As you may have heard, the Marvel Comics universe is getting a new facelift. Or rather, they’re getting an old facelift, as flagging sales and poor fan reception has forced the House of Ideas to take a page out of the book of the Distinguished Competition and give their whole line a bit of “back to basics” rebirth. Classic characters will once get pushed to the fore, and the overt real-world politicizing employed by several crossovers and major titles will get toned down to start bringing back just plain, good ol’ superheroics. And there are no better candidates for this make-over than the X-Men.
Marvel’s mutants have been a bit hard done by in recent years. Fueled by a cinematic Cold War between Marvel and Fox – who owns the movie rights to both X-Men and Fantastic Four – Marvel have been marginalizing their Children of the Atom and First Family. The X-Men got off easier than Fantastic Four, which saw its title cancelled, but they were pushed to the side as the Inhumans – which Marvel is developing as a high profile TV series – were thrust into the limelight, with X-Men leader Cyclops even getting killed off-screen in a battle between the two mutated species.
But like I said, things are changing. The upcoming ResurrXtion event will relaunch both the X-Men and Inhuman lines, and will end with the X-Men back on equal footing as a premiere title for Marvel. The book will get split into two titles, X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold, harking back to the names of the beloved classic X-Men teams, with the latter Gold being the flagship title for the whole line. And the person charged with making X-Men Gold worthy of that prestigious positioning is none other than Marc Guggenheim.
If that name sounds familiar, it should as Guggenheim definitely knows a thing or two about relaunching fan favourite comic book characters. He’s the co-showrunner on Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, two of the titles in The CW’s lineup of DC Comics TV series adaptations. He’s also had good comic book runs on Blade, The Flash, Amazing Spider-Man and Young X-Men. Arrow’s inconsistent quality (and HORRID third and fourth seasons aside), that’s a very successful batch of comic book storytelling, and he’s looking to bring those skills to bear on X-Men Gold which will see popular artist Ardian Syaf on penciling duties.
Guggenheim spoke to Newsarama recently about X-Men Gold, particularly the new team’s lineup of classic characters and why he picked them.
I’m always a fan of line-ups (and this is not just true of the X-Men, but all teams) where everyone has a different skillset, a different powerset. You don’t want a bunch of flyers on the team, for example. You don’t want a bunch of bruisers on the team. I like mixing things up.
Starting with Kitty, she’s my favorite X-Man, so I knew I wanted her. But what she brings to the table is something new to her role – she’s actually bringing tactics and strategy. She’s obviously still got her powers, but in this new role I’ve cast her in, she’s the leader. She’s out there calling the plays. So what she brings is her tactical ability.
Wolverine is super useful in the sneak-and-creep-and-occasionally-stab-people capacity. Nightcrawler – the fact that he can teleport is a big help to the team. That’s a unique power that you’ll see come into play in a lot of the action sequences in the book.
Storm, obviously, is one of the most powerful X-Men, especially when her abilities are employed to their full effect, and it also really helps to have a flyer on the team. Colossus is a blunt instrument. Most teams have at least one bruiser, and Colossus is the X-Men’s.
And then finally you’ve got Prestige, which is Rachel Grey’s new identity. It’s really useful to have a telepath. And one of the more fun things about writing Rae is figuring out new and different ways for her to use her powers offensively, so it’s not just her firing psi-blasts at people, but really getting into the applications of telepathy and the ability to read people’s thoughts. There’s a lot of fun to be had with that.
In short, everyone’s got a different power and a different role on the team from a tactical perspective. That said, I’m taking opportunities wherever I can to introduce other X-Men. There are so many fan favorites to choose from. Over the course of the first few arcs, I hope to give everyone at least a taste of their favorites, using the core-group as the tip of the spear, but bringing in other X-Men with other powers when the story calls for it.
Yes, Rachel Grey – the daughter of a Scott Summers and Jean Grey from an alternate, harsher, dystopian future timeline – has a new name and a new look for the first time in years. Her change is not just skin deep though.
