This week, Marvel Comics preps readers for Marvel NOW! with a series of press conference calls on the publisher's first wave of the relaunch coming in November. Marvel started off the series with Si Spurrier on "X-Men Legacy" and continued with Jason Aaron's discussion of "Thor: God of Thunder" and Mark Waid and Leinil Yu exploration of "Indestructible Hulk". Today, the publisher circles back around to the X-Men side of the Marvel U as Brian Michael Bendis and Marvel senior editor Nick Lowe participate in a special press conference call to discuss "All-New X-Men," the Marvel NOW! title that brings the X-Men of the past on a collision course with the present following the events of "Avengers Vs X-Men."
Moderator and Sales & Communications Coordinator James Viscardi welcomed the creators and kicked things off by asking Bendis his plans for the X-Men in the new book.
"I come in with hopefully a new take, something that is true to the core idea of the book, but is something new," said Bendis. "The thing that I'm always scared about with the X-Men over the years -- I had been offered the book a couple of times over the years, but I didn't have that take that nobody else had seen before." Bendis said he loved the idea of "All-New X-Men" as a fan, and the concept had come up a number of times over the years. The idea came to fruition during an "Avengers Vs. X-Men" Marvel retreat and gave Bendis the opportunity to "gently bail" on "Avengers" and plan "All-New X-Men" very far in advance.
"I got a good long time to think about all the characters and ideas," said Bendis, who said it was a "real gift" to get to plan for such a long time.
"By the time we were up and running full steam, I felt really emotionally invested in all the characters," he said, saying that there's so much going on with the characters from an emotional standpoint following "AvX" that it's taking the front seat in "All-New X-Men." "It's a very emotional book that hearkens back to the original idea of the X-Men." Bendis said the experience was akin to how he felt writing "Ultimate Spider-Man" and complimented Stuart Immonen's art. "It's an X-Men book I would buy," he said.
Lowe expanded on Bendis' comments, noting that this is a book that's very different from anything else they've done so far in the X-Men books.
The writer spoke about his tendency to put characters through the emotional ringer -- something he does to test them, in a way. "I want to put them in the most extreme situations to see how they respond and see where the heroism lies," said Bendis.
The conversation shifted to the collaborative process between Bendis and Immonen, with the writer stating there are things Immonen does that are better than anybody. "Some of them are subtle, some of them are staggering," said Bendis. "With Stuart specifically … I try to write the perfect Stuart situation. I literally close my eyes and imagine the world as if it were drawn by Stuart."
"We keep releasing preview images more than most books ever do, but the reason we're doing it is we're so happy with the final product that we can't help but say, 'Let's show them this," said Bendis. "I apologize and if you don't want things ruined, just stop looking."
Lowe described Bendis and Immonen as "the perfect team" to work with these characters due to their emotional investment in the characters.
Bendis said Jean Grey's whole entire arc "has been just the best, just the most fun to write. … Young Jean Grey in this situation is everything I love about writing comics."
Lowe elaborated on Jean's appearance, saying the fact she's been gone for such a long time makes the character's appearance in this book all the more special. "Having her back on the page is so special in this book that she leaps off the page in such a special way."
The writer teased the core concept of the book and how it's more than just the old X-Men coming to the present.
"There's a lot more going on in the book than just the five coming here," he said. "A lot of it has to do with modern day Cyclops and who his alliances are with. That will take shape very quickly in the first issue -- a very new X-Men idea. What he's going to do is a completely different shape akin to when the Avengers moved from Avengers Mansion to Avengers Tower." "There's new X-Men. We're not calling it 'All-New X-Men' for nothing. There are all new X-Men debuting in our first issue. Brand new characters, you're welcome Fox. They're going to be representing a new look at mutants … a very modern take. All this is going on in every issue going forward."
Bendis said with researching X-Men, he has piles of research -- "I have my Onslaught pile, I have my Apocalypse pile" -- but said a lot of that research is not necessary for anybody reading this book, he just wanted it for himself.
As for guidance with the first X-Men in the present, Bendis stated there will be characters that step up and want to fill Xavier's role in their lives "as people are still dealing with the very fresh loss of Xavier."
Speaking of the loss of Xavier, Bendis said the public doesn't know Cyclops killed Charles Xavier.
"To the world at large, the public doesn't know Cyclops killed Xavier," said Bendis. "Even though everybody saw it … everybody saw a different thing." The writer elaborated, stating the argument will continue on. "To the public, there was a very cool guy named Scott Summers [who changed the world], did it and then suddenly disappeared." Bendis said Cyclops will become a very public face of a mutant revolution. "When I say these things, it's not everyone. There are some people who really like him, there are some who really don't." The X-Men will be forced to change their roles and everyone has very different ideas on how to handle Cyclops.
