X-POSITION: Kieron Gillen on "Uncanny X-Men," "Regenesis" & More

Remember high school student body elections? Most of the time they were called "popularity contests," because that's what they essentially were. The election typically boiled down to two candidates: one with charm and some popular ideas, and another with a solid leadership background and a practical view on solving problems.

With "Schism," X-Men are facing a "student body election" scenario of their own. Every mutant who wears the "X" is being faced with a choice: follow Cyclops or follow Wolverine. Now, I'm not going to suggest which of these two represent each candidate archetype mentioned above, as my opinion is easily swayed and it would lead to a long debate (which is what the CBR Forums are for).

Instead, we have writer Kieron Gillen joining us for today's X-POSITION to answer your questions and give us his take on things. He has loads to say on the subject, and he's just itching to get started. Let's go ahead and assist the scribe with a friendly scratch!

Blackcyclops starts us off with some involved inquiries, but also offers some kind words to get things started on the right foot:

First, I want to say that I had been enjoying "Uncanny X-Men," but your take on the book has just been stellar. Your characterization, pacing, and overall cool ideas make this one of my favorite X-books again -- thanks for that!

You are correct. I am amazing. (Thankyouthankyouthankyou)

I have a few questions, if you don't mind...

1) I know you might be tired of answering this, but what would you say is the continuity between "Fear Itself," "Schism," the space arc in 'Legacy,' and X-Force's 'Archangel Saga?' I know you aren't the master of everything, but if you could give us some context that would be great.

"Schism" and "Fear Itself" are easy -- "Fear Itself" happens before "Schism" (the only thing which would be confusing is Colossus' lack of a Juggernaut dome. However, the end of "Fear Itself" showed he could retract his armor. More will become clear as we go into "Uncanny X-Men" #1 about Colossus' relationship with the Juggernaut energies, but the short version is "it's something he consciously chooses to tap." In other words, in "Schism," he simply didn't.)

X-Force's "Archangel Saga" has been slotted into all this in a way which would probably require special graphs to explain (and hurt the story a little if we showed you them). I suspect people may start realizing where it fits due to a nod in "Uncanny X-Men" #544.

I suspect the same answer is true for "Legacy," but that's not been touching with what I've been writing as much. Nick Lowe? Help me out -- I'm dying here...

2) What type of threats can we expect for this squad of X-Men going forward?

Dirty, great big ones.

It's a logical escalation of what I've been doing so far in 'Uncanny.' Each of the arcs has had a big external threat, which also allows the X-Men to face internal, emotional threats. We just amp it up to the scale the "Extinction Team" operate on. In that way, Mister Sinister makes a perfect first villain -- he's a character who threatens the team both physically and personally. And, in terms of the ways I've refreshed him, philosophically.

I'm of the school which believes the most interesting villains are ones which actively challenge the heroes' reason for being. You know -- Magneto as the flip of Xavier's dream, Dark Phoenix as the embodiment of the idea that mutantkind is dangerous, Apocalypse as a bloody-red reading of Darwinian Evolution, etc. Sinister's had a lot of style, but he's generally swapped mysteriousness and personal grudges for specific, intellectual frisson. That's what I've tried to add to him.

After the first arc, we've got a one-off issue with Brandon Peterson on art which is a really intense, personal little story. The second arc involves a setting that you may be familiar with from "X-Force," which takes a more rescue/exploration approach. It's less a threat and more a problem for the team to deal with -- which, at the same time, introduces new villains which act as distorted mirrors to the team (as in, following the above philosophy). And the third arc is serious globe-trotting, with me reintroducing a villain I've been dying to have the X-Men say "hello" to for ages.

Physical threats. Emotional threats. Philosophical threats. And, of course, internal threats.


3) Is Cyclops' team just those revealed on the cover (Danger, Emma, Magneto, Storm, Magik, Colossus, and Namor)? Will it change as things go on? What about the Science Club?

You forgot Hope!

Yes, that's the field team. It's been picked by Cyclops to be able to deal with pretty much anything they should be facing. If you scan the team, you can see you've got specialists of all sorts -- including a rare supernatural specialist in the form of Miss Rasputin. Hell, there's even a little redundancy in the form of Hope.

The only reason it'll change is casualties -- which is entirely possible, because we will be playing hardball. You do hit on the main exception, though; the X-Club is part of the support staff, and we see them fairly regularly.

4) Will Cyclops start to regret some of the decisions he has made? Or will time show him to have great foresight?

