Matt Fraction on Uncanny X-Men: Madelyne and More

Matt Fraction on Uncanny X-Men

Uncanny developments are afoot for Marvel’s mutant franchise flagship of the X-line in 2009 and Matt Fraction is standing tall at the helm. Since the titles 500th issue, the X-Men have set up shop in San Francisco; they’ve added new members to the line-up; and some old threats have seemed to appear from out of thin air. In January, Uncanny fans will get a double dosage of mutant mayhem with the release of the monthly issue, #505, as well as Uncanny X-Men Annual #2. The annual, written by Fraction, with artwork from Mitch Breitweiser and a cover by Yanick Paquette—features a solo story about Emma Frost and her early years in the Hellfire Club as the White Queen.

Newsarama contacted Matt Fraction to talk about what sorts of changes were in store for the X-Men in 2009.

Newsarama: First off, let's talk about the upcoming Annual--what's the Uncanny X-Men Annual #2 got in store for the Children of the Atom?

Matt Fraction: Emma, Emma, and more Emma.

Coming very soon, to a major comic book event near you, the divine Ms. Frost finds herself in a very intriguing room, full of very intriguing people, making very intriguing plans. In Uncanny #505 we see how Emma got invited there. And the Annual adds a little bit of backstory to how she ended up there... it interweaves a story of Emma as the young White Queen, back in the glory days of the Hellfire Club as Sebastian Shaw set out to form his Inner Circle, and, in the present, how Emma navigates and negotiates her new status quo. It's a great slab of Emma Frost at her catty, bitchy, scheming and fabulous chaotic-neutral best. I've had a ridiculous amount of fun writing it.

It's been our plan for a while to start gently threading the X-Men back into the tapestry of the Marvel U. again and these are those first few delicate stitches.

NRAMA: Who are you working with on the Annual? Does the story in the annual act as set-up for upcoming stories in 2009 or is it a standalone story?

MF: Mitch Breitweiser, who I worked with on Iron Fist some and who just put out a brilliant Captain America special, is handling the present day bits. The amazing Daniel Acuña, fresh off the Knaufs’ new Eternals series, handles the flashbacks to Emma's youth.

And, as a story, it stands alone as a tale about Emma making deals with devils both past and present; it works as a parenthetical that enriches Emma's history and motivations, casting new light on old relationships and revealing how past dalliances inform her character and -- at no added cost to you the reader-- the Uncanny Annual foreshadows not just where Uncanny is going, not just where the X-Universe is going, but where the whole freakin' Marvel Universe is going. You're welcome.

You can even cut a tin can with it. But you wouldn't want to.

NRAMA: As we saw at the end of #503, and it’s now clear, Madelyne Pryor returns in #504. You've also got a Trask running around in your book causing problems for the X-Men. Can things get any worse? Any hints as to what sort of villains the X-Men will be facing in the beginning of 2009?

MF: Things can get much, much, worse. Maddie's new Sisterhood are up to something no good rotten crazy and insane. Ask yourself: why do they want the X-Men out of San Francisco? What could be so huge that they'd declare personal war on the X-Men? What are they protecting? Why?

What do the women Maddie's recruited all have in common?

And how is Maddie still alive? How can she be in three places at once?

NRAMA: What can you tell us about the Fringe Science Team that Beast and Angel are assembling?

MF: I wish I knew more about Fringe, the TV show, before I had six damn scripts in the can, but oh well. Beast, as seen in Mike Carey & Co.'s brilliant and heartbreaking Endangered Species mini-event, tried the best he could to solve or undo the M-Day Working. And he-- and science-- failed. So he's set his intellect to finding guys that not only think outside of the box, but never actually worked inside the box to begin with. He's going around the world to both combat the mutant brain-drain and to gather some of the best and brightest and weirdest thinkers around... as clearly you need to be the best, the brightest, and at least a little bit weird to outthink a chaos genocide spell...

One character is a very, very old Marvel character. And he might not be the first mutant, but maybe the second. We'll see.

One character is Canadian.

One character is Joss Whedon's. That's right-- Giles is now an X-Man. Okay not really. I wish.

One character has recently returned to print-- triumphantly! Although, I think I was the only person who noticed. He's got former associations with S.H.I.E.L.D., and he's been very, very busy with his pet lizards and moths for the last thirty years.

NRAMA: Will the changes in Worthington's "demeanor" be addressed in upcoming issues of Uncanny?

MF: Yes.

Now you know how Warren single-handedly brought down a Sentinel in Uncanny #500.

He won't be able to keep it a secret from everyone for too much longer. And when he does... well, you know the old saying "it's not the crime, it's the cover-up?" Warren's going to have some explaining to do to some of his best friends in the world.

