After a year of mind-bending adventures with Marvel’s roughest and rowdiest team of superheroes, the most recent volume of “X-Force” has arrived at its explosive end. With the climactic “X-Force” #15 — which goes on sale this Wednesday, Feb. 11 — Cable’s team of fearsome fighters will take the battle straight to their ally-turned-enemy, Fantomex. On the eve of the final installment in his action-packed opus, “X-Force” writer Si Spurrier has signed up for one last mission with X-Position.
Si Spurrier joins us for one final “X-Force” X-Position and answers your questions about everything from the nature of continuity to Psylocke’s addiction to killing and his future — possibly “Secret Wars”-shaped — post-“X-Force” plans .
CBR News: Hello, Si!
Hello hello hello, and welcome to this — my last X-Position on the topic of “X-Force.” We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve shed a little blood, we’ve perhaps had to change our pants more often than is strictly decent, but by god we’ve lived.
That we have! We’re going to kick off this momentous event with a question from MiddlePegasus about beginnings and endings.
With “X-Force” coming to a close, I want to know which do you find more challenging as a writer: launching a new series and setting everything up or wrapping up all your storylines and coming up with an ending?
Endings and beginnings are both ridiculously hard. They’re also both an utter joy. Dichotomy rodeo thy name is Spurrier. It’s possible I have a glass of wine right here.
Listen, I’m the sort of writer who won’t go into a story unless I have a pretty decent handle on how it’s going to end. To do otherwise — I believe — is a direct betrayal of the contract I have with my audience. I’m asking you guys to invest in my tale; to dig deep and be patient and decode and contemplate and relate and a billion other silent and secret subconscious mental technologies which go into every comic book panel you’ve ever read. Bear in mind, some readers simply don’t or won’t put up with a demanding story. I’d argue that’s their loss — lazy bastards — because the reward you get for investing in a challenging narrative is impact and emotional resonance.
Buuuut, given all that, if you later found out I’d been basically making shit up as I went along, a) you’d have every right to be pissed, and b) actually you would’ve realized ages ago, because it’d show in the quality of the work.
So, really, beginnings and endings are part of the same thing for me. I won’t go into the former unless I’ve already contemplated the latter. The construction of the story therefore becomes the art of disseminating information, bit-by-bit, at juuuuuust the right speed, to make the ending as satisfying and as timely as it needs to be.
(And, it’s worth mentioning, the ending’s never exactly as you envisaged. Things have changed, characters have evolved. Life has happened. So, just as it’d be cheating to not have an ending in mind, so it’d be cheating to force a disingenuous one on you.)
One interesting thing I’ve noticed: there’s a point, usually about 1/2 or 2/3rds of a way through any given arc, when you’ve got all your plates successfully spinning, you’ve introduced some of your complications, and you know it’s all downhill towards the prescribed conclusion… and suddenly it’s ‘oh shit, how do I get from this to that?’ I’d suggest that’s the hardest moment. Bridging the gap between “come inside, kindly patron, see my delightful wares” and closing the proverbial sale the way you wanted. That’s the real trick.
Next up, harashkupo has a bit of a “What If?” scenario for you to play out.
I’ve enjoyed your series so very much and am sad to see it ending. You’ve set up a nice coda to the concept of a death squad comprised of heroes, but do you believe there’s still room for an X-Force in the Marvel Universe? What do you envision their mission would be if it continued? Also do you mind sharing with us how you picture the characters moving forward from here? I understand it’s not up to you, so maybe consider it a “What if?” I can’t wait to read your next project.
Have to be a tad circumspect here to avoid spoilers about the way my run ends, but in general: yeah, I think there’ll always be room in the MU for the X-Force brand, simply because it’s so fuzzily defined. I tried to put my finger on what exactly the title means to me in a CBR interview a while back. It’s certainly not just “heroes who kill,” anyway; that’s a fabulously simplistic and unimaginative reduction of it. Rather, I think it’s one of those titles where, even though you don’t know what you’re going to get, you can be confident it’s going to play by slightly different rules than the rest of the ideological superhero experience. In my case it was Realpolitik and the mental outcomes of a violent life. In, say, [Rick] Remender’s run it was an unflinching look at the applied technology of mortality. In [Peter] Milligan’s case it was a melting pot of subverted expectations, pop-cultural backflips and so on. In other words there’s very little thematic commonality between iterations of the title, but the lowest common denominator is always “different”-ness. I’d argue there’s always going to be a need for that.
