The Marvel Universe is a full of diverse and exciting characters like teenage mutants, adolescent flying space cops, and a former weapons designer who literally reinvented himself as a super hero. The eclectic natures of these characters often means their adventures don't intersect, but every once in a while a situation arises that brings together several Marvel heroes that don't usually run in the same circles.
Just such a circumstance arises this June in the "Uncanny X-Men Special" by writer Sean Ryan ("New Suicide Squad," "A+X") and artist Ron Ackins ("Prophet"), which finds the teens of the titular series joining forces with Iron Man and Nova to try and rescue their abducted mentor, Cyclops. CBR News spoke with Ryan about the special, which is the first chapter in a trilogy that will be continued in a "Nova Special" and an "Iron Man Special."
CBR News: Sean you've been working in the comics field for about a decade; first as an editor for Marvel and then in an editorial position at DC. In recent years you've started working as a writer and you've done several projects for DC including some tie-ins to their "Flashpoint" event as well as your recent Spider-Man-Psylocke story in "A+X." In June the "Uncanny X-Men Special" will be released, which marks your first full-length Marvel story. How does that feel? What's it like returning to Marvel as a writer after spending so many years exploring the DC Universe as an editor and then a writer?
Sean Ryan: It feels awesome. I've wanted to write comics ever since I started buying comics twenty years ago. And the first comic I ever bought was an X-Men comic, so now, all these years later, to be actually writing the X-Men for Marvel, is unbelievable. And it's great to get back into the Marvel Universe. I kept up with the books while at DC, but certainly my focus was more on DC goings ons. So it's been great to dive back into the Marvel Universe head first. It's a great place.
I understand that your "Uncanny X-Men Special" is actually the first chapter in a trilogy of interconnected books that continues with Iron Man and Nova specials. Is this similar to what writer Mike Costa did with his "Arms of the Octopus" storyline that ran through the recent "All-New X-Men," "Indestructible Hulk," and "Superior Spider-Man" Specials? Will the X-Men, Nova, and Iron Man play significant roles in all three chapters of your story?
Yeah, it's quite similar to Mike's story in structure; one big story jumping between three interconnected specials. The X-Men, Nova and Iron Man all play significant roles throughout the whole story. Maybe not in each issue. Nova's part of the story doesn't really start until part two.
Let's talk a little bit about your cast of characters starting with the Uncanny X-Men. Which members of the team will you focus on in this story? Primarily the adults? Or will the young students play roles as well? And which Uncanny X-Men characters do you find most interesting?
Actually the focus will be on the young students. What I like about them as characters is that they are still so new to all this. They haven't seen it all yet, so to have them go on an adventure like this, and interact with Iron Man and Nova, it's exciting and scary for them. Hopefully that comes through for the reader. And as much as the focus is on the kids from "Uncanny," I still find Cyclops the most interesting.
Cyclops has been through so much, especially lately. I've always liked Cyclops, but I think, like many readers felt, he could come off as bland or boring. But I remember really loving the character when Grant Morrison wrote him. I think it's "New X-Men" #142, the one in the Hellfire Club. It's a tremendous issue about Cyclops and it made him come alive to me as such a complex character. So I'm really excited to write for Cyclops, especially with where he is now.
You're also writing the newest Nova, Sam Alexander, who has an interesting perspective since he's like the young students in "Uncanny X-Men" and is considerably younger than some of the other characters in the story. What's it like writing Sam's point of view in this story? What do you think he adds to the tale you're telling?
Like the Uncanny kids, what I like about Sam is that he's still new to a lot of this. He hasn't seen it all either, so that excitement and uncertainty is fun to write. For this story, a big part of it is people at different stages in their lives. You've got the established hero who's been through everything, Iron Man; the hero who's been through it all, now considered a villain, Cyclops; the Uncanny kids are new and joining this team with a huge history they're just finding out about; you've got Nova, this kid taking the mantle of Nova and just starting out; and finally, our bad guy for the story, is someone who had success as an adventurer, but now has fallen on hard times. So I like that there are all these characters at different stages and what they're thinking seeing each other at these different stages.
Rounding out your main cast is Iron Man. What do you find most interesting about Tony Stark? Which aspects of his personality are you interested in exploring in this story?
Tony Stark is the best. There's all sorts of stuff I like about Tony Stark, but what I like about him most for this story is that he's a guy who's gone through everything, and still comes out great on the other side. A part of this story is about failure and how to get past it. Tony has met failure after failure in his life, and yet somehow, he manages to keep going, with a smile on his face. He's pretty amazing in that regard.
Let's talk a little bit about the initial dynamic between your cast of characters. How do they view each other when your trilogy begins?
They don't all meet each other when the trilogy begins. But I think there's some interesting interplay when they actually do start meeting. Especially between Iron Man and the kids from "Uncanny X-Men." They're star struck around him. It'd be like meeting and hanging out with George Clooney (or, I guess, Robert Downey, Jr.). With the kids and Nova, I think there'd be a mutual fascination between them. Then once they realize how new they all are, they realize how much they have in common. I think they're all relieved to know there are other newbies out there, probably making the same mistakes and asking the same dumb questions.
In terms of plot and themes what is the "Uncanny X-Men" special about? What sets the story into motion?
What sets the story in motion is Cyclops getting kidnapped. That's what gets people moving and everyone coming together. In terms of theme, the story is called, "No End in Sight," which I guess has a lot of different meanings throughout the story for all the characters. It could mean that things are always repeating themselves, the past is always there to haunt us, the future never stops, and then for some of the characters, it could even mean that whether they like it or not, life just keeps on going.
What kinds of details and teases can you give us about the antagonists of the "Uncanny X-Men Special?" How big a threat is your cast up against?
The antagonist is a character with some history in the Marvel Universe, but he's fallen on hard times now. What I like about him, and what I think makes him dangerous is that he's desperate and he's got nothing to lose. That combination makes anyone scary in my opinion.
Artist Ron Ackins is collaborating with you on the "Uncanny X-Men Special." What do you feel he brings to the story as an artist?
He brings amazing drawing. It's been a joy seeing his pages come in. Ron does great action, but it's also his fantastic character work that I'm loving. He's really been nailing it so far.
Finally, as we discussed, the "Uncanny X-Men Special" is just the first chapter in a trilogy of specials. What sort of cryptic hints and teases can you offer up about the story in your "Nova" and "Iron Man" specials?
Oh man, this is what I'm worst at. I'll try to put on my editor/solicit writer hat for this one. Lies are uncovered, a space bar brawl, a plea for Nova's help, and an old man might get shot.
"Uncanny X-Men Special" goes on sale June 11, 2014.