Swierczynski Revives X, Dark Horse's One-Eyed Vigilante

 

Duane Swierczynski is on a real roll when it comes to relaunches.

He was the initial writer of The New 52's Birds of Prey at DC back in September 2011, and in 2012 was at the helm of IDW's new Godzilla and Judge Dredd series. That same year, he was a key component of the Valiant revival as the writer of Bloodshot.

So it's not a surprise that Dark Horse turned to Swierczynski for a new version of X, the company's violent vigilante who carried his own series in the mid-'90s. Like the Ghost relaunch before it (also originally part of Dark Horse's "Comics' Greatest World" imprint), the new X series is starting in Dark Horse Presents with a currently unfolding three-part story. That's getting collected on its own in April under the title X #0, with a miniseries — from the same creative team, Swierczynski and artist Eric Nguyen — debuting with a #1 issue scheduled for release on May 8.

Newsarama talked to Swierczynski to learn more about his take on X. Courtesy of Dark Horse, we're also debuting the main cover to #1 (above, by Dave Wilkins) and the variant (below, by Paolo Rivera), plus a page of interior art.

Newsarama: Duane, your relaunch of X seems at least superficially similar to what you did recently at Valiant for Bloodshot — heck, you also relaunched Birds of Prey at DC back in 2011. Do you think your strengths or background as a writer have somehow made you uniquely suited to relaunches? And how did relaunching X compare to other recent projects?

Duane Swierczynski: Hah! Yeah, I don't consider myself a "relaunch guy," but I suppose the evidence speaks for itself. Specifically, I seem to have fallen into a pattern of relaunching titles from the 90s (going back to when I was writing Cable for Marvel).

Am I stuck in a psychic rut? Am I just a '90s guy at heart? No idea. But whenever I'm approached with a character, my first thought is: what can I do with this series that will be fun for me, and the reader? X came up around the same time I was reading a lot of books about American cities, most notably Chris Hedges' and Joe Sacco's Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. I thought about X as a guy looking for revenge, but also fighting for his own city, which really appealed to me.

 

Nrama: And as tends to be a question with projects like this, did you find that X took much restructuring to be brought into 2013, or did the character hold up well to the current climate?

Swierczynski: X is as timely as ever. Hell, more timely than the '90s, if you ask me. Violent crime may have dropped in many American cities, but there's a lot of unease and desperation on the streets, along with the feeling that the game is hopelessly rigged in favor of the few. This is what X is all about: taking vengeance on those "few."

Nrama: I know you've noted in earlier interviews that you weren't reading much comics at all during X's original run, but now that you've gone back and read the early material, what have you liked about it? What is it about the central concept of X that appeals to you?

Swierczynski: The mayhem and action are top-notch, but what really kept me reading was the huge mystery of it all. Who is this guy? What's the deal with the mask and that creepy lock? What's the deal with the one eye!? It's the same kind of mystery I'm trying to stoke with the current series.

Nrama: Broadly speaking, what's your take on X as a character? How might he be different than before, and what makes him, in your opinion, distinct from other dark antihero characters found in comics?

Swierczynski: He's not just a one-eyed vessel of white-hot vengeance. X is an advocate for his city, with a flair for grand guignol and a desire to teach the public-at-large lessons about civic responsibility. X may be a "gritty urban character," but we're trying to put special emphasis on the "urban" part.

Nrama: Following the reintroduction of X in Dark Horse Presents, you're writing a miniseries starring the character starting in May. It's early, but what can you share at this point about the story of that series, and how much does it play off the initial three-parter in DHP?

 

Swierczynski: The miniseries picks up right after the events of the three-parter. (If X were a novel, then the DHP shorts could be seen as the "prologue.") Things get nasty right away. We're also introduced to a new character, a journalist who's just lost her job after the last newspaper in Arcadia folded. But she's refused to quit reporting, and starts filing anonymous reports online. And her latest mission: discovering the identity of this "X killer."

Nrama: It's interesting to hear that you're basing Arcadia at least partly on the real-world city of Camden, New Jersey — how important is setting to the story? And how important do you find having a real-life hook (and one close to you geographically) in making something like that more fully realized?

Swierczynski: Setting is huge for me. I almost always set stories in a city (I'm a Philly kid from the nabe, what can I say?) and consider them secondary characters. Arcadia is a fascinating place, and in this series we'll have the chance to treat it as a corpse on a coroner's slab and do an autopsy on what went wrong. X, though, is trying to slap the defib paddles on Arcadia's heart and shock it back to life.

Nrama: Eric Nguyen is the artist on the DHP stories, and the miniseries as well. What's the experience been like collaborating with him, as you're both breathing life into a character that's been dormant for years?

Swierczynski: Eric's a dream. I should say "nightmare," because his images are so insanely vivid and hellish and eye-popping that they'll keep you up nights. (This is no kinder, gentler X.) But seriously, it's a dream situation because Eric and I keep riffing off each other. I'll be knocked out by a few pages of what he's done, which in turn will inspire me to get even more wild with the next installment, and keep him guessing about where it's all going. I think we're two people who most likely need some form of professional therapy, but man… what a great partner to have on this project.

Nrama: Between X, Bloodshot, Judge Dredd and Godzilla, you're working on a lot of comics right now, and clearly all very different projects. How do you view this current phase of your career? And are there any other upcoming projects folks should know about, either comics or prose?

Swierczynski: This current phase of my career? "Barely controlled mayhem." No, it's fantastic. There are no new comics in the pipeline right now, but I have been working on a new crime novel as well as a big epic nonfiction project that I've been researching on-and-off for four years now. It's too soon to talk about either, but I'm hopeful the novel will appear sometime in 2014, and the nonfiction book, God willing, 2015. That's the interesting thing about writing both comics and prose; monthly comics are like sprinting, whereas novels are more like a marathon. Call me schizophrenic, but I enjoy the strange thrill of both.

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