Writer/artist Brahm Revel is likely best known for his creator-owned series "Guerillas," but last week, the creator brought his own spin to Marvel's newly-reestablished Marvel Knights line with "Marvel Knights: X-Men," which took Wolverine, Rogue and Kitty Pryde on a trip to small-town Appalachia in search of new mutants. While on the hunt, all signs point to another darker force at work -- and the X-Men are pulled in to investigate.
This week, Revel joined X-Position to discuss his first series featuring Marvel's merry mutants, the challenge in adding his own mark to the Marvel Knights line, putting together his X-Men team and the Easter Eggs that fans of "Guerillas" might be able to find.
CBR News: Brahm, the first issue of "Marvel Knights: X-Men" is in stores now and you had the chance to come up with a few new mutants for the series. What was the challenge for you in coming up with distinct powers and personalities given the size of the X-Men Universe?
Brahm Revel: I didn't find it particularly difficult to come up with the characters because they developed pretty naturally out of the needs of the story. Part of the reason why I wanted to create a few new characters was to create a little mystery around them and their abilities. I was interested to see how their powers would be perceived (both by the audience and the X-Men) as we got to know them. Also, how the characters themselves might learn about their own powers as they manifest. Often we meet a new character and we get a description of their abilities right off the bat, like we're reading a Marvel Universe guide. I wanted that whole process to be a little muddier. I mean, they're teenagers who don't even realize what they are capable of yet, right?
Krystal, the mutant who we meet in the first issue, has the power of suggestion (not a particularly unique power, I know), but the way in which she uses this power is by lying. We see glimpses of her power throughout the issue, yet she tells the X-Men that her power is something else. I was interested to see how the audience would reconcile those two things. Would they believe her, or see the contradiction? Also, in general, I think it's interesting to see characters who say one thing about themselves, yet act in an opposite manner. Krystal was an outgrowth of that idea.
We'll meet the other new mutant in the next issue, so I can't say too much about her without spoiling things. But her power is a little more unique and is very integral to how the rest of the series plays out.
The first issue of the series seems to be firmly set in Marvel continuity, but "Marvel Knights: Spider-Man" seems very much out of continuity. What was the impetus to relate the story more heavily to what's going on in the Marvel Universe at present?
Nothing that happens in this story is gonna have any real effect on the rest of the X-Men's continuity, but I still wanted to keep it in the world of what's happening now. And since the Phoenix force had recently been released and new mutants were popping up around the globe, it seemed like that would be a good reason to have a little side adventure. Also, so many of the themes that run through the X-Men's stories revolve around being an outsider, transformation and accepting yourself. Because of that, I thought it was important to include some teenagers in the mix. Teenagers are the perfect allegory for becoming a mutant. It's not by mistake that mutants powers manifest during puberty.
What was your approach to the art for this series? There's a horror vibe to the series that's really accentuated by Cris Peter's colors.
I wanted to take the X-Men out of their element a little. Bringing them to a small town where they weren't as well known was part of that. So was giving the story a bit of a crime and horror vibe. I wanted to do something a little different but I also wanted to have fun with the nostalgia I had for the X-Men that I loved growing up. So even though we're getting a little bit of that “genre” vibe, there's definitely gonna be a classic '80s X-Men vibe thrown in too.
As for the colors, I've been so lucky to be paired with Cris. She's done such a magnificent job of bring this world to life with her color. It's been so much fun to get the pages back and see what she's done. The only thing I tell her is to not be conservative. I wanted her to really have fun with the color on this series and I have not been disappointed.
There was a pretty cool surprise villain at the end of the first issue -- any chance a few other old familiar faces might show up as your story progresses?
I don't want to give too much away, but I think it's all right to say that you might see one or two familiar faces in the next couple issues. But you gotta stay tuned to see who!
Reader questions pick up this week with cora reef, who wants to know more about creative process and the draw of the series.
Dear Mr. Revel, you've written and drawn other projects in the past, like "Guerillas." What comes first for you in your process, the words to the story or the art?
I would say that the story comes first, which in comics is sort of a blend of the two. As I begin to plot out the scenes, certain scenes will stick out as being more visually driven (like action scenes) or more dialogue driven. So for those dialogue heavy scenes I tend to script first, and the action stuff I tend to go right to thumbnails with. But there's always a certain amount of back and forth throughout the process.
What was the biggest draw for you creatively in getting to helm a "Marvel Knights" title headlined by the X-Men?
