In 1975's "Giant Size X-Men" #1 writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum introduced readers to four new mutant characters. Three of those characters Colossus, Storm, and Thunderbird looked human, while their new teammate Nightcrawler (AKA Kurt Wagner) with his blue fur, prehensile tail, three fingered hands, and feet with two toes resembled a fuzzy, elf-like creature. Despite his fantastic appearance Nightcrawler was one of the most human of this new group of X-Men. His warmth, caring, faith, happy-go-lucky attitude and love for adventure made the teleporting mutant one of the team's most beloved members.
As a result, his death in the 2010 X-Event "Second Coming" was a tough blow for the X-Men to bear. His passing hit Wolverine especially hard and was partially responsible for the formation of his own faction of the X-Men. He saw it as a way of becoming the man his late friend wanted him to be. This Fall, when Nightcrawler asks for help from beyond the grave it's no surprise that Wolverine will assemble an X-Men team to embark upon an odyssey across the Marvel Universe in order to aid their deceased comrade.
That's what happens this November in the opening arc of the new ongoing series "Amazing X-Men" by writer Jason Aaron and artist Ed McGuinness. Comic Book Resources spoke with Aaron about the brand new title, which was announced yesterday at Marvel's "X-Men" panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
CBR News: Jason, let's kick off by talking about the mission statement of "Amazing X-Men." What's the book's role in the larger X-Book line?
Jason Aaron: The idea behind the book is two fold. One, story wise things have been building towards this Nightcrawler tale really since "Wolverine & the X-Men" #1. This is the key to the reason why there are little Bamfs running around the school. This story will explain what they are, where they came from and why they are there.
The other idea behind this book is that as "Wolverine & the X-Men" has gone along the cast has expanded exponentially. It was always meant to be a book about events revolving around the Jean Grey School. So it's a book about the group of students and about the X-Men as teachers and instructors. So "Amazing X-Men" is a book where the X-Men get to be super heroes again.
It's about that same group of instructors and teacher from the Jean Grey School, but it's what they're up to outside of the school. So it's them out on adventures, being X-Men and fighting to protect a world that fears and hates them. It's kind of the other side of the coin from "Wolverine & the X-Men."
As you mentioned, you began laying the ground work for this story back in "Wolverine & the X-Men" #1. Then you developed things even further with the return of Nightcrawler's demonic father Azazel in issue #23. I'm guessing Azazel's return is sort of the final piece that sets the return of Nightcrawler in motion?
Yes, there have been hints dropped along the entire run of "Wolverine & the X-Men" and now we have the big return of Azazel. Ed McGuinness' cover to "Amazing X-Men" shows a different Azazel than what we've seen before. It's a bit of a reimagining for what is a full on Nightcrawler adventure story in a lot of ways. So you can of course imagine that there will be lots of swashbuckling.
Nightcrawler's dad has now basically become a demonic pirate of the after life. So we'll see pirate ships sailing on otherworldly seas. We'll see Azazel pillaging the after life with a crew of strange demonic pirates and red Bamfs.
Nice. Let's talk a little more about Nightcrawler and what he meant to the X-Men. It seems to me that he was sort of Wolverine -- and the X-Men's -- conscience personified. Is that your sense of the character?
Sure I think that was a big part of it. Logan and Kurt were great friends in part because they were so different in terms of philosophy and personality. We saw a lot of that in the last issue of "Wolverine: Weapon X." That was Wolverine saying goodbye to Nightcrawler and having to carry out his last wishes. We've also seen how Nightcrawler's faith and sense of hope have affected Wolverine even if Kurt didn't live to realize it.
That's been a part of the journey Wolverine has been on over the course of the last few years, which has led to him being headmaster of the Jean Grey School. So even though Nightcrawler hasn't been around for all of that, he still had a big influence on those events.
What sets the events of this story in motion? What causes Wolverine to put together a team to try and find Nightcrawler and perhaps bring him back?
This story is really about Nightcrawler calling for help from the afterlife and again it ties in with the explanation of the Bamfs. What are the Bamfs? Why are they here? And what have they been up to all this time? We'll get answers to those questions in "Amazing X-Men" #1.
So this is a rescue mission for the cast of "Amazing X-Men?" Will any of the team members feel some ambiguity about what they're doing? Will some of them believe Nightcrawler is at peace and they should not disturb that?
