X-POSITION: Kieron Gillen

If you replace the captain of a ship, you typically want to do it when the waters are calm. It's best to create a state of affairs where you can peacefully transition out the old and bring in the new. This is akin to the situation going on behind the scenes of Marvel's "Uncanny X-Men." Writer Matt Fraction ("Fear Itself," "Invincible Iron Man") was joined starting with #531 by scribe Kieron Gillen ("Phonogram," "S.W.O.R.D.") in order to gracefully exit the book and move on to other pressing Marvel projects.

But, let's face it, things are never "smooth sailing" when it comes to the X-Men, are they?

Our merry mutants are still recovering from "Second Coming" and vampire attacks, and now must prepare for the challenges they are sure to face in the upcoming events "Age of X" and "Fear Itself." As the writer of both "Uncanny X-Men" and "Generation Hope," Gillen has his work cut out for himself. He took a quick break, however, to answer some of the many emails I received over the past week. Ready captain? Anchors away...

Madroxdupe is the first sailor on board, and he wants to know who's running the ship:

Kieron, at first I was concerned about the change of writers, but I must say any apprehension has been quelled -- I love your writing! I like your "real world" dialogue and you've knocked the book out of the park. And thanks for using some other X-Men; the Archangel/Storm team-up was great! I was just curious if the Generation Hope team is going to get an official mentor? Or do they fall under Rogue's watch?

Thank you! They should naturally fall over Rogue's watch. For reasons that'll be explained, in the end, they don't. The team gets their new liaison in #6. They don't really "do" mentors, for reasons that'll be clear in #5.

Ms. Zeeg is also concerned about this new crew of mutants, albeit for slightly different reasons:

It seems that everyone Hope saves becomes part of her army -- whether they want to or not. Is there more to this than meets the eye? And will it come into play later?

The influence Hope has over everyone is increasingly on people's minds. It's already been a bit uncanny, but the characters are definitely starting to notice it. Laurie going into the battle against Kenji when she had no real desire to do so in #3 is the penny dropping for her: "This isn't me! Why am I doing this?"

But, yes, the nature of her connection with the lights and certain other mutants is one of the central mysteries in the series. As much as the flashes of a certain flamey-space bird, it's the main thing which makes me feel uneasy around the redhead.

Chase_Stein wrote in to ask about another mutant belonging to this next 'Generation.' But first, some kind words...

Since the first issue, "Generation Hope" has become one of my favorite ongoing series! I really love the dynamic of the team, especially when you give them all a chance to exhibit their powers in turns (like Chris Claremont used to do with characters). They're all so enjoyable to read together!

Thank you! Trying to show what they can each do was definitely on my mind in those first issues. I mean, they've got powers. Let's see 'em use them.

And Kenji Uedo is one of my favorite characters -- ever. I was honestly scared that you're going to turn him into a villain, but I'm glad that you let Hope save him. Now that he's saved though, will he be an integral part of the team? What will his relationship with the other members be like? And will you delve more into his art/ powers?

Kenji's relationship with the team is laid out in #5. So far, we've seen him in a hysterical mode -- which is him, but him stripped of all pretenses and sense. When he's recovered, you'll see him get a little more of the cynical, protective sheen. While he's on the team, he's the one who -- by nature -- positions himself as the outsider.

So, not a villain, but he's the one people are going to have questions about. You can never really be sure with Kenji.

He'll be exploring his powers more. There's a tragedy based around how far he went before being stabilized to be explored, which you start seeing in #4 as well. He could have been anything, and he chose to be this. And there's more about him as an artist too. He's famous, after all. There's at least one admirer of his work on the X-Men... though because he did make a work based on her.

Phoenix Egg had power questions as well, but theirs pertain to a certain redhead:

1) If possible, can you tell us more about Hope's powers? We have learned that she is a mimic, but we don't know any specifics. What are the "rules" to her powers? Can she use any mutant power anywhere at any time? Or do the powers she copies have to be in her immediate vicinity? Is there a limit to the amount of powers she can access at any one time? Is there anything else you can say?

I can repeat what we've shown. She seems to be able to mimic anyone's powers. She's only copied powers of people who are in the vicinity, which may imply that's all she can do. When she mimics someone's power, she seems to actually be more powerful than the person she's mimicking. But, most importantly, she burns out quickly when she does it.

Oh, and she stabilizes other newly-activated mutants when she touches them.

The fun thing about Hope is that she's very much her father's daughter. She'll only use her power as a final resort anyway. She's much happier pulling a gun or kicking someone in the face.

2) Is Hope's father someone significant? Or am I thinking too hard about an ordinary case of an absent father?

He certainly could be significant -- not revealing anything there -- but I'm much more interested in the man who actually raised her. Cable's sacrifice is the shadow which hangs over Hope throughout all these "Generation Hope" stories, even if she's not one to talk about it.

In short -- in a real way, because of the sacrifice, what she does has to matter or it retroactively makes his death meaningless. She's putting herself through the ringer.