The biggest thing is getting such a huge audience to be exposed to my work. Hopefully if people like what they see they'll check out my creator-owned series, "Guerillas." Likewise, if Marvel likes what they see, it opens up the possibilities to do more projects with them down the line.
Of course the icing on the cake is that it's an X-Men book. Growing up, I was undoubtedly a Marvel kid. I dabbled with Batman a little, but that was about it. And of the Marvel Universe, the X-titles were the ones I collected the most voraciously. So I think it kinda worked out perfectly that the X-Men happened to be the title I was able to work on. I'd like to think that the genuine affection I had for these characters and stories will shine through in the work.
Next up is JimTheTroll, who wants to know more about the strike team of X-Men you've put together.
It was cool to see interaction between Wolverine, Kitty and Rogue. Why those three characters? What's your favorite part about them hanging out together?
I've seen a few people on the internet groan a little that Wolverine was getting used again, but come on, if I'm getting a chance to do an X-Men comic, Wolverine is getting used. Beyond that, I've always loved Kitty and Wolverine's father/daughter relationship through the years, and now that Kitty has grown up a bit and is now one of the true leaders of the X-Men, I thought it would be interesting to see how that relationship has evolved a little bit. And Rogue is just a wonderfully tragic character. As I was working on this project I discovered that she had recently learned to control her ability to touch people (which I don't agree with, BTW), but I think the psychological scars of dealing with that aspect of her powers still defines who she is. Of all the major X-Men characters, I think she saw her powers as a curse the most, and I thought that point of view would be important to include in this story.
ConfernallyEfused is up with a question about the series' location in Appalachia.
Thanks for answering our questions this week! I think the location of "Marvel Knights: X-Men" is really interesting. Why did you decide to set it in Appalachia? Did you have to do any scouting or research about the area?
It was more about finding an environment tucked away enough from the rest of the world that the communities there wouldn't be bothered by the long arm of the government. Whether it be bikers, moonshiners, militia men, or just regular folks that don't want their rights being messed with. Now, this isn't necessarily my own political point of view, but I thought it would be interesting to see how the X-Men would react to this type of environment. In the past, the X-Men have always kind of thought of themselves as the counterculture. Their creation came out of the upheaval of the turbulent '60's and as a result they came to represent the freaks and the misfits. But these days they have become the establishment. They're no longer an underground group and, in some ways, are actually connected to the government. So I thought it would be interesting to see how the X-Men of today would reconcile this dichotomy. Specifically, how they would deal with trying to help people who don't want their help. I also thought it would be fun to have them fight some bikers and other assorted rough-necks. I didn't, however, get to do any on-site research.
mr_infinite is up with a query about the artistic process and coming at the story as both a writer and artist.
The art in "Marvel Knights: X-Men" #1 is awesome! What's been your favorite part of the artistic process so far? Who's your favorite character to draw and why?
It's hard to say what part of the process I've been enjoying the most. Both the penciling and inking can be equally gratifying and maddening depending on how the day is going. But I guess the most satisfying step in the process is the thumbnails. When you're done with those, you can finally see the big picture and you can tell if the story is making sense or not. It always feels like a big hurdle has been overcome when the thumbs are finished. Until you realize you still have a whole issue to draw and ink!
And I think it's safe to say that I'm having the most fun drawing Wolverine. He's the character that I put my own stamp on the most, and I've enjoyed drawing his beat up, squinty face. I like to think of him as some kind of eastern european, Inuit, relic that was found in Canada. A relic with a bad attitude.
Rounding out this week's questions is Dave, who wants to know more about your talent drawing gorillas.
You're really great at drawing comics, but you're especially good at drawing gorillas. Will you have a chance to include your awesome gorilla writing and drawing skills in "Marvel Knights: X-Men?”
Thanks for the compliment, Dave! There's a couple homages to "Guerillas" in the story, but I ain't gonna tell you what they are. You're gonna have to sniff them out yourself!
And thanks to everyone who took the time to write in! It was a great bunch of questions and comments!
Thanks to Brahm Revel for taking on this week's questions!
Next week, all-star artist and most recent "Savage Wolverine" creative talent Jock joins X-Position to take on all questions about his recent out-of-this-world arc for the best there is at what he does! Got questions for Jock? Hurry, because this week, questions need to be in by Thursday at the latest! Go ahead and send your questions over via e-mail with the subject line "X-Position or in a 140 character question via Twitter. Either way, make sure those questions are in by Thursday! Do it to it!