X-Factor's X-Factor: Talking to Peter David
Peter David on X-Factor
In our last interview, David went on the record regarding his dislike for spoiler-ish solicit materials and press which discussed upcoming storylines; he tried explain his stance to fans—sparking an interesting debate regarding how much advance information about a comic book storyline is too much information.
This week, Newsarama attempted to discuss upcoming events in X-Factor with David in the hopes of taking look forward at the near-future of the series; but, alas, David’s potent Socratic-method of thinking and uncanny elusiveness may have fans asking more questions than ever before…
Newsarama: First things first, the end of this month's issue, X-Factor #43, was pretty stunning for a lot of fans—Shatterstar is back! But it seems this "Cortex" person has gotten to him already...so the only question remains: Is Shatterstar going to make it past his shocking return?
Peter David: Well, he's certainly a part of the current story arc. Whether he remains beyond issue #50 is going to depend on a variety of things: How he works and plays with the other cast members, the reader reaction, etc.
NRAMA: Will there be a revelation regarding Rictor's past with Shatterstar? In the past, it's been alluded to that they were "more than friends"...
PAD: All I will say is that the question will definitely be addressed.
NRAMA: Fans of X-Factor are getting two issues of X-Factor in June—how did that work out?
NRAMA: Monet St. Croix is featured on the cover of June's X-Factor #44; with a title like "Dirty, Sexy Monet" something interesting has to be going on--what sorts of machinations can we expect from X-Factor's bad girl?
PAD: I'm not sure how many times I can say it: She gets naked and gets it on with Darwin. Boy, I'm really a prisoner of this whole spoiler mindset, aren't I. If I say I want to clamp down on information, people get cranky because I'm not forthcoming. If on the other hand I tell people exactly what's coming up, they think I'm kidding.
NRAMA: Also in June, in X-Factor #45, Dr. Doom is going to be making an appearance—it appears that he may have the answer to the Cortex mystery; what are your thoughts on Victor Von Doom? Have his current roles in the 'Dark Reign' storyline and the current storyline in Fantastic Four involving the Marquis of Death had any sort of effects on your interpretation of the character?
PAD: They've had no impact whatsoever because, first of all, I was writing these issues before the current storylines came out, so I had no way of knowing how he was being played. It's not as if every script for every book gets circulated in advance to every writer; no one has the time for it, plus who needs the increased possibilities for security leaks? Furthermore, Doom as depicted in X-Factor #45 is eighty years in the future. He's a very different individual; I feel confident in saying that it's a unique depiction of Von Doom.
NRAMA: Siryn and M have been BFF for quite a while now—is their relationship dynamic about to change in X-Factor #46?
PAD: Yes and no.
PAD: Basically the two X-Factor teams are both working different ends of the same situation, unaware of the fact that that's what they're doing (although Layla probably knows because, well, she does that.) It is all going to come together, and questions will be answered. Of course, the fun thing about X-Factor is that it's written in the Socratic method: For every answer that's presented, more questions are the result.
NRAMA: X-Factor #50 may still be several months away, but all of these beats seem to be leading towards a common point; have you been stirring this pot of intrigue since the inception of the first issue? Will there be insight into the murder of Madrox and Layla Miller at the hands of Wolfsbane?
PAD: I'd love to say that I'm that organized that I've been planning issue #50 since issue #1. But I don't work that way, plus it's pretty much impossible to function that way because you never know what universe changes are going to occur. I mean, the original concept of X-Factor was that they were going to be the defenders of Mutant Town, and then "House of M" made Mutant Town pretty much moot. It was Moot-ant town. So the race course changed before the opening gun was even fired. Basically I seed my stories as I go. I spread plot seeds and then over time see what grows from them. The storyline leading to #50 is a result of some of those seeds...plus a good helping of fertilizer.
NRAMA: On issues regarding pacing a story, how do you map out your longer agenda when it comes to writing over-arcing plot threads? Does it start out as an idea that you reverse-engineer into a story? Or is it something more organic?
PAD: I have general ideas in my head, situations, and I drop the characters into them and see how they react. And how they react guides the story. I have an eventual outcome in my head, but how they reach that outcome can vary wildly from what I originally conceived.
NRAMA: In the past, you've been very open about your dislike for solicited spoiler material; you make an effort to disseminate bits of story through a barrage of information provided in the monthly solicitations from Marvel...does your strategy seem to be working? Do readers need a little mystery in their lives? Does this approach sell more copies of X-Factor?
PAD: I think I need to be more specific regarding my views about spoilers, because it's reached the point where some fans are afraid to discuss plot elements on threads because they think I'm going to...I don't know. Burn down their house or something. What I've taken specific issue with are so-called reviews--some a week in advance--which consist of nothing but badly written summaries of every single story beat, followed by some cogent comment such as "Meh." To which people invariably respond, "Great review! I was thinking of buying this book, but now I won't!" What is the point of that? What's the purpose? But if paying customers want to discuss the latest developments, appropriately hidden behind spoiler warnings...well, hey, paying customers. It's their privilege and, considering what comic books cost these days, they've certainly earned it.
The reason I was SO over the top regarding #39-#41 was that I realized there was simply no way to discuss them without blowing major plot lines that were going to best serve the readership if they came as a surprise.
When Newsarama contacted me about discussing future developments, I sent an email explaining in detail why I didn't want to do that. They said, "Can we run the email as an interview?" That seemed kind of silly to me, but I figured, “Hey, it's their bandwidth, they can do what they want with it,” so I said, "Sure." And they did and it prompted all sorts of discussion, and I thought, "I may be on to something." So I kept the information clampdown in place. At least it presented a unique approach to marketing, because fans encounter so much story-specific promotion that it becomes white noise. I figured telling them nothing gives them something new to talk about.
I've even tried to have some fun with the "no spoilers" reputation. That's why in the opening page of X-Factor I've been writing, "And here's what's happening next issue" and then concluding with saying, "Be sure to tell all your friends on the internet." I figured, y'know, kid around. Have some fun with it. Make light of my reputation and show there's no hard feelings. And how have some people responded to that? "Boy, Peter David is sure being cranky and complaining about the internet on the X-Factor summary page." So, y'know, memo to me: Don't try to kid around with the internet, because a lot of fans out there sure can't take a joke.
But now the new status quo is solidly in place, so I'm much less concerned with discussing specific story points. Besides, people now think that I'm a complete hard-ass about discussing story elements, so if I go ahead and talk about what's coming up, maybe it gets their attention even more.
NRAMA: Finally Peter - what are your plans for the rest of the convention season this year?
PAD: I'm doing San Diego, and a few smaller SF and Star Trek conventions.