X-POSITION: Spurrier Delves Into Legion's Psyche for "X-Men Legacy"

"X-Men Legacy" is certainly one of the more eclectic titles of Marvel Comics' Marvel NOW! publishing initiative. With a story by writer Si Spurrier and art by Tan Eng Huat and Jorge Molina, "Legacy" follows the schizophrenic mutant powerhouse known as Legion as he tries to find his place in a Marvel Universe without his father, Charles Xavier. In Spurrier's first arc, Legion encountered a team of X-Men and discovered an intriguing connection with Blindfold.

With "X-Men Legacy's" first arc almost at a close, X-Position checked in with Spurrier to pose fan's questions about the direction of the series, the secondary characters behind Legion and how the writer plans to continue exploring Legion's place in the Marvel U.

mr_infinite kicks off this week's proceedings with a question about developing Legion as a character.

Mr. Spurrier, the ending of the most recent X-Men Legacy was so cool! I think it's awesome that we get to see David somewhat at peace in this issue and honing his abilities. What was the thought process behind breaking him down and building him back up?

"X-Men Legacy" #6 cover by Mike del Mundo

Hey, Mr Infinite! Thoroughly splendichuffed you're enjoying the book. I spent a brief spell being Infinite myself, but it kept giving my migraines. Good on you for sticking with it.

Philosophy behind breaking-down/building-up? It's simply because I'm an awful, vile, toxic human and it turns out you can't constantly throw horribleness at your protagonist without occasionally giving them a lucky break. Even sadism gets boring, apparently.

No, no, no, I'm lying. That's a thing I do. The truth is that I wanted to launch the series with a big killer jolt -- I'm here, bitches, and nothing is how it was, behold my chaos, eat my destruction, DEVOUR MY DESTABILITY -- then oh-so-slowly build us back to a condition of normalcy. As you'll shortly discover, even that is a fragile and fleeting thing.

There's this pervasive idea in writing spandex comics that you're supposed to establish a Status Quo of sorts, to which your character is constantly restored. I think that's a big heap of arsecheese, myself. How can a character's story grow and evolve and resonate with a growing/evolving world if they themselves are stuck in a niche? "He thinks X, he believes Y, but his big problem is Z." Nonsense. "He thinks X, but he used to think A, and tomorrow he'll be wondering about B, and as a result he's experiencing some heavy confusion in his belief-patterns between H and W, and his big problem is the rest of the alphabet." It's like a cheerleader's worst nightmare.

So, no. Writing David is a perpetual act of trying to achieve a status quo. Now and then (for instance, at the end of episode 6) he's going to believe he's found a pathway, a set of rules, a solid goal, whatever it is. And at those moments we'll all take a breath and think, cool, another step has been successful climbed, and we'll pursue that road and suckle on its tasty storymilk and feel satisfied with a beginning, a middle and an end. But there'll always be a new path waiting just 'round the bend, because otherwise what's the point?

In other words: I built David up so that you, the other readers and I all care when he gets knocked back on his ass. So it never gets boring. So it never becomes routine. I'll tell you this: one of the things I love about writing this character? He will always get back up again.

You've managed to introduce some really cool characters so far in only a few issues. How much will Karasu come into play for future issues?

That whole field is proving to be a major balancing act. Like, there are all these secondary characters I'm folding into the mix, all fulfilling different functions. I want to keep coming back to them again and again -- in some cases that's because I'm obsessed by them (cf. Chamber), in some it's because I've created them and want them to grow and flourish and rule the fictional world, in others it's because their stories are perfect thematic intersections with David's own world.

But this is David's book. Not theirs. We'll miss them when they're not constantly there, but we'll reassure ourselves that they'll be back real soon -- because there isn't a single character I've used in "XLeg" so far for whom I don't have plans and schemes. This isn't a team book, this isn't a spandex book in the way a lot of other X-titles are.

So, yeah. I'm cunningly dodging referring to Karasu (or Sojobo) directly because you have no idea what's going to happen next ep. [Laughs] But the short answer is: my guest stars will come and go, but they all have roles to play.

