It's an exciting time to be an X-Men fan. Marvel Comics' Marvel NOW! publishing initiative has brought a veritable cornucopia of new stories and concepts to the X-Universe and there's no sign of it slowing down. Whether it's upcoming series like Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel's "X-Men" relaunch, recently debuted series like Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo's "Uncanny X-Men" or more established ongoings like Jason Aaron's "Wolverine and the X-Men," there's a lot for readers to choose from.
In order to get a closer look at what makes the X-Books tick, CBR reached out to Marvel Senior Editor Nick Lowe, who -- along with Marvel editors Jeanine Schaefer and Daniel Ketchum, Assistant Editor Jennifer Smith and Associate Editor Jordan D. White -- answered your X-Position questions on everything from the X-Men's 50th Anniversary and organization of characters on team rosters to the in-canon nature of Twitter accounts and the introduction of a new X-Position segment.
Emerald_616 starts this Editorial X-Position off with a question about organization and keeping track of all the characters involved in the stable of X-Books.
What does the X-Office do to minimize plot and characterization contradictions? Do you speak a lot with each other to give feedback to the creative teams? Do you maintain a giant spreadsheet or database with the location and current developments of each character?
Nick Lowe: Hey there, Emerald_616! Up here at Marvel, the X-Office is just two offices, right next to each other. In one office is the both inimitable and very imitable Editor Jeanine "J-9" Schaefer ("Wolverine" books, "X-Men," "Astonishing X-Men," etc.), the most no-nonsense man in comics Editor Daniel "Nickname-Proof" Ketchum ("X-Men: Legacy," "X-Factor," "Gambit," etc.) and the brainy Assistant Editor Jennifer Smith (who assists J-9 and DK on all their books, which is a herculean task knowing their workloads!). Then there's the office that I share with the genial and joyful Associate Editor Jordan D. "J-Stache" White ("Deadpool," "Thunderbolts," and assists me on all my books). So while we do a lot of different books, we're still a very compact group. I generally yell things very loudly and expect them to do the same.
Jeanine Schaefer: He literally does. Nick and I have desks that share a wall so most of the time we don't even use phones.
Lowe: In addition to my madness, we have periodic meetings where we discuss various things, but it's mainly just us all popping back and forth next door and filling each other in and supplied with the scripts and such as we go. We've tried doing spreadsheets and databases in the past, but they end up being time-sucks for people who juggle a lot of things and don't have time to be... wasted.
Schaefer: Well, I have a document that I keep of where Wolverine is. But that's because he's a busy guy.
Lowe: There are definitely times that we miss things, but I am supremely proud of the X-Office as an editorial team. They are the best and most capable editors in comics. Way better than [Tom] Brevoort.
Jonathan has a question about the Twitter accounts of the Jean Grey School faculty and staff.
A bit of a random question, but how "in cannon" are the twitter accounts of the various Jean Grey School staff members? I noticed that Husk tweeted implying she did not know who Azazel is when she was among the half-dozen X-Men actually involved in the Draco arc. Can we assume that her recent loss in control of her powers affected her memory?
Lowe: Those Twitter accounts sure are mysterious. I assume Husk's issue is exactly what you're proposing. She's not exactly all-together right now. But I wish I knew how the students and teachers at the school got Twitter accounts.
Nathan's hoping for a re-emergence of "Days of Future Past" considering the year and the 50th Anniversary of the X-Men.
Hi Nick! I just wanted to thank you and everyone else who has had a hand in how strong the X-Books have been in the wake of Marvel NOW! I wasn't thrilled with AvX, but the way Bendis is shaping up my favorite part of the mutant world (Team Cyclops) has given me new hope for the X-Men going forward.
2013 is the year given in which the apocalyptic future of "Days Of Future Past" takes place. Now that we are living in the year 2013, the new X-film is titled "Days Of Future Past", and the X-Men's 50th anniversary is coming up, are there any plans to bring this classic story/timeline back into the comics?
Lowe: Thanks for the kind words, Nathan. The fact that 2013 is the year DOFP took place in is not lost on us. We've got big plans for the 50th Anniversary, but I won't confirm that they are DOFP-related. "Half-comment," I suppose. But we are very excited for what's coming. And so are Bendis, Jason Aaron and Brian Wood.
Jordan D. White: Also, we are pretty confident that the reason 2013 was chosen for DOFP was because it is the 50th anniversary of the X-Men. But I assume they never expected that we'd be publishing comics when 2013 actually rolled around, as everyone working in the comics industry back then was slavishly devoted to the Mayan calendar.
Lowe: Jordan is pretty sure of a lot of things that are specious.
Here's a trivia-ish query from Agent of X about the events surrounding "Uncanny X-Men" #500 in the Marvel Universe
Years ago, around "Uncanny X-Men's" 500th issue, a subplot featuring Magneto, The High Evolutionary, & The Blob was seen brewing. Whatever, if anything, came of that? Were the plans canceled?
Lowe: Magneto's re-powering came of that, Agent of X. That was the primary purpose.
"Age of Apocalypse" fan Derek is hoping for a re-emergence of writer David Lapham in the X-Men universe following the book's conclusion.