Taurean is an X-POSITION regular and he has a couple queries about the membership of mutant groups in both your books:

1) Hope seems to have a cult following after she helped the new mutants control their powers. Is it possible we will see her have her own mutant faction that rivals Scott's mutant union? It would be awesome to see Scott and the "old school" mutants interact with Hope and her new mutant cult.

The peace (or not) between Scott and Hope is absolutely a source of drama. In #5, they basically try and create some kind of relationship to work together, but it's clear that they absolutely don't see totally eye to eye. Hope, for all her toughness, is an absolute idealist. Scott has ended up walking a very pragmatic road.

There's going to be tension there, and it could always turn bad.

Sorry for the non-answer there, but I wanted to say more than "maybe!" It's absolutely something I'd want readers to think about. I mean, Scott is certainly thinking about the potential cult-like nature of people around Hope, as we'll see in issue #6.

2) In the "Uncanny" book, will we see a core group of X-Men or will the book still focus on the entire mutant cast on Utopia? And have you now completely taken over "Uncanny," or are you still tying up story kernels left by Fraction?

Well, I'm following on from Matt. I want it to feel like an ongoing book (because it is an ongoing book). So character arcs and directions which were set in play by Matt will continue to dovetail gracefully onwards. Or as gracefully as I'm able to, anyway.

But in terms of main story arcs, it's me generating stuff from where we are now... which includes some stuff Matt put in motion: the hiring of Kate Kildare for PR strikes me as a brilliant thing to do, and I put her to task on Magneto in my first actual issue.

In terms of the Utopia/core-team question... well, what I'm aiming to do is focus a little tighter. If we have a character in an arc as anything more than a cameo, it's going to be a meaningful arc for them in terms of creating real change in the character. So the first arc is absolutely something that shakes up Colossus and Kitty, for example. By focusing a little tighter, I'm hoping to give the characters I do use more room to grow.

At the same time, it is on Utopia, everyone is on Utopia, so it's possible that anyone could drop by. In my second arc, while it's emotionally focused on a core cast, it's such an enormous conflict that the whole force of Utopia is put into play.

I think that answers the question. Let's hope so, eh?

Thanks for the food for thought -- I'm stuffed! Mr. Brower is now bringing out the dessert and wants to discuss a few more specifics regarding Hope:

Kieron, I have been a fan of the X-Men for many, many years and Jean Grey has always been my favorite character. Therefore, I'm curious -- are we ever going to hear more regarding when Emma saw Hope and the Phoenix effect manifesting behind her (which triggered Emma remembering Jean telling her to prepare)? It just seems like it's been kind of forgotten. I would also think Emma would have said something to Cyclops by now.

She has. And you definitely get some more on the Hope/Emma axis in #5. It's there and it's shaping the Mutant-High-Command's decisions. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to mention it directly to her. I mean, one of the key things which pushed Jean into her Dark Phoenix moment was the fact she was mentally unstable due to the influence of the Hellfire Club. They've got a tough but grieving girl. How are you going to drop "Oh, we think you may have a cosmic world-destroying deity in your head. Don't stress now!" on her without possibly precipitating something bad? They're watching her, and watching her closely.

And are we ever going to see Hope talk about the locket Cyclops gave her which has photos of him and Jean in it? That fact also seems to be neglected.

I haven't got anything planned in the immediate future with it -- bar that it's in her room on Utopia, as I think Jamie drew in #5.

MarvelMaster616 sent in a slew of questions. Be sure to breathe between answers!

1) I know you've gotten so many questions about Hope Summers and Jean Grey that you're probably tired of them. However, I can't help but think of Grant Morrison's Jean Grey when I read Hope in "Generation Hope." Do you think the long list of similarities is hurting her character? Even if she is different in many ways, what do you say to those who call Hope a Jean rip-off?

I'll admit it: bar the physical appearance, I really don't get it.

Jean wouldn't walk around with guns for a start. She wouldn't impulsively ignore the rest of the team and go off on her own desires (ala the first "Generation Hope" arc). She didn't have the odd state of grace that Morrison's Jean had -- and I mean "grace" in its religious sense (e.g. the bit where she lets Sage into her mind in the Emma-Frost-Murder-Mystery arc). The temper is about the only real connection I can see, and Hope's temper is much more a physical thing. Hope punches people out when she's annoyed with them, as a matter of first course.

Jean wouldn't go around wearing a ratty scarf for a month either.

2) Beyond the Jean issue, do you think Hope is a bit over-powered at the moment? She has every mutant power at her disposal plus the Phoenix Force. How do you temper something like that?

I described what powers she appears to have earlier. Yes, they're hefty, but -- at least at the moment -- they're also very limited use.

Generally speaking though? Yeah, she's a powerhouse. She should scare people. She scares people far more than she's actually aware of yet... though the realization is kinda growing on her.

3) I know Matt Fraction will be writing "Fear Itself," but how will the events of that series affect "Uncanny X-Men" and "Generation Hope?" And which characters will take center stage?

