X-POSITION: Marc Guggenheim

Launching a new comic book series is a tricky endeavor in this industry. Even more difficult is launching a new series featuring a cast from a recently concluded series, especially one with a rabid fan base. When this is done, a publisher naturally hopes the fan base will follow and that they will grow this base by calling attention to the series' attractive issue number -- one -- and give the characters a new spin. Unfortunately, publishers also run the risk of upsetting that same base by making changes that run contrary to fans' expectations or wishes.

Writer Marc Guggenheim ("Amazing Spider-Man," "Eli Stone") stepped up to the table this past year and took a chance with "Young X-Men," which replaced the fan-favorite "New X-Men" in Marvel's X-books lineup. Issue #5 arrived in stores last week, and readers are still showing up to follow the team's adventures. Has Marvel rolled a winning pair with this series? Guggenehim joins X-POSITION this week to discuss the book's status and share with readers what's coming up for Marvel's mutant youths.

CBR: We'll begin today's X-POSITION on a happy note with a question from vanderschaar, who feels like Marvel has come up with a winner with "Young X-Men."

Hi Marc! I'm getting into Young X-Men, and I'm interested in where it's going. Is this book going to evolve into a book like New X-Men, where it's about training a bunch of inexperienced heroes? Or is the team going to become something else -- like a mission-specific team like X-Force?

Marc Guggenheim: My hope is that it will resemble a mix of the two. Back before all the X-spinoffs, even before the All New, All Different team of X-Men, the X-Men were a group of students who went on missions. That's what I'm trying to recapture with "Young X-Men." Now, given the X-Men's new mission statement under Cyclops, those students are treated more as soldiers than schoolkids, but the general notion of an inexperienced team of active heroes remains the same. In other words, the team won't just be waiting around for someone to attack them -- which tended to be the model for the various junior X-teams.

Is the YXM team we're seeing now the final team?

No. We have a few surprises. Two of the New Mutants are going to join the team and a former New X-Man -- a fan-favorite -- will join as well. And then there's the team member you didn't even know was on the team.

When will the membership solidify?

Who says it's going to?

And will they be moving to San Francisco?

Yes. They'll be moving to San Francisco officially with issue #6 which is entitled, unsurprisingly, San Francisco.

Also, will we get to see Cyclops's reaction to being doubled in the pages of YXM anytime soon?

Is issue #6 soon enough?

Look at that -- ask and ye shall receive. Ramelito is up next, and he's a little confused about YXM's timeline.

I thought I saw Sunspot along with Cannonball in the recent X-Men: Secret Invasion, and they were both fighting alongside the X-Men -- and Dust was there too! Did I miss something? Or is this an early reveal of what's to come?

Hopefully, the events of "Young X-Men" #5 illuminated matters for you. You didn't miss anything. This was a scheduling thingy where a tie-in comes out before the issue that helps set it up. Or two issues, if you want to get technical about it, since the YXM won't fight alongside Sunspot until issue #6.

Donald Pierce is in both YXM and X-Force right now. Is it the same Pierce?


And if so, which order are the appearances supposed to be taking place in?

I'm getting the sense that you like to know what order stories should be read in, Ramelito. Boy, are you reading the wrong medium....

Our next set of questions comes from McMaster, who was curious about the baddie the Young X-Men recently did battle with.

Whose idea was it to make the fake Cyclops Donald Pierce?

That depends. If you like the idea, it was mine. If you don't, it was all [X-Men Editor] Nick Lowe's.

I barely know who this guy is, and I'm not sure why he'd want to recruit a bunch of kids with untested powers to do his bidding?

So I'm going to guess you didn't like that idea. That %^%$#ing Nick. He's always leading me down the wrong path. In defense of poor Nick, I have to say that Donald Pierce is an X-villain of some very long standing, going back to the classic Dark Phoenix Saga of the 1980s. More importantly -- for my purposes, at least -- he played a critical role in the formation of the original junior X-Men team, the New Mutants.

As for Donald's strategy, those untested kids were picked to, as you say, do his bidding, because along with that lack of experience comes a certain naivete. At least, that's what Pierce's thinking was. And mine -- er, I mean Nick's.

Let's get to this email from Andre4000 about one of the newer characters on your team.

Looking at YXM's roster, Ink's power is kind of weird.

Um... thank you?

Where did you come up with this idea?

In bed. No really, I thought of it before going to sleep one night.

And how does he know what symbolic figure will unleash which power?

