Bendis on Surprise UNCANNY X-MEN Villain, Beast's New Look

Uncanny X-Men #1

variant by Gabriel

Dell'Otto.

Since debuting Ultimate Spider-Man at Marvel in 2000, Brian Michael Bendis has shown an unwavering tendency towards juggling multiple series at once. He wrote two — sometimes three — Avengers titles for much of his eight-year-run on that franchise, and is now doing the same for the X-Men, with the new volume of Uncanny X-Men joining the ongoing All-New X-Men in February.

As Bendis detailed in our talk with him and new Uncanny X-Men artist Frazer Irving, Uncanny is a natural outgrowth from what present-day Cyclops, Magneto, Emma Frost and Magik have been up to in All-New X-Men —  recruiting newly manifested mutants and trying to make up from the reputation-tarnishing events of Avengers vs. X-Men. It's also been an eventful time for All-New X-Men as well, with the Original Five sticking around in the present, and current Beast evolving into a new look.

In the first of a multi-part interview with Bendis, we talked to the writer about both of his X-books, the surprise villain in Uncanny X-Men, the challenge of creating new mutants and why he was never a Cat Beast fan. Courtesy of Marvel, we're also presenting new images from both series.

Art from Uncanny

X-Men #1.

Newsarama: Brian, heading into Uncanny X-Men with Chris Bachalo, what's it like writing Cyclops at this unusual time for the character? He did become something of a villain during Avengers vs. X-Men, but came out of it as more beloved among a section of fans than ever.

Brian Michael Bendis: My Twitter feed is hilarious every day of the week. It's, "I love Cyclops, I hate Cyclops." "I love Emma, I hate Emma." All these characters are polarizing, which I think makes them fascinating. No one hates them enough to stop reading them. It's not, "Ugh, I hate him, I never want to see him again."

There are two things I love: Number one is, "I can't tell if I hate him or not." The biggest compliment I've had as a writer, ever. The other thing that X-Men fans do that Avengers fans have never done — and this is fascinating — X-Men fans come to you with visual aids. Whatever their point is, they have documented examples of it. "I hate Emma, here are five horrible things Emma has done." They don't list them; they show you the panels. The whole time I was on Avengers, I don't think anyone ever did that, this has literally happened to me 50 times in the last couple of months. "Here's why you should have Rogue on the team." It's always there with great examples. It's pretty hilarious. Also, I always want to tell them, "You know, I've read all of this." Some of it's stuff I've written. "Yeah, that's House of M. I know."

Art from Uncanny

X-Men #1.

Nrama: You posted that particularly informed letter you got about Beast's power levels on your message board.

Bendis: That was a good one. [Laughs.] When the sentences start to devolve, it's pretty funny, or when the exclamation points start flying.

I've gotten a ton of that. Most of my mail on All-New X-Men has been kind of just, relief. It's either exactly what they wanted from me, or they didn't know what to expect and were pleasantly surprised. It's been a very nice couple of months, to the point where I have turned to people and said, "Is it me, or are X-Men fans nicer?"

Nrama: Nicer than maybe given credit for, at least.

Bendis: Among the creative community, there are a lot of people scared of X-Men fans, because they're pretty hardcore. I've been enjoying them immensely.

Art from Uncanny

X-Men #1.

Nrama: One of the things it seemed fans were worried about was that the further integration between X-Men and Avengers would mean that each entity was going to become indistinct — but what you've done on All-New X-Men is still very mutant-centric, X-Men centric ideas.

Bendis: These are very X-Men-centric ideas, and hopefully a unique look at them. Once they're set up, which they are being set up very clearly, people have already seen the solicitations — The Avengers are coming. To both books. And different teams of Avengers are coming. It is chaos over at the Jean Grey School. It is just craziness. And once Captain America gets a whiff of, "Excuse me, what did you do Hank?" there are going to be some Avengers showing up at the front door.

Nrama: In both books, you're also introducing quite a few new mutants — now that there's the opportunity to do so, which there really hasn't been for many years.

Bendis: Of course, you must know that this was not the plan, but in House of M, I stopped any chance of anyone creating new mutants. And then, it just so happened that at the end of AvX, we finally were at a place where we could bring back some mutants, and then I take over X-Men. It's like I set up the whole world eight years ago so I could have this moment. Which of course did not happen. I think it was actually Jason [Aaron]'s idea about bringing the ability to have new mutants popping up all over the place. With that coming, and with me having these two teams, it certainly seemed liked it's almost my obligation to hunker down and think about new types of characters, and new types of mutants. Not just new versions of something I've already seen, but some real new characters and real new types of powers.

