X-POSITION: Wood Preps "X-Men" For Deployment

Whether it's "Ultimate Comics X-Men" or a brief, but memorable, run on "X-Men," Brian Wood has had a big hand in shaping Marvel's merry mutants in the last year -- and he shows no sign of stopping. Last month, Marvel Comics announced Wood and artist Olivier Coipel will helm the relaunch of "X-Men" in conjunction with the Marvel NOW! publishing initiative. Wood's cast consists of all female members of the X-Men, with the first cover teasing a team of Storm, Jubilee, Rachel Grey, Rogue, Psylocke and Kitty Pryde.

In order to get a better idea of what to expect from "X-Men's" release this April, Brian Wood joined X-Position to answer your questions about the team, and discussed his all-female cast, diversity in comics and the possible desire to return to write the original "Generation X" cast.

"Generation X" fan nate-grey kicks us off with a question about bringing in some of Jubilee's old teammates to your run on "X-Men."

Amanda Conner's "X-Men" #2 variant cover

1) Former Generation X members have had a bad habit of being in the same place, but not acknowledge their shared history on panel for the past few years. As a former "Generation X" writer, would you be open to breaking the trend and have Jubilee look up her old friends? I really loved the Chamber/Jubilee kung fu scene you wrote in "Generation X" #75, and it would be fun to see them joking around like old times now that they are both X-Men.

It's not a bad idea... I haven't made any plans but with the upcoming Jubilee-centric "X-Men" coming out, I could see this being good material for one-shots. Although if I truly had my wish, I'd just go back in time and write "Generation X" again. THAT was a great lineup.

2) The Terry Dodson variant for X-Men #1 showed vampire Jubilee with her original pyrotechnic powers back. Was this just a fun ode to the past or a spoiler that her powers are going to return? It would be great to see a sparkling vampire outside of Twilight!

I wasn't privy to the decision making on that variant, but I'm assuming it was just a sort of classic Jubilee image, because she's certainly still a vampire without those old powers. Which is fine, as far as I'm concerned. I was never a "Twilight" fan, but was never a hater either, so I'm pretty much tired of the "sparkle" wisecracks whenever vampires come up. Not that I'm taking your comment like that, I just mean in general. It has nothing to do with Jubilee, and I think that her with vampire powers is something that can totally work and be interesting -- it's all in the execution. And speaking of execution, I'm writing her as a mutant with vampire powers, not as a vampire who's in the X-Men, if you catch the distinction.

3) Former Gen X'ers Husk and Penance don't seem to have commitments to others books currently. Any thoughts to including them in your all-female team later on down the road?

I have Husk in a minor role in "Ultimate X-Men," but yeah, I'd love the chance to write most of those Gen X'ers -- I remember wayyyy back in the stone age (1999 or so) I pitched a weird road trip story starring Penance. I can't find the file, but she's an interesting character for sure. Monet, as well, would be fun to write. Maybe if "X-Men" takes off as it is, I can have a "B-team" within the title and employ some of these characters.

Gavin continues the discussion with a query about the diversity of the X-Men across the board.

Thanks for what looks to be a highly anticipated series. I've long thought that the X-Men's extensive roster of dynamic women put a lot of other books to shame and think its brilliant that you're collecting so many veteran heroines under one marquee. I know it's far too early to speculate on anything beyond the first arc but I hope you humor a few questions related to the series:

1) As far as gender and super hero comics go: Why do you think the X-Men as a franchise has been such a gender inclusive place for such a long while? Do you think it had to do with early writers "being the change they want to see in the world", and thus creating universes/characters who had agency and depth?

Covers by Coipel and Terry Dodson

I think the basic concept of the X-Men just naturally lends itself to very human, multi-faceted, complex characters, and the writers that really "get" that produce amazing X-Men stories. It's essentially a book designed to be inclusive on all levels, and on both sides of the cash register. And the proof is right there, in the history of the title and the fan base, like you say. I think the franchise could also stand to step it up a notch, with more A-listers of color and transgender characters. It's a fine line to walk, since its easy to slip up and have something like that come off as a stunt or preachy, and there's a portion of the fan base who will take it as that no matter what. But I'd love to see the X-Men push past that like a steamroller, and instead of baby steps just blow the doors off and be the example of an inclusive comics series. There's no other franchise in comics that could do it like the X-Men.

