Spurrier NOW Juggles LEGION of Personalities in X-MEN LEGACY
X-Men Legacy is a survivor.The series has its origins back in 1991, when it was simply the "adjectiveless" X-Men series, which debuted with the Guinness record-holding best-selling single issue comic book of all time, from Chris Claremont and Jim Lee. It also housed Grant Morrison's famous New X-Men run from 2001 to 2004, and was rechristened X-Men Legacy in 2008 under the guise of writer Mike Carey. Most recently a Rogue-centric series written by Christos Gage, the current volume ends in October, only to be reborn the following month as part of the "Marvel NOW!" revamp hitting much of the company's publishing line. The new version of the book stars Professor Xavier's son, Legion, "embracing his father's legacy" — feel free to speculate what that may say about the end of Avengers vs. X-Men to whatever extent you find appropriate — and is from the creative team of writer Simon Spurrier (X-Club) and artist Tan Eng Huat (Annihilators), with two issues out in November. Launching a high-profile ongoing series starring Professor X's son, created in 1985 by Chris Claremont & Bill Sienkiewicz and likely best known for inadvertently creating the Age of Apocalypse, is an intriguing move, and we talked in-depth with Spurrier about his approach to X-Men Legacy and what makes Legion a compelling lead character.
Simon Spurrier: The simple’s answer’s there in the question already, really: it’s a mixed blessing. I think on balance I tend to come down on the side of it being a positive thing overall, but that’s possibly because I’m a selfish wurdmonkey who’d rather be having fun with an awesome character than worrying about how many fans he/she/it already has before I’ve even written a word. At least this way I can choose to see it as a challenge – Make! Legion! Massive! – or as a simple narrative gift to myself (behold: a complex, tragic, amazing, potential-packed character, with whom I have almost unlimited scope and very few continuity-tangles to unknot), rather than a terrible hardship.
Legion’s had plenty of pagetime in the past, but he’s been written in so many different ways by so many different people that it’s tricky to say with confidence who he really is. To me that’s like a big red button saying “press to create definitive version." Possibly with a few exciting knobs and levers underneath marked "pull to make sh*t explode," "twist to make the universe puke blood" and, of course, "unknown switch: do not under any circumstance touch." Writing about the son of Charles Xavier isn’t just about poking that switch — it’s about snapping it off using the power of your mind.
Seriously, yes, yes, yes, there are obvious challenges to be overcome when writing a relatively unknown character. Like, let's deal with the elephant in the corner: there’s a weird correlation between the vociferousness of a particular section of the fanbase and the shoulder-shrugging lip-puffing "meh"-spouting apathy it espouses. The louder some people shout (or, at least, the more caps lock they use), the less enthusiastic they pretend to be. So when you announce you’re launching a new title all about a stunning, amazing, exciting, world-shaking, hair-spiking, snark-spouting young character with a storyline unlike anything the readers have seen before… well, yeah, most of them will get excited... but there’s an unfortunate chunk who’ll kneejerk-out an instinctive “B-list alarm! I’m out!” before their hearts have engaged with their fingertips.
But, hey, that’s how this game works — how it’s always worked, since the Interwebz came along — and the remedy is remarkably simple. You simply wait until you’re doing an interview with one of the better-known news websites, you trust that the canny interviewer will ask you a question about this very thing, and then you clearly and simply state how profoundly your character is rooted within the history and future of the shared Universe, how the consequences of his actions will resonate far beyond the scope of his own story, how he’ll encounter A-list characters and familiar locations every single episode, and how the publisher wouldn’t be funding something so unusual if it wasn’t convinced the journey’s very… very… very worth taking. Hint hint.
Spurrier: Oh crikey, I think I just did that über-unprofessional thing of partially answering Question 2 in the act of answering Question 1. Mea culpa. I get excited, is all.
To be a little more precise: yeah, personally, I’m drawn to the smaller characters. I love superhero comics in general, but I sometimes grow cynical about the in-world motivations of some of the really big A-list characters. Somehow the fuzzy-logic assumption that “have superpower = fight crime" has emerged from the various sci-fi/fantasy/crime anthologies where costumed-adventurers were born to become a genre in its own right — this funny communal suspension-of-disbelief — and that would be beautiful and wonderful if Said Genre wasn’t frequently guilty of inward-looking, self-referencing, perpetual repetition and hideously lazy cliché. When superhero fiction’s good, it’s scintillating. When it’s bad it’s below dreck.
So — speaking very, very personally, and with the “at this specific point in my career” caveat — right now I prefer to avoid the big-punching, big-team-up, big-event, big-stakes middle ground. Frankly I just don’t think I’m idealistic, credulous or nice enough yet to write earnestly about these amazing people being selfless and altruistic. I want to do creepy, cosmic, weirdo, funny, horrifying, affecting things on the sidelines: stuff that will truly change a character’s outlook, where goals and status-quo can shift on a month-by-month basis and a character’s “heroism” is judged against the flaws dragging him or her down, not against how many bad guys they’ve punched. That’s X-Men Legacy right there. But the real beauty of this story is that I not only get to do all of that, but that it’s secretly not all that “fringe” at all. David’s story is very much its own sinuous, scary beast, but it writhes and wriggles through the very heart of the X-Universe, and its throes and thrashes will be felt even wider than that.
Maybe a day will come when I can apply my contrary-freakiness to the bigger stuff — and I’d be delighted to try — but for now? Gimme the weird.