NRAMA: With the additions of Karma, Dazzler, and Pixie to the line-up, will there be any noteworthy subtractions in the months to come? Can the sheer size of the cast of the X-Men become a bit of a burden for your writing? Or does it have its advantages?

MF: Well, let's talk about line-up for a second. First, you'll notice those're all female characters. The X-Men, we all sort of agreed, had gotten a little too dude-y, so we wanted the fairer sex to blast some fresh air into the place. Uncanny was starting to smell like a sweat sock. So: more women. Yes. Domino? Coming right up.

Second, I think "line-up," in the classic sense, is a bit outmoded and old fashioned for the always-modern X-Men. The move to San Francisco, the public awareness, all of the social changes the team has undergone was, in part, designed to allow for floating membership. We didn't want to be shoehorned into who was and wasn't a character; we didn't want to get trapped in the old Blue and Gold team days. In a way, the entire 198* is the team line-up, y'know? A true ensemble team. Uncanny X-Men, from a certain point of view, is about Scott's stewardship over mutantkind and who he needs at his side on any given day to keep the race alive and kicking for another day, so in a way the whole of mutantkind makes up Scott's team. Somedays that means Karma, Beast, Nightcrawler, Hepzibah, and a kindly old Chinese man that lost his powers on M-Day. Some days it's Emma, Storm, Cannonball, Pixie, Wolverine and Colossus.

We want Uncanny to really be about the whole mutant family-- the good eggs, the black sheep, and all points in-between.

NRAMA: "No More Mutants" and species endangerment are now in the rearview mirror for the X-books. The line of books seems to be basking in a—as one fan put it—“modern/ retro-classic feel” at the moment. Do you think the X-Men are at their best when they can breathe a little or do you think that they're at their best when their backs are against a wall?

MF: What's past is prologue, m'friend, and there ain't no more mutants coming down the pipe. That's framing the entire X-Reality right now. It might not be on the tip of the tongue but it's in the back of the mind--all of these adventures are about survival and propagation. The X-Men are best when they're protecting a world that hates and despises them--but that doesn't mean there's not breathing room there, too.

I'm not sure how something can be both modern and retro/classic at the same time, but man, I'll take it. I hope that the feel of the book speaks more to... I dunno, I guess whatever my voice and style is: a mix of science fiction and super heroes, sex and violence, angst and hope--everything great pop art should be. From the sprawling cast, weird new ideas and classic old ones polished and represented, the song titles for story titles, the amazing artwork, and the macro-narrative dictating flow from the very start... I'm trying my hardest to write the X-book I want to read.

NRAMA: What sorts of issues from our reality lend to the shaping of the events in Uncanny?

MF: I tend to view the core X metaphor through a lens of sexual orientation, rather than race, but I suspect that's a generational response. Clearly you can't have the team move to San Francisco without the metaphor rising to the surface some; that's why Ed and I thought SF was so perfect a new home. But it's always about tolerance. The X-Men are representative of whatever oppressed minority you yourself are a part of. They're everybody's hero, they're every underdog's saviors. They're the very best of who we are and what we can do because of their intractable goodness in spite of a world that outright hates them.

The intersection of science and biology is on my mind a lot these days, of taking the reigns of evolution in our own RFID-laden hands and directing it where we wish. And faith vs. science. That's a huge one right now. Scott's faith-- the faith of the mutant species-- tested against cold and unflinching scientific reality. What does it meant to have faith? Not religion-- faith.

Governmental legislation of sex and love bubbles up to the surface. I didn't know about Prop. 8 when I started writing but I do now, and we've got a kind of PROP 8 equivalent coming soon. What if there was a law passed that said you couldn't breed...?

This kind of stuff is why the X line has lasted so long and has such a robust history and devoted following-- there's always so much more going on under the surface.

NRAMA: If you could perform a trade with any of the other writers of the X-books--which characters would you want? Who would you trade away--and why?

MF: I'd actually love to have Jason Aaron's talent for a day. Or maybe Craig Kyle and Chris Yost's character instincts. Peter David's longevity, gift with a hook, or snap. Mark Gugenheim's laser-keen story sense. Dan Way's liver, just to prove it exists. Mike Carey's... Mike Carey-ness.

The thing is, we all get along really well and everybody wants to make the best X line we can so... so there's really any diva-ness happening. We all share pretty well, I think. We're all aware of who's doing what, when, with whom, and for how long, so I've not once had an issue with character availability. Everybody shares when they can, and if they can't it's for the story, and not to serve ego or anything. Hell, I'd bet that I'm the problem child, just because there're so many characters and threads happening in Uncanny.

That and I'm a total dick.

NRAMA: Four buzzwords for Uncanny in the upcoming months and the start of the new year.

MF: "Bendis" "Millar" "Loeb" and "Wolverine."

No, wait.

"Faustian."

"Corpses."

"Quitters."

and

"Secrets."

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