The Marvel Universe is a place of legendary heroes, so it’s no surprise that it’s a place of legendary monsters as well. Creatures like demons, dragons and vampires have been plaguing the Marvel U for centuries. The threat posed by vampires has fluctuated over the years, but recently they’ve banded together to try and claim a vampiric homeland. Under the leadership of the legendary Dracula they attempted to take over England, and in the opening arc of the recently concluded adjectiveless "X-Men" series writer Victor Gischler and artist Paco Medina chronicled the story of a vampire invasion of San Francisco lead by Dracula’s upstart son Xarus.
The invasion was successfully repelled and inspired the X-Men to embark on a new, large scale campaign of heroics. In the current arc of "X-Men," titled "To Serve and Protect," Gischler and artist Chris Bachalo are telling the tale of the X-Men’s first mission in this larger heroic endeavor. Gischler isn’t stopping there with the undead denizens of the Marvel Universe though. In April's "Throne of Blood: Birth of a Vampire" one-shot, the writer teams with artist Goran Parlov to introduce readers to a new character who will play a role in Marvel's next major event, "Fear Itself."
"Curse of the Mutants," the vampire invasion arc that launched "X-Men," was a mini-event with several tie-ins, but "Throne of Blood" marks the first time Gischler has taken part in a major Marvel crossover event. "It feels good in that they have confidence in me to play a part in this, but it's a supporting role," Gischler told CBR News. "I don't feel like the entire weight of the event is on my shoulders or anything even close to that. I just get to sit back and enjoy my contribution, which I feel great about."
The new character that debuts in "Throne of Blood" was born out of discussions between Gischler and Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Axel Alonso, who was Gischler’s editor when the project began. "We had talked about a character and he said, 'This character has got a little something going for them here. I think we can get more out of this character.' We just went back and forth with ideas to give this character shape and background. I just recently finished writing the one-shot and I got good feedback on it in-house, so we're pretty excited about it," Gischler explained. "The press release for the book referred to this character as a ‘game changer.’ I'm going to let other people comment on how this character might be a game changer. Because I don't think I'm in charge of changing the game. I definitely can see how a character this cool and interesting can be put to good use though."
"Throne of Blood" will introduce readers to more than just the titular character. "This will be a story with a lot of new characters. I have to be a little dodgy here, but when you see the issue you'll see what I mean," Gischler hinted. "You'll see why it's kind of hard to talk about the cast of the book without giving too much away."
While several characters are involved in "Throne of Blood" the story is more of an intimate character piece than it is about vampires and their role in the Marvel Universe. "One of the things we wanted to do with vampires and Dracula, which we did in both my ‘Death of Dracula' one-shot and 'Curse of the Mutants,' was to heighten their profile in the Marvel Universe," Gischler said. "So you're going to see more of Dracula. You're going to see more vampires coming. We're going to get that next big story about vampires, but this is not where that story happens."
"Throne of Blood" reunites Gischler with Goran Parlov, his collaborator on the "Welcome to the Bayou" arc of the Marvel MAX series "Punisher: Frank Castle." "I thought he kicked all possible ass on our arc of ‘Punisher: Frank Castle’ and he does so in general, too," Gischler remarked. "A few days ago we sent the script off for him to illustrate and I was able to sneak a little note in there to Goran saying that I was just thrilled that he was doing it and I cannot wait to see what he does. He's got my full confidence.
"I don't do these books by myself," Gischler continued. "I get lots of great feedback. Axel Alonso and I started work on 'Throne of Blood,' then he got kicked upstairs to Editor-in-Chief. so I finished working on it with Daniel Ketchum who came in with amazingly good suggestions. I feel like a lot of team work went into it, and once Goran draws his heart out and makes it look good, it's going to be a great issue. I'd love to tell you a lot more about it, but I don't want to spoil any surprises."
One book Gischler is able to talk about in more detail is his "X-Men" series. With "To Serve and Protect," the second arc of the title now in full swing, the writer is working extra hard to make "X-Men" a title that acknowledges the events of the other X-books but also stands on its own. "A number of people have talked to me at conventions and via e-mail and they told me that they have not read an X-Men book in a long time, but felt safe picking up my X-Men book because they felt like they could get into it without having to do a lot of homework," Gischler stated. "They could jump right in because it was very friendly for new readers, but we don't pretend that the X-Men aren't doing other things in other books."
In "X-Men" #7, in stores now, Gischler addressed the X-Men's hiring of PR agent Kate Kildare, which occurred in a recent issue of "Uncanny X-Men." The beginning of the issue showed Kildare and Cyclops discussing a public relations strategy for the X-Men whose recent campaign of heroism was winning over the people of San Francisco. Cyclops told Kildare that he was interested in repeating that result on global scale.
"I think there's a couple of things going on with Cyclops's new Super Hero initiative. First, there's the very simple fact of with great power comes great responsibility. The X-Men have great power so they want to help some people, but there's also the idea of 'If we're going to help some people, let's get credit for it,'" Gischler explained. "The X-Men have been on the bad side of a lot of PR campaigns throughout the years, so Cyclops figures, 'Let's be good guys and let's have people see we're here to help them and the world.' He wants them to get out there and do that. We definitely have a PR conscious Cyclops in 'X-Men.'"
