From new mutants to X-Forces and everywhere in between, Marvel Comics has spent the week unveiling its future plans for the franchise famous for fighting against a world that fears and hates it. And today, the cornerstone comic of the line comes into focus as the publisher hosted a press conference on "Uncanny X-Men." Featuring series writer Kieron Gillen and the always available senior editor Nick Lowe, the call covered all things ahead from May and beyond, and CBR News was on hand for all the action!
The discussion started with a hint that the writer's big plans would soon tie into Marvel's "Fear Itself" event. "The X-Men have always been feared. Fear is one of the key pieces of the concept," Gillen said adding that for now the X-Men are not too fearful for the first time in their existence since they're accepted in San Francisco. "Oh course, then everything goes wrong."
Gillen will play with each of the character's fears from Emma Frost's fears over her relationship to Namor's role on the team and in the world through to Cyclops' fears about where to go with the community of mutants after winning the war for survival. "This comes from the strife and constant worry that's been there all along."
Cain Marko will play a central role in the story as he will also become on the "Worth" of the event's storyline. "Juggernaut is the avatar of a guy, and now he's essentially an avatar twice," he said. "I wanted to build the idea of this unstoppable thing that's scary...it's like a disaster movie situation. It's a tidal wave It's an earthquake...we go to the incredibly macro scale stuff of the unstoppable Juggernaut bearing down on everyone." The writer compared the character to a moving volcano. "Villains tend to not be as scary as they should be, and I want to make him really, really scary. He's a meaty fella."
And as shown in the recent teaser image, Colossus may be coming across the power of Cyttorak as he takes the helm of Juggernaut at some point through 2011. "Colossus is almost the guy who's happy to sacrifice himself...he's the white knight personified," he said, adding that the character's journey will build off his first arc where the team traveled to the Breakworld to reunite with Kitty Pryde.
Skeletons from the closets of all the X-Men will rear their heads from Magick on through Cyclops as the writer promised plenty of simmering conflicts to come to life.
On the flipside, Gillen continues on the "Generation Hope" series. "The fact that they are a team that quickly...becoming a team is easy, and so questioning why they are a team is what's up for the next five issues," he said, saying the goal across the book is to dig into the character. "I don't think we've ever seen superhero stories like what Kieron is doing in 'Generation Hope,'" said Lowe. "We'll be looking at what being a superhero or being a mutant is in a really different way...reading the scripts I get shaken to my core. It's a feeling I felt when Mark Millar took over 'The Authority.' It's a totally new look at what mutant superheroes are...the stories we've got coming up will chill you to the bone.
"A lot of these characters will take a central role in the coming year," the editor added, saying that two of the characters will be major players in the next X-event while one will play a huge role in a major Marvel event planned for the next 16 months.
Gillen explained that on the whole, one of the metaphors the X-Men represents that he's tapped strongly into is the age metaphor. "It's the established power versus people come into their own identity. I think that resonates with a lot of things I see in the world today."
As far as what characters would play a role, the writer said that his Breakworld arc will feature Magneto in some unexpected ways while the "Fear Itself" arc will include many, many guest stars, however Namor and Magick will both play central roles. He'll also write a special issue in between focusing on the relationship between Wolverine and Hope. "That's how I see the future of 'Uncanny' going, a big arc...and then [a stand alone.]"
The ongoing soap opera nature of "Uncanny" will recede a bit in future issues as the major story becomes "small p political" while asking "What does it really mean to be a mutant?" Once the mutants win a peace, how they make their way in society and find their place in a world will drive things. "The first arc is essentially about foreign policy...which is the least exciting way to say it," he laughed before stressing that said arc – "Breakworld" – will include lots of battles and stabbing.
The writer spoke to the role of the team's formerly greatest foe in the book. "Magneto claims 'I want to support Scott,'" since Cyclops saved the mutant race. Gillen described the master of magnetism as "possibly Scott's most fanatical follower."
Overall, "Uncanny" will continue to be the core X-Men title even though Gillen will play with a somewhat smaller team, but with characters like Magick and Magneto, the stories of "New Mutants" and "Legacy" will thread in and out of "Uncanny." Gillen described the series as the crossroads for all X-books.
Fans online asking after Jean Grey prompted Lowe to say that despite seeing "the foggy specter of a redhead in the White Room" in recent issues, he has no idea why anyone would expect Jean in the book before saying "Hope is not Jean Grey...take that for what you will."
Both editor and writer said that "Uncanny" is playing with tighter continuity with other X-books than it has in a while as the latter promised that his writing of two books makes things flow much more naturally. "Kitty has an important role to play in the next several issues of 'Generation Hope,'" Gillen said. "I think the fact that [these characters] are all in the same universe is important."
Asked after whether Juggernaut had returned to being a full-time villain after years slightly on the side of the angels, Gillen said he couldn't say just yet, but those are important questions for readers to be asking. Lowe added that in the most recent X-retreat the topic of villains became important including Juggernaut. "Villains are something we're wanting to play with in the X-Books...we really want to amp them up, certainly."
"I think villains are incredibly important to superhero fiction," Gillen said.
Asked whether or not the upcoming "X-Men Prelude" series and the event that it comes in advance of will effect "Uncanny" at all, Gillen said that a key factor in his book will be the fact that in wartime, the mutants were happy to hand power over to one leader. "It's no longer wartime," he said. "In building societies and nations, questions of leadership are incredibly important things."
As for the art teams coming up, the #534.1 issue will be drawn by Carlos Pacheco which will be followed by Terry Dodson on "Breaking Point" which is the four-issue Breakworld story. The single Wolverine/Hope issue has a mystery artist until Greg Land comes on for the "Fear Itself" tie-in.
Gillen said that while there are no plans right now, he would love to get the young cast of "New X-Men" on the page to mix it up with the "Generation Hope" cast. Lowe added that for all the fans of the "New X-Men" cast, they'd be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of characters like Hellion, Surge and Rockslide than him. "All those kids are some of my favorite characters of all time," he said. "Young mutant characters will be coming up, just not in the next few months."
Gillen teased that there's some chance for Rockslide in the "Fear Itslef" arc, but he hadn't actually ran that past Lowe yet.
For the final X-Men call of the week with Lowe discussion his big plans for the franchise, check back to CBR tomorrow.