The dictionary defines x-factor as "a hard-to-describe influence or quality; an important element with unknown consequences." For the past five years, writer Peter David has been doing his darndest to make sure that his book ("X-Factor," of course) lives up to that definition. Between babies being absorbed and children aging in the blink of an eye, I believe most fans would agree that he's succeeded.
X-Factor is unique among the various teams in Marvel's mutant universe in the way they conduct themselves and are viewed by their peers. They are a detective agency adept at mysteries and finding answers - which is exactly what we're searching for in today's X-POSITION. Peter David is ready to tackle all of your emails, so let's dive on in!
Robert kicks things off for us with a couple of queries that tie into "happenings" outside of the pages of your book:
I'm loving "X-Factor" and just made the switch from trades to monthlies, as I needed my fix for Madrox & Co. far more often than I was getting it. I've got two questions for you:
1) With several characters in the cast having past ties to Cable, will we see their reaction to his (latest) death?
Rather than address your specific question, Robert – and it's a perfectly valid one – I think this is a good opportunity to talk in broader strokes about the interrelationship between "X-Factor" and the other X-books.
See, I get variations on this sort of question all the time: is X-Factor going to react/interact/acknowledge/send a fruit basket about the latest story arc/twist or turn in the other X-books. But "X-Factor" as a book walks a fine line. On the one hand, we have a significant portion of readership that likes that we're hanging in our little section of the Marvel Universe doing our own thing without requiring extensive knowledge of what's going on in the rest of the mutantverse. On the other, we have fans who are always wondering how changes in the status quo of this mutant or that team is going to impact our guys, particularly since – with their long history – our guys are six degrees of separation from just about everybody. It's a constant balancing act.
When I was writing "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man," the biggest problem I had with that book was that I was constantly in reactive mode. I was never in control of what was going on because everything I did had to be in response to, and informed by, events elsewhere. We could never take the lead on anything, and I feel it made problems for the book creatively. I'm trying not to repeat that pattern with "X-Factor."
So what it comes down to is this: I respond to and react to what's going on elsewhere when I think I can make a really good plot out of it. Which is why we had Theresa's protracted response to her father's death, or are now dealing with Rahne's pregnancy and her relationship with Hairy Harry (as Guido might say), or why I'm doing a story in an upcoming issue that ties in with the wave of vampirism that the X-verse dealt with recently. But as for an "Alas, poor Yorick"-type sequence in which the team discusses events in recent X-books for no reason other than to acknowledge that it happened – well, I'm trying to choose my spots.
2) With "Heroes for Hire" starting soon, there will be two NY-based groups of heroic individuals available for hire. Any plans for interaction between the groups, as they may be competing for the same clients?
Not at the moment, but I can certainly see such a crossover as having potential.
Erika sent in a fun email with some frightening implications:
It seems like it's become a bit of a running joke lately that Shatterstar sees a movie, and then ends up imitating it when the opportunity arises. With that in mind, what movies should be banned from X-Factor's headquarters (for fear of Shatterstar's reaction)?
"Burlesque." Definitely "Burlesque," Erika. And also all the "Jackass" movies.
It would probably be wise to keep him away from "Jersey Shores" as well.
Trae also sent in a Shatterstar question, as well as another that might require some soul-searching.
1) Does Shatterstar have more powers than we've seen so far? I have this feeling that he has a more direct connection to Spiral, and this new teleportation power is just the first part of that we are seeing…
See, there's the thing, Trae – if I say, "No, I'm not holding back anything, and there's no tie-in with Spiral," then I'm limiting myself because six months from now I might suddenly be hit with a really great idea as to how to tie that in. If I say, "Yes, definitely," then I'm blowing a potential reveal. If I say, "Maybe," then I'm just being vague.
So I'll just say no. Yes. Well...maybe.
2) I saw that two of Madrox's dead dupes are appearing in the "X-Men: Chaos War" comic. I'm not sure how much input you had in the story, but does this mean each of Madrox's dupes has their own soul?
I wasn't involved with the planning of "X-Men: Chaos War," but the relative aliveness (and soulfulness) of the dupes is an ongoing point of theological debate for Madrox. Short of having Doc Strange or Brother Voodoo show up to provide a definitive response, I'm not even sure there is an answer. Do they have their own souls? Are they simply duplications of Madrox's soul? Is a soul something that cannot be replicated, or is it no different than anything else that Madrox recreates when he duplicates? That's one of those things that Madrox is always wrestling with.
The short answer would be: you can't tell me that the Reverend John Maddox doesn't have a soul.
