X-POSITION: Kieron Gillen

There are some new kids on the X-block, and they're young, ambitious, and backed by Hope - although in this case, that Hope is literal. We are naturally talking about Marvel Comics' newest ongoing X-series, "Generation Hope," written by Kieron Gillen ("Phonogram," "S.W.O.R.D."). The first issue arrived in stores this month and from the emails received for this week's X-POSITION, it seems fans approve of this addition to the Marvel mutant universe.

The leader of this new team is Hope, a young lady who may just be the Mutant Messiah. This raises many questions, but that's why this column exists - to get you answers. We're providing you with a direct line to Mr. Gillen himself (who will also be co-writing "Uncanny X-Men" beginning in December), and all signs indicate he's up to the challenge. So it's time to reach into that virtual mailbag of our and let the queries fly!

MarvelMaster616 is back this week and he starts things off with a question that's on everyone's mind:

1) In Hope's diary of the first issue, she mentioned that others told her about the Phoenix Force. Did anyone mention Jean Grey? It's been well-established that Hope has red hair and green eyes. Has anyone brought up that she bears an uncanny resemblance to her?

I want to write a gag along the lines of "Hope looks nothing like Jean! Hope's not at all moldy" - but I'm not sure I'll get away with it.

The splendid essay at the back of the issue - the work of Mike O'Sullivan from Jeph York's premise - is basically an entertaining way of presenting Hope's story so far. As such, it's going to have to be a little bit more explicit about stuff which Hope may or may not be as sure on, so anyone new to the book knows that the cosmic-firebird imagery has a disturbing precedent. I wouldn't take it as 100% literal canon in its flourishes, except the part about peanut butter.

(That's hyper-ur-canon. Hope loves Peanut butter. You will believe the Mutant Messiah can make a tasty sandwich).

So it should be taken as Hope's aware that something is up and people aren't really telling her about it yet. If we're going to have someone sit down and tell hope about the Phoenix and Jean Grey, that'll happen on panel and will be important.

People are being sensitive about it for the understandable reason that it's a lot to drop on someone. They're watching, trying to support her, and seeing if it is actually a real thing or something else. To stress the point: Hope has lost her father a couple of weeks - at most - ago. No one wants to drop a "Oh, some of us are worried you may be a planet-killing cosmic force" on her. Especially since, in her emotional state, it could - hypothetically - be the sort of thing that could precipitate a real disaster.

On the other hand, Hope's a smart girl. If no one tells her - given enough time - she's going to find it out for herself.

That's a long and rambling answer when I could have just said, "No."

Er...no, they haven't mentioned she looks like Jean.

2) Back during "Messiah CompleX," Cyclops gave baby Hope a locket that contained a picture of him and Jean. Does Hope still have that locket? Is that issue ever going to be revisited?

This time I will do a short answer: wait and see.

That's better, yeah? A proper Marvel-writer-esque tease. I'm a pro, me.

3) I'm a little bit confused on Laurie's powers. Could you please explain what she does, or is that something that cannot be revealed just yet?

She can fly, basically.

Man, that's underwhelming. But yes, she can fly. There was a vague original-five symbolism underlying our thinking - which isn't exactly one-for-one - and in power-set terms, she's the team's Angel. A physically enhanced flyer with a form that's adapted for that purpose. It's the latter part of that concept where she separates herself from general flyers - how her form adapts to allow extreme flight and maneuverability.

I've said before, but she's one of the purer characters on the team: a bookish, emotionally anal girl in chains to her own self-demands has to learn how to fly. She's very much superpower as metaphor for character's emotional struggle.

She's proving one of my favorite to write. She's very much the team's "Captain Sensible" character, stepping in and doing the "Wait, we're going to do what?" when the more foolhardy and headstrong people are thinking they're immortal.

If Laurie ever needs a codename, I must confess I like the sound of "Captain Sensible." But back to the emails, Faded Day sent in several great inquiries that made me scratch my head. How about providing some answers while I assure folks I don't have dandruff.

1) I really enjoyed the premiere issue of "Generation Hope!" Laurie and Gabriel particularly grew on me quickly. However, I have to ask about the power sets chosen for the first five new mutants since M-Day: other than Laurie's "shifting crystal" abilities, they possess some of the more common abilities of the Marvel Universe. Was it intentional to kind of go "back to basics" to powers that match Quicksilver (Gabriel), Beast (Teon), and Sunfire/Iceman (Idie)? Do you plan on introducing any "twists" to their abilities?

Thank you. Glad it worked for you.

As I just said to MarvelMaster616, Matt and my thinking around the Five Lights was to try and put a hard twist on some of the archetypal power-sets of the original five.

