X-POSITION: Christos Gage

Tue, January 20th, 2009 at 3:59pm PST | Updated: January 20th, 2009 at 4:04pm

Comic Books
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer
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"X-Men/Spider-Man" #4 on sale March 4

When a comic book has been around for a good length of time, its characters can pick up some inconvenient baggage. Their stories accumulate quantities of troublesome minutiae, just by virtue of having existed for so long. For example, Spider-Man used to drive a Spider-buggy car – and it went up walls! And the X-Men had to work with a mutant who was a disco-dancing roller-skating singer (Dazzler fans – yeah, we’re looking at you, Jim McCann -- get your glowsticks!).

Some creators, in pursuit of new stories, wish to gloss over the past or even ignore it altogether. Other times, they take what’s there and use it to their advantage in a way that seems serendipitous. The latter scenario is what has occurred in “X-Men/Spider-Man,” the in-progress miniseries from Marvel Comics. Writer Christos Gage and illustrator Mario Alberti has picked apart moments in the histories of the X-Men and Spider-Man and crafted a story that deftly weaves in and out of the characters’ labyrinthian continuities.

Most auspiciously, Gage has tied together Mr. Sinister’s penchant for genetic manipulation with Spider-Man’s infamous Clone Saga storyline in a way that entertains and makes sense. Fans have been responding in kind to “X-Men/Spider-Man,” and of course with many questions for the creative team. Christos Gage returns to X-POSITION to answer them.

Story continues below

We begin today with Andre4000, who sent in a handful of thought-provoking queries about the events taking place in this title:

1) In issue #2, Sinister said of Kraven: "Perhaps you took comfort in the knowledge that, thanks to me, a part of you will live on...Your legacy is in good hands." What legacy is he referring to? It almost sounds as though Sinister has taken part of Kraven's DNA. Am I right? Or am I reading too much into Sinister's comment?

For the full answer, you'll have to check out issue #4, in which all is revealed. But I think it's become clear by now that Sinister is not exactly shy about using other people’s genetic material for his own purposes…

Marco Alberti artwork from "X-Men/Spider-Man" #4

2) Having Sinister contact Miles Warren was a stroke of genius and makes complete sense! Where did you come up with the idea to have Sinister “mess around” with clones and dip into that bit of Spider-Man lore?

Thanks, Andre! Sinister has always been portrayed as a master of cloning technology, going back to when he created the Goblin Queen (a.k.a. Madelyne Pryor) from Jean Grey's DNA. So when it was decided that we'd be covering the period of time in which the Clone Saga took place, I figured it made sense to tie things together. If you're gonna jump in, jump in with both feet, right?

3) When did you first learn about the Spider-Man clone saga? Did you read it when it originally came out? Or did someone at Marvel have to lay it all out for you when you were planning this story?

Oh, I had been reading “Amazing Spider-Man” for about fifteen years when the Clone Saga hit. And yes, I was one of those furious fanboys who seethed at the idea that the Spidey I'd been following all that time wasn't the real thing! It's a good thing for my dignity that the internet wasn't around then for me to vent my rage upon.

The funny thing is, now that Ben Reilly turned out to be the clone and met the fate he did, I find him an incredibly compelling character. He embodies all these great themes of nature vs. nurture, rising above one's origins, fighting destiny, questioning one's identity… really powerful, meaty stuff. And I found writing those last few pages of issue #3, where he begs Wolverine to tell him if he's the real thing or not, to be very moving, especially now that we know the answer and have the hindsight of history. Ben's a great, poignant character, and I'd be happy to write him again any time.

4) Were you afraid about jumping into the Spider-Man clone mythology? It's one that confuses many readers (while a good deal of them seem to wish it never occurred).

Marco Alberti artwork from "X-Men/Spider-Man" #4

That made me want to do it even more! (Although for the record, I believe it was Steve Wacker who first suggested using Ben, so all you Ben fans owe him a “thank you”). I love taking concepts and characters that are considered “radioactive” and seeing if I can buck the conventional wisdom and do something cool with them. I'm just naughty by nature, I guess.

Christos, in your response above you make it sound as though you have a pretty good grasp on the Clone Saga – so how about breaking it down for Zachary Wynn Nobles?

First off, I have to say that Mario Alberti's art for this miniseries is absolutely fantastic. Also, the writing in this is amazing. This is the first thing I've read by you and I'm already a solid fan. I am a little confused about Spider-Man, though, especially since I've never really followed his character. Would you mind explaining his clone situation between issues #1 and #3?

Zack, thanks for the very kind words, and I agree with you 100% about Mario Alberti! He is an amazing talent who combines a lush European style with the dynamic action and storytelling of American superhero comics, and he does it brilliantly. There's a double-page spread in our final issue that completely blew my mind. Working with Mario on this book has definitely been a highlight of my career!

As for Spidey's history, that's a pretty complicated question, but let's see if I can do the Wikipedia version (what used to be called the “Reader's Digest” version – every day I feel more like Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino,” except a lame, geeky version):

In “X-Men/Spider-Man” #1, Spidey is Peter Parker, the young hero we all know and love. Between issues #1 and 2, circa “Amazing Spider-Man” #149, there was a storyline where a professor of Peter's, Miles Warren (also known as the villainous Jackal) had cloned Spider-Man, and the two clones fought each other, resulting in the apparent death of the clone Spidey. “Our” Spidey went on with his life, and “X-Men/Spider-Man” #2 took place.

X-Men/Spider-Man
"X-Men/Spider-Man" #3 on sale now

Some time after that, near “Amazing Spider-Man” #400, a second Spider-Man showed up, going by the name Ben Reilly. He claimed he was the real Peter Parker, and the Spidey we'd all been reading about for years was the clone! His story gained credence when Peter Parker's powers faded away and Ben took his place as Spider-Man. But even though the two got along and liked each other, there was always the question of who was the real deal and who was the clone. That's when “X-Men/Spider-Man” #3 takes place.