"X-Men" #7 also saw the X-Men set up a way to search for potential cases and crises to work as part of their new mission. New Mutants member Cypher set up a computer search parameter to alert the X-Men of situations that are beyond the capabilities of local law enforcement, but are beneath the notice of super hero groups like the Avengers.
"I feel like the X-Men are still figuring out how to do this," Gischler said. "They've decided they want to be heroes. What do you do after that? Do you advertise on Craig's List? How do you go about the business of being a hero? So the X-Men are trying to figure that out and certainly in #7 we see a situation where it's like, 'Hey there seems to be a problem and nobody is paying attention to it.' It might be a little bit more of a problem than the local precinct can handle too. In this particular story it does fit the idea of, 'Above the police but below the notice of the Avengers.' It will be interesting to see if they continue to work those types of cases moving forward."
The X-Men's first step was to send a small team to investigate some mysterious reptilian sightings in the sewers beneath New York City. That team was comprised of Storm, Emma Frost, Gambit and Wolverine. "Since I live in Southern Louisiana, Gambit is sort of a home town pick. When I got picked to do this X-Men book, my sister in law was e-mailing me saying, 'More Gambit! More Gambit!' Not that I needed encouragement and not that it's Burger King. We don't necessarily take orders at the drive through window [Laughs], but that was a request I was going to go with even if a lot of people hadn't requested him. Gambit was somebody I knew from the beginning I wanted to be part of the team," Gischler revealed. "Wolverine is just so useful. I think he helps writers with their stories because he's such a versatile character. Not only that, he's a good character and a popular one as well.
"With Storm, I just thought, 'That's my leadership right there.' She's one of our veterans," Gischler continued. "Originally when I sat down I had a couple of different characters in mind for the Emma Frost spot. Then when I started thinking about the story and what had to happen in it, it occurred to me that not only would Emma's powers be useful for the story, but a little tension between her and Storm would be amusing and fun as well. So there were a couple of reasons to bring her on the team even though she was not somebody I originally thought was going to be on the team."
"X-Men" #8 is part two of "To Serve and Protect" and arrives in stores next Wednesday February 23rd. In the issue, Spider-Man will join the X-Men in their investigation of the strange reptile sightings in the sewers of New York City. "It's fun to play with the dynamic between Spider-Man and Wolverine, but Spidey will be working side-by-side with the entire team. So you'll see him interact with all the other characters as well," Gischler stated. "Plus Spider-man is just a classic iconic comic book character and I'm thrilled to get my hands on him and have him play with the X-Men for a couple of issues. It will be a lot of fun."
The cliffhanger of "X-Men" #7 had Spider-Man stepping in to defend a member of a mysterious race of lizard people from the X-Men. While the ending had Spider-Man delivering some tough talk to the X-Men, #8 won't begin with the classic misunderstanding slugfest that often breaks out when super heroes cross paths.
"We're not going to get too diverted with that. It's likely going to be held to some tough talk because we've got a lot of business to get to," Gischler remarked. "There's a lot of stuff down there in the sewers that we've got to take care of pretty quickly, so we're going to let them work it out with some tough talk and quips and then get on with our business. They're going to get enough bruises without giving them to each other."
The X-Men and Spider-Man will take their licks as they investigate why so many lizard people are running amok in the sewers of Manhattan. These lizard people appear to be human, which makes the case even tougher for the heroes because none of them want to cut loose with their powers and injure someone who may be an innocent victim.
"These lizard people are obviously causing all kinds of trouble and have to be dealt with. They're kind of victims though, too. We're picking up in this arc from a thread that was sort of left loose in a previous 'Amazing Spider-Man' arc. Astute readers will very easily pick up the clues and see what's coming," Gischler hinted. "I don't want to spoil anything, but it's not too hard to figure out who Spider-Man and the X-Men might be up against and what's going to happen. Even if you figure all that out though, there is a little something extra involved. You'll want to read on to see who might show up."
Chris Bachalo provided pencils for the recent "Amazing Spider-Man" arc, "Shed," which dealt with the exploits of a revamped version of Spidey's old foe, the Lizard. Gischler is happy to be collaborating with the artist for another reptilian romp. "'X-Men' #7 looks great, and I got a call from Nick Lowe where he said, 'We're going to send you the read out of #8.' He just stopped and said, 'Victor, I've got to tell you, the writing and Chris' art go together so well. It looks so good,'" Gischler remarked. "I kind of got jazzed up. I ran to my computer, opened up my e-mail and I looked at #8 and it's just beautiful. Chris is a genius. Issue #7 was a good looking issue and we've got another great looking issue coming up with #8."
Though "To Serve and Protect" comes to a close in April with "X-Men" #10, Gischler has the book's next few stories mapped out and he's currently drawing up even longer term plans for the series. "I don't want to say too much about it, but there is some immediate stuff that I've got to work on right in front of me, but we have started talking about future arcs and where the X-Men might go, what they might do and who they might see. I have two ideas that I'm really high on, but I'm not sure which one is going to happen next and which one is going to happen down the road. We're not completely sure yet," the writer revealed. "One thing is for certain though, and that's the fact that I'm enjoying the hell out of being involved with 'X-Men.' I know that there are a lot of readers out there that are huge X-Men fans. I heard from a lot of them a couple weeks ago at a convention in New Orleans, and I'm just grateful that they're reading and enjoying the book. I love writing it."