Spurrier: Great question.
David’s the son of Charles Xavier. Over the years he’s changed the shape of the Marvel Universe in some pretty big ways, and that’s generally been as a result of his “thing” – his defining characteristic. To whit: he’s one of the most bowel-looseningly powerful characters in the M.U., but is so riddled with psychological problems that he struggles to control himself… and all too often ends-up breaking things — bones, brains, continents, realities — when he tries to be proactive. So this story is all about getting inside his head — literally, in fact — and seeing how it feels to have all that potential, all that power, but not being able to trust your own brain.
So that’s the core… but the context is all about mutant-kind in general and the X-Men in particular. How does David feel about his father’s “dream”? How do the X-Men feel about having this guy — this walking, talking timebomb — wandering around without anyone to control him?
So when we’re down on the coalface of the story, the X-Men part of the title refers explicitly to the interactions David has with the big-hitters of the X Universe. From the outset it’s clear he’s on a collision course with his father’s best-known pupils. Wolverine & Co. know David’s not a bad person per se, but can they really countenance leaving him to his own devices, knowing how much devastation he’s caused in the past? Over the coming months we’re going to see our guy both locking horns and — in surprising ways — sharing goals with various X-badged spandexers.
In the wider sense, the "X-Men" of the title refers entirely to Professor X’s philosophies, his dreams and his goals. It’s about David positioning himself according to his own principals and preferences to be the bearer of the Xavier legacy. Or not.
Nrama: Also from what you've said thus far about the book, it sounds like you certainly see a lot of untapped potential in Legion as a character. Is that something that clicked in you as the series was being developed, or is he always a character that you've had your eye on, as someone you thought might be interesting to take on?
Nrama: One of the stated goals of Avengers vs. X-Men and the subsequent Marvel NOW! era is to get the world of the X-Men more integrated with the broader Marvel Universe. Out of the X-Men books, X-Men Legacy has often been even more focused on strictly mutant affairs. So will we see Legion exploring the world at large, and not just the X-Men's corner of it?
Spurrier: Very much so. In fact — by way of example — the very first episode sees David interacting with a whole host of amazing non-mutant characters, and really stamping his name on the bedrock of the Marvel U as a result. Inevitably — given who he is and what he’s principally concerned with (that is to say: his relationship with his father and his role as a mutant figurehead doffing his cap towards the future) — David’s going to be primarily conflicting and cooperating with mutantcentric characters… but yeah: this is no longer a world where “X-verse” and “Marvelverse” are can be treated as separate. “The Mutant Question” is right down at the core of M.U Issues Of Notes, so you can bet David’s journey will be carrying him past, alongside, and smashing-right-through-the-middle of big non-mutant stories.
Nrama: Tan Eng Huat is on art for the series — what has it been like working with him thus far, and what, in your estimation, makes him the right artist for this book's sensibilities?
Spurrier: Tan’s amazing. We worked together a few years ago on Silver Surfer: In Thy Name. It remains one of the Marvel jobs I’m most proud of, and a lot of that’s down to Tan’s frothingly-insane-yet-easy-to-read inventiveness. He’s even better now than he was then.
An aside: all that sh*t I was whining about earlier, about how some of the online readers make snap “meh” decisions before giving something a go? Applies to art styles as much as characters. Tan’s stuff is like nothing else on the shelves — certainly nothing else on the Big 2 shelves, anyway — and that’s not a bad thing. If it was style for style’s stake I’d have some sympathy with the (thankfully very few) cases of reader rudeness I’ve spotted, but, really: this guy has storytelling skills up the wazoo and nobody designs better characters and locations. Matter of fact, I’m so in love with some of the stuff he’s put together that I’ve given minor characters increasingly grander roles, and deliberately skewed things towards his sci-fi strengths. Wait until you meet “The X-tractor” and you’ll see what I mean.
Spurrier: Ha, we-ell, I was four years old at the time, so forgive me for having had other things on my mind. Not sh*tting myself and having a runny nose, for instance.
That said, I think you’re onto something. If Watchmen and DKR represent the mountain-tip of a poleshift in cultural approaches to superheroes — and they do — I don’t think it’s stretching things to tether Legion’s creation to the same geography. He’s the product of a general — conscious — attempt to do newer, more complex, more thematically meaty things with the spandex genre. Think of it as a superhero Enlightenment, if you want to get wanky about it. Which I do.
‘Course, even then the concept risks being a bit hoary. “Split Personalities” has become a bit of an eyebrow-arching cliché in its own right, so part of the trick with Legacy has been about rationalizing, visualizing and qualifying David’s mental problems. I think we’ve done so in a really fresh and exciting way, which sidesteps all dangers of “silliness” and tunes into a particularly Marvel vibe. It’s about mixing-up the external adventures — tres Claremont — with the internal creepiness.
Nrama: The character also has an incredibly distinctive look, and it doesn't sound like you're moving too far away from that. How important do you think his visual — and giant brush of hair — is to Legion?
Spurrier: Heh. It’s critical!
As with all things to do with Legacy, the trick is to incorporate that which is familiar into that which is new and different. The outrageous ‘do is part of David’s visual identity, and it’s very much part of his reinvention. We may tweak or tone it, we may even have a crack at rationalizing it, but as long as it looks and feels honest – and, yeah, cool — we’re happy. And (you’re going to have to trust me on this) it really does look like the dog’s bollocks, in the context of the Look we’re building.More from Newsarama:
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