For the past several months, X-POSITION has covered the events leading up to -- and coming out of -- the “Messiah CompleX” crossover in Marvel’s mutant books. We’ve talked with various writers and editors about the outcome of this event and its implications for the future. As a matter of fact, we’ve poured over the details of “MC” in such excruciating detail, we wouldn’t blame you -- our faithful readers -- if you felt as though you might need a little break.
This week we are joined by the writers of “X-Men: First Class” and “Wolverine: First Class,” Jeff Parker and Fred Van Lente, respectively. Together, these writers and their books cover the early days of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in a way that’s friendly to new readers and fun for avid fans. How much fun? If their books are even a third as entertaining as this week’s X-POSITION, it should be clear.
As this X-POSITION is all about (first) class, let’sstart us off with several “classy” questions of our own.
Of all the books in the X-Men line, what purpose do you two feel “X-Men: First Class” and “Wolverine: First Class” serve?
FRED VAN LENTE: Jeff has often told me that the only reason he writes “X-Men: First Class” is to put forward the controversial political theories of his mentor, twelve-time presidential candidate Lyndon Larouche. This is why the X-Men almost always fight the British Royal Family.
JEFF PARKER: Similarly, “Wolverine: First Class” serves the agendas of the Trilateral Commission, though in entertaining serial form. Wolverine represents Japan, Kitty stands in for America, so on. Not since the “Wizard of Oz” has an author’s take on society and politics been so transparent.
Some have compared these books to “gateway drugs” -- if drug use made you smarter and more well-rounded in your comics reading.
Is the intent to always stick with the done-in-one (maybe two) issue format?
FVL: Yes, although what appears to be a done-in-one format is actually an “unlimited issue format,” also known as “as many issues until it gets cancelled” format; and that all of “X-Men: First Class” actually ties together into one single “uber-arc” because Jeff Parker is a genius.
JP: Fred is right… on that last part. These books don’t have to be done-in-one the way Marvel Adventures books do because they assume some familiarity with the characters. And most back-info is filled in by the famous [editor] Nate Cosby recap pages, which are now the top-selling point of the books.
With the format of the books primarily being one-offs, do you feel you are able to grow the characters’ personalities sufficiently? Or do you have to “Archie” things up, whereby characters behave as though previous events didn’t occur?
FVL: As Jeff Parker’s personal spokesman, I would just like to register my displeasure at the use of the term “Archie” to describe his work. I am, in fact, in possession of leaked internal Archie Comics emails in which it is explained that the latest “Betty & Veronica Super-Special Digest” was “Parkerized” by approximately 58% percent, resulting in a huge spike in sales.
I could show you these memos whenever I want, but I just don’t feel like it right now.
JP: And I would likewise classify Fred’s series as more “Diltonized.”
The only thing that really restricts how much we can grow the characters is that these books are set in the past, and things happened after them (or the X-Mansion would be better known now as Chuck Xavier’s Ravetastic Crib).
What part does continuity serve in each series? Is it just a leaping-off point? Or do you put it aside?
FVL: I know for a fact that one of Jeff Parker’s favorite activities is an ongoing dialogue with the attentive Marvel Handbook writers who guide him gently around potential continuity landmines, so that every issue of “X-Men: First Class” fits perfectly into established X-Men history like a hand in an expertly-tailored glove.
In fact, the recent Mysterio issue of “X:FC,” with the adventures of the “Continui-Teens” was a loving homage to those hardworking individuals.
JP: Damn you, Fred. I will never let you get your answers in first again. Ever.
Do you two interact at all in discussing stories?
FVL: Jeff Parker is working closely with the very handsome and “superbad” writer of “Wolverine: First Class” for a massive “First Class” line-wide crossover event that will change the “First Class” universe forever.
And by “forever,” I mean “not much at all, really.” But it should be cool to see the two different eras of X-Men interacting, don’t you think?
JP: I personally can’t wait until Fred finally returns my phone calls to plan this mini-epic!
Both of you often seem to work a lot on “kid-friendly” titles. What do you feel is the trick to making good “all-age” books?
FVL: I think this question is in very poor taste because of Jeff Parker’s lifelong struggle with Tourette’s Syndrome.
My understanding is that Jeff kidnaps local children and acts out his scripts in front of them until he has “focus-grouped” them to all-ages perfection. Or until the cops come.
JP: Fred is of course, joking, when in fact -- CROTCHROBBER! BLADDERBUSTER! FECALSTEW! -- we both often have to be cleaned up by the editors -- SKANKASM! -- and reminded of the guidelines. I try to get into a “Pixar Mode” when it’s time to write “First Class,” because they prove constantly that all ages does not have to be anywhere close to lame. BUTTOCKSSHAMAN!
What kinds of adventures can fans look forward to in these two books? What about the other Marvel books you’re working on -- any hints there?
FVL: Can’t get enough of pro-Lyndon Larouche subliminal messages? Well, Jeff plans on putting 142 of them in an upcoming issue. The lucky boy or girl who finds them all gets to be Larouche’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee.
JP: The one in “W:FC” I’m most excited about is when Fred revisits the famous “Giant-Size X-Men” #1 to show us more of Banshee’s afternoon at the Grand Ole Opry! We find out that he didn’t leave with Professor Xavier right away, but rather the two stayed to enjoy sets by Flatt and Scruggs, the Carter Family, and the man in black himself, Johnny Cash!
What’s so brilliant is that this is prequel to the most unlikely evil mutant switchover ever done, when Logan and Kitty team up with Krakoa the Living Island to take on Juggernaut -- color me envious!
