X-POSITION: Lapham Survives the "Age of Apocalypse"

The "Age of Apocalypse" was originally an X-Men crossover about an alternate reality where Xavier died before creating the X-Men. He was killed trying to protect his friend Erik Lehnsherr (AKA Magneto) from a murderer who happened to be Xavier's son (Legion) from the future. Magneto then decided to take up his fallen friend's dream of a peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants, but before he could implement plans, Apocalypse struck, negating this possibility forever.

This new world was a fount of ideas, many of which were explored in various limited series tied to the crossover. It's been more than ten years since AoA initially occurred yet inspiration and ideas keep pouring out of the original concept. Writer Rick Remender had a blast with AoA in his "Uncanny X-Force" last year, and readers loved it and wanted even more. Never one to let fans down, Marvel Comics happily obliged with an "Age of Apocalypse" ongoing series written by David Lapham. The first issue arrived in stores earlier this month, and the scribe joins us to answer all your questions. Shall we give it a go?

We received several e-mails from readers this week, but two in particular were extremely comprehensive. I've decided to let these two folks run the show today while I sit back and bask in the rays of the Seattle sun (which still manage to be wet). Our first email comes courtesy of Derek, who asks:

Age of Apocalypse

David Lapham joins X-POSITION for a discussion of the revived "Age of Apocalypse"

1) With Quicksilver being resurrected and Polaris and the Scarlet Witch's clone merely MIA, could Magneto's family (and possibly the X-Men) have a central role in the Age of Apocalypse world again?

The focus of this "Age of Apocalypse" book is going to keep squarely on the human team and the theme of a small band of humans persecuted in a world of mutants -- the flip side of the regular Marvel U. There'll be plenty of mutants and familiar faces though, but our heroes are the X-Terminated -- along with the depowered Jean Grey and Sabretooth.

2) I was surprised that the Wanda clone was able to remove Jean's connection to the Phoenix. Is that really within her powers?

Not specifically, but without her powers, the Phoenix force has abandoned Jean.

3) How much of the original Weapon X personality remains? So far, he hasn't seemed to delight in killing like the previous Apocalypse, he's just done it as necessary.

No, he doesn't delight in it, but he does crave it in an animalistic way. It's in his blood to hunt and kill, but it's serious business -- nothing to gloat about. AoA's Weapon X -- even more so than Marvel U's Wolverine -- is a man on the edge. A killer and warrior who's lived just on the "good guy" side of the line between good and evil. The Apocalypse power has taken him to the other side. Along with the power comes the edict from the Celestials to advance evolution on Earth by elevating mutants and eliminating humans. On a basic level, he believes if he does not get rid of humanity, the Celestials will return and pass final judgment on the Earth.

4) Is Fiend the daughter of Moira MacTaggert as well as Bolivar Trask? Moira and Bolivar both produced three powerful mutant children in the core reality (Proteus, Larry Trask and Madame Sanctity). Trask used a device to hide his son's precognitive powers from him. Could Francesca be a mutant too and just not know it?

Franny is actually Trask's illegitimate daughter. In my mind, she's 100% human. Horror Show (Greydon Creed), on the other hand, is the son of Sabretooth and Mystique. He's probably human, too, but one of his secret fears is that he's not; that he might be a mutant.

5) Way back in Morrison's "New X-Men" series, it was established that the human race was going to be extinct in a few generations. With this in mind, why does Apocalypse/Weapon X need to wipe out the humans now? Why not just let nature take its course?

The first answer is that this is a different universe than that one. The second is what I said above. Weapon Omega has been charged by the Celestials to carry out this human genocide now. He has to be sure.

6) It was stated in the original "Age of Apocalypse" that Apocalypse's actions were actually pushing all life on earth toward extinction. That doesn't seem to fit with his apparent purpose. Was he just a bad (death) seed? How does Weapon X differ in methodology?

The practical answer -- and not a very continuity-oriented one -- is that these motivations have been refined since the original AoA. This is based largely on Rick Remender's approach to Apocalypse in his amazing "Uncanny X-Force" series.

7) The fates of a lot of "Age of Apocalypse" characters have been left very up in the air, most notably Mystique, Illyana, Mariko, Moira, Tony Stark, Polaris, Dazzler, Gwen Stacy, Sue Storm, Exodus, Jubilee and Morph. Should we just assume the worst?

You'll be seeing a lot of this as we go forward. One of the surprises with a book like this is who are we going to see next and how will they be different from what we know. I don't want that element to overwhelm the series, so it'll be measured in approach. The fate of humanity is now squarely in the humans' hands, so don't look for a new X-Men team to form and save the day.

8) It's been stated that the Phoenix is a servant of evolution like Apocalypse. Did she really lose her powers because of Wanda's spell or was she just not doing her job?

It was Wanda's spell. The X-Men made a final play to save humanity and came up short.

Our next (and final) set of questions is from Renaldo, who strives to never let his fellow fans down. His first inquiry starts at the beginning...

1) How was the direction of this series decided? And was this title something you pitched to Marvel? Or was it something they wanted after seeing the response to the X-Force stories?