1) I was gutted to hear about the cancellation of "Age of Apocalypse." As I thought it was a book that delivered every month. Is there any chance that the book might get a reprieve? Or maybe a limited series by Lapham down the road?
Lowe: No one is sadder about a book ending than the people who make it, trust me. David Lapham (along with the unbelievably talented artists Roberto De La Torre and Renato Arlem and colorist Lee Loughridge) is such a damned good writer. And that was a particularly special book. It started with former Marvel Assistant Editor and current Valiant editor Jody LeHeup and David -- I was just lucky enough to inherit one of the smartest books in the market. There won't be a reprieve (see the events of "X-Termination") but we love David Lapham up here and we're in talks with that fine gentleman.
2) It's been made clear in several interviews that the "fall of Scott Summers" was a something that had been planned for several years even through Uncanny changing hands. Even if it's just broad strokes how far ahead have you guys planned for these characters?
Lowe: I wouldn't call it the "fall of Scott Summers." Unless I did. In that case, past Nick Lowe was a buffoon!
White: We like our jobs, Jeanine.
Lowe: But it's fair to say we have a long term plan for Cyclops. Plans morph as writers change and different angles are taken, but our plan (which I don't think you will actually guess) is still intact.
Next up is Malcolm, who is hoping for some future sight into the lineup of X-Books in Marvel NOW!
With "AoA" and "X-Treme" ending after the upcoming "X-Termination" cross over, are you planning to add any new Marvel NOW! X-Books to replace them or are you and the rest of the X-Office good with the amount and diversity of books you have on the shelves?
Lowe: There aren't going to be immediate replacements, but if stories come up that merit new books anything is possible!
Daniel Ketchum: I'ma just leave this pitch for "Storm: She Beats Bitches Up With Weather" right here...
We've got a design question from Mea Culpa, who's a big fan of Shark Girl.
I love Shark Girl and think she's the best student to arrive at Xavier's since Generation X. But why was this fabulous design by Steven Sanders not used? Will there be any variations to her transformations to her shark form or even something along the lines of this brilliant Sanders model?
Lowe: Shark Girl Forever! I also love her. And Steven Sanders is certainly brilliant (hence our hiring of him whenever possible!). Have you seen his Kickstarter project "Symbiosis?" Go see! As for his design, I just preferred the design for Iara that Nick Bradshaw did a little more. And after seeing Steven and then Nick and then Ramon draw it I fell even more in love with our new Brazilian X-Student.
Kai has a comparison question between two of the senior members of the Jean Grey School staff.
In the past week, Brian Bendis said Kitty is the new Professor X. Jason Aaron said the same thing about Wolverine. Who do you think fits this role the best between those two characters?
Lowe: Brian was talking about it in regards to Kitty's role with the All-New X-Men, Kai. To be honest, and to probably get deeper than is needed here, I don't think anyone is a new Professor X. Wolverine and Kitty (and now Storm as the new Headmistress) are forging their own paths. Calling anyone the "New" anyone-else is something that people outside the situation do and I think they rarely do either person justice. This sort of thing happens when anyone is a huge figure in any field or sphere and leaves. You can talk about comic artists in that way very easily. Anyway, it's an easy way to shorthand, but I don't think it's all that accurate or incredibly helpful.
Ketchum: I think what Nick is trying to say here is: Jeanine, please stop referring to yourself as "the new Liz Lemon."
Schaefer: Never. Tina, call me.
Anonseed246 wants to know how a book gets cancelled and preference of schools in the Marvel U.
1) How do you determine the cancellation of a series?
2) There are currently three schools for mutants right now in the X-Books (Jean Grey School, Xavier School, Hellfire Academy). Which is your favorite?
Lowe: Good questions, Anonseed246. 1) The usual arbiter of whether a series sticks around is the number of copies they sell. Our business model is one that books need to support their own budget. So if you see a book you love slipping down the charts, tell your friends to buy it quick! Every so often a book will end because a creator or creators is leaving and we can't imagine keeping it going or because the overall story of a family of books makes that book impossible to continue. 2) Oh, it's so hard to say which of the mutant schools is my favorite. I'm pretty in love with the Hellfire Academy and you will be, too, after "Wolverine and the X-Men" #31.
White: I am in favor of whatever school has Quentin Quire in it. Or should I say whatever school he graces with his presence.
A² has a question about the celebration of the X-Men's 50th Anniversary and the future direction of X-Factor.
As an X-Factor fan, I was shocked and saddened to hear the recent news about Peter David. I'm delighted to hear he's been progressing well, and that not even a stroke could keep him away from Madrox, Miller and friends. Over the last few years, PAD has successfully carved a niche for himself in the X-Books by exploring the mystical, supernatural side of the Marvel Universe. This all seems to be culminating in the current Hell On Earth War. With mutantkind having been restored following AvX, might we see a return to some of the earlier concepts first examined in the series with X-Factor as the guardians of Mutant Town?
The "All-New X-Men" variant covers for the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise have been excellent, Bachalo's homage to his time on "Generation X" was particularly exciting. Can we hope to see any other iconic X-Artists revisit their past in similar ways? A Sienkiewicz "New Mutants" variant? An "X-Factor" homage by Larry Stroman?
