X-POSITION: The "Astonishing" Christos Gage

Bad seeds always return, and right now in the pages of Marvel Comics' "Astonishing X-Men," bad seeds have returned -- and they're spreading their seeds! I am, of course, talking about the Brood, the "bad seeds" of the cosmic Marvel Universe who implant their eggs in various alien races (mostly humans) to incubate.

First appearing in "Uncanny X-Men" back in 1982, the Brood have been a constant intergalactic thorn in the sides of our favorite mutants. Their latest activities involve S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department), some new technology, and a plan that could lead to a population boom for this menacing alien race.

The writer of this epic adventure, Christos Gage, joins us today to answer all your 'Astonishing' questions and tackles a few inquiries about some of the other characters under his pen (including the heroes-in-training of "Avengers Academy"). Naturally, I have to ask -- are you in the mood to Brood? Let's hope so, because here we go...

Charlesn2 wrote in with kind words and an assortment of Gage-related queries. Isn't it nice to have fans?

I'd like to start out by giving my highest compliments to "Avengers Academy," which in my opinion is the best written Avenger titles ever! Here are my questions:

1) I was wondering if there was any room at the Avenger Academy for X-23 (given her past) or any of the younger X-Men?

Thanks for the compliment, Charles! And that is an excellent notion, and one that has occurred to us as well. Post-"Fear Itself," there's a decent chance of a greater mutant presence in "Avengers Academy."

2) "Absolution" was one of my favorite limited series and I have been looking forward to the sequel. Do you have any idea when it will be released?

Thanks! I've written five out of six issues, and my understanding is it will start to come out towards the end of this year.

3) I'm also looking forward to your "Angel and Faith" series. Do you have any news or teases you can share with us?

Not really. It's all pretty hush-hush. But I can tell you Rebekah Isaacs, whose art you can see in the upcoming "Iron Man: Iron Age" miniseries (in which I also did a story with the dream team of Lee Weeks and Tom Palmer) is doing amazing work! And I think the conclusion of our first issue will blow some minds!

4) In your "Astonishing X-Men" arc, will you be dealing more with Kitty Pryde and her problems in controlling her abilities?

No, she's too busy with the Brood. But Kitty and Lockheed have been reunited after far too long, and we'll continue to see how that plays out!

Renaldo is glad to see the crew you've assembled and wants to know more about the cast of your story:

1) How did you decide on your roster for this "Astonishing X-Men" arc? And why did you choose to use the Brood? Is Scott's split with Hank as teammates (or vice versa) going to be much of a factor in your story?

Renaldo, it kind of came together naturally. These were the characters who weren't part of Daniel Way's story. We noticed they also happened to be characters who would be a good fit for a Brood story, given their histories both with the Brood and, in Beast and Brand's case, their affiliation with S.W.O.R.D. The Scott/Hank split was mentioned in issue #38, but other than that it is not a huge part of the story... although with something called "Schism" on the horizon, I'd imagine it'll be dealt with somewhere!

2) How closely is this story tying into Way's arc, and did you guys discuss things when threading these books? Also, in using S.W.O.R.D., Brand, Beast, Kitty, Piotr and Lockheed, there's a strong cosmic influence felt from the Whedon run. Did you draw a lot from his "AXM" tenure to write your new arc?

Aside from some little nods to each other, like Armor fighting artificial Brood creatures in the Danger Room, the two stories are intended to stand alone so readers don't feel they have to buy one to follow the other. (Not that we mind!) As for Joss Whedon's run, I loved it -- it was actually my first exposure to his work. I was definitely influenced by it, and also by the classic Chris Claremont era of stories he and I both grew up reading.

3) As a keen follower of "Avengers Academy," how was the transition into the new book from the Initiative work that you did? Do you miss the old cast (although we did see a few in issue #13)?

I do miss the old cast, but it was nice to see them in #13 and in the "Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt" miniseries. But it's also fun to tackle a smaller cast of characters. The transition was pretty smooth... for me, anyway!

4) How did you go about crafting the new Academy team members and deciding which path to take for them? Is any of your influence drawn from early X-Men books?

There's definitely an influence, both to the original X-Men stories that took place at Xavier's School and to the New Mutants. In both cases, there was a feeling that these kids are having to make weighty decisions that could affect the rest of their lives -- for better or worse -- and the idea of their powers making them outcasts or unfit for normal society. I really wanted to capture that dynamic.

