X-POSITION: Gillen Weaves a Sinister Phalanx in "Uncanny X-Men"

Some writers are committed. Some writers should be committed (but I won't say which ones). Scribe Kieron Gillen falls into the former category as he answers your questions thirty thousand feet in the air on his way from across the pond to the Marvel offices. Forget about snakes on a plane -- it's time for X-POSITION on a plane!

Let's see how the writer of Marvel Comics' "Uncanny X-Men" can handle your questions about classic villains, emerging heroes and impending events while hurtling through the skies at 200mph. Secure your tray tables and buckle up!

Our first email comes from Renaldo who was all sorts of villainy on his mind:

What inspired you to use two villains like Sinister and Phalanx in your first "Uncanny" arc? In the case of Sinister, many readers had accepted Mrs. Sinister, so what drove you to kick things off with him?

I wanted a classic heavyweight X-Men villain and Sinister was simply the only one with the appropriate level of gravitas who wasn't already elsewhere in play. Magneto is with the team. Apocalypse is busy over in "X-Force." Sabretooth was already involved in plans you'll be aware of now (and would be annihilated in a millisecond if he went up against the Extinction team, to be honest). Who else but Sinister? No one, that's who. So I tried to work how I could do something that was entirely new yet true to what I saw as the core of the character (mutants as research material, Victoriana, scheming and manipulating, upgrading of self, sinister-ness), and ended up with Sinister is a System -- Sinister is a species and someone whose idea of an escape route is to blow off his own head.

The Phalanx is even odder. Basically, Nick [Lowe] called up and said that Brandon Peterson was available for an issue. "Do you fancy doing a one off with him? How about something with the Phalanx? Brandon does a mean Phalanx." So I had a think for a day or so and decided I didn't have a story with any heart, and I was about to tell Nick that when the idea whole downloaded and I had another issue to write. For me, it was a way to show the themes of the book through a very unusual lens.

Of course, part of me would have liked to drop in a bunch of entirely new villains in the first arc, but since Sinister had been off the table for as long as he had, it seemed a more dramatic pose to strike. And there's all the new stuff you could want in the second arc anyway.

Regarding Miss Sinister, it's worth noting that there's nothing with Mister Sinister that removes Claudine. My Sinister is basically Frankenstein's monster -- Sinister's ultimate creation being an idealized constantly-perfecting version of himself. Claudine is something else entirely -- and perhaps an entirely separate attempt at immortality. What would happen if they ever cross paths? Oh, feel free to speculate. I dare say there's a story or two there.

MarvelMaster616 would probably like the previous answer, but he'd also like to hear about motivations...

1) First off, great job on "Uncanny X-Men" #4. It was a deep, heartfelt issue that also connected with Sinister's plans. Can you talk a bit about what he's doing and why he may be doing it?

Thank you. Regarding what Sinister is up to -- the main theme of him previously has been the Pokemon-catching-them-all-esque-ness of gene hunting. He basically is someone who viewed the world as lab material. By showing him get his hive mind from the Phalanx I make it clear that he viewed everything -- not just mutants -- like this. It's just how he rolls. He sees the world as a Petri dish, a butcher's window or a dissection table. He's perhaps the most entitled man in the Marvel Universe.

What's he doing now? Well, the clues are there to speculate what he's doing now. He's talked about upping his game to match the X-Men's new Extinction team. It's clear that he has a specific interest in Hope -- and having him be the person to finally drop the "P" word at her is probably problematic. And... oh, that's all you're getting. Except that you'll get more in Uncanny's "AvX" issues.

As I said earlier, Sinister's a schemer. Part of my first arc was both tying off his previous schemes and giving an answer... and then starting another one. It wouldn't be a Sinister plot if you weren't wondering "What is he up to?" for half of it.

2) It's been argued on message boards that Cyclops has become a lot like Magneto. His Extinction team evokes both fear and respect for mutants. How close would you say Cyclops is to being like Magneto? At what point would you say the similarities become too egregious?

I think his current position is that he's willing to pretend to be more like Magneto to get what he wants -- which is no one to fight and kill each other. It's a specific tactic for a specific situation for a specific timeframe. From Cyclops' position, it's a case of keeping mutants alive until Hope does whatever Messiah-y things she's born to do -- if embracing the fact they are feared is a short-term compromise he thinks is the best solution. Cyclops is synthesizing various philosophies. There may be more Magneto in there than previous, but it's not the dominant strand by any means.

And to state the obvious: Magneto never formed a super-team to protect the world.

3) I'm sure you've been keeping up with James Asmus' "Generation Hope." In a recent issue, Hope and the Lights "rescued" Sebastian Shaw and brought him back to Utopia. Cyclops certainly wasn't happy about this. Can you clarify when this takes place in the timeline with Uncanny X-Men? How will it affect events and character relationships?

I think you should wait until that story's over to really discuss those kind of elements. Until James has resolved stuff, I fear I'll step on his story.

4) While on the same subject, Emma kept Shaw a secret from Cyclops despite their promise in "X-Men: The Confession" to have no more secrets. Now that she seems to have gone back on this promise, how will that affect her relationship with Cyclops?