Does that mean Marvel will relaunch the title immediately? I honestly don’t know, though I doubt it. For perfectly sensible economic reasons it often makes sense to rest these things for a while — particularly in light of the Enormo Awegasmic Event Thingy about to splashdown — and come back to them down the line.
Alucard2099 has a question about “X-Force’s” resident cantankerous scientist.
Dr. Nemesis. I liked your handling of the character. How did you enjoy writing him? I’ll miss his witty remarks once the book ends.
Me too pal, me too. Doc Nemesis is basically my angry, shouty, overly-dramatic, coffee-stinking spirit animal. Check out my “X-Club” TPB if you didn’t already, for Peak Nem. Fear not: as long as Marvel hires me, I’ll continue to push, shove and indulgently contrive Nemesis appearances wherever I can. The vow may somewhat handicap the clause there, but you gotta have a goal.
Commando X has a question about the elephant in the room when it comes to superhero comics — continuity.
In your run on “X-Force” you got to use a lot of characters with really long and sometimes confusing pasts, like Psylocke, Cable and Fantomex. How do you as a writer distill all the discrepancies and decades of continuity down into something you can use? Did “X-Force” provide any unique difficulties?
Continuity’s something you have to be a bit grown-up about, y’know? I think all of us — as Marvel readers and fans, I mean — have a very sophisticated inbuilt capacity for dealing with this stuff. Oh sure, there’s the noisy 1% who’re so dedicated to the minutiae that any perceived adjustment or realignment, no matter how positive, will always be met with outrage. Remember: factions speak louder than herds.
But most of us — reasonable human fiction-consumers, I mean — are capable of regarding the tangled histories of our favorite characters with impressive flexibility. I’d argue it’s a similar psychology to that of mythology or legend. We stow-away details of these characters’ lives, but if something new comes along which doesn’t quite align — no biggie. As long as the spirit of the character is retained — or improved! Or evolved! — then the new stuff overwrites the old. It’s never a question of Fact vs Fact; it’s just one folklore syncretizing with, and eventually overlying, another. You only really run into trouble when the retcons are tacitly less positive than the former canon. Then, no matter how much the writer or publisher insists this is for the good of the character, and it’ll pay dividends in the long run — and it usually will — readers will struggle not to feel robbed of something they formerly cherished. That’s the price of a longform narrative, I’m afraid. You don’t get to have a continuum of happy endings.
Anyway, this relationship between fans and continuity constitutes a lot of pretty astonishing mental acrobatics, and we’re all doing it 100% of the time whilst reading comics. We’re endlessly making these subconscious abstractions — glossing-over stuff which doesn’t make sense; deliberately ignoring details which don’t fit or which seem crass; forgiving outright mistakes — because we love the characters, we love the stories, and the payoff is so much greater than the investment. It’s remarkable and very special.
In terms of my work with “X-Force,” it all played rather neatly into my mischievous schemes. As I’ve said elsewhere, “X-Force” feels like one of the only books where it makes sense to deliberately face up to some of the inherent problems with the superhero genre, which would be subconsciously waved-away (as described above) in any other title. In fact, it felt like the sort of book where it would’ve been irresponsible not to confront these things. Namely: if you’ve spent your entire life as a warrior, an ideologue, a crusader, a dirtier-of-one’s-own-hands, then you better believe you’re going to be screwed-up in a lot of creative ways.
In that sense “X-Force” was far less concerned with the fiddly detail of the characters’ continuity than it was with the emotional and behavioral baggage which derived from it all. The challenge in each character’s case was not only to ponder how he or she would really feel about the world, but also to invent the ways that each of them can continue to function, rather than going stark staring bugfuck mental.