I can't say the villain for our arc tying to "Fear Itself" yet, but he's one of my favorite X-Men villains. Since the arc is on such an epic scale, it's the sort where you'll see cameos from just about everyone, but its core emotional focus is on Emma/Scott/Namor and Peter/Kitty/Magik. And "Fear Itself" doesn't really affect "Generation Hope" that much -- though they'll appear in 'Uncanny' as part of the army of cameos. Generation Hope are, er, up to other stuff, which I can't talk about yet.

4) You've mentioned that an upcoming issue of "Uncanny X-Men" will cover the public's perceptions of Magneto joining the X-men. Given his history, how will the X-Men and their PR firm convince everybody that Magneto won't cause trouble? Do the X-Men even believe he's going to stay on their side?

Dude! That's the plot for the issue. Leave me with something to amuse you with when you read it. Alternatively, I could tell you now and then change the script so it's just the X-Men on Utopia, performing an enormous, thrilling dance-routine. I like this idea! It's the perfect excuse for the Dazzler Spotlight issue I've been dying to write.

In short -- Kate knows it's a hard-sell, but has a few ideas. Convincing Magneto that they're a good idea is the first battle, however.

Do the X-men believe Magneto's entirely redeemed? Hell, no. He's Magneto! A good chunk of them don't even trust Emma yet.

That hurt Magneto's feelings -- so Magneto wrote in (believe it or not) wanting to know about his followers:

Are we going to see any Magneto and Acolyte interaction since Unuscione and the rest of Magneto's Acolytes still live on Utopia? With all the devotion Unuscione had for Magneto, it was quite the sight for her to take the hard line against him during their run in over in "X-Men: Legacy" when he didn't have his powers.

I don't have any plans for it at the moment. Since Mr. Carey has been using the Acolytes more than "Uncanny" has, I suspect it's more likely to turn up in "X-Men: Legacy." I'd like to read that too.

If you have any special requests, Kieron, I'd be happy to pass them along at the next Mike Carey X-POSITION. In the meantime, NYC12182 would like you to sing a round of the Sister Sledge classic...

One of the things that have kept me away from X-Men in recent years is their lack of family-like unity, which is what drew me in initially. They were outsiders drawn together by their differences. Will we some of the familial elements return anytime soon? It feels like the X-Men are an army now and things are too perfect -- I miss the emotion and drama the team used to have...

The difference between a wartime organization -- which is what the X-Men have been during "Second Coming" -- and a peacetime organization is absolutely a key theme for "Uncanny" across the next year. I'm not sure I'd agree with you that they're "perfect" -- while a more military organization, there's a lot of obvious tension bubbling here -- but the question of whether certain things are still needed and how they can change them (or not) will rise to the fore.

Generally speaking, within that format, I'm trying to draw tight focus in on the characters and their emotions with my arcs. The 'Breakworld' arc is... oh, you'll see. Very emotional. Also...stabby.

Stabby? We'll stand by with Band-Aids. Our final email of the day comes from We R. Venom, and he's curious if you play favorites:

Kieron, every X-writer has their own set of characters they want to use or write. Was it easy for you to decide which X-Men you want to use since there are so many? Or was it a long process for you?

My choices have been guided by the situation I found them. We're on Utopia. These characters are prominent in the day-to-day-running of it. Hence, they're going to be my main cast. And that cast evolves on an arc basis -- I mentioned Magik earlier, but she becomes much more important with "Fear Itself," when previously she hasn't been a core character on "Uncanny" at all.

Really, I don't try to think about who are my favorites, but just try and see who's actually important and relevant to the story of the X-Men. There's certainly characters who I want to use more, but I'm not going to warp the story to slide them in.

Man! These have all been fairly serious answers. After Kathryn [Immonen] had so much fun last week, I feel like the boring guy in grey -- the saddest of emoticons, burning across the sky...

We certainly have gotten our money's worth in today's X-POSITION! But now it's my turn with today's "Behind the X" question. If you don't mind, please tell us what your worst vacation was... and why?

I was the sort of kid who hated holidays on principle. The idea of going somewhere where there was sun and away from everything I actually cared about was something I dreaded. The silver lining was seeing the holiday-arcades, which were kind of temples in my imagination. As an adult... well, I haven't gone on many "holidays" (which I define as "going somewhere for no reason at all." I travel lots, but there's normally an excuse). I've only really started going again now, due to the influence of my delightful Bride-Elect. And I'll admit, they're growing on me.

Here's me writing about the last one, which was actually -- whisper it -- a bit awesome.

Worst one ever? I've got memories of a trip to Blackpool when I was a kid. Walking down the beach in the pouring rain, trying to catch fish in a crisp-packet attached to a twig...

Thus concludes today's X-citing X-capade, but we'll be back next week to talk about mysterious mutants -- served with a side of noir -- with "X-Factor" writer Peter David. Read up, write up, and send me those questions just as soon as you can. Putting an "X-Position" in the subject line will win you the admiration and respect of our peers; try it and see! Now get those emails to me -- I'm waiting...

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