If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a child -- before he had any notion of who he would be or of the horrible things he would grow up to do -- would that be okay? It’s a moral question that has been asked by many, but when it comes to the answer…? Well, some folks see an absolute (definitely yes or no), while others see a huge spectrum of gray.
In "Uncanny X-Force," the team faced a somewhat similar scenario with regards to Apocalypse. It didn’t involve time travel, but there were implications aplenty. What did they decide and how will it affect the team down the line? For the answer to the former…read the book! As to the latter, well, we have Rick Remender, the writer of Marvel Comics' "Uncanny X-Force," here to answer that query and many others in today’s X-POSITION. Let’s jump right in…
MarvelMaster616 starts things off with an inquiry about the aforementioned scenario:
While Wolverine has established himself as X-Force's leader, his ideals don't seem to be in line with the others. In "Uncanny X-Force" #5, he was quick to brush off what Fantomex did to the kid Apocalypse. That didn't sit well with Angel, Psylocke and even Deadpool. How can Wolverine keep the team together if his teammates question the lines he's willing to cross?
Let’s not overstate what happened. The team went to assassinate one of the worst monsters in the Marvel Universe, and ended up face to face with a young boy. If you don’t have a problem with that particular scenario, you’re no longer hero -- you’re a villain. The ethical questions that it brings are obviously something that I wanted these characters to be haunted by. How these characters deal with what Fantomex did -- how Apocalypse was dealt with -- is how you get into the gooey core of the characters. So, while you saw Wolverine in the room agreeing that they should not kill the boy, it is up to the reader to decide why he has suddenly changed his song now that they’re done, back at base, having done it anyway. Isn’t it nice to not have me spell every single thing out? The answer is there, but I try not to cram it down your throat (Axel taught me that).
Perhaps it is simply that the milk is spilt and Wolverine is mired in a rationalization. Based on the conversation, what do you think?
For the record, the team sees eye to eye. Nobody on the team has any question about whether or not they will kill a scumbag super-villain or somebody who’s going to put innocent lives in harm’s way. When killing said villain is the only way to stop them, that’s what this team is for. We don’t take killing lightly, we don’t treat it as if it’s trivial, we don’t relish in it as a thing that makes us "edgy," and we will very definitely be dealing with the ramifications of what happens to the people who do it and the hits will always have a twist they didn’t see coming.
Speaking of interesting "twists," Darkxmen has a fun notion he wants to run past you:
Rick, great work on "Uncanny X-Force." You’re a great writer with a terrific understanding of the X-Universe. My question: If you could make an all-women X-Force team, who would be on it?
Psylocke, Elsie Dee, Mystique, Magma, Husk, AoA Jean Grey and Emma.
You seem to really know who you want on this team. Big G is curious though as to how you make this kind of decision:
1) I know you've been asked about new members for X-Force and who they might be, but I’m more curious about how Wolverine and Archangel would choose a recruit for the team. How do they decide that mutant "X" is someone who is willing to "pull the trigger?" And what else would they take into account?
It seems to me that one of the biggest criteria would be that they are trustworthy. Here you have a band of mutants who have taken it upon themselves to go out into the world and assassinate people of their own volition; this is not something that can be taken lightly. It must be kept a secret by any means necessary. So simply being capable of murder does not satisfy all of the criteria in my mind. One of the co-captains must personally trust, to a very great degree, any new member the team considers.
2) I know you’ve just started writing this character, but... is there any chance of an X-Force/Venom crossover?
Yes. It has been discussed.
Our pal Marcus Martin has hopes for another crossover -- what do you say?
1) Any chance of the X-Force crossing paths with the Secret Avengers in the future (as both teams are "secret")?
It would seem like a likely crossover, wouldn’t it? You will not see it in the next year, but beyond that, who can say?
2) Will Psylocke's time as a member of the Exiles be mentioned (or will the existence of the team even be acknowledged) when the Uncanny X-Force team travels to the world of Age of Apocalypse?
3) Given that Wolverine and Psylocke exist in the Age of Apocalypse, is there any chance the Uncanny X-Force members will meet their AoA counterparts during the upcoming story?
What a huge part of the story that might be, right? If I were to say yes or no, it would spoil your enjoyment of what will be a nice, surprising reveal in the story. Or maybe by not telling you, I’ve already told you. I will say there are many surprising events to look forward to while we journey to the Age of Apocalypse.
Ben has an idea or two about that journey. Care to share if his hunch is on the right track?
1) Do you plan to explain how Sabretooth from the Age of Apocalypse escaped from the wall he was trapped in during the latest Exiles book? Also, will you address the relationship he had with our 616-Psylocke in "New Exiles?"
I am going to make sure that Elizabeth’s relationship with AoA Sabretooth is acknowledged and plays an important role in the story -- wouldn’t want to overlook such a big piece of history.
2) According to future solicitations, issues #8, #9 and #10 will be single stories dealing with the Shadow King, Magneto uncovering the existence of X-Force, and a reporter, respectively. We also have issue #5.1 with Lady Deathstrike and her Reavers. How do you deal with the challenge of bringing back classic villains with so much back-history for just one issue and have it conclude in a satisfactory way?
It is definitely a challenge. Self-contained stories are the most difficult. You have to basically get through the same amount of story [you] would in four, five or six issues of a regular arc, but you have to do it in a way that doesn’t feel rushed and doesn’t have tons of exposition to bore you, while keeping a fast pace that ends in a satisfying way.
As an X-Men fan, I have tons of knowledge about most of these characters and a great deal of experience with them. However, I don’t have as much experience as the writers who inspired me to want to use them in the first place, so I spent a great deal of time digging through the long box and rereading the characters’ most important appearances. I then go online and I find their Marvel.com entries and I make sure I understand every single bit of continuity -- not just the ones I myself gravitate towards.
