M, The First Woman: Brian Vaughan exclusively talks 'Mystique'

Fri, January 24th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

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[Mystique]If your break out hit in comic book writing involved collecting accolades from all over and winning universal acclaim, you might feel somewhat pressured to make your new high profile series from Marvel Comics be something different and un-Xpected. Something that would turn the comic book world on it's ear and one up your current work, "Y- The Last Man," from DC Comics.

Or you could just be Brian Vaughan and like writing interesting characters.

As revealed earlier this week and hinted in the "Change is Good" teaser from Marvel, Brian Vaughan is writing a new ongoing series called "Mystique." The series will focus on the titular mutant whose previous adventures in the X-Men comics would lead most to label her a terrorist, psychopath and villain, though many would also call her sympathetic and complicated. To Brian Vaughan, she's one thing: a great character for this age of comics.

"In terms of plot, the book is about Mystique becoming the James Bond to Professor X's 'M' (with mutant inventor Forge as their gadget-building 'Q')," Vaughan. told CBR News. "Now that Xavier and his X-Men have 'outted' themselves to the world, the Professor occasionally needs top-secret agents for politically sensitive missions where a jet filled with eight uniformed mutants would be inappropriate. But if you want to know why the hell a terrorist like Mystique and a pacifist like Xavier would ever work together, you'll have to read our first issue."

Mystique #1, Page 12
But Mystique is more than just a series about a sexy heroine and more than just another X-book, explains Vaughan, and he contends that this series will offer readers a unique comic book experience. "Despite the success of espionage thrillers like TV's 'ALIAS,' 'XXX,' and the James Bond films, there are very few comics in that genre. This is the perfect medium for sexy, fast-paced, way-over-budget spy adventures, and Mystique is the perfect protagonist for that kind of book.

"Recently, there have been a lot of comics where dangerous female characters are 'tamed' and/or reformed. I think we have to ask ourselves why we compulsively need to 'fix' complicated women, when we would never dream of doing the same thing to Wolverine, Punisher, John Constantine, etc. I have no interest in writing a book about an insane, unrepentantly evil woman, but I would like to write a book about a cool, badass, three-dimensional anti-hero with a complex sense of morality. Hopefully, that will make 'Mystique' unique. I'm not saying that she'll never grow or change, but when she does, she'll be doing it on her own terms."

That same complexity will play into the themes that Vaughan explores in "Mystique," as well as some inspiration from recent reading he did for another series. "When I was doing research for 'Y- The Last Man' I read a book called 'Bitch,' by much-maligned author Elizabeth Wurtzel. Not a great book, but an interesting study of 'difficult' women from Delilah to Amy Fisher. I thought it would be fun to do a smart comic about a proudly defiant, dangerous female character, and explore the conditions that helped create her, as well as the way men and women respond to her."

Mystique #1, Page 13
While he admits to not knowing much about the character initially, Vaughan says that his great working relationship with Marvel and own unique view on the character drew him to the project. "I had a great time working with editors Mike Marts and Mike Raicht on our 'Chamber' miniseries, and they were nice enough to ask if I'd be interested in doing a book about Mystique (with terrific new editor Nova Suma). To be honest, I was never really a big fan of the character, but the more I thought about her, the more I realized how much potential she had. And because so little has been established about Mystique or her past, it's easy to avoid much of that headache-inducing X-continuity, and instead concentrate on telling a good story."

Telling that "good story" also involved ignoring the continuity that Vaughan feels weighs down too many of the X-books and briefly tells readers everything they need to know about the series, insisting that even this is more than they'll need to know before reading issue #1. "Mystique is a mutant, born with the ability to perfectly impersonate the appearance and voice of anyone. She spent a few years leading the Brotherhood, a terrorist group of pro-mutant extremists, but now she's working solo. That's all you need to know!

"This will not be interconnected at all to the other X-books. You'll only ever need to read this one series to understand and enjoy the story. I want our book to be accessible to anyone, whether they know Mystique from the comics, the movies, or the cartoons, or if they've never even heard of her at all.

"Any character can support his or her own series, as long as there are passionate creators who have good stories to tell. Hopefully, readers will be pleasantly surprised by how far we can take 'that naked blue girl from the X-Men flick.'"

Mystique #1, Page 14
The acclaimed writer also promises this will be very different from his other work, citing a very obvious difference that necessitates a change in his writing. "Well, this is my first blue-skinned female protagonist," says Vaughan, trying his hardest to maintain a straight face. "Er, not counting those Smurfette fanfic stories I used to write."

Vaughan says that writing the series is a lot of fun and he has a great artist onboard, who makes life a lot easier. "God, writing is fun, but it's always hard. (For me, at least... I'm neurotic and miserable.) But having Jorge Lucas (who's been kicking ass on 'Black Panther') as a collaborator does make the job a little easier, since I know he can draw absolutely any insane action scene I imagine, and turn it in ahead of schedule!"

Speaking of schedules, Vaughan isn't about to tell fans what he has scheduled next for "Mystique," but he does say that it involves all the necessities. "I can say that Mystique's first mission involves Russia, Cuba and the United States Department of Homeland Security, but all other details are classified."

Vaughan also laughs when asked why readers should take a "look" at "Mystique" and adds, "Are you kidding? How could you not look at those Linsner covers? Seriously, this is a sexy book, but anyone who's read an issue of 'Y- The Last Man' hopefully knows that I would never in a million years want to be involved with something that's simply a 'cheesecake,' 'bad girl,' 'gratuitous T & A,' 'insert tired old cliche here,' book. I want to tell a fun, action-packed, intelligent espionage story, and Jorge Lucas' artwork is friggin' awesome. What more do you need?"

 
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