In the most recent issue of "X-Men Legacy," we saw Legion try to contact his mother. Will he ever be in a place where he feels like he can speak with her?

Yeah, absolutely. This is something I wrote a lot about on the episode annotations I've been providing for each new issue over on the dedicated "X-Leg" workblog so I won't repeat myself too much. But yeah, Gabrielle has a part to play, and play it she shall.

Next up, Mahmood wants to know more about the mysterious sub-persona of Legion only known so far as "Fiend."

1) We have seen many sub personas of Legion. David knows them all, but he seems unaware of the new persona that you dubbed "Fiend." Can you tell us why?

Absolutely not. Sorry. That's sort of like approaching Agatha Christie when you're five pages into one of her novels and saying "we've met all the flamboyant eccentric characters inhabiting Murder Mansion, but can you tell us which of them killed Lord Frobishley-Clittington-Whiskerbar?"

No, y'chancer, read the bloody story.

Luckily, a significant chunk of the puzzle will be plopping into your lap next issue. Whether it's important or un poisson rouge, I'm not at liberty to say.

(His name's not "fiend," by the way. I can't exactly tell you his name.)

2) Fiend seems to be smarter than the other personalities as the first thing he did after his birth was to kill another smart persona so he would have less competition and is biding his time to make his move, unlike the other personalities. What can you tell us about his power? As we have seen he seem to be immune from telepaths as the twins was not show to have held him for David and was unaffected by Blindfold.

Very well spotted. Again, you're kinda asking questions whose answers are, ah, The Point Of The Story, so I'm going to have to reluctantly disappoint you. What I will say is that answers are coming. Answers are coming. Answers are coming.

3) In the New Mutants, David was afraid of releasing the true Legion inside his mind. Will we see this persona in the future?

No, no plans for that. Part of the ethos of this new "X-Men Legacy" series was that we're presenting a sort of definitive version of David Haller. Yes, we're being respectful towards the years of accumulated history, and using more than a few parts of it... but we decided very early in the process that it'd be a big mistake to feel completely beholden to every nugget of minutiae.

The exact identities of his various personalities was one of those things, and -- not incidentally -- another reason for us starting the series with a catastrophic upheaval of David's mental landscape. In the wake of his father's death David's subconscious is an unfamiliar menageries of unfamiliar beings. He's taken the time to study them and we've been introduced to a few of them as we go along, but I'm not going to start digging out old split-personalities just for the sake of it, and I'm not going to go treating every last one of them as fully-fleshed out characters.

As for what constitutes the "true" version of David Haller, that's a very interesting point. As a working rule I'm very clear that David is David, and the split personalities are baaasically separate: a manifestation of whatever illness, trauma or psychic injury ails him. And we'll be exploring that further down the line. I say "basically" separate because of course it's not as simple as all that, as we shall see.

4) We saw in Uncanny Avengers what the Red Skull did to David's father. Will David be seeking revenge on him?

Oof. Another great question which I'm basically unable to answer.

Actually, I can be a bit sneaky here. I'm going to answer the question exactly as it was asked, and not say a word more. So: will David be seeking revenge on the Red Skull? No.

Anossa has a few questions about the secondary cast of the book so far.

1) Do you have any plans on developing Frenzy and Chamber in a similar way that you developed Blindfold's story?

Not quite the same, no. For reasons you'll be discovering very soon, Blindfold's role in David's story is rather more significant than anyone's yet guessed. But that's not to say I won't be spending as much time as possible with other characters like Frenzy and Chamber. In the long term I have big plans for them all, and there are good reasons I picked them to be on the Legion-response team.

2) Who are the crazy nemeses of Mr. Haller?

Kieron Gillen and Matt Fraction. David's been secretly hatching plans against them for months.

Also: hairdressers; people who pronounce it "twot" rather than, y'know, the right way; horses; people who say "pacific" instead of specific; Chad Kroeger; anyone who hasn't purchased and publicly enthused about the two best crime novels of the past decade, "A Serpent Uncoiled" and "Contract"; bad showers; whistling nostrils; poorly-constructed sushi and the colour cyan.

