X-POSITION: Matt Fraction

Tue, June 30th, 2009 at 2:58pm PDT | Updated: June 30th, 2009 at 2:58pm

Comic Books
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer
196

"Uncanny X-Men" #514 on sale August 12

When a new writer comes aboard a long-running comic book title, they are faced with several challenges. They have to find ways to make the old seem new; they have to bring change, but make things feel the same; and hopefully they are able to find ways for their unique “voice” to shine through pre-established characters and tropes of the title.

Well, if the mail we received for this week’s X-POSITION is any indication, Matt Fraction has succeeded in all these arenas with Marvel's “Uncanny X-Men.”

Fraction has moved the team to a new setting, changed their status within the Marvel Universe, brought characters back from the dead, had team members travel through time, and still retained the elements of his writing that makes things… Fraction-istic!

The writer joins CBR today to answer your questions about “Uncanny X-Men” and “Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia.” Are you ready to rumble?

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CBR: When Fraction speaks, Masterkev listens – closely, apparently. Therefore, he has a question about something recently said…

You recently stated at HeroesCon that you had a desire/plans to use depowered mutants, specifically stating the Blob and Jubilee. If this “desire” has actually turned into “plans,” can you share any details about when or where we might see them? Is there a chance we’ll see any of the other new New Warriors?

MATT FRACTION: Let's see... the storyline that follows “Utopia” – which will either be called “One Thing” or will have a title that spoils where we're going over the next seven weeks (and either way, until we're locked in, mum's the word) – will be where we check in with lots of folks all up and down the spectrum. The exact who’s and when’s are still coming together and, really, I wouldn't tell you either way because why blow the surprise? Anyway when the dust settles on “Utopia,” when “Exodus” is out and “The List” has been released, that's when to keep your eyes peeled.

"Uncanny X-Men" #514 pencils by Terry Dodson

Washout was wondering if they should keep their eyes peeled for one of their favorite characters as well.

Now that we know the new direction “X-Men: Legacy” will be taking, will we be seeing Rogue appearing in the pages of “Uncanny X-Men” anytime soon?

Soon is maybe relative, but yeah, hopefully. Somewhere where "soon" means some moment in time after next month but before the cosmic heat death of the universe… yes.

In light of your definition of “soon,” Taimur Dar was hoping to see something, uh, relatively close to the present.

Do you plan on having Xavier stick around in “Uncanny” once Utopia concludes? Is a future confrontation with Magneto in the works now that they both have regained their powers?

Who says anyone wants him to stick around after “Utopia?” And who says he'd want to, anyway? And in a world where Professor X and Magneto were in the same place at the same time, with their powers – maybe even with new powers, who knows? – that, surely, there'd have to be some kind of showdown. I mean, you'd have to be a totally idiot not to want to write the hell out of that.

Great to see Toad appear again! I was wondering if we'll be seeing more of him again soon?

Hey, thanks! He's a classic, right? And I've got nothing concrete planned but, again, we'll be seeing all kinds of folks going forward. Maybe he'll pop up…

Caleb Warren was curious how you get into such a “dark” mindset…

Do you approach writing the Dark Avengers the same you do with the X-Men, or do you have to go through a different thought process? They're so much more diverse in terms of personalities then the core group of X-Men that you usually write…

Hiyah, Caleb. It's a little bit different, I suppose. Osborn aside, I'd not written any of them before. It was a lot of fun, though. I'd been chomping at the bit to get my hands on Bullseye, Venom, and Ares for a long time.

"Uncanny X-Men" #514 pencils by Terry Dodson

Oh wait! Ares had a one-panel appearance in “The Order” #1.

But yeah. It's like having a great meal at a restaurant too far away to be a convenient place to eat. And it made me jealous of Bendis! They're all so much fun. And so vile...

Speaking of vile characters, Marc Ravens wanted to see more of some particularly nasty fellows.

Now that some of the Acolytes have moved to San Francisco, will they make their presence felt in “Uncanny” anytime soon?

Man. What if Magneto came back, too? I bet that'd really be a thing.

Gavin J. is a thinker, and he’s sent in a few heady thoughts.

I'm wondering how the press and the other X-Men are going to react to Cyclops's use of X-Force as his personal wetworks squad, if/when this secret comes out. Doesn't the fact that X-Force exists confirm the fears of some of these wingnut extremists they've been sent after? Are we going to see more directly how various members of the team react to this? Who do you think would be for or against Scott’s decision?

Hello, Gavin. Yeah, man, so am I. Keep reading. Especially “X-Men/Dark Avengers” and “X-Force,” obviously. The pot of water is starting to boil beneath the white-hot flames of crisis and truth and... and any more than that and I'd be letting you know who was actually in the pot.

("White-hot flames of crisis and truth?" Good lord. I can't believe I actually typed that. Now I'm being told I actually have to turn my writer card in at the door when I'm done with this Q&A...)

But before all that, here's a hint: Beast's conversation with Scott and Emma at the end of “Uncanny” #511 is like the loose thread on a sweater.

Given the recent analogy of Proposition 8 in California and the similarly restrictive Proposition X, do you feel that the story being told in “Uncanny” adequately frames the realities of minority social politics?

This was a coincidental analogy, I just want to say – we had already started telling our tale before we'd become aware of the loathsome Prop. 8 (and I'm not speaking of myself in the royal "we," but rather by “we,” I mean Ed Brubaker and myself – Trask and the Coalition came from the two of us in one form or fashion I don't remember any more).