As for villains, Bendis hopes to show the story from all angles and let the reader decide whether Cyclops is a hero or villain. In terms of supporting cast, Bendis stated "there is no such thing as a lesser X-Man, but there are some that haven't been getting the same panel time as their peers. You'll see them in specific roles and very different roles. Xavier dying is a huge thing. It changes a lot of people's agendas. People are going to be coming out of the woodwork or be right in the school and say, 'You know what? I don't think about this the same way I thought about this yesterday.'" One of the conflicts will deal with how to train the new characters Bendis will introduce.
Bendis also revealed who the major villain of the piece will be. "A very big, positioned antagonist is going to be Mystique," Bendis said. "She's going to be very interested in the past X-Men coming here."
Young Scott Summers and Jean Grey's relationship will be affected by Jean's view of present-Scott's actions. Bendis stated other long-standing X-Men characters will also be affected. Jason Aaron will write an interesting reaction to the original X-Men in "Wolverine and the X-Men" #24.
Readers will know the exact point in X-Men history -- somewhere in the first 20 issues of "X-Men" -- where the original five come to the present.
There are also huge plans for Hope Summers -- Lowe referenced "Cable and X-Force," but Bendis said there might be some interaction with Jean Grey and Hope later down the line.
Lowe spoke briefly on the challenges of coordinating all the X-Books.
"It's such a crazy melange of characters that are all over the place. Part of it is literally just having the ducks in the row of who is where and what they're doing," said Lowe. "But the biggest challenge is making sure that each book has its own voice and has its own feel so we don't just have a bunch of the same book that just comes out all the time. One of our biggest goals is to give each book its own identity. The two 'X-Force' books are very different books. Brian's 'All-New X-Men' is so different from 'Wolverine & the X-Men.'"
"Nick has the hardest job in all of editorial at Marvel," said Bendis. "He's got it down to a science, but making sure characters are where they belong is a really big deal. I certainly never could do that."
The challenge of writing characters from a certain time period that makes sense in real time came up, and Bendis referenced an in-depth discussion on his message boards that tried to decipher it. "It was an excellent conversation that I enjoyed, but it expressed that specificity for this would be the death of this book," he said. "It's about where the characters are in their heart. I'm very specific on where they're coming from and then after that, it's just a general idea that you're 16 years old and you're looking at yourself now and acting accordingly. It's not a story about time travel."
"The instincts to 'Back to the Future 2' this thing are really strong," said Bendis. "I'm fascinated by the power and responsibility of abusing time and space for your own selfish purposes. … I do believe if you create some disturbance in the time/space continuum it will have some kind of effect -- maybe in the galaxy." Bendis said that something that happens in X-Men will have some kind of galactic stir.
Readers will see the "Wolverine and the X-Men" cast in "All-New X-Men," partially due to the fact that these are the X-Men still in-training. "When Xavier was training them, he was making things up as he went along," he said, noting Storm and Kitty especially had a lot of experience when it came to training.
The X-Men books are traditionally about minority and Bendis said the X-Men are about being different. "Someone appreciating you for your differences can be a beautiful thing," he said, mentioning that some of the book will hearken back to the concepts Chris Claremont explored during his classic run.
"One of my goals is to make sure the X-Men aren't ghettoized to the point where [their world] doesn't look like the same publisher," he said. "You'll be seeing them not only interact with the Avengers, but maybe the Guardians of the Galaxy. The X-Men have been to outer space. The X-Men have time traveled. These are very X-Men ideas. Their powers open the world to them. It's almost a sin not to explore that in any way you can."
As for events moving forward and how they're structured, Bendis stated he was looking for an experience that was different creatively so that it's different for the readers. "There is no blueprint," said Bendis.
"All bets are off, anything is possible. We didn't come out of 'AvX' [planning the next event]," Lowe said.
"I know some people look at these events callously, but they're always created in the best environment," said Bendis. "When you shoot that high, when you do it right, it's the best feeling in the world and it's always worth it. Having already seen the beginning talks of what's coming next, I can tell you that no, there is no mandate. … You can't force it. There's no right or wrong way to create one of these events, it just has to happen from the germ of this idea that someone's extremely passionate for."
In terms of the double-shipping nature of "AvX," a lot of it had to do with wanting the event to move more quickly. "We want the books to be what they really are, not what they are when they're just tying into the events," Lowe said. "We really do like letting the monthly books be what they are unless there's a big epic story that you absolutely need to tell because it's so cool."
Bendis said he never considered bringing Professor X back to the future. "The way this story is structured and what the original X-Men will learn -- Xavier being there creates this illusion that Xavier can mind wipe them at any moment," he said. "I couldn't think of one thing you could get by bringing him here. It would cheapen his death. This book is about only these five and what they need to do."
With that, the call finished. "All-New X-Men" #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen hits stores on November 7.