I'll have to say "wait and see." However, just because a decision proves to be right doesn't mean that you don't have to regret it. Scott keeps his cards close to his chest, but he's losing some of his longest friends through this. There's certainly a few lines in "Regenesis," the final 'Uncanny' and even "Generation Hope" #12 that point towards that.

Gavin is also curious about Cyclops' mindset. Maybe you can help him out as well, right after he bows down at the altar of Gillen...

I'll spare you the fanboy gushing about how much I've enjoyed the recent arcs of 'Uncanny' involving Colossus and Kitty Pryde and skip to my questions (also, Team Utopia all the way!):

Do not skip the gushing! I am very needy.

1) Cyclops (post-"Schism") seems to be focused on keeping the community mutants have carved for themselves on Utopia at any cost. I can see how it would be important not to allow Utopia to fail as the world is watching and, to a degree, not-so-secretly rooting against them. Does Cyclops' insistence on holding the line come from him merely being tactical and seeing it as "more bad press for mutants?" Or is he more emotionally invested in Utopia than that?

A little of both. I think that Scott is aware that the symbolic nature of Utopia is important, but he's definitely emotionally invested in it.

2) One of the most poignant aspects of "Schism" for me was the use of Idie, who I think has the most unique voice of all the 5 Lights thus far. Her internalized self-loathing and angst make her oddly endearing. How did the character come about? Did you envision her to be such a breakout character? Assuming she's being dragged off with Wolverine, is she going to be a character you miss writing?

Idie's always been tricky. She was the first member of the cast to get an internal monologue in the first issue of "Generation Hope," at least partially because I knew that she wouldn't be at the forefront of conversation for a while. She's the quiet one, and tends to keep her lips closed until someone pushes her. I spent quite a bit of time throwing irritants against her (Gabriel, Doctor Nemesis, even Kitty) to make her snap, just to hint at her turmoil. She needed that kind of scene, in a way which -- say -- Laurie, Kenji, or Gabriel didn't. They just need each other to form a circle of aggravation, and they won't shut up.

The idea for Idie came from a Nigerian character Matt had suggested in his initial draft for the Lights. I suggested a spin on it, because I'd been dying to write a character informed by what I learned about Child Witches in the region. The idea of "The Girl Who Wouldn't Burn" soon leaped to mind -- having someone who was already in a post-traumatic stress-related state and had sort of sublimated all her influences into a very focused self-hatred which was entirely self-sufficient. I mean, Kenji postures a lot, but Idie is the real deal. And, being raised Catholic, simmering, all-consuming guilt is something I feel kinda qualified to have a shot at writing.

Will I miss her? Yeah, a bit. But -- well, the week I spent writing "Generation Hope" #10 was spent with me imagining what a deeply disturbed girl would feel whilst walking around an atrocity museum, and then having her slaughter a group of men. By Friday, I wasn't exactly in an undisturbed state myself.

Idie is hard work. And she has a direct, channeling power to her. I mean, when I tapped out, "I won't burn in this world. I'll burn in the next" for issue #5, I found myself sort of blinking at my screen and thinking both "Where did that come from?" and, "Girl, you scare me."

In other words, I'll miss writing her. But I suspect the people around me in the life are glad they don't have to deal with me slumping around the house, depressed, after I've had to write her.

3) Cyclops and Wolverine's falling out may have been inevitable, but how is he going to feel having been abandoned by all of his childhood friends? I imagine it's hard not to take that personally. Are the lines in the sand with "Schism" as harsh and polarizing as being on the different fractions in "Civil War?" Or is this merely a political ideology shift that wouldn't put the overall group at odds?

The personal hurts. Scott's hurt by this. However, Scott's also aware that his personal feelings are a small thing compared to the stakes of what they're fighting for. From Scott's perspective, Logan's essentially opting out to do something self-indulgent to salve his conscience. Yes, a school would be great if the entire species couldn't be made extinct any second.

Scott actually sees Utopia as the protector of every mutant on the surface on the planet. In other words, he views it as his job to protect the school. If Logan's going to be self-indulgent, his side is going to have to pick up their slack.

4) Are any of the characters interested in remaining neutral in this "breaking up of the band?" If so, who and why?

"Regenesis" -- out this week!

Yeah, there's some characters who are weighing their options, but there's also one side or the other making attractive offers to people who would perhaps otherwise go their own way.

MarvelMaster616 is wondering about some other characters who weighed in and found that the scales tipped toward Cyclops:

1) I'm a bit surprised that Hope decided to stay with Cyclops' team. Can you talk about why she and most of the Lights are sticking with him?

