Monday, January 14, 2013

Marvel NOW! Q&A: X-Men Starting this April, writer Brian Wood teams up with artist Olivier Coipel on the new Marvel NOW! ongoing series, X-Men starring Storm, Psylocke, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey and Jubilee. The opportunity to write X-MEN must mean a great deal to you to take it on at such a busy time for you. What is it about the potential of this new series appealed to you so much that you added it to your already busy and successful schedule?

Brian Wood: Well, I look at this as just taking up the same space that X-MEN [did] last year, when I was writing the title then. So, in my own weird way of justifying things, this adds no new work! Amazing, huh? But yeah, I am busy as hell and I deeply, deeply miss having any sort of free time, but how do you turn a job like this down? It's worth it to have a really intense year or two if it means having the chance to do this work and see it sitting on my shelf, in the end.

And the appeal of the series: this has a great iconic title, X-MEN #1. It's a chance to work with Olivier Coipel, to work with Jeanine Schaefer, to write a female-led book packed with marquee names—there's no downside here; it’s a X-book I could only dream of getting.  I joke with Jeanine that Marvel needs to go ahead and announce this already because otherwise I don't believe her that it’s real. Not to harp on your busy schedule, but in the past you have made it clear that the only way you can tackle so many titles at once is by working with good editors. How much does your X-Men writing benefit from working with Jeanine Schaefer?

Brian Wood: I don't know a bigger X-Men fan than Jeanine, and I also feel comfortable confessing my ignorance when there's something I don't know about the characters or continuity. Her enthusiasm and willingness to fight for this book is the sort of thing that all writers want in an editor. And she doesn't let me slack; she'll send me back for a third draft if the story needs it. You are collaborating with Olivier Coipel on this new series. As you were waiting to see his pages, I wonder was there any character you were looking especially forward to seeing how he handled them?

Brian Wood: All of them? He's great, obviously, and the art's amazing.  His Jubilee is fantastic and rendered Jeanine speechless. Speaking of the cast, for fans of the X-Women of the Marvel universe, is it too early to reveal who other than the core characters will be in the book?

Brian Wood: Not too early. Pixie and Bling! put in small appearances in the first issue.  Our main villain for this first arc is Sublime, and he comes with a villain of his own in tow. A team with both Kitty and Storm begs the question, will you capitalize on the strong bond those two have? Also, on the Kitty front, does that mean we get to see Lockheed, or is he too busy teaching "Knowing Your Alien Races, And How To Kill Them" at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning?

Brian Wood: [Laughs] No plans for Lockheed. And if that's the sort of stuff Jason Aaron's getting out of the character, I'm not going to get in his way.
As far as Storm and Kitty goes, yeah, they have that bond but it’s not something I'm going to single out as a point of focus. I think there's going to be a lot of great moments with Storm and everyone else, since she's definitely in a leadership role and has history with everyone. Look for some Jubilee/Storm moments, actually. Storm was there when Jubilee was [first] rescued—so was Rogue, come to think of it—and there's something very similar that's happening in this first arc that will make for a then-and-now contrast. In terms of building the cast, how did you go about selecting the characters and did you consider the potential character dynamics you could explore when making that decision?

Brian Wood: This lineup came with the job, actually, and honestly, this is a good thing. I wouldn't have had the nerve to ask for a line-up like that, and it’s my nature to want to seek out the D-list underdogs. But a cast like this is better for everyone: for the book, for the readers, and for me as a writer. It's a challenge to work with a large, iconic cast, and do them all justice. Did you and Coipel take the occasion of this new Marvel NOW! launch to give redesigns to any of the characters?

Brian Wood: I'm tweaking some aspects of their powers—not in a way that changes what they are, but more of an elaboration. Psylocke, for example, will have a larger arsenal of psychic weapons than just her katana. Jubilee, while still a vampire, is going to be handling those supernatural traits as if they were superpowers and not just hindrances. That's as far as we've gotten, but I'm sure they'll be other tweaks along the way. Nothing too major; this book is designed to be a sort of classic X-Men with core characterization that hits the sweet spot. Is there a member of the team that their inclusion might surprise readers more than others?

Brian Wood: Jubilee, less for the fact she's on the team than for whom or what she brings with her. How do you view Rachel Grey's role on this team?

Brian Wood: She's the aggressive and idealistic one, the one who'll make her decisions based on the greater good. It’s a bit different from Storm, who does make decisions like that but makes them on the fly, in-mission, and as the situation dictates.  Rachel thinks more globally, taking the big picture into account. I also want to get something happening for her in the romance department, stir up a bunch of drama there. Plans are afoot! Is there any member of the team that you find yourself thinking, "Wow, they are fun to write dialogue for?"

