X-POSITION: Elliott Kalan Swings Into "Spider-Man and the X-Men"

Wolverine's recent high-profile demise may have launched a number of new series, but the loss of its title character threatened to expel "Wolverine and the X-Men" from Marvel's lineup. Fortunately for the students at the Jean Grey School and readers that enjoy reading their exploits, another omnipresent and super popular Marvel Comics superhero has stepped into fill that Logan-sized hole. Tomorrow sees the debut of "Spider-Man and the X-Men," a new ongoing series that will partner the wall-crawler with the mutant superheroes for the foreseeable future. With "The Daily Show" head writer Elliott Kalan at the head of the class, "Spider-Man and the X-Men" looks ready to give readers a lesson in balancing laugh out loud moments with shocking reveals.

Kalan Heads Back to School with "Spider-Man & the X-Men"

In this week's X-Position, Kalan answers your questions about the special class, Hellion's character arc and Spider-Man's place in school full of young mutants.

CBR News: First, a few people wondered if you'll take the chance to play up the "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" angle since both Firestar and Iceman are teachers at the Jean Grey School. Is that in the cards?

I was hoping to fit this in somewhere, but unfortunately the X-students hogged the spotlight so much that I only got to include the most minor acknowledgments of Iceman and Firestar. Anyone who's disappointed should turn to the recent "Amazing X-Men" #7 for all the Amazing Friends they can handle! And now I've officially transitioned from a human being to a living Bullpen Bulletins announcement.

With so many mutants running around on the Westchester campus, solletaire wans to know if we'll get an official headcount.

Will we get a definite roster of the students/staff currently enrolled in the Jean Grey School? Which young X-Men do you plan to focus on? Will you be introducing new mutant characters to the mix?

We won't get a definitive staff/student listing in the first issue, but hopefully we'll be able to fit it into a later one. The Marvel Universe changes so quickly, it's hard to keep the listings up to date. I mean, Maggott isn't on the team anymore? Who knew?! I'm sorry to say there's been more than one instance where I've started to plan a story around a character only to figure out they've since left the school/joined Cyclops/become a villain/died/etc.

Young X-Men-wise, I'll be focusing on Shark Girl, No-Girl, Ernst, Glob Herman, Hellion, Rockslide and Eye Boy -- which isn't that many kids in a class, but it's plenty of characters for me to juggle around in a scene. They're all great characters, but a few of them haven't gotten much time center stage, and that changes now!

As for new characters, my parents always told me to play with the toys I have before I buy new ones. We'll see new combinations of characters, though, interacting in ways that hopefully you'll find unexpected. One of the things I'm enjoying most about this series is the chance to smash together the villains of the X-Men and Spider-Man worlds.

"Spider-Man & The X-Men" to Replace "Wolverine & The X-Men" in December

blinkingblah digs the cast of characters you've assembled for "Spider-Man and the X-Men" and has a question about this curious crop of mutants.

I love that you are using underused characters (which is why I will be buying this book) such as Ernst, Martha and Glob etc. What inspired that decision?

Thanks ahead of time for buying the book! Basically I was inspired by the fact that they're underused characters with a lot of potential, and who I personally have a liking for. I like Glob and Ernst and Martha so much that it was always disappointing to see them usually just show up for a panel or two to help populate the Academy's backgrounds but not get many of their own stories. I can't promise you the definitive Glob or Shark-Girl story, but hopefully I'll show you some fun stuff that will broaden their characters a little.

On top of all that stuff, I just like how visually interesting these characters are. I wanted a team that looks neat and weird, and it doesn't get weirder than a see-through man, a floating brain, and a shark-headed girl. It reminds me of the first time I saw an X-Men comic as a kid in the late '80s and assumed they were some kind of team of alien robots because they looked so strange.

Anduinel speaks for a lot of readers and asks about your plans for Julian "Hellion" Keller.

I was stoked to see that you're including Hellion on the special class roster (despite everything that may eventually entail). I'm quite curious about your intended approach [to] his character. Are there any plans to address some of his past issues, such as the trauma of losing his hands or watching his best friend die, or going a little deeper than the generic angry brat treatment he's mostly gotten lately?

I will admit, I may fall in the angry brat mode more than you'll like. But hopefully his actions are informed by his experiences as a potential mutant leader with a huge destiny ahead of him whose life unexpectedly fell apart, and his future derailed. Now he doesn't know where he's headed anymore and that makes him lash out. He's got a really good reason to be an angry brat! Or at least, just have a major-league chip on his shoulder. My goal for all the characters in the series is to have them experience at least a little bit of growth. By the end of this first storyline, Hellion will hopefully be ready once again to become the guy he was always meant to be.

Wind Rider has a question about how the senior X-Men view Spider-Man's arrival at the Jean Grey School.

How does the JGS faculty, mainly the headmistress Storm and acting headmaster Beast, feel about Spider-Man being at the school? Will we see how Peter came to be a member of the JGS faculty and see their reaction to his joining?