Hope sees her mission as rescuing emerging mutants. The school simply doesn't start with the infrastructure to support what she requires. I half-suspect she'd have stayed anyway. She doesn't need training. She's been training all her life. She wants to be active in the world, saving mutants. And it's not as if her Dad was ever one to back down from action.

The rest of the team? I suspect this one may best be shown in "Generation Hope" #12. But at least some of the team are starting to have sympathies with rescuing mutants. The mind-control thing, of course, is starting to nag.

2) Speaking of Hope, I understand that Jeph Loeb's "X-Sanction" will begin later this year. Will any of the events of this story tie into the events of "Generation Hope" or "Uncanny X-Men?"

I think I'm going to have to No Comment this one.

Drats! Hopefully, you'll have some extra comments available for Derek then, since he's our final inquisitor of the day:

1) Danger seems to elicit a lot of hate amongst diehard fans. Why do you think that is and how do you intend to change that?

Oh, everyone elicits a lot of hate from diehard fans. Not even the most likeable, popular characters escape anger from some quarters. Being outspoken about your feelings is part of being a fan, and is only right.

I didn't spend much time worrying about what a fan's response would be to the team, instead preferring to create a team that would be "right." I love Dazzler, but she doesn't make much sense in a team that is designed to be intimidating. Equally, with Cyclops' on the team, her power overlaps, etc.

In the case of Danger, I was thinking about how to approach the problem of scientific advice. In short: scientists are squishy. Where this team is going, they haven't got room for a member who quits. So I had the image of Danger basically being a Mars Rover for the X-lab. She enters hostile environments, pipes back data, which the guys in the labcoats then pore over and send info back. It's something I hadn't seen in a team before and I thought it could be quite compelling, both in terms of the atmosphere it creates and in terms of visuals.

That relationship does some fun things with dynamics. She leans laconic. Doctor Nemesis leans hyperbolic. There's lots of fun stuff you can do with a relationship between two people like that. And, personality-wise, I thought her interest in human's ability to rehabilitate and change fascinating -- especially by placing her in a team which clearly could all go wrong. Which makes it a strange one -- the two moral adjudicators on the team would be Storm...and Danger. And their judgments obviously differ.

She made sense. There's stories there. There's stuff that hasn't been done. And, hey, a core team of nine, so I can push it a little. I think she will surprise people.

2) Was there any particular character that you fought hard to get during "Schism" but lost to Aaron? If so why did you want them? On the flipside, is there any character you're glad Aaron took off your hands?

I had Gambit on my list of people who I thought may fit into the team, but it's not as if I fought hard for him. It just made more sense for him to be over there, as their plans just lined up better.

In terms of people taking -- I'm glad Jason took Iceman. Not because I don't like Iceman, but because there wouldn't be room in my book to really give him much space, and the concept of Jason's book gives him a lot more room to shine.

3) After "Schism," Magneto and Scott seem to be losing some of their closest relationships in the X-Men. Magneto's "girlfriend" and his youngest child and Scott's brother and daughter have been revealed as siding with Wolverine. Will we see how this affects Scott and Magneto?

There's certainly a lot of emotional grist in that mill. I'm not sure that metaphor makes sense. Go with me. Pretend I wasn't talking nonsense.

You have? Thanks.

I suspect you'll see scenes regarding that in the different books. You see some of Magneto's response to Rogue in "Regenesis" -- though, of course, Rogue's position is something 'Legacy' is going to be dealing with explicitly.

There isn't much of it in "Uncanny," however. It underlies how I write the character, but you won't have scenes where Scott or Magneto is explicitly annoyed about it.

4) Despite Wolverine's group being "all about the kids," his side, in general, seems to have more veteran members than Scott's. Why do you think that is?

They're all soft.

Heh. And the Schism in-fighting begins...

Now it's time for a little query from me. Per a suggestion from one of our readers (Madroxdupe024), I'm asking all of our guests the following: assume you were a mutant and needed to choose a side in "Schism." Although you have an "uncanny" bias, whose side do you pick and why?

I think a lot depends on my age. If I'm as old as I am now, I suspect I'd end up choosing Scott's team. If I was as old as the kids, I suspect I'd choose Logan's.

And speaking of "the kids," our guest next week will be intimately involved with them as he's the new writer of "Generation Hope" -- James Asmus. The scribe also has some "Astonishing X-Men" work under his wing too, so there should be loads to talk about. Just whip up those questions, add a dollop of whimsy, and serve it up to me via email with a delightful cream sauce. Throw an "X-Position" in the subject line, and I'll save you a seat at the dinner table. You better get a move on!

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