There's some of both of that. Nightcrawler was a man of great faith so presumably he'd be at peace and at rest in the afterlife. So for him to step away from that and go on one last adventure would have to mean a great threat has arisen. As I mentioned, that threat revolves around his own father.
Let's talk about the line up of this "Amazing X-Men" team: Wolverine, Storm, Iceman, Northstar, Beast and Firestar, who will be making her X-Men debut. Why did you pick this cast? What kind of dynamic can we expect from them?
These aren't the only characters we'll see over the course of the series. Even in the first issue we'll see characters like Angel, Warbird and Rachel, and we'll see those characters again as things go along. In my mind, the cast for "Amazing X-Men" can consist of anyone who is a teacher at the Jean Grey School. This is a book about them outside the school and being X-Men.
For this first arc though, I wanted a small core group. Storm, Beast and Iceman are characters I've already been writing quite a bit over in "Wolverine & the X-Men." So I wanted to bring them over for sure. Northstar was [editor] Nick Lowe's suggestion and I don't think I had ever written the character before. I've been a huge fan of his though going back to the original John Byrne "Alpha Flight" series, which I loved. He'll be fun to play with because he's certainly a voice of opposition to Wolverine. He and Logan butt heads quite a bit. It's also fun to play with his powers and portray them in different ways.
And what made you want to bring Firestar into the world of the X-Men? What do you feel she adds to this book?
Firestar is a character I've been wanting to add to the mix for awhile. Growing up I was a huge "Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends" fan. So Firestar has a special place in my heart because of that, but as a character in the comics she never had her day as an X-Men. She's a mutant, but she's never been part of a big X-Men book. This is the X-Universe's chance to kind of claim her as one of its own. As far as I'm concerned things are wide open with her. Over the course of this book we'll find out who she is, what she wants, and if her first experience as an X-Men on this mission through the afterlife will change her in some way.
Can you talk about how Firestar is brought into the book? Is she recruited or does she seek the X-Men out?
She's recruited. It was either in "Wolverine & the X-Men" #19 or #20 where we saw a big recruitment drive. That's where Storm was hired as a teacher and we saw that Firestar was one of the teachers that was interviewed. So this is her being brought back. She's brought in as a teacher at the Jean Grey School after our upcoming "Battle of the Atom" event, which will shake up the cast in the various X-Books . So Firestar is brought in to fill some teaching vacancies. Then on her first day she gets pulled into an adventure with the Amazing X-Men.
In terms of plot and themes this initial arc of "Amazing X-Men" sounds like many classic X-Men adventures mixed with some of the supernatural fun you had in your "Ghost Rider" run. Is that correct?
Sure, I think it's a little different tone than that though. This is certainly high adventure in otherworldly locations. So it won't be quite as grindhouse as "Ghost Rider." It's similar to what we've be doing on "Wolverine & the X-Men," but it's a high adventure story. So for Nightcrawler fans the first few pages of "Amazing X-Men" #1 will give you the Nightcrawler you've been wanting to see now for years. We get him with as a swashbuckling hero with a sword in each hand. That's back in a huge way right out of the gate. In my mind that really sets the tone for the entire series going forward.
Since this is set in the afterlife let's talk a little a little bit about settings. Can you talk about some of the realms we'll visit, how we'll get there and what they'll look like?
Some of that will have to wait until you read the book, but we'll certainly be exploring all the different corners of the afterlife. And we'll be seeing a lot of it in ways that we haven't seen before. The X-Men will be split apart across the afterlife and facing Azazel and his forces as they cut a bloody path across heaven and hell, and everything in between.
Artist Ed McGuinness will bring those realms to life, so let's talk about his work. What do you think he brings to this book?
Ed is fantastic. He can draw anything and we've been talking about doing this for quite awhile now. I'm just excited to be working with him on anything, but particularly on this because he's a huge Nightcrawler fan. As soon as he got wind that we were doing a big Nightcrawler story in "Amazing X-Men" he was instantly on board. He loves that era of X-Men and loves Nightcrawler in particular. So he's perfect to draw this.
Plus it's extra exciting because this is Ed's first ever X-Men book. He's never drawn the X-Men before except in guest appearances in other books. So I'm also excited to be part of Ed's first big run on an X-Title.
Finally, how long do you see yourself on "Amazing X-Men?" Are you just telling this initial arc? Or do you have larger plans for this series?
In my mind, this is something Ed and I will both be on for the foreseeable future. This is not just a couple stories and then I'm done. This is the beginning of the next big X-Story that I want to tell.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on "Amazing X-Men."