Perhaps the longer answer is this: a small girl was faced with the arrival of her new little sister and asked her Daddy how he could continue to love her to the exact same degree with the advent of a baby. Wouldn't his love for the older child be lessened? Wouldn't he have to take a portion of the love he had available and focus it on the new arrival? How, she wondered, could a parent's love be undiminished? And he took her over to the kitchen sink and filled a glass of water to the brim and said, "This is my love for you." Then he took another glass and filled that up as well and said, "This is my love for the baby. Is the glass of love for you lessened in any way? No. That's because a parent's love is like an endless faucet of water: It's unlimited and there's always more where that came from without taking away from what came before."
So maybe a soul is like that.
Sniff. While Peter answers the following email from Faded, I'm going to give my father a call...
1) The Mike Carey-led event "Age of X" is said unite various generations of X-Men students. Although "X-Factor" is not tied-in, do you know if Monet, Banshee, or Rictor will be involved?
There's always a possibility of a cameo, but there's no plans for them to play any major part.
2) Now that the post-Decimation mutant world has been greatly affected by the arrival of Hope, will this mean anything to Rictor (a depowered mutant) or Layla (who was a central character in the "House of M" storyline)? How about Damian Tryp, who was desperate in his attempts to stop X-Factor from undoing the effects of M-Day?
There are some definite developments with Rictor coming up. As for Layla, I wouldn't mind doing a major Layla/Hope meet-up, because I think that could be interesting. As for Tryp, we'll be seeing him show up sometime after issue #225.
3) Last time she appeared in "X-Factor," Marrow learned the truth about M-Day. Will she be rounding up even more depowered mutants under her leadership when she returns with X-Cell? Will her vendetta be against Layla and/or X-Factor, or will her motivations be set on finding the Maximoffs?
Here's the trick: there has been any number of major stories and crossovers since "House of M." Yes, we continue to see reverberations from it to this day (Layla's existence not being the least of them), but to me it's problematic to do a major storyline centering on it without seeming like we're re-chewing our food. It doesn't seem exciting creatively: "Hey, kids! We're bringing back the X-Cell so that we can do an adventure tying into a storyline from 2005!" Six years is practically a generation of readers; believe it or not, there are probably people reading "X-Factor" who never heard of "House of M."
To paraphrase Woody Allen, writing a comic book is like a shark: you have to keep moving forward, otherwise you wind up with a dead comic book. So if I do bring the X-Cell back – and I'm not ruling out that possibility – it's going to be because I've got something more au courant for them to be involved in than something that happened back when George W. Bush was just starting his second term.
4) Cartier St. Croix recently made an appearance, but will the rest of Monet's family – including the mysterious being now known as Hollow – come into play at any point? How about any of other relatives of X-Factor teammates?
I actually did have plans for the rest of the family, who I subsequently learned were unavailable to me for a variety of reasons. So at the moment, no, Cartier is the only one who will be showing up in "X-Factor." But things change. As for the rest of the relatives of other teammates, boy, a lot of 'em sure seem dead, don't they? Maybe I should do a storyline called "The Dead Parents Society" and have all the deceased parents show up.
Juan G. wrote to check in about an ex-X-Factor ally:
What is the current state of affairs between Valerie Cooper and X-Factor investigations? We have not seen her for a while and her presence usually sets up a bunch of troubles for the team. Will we see her soon?
Yes, Juan, it usually does. Val is actually going to be making an appearance in an upcoming storyline involving J. Jonah Jameson.
John D. had an intriguing inquiry about a "What if?"-type scenario:
I once read that you thought you'd be continuing with the original X-Factor line-up back in '91 when you were first offered the book. Where would you have taken Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel, and Iceman if you'd had them all to yourself?
I thought that was the line-up for about five seconds, John, before I was immediately informed of what the actual line-up was going to be. I assure you, it was five quality seconds, but that's all it was. Plus it was nearly twenty years ago. So, no, I don't really have a lot of recollection of what I was thinking for five seconds twenty years ago. Sorry I can't be more help.
That's okay, Bartłomiej is more concerned with the present and possible future. Can you give him a few hints about either of those?
1) From the beginning of your second run with "X-Factor," I was impressed with what you did with Layla Miller. To me, she quickly became one of the most interesting characters in Marvel comics. Then she disappeared for a while, and the next time we saw her she was an adult. And now, my feelings on her are mixed. Her "creepy kid charm" is clearly missing, but there are new mysteries now like her friendship with Doctor Doom. So how much different is it for you to write her as an adult now yet still keep what made her unique in the first place?
As Layla herself once said, Bart, even when she was a kid, she wasn't really a kid, y'know? So in terms of how she conducts herself, I'm actually writing her pretty much the same, the difference being that if she kisses Madrox, he's no longer breaking laws. The big difference is not so much how she views herself, or even how I write her, so much as how the other team members view her – both with having to adjust to her difference in age and also their uncertainty of what she was up to during her time with Doc Doom.
