Tuesday, January 14, 2014

X-Position: Spurrier Winds Down "X-Men Lehacy," Prepares "X-Force"

CBR: Si Spurrier has a few irons in the Marvel Universe fire. Whether it's his current run on "X-Men Legacy" set to end at issue #24 or the recently-announced "X-Force" title ready to debut later this year, the writer is well-embedded in the X-Men's current lore. But with "Legacy" coming to a close, Spurrier is ready to transition to a different dynamic: a new X-Force team assembled by Cable in the wake of a mysterious incident.

What is Cable's status at the start of the series both physiologically and power-wise? Is he still T-O virus free and just using an exoskeletal metal arm, or has it come back and made him a cyborg again? Does he have his traditional powers or just the precognition that he developed in the recent "Cable and X-Force" series? What's up with that weird headgear and eyepatch he's wearing?

Spurrier: Those mostly fall under the "wait and see" bracket, alas. All will be revealed. And all I can tell you is that if at any stage you start to suspect that either a) I've screwed up and not thought something through or b) all is not what it seems, I'd urge you to favor "b" as the likely candidate. Which isn't to say I'm incapable of screw-uppery, just that I've spent a looooooong time thinking this all through and I think the little puzzlebox of mysteries and, "Huh, whats?" I'm going to be laying down before you will come together quite nicely in a timely sort of way.

So, let's tease a few things. The new "X-Force" story begins about a month or two after an event which Cable refers to as "the Alexandria Incident". All we know about it, at the start, is that a lot of people died and folks are generally blaming mutantkind. One of the major threads in Arc 1 will be about the team -- and us -- finding out first what happened and second who was behind it. And, oh so much more importantly, third, how it affected the people who were there.

Cable was there.

More prosaically: his power set is pretty wonky. Like I said above, the "flawed but determined" dynamic is something I'm keen to champion, so in general I prefer to avoid super-powerful characters in full control of their gifts. In Cable's case his starting point spins directly out of how he's left at the end of the current "Vendetta" crossover, so I must be a tad circumspect about giving things away.

I like the teaming up of Cable and Psylocke in this, as it's kind of a mash-up of classic "X-Force" and "Uncanny X-Force" in that regard. Is this in anticipation of the "X-Force" movie, which is rumored to be a combination of the two, or just a coincidence?

Spurrier: I know nothing about the movie, sorry. That said I don't trust coincidences, and in simple Good Common Sense terms it makes perfect sense to include two recognizable and compelling characters, both with a historical association with the title, in the same place. I wouldn't be at all surprised if whoever's making the movie felt the same way, but that's pure conjecture on my part.

Are you building a long-term story in X-FORCE, or will it be shorter story arcs?

Spurrier: Both, actually. I've waffled-on endlessly elsewhere about my instinctive dislike for Stories Without End. The older I get the more certain I become that "story" (that is: a three-part process involving beginning, middle and end; or thesis/antithesis/synthesis for the more Doc-Nemesis-minded among you) is a critical and unique but completely abstract concept permitting human beings to digest information. Just as our notion of the visible spectrum of colors would be completely alien to, say, a mantis shrimp, who can see like a billion other colors you can't see, so do our brains restrict our ability to process data by parceling it up into little bundles of satisfying code we call story. Every act of creation, every human event -- painting a picture, singing a song, telling a joke, having a conversation, going for a walk, or, yes, writing a tale -- is at its most satisfying, most memorable and most emotionally resonant when it is easily expressed and easily absorbed as an entity with beginning, middle and end.

Fuck, I'm getting nonsensically trippy. Ignore me. The point is that this is the sort of stuff I get very excited about, but not really something readers desperately need to know about or care about if they don't want to. But in my experience it definitely tallies that stories achieve maximum value, maximum punch, maximum importance, when they have an ending.

Which, of course, is problematic when you're embarking on a theoretically unlimited ongoing run on a new series. My personal solution is to regard an ongoing book as a Series of Serials. A modular tale, if you will. Every so often everything draws together, the story gets its ending. And then launches afresh with a new theme, a new controlling idea, a new set of theses to be rattled against their personal antitheses. It doesn't matter if some or all of the characters are still around, it doesn't matter if the new controlling idea is an evolved extension of the last one: all that matters is that writer and reader alike are able to say here a story began and here a story ended. What lies in between is a discrete and wholly-satisfying narrative.

That doesn't mean you can't also build a web of escalations and foreshadowings which link stories together, of course. I hope "XLeg" readers will agree things have interrelated in these little modular units and in the wider sense as we've gone along. But I would argue the best way to generate that continuous sense of heading towards something is if, no-brainer, you actually are. So, to answer the unasked question: Yes. I know broadly how my stint on "X-Force" will end, regardless of how quickly we get there.