Now it’s time to check our mailbag! Our first question comes from Jo Wynn, and it’s a nice, cold one.
I’m a big fan of the “X-Men: First Class” book and, coincidentally, an even bigger Iceman fan. And since the beginning of “X:FC,” I’ve noticed lots of Iceman love in your writing in the way you’ve given a creative nod to his powers in each issue. However, after the initial eight issues, that has seemingly died down in the ongoing series. Is there any reason for this?
FVL: Bobby and Jeff Parker aren’t speaking to each other because Bobby borrowed Jeff’s digital video camera, and then (after keeping it way longer than the weekend he said he would) when he brought it back it didn’t work anymore, and swears up and down it was working fine when he last used it, and at this point Jeff is just, like, “Look, I don’t care if you broke it or not, I just want you to admit it. I want people to tell me the truth.”
And then Bobby was all, like, “Are you calling me a liar?” and Jeff was, like, “If the shoe fits!” And Bobby was like, “If you were a man, I wouldn’t let you talk to me like that.” And Jeff was like, “I am a man!”
And by this time a pretty big crowd had gathered in the parking lot, and Bobby was like, “Don’t start what you can’t finish.” And then Jeff said, “Finish this!” and pushed him. And then Bobby shot him with his freezing power and Jeff turned into, like, this big icicle, and then a stiff wind blew through and Jeff fell over and shattered into a thousand pieces. And now Jeff Parker is dead.
JP: I actually felt I was maybe letting Bobby hog the ball and steal the show way too much. But, as you’ll see in upcoming issues, my resolve faded and Bobby is right back in front of the camera again. In fact, it’s probably time for him to go visit his equally insufferable counterpart, Johnny Storm...
Let’s see if Kellen D. can get us back on track with her queries…
1) Regarding “Wolverine: First Class,” is there any chance that we will see a villainous Rogue in this series?
FVL: Oh, yes.
2) Will other early X-Men, such as Mimic or Changeling, show up in “X-Men: First Class”?
FVL: Jeff Parker says that two of your favorite “X-Men: First Class” characters are, in fact, Mimic and Changeling…except that you will never find out which ones because they will never reveal their true identities.
JP: What did that even mean? Some friends like Karl Kesel have been egging me on to put Mimic in there. Now, I’ve always seen him as the bargain-bin Super Skrull, but I’m starting to think of how he could work. So, a definite “maybe.”
Kellen, a definite maybe is better than a possible certainty, so enjoy!
Next up, X-POSITION regular Marcus Martin sent in a handful of questions. Gee, I hope these two writers aren’t too bashful to answer…
1) Fred, I just love your work in “Incredible Hercules,” so I was wondering if maybe, down the line, Wolverine and Kitty could meet up with Hercules?
FVL: Thanks Marcus! I wasn’t planning on it, but since you’ve planted the idea in my brain, who knows? I know Jeff Parker would like to see that.
JP: That is so true.
2) Fred, are there any other X-Men foes, outside Sabretooth, that Kitty and Wolverine will face off in future issues?
FVL: In emulation of the great Jeff Parker, I am actually consciously trying to stay away from the usual X-Men villains to introduce Wolverine and Kitty to new, unique threats like the High Evolutionary and the Soviet Super-Soldiers. But expect to see X-related characters like Alpha Flight, Dazzler, Rogue, Sabretooth, etc. from time to time.
3) Will there be meetings/team-ups with other Marvel Heroes in either book?
FVL: Would you believe Jeff Parker? No? How about Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu? One of those I am serious about.
JP: You’re using Shang-Chi? Noooo!!! I wanted to use him! I hate you, Van Lente!
4) Jeff, “Marvel Adventures: The Avengers” is great, but I have to ask -- when is the Avengers team going to be facing off against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants?
JP: Likelihood -- never, because I’m already bad about throwing in more Avengers into a story than human artists can reasonably stand to draw. If I threw in the Brotherhood too, we’d have a full-on artistic revolt on our hands.
5) In “X-Men: First Class,” can there be an issue when we can focus on the Beast?
JP: Yes, there can (to use a non-LaRouche political slogan)! We’ve been saving up the Beast Love, but it’s coming your way!
Congrats Marcus! You’re getting some Beast Love from Jeff Parker (although you may want to rephrase that statement when bragging to your friends).
Lastly, BeBop wrote in with an unusual question, but it’s been an unusual X-POSITION, so why not?
Fred and Jeff, if you could choose to be any X-Men character, who would you be and why?
FVL: Jeff Parker would be Dazzler…but only because he has the mutant power to turn sound into light.
JP: Fred would be Nightcrawler, because he’s all bamf-ing in with his zingers and one-liners then bamf-ing away before you can retort properly.
Any response to that, Fred?
Where’d he go?
And that concludes this week’s two-ring circus, but once again, we’ll be here to bring on da X-funk in seven short days. Next week, we’ll have some special guests to answer your questions about “X-Men: Divided We Stand Book One,” on sale now.
What kind of “special guests?” How about the book’s writers, which includes Mike Carey, Matt Fraction, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost and Skottie Young? FIVE writers -- no waiting. Who loves you, X-readers? X-POSITION does.
As usual, send those emails by this Friday. If we see “X-Position” in the subject line, we'll give you a gold star (and you’re more likely to get your questions answered). And be sure to check out CBR’s coverage of this weekend's New York Comic Con -- it’s guaranteed to be a good time!