X-POSITION: Pak's "Astonishing X-Men" Brings Back Storm's Mohawk

When a hero has been around for a few decades, they're bound to vary their "look" and wardrobe from time to time -- and every stylistic choice that exists is someone's favorite. Some like their Wolverine yellow, others like him brown; a few prefer him with no mask and dressed in leather. Let's just be glad Logan never tried oversized shoulder-pads.

This month, Greg Pak brings back the "Mohawk Storm" in Marvel Comics' "Astonishing X-Men" that I read while growing up, and I'll admit -- I missed her. This Storm, however, brings some emotional baggage that may surprise many readers. You have questions about this? Mr. Pak hopefully has answers. Let's give him a shot, shall we...

Good ol' Renaldo starts us off with an excellent quad of queries:

1) Previously, you've worked on anti-heroes and villains such as the Red Skull, Hulk, Magneto, and Skaar. For your "Astonishing" story, did you envision Scott as sort of an anti-hero given his stance that lead to Schism?

Great question. I can't say too much for fear of spoilers, but do not miss "Astonishing X-Men" #47.

2) How would you describe the characteristics of your team roster as opposed to the team seen in "Uncanny X-Men" at the moment?

I'm focusing on a much smaller group of characters, with a special emphasis on those characters with whom Scott has the deepest relationships. There's a big twist regarding exactly how all of the characters can be in the same room post-"Schism" that astute readers have probably already figured out based on the last few pages of issue #44.

3) Any chance for monsters or major catastrophe, like the kind we saw in "Incredible Hulk" or "Incredible Hercules?"

Monsters... hmm. Do inner demons count? And giant robots?

Major catastrophe? Absolutely. On a mind-bending scale. Again, don't miss issue #47.

4) Why did you decide to use Storm as a central figure in your "Astonishing X-Men?" What attracts you to her?

Storm is one of my favorite comic book characters of all time. She's strong and bigger than life with a thief-turned-goddess backstory that allows for tremendous character exploration. She should have a solo book and I should write it. Start the petitions and letter-writing campaigns... now!

I have a feeling the X-office will receive quite a few letters bearing this request. And speaking of writing projects, Marcus Martin hopes you can tell us -- "what's next?"

1) I was a big fan of your run on "Incredible Hulk" and I am currently enjoying your "Alpha Flight" miniseries. After this concludes and you are finished with your "Astonishing X-Men" story, will you have other work from Marvel that I (and many other readers) can look forward to? Maybe more X-Men?

I just turned in the first script for a brand new Marvel project that hasn't yet been announced. It's not X-Men related, but it is a character I've been dreaming about getting my hands on for ages. Stay tuned!

I'd love to do more X-stories -- in particular with Magneto and with the characters we're introducing in this "Astonishing" storyline. Fingers crossed!

2) I have a small question about your current "Astonishing" story. Shouldn't [Scott] feel upset that he drove off most of the original X-Men -- like Beast and Iceman -- based on his choices? How will this motivate his choices?

Scott's clearly upset about the events of "Schism" -- hence his spontaneous property damage at the beginning of issue #44. But I think Scott believes he made the only choice he could have and would do the same thing all over again if given the chance. However, the events of this storyline may give him a new way to think about the way he's been living his life and leading the X-Men.

Emerald_616 wants to know more about this tale's origins and outcomes:

1) How did you decide on a story set between realities for your "Astonishing X-Men" arc?

I sat down with X-Men editor Nick Lowe over Korean food in midtown Manhattan a few months back, and after batting around a few ideas, this is what emerged. I think Nick might have been the first to mention multiple realities. I'd loved the alternative worlds Warren Ellis explored during his run, so I was very happy to grab that ball and run.

Nick, incidentally, has been amazing to work with. We worked together on a few books very early in my Marvel career but hadn't collaborated for years. It's been a blast working with him again -- he's gotten excited right along with me about the mind-bending potential of the story's big ideas and themes while being that ongoing voice of common sense that's helped me focus my crazy ideas and get to the heart of these characters' stories.

2) Do you know if the roster you've created for your arc will be sticking around? What kinds of characters do you feel make a dynamic group?

I'd be thrilled to write more stories about this team. Cross your fingers!

A good team needs enough shared experiences and goals to give the book a solid theme and premise and give the characters a reason for fighting at each other's sides.  But the team needs enough variety to give every interaction a kernel of dramatic conflict and clashing objectives. A variety of voices and abilities is also key.

Captain Cavalier has a question about Canucks...

1) I'm confused about the status of "Alpha Flight" -- at first I thought it was an ongoing, then I was told it was a miniseries, and then I was told it was cancelled (but I don't know how you cancel a miniseries). Can you clarify and tell me if we're still getting the full Pak experience on this story?

The book was originally solicited as an eight-issue maxiseries. And that's what Fred Van Lente and I planned to write from the beginning; that's the story we developed and the story we're delivering, even as we speak. At a certain point, the numbers were good enough that Marvel approved making the book an ongoing, so Fred and I started planning for where we'd go next with the characters and story.