Uncanny X-Men
"Uncanny X-Men" #513 on sale this week

I don't know why that was important for me to say, but it was. Maybe because Prop. 8 is actual honest-to-god hate legislation that's keeping real, live, and loving people apart and we're a little piece of comic book entertainment? I don't know. I'm struck by the coincidence, but it's not meant to be a straightforward one-to-one allegory.

For my money, what Stan and Jack created with “The X-Men” is the perfect metaphor book. If you've ever been discriminated against, picked on, ridiculed, or rejected because of who you were or what you did, you can maybe see a little of yourself here. I think the X-Men – the whole line, the whole idea, not just my little piece of the pie – works as a kind of allegory-of-the-discriminated. I think that's why the line endures. At best, we're a small reflective facet of a very complicated jewel.

Does this story adequately frame the realities of minority social politics? I think that's impossible, because we're a comic book. Meanwhile, real people with real lives and real love are being really discriminated against and treated like less than citizens – like they are less than human, even. Any time any of our brothers or sisters are treated like less than yourself, the founding fathers and the framers of our Constitution turn in their graves.

The Northstar and Dazzler moments of late have been both amusing and noteworthy. Did you have any problems figuring a way into Northstar's character before putting him to such impressive use? Are there any things you want to do with the character now that you've brought him onboard?

I just liked the idea of Northstar as a super-powered Shaun White. And, literally, very much like we're told Cyclops did, I saw a real need for his power-set while writing the arc previous as I realized the team lacked groundspeed. I definitely have a need for him and have plans for him in year two.

Beyond that... I just thought it was time we started treating – and writing – characters like Northstar like real people in our comics. There's nothing about who he is that is a frivolous choice; his identity is as predetermined as his hair color. And every other time "it" has come up in the comics of yesteryear, "it" has tended to be handled with as much grace and tact and deftness as an Afterschool Special. It's the twenty-first century. It's time we freed our minds a little bit and treated "them" the same way we want to be treated.

I'm speaking, of course, about French-Canadians.

Why don't the X-Men have a PR staff and a legal team in place for situations like this? It seems like Trask and Humanity Now! can always outmaneuver the X-Men because they're working within the “non-superheroic” arena of the law. No matter how much one would like, one can't optic blast legislation away. Shouldn't the X-Men be playing this angle and looking into high-powered legal teams as well?

Pages from "Uncanny X-Men" #513

I think we're slowly creeping towards that kind of stuff in the periphery. Mayor Sinclair isn't going away and...well, they're gonna need it with where we're going, post XVDA. That said, the two-fisted adventures of a canny PR staff and a break-all-the-rules legal team might not make for the most scintillating comics...I mean, I'd read it, but you know how that goes.

And isn't...like, wasn't Dazzler a lawyer, too, before she was a pop star and a superhero? There's your new Dazzler book: lawyer/glamazon pop idol/X-girl. Throw in a talking animal sidekick and a love triangle with a scrappy paralegal and a strong-chinned but small-hearted has-it-all boss and you've got next year's fan-favorite title.

See? There’s a Fraction-istic idea right there!

L. Petrovna is a very inclusive person and wants to make sure the “other” mutants out there aren’t overlooked.

If Cyclops’ call went to every mutant in the world, would it also have affected characters like Typhoid Mary and The Winter Guard? It'd be interesting to see the negative reaction some of the mutants might've had to his calling…

Heyah. I agree!

Could you explain the scene in “Uncanny X-Men” #511 where Jean Grey appeared to speak to Emma Frost? What exactly was happening in that scene? I was a little confused by it…

What? Jean Grey is dead. How could she speak to Emma?

It seems Slewo was also a tad disoriented by that scene. I’m betting a bit more clarification would be greatly appreciated…

Pages from "Uncanny X-Men" #513

In the end, what exactly was the Red Queen? A psychic ghost or what? It didn’t feel entirely clear to me.

Yeah, she was just exactly what Cyclops said. The Red Queen was a psychic ghost – the "Goblin Queen" energy without a physical home. Not Maddie – she's dead – but a devil's echo of what Maddie used to be. And the only home that could contain that echo was the body a powerful psychic. So they did a test run with Psylocke to make sure it worked and then, convinced it did, went looking for Jean's body.

Are we going to see Cyclops visit his brothers soon? Given what's happening in “War of Kings,” it’s a bit odd that Cyclops hasn’t made an attempt to save them.

Hey, the man has his hands full! And they can take care of themselves. Scott's trying to save the whole mutant species...

Also what was your thinking behind bringing back Psylocke's original body, only to fry it and put her back in her second one? Nothing against “Asian Psylocke,” I'm just curious…

To be brutally honest? I saw more value in bringing a character of color into the book than yet another white face. When I came in there were a whole lot of dudes and a whole lot of white folk around; I wanted very much to diversify the genders and the colors of the team somewhat without turning the thing into a Benetton ad or the cast of “Voyager” or whatever. I figured, since we were already asking people to buy a story in which a magic, bodiless psychic spirit performed a grand act of transdimensional psychic necromancy, that your suspension of disbelief had either long ago shattered or was impervious to anything I could throw at it...so why not?

Besides, going forward with Psylocke, we'll see that while she might look the same on the outside, inside is a different matter...

That concludes this week’s frolicking fun, but we’ll be back in seven days to talk about big guns and cute kiddies with “Cable” writer Duane Swierczynski. Read up, write up, and send me those questions just as soon as you can. And if you throw an “X-Position” in the subject line, I might even give you a cute nickname on the CBR forums. Hurry and send those emails now!

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TAGS:  x-position, uncanny x-men, x-men, matt fraction, marvel comics

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