I mean… if you want to get really real about this stuff — like, assume that all the continuity is 100% real and accurate and unchangeable, assume that your favorite heroes spend all day every day fighting, bleeding, getting smashed-up, seeing people die, saving lives, failing to save lives, having a unique and privileged view of the world, and yet still somehow manage to crack wise, have pool parties and seem like well-adjusted people — then I’m afraid you’re obligated to come to the conclusion that they’re all absolutely and rabidly insane.
Obviously that’s a ghastly and very unsatisfying conclusion — and a betrayal of the stories we all love — so instead (for 99% of super-hero books) we make allowances, we don’t get too horribly cynical about things, we cheerfully buy-in to the morality and ideological purity of the fiction… because it’s such an awesome world to visit.
Alternatively — for 1% of superhero books, like “X-Force” — we find interesting and nasty ways to explain how and why our fucked up heroes continue to do what they do. And we don’t flinch from looking at the results.
With “X-Force” ending, Tazpocalapse wonders if you’ll revisit another character you’ve spent some time with.
I really enjoyed your “X-Men Legacy” run. Any chances of you writing the character Legion again?
Not any time in the immediate future, sorry. I ended that book in a very deliberate way precisely because it’s the one and only ending I wanted — no, needed — to include. To revisit now would be to imply there’s more to be said, or (worse) that the ambiguities need to be tidied-up (they don’t!). That Mark Twain quote about keeping your mouth closed and risk having people think you’re a fool…? Applies to fictions, too.
Of course, my ending also rather perversely but the kibosh on any chance of a simple Continuing-Adventures-of-David-Haller [series], which was rather naughty on my part. As I believe I’ve said in previous X-positions, there’s a childish little part of me, which was tacitly challenging other writers (or, hey, myself: never-say-never) to find a creative and clever way to go back to the character. Or, I suppose, to simply ignore the whole thing. I’d see either one as a victory, frankly.
With “Secret Wars” on the horizon, jawbreaker has a question about your potential role in the event.
Hi Si. Will you be involved in anything “Secret Wars” related?
Yes! As I believe the correspondent below seems to already know. Creepy. Let’s head on down there together to talk about it more openly.
Hey, psst, I’m totally not going to give her any detail about the gig anyway, teeheehee, I am the worst.
Yeah, starleafgirl has a question about this mysterious new project you have at Marvel.
Hi, Si! I’m excited to hear you’re working on something new for Marvel. I’ve got to know — have you managed to squeeze Chamber or any other cranky Brits into your next Marvel project?
Thanks! I’m excited to hear I’m working on something new for Marvel, too. I cannot promise you Chamberish goodness, sorry. I can give nebulous hand-wavy assurances regarding cranky Britness, though you should remember that all my work includes the voice of at least one cranky Brit by default — hi — so I might just be being meta there. It’s dreadfully fashionable.
Perfection/Emma 2 has a question about everyone’s favorite gun-toting luck-powered wise-cracking X-Forcer.
Had X-Force lasted longer, would Domino have received a spotlight issue?
Yeah, definitely. That’s one of the regrets I still have, actually. I’d planned to use Neena to throw another interesting emotional matrix into the mix. To an extent she’s like a more mature version of Marrow: she gets off on the thrill, she’s been through a lot of stuff, but she’s not quite as buggy or laissez faire. On a long enough timeline I’d imagined a sort of little-sister/big-sister relationship forming between them, with predictably dark and guilt-stricken twists along the way. In the event time wasn’t on my side. I still think Domino gets a satisfying arc of her own here, but yeah — she arguably undergoes the least amount of change amongst all of my guys and gals.
Ben has a question about a character that did undergo a lot of change during your run — Psylocke.
You’ve mentioned you had planned an arc in which Psylocke would attend a support group for her addiction to killing. Since this is not gonna happen now, how do you see Psylocke’s arc in your “X-Force” run? Is her addiction now more core of who she is or do you feel she will overcome it at some point?