2) Including the original teams of X-Men, the New Mutants, X-Force, Generation X and the various other collection of students, the X-Men boast tons of potential characters to choose from. How did you decide upon your initial cast? Will this cast be permanent going forward or subject to change?

It's permanent for the foreseeable future -- I'm trying not to get ahead of ourselves and start entertaining question of lineup change when we're still a few months away from its launch! As far as the lineup, it was partly my choice and Marvel's. I knew I wanted to keep writing Storm, and when the chance to include Jubilee presented itself, of course I was into that. And part of the point of this title is that these characters are X-Men heavy hitters, characters with history and pre-existing relationships with each other, characters that can immediately bond and work as a practiced X-team. And, obviously, to be a sales draw. Everyone wants this book to succeed, so fan-favorite A-listers are necessary. Let's see the book launch big, hold its numbers, and deliver strong stories for awhile, and then we can see about tweaking the recipe.

3) I've long thought Storm or Psylocke were well known and appreciated characters that a multitude of stories could be told about them, its always struck me as odd female characters so rarely get anything approaching the exposure Wolverine and Deadpool get. Given that I see more and more young adult women gravitating towards comic books over the past few years, why do you think it's difficult to sell ongoing female led series to the readership?

I think there's a series of barriers. You can't just write spectacular YA or female-oriented comics and stand back and watch the crowds of new readers flood in. They simply won't flood in, because of any combination of the following: shops that won't order the books and/or run a shop that invites this readership; lack of marketing and outreach to overcome these barriers; truly inclusive stories and art that have mass appeal and aren't written and drawn from an overly male point of view; hostile male fanboys ready to shut newbie women down for expressing an interest; and the entrenched social stigma that comics have always carried. It's a ridiculous situation, and even the most targeted attempts, like the DC Minx line for one example, will only work a little bit.

#24 cover by Dave Johnson, EXCLUSIVE art by Mahmud Asrar, Juan Vlasco & Jordie Bellaire

What's the answer? I don't know. "X-Men" #1 is a step in the right direction, but at the same time that book, and others like it, will be outmatched on the shelves that month by dozens of other books that take us many steps in the wrong direction. So while I don't know what the magic bullet answer is, I think its something that can't happen on the comic book page alone, it has to be a social change, within the publishers, within the direct market, and within the readership.

But let's take a look at the effort Marvel's doing in these very recent months, with this book, with "Fearless Defenders," with "Captain Marvel," with "Uncanny X-Force," and so on.

Justin wants to know about specific cast members and how the relationships between the team members will come into play.

I'm very excited about your character line-up for X-Men. I think you've already addressed that this will be the core team, and I hope they'll be around awhile. But my first question is if we can expect to see any additions as mission's dictate? Off the top of my head I'm thinking of Dazzler, who I think Greg Pak did a fantastic job with in "X-Treme X-Men" and could see you carrying on that development.

Dazzler, I'm told, is spoken for. And see my answer upthread about future additions.

Second question- I'm a big Rachel Grey fan. Not sure why I glommed onto her when I first started reading years ago, but I did. Part of it I think is her crazy shared history with the rest of the Summers-Grey clan. We haven't seen her reaction to the situation Cyclops is now in or her reaction to Cable's return at the prelude of "AvX," and now her 616-timeline father and brother are both basically fugitives. Not to mention the mother she loves is back in the form of teen Jean Grey. Will you touch on that at all?

Not in the short term. You'll see when the book launches, but this first arc is something my editor Jeanine Schaefer describes as a 'speeding train.' We hit the ground running and accelerate from there -- there's just not a lot of time for much else but the story at hand, and Rachel in particular is playing a very hands-on role. All of your comments have merit and I think need to be touched on. I just don't know when I'll get to it, or if it'll happen in another title or not.

Final question- how big will prior relationships between these women be in your story? They'll all been on long tours of X-Men duty together through various teams. When they come together in your book is it because of shared history working together or more happenstance that they assemble?

Well, both, really. Like I said upthread, the selection of these X-Men for this book had a lot to do with the fact they have shared history and bonds already in place. And that is basically responsible for the formation of the team, since its something created by necessity in a moment of crisis. This isn't a formal team in the sense they rent out space for an HQ and declare themselves a team with a group high-five or something. Going forward, I don't know if it will turn into something more formal, but they all are sort of already based out of the JG School and have positions and roles there, so I don't see it happening in the foreseeable.