Since "X-Force's" announcement, many fan complaints involve the backward characterization of Psylocke and the team's inclusion of Fantomex; however, I don't agree with those assessments, which brings me to these questions:

Spurrier: (Wait -- people complaining about the backward characterization of Psylocke? How's that? Nobody's read a single episode yet, as far as I know. How does anyone have any idea about which direction I intend to ch--

[sound of gears clashing, pause for blinking, then slow ahhhh as Si remembers we're talking about the Internets here, aren't we, that paradisiacal farmland where the teensy seeds of speculation grow seamlessly into the spooky orchards of assumption -- hanging heavy with the oily fruits of outrage -- and all of it without a single nourishing drop of Fact.]

Let's eat some more chocolate, shall we? Om nom nom.)

Psylocke doesn't want to kill, yet she joins a kill squad. Is this because she feels obliged to make sure this team doesn't go too far across the line; thus, acting as the team's moral center (like how her back is turned on Kim's amazing "X-Force" #2 cover)?

Spurrier: Yeah, that's a wait-and-see, I'm afraid. But don't fret: I haven't forgotten that Psylocke is attempting a tao of non-lethality. And yes, I know that makes her inclusion in X-Force an odd choice. I refer you to some of the above wafflement, particularly the bit about If It Looks Like I've Made a Mistake or Gone Against Continuity It's Probably Because There's a Really Good Reason. Which there is.

I personally love Fantomex to death, but how do you, as a writer, deal with a character who's generally disliked by most fans?

Spurrier: Glad you like him, but let's just quickly unpick the tail-end of that question there. "Generally disliked by most fans"? I'd lay odds -- and please forgive me if my supposition is dodgier than your supposition here, but I'm in a betting mood -- I'd lay odds that what we're actually talking about here is a very vocal set of Anti-Fantomexers in one or more online communities to which you belong? In which case, that's cool, I'll address that in just a moment. But it's always worth remembering that we humans are brilliantly programmed to assume that our own opinions, or those of our immediate groups, are reflective of the massmind. That's the basis for every prejudice, every all-gang-together act of neotribal expression there is. I'm as guilty as everyone, and for what it's worth you can see why our brains think this is a good strategy: nothing forms social bonds quicker than being united in negativity. Of course it's super-easy to spot the flaw in this little behavioral subroutine when we hear about other groups getting all uppity about this or that when we ourselves don't agree. (My personal bugbear at the moment is spokespeople for angry, frothing, racist little uber-rightwing groups here in the UK proudly declaring things like "We English have had enough of all these immigrants coming over here and..." blah blah blah. We English? Nobody fucking asked me!)

It's a lot harder, naturally, to be objective about the relative scale of a group when you're part of it. Of course I'm not for a second suggesting that people who disapprove of Fantomex are even remotely identifiable with the unreconstructed willfully-ignorant xenophobic outrage-junkies of the BNP and its ilk, but the point is obvious: just because an individual or a group claims to represent the majority doesn't mean they actually do. As in all things Internet-esque, Spurrier's First Law always applies: Factions speak louder than herds.

But okay, for the sake of the question let's pretend that "most fans" really do generally dislike Fantomex. (Hell, maybe they really do, and all the time and energy and money Marvel spends researching and contemplating the relative saleability of its brands is completely wasted.) My feeling is this: if a character like Fantomex (who, to me, has so much potential for fascinating storylines and truly compelling character journeys) is generally disliked, then it's quite simply my job to set things right.

From what little I've seen of the online complaints I'm guessing the major beef folks have with Fanto is that he's sometimes crossed the line into a Joke Character whose capacity for interestingness has been sucked dry. I think a few people are also unhappy about the fact that Psylocke and Fantomex are in a book together when everything that need be said about their recent romance has already been said. As with the above comment about the "backward characterization" of Betsy, I figure people have leapt to a whole bunch of conclusions. They're in a book together? Ugh, that means the whole thing will be about their bloody love life. 


Rumor control, here are the facts: devoting even the teensiest bit of thought to who/what/how Fantomex is will provide you with a literal plethora of exciting possibilities about how he as a character could provide new, resonant and emotionally complex tales. I've chosen to focus on a couple of those possibilities in the first couple of arcs, but I don't feel as though he's in any danger of suddenly running out of worthwhile applications. (Incidentally, remember that a character doesn't have to be completely and constantly likable to be serving a very important role in a story. Fantomex is undeniably obnoxious sometimes. That would only be a problem if the writer, the other characters, and more interestingly he himself was unaware of it.) 

Psylocke's emotional journey is one of the main reasons I got involved with this project. I don't think it's giving away too much to say that Fantomex's role in that journey is 100% not "the boyfriend."


David D Pole said...

"Psylocke's emotional journey is one of the main reasons I got involved with this project" :) I spoke to Si at the Irish comic con D.I.C.E., HE LOVES BETSY!!!

Ca Ma said...

i just fantomex would die. he is very much hated