I think, in part, this goes to the stuff I was discussing before about continuity and reader sophistication. It’s part and parcel of the same phenomenon that readers are able (for example) to parse the notion of a character being in two full-time titles at the same time. Even when the characterization is subtly different between the two, most of us fans are still able to reconcile the versions and enjoy the character for who they are, rather than being bumped out of the fiction by the distinctions.
I mention this to illustrate a point: even if this whole “addicted to violence” thing never gets referenced again, it becomes a part of Psylocke’s mythological makeup, and readers are cheerfully entitled to put more or less importance upon it as their tastes dictate when reading newer Psylocke stories. Up until the point that another writer tacitly uses or contradicts it, these points of emotional color continue to have an influence. The beauty of all this is that — apart from these brief windows of Present Tense Alteration — it’s not really up to the writer to determine how fans choose to clothe, animate and understand their favorite characters.
Anyway. For what it’s worth, without wishing to spoil episode #15, Betsy gets a big breakthrough… of sorts. Which, I hope, will satisfy your question, as well as providing fertile ground for the sorts of lasting conjectures I mentioned above.
Lastly, AJpyro wants to make sure that you don’t become a stranger now that “X-Force” is over.
Sorry to see you leave “X-Force.’ I’ve enjoyed what you’ve done and Fantomex’s rise of evil was believable and awesome in its own right. What’s next for you? More X-Men? Something creator owned? I hope to see your work again.
Oh, you shall, yes indeed.
First up, there’s the Marvel thingy I’ve hinted at above. I think that’s due to be announced really soon. It’s a huge departure from my most recent books, and I couldn’t be more excited. Look out for some more info about that very soon.
Then there’s a new series with BOOM! Studios, co-created with my favorite pencil-goblin Jeff Stokely. We put out “Six-Gun Gorilla” together last year which has been a huge success — got nominated for three Harvey Awards, etc. You should definitely check it out if you haven’t already, it’s nothing like the title would lead you to expect — and our new series is essentially a distillation of all the things we adore. That is: weirdness, whimsy, ass-kicking she-cops, impossible creatures and mind-bending worlds. It’s looking so, so good.
Next up, a couple of exciting secret projects with Avatar. For my money those guys have come to dominate the portion of the market typified by smart, thoughtful, meaningful and mature books — and I use the term “mature” in its truest sense, rather than simply implying gore, guts and boobies. Avatar used to be closely associated with the latter, true enough, but now it’s become so much more. I wish I could say more about those gigs but I just can’t at this point. Watch out for some exciting news soon.
Next there’s a creator-owned book with one of my absolute favorite artists. Music, military and monsters all in one razor-sharp package. If ever I’ve come close to deliberately courting the Trendstream — unconsciously, but still — this would be it. Hoping to start teasing this very, very soon.
Then there’s the requisite “other things in the pipeline.” You don’t get to work on the endless treadmill that is comics unless you’re constantly hurling projects far ahead of yourself. If just one of the several mind-blowing things currently developing in the shadows comes off I shall squee like nothing has ever squeed before.
Last but not least, I’m going to be self-publishing a novella in the next couple of months. If you didn’t know, I was a prose novelist long before I started working for Marvel (check out “A Serpent Uncoiled” or “Contract” for some spooky murderous fun). This new piece is something of an experiment on my part. It’s incredibly personal and — for reasons you’ll understand when you read it — impossible to publish in a traditional way. But it’s such a delightful dollop of unconventional fun and nastiness I couldn’t let it go to waste. So my current plan is to put it out in various e-book formats — Kindle, epub, PDF — with some sort of “pay what you want” system attached. All very new for me.
Just remains for me to thank you all for following “X-Force,” and for being the best, most loyal, most thoughtful and most mentally acrobatic readers I could ever hope for.
You’re nice, you.
Special thanks to Si Spurrier for taking on this week’s questions!
Stay tuned to CBR for information on next week’s X-Position guest and how you can submit your questions.
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