In modern superhero comics, it's more than common for creators to revisit ideas, concepts and characters from the past that have waited outside current continuity yet have been kept alive in the hearts of fans. In fact, nostalgia and reinvention are now part and parcel of the genre's basic formula. But rarely is it that revisiting a past series means going straight back to where the characters were last seen by their creators...except in the case of Marvel Comics burgeoning line of "Forever" comics set in the world of the X-Men. Today, that line expanded by one as the publisher announced the five-issue mini series "New Mutants Forever" by writer Chris Claremont and artists Al Rio and Bob McLeod this August.
While Claremont's ongoing "X-Men Forever" saw its jumping point from the his very famed break from the entire X-line after 1991's "X-Men" #3, the writer explained that though he willingly passed of "New Mutants" to writer/editor Louise Simonson in the '80s, "I gave up 'New Mutants' because there weren't enough hours in the day. We were getting ready to, as I recall, launch 'Excalibur' if not 'Wolverine,' and I couldn't do four monthly titles. Or they didn't want me to do four monthly titles, especially with 'X-Men' bouncing back and fourth to 16 issues a year. It seemed like the most sensible way of dealing with stuff, since Weezey had been in on the creation, to hand them over to her.
"By the same token, it wasn't that I'd run out of stories. If you actually notice when my arc ends in #54, it was a stop point, but there were a lot of loose ends. Karma had just quit. As part and parcel of Jo Duffy's series, Roberto and Warlock had temporarily left the team. Everything was in a serious state of flux, and when Weezey picked up with the next issue, it was sometime after I had left off. There's sort of a window of opportunity where in things could or could not have happened."
That gap in the original series timeline provides the starting point for the new "Forever" miniseries with Claremont promising "The first issue of the mini series picks up about 40 minutes after #54 ends and goes on from there as if I hadn't left the book." However, the comic won't just be filling in spaces in existing canon buy building an all-new run of stories placed within the writer's own personal conception of the cast and their world. Specifically, "New Mutants Forever" pushes the team into a fight to reconnect as a group of young people when their mentor Magneto has left them in the hands of often villainous Selene – AKA the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club.
"She's the adult who's taking care of the team. They're stuck with her," the writer explained. "Since the story is set in large measure in Nova Roma [the lost city of the Roman Empire], you're learning a chunk of her backstory – who she is, why she is, what she's doing there, what her ambitions are. It puts Magma in the position of having to wonder if her hatred of her is justified. It makes you wonder if being the Black Queen is a good thing or a bad thing. It takes the way you're looking at someone from one clichéd direction and maybe suggests that you could be wrong."
Also new for the series will be the visual look for the characters to set them apart from the current "back to basics" approach in the ongoing "New Mutants" monthly. "The first thing is that we designed a totally new visual look for them, which fortunately is very convenient because how they end up getting their costumes is just a zip over to limbo with Ilyana, and when they show up somewhere else, they've got new costume. 'What happened to our costumes?' 'Hey, I didn't like them that much, so I changed them. What's the problem?' That's the advantage of having Ilyana," Claremont laughed.
"I actually find 'New Mutants Forever' a more appropriate/accessible series from my eyes than [the current] 'New Mutants,'" he continued, noting that his view of many of his X-cast was different than what had grown under the pen of others, largely in the view of his younger heroes ages. "One of the ongoing bones of contention I've had over the years with the various approaches to these characters by various writers in other titles was the determination to leap them ahead in age. It was, example, one of the irksome things about the later issues of 'Excalibur' that I felt was a disservice of the character when Kitty was jumped up a few years to 20 if not 21 so it would not be illegal for her to go hang out in bars with Pete Wisdom. And one of the bones of contentions I got in return when I picked her up in Uncanny back in '99/2000 and the first thing I did was establish she was still barely 17, I caught incredible shit from readers who felt I was ignoring existing continuity.
"I think the same pretty much holds true of New Mutants with the ongoing series that exists in the mainstream where the ongoing series exists as an expression of the current vision of the characters where as 'Forever' is an extension of my vision – one of a younger and more innocent group of characters. They were conceived as a group of kids who range in age from 13 to maybe 16 or at the very most 17. They're all high school, if that. To me, there are enough adults running around in the pantheon. It's a more enjoyable and exciting reality to play with when you have them in a portion of their lives where things are still being discovered, limits being tested and cynicism has not yet sunk in. Life is full of anticipation and not the sort of bitterness of reality."
Taking the penciling job for the five-issue run is Al Rio, of whom Claremont said "Al is doing a wonderful job in evoking the characters and the circumstances, but by the same token, he's being inked by Bob McLeod, which gives us an unestimable advantage in that the series co-creator and the characters co-creator has an integral role in the generation of the art for a new series. So as a case in point, Al's vision of 'Berto was a bit wrong. He just didn't have the right reference or understanding of the character, so Bob is fixing it. And now that he's got a sense of what's right, Al can go on from there fine. The two elements provide for a visual balance."
All in all, the writer did not want this book to seem like only nostalgia or some kind of time capsule view of stories he wrote over two decades ago. To him, the strength of the X-Men characters in the Marvel Universe is that they're always a part of the now. "The reality of 'New Mutants Forever,' is effectively the same as it is for the X-Men title. You can't say, 'Oh, this takes place in 1986' or 'This takes place in 1991.' No. They both in their own way take place in 2010. 'X-Men Forever' is a totally contemporary series. The reality the X-Men live in is today's – Barack Obama is president. The Soviet Union as we demonstrated in the crossover with Black Widow and Colossus is now a democratic republic. It is no more locked into a literal past than 'Uncanny' is. Nor should it be."
"New Mutants Forever" #1 debuts in August 2010.