Spoiler Sport: Behind ALL-NEW X-MEN's Big Character Change

***This article contains spoilers for this week's All-New X-Men #5, on sale now.***

 

Just two days into 2013 — and only a week after the fateful Amazing Spider-Man #700 — Marvel has introduced another major change to one of their oldest characters. This one may not be quite as controversial, but it's sure to please some of the publisher's most vocal fans — and, as inevitably tends to happen, anger a few along the way.

Since Marvel NOW! title All-New X-Men debuted in November, something bad has been going on with the Beast — a new mutation that he feared he wouldn't live through. In this week's issue #5, by series regulars Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen, not only does he make it out OK — thanks to help from his younger self — he also winds up with a brand-new look, marking a shift away from the "Cat Beast" era that started in 2001 during Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's acclaimed New X-Men run.

The new visual — designed by Immonen — somewhat resembles the classic, furry "Ape Beast," but without the Wolverine/Owl-esque haircut, and a few distinct new touches. Newsarama had a spirited discussion with the always-spirited All-New X-Men editor Nick Lowe to learn more about the move, and what it means for the future of Beast and his fellow X-Men. Courtesy of Marvel, we're also debuting a brand-new interior page from March's All-New X-Men #9, by Immonen.

Newsarama: Nick! You're well-established as one of the — if not the — biggest Cat Beast fans out there, and it looks like that version of Hank McCoy is no more as of this week's All-New X-Men #5. What motivated the change? And were you personally resistant to it?

 

Nick Lowe: Albert! Great to be back on Newsarama. I’m a big Beast fan, period. I do love the Cat Beast look, as not only do I think that he looks more like a “beast” in that look rather than the classic Gil Kane/George Perez/etc… rendition but I pretty much love every line Frank Quitely has put on paper, so…

Anyway, we would often get in big disagreements (by we, I mean me and most of the room) at editorial retreats about Cat Beast vs. Ape Beast. Also, the old design doesn’t look like an ape! Anyway, my resistance was against reverting to the older version because I thought that the more beastly looking works better for the actual character. But since this is a new, still beastly design and not just a furry guy with big hair, I was all in! But my passion on the subject does open me up to lots of ridicule. But that’s OK, I’m the youngest of three in my family so I’m used to that.

Nrama: As the youngest of eight, I understand. Visually, it certainly is reminiscent in many ways to the character's recognizable — sorry to use this term — "Ape Beast" look, but with obvious new twists in there, especially with the hair. What can you tell us about the design process with Stuart Immonen? Was it something that was settled on relatively early, or was there a long developmental phase in getting to the finished product?

Lowe: Stuart is the best. Can I mention how Nextwave was my favorite book I’ve ever edited and how lots of that was working with Stuart? We’ve wanted to work together ever since and we finally got to! Yay!

 

Anyway, this was Stuart’s first real design try and Beast and he pushed it very ape or gorilla, and that was great. Again, the design people call “Ape Beast” doesn’t really look like an ape, but I don’t want to confuse people so let’s call this one "Gorilla Beast"! As for changing him, it was something Brian wanted to do from day one. The only thing we didn’t have hammered out was exactly what he’d look like. That was where Stuart came in!

Nrama: Of course, Beast's change appears to be more than just a makeover. How important is the new look going to be to Beast's character going forward? (He certainly seemed happy about it.) And given history, do you see a visual shift every 10, 12 years or so as a fundamental part of the character at this point?

Lowe: Beast’s happiness had more to do, I think, with the not-dying, but he does seem delighted by the change. I think that has more to do with his scientific curiosity, but that may just be Cat-Beast-Fan-Me rationalizing.

No clue if it’ll be an ongoing cycle for the character, but I do love that thought. The scientist who experiments on himself never learning not to do that.

 

Nrama: A criticism out there is that Cat Beast was one of the last palpable legacies of Grant Morrison's seminal New X-Men run that was still present in current continuity, and that this change decreases that visibility even further. How would you respond to that notion? Is that a consideration when plotting the future of a book — whether or not to maintain revered touches of the past, especially in a series with such a direct connection to X-Men history — or is it just about pushing ahead with the best story possible?

Lowe: I see what people are saying here, but it’s definitely not conscious on my part at the very least. Also, I don’t really agree. Now that we’ve seen that Fantomex isn’t dead, I’ll point those people at the awesome new launch of Uncanny X-Force (January 23!) for more there. Emma Frost’s role as preeminent X-Man is still there. Even Cyclops’ role as certified badass is something that I thought had died down before Grant came on and I like to think we’ve kept that going. Quentin Quire in Wolverine and the X-Men! Like you said, story trumps all. After that it’s just creator interest, really. 

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