Once again, I'll nod at the previous answer. But, yes, this is clearly a tricky one. And there's things shaking up Scott and Emma's relationships soon enough over in 'Uncanny' anyway.

Is there couples counseling on Utopia? Regardless, Derek sent in a query about one of the "services" Utopia offers to certain folks... whether they want it or not:

1) Currently Utopia seems to be housing a numbers a small complement of super-villains (such as Astra, Trista, Mortis, Tattooed Man, Leon Nunez, and Empath) either in their prison or hospital ward. Emma, Danger and Psylocke are apparently trying to rehabilitate these people. What progress are they making?

I really should get around to reading their reports. But Danger writes so boringly. Silly robot.

Seriously -- rehabilitation isn't an overnight business, even in the Marvel Universe. Though there is more than a little focus on Danger's attempts to rehabilitate prison in our third arc in "Uncanny."

2) Is Utopia recognized as a sovereign nation on US soil like Asgard briefly was? Also, will any of those who stayed behind on Utopia regret their decision?

Basically, it's a grey area.

And I think regrets are human -- on either side. You have to presume that some people have nagging doubts. That no one's crossed sides since the Schism suggests that it hasn't reached a critical condition yet.

3) Are things building up to a company-wide event featuring the Celestials? They've been popping up in the X-World, Age of Apocalypse and even in "FF." Is this just a coincidence?

They certainly seem to be on a lot of writers' minds at the moment.

4) The Jean Grey School might have been named after Jean, but after Schism, do you feel she would have sided with Wolverine? What position would she have taken?

Honestly? I'm not entirely sure. I suspect the answer would alter if it was a case of "Jean was alive for the last few years" and "Jean suddenly came back from the death." If the former, you simply can't know how she would have changed in the time.

I guarantee she would have rolled her eyes at Scott and Logan if she heard the dialogue that prompted their fight at the end of Schism. Men! You are useless.

5) Is Magneto still legally the ruler of what's left of Genosha? He left it to Polaris, but would the will of a mutant contain a resurrection clause? Genosha and Utopia certainly have similarities. Does he view it as a failed experiment?

I don't think "Ruler" has a meaning in a country without people. Magneto, whatever faults he has, is only really interested in people. Mutant people, admittedly, but people nevertheless.

I think Genosha is a constant reminder of how it could go wrong. If you think about it, more mutants died on his watch than under any individual mutant "leader." I think "failed experiment" undersells how intensely Magneto feels about it. It was a complete and utter tragedy. Never again.

X wrote in with a membership suggestion for Cyclops' X-squad. Let's see what you think...

Now that Cyclops has lost Wolverine as a team member, is there any chance of replacing him with Daken (since his title is now cancelled)? Cyclops already has a bunch of former villains on his Extinction team, so what's one more?

It's certainly something that could happen -- but I don't think Scott would trust Daken. He's got a lot of reformed villains on his team, but he's more convinced by their reasons for being there than the ever-sociopathically manipulative Daken.

And our pal Marcus Martin sent in several questions that were echoed in other emails I received:

1) How will "Uncanny X-Men" tie into the upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event? Which issue does this start with? And is there any chance Loki will make an appearance?

It'll tie in throughout. I've known about "AvX" from the first issue on the run, and all the running themes should come to their climaxes to tie in with it. Have you read "Journey into Mystery?" You know what I did there with "Fear Itself?" As in, "used 'Journey into Mystery' to tell stories which work both by themselves (as in, they use the events as a backdrop) and as something that meshes intricately with what's happening in its own book." That's basically my model for "Uncanny." And that I've building towards AvX with all my plot threads mean that there's lots of stuff which makes it intensely meaningful for the book.

It starts with issue #11 and I would say it's unlikely that Loki will turn up. But you never know...

2) Given their ties to both teams, how important are Namor and Storm's roles in the upcoming event?

I would say they are important.

3) Will there be an upcoming arc centered around Magik/Illyana and how she moved up the ranks in the X-Men so quickly?

Not an arc specifically about Magik climbing the ranks, but she comes under hard focus in my "AvX" issues.

And now, it's my turn for our quick get-to-know-you question that we like to call "Behind the X." Let's try something a little strange... if there were such a thing as reincarnation, who do you think you were in a previous life?

Well, to be tediously prosaic, odds are it would be someone you've never heard of, who did a boring job and had nothing Wikipedia-entry-worthy in their lives.

Alternatively, 19th century impotent anarchist-beardie Baukinin.

Baukinin? Now I have something to Google today. Thanks Kieron, and have a safe flight!

We'll be keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground for next week's X-POSITION as James Asmus -- writer of "Generation Hope" -- stops by to respond to your emails. I'm sure you have loads of questions about Hope, her involvement in "Avengers vs. X-Men," and what it means for the Lights. Let's see what answers he can offer! So type up those emails and shoot them over to me ASAP. Throw an "X-Position" in the subject line, and I'll spoil the ending of "The Devil Inside" for you (HINT: there is none). Hurry!

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