Remender brought back the AoA universe as part of his "Dark Angel" storyline. In the process of that, then-Editor Jody LeHeup had this brainstorm to flip the script on the Marvel U: a small group of humans fighting for survival in a world of mutants. It was right at this time that I fortuitously called Jody to see what kinds of projects he was up to. He presented me this idea and I loved it. I went and put together how I saw the world dynamic, how I thought a small band of capable humans could have a snowball's chance against the mutants. I came up with the personas of the human characters (William Stryker is Prophet, etc.) and just put it all together.

Originally Jody thought the characters could be the sons and daughters of the Marvel U villains, like Trask and Stryker and Pierce. But then Group Editor Nick Lowe said, "Why not just make them the actual people?" That made sense to me, especially because they've come up under completely different circumstances than the Marvel U villains. So Stryker is Stryker, but his life has been totally different which has led to him being a different person. Here he's a hero. He has similar traits, but they are in pursuit of different goals.

2) You've made Prophet a key player in your story. What inspired this decision? Also, why use Murdock/Daredevil as an antagonist in your tale?

I invented Prophet to be that lynchpin character. He holds the team together and he's why they have a chance. I knew the only way a human -- even a supremely skilled human -- could have a chance against a world of powerful mutants who outnumber them a thousand-to-one would be to be smarter and more informed than the enemy, and that's Prophet. The one man C.I.A. Personally, he's my favorite character.

As far as Murdock, he was a character I really liked in the original AoA, and he's a character that's on a similar level to the X-Terminated. They're going to take on a lot of mutants, Sentinels, and creatures that are far more powerful -- threats that the big guns are going to have to come out for. But sometimes I want them to be able to just go toe to with someone. Murdock is that guy.

3) The final page in the first issue was a "Holy crap!" moment. What made you look to this character? And is there going to be another Phoenix-Logan-(this guy) love triangle?

Ha, ha. I think anybody who would get the "Holy crap!" moment would be able to fill in that blank there. As far as the triangle... we'll have to see. Perhaps, but not in the way you might think. This "holy crap person" is a bad guy with a capital Bad. We'll see he's had some of his more noble qualities taken from him.

4) Bolivar Trask, Weapon Omega, Sabretooth, Azazel and Jean -- some are characters that we knew would be key to this book, but some figures came as a surprise. How did you decide on the book's cast? What key interactions should we be looking for?

I cast the book just based on the human characters I liked and who I thought could be interesting giving them the "flip" treatment. As a kid reading the X-Men, the "God Loves, Man Kills" graphic novel was a big deal, so Stryker has always struck in my head as the ultimate human bad guy against mutants. Plus he has a cool name, so I just knew he would be the leader. In the Marvel U, he leads religious fanatics; here, he's a humanist and leads a group of humans to more noble ends.

I liked Greydon, especially then getting his father, Sabretooth -- I liked that dynamic. I wanted girls on the team, so there I had to create a sister and a daughter. I made Risman's sister Deadeye, because I thought marksmanship would be a great skill for the team to have. I made Bolivar Trask's daughter Fiend, which works well because not only is she cool as anything, now there's a great dynamic between her and Bolivar. It's all very organic.

Many of the key interactions will be centered around Jean. She's trying to relearn how to be a useful fighter after losing her powers, and through her we'll learn about the X-Terminated. Even without her powers, when she's ready she'll be a big key in the X-Terminated's attempt to kill Weapon Omega. Look for a unique relationship between Jean and Horror Show.

And now, I want my turn at the podium so I can give you our get-to-know-you question that we call "Behind the X." As you are known for typically writing fairly "dark" material, can you tell us a movie that makes you laugh out loud?

You should ask my wife that question -- I think she might say "A Clockwork Orange." The first time I showed it to her, I told her how disturbing it was and immediately she starts laughing her tail off at every scene -- which was scarier than the movie. She got the over-the-top farce of it all more than I did, which confirmed to me she was the coolest person on the planet -- way cooler than me.

My answer... believe it or not, I'm a huge fan of old 1930s and '40s screwball comedies: "The More the Merrier," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "Philadelphia Story," etc. "Libeled Lady" is probably my favorite and it's funny as all hell. They've never heard of comedies this nuts in modern film. It's an absolute dead animal. When I look at my work I see more of that in my mechanics (albeit toward different ends) than any noir. I'll take a screwball comedy over a noir any day of the week. They make me unfairly happy.

While David gets his giggles on, let me roll out the red carpet for next week's guest -- Mr. Jason Aaron! He slashes through "Wolverine," schools mutants in "Wolverine & the X-Men," makes Homo superiors look superior in "Avengers vs. X-Men," and still manages to find the time for "Incredible Hulk" and "Scalped." It's amazing he had a few minutes to spare for us here at X-POSITION (but we're glad he does!).

Now is the time for you to hurry over to your comics, do some mental flossing, and then e-mail me some queries that will make Mr. Aaron's beard curl. Put an "X-Position" in the subject line and I'll tell you who will win the "Hunger Games" (HINT: it's Gordon Ramsay -- he knows his food). Now get typing and send me those missives!

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