Except Anole. Poor kid. Man, Skottie, why do you have to torture these kids?!? You’re mean. Not like us.
I think everyone will agree that Kyle and Yost coddled those kids too much during their run…
That concludes this week’s X-POSITION barrage. Thanks to all the writers (and Nick) for joining us!
We will be taking next week off, but we’ll be back on May 6 with another huge group of X-personnel to answer your questions.
Who will it be? Well, how about the hard-working editors of the X-books, which includes Executive Editor Axel Alonso, Nick Lowe, John Barber, Aubrey Sitterson and Will Panzo.
So email us all of your questions by Friday, May 2, and we’ll pass them along. Be sure to put “X-Position” in the subject line too, because we wouldn’t want our spam filter to mistake your message for a Cialis ad.