In a brief change of pace, Wolverine12 has a few quick questions on "Ultimate Comics X-Men."

Hi Brian, I have really been enjoying your run on "Ultimate X-Men." I have 3 questions for you.

1) With the recently announced "Ultimate Wolverine" mini series will we see any long term affects from that book bleed over into your book, either concurrent with the series or after it finishes?

Not that I've been given a heads-up on. When Cullen [Bunn] started writing that book our editor briefed me on it and asked me if anything seemed like a conflict (nothing did), but that's been the extent of it. So far, anyway. I'm about to take the book into a pretty volatile couple story arcs that are going to, quote, "change everything" so if there is any bleeding across the two titles, it'll probably happen after that. See next answer for more.

2) Will we be seeing more interaction between Jean Grey/Karen Grant's crew and Kitty's crew?

There will be total interaction, yes, starting with #24 and the "Natural Resources" arc. This is the start of something big.

3) Where the heck is Pietro and his new brotherhood?

Good question. I don't know. I don't mean to sound flip, but that's the answer. It's not in my pitch or my plans for the future.

Kellen wants to know more about Storm and Cyclops' rocky relationship following the events of "AvX."

Hi Mr. Wood, I must say I enjoyed your last "X-Men" run! I have two questions:

1) How would you describe Storm and Cyclops' relationship now?

Good question... I'm not 100% sure I'm the one to answer it. When I last wrote them in "X-Men" #37, it was strained to say the least. There was a strong underlying bond forged by time and shared history, but they were in stark disagreement on a serious level. That's how I left it, and remember that story arc was pre-"AvX." So I think you'd have to look to that event and the writers dealing with those characters now for the most up-to-date information. Cyclops has yet to appear in any of the (new) "X-Men" scripts and outlines I've written.

2) Due to Psylocke not being too fond of the Avengers (per "Uncanny X-Force" #1) are Betsy and Anna going to butt heads?

It's funny, it took me a second to realize you meant Rogue, since I am conditioned to think of her as Marian now because of the Ultimate book. Um, there's no immediate butting of heads in my scripts but you raise a good point. I think I'll be watching Sam [Humphries] and Rick [Remender's] books to see what unfolds, since they have a bit of a head start. And like I've said, this first mission the (my) X-Men take is one of shared necessity, and the plot moves at like mach five, so there just isn't the space for anyone to indulge beefs.

Wrapping up, Jubilee fan Kevin wants to know more about her other, non-vampiric skills that might come into play during "X-Men."

Dear Mr. Brian Wood, I love the fact that Jubilee will be in this series, as she is my favorite Marvel superhero. Other than her vampire abilities, will Jubilee also get to showcase her other talents such as gymnastics, stealth, field tactics, first aid, and the like?

I don't see why not. She has such a history of experience as an X-Men, and none of what you just mentioned would be affected by the vampire thing. So, sure, absolutely. One aspect of Jubilee that you always see is the "mall rat" side, but there's the soldier side, too, the X-Men side.

And here's our Behind the X question: What is your favorite type of deliverable food?

Jeez, what isn't? Part of the wondrous beauty of living in Brooklyn is everything is about 10 minutes delivery time away: Chinese, Thai, Indian, BBQ, pizza (the good kind), Cajun, Mexican, German -- even ice cream is deliverable. I think I probably get the most pleasure out of a massive order of Indian food arriving, though, with all the spicy smells and various side dishes and sauces and other accoutrements. It's also the best when reheated the next day. Most of the time, though, it's Chinese from Red Hot or pizza from Anthony's.

Special thanks to Brian Wood for his insight into the upcoming "X-Men" series!

Next week marks the first installment of a very special two-part Giant-Sized X-Position with none other than "Uncanny X-Men" and "All-New X-Men" writer Brian Michael Bendis! Send in your questions for both "Uncanny" and "All-New" before this Friday via email with the subject line "X-Position." Make sure to get them in early -- and be sure to check back next week for the first "Uncanny X-Men" X-Position with Brian Bendis!

Tags: marvel comics, x-position, x-men, olivier coipel, mahmud asrar, brian wood, ultimate comics x-men

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