In outer space, no one can hear you scream. Even when it's a large gathering of X-fans ranting about the abrupt ending of an enjoyable comic book series, space - or in this case, cyberspace - doesn't yell back. With that in mind, one has to accept the inevitable: Marvel's X-title "S.W.O.R.D." has been cancelled and its upcoming fifth issue will be its last.
Well, we gather today not to bury the "S.W.O.R.D.," but to celebrate its existence. Naturally, there are questions about "what could have been." In that spirit, we have the writer of the book Kieron Gillen ("Thor," "Dark Avengers: Ares") joining us to answer your queries and give a little S.W.O.R.D. eulogy.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life...let's go crazy!
We start things off with a few words from Rothman, who wants to know how you worked through the four stages of grief...
1) At what point did you find out that your series was cancelled? Where were you in terms of scripting the series, and how many issues had you planned out?
My standard answer is "before it was announced." I think I had scripted three issues by that point. The first arc was sorted out in a beat-for-beat basis. I knew the shape of the arcs going onwards towards issue #12. Or #17. That's the sort of length I was keeping in my head.
2) What was your initial reaction to finding out the series had been cancelled? Were you angry at readers, editorial, or the universe?
I was clearly saddened, but I tended to be sanguine. Well, sanguine with a big helping good old fashioned English fatalism. Launching an ongoing at any time is tricky, and the current climate makes that even harder. I'd already mentally worked myself up into a "we-are-the-walking-dead-shunned-by-the-universe-and-will-be-persecuted-by-strangers" state, so I was expecting the worst.
But I tried not to be angry. Occasionally, stuff is beyond your control, and I try to believe that good work eventually gets rewarded. And...oh, this is dealt with in the next question. I'll skip on to that.
3) How difficult was it to craft an ending for your story considering how few pages you had left?
It was fine. Basically, we'd planned for success and planned for disaster. The first arc sets up all the characters and our status quo, sure...but it's also a considered single narrative which comes to a conclusive ending. So if it went fantastically, we'd be able to spin out from that, and if the worst happened, we wouldn't leave anyone unsatisfied.
In other words, I haven't changed a single panel from what I originally planned. It would have made a neat start to an ongoing. Now it's going to be a neat little mini. Hopefully people will dig it.
4) Do you know if S.W.O.R.D. will have any kind of presence in "Siege" or the "Heroic Age?"
You'd have to ask the X-Editors on that particular one. They're not in "Siege" as far as I know - it's not exactly their area of expertise, after all - but I'd be surprised if S.W.O.R.D. isn't used down the line in the "Heroic Age." It fills a really interesting place in the Marvel Universe. So Sez I. Do not question me!
X-Editor Nick Lowe: No one loves S.W.O.R.D. more than this editor and I challenge any comers to a Sloppy Joe eating contest to prove it! If we can figure something out that would do S.W.O.R.D. justice and not just feel like a nostalgia piece, we're going to try.
Look at that, Rothman - you managed to invoke the presence of an X-Editor. Nice work!
Ryan Lindsay has some ideas for keeping "S.W.O.R.D." on life support. What do you say?
Kieron, I absolutely love your (now sadly small) run on "S.W.O.R.D." You gave us all something new and that couldn't be found anywhere else. I liked having this diversity in the X-titles, but I guess it didn't work out. Bummer. I hope to see you on another awesome title really soon.
Thank you. I love having the opportunity to do it.
I was wondering if you think there would be any merit in Marvel turning this book into an ongoing webcomic? I would love to see this happen with "S.W.O.R.D.," and it could be a great way to gain readers before eventually relaunching. What do you think?
Well, the problem with this question is that I see merit in all sort of lunatic things. I see merit in Marvel diverting funds into an enormous statue of Steve and I and depositing it in the New York Harbor, entitling it "The Statue of Awesomeosity." This is why I'm not an editor.
But yeah, that's certainly something that would be interesting. It really depends on how Marvel thinks the response to the book went. If people like it, they should make it clear they liked it - and then editors will have a little to think about in how they can work out a way to make it commercially viable.
I certainly dig writing webcomics, and would love to do one.
Well, if a webcomic isn't possible, I hope they'll give that statue idea a try. I'd come and give it a visit!
As your intergalactic book is all about the various planets among the stars, Adam wants to know if another X-book's direction affected your title's trajectory...
Did Matt Fraction's plans to bring back Kitty affect any of the stories you had planned for "S.W.O.R.D.?" It seemed that you were starting to head down that path...
Nope. It didn't change anything - I knew going in what Matt was doing with Kitty. That short story I did with Jamie "Loving Lips" McKelvie was more about dealing with the question of "Why hasn't anyone tried to rescue Kitty properly," which was on everyone's minds. If we went past issue #5, I suspect we'd have tried to tie in to what Matt's doing, if only after the main event. Clearly, Lockheed's going to react strongly. Also, Jack Daniels share price will sharply dip as he stops consuming a bottle an hour or thereabouts.
Abby wants to know more about Abigail's future...wait, are we in a mobius loop?