Angel = Laurie; Beast = Teon; Iceman = Idie; and - well, this is a real reach - Marvel Girl = Kenji. Gabriel is the exception, though by resting on super-speed, you're right that we're hitting the archetypes.

I don't want to spoil too much, but we've tried to put a twist on all of them. I've mentioned Laurie's - though the extremes of it hasn't been seen yet - but one which would be visible if you really read the books closely is Idie's. She's not a temperature generator; she's a temperature manipulator. She moves heat around. For example, you'll see the ground freezing around her as she summons the fire-blast aimed at Teon in "Uncanny X-Men" #529. If she can't take heat from somewhere, she's useless.

That's what I mean: a hard-yet-accessible twist which colors their specific abilities. While these are core power-sets, they're personal to them. There isn't a speedster like Gabriel and there isn't a primal like Teon, and you'll see why in issues #4 and 5, respectively. Well, start to see in Teon's case. He's a complicated guy for someone whose vocabulary is more limited than Jamie McKelvie's.

2) Will the series introduce any other new mutants in future issues?

I'm going for a long-answer, short-answer rhythm here: yes.

3) Are there any other characters that may want to shepherd the new mutants in their own causes? With Magneto now on the side of the X-Men, are there any characters you envision wanting to steal the lights from their "savior?"

I think this is a safe assumption, even within the X-Men. Issue #5 circles around the idea of the established X-Men starting to shape the next generation. Not in a full-on indoctrination way, but about trying to have a hand in the future. Compare and contrast how Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde may want them to act.

In terms of people outside the X-Men, well, I'd rather keep away from that, except that if I were the sort of villain with one eye on the future, I'd be looking to take Hope and the Lights over to their side.

4) Hope's rebellion against Rogue (and essentially Cyclops) was entertaining and fun, but do you think her drive and ambition could become dangerous? How much will the dark possibility of her destroying the human race come to light?

Yes and lots, respectively. As I said earlier, Hope's a girl who's lost a lot and is looking for a purpose. That she's thrown herself into this as hard as she has is, at least partially, a distraction. I'm not going anywhere near as far as saying a "deathwish" or a death-by-supervillain thing, but she's someone who really needs meaning and direction in her life, and she's going to push it that way as hard as she can. And I think, sooner or later, she's going to have to deal with some hard consequences.

I think you'll see there's dark notes underlying her basically heroic nature already. Her dark potential - or, at least, the fear of her dark potential - is very much one of the key themes of the book.

That was a serious answer. Er...she really likes peanut butter? I've mentioned that. Moving on.

5) Now that Hope's significance in the mutant world is slowly expanding, how much of a role will depowered mutants (e.g. Marrow, Wind Dancer) play in the book? Are any seeking Hope for salvation or even retribution?

I think, as word of Hope leaks out properly, that's something we can logically expect to see.

6) There have been hints that the Phoenix Force is involved in the restoration of the mutant race, but will the Scarlet Witch become involved in the book now that her spell has been challenged?

You are full of logical assumptions, Faded Day. I salute your keen, Holmesian intellect. In this case, we probably better not say anything until after "Children's Crusade."

Troy Powell had a thought or two with some interesting implications. Can you tell him if he's on the right track?

In "Second Coming's" Blind Science tie-in we saw a holographic ruse created by Bastion featuring an out of control Hope Summers, who was something of a psychic vampire. She was turning other mutants into drones with urges to feed and protect her. With the current introduction of the Fourth Light who recognizes Hope as his "Master," could there be some truth to Bastion's deception? The issue was called "Second Coming: Revelations" after all.

"Grow your tree of falsehood from a small grain of truth."

-- Czesław Miłosz

Don't worry. I had to Google it.

In addition to Teon, the rest of the Lights (with the exception of Kenji) also seem to share some degree of "pull" towards Hope - I would even go as far as to call this a thrall (e.g. Idie refusing to address Hope as anything other than "Ma'am"). Is this an accurate assessment?

There's certainly something up. As readers, we're more aware of it than the characters, but you'll start to see more and more of them pick up on it as they progress. Even the lights haven't entirely picked up on the strangeness of it yet, though it can only be time. The big question is, what actually is it? Because, really, it could just be part of them all sharing this life-changing event together. It could be just an enormous endorphin rush from the stabilization experience. It could be evil-drone-control by Hope the ur-despot. It could be a directed fairy glamour. It could be the characters subconsciously desiring to star in a Marvel comic. It's one of the book's big mysteries.

When I was a kid, I remember reading the bible at Catholic school and hitting the calling of the disciples. Jesus approaches the fishermen. "Follow me! And then they do." It struck me that actually putting us inside a relationship akin to that would be interesting. What would it be like to be called and have your entire life changed in a flash? There's drama there and I want to see where it leads.