He's feeling his way through it, trial and error. But actually, there's an explanation for how his power works that he hasn't figured out yet.

And, uh, what if he got a tattoo of a woman on his body?

Nothing. The tattoo has to be, for lack of a better word, iconic. A tattoo of a woman, while attractive, wouldn't fit that definition.

Also, if Ink gets a bad tattoo, can he get it removed?

Sure. Like any other tattoo.

After doing some detective work, Cameron made an interesting discovery about the last time Marc joined us for X-POSITION.

Aw man! Last time you were doing X-POSITION, you totally gave us a hint about who Cyclops was and I missed it. You said, Dust is Donald Pierce in disguise. How'd I let this slip by me?!? Are you going to slide any other hints into this X-POSITION?

I've snuck in one or two, yes.

I thought I read somewhere (and I might be wrong) that Young X-Men might get someone on the team who isn't a mutant. How soon will they appear?

Who says they haven't already? That having been said, all will be revealed in issue #7.

Greymalkin seems to have indicated that he is more powerful in the dark. I take it this is a hint about his identity...

Mmmm...I need to get a judge's ruling on this one. Judges? Yeah, the judges tell me that it's a hint to his origin, not necessarily his identity, per se.

Can you give us any other hints about his powers or why he is even in the cave to begin with?

Well, I can tell you that he wasn't in the cave originally. He was on the grounds, however, because he was the victim of prejudice. Does that make sense? No? Well, it will in a few months.

Cameron, it sounds like your sleuthing skills will be put to the test over the next year.

We'll close out today's fun with an email from zouman. To go back to our earlier analogy, he worried that things have "crapped out."

Marc, I've enjoyed a lot of your writing, so I don't want to come off like a troll, but Young X-Men has left me cold.

I'm sorry to hear that.

New X-Men was one of my favorite books, and I know this is supposed to be a different beast, but I'm having a hard time caring about any of the characters (when I cared about them a great deal in NXM). I know you can't do spoilers, but can you tell me anything about what's coming up that would make me want to keep reading?

There's a lot of different ways I could go with this. I'm going to go out on a limb and be honest: I know that YXM hasn't been everyone's cup of tea. In general, it's probably received the harshest online reviews and fan reactions of any book I've worked on so far. I think there are a host of reasons why this is so.

One is that I'm stepping into very, very big shoes in the form of "New X-Men." Even though the sales on YXM are significantly higher than those for NXM, the fan base for NXM was and remains quite passionate, and many of those readers, such as yourself, compare what I'm doing with the brilliant work of ["New X-Men" writers Craig] Kyle & [Christopher] Yost and find it wanting. That's totally fair. Those guys are immensely talented and the work they did on NXM was absolutely phenomenal.

That having been said, those guys would be the first to tell you -- as they have told me -- that although their run is now looked on as beloved, they were well and truly pilloried at the outset. I take some comfort in the idea that fans sometimes need time to warm up to a book. I think YXM is that type of book and, judging by my admittedly very limited review of what people are saying online, I think people are starting to warm up to what I'm doing with the series. I think (and hope) this trend will continue with the publication of issue #5 -- that issue concludes our first arc and answers many of the lingering questions that have left readers with a bad taste in their mouths.

Issue #6 kicks off a new status quo for the team, moving them to San Francisco and adding a new member, one beloved by a lot of New X-Men readers, and it's my hope that people such as yourself, who were underwhelmed by the first arc, find something promising in that issue. I can't promise that YXM will ever be NXM, but I can tell you that both issues #6 and #7 -- which are each self-contained, by the way -- have a lot more of character interactions and intra-team conflict than our first arc had. Hopefully, you'll find a favorable similarity with what you enjoyed from NXM.

Finally, there are still some more mysteries -- set up in our first arc -- that have yet to be answered and that will be answered in future issues. You may not even be aware, as yet, that those mysteries have even been seeded. In other words, there are still lots of surprises in store and I've got faith that you'll like where we're going. If you don't, I totally respect that. Not every book appeals to ever reader, but I hope you stick around long enough for this one to appeal to you.

And with that, we wrap up another X-POSITION fireside chat. If you still have more questions about the X-books though, fear not -- we will return in seven days along with "Uncanny X-Men" writer Matt Fraction. And if you read issue #501 (which arrived in stores last week), there should be questions aplenty.

As per usual, send those emails our way with "X-Position" in the subject line. You know the drill: the sooner we get your questions, the more likely they are to be asked. So send those mutant missives now!

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