Some time after that, Ben turned out to be the clone and seemingly died fighting the Green Goblin. (No, I don't know any inside secrets, I'm just saying “seemingly” because this is comics and anything can happen.) Hope that made sense. I did it all off the top of my head! I can remember all that, but I can't remember when my mother-in-law's birthday is…

Don’t worry, we won’t tell her (although we can’t help it if she reads X-POSITION).

Caleb Warren is curious about the printing error that resulted in the contents of “X-Men/Spider-Man” #3 appearing within the covers of “X-Men: Manifest Destiny” #5. What was your reaction to that, Christos?

You know, Caleb, it's one of those things. I don't know the specifics of how and why it occurred, but comics are made by human beings and mistakes sometimes happen. As I understand it, Marvel is replacing the error copies, so if you got one and don't want it, you should be able to return it. I'll keep my error copy as an amusing novelty, like my “Marvel Team-Up” #109 with two covers!

And just because we’re nice, we’re going to let Caleb get some “Avengers: The Initiative” questions in as well.

1) How much will the cast of the Initiative change during Dark Reign?

Pages from "X-Men/Spider-Man" #3

Oh, boy. Most of the characters you love will still be in the book (and some, like the original New Warriors, are returning), but the status quo is changing drastically with the coming of Dark Reign. Don't miss an issue – you've been warned!

2) Will we see more renegade heroes who refuse to train under the Initiative because of Osborn's current state of power?

Interesting question. There will definitely be heroes who don't want to serve under Norman Osborn, but if they're registered, their choices may be limited. And if they rebel, don't expect Norman to take it lying down! This will definitely be explored in upcoming issues.

3) Can we please see more Telemetry? She's one of my favorite characters in the book (I know, I'm lame)?

Anyone who likes a character I co-created (with Steve Uy, who beautifully designed her costume) is the opposite of lame in my book! I'm pretty sure you'll be seeing Telemetry in 2009.

4) Are we ever going to know what the source of some of the Initiative characters' powers are?

If we get a chance to explain it naturally during a story, yes, but we just don't have the room to do origin stories for their own sake, much as I enjoy them.

Aspbros closes things out today with a few more “wonderings” he had about the Initiative. Christos, can you help him out?

1) With “The Initiative,” you are writing a book that ties heavily into Marvel continuity. Does it ever feel that the stories are dictated to you by outside circumstances, as opposed to you taking the characters in directions that feel appropriate to your creative whims?

Pages from "X-Men/Spider-Man" #3

Well, Aspbros, I understand what you're saying, but I don't see it as being dictated to at all. I think tying into the Marvel Universe has been part of the book's premise from the start, and I love doing it! The Initiative exists to safeguard Marvel Earth, and it only makes sense that they'd respond to things like World War Hulk and Secret Invasion.

What Dan Slott tried to do, and what I will continue to do, is show how those events affect areas we don't see in the main titles – like our recent “Skrulls Across America” tour – and further our characters' personal journeys in the course of those storylines. For instance, during the World War Hulk issues you saw a progression of Hardball's story as he was coerced into becoming a double agent for Hydra. Personally, I think that given the premise of our series, the more we tie into other books the better. I've been in touch with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning about picking up some threads they're planting in some of their titles. If the timing works, it'll be a lot of fun.

I'm as leery as the next writer of “editorial mandate” that runs contrary to the spirit of a book, but that's never been the case with the Initiative. To me, it would seem odd if something big happened elsewhere and we didn’t acknowledge it. Ideally, if this sort of thing is done right, you get the best of all worlds.

2) When the Initiative first kicked off, the new heroes were hesitant to join, but most were excited and proud to be “legitimate” heroes. Will they still have this pride working under Norman Osborn?

Some will and some won't. Some will want to retire, or transfer as far away from Norman as possible. Some will go AWOL and be hunted. You'll see a variety of different reactions in upcoming issues, and it'll be explosive!

3) In your mind, how do the newer heroes of the Initiative view Norman Osborn? They've heard he was the Green Goblin, but they've never had to deal with him directly. So do they view him as someone who has reformed and is doing good? Or is there still mistrust due to his past?

Pages from "X-Men/Spider-Man" #3

I think some of the newer and younger heroes are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind that the Initiative operates in a manner similar to the military, and soldiers don't get to quit just because a guy they may not like becomes President or General. Whether they'll retain that open minded attitude remains to be seen…

4) The “House of M: Civil War” mini has now wrapped up, and “X-Men/Spider-Man” is almost over - please tell me you have more X-projects in the works! How about any other Marvel projects you can mention?

Well, the Initiative is keeping me busy on a monthly basis – and let me tell you, Humberto Ramos is turning in some incredible work for the “Disassembled” arc that runs from issues #21 to #25! Beyond that, I can't mention anything specifically, but I do have pitches in for two projects that would be sort of sequels to things I've done recently, and I just got approval on something that ties in to a big event that'll be unfolding. So I should have some news for you soon, but I certainly don't object to you guys telling Marvel editors how much you'd like to see me more comics from me! Your support is really appreciated. I hope you continue to enjoy what's coming your way!

Have you been saving up “X-Factor” questions for a rainy day? Well, good news! Next week, it’s pouring Peter David here at X-POSITION. So read “X-Factor” #39 (in stores this week), write down all those queries bouncing around in your brain, and send your emails our way as quickly as you can. Putting “X-Position” in the subject line moves you to the head of the class (and makes my life easier), so be sure to do that and we’ll see you in seven!

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TAGS:  x-men, spider-man, x-position, mario alberti, christos gage

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