This is sort of a new beginning for all the X-Men, post –“ResurrXion.” It’s a reboot, the start of a new chapter. This is particularly true for Rachel. Kitty has encouraged her to adopt a new codename as a way to say to herself and the world, “I’m my own person. I’m not just the offspring of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. I’m not just a former Phoenix. I’m charting my own course, carving out my own destiny.” The point is for Rachel to be looking forward in contrast to her previous identities which have always been tied to some kind of legacy.
The X-Men comics have always had a heavy dosage of social commentary, as the mutants acted as narrative stand-ins for numerous minority groups. This certainly gave the X-Men comics a unique flavour that was all their own, and that will not be missing here.
X-Men Gold is intentionally a very timely book. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now that I think the X-Men are uniquely suited to address. I love the amount of diversity in Marvel’s line – and I give Axel Alonso all the credit for that. The first arc of X-Men Gold deals with the issue of extremism. And it shows that there’s more than one way to tell a story about prejudice. If you look at what’s going on in the world right now, there’s prejudice that takes many different forms. You don’t always have to do a story about equality and civil rights – though I think that’s important.
In this case, we’re doing a story about extremism. If I’ve done my job correctly, people will finish the arc and see parallels to some of the rhetoric that’s going on in the world right now. If anything, I think the X-Men are more relevant today than they have been in a long time in large part because of what’s happening in current events.
And one of the biggest current issues is that of race and diversity. Critics will probably be quick to point out that the team line-up for X-Men Gold doesn’t quite reflect that.
You’re being very polite. I’ll be less polite: In this line up, there’s only one person of color (not including Nightcrawler). And I’ll be honest, I was colorblind when picking the lineup. I just chose characters who were at the core of the team when I first fell in love with the X-Men. I wasn’t thinking about diversity and I should have been.
That said, there will be characters of more diverse backgrounds coming down the pike. Rockslide and Armor play important roles in #3. Cecelia Reyes makes an appearance in #4. Anole seems to keep showing up because I love him. So long as the story warrants it, we’ll continue to see more mutants in the book and many of those will be people of color. And also true to the line as a whole, by the way. Everyone is very mindful of all forms of diversity particularly because this is the X-Men. I think you’ll see that play out the “ResurrXion” line entirely.
The writer also went on to explain how it’s not just about making stories pertinent and shoehorning in diverstiy, but also just make good superhero comics again
One thing I’m trying to do is strike a balance between X-Men stories that are centered around mutants, and X-Men stories that stem from purely external threats that aren’t related to mutants. For the last several years, most X-Men stories have come out of situations where mutants were facing extinction, or dealing with a particularly powerful mutant. In short, the books have become very mutant-centric. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – it’s a comic about mutants, after all – but under Kitty’s leadership, the X-Men’s mission statement is going to be to build relationships outside the mutant community. I want to reflect that in the writing. I want the stories to be as much about the X-Men protecting a world that hates and fears them as they are about dealing with mutant issues.
All of this relates to the X-Men’s new status quo. They’re gonna be located in the middle of Central Park, for a very specific reason: they want to reconnect with the rest of the world. So in order to be true to the vision that Kitty has for the team that we’ll start setting up in [RessurXtion one-shot] X-Men: Prime, it’s important to strike that balance between mutant-centric stories and stories that don’t involve mutants.
Guggenheim elaborated further on the X-Men’s new mission statement under the leadership of Kitty Pryde,
Basically, it’s to get out of their self-imposed exile. The X-Men are no longer, at least for the time being, worrying about extinction or survival; they’re looking forward to the future. And a big part of that future, in Kitty’s mind, is reintegrating with society, getting out there even though the world hates and fears them. This means not just acting as heroes, but interacting with humans. If you’re gonna get people to stop hating and fearing mutants, the first step is to get them to understand mutants better.