Issue #1 opens with the start of Peter's first day on the faculty, and Storm, Beast and the rest are not happy about the idea. To them it's like a friend crashing a family event. From Storm's POV, it's having an obnoxious smart-aleck bring even more trouble into what's already the most difficult place to run in the world. It's a different reaction than they might have had if this book was coming out, say, five or ten or fifteen years ago. But a lot's taken place in the Marvel U over the past few years that's made the X-Men feel even more embattled and slow to trust than before. Sadly, this also means that there will be no romances between Spidey and any of the X-ladies, despite the wishes of a few message boards I've seen.

Anotherdae wants to know if current "Amazing Spider-Man" events will spill over into your series.

How closely will this Spider-Man story tie-in with events in "Amazing Spidey"? Will you be working with Dan Slott at all?

These stories function kind of as vacations for Spidey from the regular "Amazing" title -- not that he's going to enjoy them at all. I haven't been working with Mr. Slott, to my dismay since I'm a big fan of his. Think of Spider-Man as taking a leave of absence from his regular life to do a favor for the X-Men.

Now that we're living in a post-Terrigen Bomb Marvel U, Zaki Zakaria has a question regarding the new Inhumans.

How soon will the X-Men and the Inhumans collide, considering the NuHumans are everywhere now?

That's a good question... that I don't know the answer to. It won't be happening in this storyline, I can tell you that! I've got my hands too full with mutant-humans, spider-humans, dino-humans, alien-humans...

Tomas hopes you will untangle the continuity knot that is Ernst, one of the more confusing characters in the "Spider-Man and the X-Men" cast

Ernst looks like she's going to be playing a pretty prominent role in Spider-Man and the X-Men, so I've got a continuity-related question for you. Grant Morrison revealed in "New X-Men" #154 that Ernst was actually Cassandra Nova, whose mind had been reprogrammed and placed into the body of a shape shifting alien named Stuff by Emma Frost. However, future stories have complicated this revelation by having Ernst and Cassandra seemingly exist independently. Is there any chance your run will set the record straight on Ernst's origins?

I say this with the double caveat that I think Grant Morrison is a genius, but that the story in "New X-Men" #154 always felt to me more like a play on a theme than straightforward continuity -- more poetry than prose, if that makes sense. I prefer Ernst as Ernst, her own character with her own history, stories, abilities, and so forth. One of the great things about comics, of course, is that we take everything seriously while knowing that it can be changed on a creative whim at any moment. I'm not sure I'll get into her origins -- I'm more focused in these stories on pushing Ernst forward rather than looking back -- but in my mind she's just Ernst.

"Daily Show's" Kalan Prowls the Woods with "Wolverine" & Jubilee

Speaking of Ernst, TrueBelieverTony has a question about her partner in crime, Martha Johansson.

The "Wolverine Annual" you wrote was one of my favorite X-Men issues of last year so I'm super psyched about "Spider-Man and the X-Men," particularly what you plan to do with fan-favorite Martha Johansson. In "Generation Hope," Martha was finally gifted with her own brainy body but it was all too brief, presumably crushing her hopes and dreams. As cool of an image as a floating brain is, do you plan on tackling No-Girl's attempts or desires to have a complete body?

First off, thank you so much for enjoying that "Wolverine Annual!" It meant a lot to me, and I put a surprising amount of real-life stuff in that story about a wolfman and his vampire protege going camping in the woods.

No-Girl's lack of/desire for a body is something that will come into effect in a big way toward the end of this storyline. The question is, what is she willing to do to get that body?

While Spider-Man has been hated and feared before, MarvelMaster616 wonders how he will fit in with the X-Men.

First off, welcome to the chaotic world that is X-Men. Hope you survive the journey! But with respect to surviving the journey, can you talk about how Spider-Man hopes to relate to the mutants at the Jean Grey Institute? Will him not being a mutant be an issue?

Thanks, I hope I survive, too! I'm less worried about the world of the X-Men and more worried about the ire of X-Men fans. I know if I don't do right by them, then I'm in trouble. And then there's the Spider-Man fans to worry about...

Spider-Man's lack of mutanthood is definitely an issue. Like I said earlier, the X-Men are in a place right now where they're less eager to trust an outsider and a non-mutant. Spider-Man doesn't seem to think it's a problem -- he's got powers, they've got powers, what's the diff? But it em a very big diff. His being an Avenger and someone who can easily hide their superhero identity and walk among normal people is a bigger issue than he realizes. At the same time, he's very judgmental about their current, relatively cloistered and mutant-business-focused philosophy. For him, having powers means you help everyone, mutant or not. For them, being a mutant means foremost protecting other mutants in a dangerously anti-mutant world. They're both pretty valid philosophies, and though I don't get too deep ('cause I need to leave lots of room for jokes!), it's that disagreement that drives their conflict.
Also, and I say this despite his being my idol, Spider-Man can be pretty annoying sometimes. So that doesn't help, either.

Special thanks to Elliott Kalan for taking on this week's questions!

Next week, X-Position goes out for chimichangas with "Deadpool" scribe Gerry Duggan. Have a question for Gerry? Go ahead and send 'em in via an e-mail with the subject line "X-Position" or if 140 character questions are more your speed, try Twitter. But get 'em in quickly, because the deadline's Friday! Make it happen!

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