Brian Wood: Jubilee, again! But all writers say that, don't they? Jubilee has a special place in my heart, since my very first paid writing job was on GENERATION X. 
Last year, when I was doing my run on the last version of X-MEN, I started off a bit unsure as to how I was going to write Storm. I wasn't sure I had a handle on her, and in the end I just went with gut instincts and let her rip. And people really responded—they really responded, and so I'm eager to keep that going. I'm not changing a thing. I also have fun writing Rachel as a headmistress-type, going back to my WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN: ALPHA AND OMEGA [limited series] where she cracked the whip. What do you view as the proper approach to writing Psylocke?

Brian Wood: In this case, she's the military wing of the team, as well as Storm's informal second in command and confidant. Because of what she went through in UNCANNY X-FORCE, she sort of has an emotionally distant/emotionally overwrought thing going on; she's dealing with a lot just under the surface despite her seeming cool and calm on the outside. That's really meaty stuff for a writer to get into. I don't want to say that's the "proper" way of writing her, but I think that's the way she should be written here. You are a writer admired for building team books where you still give each character a moment in an issue where the reader gets a better understanding of that person. How hard is that and how important is it for you to be able to do it?

Brian Wood: It's really hard, and I have to say that I don't think I'm that great or even known for writing team books. I've always avoided it, or structured it in ways so that I was only ever writing one or two in any given scene. But I've been forced to get better at it. Jeanine Schaefer helps with this tremendously, making sure every character has a reason and a purpose to be on the page, and they all shine equally and it feels natural.

The character moments, that is something that comes naturally to me and it’s what I feel I can bring to any project and really deliver on. The X-Men is the perfect venue for that. What do you view as the greatest advantage/benefit to writing an all-female cast?

Brian Wood: Personally, a high comfort level in writing women. I've always written female characters, going all the way back to my first book ever, and I'm known for it. But that aside, the X-Men are full of truly excellent female characters. I would say that on balance, the women rule the men in the x-world, hands down. It's a real anomaly in comics, and I think it’s what makes the X-Men both special and successful—and appealing to all genders and all types. You can see this reflected in the fan base. So I get great women to write, complicated, complex, multi-faceted, flawed, wonderfully relatable characters, and here is this series where all that can shine. It's a no-brainer, I think, and anyone ready to dismiss it is missing what the X-Men is all about. In your recent 2012 run on X-MEN, one theme was the political strife between Cyclops and Storm. In approaching Storm in this incarnation, does that experience inform your approach at all?

Brian Wood: Like I said, I went with my gut with her and it paid off. I wrote her tough and smart, obviously, but flawed; she had the absolute best of intentions and was quite selfless in her decision making, even when she was wrong. She genuinely did what she thought was best, and if that meant breaking the rules or screwing things up for Scott, that was just what had to happen.  It's a very flawed trait in someone, but at the same time you have to admire her for it. I love writing flawed characters; if anything I do is my "secret weapon", it’s that. I've never afraid to show that side of a character, and it makes a hero that much more heroic. It also makes them very human and relatable. In the opening issue of X-MEN, a baby plays a prominent role in the action. What's the secret to successfully involving a baby without making a character that cannot speak or act in any manner be little more than a football that the characters pass around?

Brian Wood: Well, I have a couple babies of my own and I know from experience that they don't have to talk to communicate. That said, I think the secret to that will be to make sure to show how people react to the baby, let that do the heavy lifting rather than to rely on the child itself. I'm very careful, as a father, in how I'm handling the infant in the story, avoiding violence situations and anything that feels gratuitous or like it’s treating the child like a football. And without giving too much away, this child isn't a plot point that will come and go, but will be around for as long as I am, at least. As a creator who clearly relishes doing research for his stories, do you care to delve into what you have pursued for X-Men?

Brian Wood: I took a couple issues of X-Men—[Brian] Bendis' new ALL NEW X-MEN #1 and Grant Morrison's [first issue of] NEW X-MEN—and picked [them] apart for [their] mystical secrets of how to write a compelling #1 issue, one full of action and drama and retaining that sort of "yes, that’s the X-Men!" vibe. Like I said before, I'm aiming for that sweet spot of big action and crazy dramatic moments, mixed with intense character drama. And sex and romance, of course, that which drives the X-Men and kinda always has, really? What is the key to tapping into capturing the "classic X-Men" vibe?