It's something that we're going to be confronting head-on in issue #215, when Madrox becomes fed up with the way Layla doles out information on a need-to-know basis and shouts at her: "How many people are you hurting, playing games instead of just being straight with us! Playing games is fine when you're a kid! But you're not a kid anymore, and playtime's over!"
2) Will we ever see what Layla was doing when she lived in Latveria? Did she have a tea party with Wanda, who apparently also was Doom's guest at the time?
We're seeing hints of what went on, but I'm reluctant to do an extended flashback issue since I think spelling it out would be limiting.
3) Do you have any plans when would you like to have Layla's wedding with Madrox? Or is it so far in the future that you haven't thought about it yet? Or should we not count on this at all?
Oh, believe me, I've thought about it a lot. Sooner or later, I will do that story. But not for a while yet.
Hm, I wonder where the happy couple will register? It will give new meaning to "Mutant Registration."
Renaldo wraps up the day with a question and a cheery congratulation. Ain't that a pip?
1) Is Hrimhari's sacrifice to save Rahne (via ensuring Elixir lived in "X-Force") going to be touched upon in your book? I ask this as I don't see any other X-writer addressing this matter (and they don't boast Rahne in their ranks). I also ask because Hrimhari made that deal for Elixir's life with Hela, and since she popped up in "X-Factor" recently, I was wondering if it was more than just a coincidence.
No, Renaldo, it's not a coincidence at all. In fact, it's going to be more than touched on; we're going to be elbow deep in it in issue #212.
2) It was cool as hell to hear that your "Young Justice" days of comics bore fruit with you being approached to pen scripts for the new TV series. So now I'm wondering if there is a desire to revisit any of your old DC titles such as "Aquaman" or "Supergirl," who both now seem more important in the DCU than recent years. And do you ever want to hop back on books like the "Incredible Hulk," "Spider-Man," or "Wolverine," as you told some awesome stories on those books?
Don't get me wrong, Renaldo: I'm gratified that in the cases of both Aquaman and Supergirl, subsequent writers were able to produce the storylines I had wanted to do but – at the time I proposed them – DC editorial had no interest in them. And I am still able to use a number of long-term plans I had for Linda Danvers over in "Fallen Angel" which I write for IDW. And I got a kick out of the fact that in the recent "Smallville" they stated that Aquaman's real name was Orin. And I was thrilled to have the chance to write a couple of episodes of the "Young Justice" series, which I think got off to a terrific launch last week and I sure hope you were watching. So it's nice to see my contributions are still valued here and there.
But I'm quite happy focusing my mainstream efforts in the Marvel Universe right now. And yeah, I'd love to work on Spidey or Wolverine or the Hulk (or even a "Hulk Forever," although I don't know if the fan support for such a title would be there). They're such seminal characters and great to work on. Plus the Spidey titles are a very different animal from when I was doing FNSM. Back then, anything of significance happened in ASM while in FNSM I always had to play catch-up. Now they're a smoothly integrated line of books; it'd be cool being part of that group.
If anyone at Marvel is curious, I'd read a Peter David-written "Hulk Forever." I'll put it on my Christmas list!
And now, it's time for today's "Behind the X" question. Let's go for something a bit peculiar: what is the oldest piece of clothing you own? Where and when did you get it, and why have you held on to it?
I still have a t-shirt from back when I worked on a radio station at Temple University in my college days. Pure sentimental value; it's not like it still fits.
That's okay, I still have a "Frankie Say Relax" t-shirt in my closet. It smells like Aqua Net...
Thus concludes another episode of X-POSITION. Tune in next week for all sorts of hilarity and hijinks with writer Victor Gischler ("X-Men," "Deadpool Corps") as he answers those well-worded missives you're sending my way over the next couple of days. Be sure to put an "X-Position" in the subject line too, otherwise expect an uncomfortable visit from a TSA screener I know. But wait…
Before you go, I have some news of note: I'm busy preparing our "Best X-Moments of 2010" column for the end of the year. This is the column where you, our readers, tell us what events from Marvel's X-Universe made you cheer (or perhaps cry) over the past 365 days. From today through Christmas, either post your favorite X-Moments of 2010 at the appropriate string in our X-forums or email me directly with your thoughts on the matter.
Let me know why you picked this moment and which X-issue it came from. Images help us out too, so either post them in the thread or email them to me (not a requirement, but it's appreciated). We'll do a tally of the results between the forum posts and emails, and then expect one heck of a fun X-POSITION at year's end. If you do email me, put "Best X-Moment of 2010" in the subject line…please?
Thanks everyone! I can't wait to see what you come up with!