1) Will we see more of Abigail Brand in the near future? She is an amazing character and I absolutely love her...
You're going to make Beast jealous. Hands off! She's his.
Hopefully, would be my answer. She's a great character, and I can't believe she's going to be left alone for long.
2) Where will the Beast be going after this series is over? Hank is such a nice person, and I think Cyclops needs someone who will tell him on the straight and narrow.
Cyclops certainly needs a slap around the head occasionally, and Beast's got the enormous blue paws to do the job.
Of course, you're assuming that he survives. The Drenx have totally got them surrounded. The final issue is going to be that much-hyped Drenx celebratory conga. Conga! Conga!
3) With the conclusion of the series, does this mean Hank and Abigail's romance is over too?
Stop it. You'll make me cry.
Andre4000 might have a hanky for you. In exchange though, he wants to know more about those tales you didn't get to tell...
1) Were there any stories that you had planned that you're disappointed that you didn't get to tell? Can you give us any hint on what those stories were?
Oh, totally. Not getting to do Abigail Brand's origin is one nags. Beast's visit to Brand's dad's home planet. And there was the cover I'd have loved to have done around issue #10, which would have just been Unit's cell, with the door open and nothing else...and by that point, that would be about the most sinister thing we could possibly show.
2) You briefly mentioned the Celestial in issue #3 - were you ever going to tackle that topic?
No specific plans, but it was something that I did have my eye on. Having a figure of that size on the surface of the planet is one of the big, obvious differences between our Earth and the Marvel Universe Earth. It's something which we could have done a lot with.
3) We met Abigail's brother - do you have her whole family tree worked out? Where will this information go now that the series is done?
The core family, yes. Basically, from Joss' notes on Abigail's origins, I hammered out a document on that sort of thing and sent it off to Nick Lowe. So I'd imagine that information is sitting on Nick's hard drive. And mine too, for that matter.
4) Was the robot Unit's story supposed to be stretched out longer? Or did you always plan on revealing his origin so early? He seems like he'd be a great character to throw into Lanning and Abnett's galactic books - is there any chance they'll do that?
I'd agree that he'd fit in there - in fact, there's a bit where he insults Thanos in the last issue which the Titan would probably take badly. Unit's a character-idea I had for quite a few years, and I decided to lob into the Marvel Universe because he really doesn't make any sense outside of this sort of enormous fictional construct.
I'm a big believer in both using the toys that are available and leaving new ones for other people to use - Unit's the obvious main one, but there's a number of new aliens from S.W.O.R.D.: Atlantean mutant Crosta and something else which shows up in my "Siege: Loki" and "New Mutants" issues. I'd be enormously pleased if anyone saw some worth in them and had a play. Seeing Fraction write Crosta certainly made me grin.
But I didn't plan to stretch it out any more - though believing Unit's being entirely truthful in any exchange is probably a bad idea. He's the sort of character who makes most sense when people get a grasp of why he's motivated to do what he does. It's like Magneto wouldn't be nearly as interesting if you didn't realize what was making him tick. Unit's motivation is absolutely key, which...oh, this ties into the final issue. Spoilers! Etc.
5) Can you tell us where we can find your writing or Steven Sanders art in the (hopefully) near future?
I'm not sure what Steve is up to next, but I'd love to work with him again. I'm already missing the daily shouting matches on AIM. I need more stress in my life. For me...well, I'm still writing "Thor" until Mr. Fraction takes over with #611. I'm doing the "Siege" tie-in for "New Mutants." I'm doing a story with Frazer Irving in "The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange." Oh, and the "Siege: Loki" special. That's all that's public with Marvel, but hopefully I'll be able to talk about something else soon. Well, hopefully for me, not so hopefully for the rest of the world. When I start talking, the world fears death by yabber.
Oh, and my own indie lovechild should have its second trade out in a couple of weeks: "Phonogram: The Singles Club." Emily Aster is my audition piece for writing the White Queen. Truth!
If any X-fans want to work up a comparison of the two characters, post it in the forums and let us know!
Well, we're done with reader emails for the day, but before we go, it's time for some "Behind the X" fun. Kieron, our "get-to-know-you" question of the week is specially crafted for a British citizen such as yourself: in your opinion, which actor has made the best James Bond in the movies?
My girlfriend and I had a cheery argument about this last night. I told her my answer, and she noted that's just what anyone who hasn't really thought about the question says, and it's just submitting to the consensus opinion. And I suspect she's probably right. I hate that!
Anyway, Sean Connery.
(Though in the brief few pages I wrote Namor - when thinking about the character - Daniel Craig walking out of the sea in "Casino Royale" was who I was keeping in mind for the attitude of the King of Atlantis. Which is worth a mention, just for local colour.)
In seven days, the British invasion continues with the writer of "X-Men: Legacy," Mike Carey! He's eagerly awaiting some mind-bending questions of intrigue, so please don't let him down. Think up some quality queries and send them my way just a soon as you can. Put an "X-Position" in the subject line, and you'll find a surprise under your pillow in the morning - the X-Position Fairy always leaves the most interesting treats! I'm waiting...