Welcome to another week of X-POSITION! Apologies for the delay of last week's scheduled guest CB Cebulski - don't worry, he'll be here soon enough -- but we have another outstanding X-creator for you today: none other than Greg Pak!
The popular writer of "World War Hulk" and "The Incredible Hercules," Pak is dipping his big toe into the X-Men pool with "X-Men: Magneto Testament" #1, on sale now. Illustrated by Carmine Di Giandomenico, the five-issue Marvel Knights miniseries revisits the origin of X-Men's biggest foe through a historical lens, mixing World War II fact with mutant fiction. The end result is something that is sure to get Magneto fans talking, and may also send readers running to the library to learn more about a pivotal event in human history.
This week's questions were pooled from CBR's extremely lively X-Books forum, where fans wrote in with many thought-provoking queries, so without further ado, let's get right to them and our special guest Grek Pak.
CBR: X-POSITION regular Andre4000 kicks things off for us today with a question that probably hopped to many people's minds after reading the first issue of "X-Men: Magneto Testament."
1) So Magneto's real name is Max Eisenhardt? How did you decide on this name?
Greg Pak: When editor Warren Simons and I first started thinking about Magneto's real name, my mind kept running back to the fact that "Eisenhower" is actually a German name - "Eisenhauer," which literally means "iron striker." With a little poking around, I found out that "Eisenhardt" - meaning "iron hard" - is a German Jewish name. Given the origin story we were working on, that felt like a perfect fit.
In an early draft, I'd named our hero "Ari Eisenhardt," but our sharp-eyed historical advisor, Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, pointed out that "Ari" wasn't as common during our time period as it later became. I poked around some more and finally came up with "Max," which again seemed perfect - a very common Jewish name during the time period that feels just right for the kid at the center of our story but also hints at the "Magnus" to come.
2) I assume we'll come to see him take his uncle's first name. Will we also see where Lehnsherr comes from?
We're focusing on our hero's earliest years, so this miniseries may not be the place where we see Max Eisenhardt become Erik Lehnsherr.
Speaking of those early years, Aspbros had some thoughts on the historical setting of this tale that he wanted to share.
1) Magneto's background is tightly tied in with WWII, however, even with conservative estimates, that would make him in his 60s. I could eventually see the day when a character like the Punisher has his origin changed from the Vietnam War to the Iraq War - do you ever foresee a day when the timeframe for Magneto's origin is changed?
Magneto is one of those very few Marvel characters whose history is so entwined with a specific time period that I just can't see changing it - particularly since we're talking about the Holocaust.
2) Considering how Magneto was treated by Germans for being a Jew as a youngster, was it a challenge for you to take him and turn him into the very thing he hated - a person who is biased against others based on their bloodline?
Our story takes place from 1935 to 1945. And during those years, our hero is exactly that - a hero.
The decision to revisit a character's beginnings is not an easy one to make. Therefore, Ramelito wrote in wanting to know a bit more about how this book came to be.
1) How was the decision made to retell Magneto's origin again? It seems that we've heard it several times before - what's different this time around?
We've seen snippets of his past over the years, but "Magneto: Testament" is the first time we've been able to delve so deeply into both Max's growth as a character and the horrifying ways in which the Nazi state and the Final Solution developed. In particular, to the best of my knowledge, no Marvel series has ever tried to deal with the Holocaust in this kind of depth and with this level of accuracy.
When Warren first told me about the project, the hairs on the back of my neck went up - the prospect of taking on a project this challenging frankly scared me. But I knew I had to tackle it, and do everything I possibly could to get it right.
2) Why the title of "Testament?" Does it have meaning that will be revealed later?
Many of the memoirs from the time period stress the supreme importance of telling the world what happened. I like the word "Testament" because it implies testimony and hints at the sacred. The word also calls up the phrase "last will and testament." And on some level, I could imagine this being the story that the adult Magneto would feel compelled to tell before he dies.
3) Were you privy to any of the plans for the Magneto movie that is being developed? Can we assume that they might look at your origin story (or vice-versa)?
I don't know anything more than the average fan about the Magneto movie, but I'm as excited as everyone else that there's a movie coming out. And of course I'll be thrilled if the buzz about the flick inspires more people to pick up our book.
4) How far will you reach by the end of this story? Will he be "Magneto" by the end? Will you touch on his children's births? And, if so, will we learn anything about Polaris' association with him (or am I hoping for too much)?
I don't want to say too much for fear of spoilers. I'll just say that our series runs from 1935 to 1945, so anyone born thereafter probably won't be making an appearance.
5) Who else might we expect to see in this series? Will Xavier, Sinister, or any of the Brotherhood make an appearance?
Given the subject matter, we made a conscious decision to focus on Max and his family in the most realistic and historically accurate way we could. This is the story of a boy struggling to keep his family alive in the face of the Nazi onslaught and the Final Solution.
Filling the book with super-powered characters would run the risk of detracting from the enormity of the absolutely real horrors committed by the Nazis and the heroism of those who endured and resisted and survived. So, we won't see other X-Men characters with links to World War II, and no Cap or Nick Fury or Sub-Mariner or Toro either, alas.
Wrapping things up for us today, JNapier was curious about the special letter found at the end of the book and wants to know where he will be able to get his Pak "fix" in the future.
1) I read the letter you put in at the end of the story. So how much research did you put into studying this time period?
I have a six-foot stack of histories and memoirs from the time period that I've been going through for the past three years. I've watched every Holocaust-related feature film and documentary I could get my hands on, and, of course, read every Holocaust-related comic book I could find. It's the most harrowing and emotionally draining research I've ever done, but I've never felt so responsible for getting a project right.
Did you learn anything that truly surprised you?
I'd read about the Holocaust before, in middle school and college and beyond, so I was familiar with much of the history. But every day I'd read something that shocked me to the core all over again.
2) Will we actually see Magneto enter a concentration camp (as this has been shown in some versions of his origin)?
Yes. This wasn't a decision we made lightly. But when we undertook this project, we made a commitment to do justice to the material. As I wrote in the afterward to the first issue, we're doing our best to tell this story in a way that's "honest, unflinching, human, and humane." And Max's experiences in Auschwitz aren't just critical to his development as a character - they're an essential part of telling the story of this time period.
3) Can we expect you to do any more writing in X-books in the future? Or are you mostly sticking to the Hulk/Herc books?
The next big project I have coming up is the "War Machine" series that launches in December. I'm really excited about the book - I just got layouts and character designs from Leonardo Manco for the first issue, and they're absolutely through the roof. That, Herc, and Skaar should keep me pretty busy for the time being, but you never know what could come next!
4) You came from the world of filmmaking - are you still involved in it? Are you working on any scripts or are there any production plans in your future?
Oh, I'm always working on something or other in the film world, but nothing to announce publicly just yet. But for the latest, feel free to check out www.pakbuzz.com.
Thanks very much to Greg Pak for stopping by X-POSITION!
Next week, we have a super-duper special treat - Paul Cornell, writer of "Captain Britain and MI 13" (in addition to many books and TV shows, including fan-favorite "Doctor Who"). The most recent issue of the title hits stores this week, so grab it now, read it, love it, think on it, and email us those questions ASAP.
If you put "X-Position" in the subject line, we'll move your email to the head of the queue. Insert a bit of British slang to make our guest feel more at home, and we'll move you up even more. A tuppence for your thoughts? Alrighty, then...