X-POSITION: Week Fourteen

Christos Gage may not be a regular writer on any of Marvel Comics' monthly X-books, but he's up to his elbows in mutants. When Gage isn't helping to keep them from extinction as co-writer of "Endangered Species," he's putting mutants up against a very angry Hulk in the "World War Hulk: X-Men" miniseries. On top of that, he's revisiting an era in Marvel's history when mutants reigned supreme as writer of the upcoming "House of M: Avengers" miniseries.

Is Gage involved in a mutant conspiracy? Or does he just really like genetically challenged individuals? Thanks to questions from you, our X-POSITION readers, we have a chance to find out. And a quick word of caution: there are a few minor SPOILERS below from "WWH: X-Men" #3, which arrived in shops yesterday. So if you want to read that first and then come back here, feel free…just be sure to come back! You won't want to miss this – Gage got game.

"House of M: Avengers" #1

Thanks for joining us, Christos. As you're writing three mutant-related books, I'm separating the questions we received from our readers by each title. I have a few questions of my own as well (hey, I'm a fan, too).

Let's begin with the recently-solicited "House of M: Avengers." I'm curious, why was it decided to tell this story now? "House of M" occurred quite a while ago, so why was the decision made to revisit that era?

Simple demand – readers want more. The "House of M" trade paperback collections are doing well and continue to be popular, especially in libraries. From what I understand, there were a number of requests for more stories set in that world, including from librarians who saw the books being read again and again. So Marvel approached editor Bill Rosemann and he approached me. We talked and decided it would be cool if, instead of telling another story that occurs at the same time as all the other "HoM" TPBs, we delved into the rich back-story of that world, and showed how it changed from the end of the human/mutant wars to the dawn of the 21st Century. And hey, it's always a good time for a good story, that's my motto!

Good motto! So, what characters are in the story and during what specific time period within "House of M" does it take place?

Luke Cage is the main character. Others you'll see include Misty Knight, Tigra, Hawkeye, Moon Knight, Iron Fist, the Punisher, Taskmaster, Blob, Thunderbird, Shang-Chi, the Sons of the Tiger, Mockingbird, Cloak…and that's just a partial list! The story begins at the end of the human/mutant war – which Bendis placed in 1979 – and progresses forward in time to a few years ago. It doesn't overlap the previous "House of M" books, time-wise.

What were the directions given to you by Marvel on this series? Did they tell you to go hog wild? Or are you planting seeds for more "House of M" stories to come?

I can go hog wild as long as I don't contradict anything already shown in the existing "HoM" books! The idea with this miniseries is to tell a self-contained story, but as long as the demand is there, there's always the chance of more...

I'll cross my fingers then! Next, we have a question from PedeyC who was wondering, "Do you delve into the mystery of Hawkeye's death and resurrection at all in this book?"

No, because the story takes place entirely in the "House of M" reality and Hawkeye never died there. But I'm just as curious as you, PedeyC!

I guess he'll just have to wait for November when the book arrives in stores. As long as we have some time to kill, though, let's check out this email from Novaya Havoc: "Loved your work so far on 'WWH: X-Men,' and after reading the 'House of M: Avengers' solicit, I'm excited for that! The cover looks great! I have to ask about the 'HoM' mini – how is it writing a totally free-form book outside of mainstream continuity? Anything new you can reveal on the other players involved? Like, uh... Dazzler?

"I mean, it may shock some people, but I kind of really love Luke Cage and am excited for this! And Cloak! And Dagger! If you include Dazzler before she becomes a talk show sensation (ala 'House of M'), I'll shower you with rose petals and coupons for Pottery Barn."

Thanks Novaya! "WWH: X-Men" was incredibly fun to write, and I loved working with Andrea DiVito, so I'm glad you liked it. As for "HoM:A," Mike Perkins is doing some incredible work – I hope you've seen the first couple of pages that have been released, they're beautiful. He's come up with some great visual bits, like mutants punk rockers who wear "X Pistols" jackets!

As for your question, I've always loved alternate-world stories, so it's been great fun imagining a less obsessed, less bloodthirsty Punisher or a villainous Shang-Chi who never discovered that his father was an evil man. Plus, I get to write all these fantastic characters that I love but couldn't write in the main Marvel Universe because they're in the capable hands of top talents like Bendis and Brubaker. Not only that, I get to write them the way I remember them – hello, yellow shirt and tiara!   Also, especially with characters who didn't appear in other "House of M' titles, I can do whatever I want with them and not worry about the effects on other books, which is cool.

