Marvel's new take on X-Treme X-Men debuted last month, with a group of mutants from disparate dimensions — including Emmeline Frost from Warren Ellis's "Ghost Boxes" story, Howlett and Kid Nightcrawler from Greg Pak's recent Astonishing X-Men arc and "our" reality's Dazzler, the book's main character — teaming together in order to combat evil alternate versions of Charles Xavier. Issue #2 is out this week (interior pages presented throughout the article), and we talked to series writer Pak about what's next for the book, exploring the Marvel Multiverse and Dazzler's current country music phase. Newsarama: Greg, now that the first issue of X-Treme X-Men is out and #2 is on the way, how have you gauged the reaction to the series thus far, to whatever extent you've monitored such a thing?
Greg Pak: It's been great! I get a lot of response via Twitter and I'll admit right here that yes, I do indeed peek at some of the message boards from time to time. I'm happy that readers largely seem to get and enjoy the tone and the promise of exploring our beloved characters from wild new angles — and are falling in love with Dazzler the same way I have.And penciller Stephen Segovia is getting lots of well-deserved love, which makes me very happy.
Nrama: You promote your work a good deal online, and I think it's fair to say that X-Treme X-Men is a little bit more complex of a concept than some. At least at face, it seems like a difficult series to neatly summarize in say, a tweet. Was it tricky at all for you to get the message across for the book? Or do you see the central appeal as pretty straightforward?
Pak: I think it's pretty easy for current comics readers to get — X-Men fans in particular are very used to cross-dimensional adventures. But it is a challenge to explain it succinctly for entirely new readers. That's one of the reasons I did cut that video trailer — it was a great way to convey the fun and excitement of the book in a short amount of time.
Also, now that we're past the #1 issue, it's pretty easy to plug individual storylines/issues in a single tweet, a la "See the X-Men — as GODS! Dontcha dare miss #XtremeXmen #2!" The hook of the book and the fact that we're doing pretty tight, contained story arcs means that it might be easier than the average book for new readers to jump on at any time.
Nrama: On that same note, what type of challenge was crafting a first issue that introduced the main characters, the book's central concept, and the team's first mission? That's a lot of ground to cover in 20 pages.
Pak: It sure was! I just went whole hog in aggressively opening with a massive cross-dimensional jump and explaining a lot of the high concept up front in the first few pages. Then I took a good chunk of time to establish Dazzler, because she's a blast and we have to care about our central, "normal" character in order to enjoy plunging into this kind of mind-bending story. The rest of the team is introduced in the thick of things in the second half of the book, so we really just get a taste of what's up for each of them. But the hope is to intrigue readers with that taste — we'll get much deeper with each of these heroes in each and every subsequent issue.
Word to the wise: You really don't want to miss X-Treme X-Men #3 for a shocking revelation about Howlett, our alternate-world Wolverine.
Nrama: One thing you've stressed in regards to X-Treme X-Men is your fondness for the book's main character, Dazzler. Though I'm sure a lot of that built as you started work on the book, was she a character that you had long seen potential in, given how often she's dismissed as a product of a bygone era?
Pak: I bought that first Dazzler issue way back in the day and always though the character was a hoot. But I never had the chance to write her before, so I hadn't really thought deeply about her until her name came up while I was in the early stages of developing X-Treme with the X-Editors. But as soon as I started mulling it over, I realized she was just perfect. First, she's hugely powerful — her ability to manifest solid light blasts make her a pretty good Cyclops analogue, power-wise, which is a nice thing for a team leader.
But more importantly, she's a great, grounded character with a fun self-deprecating vibe who would be a great POV character to run through a bunch of alternative realities with. Finally, she's a straight-up hero. And embracing her sometimes goofy past while seriously delving into her character gives us great contrast, increased believablity, and a really strong hero's journey.
Nrama: X-Treme X-Men #1 introduced Dazzler's boyfriend, Johnny Ito. How important was it both to add a grounded character to the reality-hopping world of this book, and to add a new minority character to the Marvel Universe?
Pak: Definitely had both of those thoughts in mind while coming up with Johnny. My editor Jeanine Schaefer and I had talked about using an existing X-Man as Dazzler's love interest. But most of the likely suspects were spoken for in various other books or storylines. And then at a certain point we realized that there's a real humanizing aspect to giving a super-hero a non-powered love interest. Dazzler's one of those heroes who's particularly grounded in the "real" world — giving her a regular guy love interest would help with that vibe, which felt even more important to emphasize given how big and crazy the reality hopping elements of the book would be.
Nrama: OK, one last Dazzler question, but maybe the most important — she's gone country? What inspired her to move in that direction?
Pak: She's getting real. And she's having fun. Dazzler's a pop star and an icon, which means she's constantly reinventing herself. Keep your eyes open, too — she'll go through a variety of costumes throughout the series. And she'll sing a song in just about every issue. [Laughs.]
Nrama: One thing I've noticed is that though you of course co-wrote Alpha Flight last year with Fred Van Lente, most of your Marvel work tends to be starring solo characters: Incredible Hulk, Incredible Hercules, Silver Surfer, War Machine, Magneto: Testament, Red Skull. For you, how much of a different discipline is writing a team book? Or is the approach essentially the same for both?
Pak: Yeah, solo books have probably been a little easier for me in the past. [Laughs.] I learned a lot about writing by writing screenplays. And most screenplays focus primarily on the journey of a single hero. So I was very comfortable with the hero narratives of books like "Planet Hulk" and Magneto Testament. Both of those books have very strong supporting casts, but it's totally clear who's at the center of the stories.But I'm having a huge amount of fun exploring the challenges and potential of a team book. X-Treme #1 very clearly uses Dazzler as the POV character. And that'll continue as the series progresses. But in each issue, we're shifting the balance a bit to some of the other characters in big ways. Right now I'm writing issues #6 and #7, which are hugely Kid-Kurt-centric, and that's a blast.
I think the trick is to find ways to shift the POV a bit from issue to issue while always continuing to build on the main premise and themes of the book. It's feeling good so far — can't wait to see what y'all think as the books come out!
Nrama: The ending certainly suggests that readers will not only see alternate versions of X-Men characters, but from the broader Marvel Universe. Is part of the fun of the series for you is that you get to touch on various aspects of the Marvel Universe — ahem, Multiverse — and not just the mutant world?
Pak: You bet. Mutants and non-mutant heroes are pretty intertwined in the 616 Universe right now — no reason not to explore that in alternate realities as well. It also provides fun opportunities to revisit some characters I've had a blast writing in the past. Fans of my work with Fred Van Lente in particular definitely won't want to miss the special guest star in X-Treme X-Men #3.
At the same time, the big themes of the book are pretty strongly connected to the X-Men, particularly with the emphasis on our various Xaviers and their various dreams. We'll have a very X-Centric pay off to all of this as our story progresses.More from Newsarama:
- The 10 Greatest X-MEN Villains of ALL TIME!
- Spurrier NOW Juggles LEGION of Personalities in X-MEN LEGACY
- New ALL-NEW X-MEN Cover Offers Post-AVENGERS VS. X-MEN Clues
- Exclusive: Brian Bendis on the Marvel NOW! ALL-NEW X-MEN
- WonderCon 2012: Pak Gathers Dazzler and the X-TREME X-MEN