The X-Men's universe holds more than a few bizarre corners. The Siege Perilous. Madripoor. The entire Dazzler solo series.
But perhaps no piece of obscure mutant continuity is stranger than the corner of the Mojoverse (itself crazy enough) populated by those pint-sized stars known as the X-Babies. Ostensibly created for occasional comedy backup by Chris Claremont and Art Adams, the tike-like versions of Wolverine, Storm and the rest have found surprisingly longevity at the house of ideas and this fall the X-Babies get their first ever four-issue mini series courtesy of kids comics mainstays Gregg Schigiel and Jacob Chabot, announced this past weekend at HeroesCon. And this time around, they won't be traveling the Mojoverse alone.
"The story is set in the Mojoverse…though not the Mojoverse we’ve known," Chabot (best known for his "The Mighty Skullboy Army" series) told CBR of the series that will cross the X-Babies with Marvel's long dormant Star Comics characters. "Basically, Mojo’s been overthrown and someone new has taken over programming and he has a decidedly different idea what entertainment should be and how to best use the broadcast capabilities of Mojoworld. The Star Comics characters – Planet Terry, Wally Wizard, Royal Roy and Top Dog – are, in a way, part of this new programming. And, well, the X-Babies don’t like the new programming."
"Mojo, for this series, is…indisposed," added Schigiel. "The new bad guy is all new and all different and I’d say it’s less about how he meshes with elements as much as how element mesh, or don’t mesh, with him. Suffice it to say he deposes Mojo and replaces the X-Babies with cuter, more adorable versions of the X-Babies. This new status quo doesn’t mesh well with the original X-Babies. Not one bit."
And while mixing the lil' versions of Cyclops and company and the short-lived Star characters (who had a brief run in the '80s as designed by Harvey Comics artist Warren Kremer) may seem a strange idea, the story behind the "X-Babies" mini came about by way of another obscure character pitch. "Long ago, I’d come up with a story for Marvel’s 'funny animal' characters, most notably, Spider-Ham," Schigiel explained. "A couple years back, with Jacob on board, we pitched it at Marvel, but the timing wasn’t great following the JMS one-shot. A couple of years passed, we dusted the pitch off and tried again, and learned our timing was still off as Spider-Ham was spoken for. But editor Nick Lowe asked if we had any ideas the X-Babies. With that, I went into brainstorm mode, figured out the kernel of a story and an 'angle'"
That angle involved opening the concept up beyond being a piece of simple X-Men lore. "The goal is to make a comic that's enjoyable for everyone – the younger audience who's just getting into comics, the standard X-Fan who craves more Mojo and maybe the one or two folks who loved Top Dog back in the day," said Chabot. Schigiel added, "I’d say it falls into a similar spirit of the current 'Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers' mini-series…a big adventure with comedy, action, drama…fun for all ages but not branded or marketed as a Marvel Adventures title or something specifically written for young readers.
"I hope to write a comic my friends who’ve read X-Men comics for years will like, but that I can also give to my niece and nephew (11 and 7, respectively) and have them like it too."
Aside from their experience crafting comics for kids in the past, the pair of creators also have experience in both of the properties they'll be playing with in "X-Babies." "I must have read that 'Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem' special like a million times," Schigiel said of the 1989 X-Babies one-shot. "I was a huge Art Adams fan and that story was just so bizarre compared to the standard Marvel fare at the time. So, I got hooked pretty early. I then tracked down the other few X-Babies appearances and have sort have been keeping an eye on them over the years. It was one of those things that I was always pleasantly surprised Marvel wouldn't just ignore and pretend never happened. They keep popping up! You can't keep the X-Babies down!"
Chabot spoke of having a similar fondness for Star Comics, albeit not the ones with the characters included in "X-Babies." "Including the Star Comics characters was all Gregg's idea and one I immediately got on board with. Star Comics were a big part of my early comics reading experience. I think I came a little too late for the Marvel stuff like Planet Terry, Top Dog, Wally the Wizard, Royal Roy, and Spider-Ham, but I was big into the licensed stuff. The first comic I ever bought was an issue of Mad Balls. I remember trying to scrounge up change for the first issue of Silverhawks when that came out. And at one point, I had subscriptions to both Alf and Transformers. "We've since read through pretty much all of those runs. The old stuff has some jokes that are big groaners and a lot of the stuff is pretty silly and ridiculous, but some of it is actually pretty cool and clever. The tricky part is trying to re-think these guys so that they're still recognizable for the few that actually remember them, but make them appeal to a modern audience."
Of course, the real stars of the series will be the title mutants, and Schigiel and Chabot plan on delivering a roster to rival past iterations. "We’re going pretty much with a 'classic' line-up in this series: Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde. But, before you worry that your favorite mutant isn’t being represented in baby form, just know we’ve got some surprises in store in that department," the writer said, with Chabot noting, "I feel a little bad leaving out perennial X-Babies like Longshot and Psylocke, but I had enough trouble explaining the concept of the X-Babies to my Mom as it was. But, I believe there are a few other Marvel Babies that at least have cameos in this story. Just you wait and see."
More than anything, the creators want to revel in what makes the tiny sized mutants work best. "I personally like the X-Babies because they seem so ridiculous and out of place in the 'realistic' Marvel Universe," said Chabot. "These are characters that co-exist alongside the regular X-Men! It's entirely possible to have an X-Baby Wolverine/Wolverine Team-Up. In fact, I'm surprised that hasn't happened already! That sort of stuff is my favorite part of comics."
Schigiel summed up by explaining that there's "no “'feared and hated by those they’re sworn to protect' here, but plenty of pure superhero-action-adventure. I’ve been saying they’re much more Saturday Morning Cartoon than prime time drama. There’s also that 'kids with superpowers and no real rules' thing going on, which is fun. I’ve been keeping Peter Pan’s Lost Boys in mind as I approach these kids. The Lost Boys and the Little Rascals…but with powers."