Oh, and people who accuse me of projecting my own views and opinions onto the characters I write. David hates those fuckers.

3) Is Luca Aldine working with another villain to antagonize Mr. Haller?

Good question.

Right now? Like, rrrright now, the answer is "no."

4) How far are you in terms of the book's plot?

I'm just finishing up writing episode 10 right now -- although, for reasons too strange and counterintuitive to mention, I haven't written episode 9 yet. Although it, along with 11 and 12, are very densely plotted already.

Interesting general point: I'm normally the sort of writer who likes to have everything plotted to a ridiculous degree before I write a single word. That's probably a reflection of my personal taste in comics -- I like density, I like concise stories, I like twisty-turny plots -- as well as the fact I've mostly worked previously on limited serials, wherein it's possible to have things mentally sewn-up with a tidy ending before you sit to hit a single key. As I hinted above, I love the idea of endings -- journeys coming to a destination -- and I utterly reject the idea that you can't do that in an ongoing series. Just because one journey ends, doesn't mean you can't cunningly establish a new journey without any break in service.

Nonetheless, I'm learning that -- with an ongoing series -- it pays dividends to deliberately build in a little flexibility. In fact, I'll go you one further: it pays to deliberately build-in uncertainty. For one thing, you never quite know what big Universe-shaking events are going on in other books which are going to leak all over your elaborately-constructed and minutely detailed schemes. For another, it's been my observation that ongoing series where the whole "WE'VE GOT THREE HUNDRED YEARS OF INTRICACY ALL MAPPED OUT" thing is paraded up front, can sometimes seem kind of stale or lifeless, like a robotic procession from one beat to the next. That's not always the case -- sometimes it's done with panache and brilliance -- but I think I've decided, with a journey like David's, it feels more natural and more rewarding to play it somewhere in between: half neurotic, half skin-of-the-teeth.

So: I know where I want the story to go, and I know the five or six big beats which have been subtly foreshadowed and are just over the horizon, and I have a billion ideas for the things that are going to happen on the way. But even in the short time I've been writing it I think some of my favorite moments are the ones I didn't foresee at all, and I'm hungry for more of that vibe.

cora reef has a query about the significance of the book's title and the concept of the past as applied to present.

One of the things I like the most about "X-Men Legacy" #5 was the black and white flashbacks Jorge Molina drew inside Legion's mind. Considering the use of the word "Legacy" in the title, how important is the past to the book -- not just to Legion, but to the rest of the book's cast as well?

Paradoxically, the past is central and antithetical to the story. So much of the thematic drive comes from bygone events, characters and relationships -- and yet all those things are being used to inform that relentless fuck you to conventionality thing we've been playing with, and a deliberate march towards The New -- both in story terms and stylistically.

Here's a silly little illustration. If I could get away with it, one of the future arcs would be proudly subtitled "THEY FUCK YOU UP, YOUR MUM AND DAD," from the Philip Larkin thing. Partly that's because I'm a crass little pillock who still thinks swearing is big and clever, but mostly because -- as an aphorism -- it so perfectly describes David's journey: the challenges of the future are the consequences of the past. And, as we're going to see next episode -- and more particularly in arc 2 -- the future is about to become a very big part of the picture. Past>Present>Future: "legacy" is the conceptual pivot around which everything turns.

Legion's never really been able to have any kind of romance in his history and it was refreshing to see some hints of something with Blindfold. How does this play into your plan of bringing Legion back to relevance in the Marvel U?

This is going to sound like splitting hairs, but it's probably worth saying: the "plan" was never really to bring David back to relevance. Not per se. The plan is to explore this amazing, complicated, fragile, rock-fucking-hard character in new, twisty, unpredictable ways, via a series of story arcs each of which will be told exactly as it needs to -- whether that implies weird, conventional, dark-as-hell, spandexy, funny, or Benny Hill-style slapstick. (NB: Not that last one).

If I do that stuff right, the "relevant" part will sort itself out.