Renaldo wrote in with some hugs and questions about process. How about giving him a squeeze and a response or three?

1) I'm a huge fan of "Phonogram" and "The Singles Club," and I was pleasantly amazed to see you pick up on JMS' "Thor" run with such ease - it was as if you were on the book from its revamp! Was it easy for you for jump onto this "Second Coming" X-ship and pen "Generation Hope" stemming from Fraction's "Five Lights" thread? Is it challenging to jump into the X-lore with the story threads Matt Fraction and others are giving you?

To quote the Inspiral Carpets (feat. Mark E. Smith), "Nobody Ever Said It Was Gonna Be Easy."

Thankfully, it's as easy as it could be. With "Uncanny," I was following Matt's run and embrace any excuse to dive back into the lore to get a coherent vision. Involving the Five Lights, Matt and I created the characters together, so I was deeply familiar with the introductory plots in "Uncanny" having almost-kinda-maybe co-wrote 'em (which is one reason why now co-writing "Uncanny" with Matt makes so much sense. We were already working closely together on The Five Lights/Generation Hope). Yeah, it's hard, but if I wanted an easy job I'd have stuck with international arms dealing.

And thank you. "Phonogram" was a joy. That people actually liked it as much as they did is a crazy joy.

2) With all the Marvel books you've done, do you prefer writing characters and stories from "scratch" (like "S.W.O.R.D.") or is it more interesting to hone the ideas put forward by other writers (as you'll be doing soon with "Uncanny X-Men")?

They're both unique challenges, which satisfy different parts of the creative urge and stretch different muscles. In terms of the Marvel Universe, what I most like doing is actually putting a meaningful and interesting spin on part of the mythos which then allows other stories. It's not enough to just play with the toys - I like to put a few new toys in there, or make an old toy more interesting by super-gluing a chaingun to its head and repainting its shoes - Thus begins the Age of Cyclops-Chaingun Head with the Mauve Moccasins.

Really, I like doing both. It's about mixing it up. Change is as good as a rest and all that.

3) How much input did you have in the characters and powers of the "Five Lights?"

I've sort of covered a lot of this in an earlier question, but a lot. Matt and I co-created them, basically, though there's definitely characters which are more Matt and some which are more mine. In order of Matt-to-Me, it'd be Laurie, Gabriel, Teon, Idie and Kenji.

Laurie was mostly Matt - in fact, she's the one which barely changed at all from his original character notes. Kenji is almost all mine, though he did get me a copy of the awesome soundtrack of "Tetsuo: The Bullet Man" to get the body-horror vibe going while I was writing him.

Andres is feeling a bit in the dark about a few of the details of your new series. Could you shine a "light" on the following and reveal some of your plans?

1) What do the "Generation Hope" kids call themselves? Is it the "Five Lights?" Personally, I kind of like that as a team name...

One of the things I like about "Generation Hope" is that the characters are finding their way how to talk about themselves. None of them have a uniform or superhero name yet, and they don't have a group name. They're discovering themselves quite naturally. And, at least in these early days, that's the way that other people are referring to them. The Lights. I admit, I like it too.

2) Are the Five Lights going to have permanent guardians (a la Prof X, Banshee and Emma)?

Let's just say that this is going to be a somewhat contentious matter on Utopia. Hope doesn't exactly take to teachers.

Well, that's it from the fans - now it's my turn. Since you just brought up the topic of teachers, let's stick with that theme for today's "Behind the X" question: growing up, what teacher made the biggest impact on you and why?

Let's put aside the important lessons taught to me by Cookie Monster - as in, making sure you always have a functional esophagus before attempting to consume anything, as otherwise you're just going to make a mess. While I owe a lot to various Englishy teachers - though none ever beat the idea that thinking "Englishy" is a good thing to write out of me - I'll go with Supreme Biology Teacher Mr. Washington. He was so entertaining, I decided to give a Biology degree a try...which taught me the important lesson that I never want to see a pipette again for the rest of my life.

Er...the glass-syringe Pipette. Not the band. I'd happily see the band.

That wraps up today's X-travaganza. Next week, we'll be taking the Thanksgiving holiday off to give thanks for all the terrific X-writers who join us week in and week out to answer all our emails. However, we're still collecting questions for our guest who's joining us on November 30th, so get those in just as quickly as you can.

And who is this magical guest that kicks off our run to the holiday sales? Why, it's none other than "X-Factor" scribe Peter David. Be sure to read the latest in mutant noir, type up some great questions, and send them to me along with an antacid. And if you toss an "X-Position" in the subject line of your email, I'll share the recipe to my Aunt Dee's Deviled Egg surprise. Get me those questions, and have a happy turkey day!

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