Friday, February 1, 2013

Brian Wood on the Importance of an All-Female X-Men

Newsarama: Brian, one thing I'm curious about with the new X-Men book is exactly what role this X-Men team will be playing in the broader X-ecosystem. There are, as always, a lot of X-Men titles, but Marvel has been careful to make sure that each one fills a different niche; on your previous adjectiveless X-Men stint, that team had a very specific role. Other than the obvious all-female premise, what does this book cover that doesn't fit in All-New X-Men or Wolverine and the X-Men?

Brian Wood: Well, I am hesitant to say what any other book doesn't do, because I don't want it to seem like I'm suggesting a deficiency anywhere... also I'm not privy to other writer's future plans. But like you said, the X books all tend to have an identity, and this one is that of a straight forward action-adventure, epic fight scene, big villain, bombastic X-Men book. Classic, but not retro. An approach that fits perfectly with the straight-forward title "X-Men".

Nrama: I really like the idea that though it's an all-female cast, it's still called X-Men, and not something like "X-Women." But given that, it does seem to at least leave open the potential for a male to join the cast at some point. Is that at all a possibility if the story calls for it, or is "all-female main cast" an intrinsic part of the book's DNA?

Wood: It's impossible to say what's going to happen way down the road, but there has been zero talk of changing the lineup to include a male character, not from my editor on up the chain of command to [Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso]. But while the core cast of the book is these six women, this is not a title designed to be devoid of all men. I'm sure they'll be some appearing as guests in arcs as needed... it would be sort of boring without it, and sort of a waste of chances for good character moments.

And the title... I've been talking about this quite a bit online, because there are fans who can't wrap their mind around the fact this book is called X-Men. I sorta can't wrap my mind around that, that the absence of some alpha male somehow invalidates these six women's identities as X-Men, identities that go back decades through continuity. As my editor told me early on, these women are X-Men. They just are, period, always have been. So we sometimes get accused of "segregation," a truly ugly word, or whatever, but I truly feel that to call this book X-Women or something like that, only suggests that these characters are a subset, or a spinoff, or even just off to one side, when I think any X-Men reader would admit that these women have more than earned the honor of being called X-Men.

I'll defend this all day long.

Nrama: The X-Men books definitely seem to have a proportionately large amount of female readers, as you noted in your interview with Wired. A reason you cited is the flawed, relatable nature of the characters — in what way do you see those qualities as especially appealing to female readers? What else about the franchise do you think has attracted a sizable female audience over the years? 

Wood: I'm trying not to stereotype readers. Obviously all readers can appreciate very human, very relatable characters. But I think its true that, looking at the broad swath of mainstream superhero comics, the bulk of them are not as introspective, or as nuanced as the X-Men have been at their best. Most are written and drawn from a very male point of view, pandering to the largest demographic of readers, and at times with a sexist point of view, with lots of T&A and so on... this is not news to anyone. I've never felt the X-Men were like that. There is such a relatively large population of amazing female characters in the X-world, more than enough that books like this can exist and make sense, and they are historically written in a way that's inclusive to all readers, and the proof of that is obvious. Not just women, but to LGBT readers as well. 

Nrama: In terms of positioning and promotion, this certainly seems to be your biggest work at Marvel yet, and in terms of mainstream superhero gigs, maybe the biggest such book in your career, even though you were writing the previous X-Men series just a few months ago. Though obviously you've had success with a variety of different projects — from creator-owned series to properties as major as Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian — how validating is it to be on a "Big Two" superhero book that's being treated as a big deal, with some of Marvel's biggest characters as the stars? 

Wood: It's been a big couple years for me, yeah. I'm definitely enjoying this time... it seems like a lot of writers have that time of their career where they get these great mainstream offers, seem to be everywhere, a sort of 15 minutes of fame thing. This is clearly my time, and I'm enjoying it immensely. The success of Star Wars is beyond even what I was secretly hoping for, and Star Wars has a reach that goes wayyyy beyond the comic book world — the emails I get from readers and fan sites and organizations around the world really speaks to that. This X-Men book I suspect will go the same way, and I'm just sort of hanging on for dear life, trying not to screw it up. 

Nrama: Let's talk about a few of X-Men's characters individually, starting with the main focus, Jubilee. There's been a lot of debate online about her current status as a vampire, which it's clear that you're sticking with. How does that status quo affect your approach to the character, both in how she acts and how she uses her powers? 

Wood: Well, yeah, as someone who wrote Jubilee a long time ago, I wanted to use those classic powers of hers... the vampire thing was just something I wasn't sure I knew what to do with. But my editor gave me some great advice, which was to thing of the vampire stuff as a mutant power set. So, instead of thinking of her as "vampire Jubilee," think of her as "Jubilee with vampire powers." Which seems like a minor distinction at first, but is actually quite a profound difference. The vampire thing can't and doesn't define her... she's Jubilee! That defines her. The vampire powers definitely are a twist, but in no way does it change her personality or her core character traits. 

Nrama: Rogue is also in the book, making something of a return to the X-Men given that she's now a member of the Uncanny Avengers and has been out of the X-titles for a couple months. Does that "promotion" change the character at all, in your view? 

Wood: Well, I'm trying not to worry too much about these character's positions in other titles. That's not to say these books will be contradicting each other — everyone's working to make sure that's not the case. I'm just trying to write the best Rogue I can, bringing back the brawler in her, the wild card persona that's fallen a little bit by the wayside recently. Not as a response to any one thing in particular, but because I think that's the best way to write her. 

Nrama: Storm and Psylocke look to be going through something significant in Uncanny X-Force, and they're both in X-Men as well. Since you are using a lot of shared characters, is it challenging at all in what you can and can't do, or is it all pretty much standard operating procedure for writing in a shared universe? 