Uncanny X-Men #1

variant cover by Skottie

Young.

Nrama: Is a tough proposition to introduce new X-Men characters? There have been quite a few in recent years, but it seems like it takes a lot for them to stick.

Bendis: It does take a lot to stick. And also there's rarely a mutant character that isn't somebody's favorite, that doesn't have a website or a Tumblr dedicated to them. To make that happen for new characters is tough, but a challenge worth pursuing. Certainly Miles Morales and Jessica Jones and Maria Hill have all kind of stuck to the wall in a good way. I do love that feeling, and I love putting toys in the toy box. I'm expecting some sort of gift basket from Fox or something. [Laughs.] They've optioned Powers now for like 14 years, so I figure I can throw them a couple of new X-Men. It works out alright. 

Nrama: And there was some new Powers news that just came out recently, with word that Charlie Huston is writing the new pilot.

Bendis: Yeah! That was cool. I've known it for a while, but I wasn't going to say anything until he said something. Also, no one believes me. At all. Even good friends of mine, I go, "No, no, we're making the pilot again." They go, "Uh-huh. Well, OK, let me know how it works out." Like no one told me the show's over. But I did know this, and it was nice for him to be so positive in the press.

Nrama: Back to X-Men, it seems like a real vote of confidence that the new characters are front and center with Cyclops, Magneto and Emma Frost in the promotional images for Uncanny X-Men. How deliberate is that, positioning these brand-new creations along with some of the most famous X-Men characters ever?

Art from Uncanny

X-Men #2.

Bendis: All the artists seem to like drawing them, which is cool. These are new characters. When you think of all the X-Men characters that have come over the years, that's what happens — there they are, right on the cover. There's Nightcrawler, he's right on the first issue he appeared in. We're very proud, and very excited about them, so there's certainly nothing to hide.

Back to why we're being so close to the vest with some of the Uncanny X-Men stuff, when you add in the Cyclops stuff, and then Emma, who's going through a whole thing herself, as well, and Magneto, who's going through a whole thing himself — their powers are all broken. Their reason for being is their mutant self, and their mutant self has been damaged, because they got too close to the sun and made some poor decisions. That's very interesting. And now you put them all together in a group, and that's interesting. And then you put them in a situation where they're supposed to be actually helping the other mutants before anything bad can happen to then, and you've got a whole pile of stuff going on at one time.

Nrama: And there's a secret villain in Uncanny too, right?  One from outside of the X-Men's usual circle?

Art from All-New

X-Men #7.

Bendis: You're going to see that very soon. Very, very soon. A big Marvel villain who has not been ever seen as an X-Men or mutant villain, but I think makes total sense. But I've been wrong before. [Laughs.]

Nrama: I definitely wanted to ask about was the recent redesign of Beast. At one point you were advocating for the return of the George Perez Beast, right?

Bendis: I was a staunch anti-Cat Beast person. I wasn't the president of the club, but I certainly was on the board of directors. It was based on two things: He always looked sadder as a cat. He looked very sad to me, and I don't see him as that sad of a person. Also, it wasn't always drawn the best. There were some people who drew it extremely well, and others who really didn't. There wasn't this universal look of the cat. It was always all over the place, and that, to me, stuck out as something wrong with it.

I did want to go back to Perez Beast, and as you may or may not know, that was something that was never going to happen. We came to an excellent compromise. We told Stuart [Immonen] — Nick [Lowe] and I both pleaded our cases, and told him exactly where we are, and that we're both wide open to a new interpretation. Nick's problem with going back to Perez Beast was that it was nostalgic, and I was hitting him with my notes about being too sad or something that a lot of people are having trouble drawing. We gave him all these notes, and we said, "Go at it," and he came back with a couple of designs, and one stuck out to both of us immediately.

 

Nrama: It is at least reminiscent of the classic look, while still being its own thing.

Bendis: I thought just enough. It's new, it looks like it fits. The response to that has been hilarious. Very, very funny.

Nrama: I would guess that most fans that would have a vocal response to the change were probably anti-Cat Beast to begin with.

Bendis: I'm going to go 50/50. It didn't seem that the cat people were all that upset. I didn't get anybody who said, "That's it, I'm not buying this book anymore." They liked it, and then they saw the new one, and said, "OK, I can like that, too." People let me know when they are not happy.  

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