5) With the adolescent romance in the Academy coming to fruition in the latest arc, what jolted you to the inter-faculty romance with Pym and Tigra, especially after her shady pregnancy and the death of Jan?

Well, they had been involved previously in "West Coast Avengers" and there's history between them, so it felt natural to me. Of course, it's never gone smoothly for them before -- is this time the charm?

6) You seem to have a knack for Penance, so I'm curious what makes him so special to you, especially as you focus on him in your "Fear Itself: The Home Front" story?

I've always been a sucker for characters seeking redemption. I think Robbie has come a long way since "Civil War" -- both Paul Jenkins and Warren Ellis made a point of progressing him as a character -- and I wanted to continue that journey. There's a lot to work with.

Captain Cavalier is also curious about this "journey" and makes some pointed points about the points you're making:

1) In "Fear Itself: Homefront," you make some very pointed and interesting comments about the internet and social media. It almost seems to suggest that you're saying it's bad, but a necessary evil -- is that right? It also could easily be interpreted that this is your experience as a comic book writer...

Cap, I can see how you might feel that way based on the first issue or two, but keep reading! It's not quite as simple as that. If anything, the Internet is a tool that can be used for both positive and negative things, like most tools; you can use a hammer to build a house or smash one up. Over the course of the story, Robbie will see both sides. And I love the Internet! I'm old enough to remember having to research by going through the library card catalog; I am so glad it's easier now!

2) I loved "Avengers Academy" #13! It was fun and celebrated "down-time" in a way many books seem to have forgotten. I was curious about the whole romance woes going on between Justice and Firestar. What made you decide to address this here? Any chance there will be more fall-out from this?

I thought it was natural for the characters, especially after Sean McKeever had them meet again in the "I Am An Avenger" miniseries. Also, some readers had wondered why Justice slept with Ultragirl when he had previously expressed to Firestar that he wanted to wait until marriage, and I thought it was important to clarify that -- explore how and why his views have evolved.

3) While the song has been overplayed a bit, the "Baby, you're a firework..." felt appropriate. Did you choose the song? As I've tried to write my own comic before, do you need to get permission for song rights to do something like that?

To answer your second question first, I'm no lawyer, but I think it's okay to use a short excerpt or quote like that -- just a line or two. And no, I didn't choose the song. My original choice, shall we say, betrayed the fact that it's been a while since I went to a high school dance! Eternally young Bill Rosemann and actually-young John Denning picked "Fireworks," and I agree it was a good fit!

And now I'll have that song in my head all day -- thanks Christos!

Anunn has sent our last email of the day, and he begins with some idle chit-chat about the weather:

1) In your issue of "Astonishing X-Men," we see Ororo using her powers on the space station. I thought her powers didn't work in space? Or does she only need atmosphere? What's the going theory on this?

Well, Anunn, she's become more powerful over the years. My take is that her powers do work to an extent in artificial atmosphere, but they're lessened. But you're right, I don't think they'd work in the vacuum of space.

2) When Hank first sees his X-Men pals, he mentions the Secret Avengers. How "secret" is the team? I thought other folks didn't know about them. And are you (or someone else) going to address the irony that Hank was upset with Scott for having a secret team (X-Force), but he is now a member of a covert team?

My understanding was that Hank was less upset with the existence of a covert team per se than the methods that team employs. The Secret Avengers, under Steve Rogers, still adhere to the Avengers code of behavior. And I think that while Hank may not reveal the details of his activities with the Avengers to his old X-buddies, they know he's working with them. I know other Avengers teams are aware of their existence, if not specifics.

And now it's my turn to dig into your secrets, Christos, with this week's "Behind the X" question. As summer is coming, can you tell us about your favorite camp experience during your formative school years?

I never went to camp! I preferred to spend my summers reading comic books!

But... but what about the s'mores?

That's all for today, but next week I'm expecting a lot of fans with split emotions to write in as we'll have the writer of "X-Men: Schism" joining us... Jason Aaron! He is also the scribe behind a little book called "Wolverine" -- maybe you've heard of it? I'm expecting a virtual mail bag stuffed with witty and wise questions from all of you, so shoot those emails to me (george@comicbookresources.com) as quickly as possible. Include an "X-Position" in the subject line, and I'll name a party cocktail after you. Better hurry!

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