Anyway. Semantic-pedantic shtick aside, the romance with Blindfold is something which arose in a very organic way out of a particular aspect of the story. Weirdly enough Said Aspect hasn't quite been spelled-out in the comic itself yet -- we get our first notion of it at the end of episode 6 -- but the phrase "star-crossed" doesn't even begin to cover it. It's part of the whole past/present/future "legacy" thing I was waffling about above...

Sean starts off the next round of questions with a compliment followed by a question about expanding the supporting cast.

Hi, Mr. Spurrier!  I'm so intrigued by where you're going with Legacy. It's so fun, exciting, and smart.  I really love your Chamber and Blindfold. Your characters are spot on.

Thanks! That's the sort of question I can really get my teeth into. [Gnaws]

Will we see any X-Men side with Legion?  There are a few that would naturally do so, I think, that have never really gotten in with the X-Men, like Cecilia Reyes.

"Side" with Legion is an interesting notion, given all the "endlessly-evolving status-quo" stuff I mentioned above. His... philosophical position, let's say, keeps on growing all the time. That said, there will be plateaus, and -- yes -- I'm very much intending that various members of the X-canon will be coming aboard the Haller Express. Sometimes they'll even be doing so voluntarily.

As for the non-X-Men X-Men, yeah, I know what you mean. I feel like it's the pariahs, the loners, the don't-quite-fit types, who'll be most drawn to David. But then you're about to get a glimpse of his newly-formed manifesto at the end of Ep 6, so you may find yourself reassessing which other X-folks, if any, would make natural allies.

But, yeah, bit of an apologetic "wait and see" here.

Will we be seeing more the same X-Men team you assembled in the first arc, or will the Legion response team change each time the X-Men deal with him, which I'm assuming isn't every time.

Think I've mostly answered that one above (I've got to stop doing that), in the sense that I have good reasons for having picked the characters I did at the start. There are one or two others I'm itching to bring into the picture a little bit more too -- Armor's one, Pixie's another (in fact, I'll be using Megan several times in Arc 2), and I have a weird obsession with Marrow, which my editor can't possibly stifle forever. There are going to be a bunch of non-X character appearances too -- ranging from the obscure to brain-shittingly massive -- so look out for those. There's a gorgeous and unexpected gatecrash moment at the end of Episode 7 I'm particularly fond of, which sets up some stuff I'll be playing with down the line.

And finally, here's our Behind the X question: What was the most recent novel you read?

I catch myself reading more and more non-fiction books these days. I find then when I'm writing fiction every day (and this is especially true of prose, but comics too) I get really badly influenced by other writers' styles, like some sort of monstrous mimetic parrot, or a dollop of literary wet clay. Non fiction is safer. So the last book I read was (for the third time) "Moon Dust" by Andrew Smith, which I don't need to explain on the grounds that everyone alive has already read it otherwise there's something wrong with the world.

That said, I do have a half-finished copy of "Game Of Thrones" next to the bed. I feel weirdly guilty admitting that -- which is silly, given how fabulously popular those books are. It's the same irreconcilable cognitive dissonance I got from the "Harry Potter" stuff, y'know? An uncomfortably snobby suspicion that the material's not great (and in fact sometimes borders on anger-inducing laziness and cliche) coupled with a confusing inability to stop reading it.

Last novel I read and loved was "To Kill A Mockingbird," which is just stunning. Every time I force myself to read one of those old "classics" it makes me angry with myself for not having got 'round to it sooner. If ever I own a psychic tentacled backpack monster of my very own I'm calling it Atticus.

Special thanks to Si Spurrier for his incredible answers to this week's questions!

Next week, the Marvel NOW! X-rollout continues with "X-Men" writer Brian Wood, who is set to take all your questions in advance of the series' debut later this year -- and if "X-Men" isn't so much your style, you can always check in on "Ultimate Comics X-Men" and his Ultimate version of Utopia! Either way, get those questions in before this Friday with an email containing the subject "X-Position" or dropping a line on Twitter. Do it to it!

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