Brian Wood: A little bit of what I said above, about the characterization. The X-Men are perfect, when you get down to it. They don't need anything, they are this great community of interlocking personalities that generate all the action, drama, love, sadness, betrayal, and sex you could ask for, and more. My approach is to facilitate that, let them be the X-Men everyone recognizes and knows, give them classic villains to fight, plenty of chances for action, and not pull any punches in the process.


Antone Poitier said...

I am all up for this and "a larger arsenal of psychic weapons than just her katana" wow, love to see that!

FSaker said...

Nice interview. Cool to know that Psylocke will be "Storm's second in command", even though Jubilee is the actual star of the book (well, Betsy is already the star in UXF, so it's no problem that she won't be as prominent here).

And this cover only reinforces how Betsy's and Storm's outfits are badass! And how urgently Kitty Pryde (even if I dislike her) needs to get a new one, as she looks like any generic X-teenager...

marvel_Boy96 said...

LOL Kitty pryde! I don't want her in the team, she is annoying!!!!! ~ what did he mean about psylcoke power improvement? he said psychic katana? I thought she lost her telekinesis! don't tell me she will have it again! Ugh I hate power changes!
I'm really excited for jubilee! She really needed a book! Rachel grey looks awesome in the cover, where is her tattoos though? ~ April is so far away!

FSaker said...

Technically it was never confirmed if she lost her telekinesis or not. Since she stated in X-Men Legacy that her power levels fluctuate between her telepathy and telekinesis, I just assumed that her power levels had concentrated fully on her telepathy.

Well, anyway, I'm sure she won't be much different than what we are seeing nowadays (Wood never showed Betsy using telekinesis in X-Men vol.3), just using some TK weapons sometimes and that's it. Considering that her recent videogame incarnations have both TP and TK (see Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, and Marvel: Avengers Alliance), most people probably won't mind it.

As for Rachel, she used to be able to mask her tattoos with her omega-level telekinesis. I'm not sure if she is still able to do it after she lost her Phoenix fragment, but maybe she is.

marvel_Boy96 said...

Yeah Sam humphries said on twitter that she doesn't have it, her telekinesis, but he can't confirm it in a comic. He will not [just like remender] use it. ~ but Yeah I'm okay with her using TK weapons [Although I prefer a real katana] but I don't want her moving things & all. But don't you think two telepaths are a lot for the team? Rachel is more powerful than psylocke & she can creat all the psychic weapons that psylocke creates. So Maybe bringing Rachel isn't a really good idea, as
Much as I love her, I don't like a team with more than one psychic. ~ but I hope they all find their roles perfectly. AND more importantly I hope that both wood & Sam would agree on one power set & use it. ~ and Yes Rachel still hides them telepathiclly but last time she said that she won't hide them because she is not afraid of her past, Maybe it's an artist error. ~ I'm really happy that rogue won't leave the x-side of the Marcel universe! ~ don't you think it would be better if pixie was in the team instead of rachel?

Australian Outback said...

No, Pixie would ruin the lineup. Plus, we already have Jubilee and Kitty - Pixie is kind of modeled on the 'Kittyness' of those characters, so it would be redundant.

What we need is Dazzler.

I really liked 80s Rachel as a character, and she fits right in with this 80s lineup. She also isn't necessarily more powerful than Psylocke post-power boost courtesy of AOX Jean.

FSaker said...

The thing is, this team clearly aimed to get all the A-list X-Women (well, except Emma who's currently on the run, present Jean who's currently dead, past Jean who's still not relevant enough, and X-23 who's currently trapped in Arcade's Murderworld); that's why both Rachel and Psylocke are in it.

Besides, even though both have telepathy and telekinesis, each of them uses these powers in different ways. Rachel uses her telekinesis in large scale (forcefields, distance blasts), while Betsy's telekinesis would almost everytime be represented as weapons (mainly the TK-katana). Rachel uses her telepathy mostly for communication, while Betsy uses it to shape her famous psi-knife. In other words, Psylocke is a fighter (a ninja, more accurately) with psychic powers; Rachel is a psychic who may fight sometimes, but that's not her thing.

As for Pixie, yeah, it's strange that she was left out considering how much effort Marvel put to make her relevant to the readers. Dazzler is traveling in the multiverse, so it's understandable why she's not in this team (plus, let's face it, Dazzler hasn't been a very recognizable X-Woman in a long time... which is a shame, because she's a really cool character).

Australian Outback said...

I agree Fsaker - but they need to pull her out of the multiverse and put her here. It would up the cool factor. (There's always room for increased cool factor.) She's a cool team player - specifically with this team of women. If Jubilee gets her plasma power back, I don't think having both her and Dazzler would be redundant, for the same reason that I think having Psylocke and Rachel is not redundant.

I'm not buying that multiverse comic that she's in just because she's in it.