In writing fiction, playing with time-travel opens a giant can of worms. If a character can travel back and forth across the timestream, shouldn’t they be able to fix any problem in their past? But by fixing the problem, does that eliminate the need for them to go back in time in the first place, which means they never time-travelled and the problem is still there?
And that’s only one convoluted scenario.
Along those same lines, Entertainment Weekly recently printed an article concerning the “Heroes” television show — “Heroes: Five Ways to Fix a Series in Crisis” — that laid some of the show’s current woes at the feet of its time-travel element (be sure to read CBR’s rebuttal to the article as well!). If a writer needs a character to travel in time, they better think it through and establish “rules” around this ability.
Thankfully for Marvel Comics fans, that’s exactly what Duane Swierczynski has done in “Cable,” as his hero hops through the future with the mutant Messiah child in tow whilst being pursued by Bishop. That’s not to say readers of the book don’t have questions though. Fortunately, Swierczynski has joined us here in today’s X-POSITION to ruminate and illuminate. So let’s take a jump to the left and do the Time Warp!
CBR: We start things off today with a handful of questions from skroller, who apparently is a fan of “Heroes” too.
1) The kid has aged quite a bit since the series first started. How old are both the kid and Cable now?
Duane Swierczynski : In the current story arc, she’s four and a half. It’s hard to pinpoint Cable’s exact age, but I do know that AARP has been sending him mailers for awhile now.
2) Why did you make the decision to jump so many years into the future and age the two characters? Are you trying to get to age them to a certain point quickly?
From the beginning, this series has been about Cable keeping the baby safe until she’s old enough to manifest her mutant abilities and (presumably) take care of her own self and chose her own destiny. However, mutant abilities typically show up around puberty. If we let the baby age in real time, we’d get around to seeing some answers in, oh, say 2020.
So we always intended for the series to show the baby growing up quick. Not soap opera quick, where she’s leaving the birth canal in one episode, then going through her third messy divorce the next. But quick enough to show her growing up and learning who she is from a man who has absolute faith in her.
3) If Cable can only jump forward in time, is it possible he’ll bump into someone who is smart enough to fix his time machine and then he can go home?
Hopefully, but you know, things aren’t looking too good on planet earth. Cable will be lucky to find someone who can mend one of his 865 pouches, let alone a complex piece of gear like his time machine.
4) One of the current problems with the TV show “Heroes” is that the characters don’t seem to make wise choices with regards to time-jumping. For example, if Bishop finds Cable and the kid are on a certain day and time, instead of attacking them then and there, why doesn’t he wait a day, go back in time and hide at that location, and surprise attack them? Or heck, just plant a bomb where he knows they will be and set it to go off at that time? Bishop can travel back in time, right?
I don’t know if you caught the “King Size Cable Spectacular” in September, but that examined Bishop’s strategy (and how Cable responded) along these lines. Bishop’s big problem is that even though Cable can only jump forward, there’s still a needle-in-a-haystack problem. And once Cable learned that Bishop was on his trail, he did everything he could to litter that trail with traps and blind alleys. You basically have a street-smart cop vs. a soldier with a gift for battlefield tactics duking it out all over the future. There are no easy kills here.
5) As Apocalypse and Sinister seem to have lives that go on forever, is there any chance they will play a factor in Cable or the Messiah Child’s future? You have to figure that those two would be especially interested in the kid…
Funny you mention that, skroller, because…[closes hand over mouth before saying anything else]. Keep your eyes peeled!
As long as we’re on the topic of guest appearances, ChickRockGuitar has a request…
Anymore X-Force upcoming guest spots in the future?
In Cable’s future you mean? Or future issues of “Cable”? (See what kind of problems you can have when you write time-travel stories?)
I can say that the time we’re going to be spending with X-Force in the current arc — “Waiting for the End of the World” — is but a mere glimpse of the X-Force-iness to come.
Ashley is up next, and there are a few things that seem to be rubbing her the wrong way. Duane, can you give her a scratch?
1) One of my frustrations with “Cable” so far is that there’s been so little revealed about the Messiah Baby that it makes Cable and (especially) Bishop’s motivations unclear. It’s been a year now since she first appeared in “Messiah Complex,” and we’re no further along at learning what makes her so special, why Cable wants to protect her, or what she does to provoke a character like Bishop to want to kill her? Are these things that will be addressed in “Cable” soon, or is this something that is being reserved for the core X-book or the next crossover event?
Ah, I get it Ashley. You were one of those people who wishes Orson Welles had opened “Citizen Kane” with the line: “Ahhhrrg, I’m dying now, but I can’t help but think of Rosebud, the sled I had as a child…”
Or maybe you wanted the opening crawl to “Episode IV” to read: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was this evil dude in a black mask who had these two crazy kids, y’see…”
Seriously, hang with us. The answers are coming, and I hope you think it’ll be worth the wait. I will say that at least one of the questions you ask will be addressed in one of the X-books within four months.