Then economic realities got realer, shall we say, and the book was returned to its original eight-issue status. But since that was our original plan anyway, you're getting the original story we always planned to tell. And it is awesome. I just got the penultimate page of issue #8 from our brilliant penciler Dale Eaglesham, and it's just gorgeous. I'm pretty proud of this book and the way it's wrapping up -- there's some real emotional payoff here that I hope you'll enjoy.

2) Which kind of Hulk works best in your mind -- one that's stupid and savage, cold and calculating, or one that's not super-strong but has emotions?

The beauty of the Hulk is that his different incarnations can lend themselves to a wide range of stories. So I think any and all incarnations of the Hulk can work best -- as long as they're paired with stories that can use them well.

3) Which "version" of Hulk has been your favorite and why? (Feel free to say yours!)

Mine. (Smiley-face!)

For "Planet Hulk" and beyond, I needed a version of the Hulk that was savage enough to be very, very dangerous, but smart enough to be able to strategize and form alliances -- and eventually develop real emotional connections. So I went back to that savage but crafty version that writers from Stan Lee to Peter David used from time to time.

On the topic of different "versions" of characters, Andre4000 was wondering about our favorite weather goddess...

1) How do you feel the Mohawk version of Storm is different than the present one? Does she approach problems differently?

The Mohawk Storm you're seeing in my "Astonishing" storyline has suffered unfathomable loss and has a very specific mission that she will never, ever be dissuaded from pursuing. She's a bit more of a wild card than the current Storm because that total commitment to that specific mission means she might do insane things that no normal person would attempt otherwise. She's also much, much rawer emotionally -- the crises that motivate her are ever-present and all-consuming. That makes her dangerous. But it also reflects an incredible focus and strength of character that will become clearer as the story progresses.

2) Do you know if your "Phoenix Endsong" factors into the recent announcement of the Phoenix's return?

No comment for fear of spoilers.

3) Have you been working on any movie "stuff" recently? How do you split your time between film and comics?

I have indeed! But nothing I can talk about just yet. I spend most of my time on comics -- to keep working in the industry, it's absolutely critical to make those deadlines, so I'm very selective about the non-comics projects I take on. But I'm absolutely still a screenwriter and filmmaker and have been working on a number of projects that I hope to be able to announce in the next year or two.

4) You made "Vision Machine" under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. Do you feel this was a successful exercise? Would you do it again?

Different projects lend themselves to different kinds of licensing and distribution strategies. "Vision Machine" was funded by the Ford Foundation and was always intended to be given away for free, so the Creative Commons license made perfect sense -- particularly since one of the underlying themes of the book deals with questions of copyright and trademark.

I think it's been enormously successful -- the book has reached thousands of people, both in digital and physical form, and almost every review or article about the book has discussed its CC license and included download links. As a way of getting a free book into as many hands as possible, it's been a great strategy. But like I say, different books lend themselves to different distribution strategies. For an indie book that I need to sell in order to recoup costs, I would probably at this point not use a CC license. Unless I paired it with a Kickstarter campaign, with the idea that the Kickstarter would fully fund the project, which would then be released on a CC license. Hm, now you have me thinking...

Before you dive too deeply into those thoughts, allow me to throw you my quick get-to-know-you question that we like to call "Behind the X." If you don't mind, please tell us which super hero you most relate to and why?

At this instant in time, I've been thinking a lot about Guardian from Alpha Flight. Many moons ago, before I studied film and became a comics guy, I thought I was going to go into politics. So I guess I have a lot of sympathy for Guardian's idealistic vision of himself as a public servant. I've also been sorely disappointed by political leaders more than once, so I understand Guardian's sense of a dream betrayed in the current storyline. He's basically a big, nerdy Boy Scout trying to do the right thing in an increasingly insane world. And I guess that's an image of myself that I might sometimes indulge in...

Let's allow Mr. Pak that benevolent indulgence as we conclude today's X-POSITION. But be sure to return next week, as we have mischief and mayhem planned with Rob Williams, writer of "Daken: Dark Wolverine." As the series winds to a close, many of you have questions, so just type them up and send them to me quick as a wink! An "X-Position" in the subject line will guarantee that I see them and overlook your grammatical errors.

Also, I'm hard at work preparing our "Best X-Moments of 2011" column for the end of the year. This is the column where you, our readers, tell us what events from Marvel's X-Universe made you want to run out and get an X-tattoo over the past 365 days. From today through Christmas, either post your favorite X-Moments of 2010 at the appropriate string in our X-forums or email me directly with your thoughts on the matter.

Let me know why you picked this moment and which X-issue it came from. Images help us out too, so either post them in the thread or send them to me in your email (not a requirement, but it's appreciated). We'll do a tally of the results between the forum posts and emails, and then expect one heck of a fun X-POSITION at year's end. If you do email me, put "Best X-Moment of 2010" in the subject line... pretty please?

This is the last call for the "Best of..." list, so send them if you got 'em!

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