As for other players involved, see above. And as for Dazzler…well, if you look at the preview pages, there is a billboard in Times Square on the very first splash page showing the Disco Dazzler, advertising her hit debut album – and the ever-awesome Mike Perkins used the exact pose she had on the cover of Dazzler #1! Aside from that, the celebrity Dazz (who became a pop star at a young age in this world) is not likely to have a big role in the street-level events of the miniseries, but she may pop up on TV here or there. I'm glad you're excited for this...so am I!

Novaya, if that satiates your appetite for Dazzler, send those Pottery Barn coupons to Mr. Gage care of Marvel Comics.

And now, we'll move on to the writer's most recently-released book, "World War Hulk: X-Men." Let's start with TKO, who wrote in to ask, "Why do you feel the Hulk went after Xavier? How can Hulk blame someone for something they only wished they had done? I'm sure lots of folks would send Hulk to the moon if they could..."

Well, TKO, my feeling is that Hulk is consumed with grief and rage over the death of his wife. He blames everyone who had a role in his exile, and his enmity extends to anyone who has ever tried to play god with him – everyone who's tried to control him or use him. He's sick of that.

Xavier has a unique role, in that he was one of the Illuminati. Hulk is offended by the very existence of this group that decided it had the right to control other peoples' lives – especially his – and he is out to punish those involved. In the Hulk's mind, Xavier's missing one meeting doesn't absolve him of guilt-by-association. He may not be quite as guilty as Iron Man and the rest, but Hulk still feels Xavier needs to suffer consequences. Also keep in mind that it's never taken much to get on the Hulk's "naughty" list...and he has never much cared about opinion polls.

Speaking of someone who doesn't care about the opinions of others, I was intrigued by what happened to Juggernaut in this series – particularly in the third issue. Would you say the character has a new relationship with the Gem of Cyttorak by the end of "WWH: X-Men"? Has his hero/villain status quo changed?

Juggy has, for the time being, given up trying to be a hero. He's chosen to embrace the full power of the Juggernaut, which, under the demon Cyttorak's rules, means he has to be a villain. But Juggernaut was never an all-good or all-bad character; that's what I like about him. He may be on the wrong side of the law again, but that doesn't mean he'll be kicking puppies or killing senior citizens, and it doesn't mean you won't ever see him do something positive. He'll probably be a lot like the Juggernaut you remember from his past battles with the X-Men. And who knows? He may be looking for a way to get the upper hand on Cyttorak and still keep his power...if that can be done!

That makes sense. There's one more thing I'm dying to know though. In "WWH: X-Men" #3, you have Juggy yelling "I'm the Juggernaut" – how tempted were you to add the word "bitch"?

A little, but not all that much. I didn't want to make it a joke. I wanted it to be one of those powerful moments where, depending on whether you prefer Juggernaut as hero or villain, you go "Yes!" or "Nooo!"

Alright. And now for a decidedly more mature question from Cmbmool: "I just love your 'WWH: X-Men.' Since this is the final issue that may determine the fate of the X-Men – and whether or not they'll appear within the main 'World War Hulk' miniseries – I have to ask: how is this miniseries going to affect the X-Men's world when 'WWH' is over?"

Thanks Cmbmool! How these events affect the X-Men is up to the creative teams of their books. But speaking for myself, I'd think the effects would vary by the individual. For Wolverine, it's probably just another fight with the Hulk (and probably not his favorite!). For Cyclops and Professor X, maybe there's a little bit of a door opening there...a chance for mending fences, depending on where they go from here. For the New X-Men, I'd say they've grown up a little – they really displayed remarkable heroism in the face of a tremendous threat. It remains to be seen what all the ripple effects will be...

Okay Christos, we're in the home stretch. Here are some questions regarding your involvement in co-writing the "Endangered Species" back-up stories currently taking place in the X-books. Igolem is up first and wanted to now about Hank McCoy's intentions.

"Beast is going to great lengths to save the mutant race. Do you think his character considers the possibility that maybe most mutants don't want to be "powered" back up? He may be searching for a cure that nobody wants..."