2) Why doesn’t Bishop just travel back in time and kill the baby’s mother before she’s born, rather than hunting for Cable in the future?
I’m sure Bishop would, if he knew the identity of the mother. Or if he was able to travel back before his initial jumping-off point — when he took the time-traveling arm from Forge’s lab. But he can’t, so he has to do it the hard way.
3) Also, any chance Rachel Summers will appear in “Cable” once she returns from space?
As Tom Petty once said, “The future is wide open.”
Toboe had a question about “Cable” and other Marvel works under your pen, such as “Iron Fist.” We’ll kick things off though with the question that’s on topic…
1) Bishop seems to have the best intentions behind his recent violent actions against Cable and the girl, but it's hard to sympathize with him when he doesn't really explain himself. Are we getting some background on his beliefs any time soon? Can you spill any details on this now?
Bishop’s story is one that’s always been told in pieces across the various X-books, but never all in one place. We’ve dropped hints throughout “Cable,” but there’s a story on the way that will finally, definitively, explain it all.
2) Will you be working on any other X-character outside of “Cable,” like you did with the recent “Wolverine Annual”?
Yes, and in fact, you’ll be hearing about it within a few weeks. I can say no more, otherwise Bishop will travel back in time and kill my mother.
3) Over at “Immortal Iron Fist,” it seems like the Immortal Weapons are becoming a bigger presence in the next arc, so I was wondering if we'll eventually get a glimpse of their individual legacies over the years?
Okay, one hint for you: Woof woof.
We close things out today with Ramelito, who references both the literary and cinematic world in his queries:
1) What is your take on Cable as a character? What other literary character would you compare him to? And — silly question here — but if you were to pick an actor to play him, who would you choose?
I think Cable’s a tired soldier who’s seen it all but has been pressed into service one last time for the most important mission of his career. His mind is sharper than ever, and he’s got a mind for war that younger soldiers would kill for. But see, that’s just the problem — he’s not a young soldier anymore.
Great question about literary characters, Ramelito. There’s a stew of influences in my head, ranging from Captain Ahab to James Crumley’s C.W. Sughrue. I’m drawn to tough old men in fiction — in fact, so much so that I edited an anthology of “geezer noir” stories about tough old birds. There’s a cruel irony in that once you’ve lived long enough to finally have a handle on life, your body starts to break down on you. I gave Cable a lawn in this current arc just so he can tell people to stay off it.
Actors? That’s not a silly question at all. I’ve always had Clint Eastwood in mind. Clint Eastwood on steroids.
2) Cable seems like a prepared guy, but what is his overall plan? If he honestly believes that the Messiah Child will save all mutants in the future, hasn’t he already hopped past that point in time? How does he intend to get the kid back? And if the child does such “wonders” and makes things so great, how come the futures that Cable and the kid are in all suck?
Cable and Bishop have jumped into a timeline that is very unfamiliar to both of them. Imagine the fate of the baby as a coin toss: heads she lives (the future Cable wants), tails she dies (the future Bishop wants). Well, this timeline is basically the coin landing on its edge… and staying there. Neither future has come to pass, and we’re left in a kind of nightmare future.
When Cable took the baby to 2032, it was meant to be a quick stop, just to take stock of the world before moving on. Why did he choose that year? What did he expect to see? Cable hasn’t told us yet. But once Bishop showed up, Cable’s plans had to change. How will he get the girl back eventually? Well, that assumes he’ll be the one to bring her back…
3) I also have an Iron Fist question. How do you view this book? Brubaker and Fraction made it a lot about the Kung Fu and the legend of Iron Fist (which was great). But how do you see Danny Rand interacting with the here and now? What about his dealings with his corporation? And what do you feel drives the character?
Danny’s an Immortal Weapon, but he’s also a big kid — it’s kind of a case of arrested development. And with that comes a lot of good and bad. He has a kid’s sense of moral justice…but also a kid’s goofiness. It makes him so much fun to write about. That said, Danny’s life will always be a balancing act between the mystical battles and the street-level concerns. He’s got one foot in heaven, another in Times Square. That kind of thing would mess with anybody’s head.
But I’m very interesting in continuing the legend of the Iron Fist in little pieces through the main book as well as in one-shot specials. The next arc will have a ton of Iron Fist lore, as a matter of fact.
That wraps up this week’s time-travelling jaunt, but have no fear, because we will return in just seven short days. Our guest at that time will be none other than writer Christos Gage, who will be here to answer questions about his “X-Men/Spider-Man” miniseries (and he might have time to talk about one or two of those non-mutant Marvel books he writes as well).
Issue #1 of the mini arrives in stores this week. Buy it, read it, and send us your questions ASAP. Putting “X-Position” in the subject line guarantees your email will be treated with all the kindness non-mutants like us can muster.