Wood: I imagine it's pretty standard. And this is where I rely heavily on my editors, Jeanine Schaefer and Nick Lowe, to sort of guide me in this respect. I generally just try and forge ahead and let them tell me what needs to be reined in or changed, rather than worrying about that at the start and trying to invent a story to fit into the available space. Go big and edit, rather than start small and safe, is another way to put it. But yeah, its a challenge, often a frustration, but at the end of the day its really just another learned skill, one that gets easier the more you do it. any one thing in particular, but because I think that's the best way to write her. 

Nrama: By nature, X-Men team books tend to be fairly fluid — you mentioned on that Pixie and Bling will be in the first issue. Though it looks like the main six are the initial focus, do you plan on pulling from the wider X-verse for the team (or at least the broader cast of the series), or is it a little stricter than that? any one thing in particular, but because I think that's the best way to write her. 

Wood: This cast of six is very firm and fixed I have brief moments with Bling and Pixie, sure, but right now, and for the foreseeable future, this is our cast. We'll have villains come and go, and I'd love to still use Sabra as Storm's friend and asset, like I did in last year's X-Men. There's also someone who'll show up at the end of #1, a bit of a surprise/twist character appearance, but these are all secondary to the main six. I think they'll stay that way for at least the first year, if not longer. 


FSaker said...

Gosh, these interviews are driving me crazy! Come on, Marvel, release this book already!!

Wood seems to have a great understanding of the X-Men (I love how he describes this book as full of action, with a classic feel but not nostalgic), and Coipel is in the art, so can this book be any more amazing?!

For people who like female heroes, this may be a great time to start reading Marvel comics. I wasn't expecting much from Fearless Defenders (the other female team book), but its preview is really good...

Australian Outback said...

I am really looking forward to the brawler side of Rogue being brought back. Wood is spot on about that.

He knows what he's talking about. I didn't want UXF being an all-female team because it would've made it seem like a statement about women not being able to lead a 'main' x-book, and would've diminished Psylocke's role as a leader. It would've somehow made UXF seem like a peripheral, satellite team that was secondary to X-Men, rather than a solid book in its own right, exploring its own territory. On the other hand, having an all-female X-Men makes women the equal. Not better, not secondary. Sex and gender really is irrelevant to the term X-Men because it doesn't literally or specifically refer to men, but refers to an idea and a 'philosophy' if you will (about what X-Men is supposed to represent). Having an all-female team actually highlights that rather than obscures it with some outdated notion that there has to be men in the mix to qualify it.

Eduardo said...

Anyone missing Jean Grey?? I know Rachel mimics the powers, but I am pretty surprised they haven't brought her back form death yet.

Brian said...

Oh, it's coming. They've been working up to it for years now. I imagine it'll be an event that shakes the entire Marvel Universe.

marvel_Boy96 said...

They said they won't bring Jean grey-phoenix from death anytime soon, especially with the young Jean grey-marvel girl coming back, they will try to develop her instead.

Adrian Sandoval said...

A villain I'd like to see is the Shadow King inhabiting Psylocke's british body. They never did mention what happened to the body Jamie Braddock created for her in Other World and now that the Shadow King is there... I think it would be fun. I would love to see how Psylocke would handle that situation.

Australian Outback said...

I totally like that idea, Adrian. It is totally obvious that Remender brought back her body for a reason, and he likes to develop plot points like he's planting seeds that come to fruition much later. He wouldn't leave that thread hanging. If other writers after him decide to follow through on the seeds that he's planted, I would expect to see the British body back sometime. (But it is clear that Psylocke is not going back to her British body herself - and rightly so since it would represent a regression.)

rocketboy said...

I think eventually, she will end up back in her other body for a while, if only to explore the idea, someone will do it. Although I do prefer Asian Psylocke

I really hated the body swap explination, evil-twinism is one of the worst plot devices you can write I think. And it just made her confusing for so many years.

When the original Asian persona showed up, I thought the idea would end up being that she was projecting an alter ego of herself directly into peoples minds, the stone cold warrior that would kill if neccessary to protect others. The Warrior she always wanted to be but for her upbringing and background, couldn't be. Which would make her a little schitzo, but interesting. So it still would have been Betsy in her orignal body but she was forcing people to see her differently.

PsyFan said...

I looked for a place to submit this but couldn't find anything. I figured my fellow Psylocke fans here would be able to appreciate this. It's a lifesize custom featuring a remote controlled psychic knife :-D

FSaker said...

Not related to this discussion, but Marvel announced today what seems to be its new event: Infinity, featuring Thanos as the main villain.

Apparently, it will feature a lot of heroes, including the X-Men. Now, we know that Psylocke most likely won't be in Bendis's Age of Ultron at all (or will appear only as a corpse among the dozens of superheroes that Ultron will have killed right at the beginning), but maybe this time she will get some actual participation in the story.

I know I shouldn't be excited about another Marvel event (especially after AvX - although at least we got a kick-ass match between Psylocke and Daredevil), but Hickman is writing it and Cheung is drawing it! So, yeah, I hope Betsy and Wood's X-Men team will get the chance to shine in it.

But if they don't, at least Wood's X-book will be good enough.

ComicBookGeek said...

infinity, really? what are they just recycling old stories?

FSaker said...

It seems so, yes. It's not the first time; just see how Age of Ultron seems to be based on Age of Apocalypse (villain kills most heroes and creates a catastrophic future, some surviving heroes fight villain, while other heroes try to return to the past to prevent such future from happening).

Oh well, at least the Infinite Gauntlet event trilogy was quite good. Didn't Psylocke actually play an important role in one of these events (with Professor X, Jean Grey and Moondragon, if I'm not mistaken)?