Once I have a deep understanding of the characters, their greatest appearances, how the writers who handled them best handled them, as well as their subsequent appearances and character arcs, I then sit down and write my first outline. I rewrite and rewrite as one does to get a story right.
I would say that a self-contained story ends up taking me, on average, two days longer than anything else. The books that take the longest are issue number one of any arc, the last issue of an arc, or a self-contained story. Progress issues that take place in act two, tend to take less time as you have already done your setting up and have yet to come to your conclusion.
Before I begin any story, especially a self-contained story, I have a mission statement, a log-line, an idea of what the end beat is, what the outcome of the story is, and what will be satisfying about it. At that point, the difficulty comes from fitting it into twenty-two pages. You want to do it in a way that allows your artist to have an opening to showcase their illustration abilities as well as the storytelling abilities; you don’t want to crowd them out. That can be a bit of a juggling act, and so I normally end up writing about thirty pages and cutting it down to twenty-two, always shooting for at least one big, punchy splash page moment. I spend most of my time scripting self-editing as I go through the scripts and cut out every unnecessary beat, so I deliver only the purest comic book cream to you and your family.
3) The Shadow King and Psylocke have a rivalry dating back to the Psi-War. Can we expect some kind of rematch between them?
Yes, you can, and this fight is a direct result of the Psi-War. Somebody wants some revenge.
The Seventh Light enjoys Psylocke’s presence, but is hoping you can shed some light on what makes her unique:
1) Will you delve into what Psylocke is exactly? Is she an Otherworld-ly character, is she a construct of Jamie Braddock, or something else entirely?
Betsy is a fledgling Omega telepath who could one day become the most powerful telepath in the Marvel Universe. That’s my take on her; I imagine there will be those who see it other ways. I have plans to take us to Other World and explore her past, how it links to her future, and her powers origins.
2) What makes alternate reality worlds so appealing when writing -- especially to X-Men writers, it seems...
For me, the thing that is most interesting is to take the familiar and make it unfamiliar -- worlds where things went differently, leading to different iterations of beloved characters. An alternative dimension offers an imaginative set piece -- and as long as that comes about from the natural building of a story and excites those who are creating it -- it can only help make a story more visually interesting. It also becomes more exciting in terms of surprises. When you take characters (such as those in X-Force) and move them into a new universe (such as the Age of Apocalypse), the possibilities for interesting stories are nearly endless.
I hit the CBR boards the other day to see what people were saying about the new direction of "X-Force" after the announcement, and there’s so much speculation about so many different crazy things that could happen. Some people got some things right; some other people had some crazy ideas that weren’t right but were still very exciting. The point is that everybody was very excited about what could happen. I think alternative dimension stories offer a bigger dose of that... of big possibilities.
There are certain rules that exist within the 616 universe that cannot be broken. However, on a journey to an alternate dimension, those rules can be snapped in two as long as they have an effect on our characters, move characters forward, and move our story forward.
3) Does your story tie in at all with the New Mutants taking down AoA refugee X-Man and Blink, or even the appearance of "Age of X" Frenzy in "X-Men: Legacy?"
No, it doesn’t immediately connect; though there have been many conversations about the ramifications of both storylines for the future. Apocalypse and all of the characters born of his dimension – and those connected the Apocalypse in the 616 dimension – are playing a big role in many upcoming X events. I truly believe people will be tickled to see where it all ends, and I believe we are moving Apocalypse and his mythology forward while still being mindful of the amazing work that’s been done in the past.
4) Do you have more in store for the Final Horsemen of Apocalypse? And how soon can we expect to see them again?
Oh yes -- yes to both. There is so much Apocalypse in the first seventeen issues of "X-Force" it will melt your mind. And I can hear the cynics already crying on their Internet that it’s going to get repetitive or be too much, but I assure you it will not. It will be the greatest story ever told of all-time in the history of mankind. When the first year of "X-Force" is over, we will have taken all of these many pieces connected to the super-villain Apocalypse, explored them, connected them all together, and left things fresh and exciting in a way that I don’t think anyone will see coming.
And now it’s my turn to toss you a question as we go "Behind the X." As we’ve been discussing Apocalypse and his Horsemen, I was thinking about Geisha and her bugs and how horrifying she is. With that in mind, I’d like to ask -- what animal (mammal, fish, reptile, insect) do you find most frightening and why?
When I was twelve years old, I was climbing a hillside in the deserts of Arizona (where I grew up) when a diamondback rattlesnake almost bit me in the face. My dad had an AK-47 in the back of his Jeep. I ran away in time for him to shoot the beast, but holy shit was it aggressive. Now that said, after having very nearly lost my life to a diamondback rattlesnake, I am still more afraid of a spider -- be it household, black widow, any of the thick-bodied, dark variety -- than I am of any snake.
I hate spiders. I hate going in my basement. I hate spiders crawling in my attic. I hate spiders in my backyard. I hate walking through spider webs; it makes me strip all my clothes off and run around like Inspector Clouseau beating myself wildly to get the invisible spider -- that didn’t actually get on me -- off of me. There, George, are you happy?
Incredibly! Thanks for all your terrific answers today, Rick.
Next week, prepare for more talk about characters from alternate worlds as we discuss "Age of X" (as well as "X-Men: Legacy") with writer Mike Carey. Please come up with some engaging and engrossing queries, and email them my way just as soon as you can. Throw an "X-Position" in the subject line, and you’ll be…"duh, winning!" So hurry and get to it!