Lowe: The 50th Anniversary covers are the brainchild of editor Jeanine Schaefer and are certainly amazing. We have a lot of surprises coming for you artist-wise and you're going to dig them.
Schaefer: My favorite part (other than getting to work with the artists who are on them -- there was a phone call that I got to make that had me pretty much giddy) is what happens when you start piecing them all together.
Lowe: As for X-Factor, Peter is recovering well and back on the writing horse better than ever! I can't say much about the book except that there is an arc we're about to announce called "The End of X-Factor." Eep!
To wrap things up, here's a new X-Position segment called Character Quick-Fire. This week, readers sent in a number of queries as to whether there were plans in place for their favorite characters -- here's the laundry list of characters that got shout-outs. Ready? Are there plans for...
...Sage, post "X-Treme X-Men?"
White: I hope so! I miss the heartless lady.
Lowe: Don't miss "A+X" #5! There's a great story written by Kieron Gillen with art by Joe Bennett staring Sinister and Loki!
...The Five Lights?
Lowe: They're certainly pushed a bit back to the background.
Ketchum: They've been dimmed for the moment.
...Magma, Warlock, Cypher & Blink?
Lowe: We've got plans for at least two of them.
Lowe: Same here. Perhaps!
...Gambit, outside of "Gambit"?
Lowe: The "Gambit" book is so good, you better be reading it if you're asking this question. Also, he's in "Astonishing X-Men!"
Ketchum: Did you just lump Gambit onto a list next to Marrow and Lifeguard? How dare you, sir. How dare you.
White: Any plans for Wolverine, other than in "Wolverine" or "Wolverine and the X-Men"? Or "Astonishing X-Men" and "Avengers"?
Lowe: Nothing right now.
Ketchum: Where there's a will, there's a Simon Spurrier.
Lowe: Sorry, Aussies.
Lowe: Not right now!
Lowe: He's on vacation somewhere warm.
Ketchum: With Slipstream and Mondo.
Schaefer: OMG Mondo! I miss you!
Lowe: He gave himself some time off, too.
..."New X-Men" Characters like Prodigy, Hellion, Surge or Anole?
Lowe: Prodigy is showing up in "Young Avengers" and the others are students at the Jean Grey School.
Lowe: No plans.
Lowe: Putting weight back on. He just likes cheezy poofs too much to keep the weight off.
Lowe: Keep your eyes peeled.
...Pixie in Brian Wood's "X-Men?"
Lowe: Brian's got his hands full over there with awesome stories already. But you never know.
White: Also, Nick straight up lied to one of these answers, but I won't say which!
Lowe: I don't want to spoil the story!
And here's our Behind the X question: What is your most memorable positive interaction with a fan?
Lowe: Most memorable for me are the amazing Cosplayers out there. The amount of time and energy they put into their amazing costumes fill me with respect! There are also a few super fans (one Magneto fan comes to mind) who are always very impressive and passionate that I always love hearing from.
Ketchum: The X-Men have the best fans. My favorite fan moment happened a couple years ago at C2E2 -- the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo. A fan came up to me after the X-Men panel and we talked about how I thought Northstar and Sunfire would hit it off because they're so similar personality-wise. The next day, the same fan came back and gave me an amazing piece of Northstar and Sunfire fanart he created! By far the coolest thing I've ever gotten at a Con.
Schaefer: Honestly, the fans who come to the Women of Marvel panels, and have been coming since we started doing them, are so amazing. That room is one of the most positive panel rooms I've ever been in. At New York last year, my favorite question was a little girl who asked if we had any advice for her on how to write comics. I think if we could have hired her on the spot we would have. Everyone always has incredibly thoughtful questions and I think we get to cover a lot of ground that we don't get to at other panels. And everyone pretends to laugh at my jokes, which is very kind.
Also one time a fan brought me a bag of Skittles. That was also awesome.
White: I love meeting and talking with fans, it's always a blast. One thing I smile about is that the world's biggest Sage fan designed, drew and printed up T-Shirts asking for Tessa to join the cast of "X-Men Forever" in the early stages of that book. It was actually pretty well drawn. I still wear it once in a while. But it is definitely always a blast to talk to people who love characters that much, especially when it is a (relatively) less popular one.
Jennifer Smith: I haven't been an editor long enough to have had much in the way of fan interaction, but I will say that as a fan, the warmth and generosity of this industry always amazed me, and it continues to do so today. I met Daniel Ketchum around this time two years ago at C2E2 and had a lovely conversation with him, and now I'm his assistant editor! Don't be afraid to say hi if you spot us at a con -- we love seeing your enthusiasm.
Special thanks to all of the X-editors for answering this week's X-Position questions!
Next week, X-Position catches up with "Uncanny Avengers" writer Rick Remender, as he answers your questions about the end of the first arc and the implications of the surprise ending! If you have a question for Rick, go ahead and send them over with the subject line "X-Position" or you can submit via Twitter. Either way, have them in by Friday! Do it to it!