You raise a valid point Igolem, but I think he knows enough who do want it that he'd say it's worth looking for. I think he's probably considered that there are some ex-mutants who are happy to be "normal," but that doesn't really affect his plans because he has no intention of forcing any cure he might find on them.

Really? Then let's say – hypothetically – that half of the depowered mutants don't want their powers back. However, Beast finds a way to reverse the effects of M-Day, but it would grant everyone their powers back whether they wanted them or not. In your opinion, do you think Beast would implement that cure?

That's a really good question. He himself considered taking the cure offered in "Astonishing X-Men," so it's far from cut-and-dried for him. He'd certainly seek the input of people he trusts. If he had to decide alone, I think Beast would approach it scientifically, and try to compile a list of as many known ex-mutants as possible, seeing whose life would be improved and whose made worse. But he'd find out that this kind of thing can't be reduced to mathematical formulae. It would really be an agonizing choice! That's why Beast is looking for a cure that can be used selectively...but we don't always find exactly what we're looking for, do we?

Ooh, a good answer to a tricky question – let me try another one. In last week's "Endangered Species" (Chapter Nine – which you wrote), Beast is violating corpses and comes to the realization that the mutant gene is truly gone in depowered mutants. His next idea is to "plant" the equivalent of this gene in ex-mutants using MGH (mutant growth hormone). As the person putting words in Beast's mouth, how do you feel he justifies this? Why would Beast consider this different from using the Terrigen mists?

The Terrigen Mists work differently. As we saw in "Silent War," they are usually fatal to non-Inhumans (though obviously Quicksilver is an exception). I believe the word I used (or meant to, anyway) is "implant" and not "plant," which implies secrecy. Beast wouldn't subject anyone to this process who didn't volunteer. Dark Beast, on the other hand, might have other ideas. That's just one of the things Beast currently seems a little too focused on his goals to fully consider...and that might come back to haunt him.

In an earlier X-POSITION, Mike Carey mentioned that Beast has come to the realization that the mutant race's population numbers are too low to be reversed by just normal births. Have the 'ES' writers ever discussed the number of depowered mutants Beast would have to "cure" to save the race?

Not specific numbers, but I'm not sure there is a hard and fast number. After all, these are people, not panda bears; you can't just decide which two would be a good genetic match and stick them in a cage together to mate. I think the idea is to create a cure that would work for everyone and let those who want it take it, then let the chips fall where they may.

Sounds like a plan. Next, Yema Latify had a question about the 'ES' back-up story timeline. "We clearly see Beast with the X-Men during 'X-Men' #200-202, so when did his travels during the 'Endangered Species' take place?"

Um...according to Henry McCoy's Field Journal, late June. Seriously, though, you'd have to ask someone who knows more about the bigger picture than me, Yema!

Sorry, Christos. You were answering the other questions so well, we thought you knew it all . Thankfully, editor Nick Lowe is on hand to assist.

Nick Lowe: I may be able to help you here, Yema! The events of "X-Men" #200-204 take place in a very concentrated amount of time, just before the big "Messiah CompleX" crossover. The events in "Endangered Species" take place a little before that.

Thanks Nick! Let's switch gears for Christos then and give him this query from Hi-Fi which should make him feel special: "When will the X-office give you a monthly X-Book to write? I mean, it's time already! We keep getting your awesome writing in great side-projects like 'WWH: X-Men' and 'Endangered Species,' but now I want the monthly stuff! Make it happen, Mr. Gage!"

From your mouth to Joe Quesada's ears, Hi-Fi! If you guys all keep supporting my work as wonderfully as you have on books like "World War Hulk: X-Men," maybe it'll happen!

Christos, it all ties back into your motto which you mentioned above: it's always a good time for a good story. And with the great stories you've been writing, I'm sure the strong support will continue.

That's it for this installment of X-POSITION. Next week, we have another guest joining us from a slightly different corner of the X-Universe, "Wolverine" writer Marc Guggenheim. Send in your Wolvie questions as soon as possible, and if you're really nice, he may even field a query or two about his new "Amazing Spider-Man" gig.

Remember to throw "X-Position" into your subject lines and to get me your e-mails as soon as you can. I need time to sort through them and our guests need time to answer them. I'm looking forward to hearing from you – hurry!


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