Tuesday, February 10, 2015

X-Position: Si Spurrier

CBR: Si Spurrier joins us for one final "X-Force" X-Position and answers your questions about everything from the nature of continuity to Psylocke's addiction to killing and his future -- possibly "Secret Wars"-shaped -- post-"X-Force" plans .

In your run on "X-Force" you got to use a lot of characters with really long and sometimes confusing pasts, like Psylocke, Cable and Fantomex. How do you as a writer distill all the discrepancies and decades of continuity down into something you can use? Did "X-Force" provide any unique difficulties?

Spurrier: Continuity's something you have to be a bit grown-up about, y'know? I think all of us -- as Marvel readers and fans, I mean -- have a very sophisticated inbuilt capacity for dealing with this stuff. Oh sure, there's the noisy 1% who're so dedicated to the minutiae that any perceived adjustment or realignment, no matter how positive, will always be met with outrage. Remember: factions speak louder than herds.

But most of us -- reasonable human fiction-consumers, I mean -- are capable of regarding the tangled histories of our favorite characters with impressive flexibility. I'd argue it's a similar psychology to that of mythology or legend. We stow-away details of these characters' lives, but if something new comes along which doesn't quite align -- no biggie. As long as the spirit of the character is retained -- or improved! Or evolved! -- then the new stuff overwrites the old. It's never a question of Fact vs Fact; it's just one folklore syncretizing with, and eventually overlying, another. You only really run into trouble when the retcons are tacitly less positive than the former canon. Then, no matter how much the writer or publisher insists this is for the good of the character, and it'll pay dividends in the long run -- and it usually will -- readers will struggle not to feel robbed of something they formerly cherished. That's the price of a longform narrative, I'm afraid. You don't get to have a continuum of happy endings.

Anyway, this relationship between fans and continuity constitutes a lot of pretty astonishing mental acrobatics, and we're all doing it 100% of the time whilst reading comics. We're endlessly making these subconscious abstractions -- glossing-over stuff which doesn't make sense; deliberately ignoring details which don't fit or which seem crass; forgiving outright mistakes -- because we love the characters, we love the stories, and the payoff is so much greater than the investment. It's remarkable and very special.

In terms of my work with "X-Force," it all played rather neatly into my mischievous schemes. As I've said elsewhere, "X-Force" feels like one of the only books where it makes sense to deliberately face up to some of the inherent problems with the superhero genre, which would be subconsciously waved-away (as described above) in any other title. In fact, it felt like the sort of book where it would've been irresponsible not to confront these things. Namely: if you've spent your entire life as a warrior, an ideologue, a crusader, a dirtier-of-one's-own-hands, then you better believe you're going to be screwed-up in a lot of creative ways.

In that sense "X-Force" was far less concerned with the fiddly detail of the characters' continuity than it was with the emotional and behavioral baggage which derived from it all. The challenge in each character's case was not only to ponder how he or she would really feel about the world, but also to invent the ways that each of them can continue to function, rather than going stark staring bugfuck mental.

I mean... if you want to get really real about this stuff -- like, assume that all the continuity is 100% real and accurate and unchangeable, assume that your favorite heroes spend all day every day fighting, bleeding, getting smashed-up, seeing people die, saving lives, failing to save lives, having a unique and privileged view of the world, and yet still somehow manage to crack wise, have pool parties and seem like well-adjusted people -- then I'm afraid you're obligated to come to the conclusion that they're all absolutely and rabidly insane.

Obviously that's a ghastly and very unsatisfying conclusion -- and a betrayal of the stories we all love -- so instead (for 99% of super-hero books) we make allowances, we don't get too horribly cynical about things, we cheerfully buy-in to the morality and ideological purity of the fiction... because it's such an awesome world to visit.

Alternatively -- for 1% of superhero books, like "X-Force" -- we find interesting and nasty ways to explain how and why our fucked up heroes continue to do what they do. And we don't flinch from looking at the results.

You've mentioned you had planned an arc in which Psylocke would attend a support group for her addiction to killing. Since this is not gonna happen now, how do you see Psylocke's arc in your "X-Force" run? Is her addiction now more core of who she is or do you feel she will overcome it at some point?

Spurrier: I think, in part, this goes to the stuff I was discussing before about continuity and reader sophistication. It's part and parcel of the same phenomenon that readers are able (for example) to parse the notion of a character being in two full-time titles at the same time. Even when the characterization is subtly different between the two, most of us fans are still able to reconcile the versions and enjoy the character for who they are, rather than being bumped out of the fiction by the distinctions.

I mention this to illustrate a point: even if this whole "addicted to violence" thing never gets referenced again, it becomes a part of Psylocke's mythological makeup, and readers are cheerfully entitled to put more or less importance upon it as their tastes dictate when reading newer Psylocke stories. Up until the point that another writer tacitly uses or contradicts it, these points of emotional color continue to have an influence. The beauty of all this is that -- apart from these brief windows of Present Tense Alteration -- it's not really up to the writer to determine how fans choose to clothe, animate and understand their favorite characters.

Anyway. For what it's worth, without wishing to spoil episode #15, Betsy gets a big breakthrough... of sorts. Which, I hope, will satisfy your question, as well as providing fertile ground for the sorts of lasting conjectures I mentioned above.

1 comment:

FSaker said...

Spurrier's interview was very interesting. I like to see how proud he seems to be of his work in X-Force (even if he may sound a little arrogant in some answers, but I think it's not intentional).

I also like and agree with his answer about eventual differences in Psylocke's characterization between his book and the ones from other writers. She's a complex character, and X-Force shows it very well.

As for her addiction to killing, this kind of problem doesn't just disappear, but hopefully X-Force #15 will provide the first step for her to try to overcome this addiction. Go, Betsy!