For the longest time mutants, particularly the X-Men, have segregated themselves – in Westchester, in Utopia, on Genosha, in Limbo. The X-Men have long had a habit of separating themselves from society, so basically Kitty’s big idea is that that’s not a good approach. If you’re gonna get humans to trust mutants more, they’ve gotta know more about them and interact with them more. So she puts the X-Mansion smack in the middle of Central Park in New York, so all the mutants, all the X-Men, are front and center in a way that they’ve never been before. (Admittedly, she does this without a consideration for what the property taxes on a piece of real estate like Central Park are like.)
Kitty’s hope and dream is that moving to Central Park fosters better relations between humans and mutants. And you’re right, it’s an evolution of Xavier’s dream. One of the obvious metaphors here – in this case I think it’s pretty literal – is that Kitty is the student who returns to become the teacher. So she’s taking with her some of Xavier’s teachings, but she’s interpreting them in her own way.
Of course, this is by far not the first time the X-Men comics line has received a shakeup. Guggenheim is fully aware of this and knows that some of the more hardcore audience members will be a bit hesitant to buy in once again.
There are so many X-Men, and so many X-Men fans, that it’s impossible to make all of them happy, so you go into this knowing that that’s just not going to happen. I’m approaching it as an X-Men fan – I’ll stack my X-Men fan bona fides against anybody, any day of the week – so my barometer has been: I’m writing the X-Men book that I would most want to read. I’m hoping that what I want to see as a fan is what a lot of people want to see; again, knowing that not every X-Men fan wants the same thing. Bottom line, I am going into X-Men Gold with the best of intentions both as a fan and as a writer.
It’s also worth pointing out that it’s hard to find an editor who’s as much an X-Men fan as Daniel Ketchum. As a result – and this is true across the entire line – these are the sort of X-Men comics that fans will really love. So much of this relaunch is Daniel’s vision. I’d love to take credit for the X-Mansion landing in Central Park, and the direction in terms of getting back to basics, but I’m really running with the ball Daniel put in play. He keeps me honest. He’s an amazing editor, and he really loves these books. I think you’ll feel that. Plus, he chose Ardian. If you just look at Ardian’s art, that’s very much a visual representation of what we’re trying to accomplish with this book.
There have been a lot of different X-Men relaunches over the years, and I’ve been reading along as a fan. What makes this relaunch different is that it’s more about the X-Men as heroes than the X-Men as a struggling minority fighting for their very existence. That existential crisis is tabled for the time being. It’s been a while since the X-Men have really been able to catch their breath and not worry about the end of mutantkind. We’re really going back to the days where the X-Men could just be heroes, and play softball games, and have soap opera stories and romantic relationships. It’s something you haven’t seen in the X-Men books for a while. So for super longtime fans – A.K.A. old people, like myself – it’s an exciting return to the basics. And for fans that are younger, it’ll be exciting to see the X-Men in a way that they might not have really seen in recent memory…
Right now, because we’re double shipping, the arcs are constructed to be rather short – three to four issues apiece. And I’m really enjoying writing in that pace, because I think when books double ship, you wanna move through the story faster. And I think it’s allowing me to tell tighter, better constructed story arcs that are more in keeping with the X-Men books of yore. It’s obviously a book written in the 21st century, with a 21st century perspective, so I’m using 21st century storytelling methods, but the overall approach to the book is very much back to the basics. If you’re a fan of the Claremont era, I think X-Men Gold is a book you’ll really respond to.
As one of those very “old people who Guggenheim is talking about, I can assure you that I am just as hyped for the X-Men comics to get back to their heyday. Guggenheim has already worked his magic with some DC Comics properties on TV, so let’s see if he can do the same on the page for Marvel.
X-Men Gold #1 will release on April 4, and will see the X-Men throwing down with a new version of fan favourite villain group The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, including a mysteriously back-from-the-dead Avalanche and Pyro!