Last weekend at Comic-Con International San Diego, Marvel Comics announced the launch of a follow-up to the successful X-Men Noir series from earlier in the year. X-Men Noir: Mark of Cain reunites the creative team of Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero for a second project focusing on a unique take on Marvel’s Children of the Atom. Details are limited at this time, but the title to this mini-series suggests the involvement of Professor Xavier’s half-brother, Cain Marko, or as diehard Marvel fans call him: The Juggernaut.
Newsarama contacted Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero to discuss X-Men Noir: Mark of Cain and it’s portents as well as how the two creators utilize noir film and literature to flesh-out their work in Marvel’s Noir Universe.
Newsarama: Fred, let's talk about the title of this new mini; how does Cain Marko figure into this new story? Or does the Mark of Cain mean something more?
Fred Van Lente: The "Mark of Cain" has a number of different meanings. It refers to Far East mercenary and half-brother to Charles Xavier, Cain Marko, who sets the events of the book in motion. It refers to the bond between brothers, both between Charles and Cain, as well as the twins Thomas and Robert Halloway, known collectively as The Angel, one of whom was slain in the original X-MEN NOIR, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still hold some sway over the brother who survived. And it refers to the curious practice of Emma Frost, warden at Genosha Bay prison, who tattoos her Maximum Security inmates with an "M" over one eye to readily identify them from the rest of the convicts.
NRAMA:: Will there be a number of returning familiar faces or will this story feature a new cast? Who are some of the characters being focused on this time around?
VanLente:: When we last saw Angel, he and Cyclops had sailed off with Captian Logan and his first mate, Eugene Judd, to Madripoor to escape the heat, literal and metaphorical, on them in New York City after the explosive finale of the first X Men Noir mini. We pick up their tale in Madripoor, where Marko has brought them in on his quest to find the Temple-Tomb of Cyttorak, and the priceless gem therein; a gem that is said to be protected by the mysterious, unstoppable force known as "The Juggernaut". But surely, these are only legends...
NRAMA:: What can you tell readers about the Mark of Cain story?
VanLente:: Meanwhile, Charles Xavier, the infamous "Professor of Crime", has been released from Riker's Island due to the simple fact that anyone who could testify against him is dead. He's been asked to assist his old student, Ms. Frost, at Genosha Bay. The prison, which is supposed to hold the most sociopathic of the nation's criminals, has been rocked by a torture scandal, with accusations of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and worse. Once Xavier gets there he begins forging his All-New, All-Different X Men; including a German acrobat in a devil mask; a Russian bruiser who's a talented artist; a Kenyan pickpocket who was once worshipped as a goddess...
NRAMA:: Will the events of the last story have any bearing on Mark of Cain? If so, what sorts of conflict will be carrying over from the previous story?
VanLente:: Xavier has told the press he will not rest until he brings to justice the killers of his close friend, Eric Magnus, Chief of Detectives. So when Cain Marko, who has double-crossed our anti-heroes, winds up dead in Genosha Bay, crushed as if by an unstoppable force, the Angel immediately suspects the Machiavellian Professor X. But is that just what X wants him to think...?
NRAMA:: Dennis, what sort of research have you done to give authenticity to the visual of X-MEN NOIR?
Dennis Calero: Both Fred and I delved into films of the period, such as the Third Man, and films set in the period, such as Chinatown, and hundreds of photographs and documentaries, all trying to get a sense of what it was like...what if felt...to be walking around New York in the 30s and 40s.
New York is a city whose character is constantly evolving, year to year. Someone who lived here ten years ago would find the city new and fresh in some aspects. That's part of what's fascinating about the city.
NRAMA:: What sort of collaborative exchanges do the two of you have in regards to each others' processes?
VanLente:: E-mails, Twittering, phone calls, drunken bar trips, Facebook comments; we've been bouncing this project back and forth between each other using every known means of communication, and we're pretty excited.
Calero: We talk all the time, as friends as well as collaborators. We both love the same stuff, so it's great to bounce ideas off each other, because we're coming from the same place.
NRAMA:: Who is your favorite character in the cast of X Men Noir and why?
Calero: I'm having fun with our Nightcrawler, who, in his own way, I think will be as interesting and complex as the original.
VanLente:: I like our hero, the Angel. I just think it's cool he grew up in prison and learned all his skills from hardened criminals that he now uses in service of the good.
NRAMA:: What sorts of outside sources would you recommend to the fans of X Men Noir if they wanted to try some noir fiction or films?
VanLente:: I just came back from seeing "In a Lonely Place" starring Humphrey Bogart at Film Forum here in New York. Bogie plays a screenwriter accused of murder and it's an amazing flick.
Calero: You can't go wrong with Welles, but to take it in an unexpected direction, fans might want to try a little film from the 90s called Red Rock West, starring Nicolas Cage. It feels very much like the Westlake and Cain noir novels and films, but in a modern setting.
NRAMA:: These noir books have really developed a fanfare for experiments mixing superheroes and genre writing; would the two of you want to explore other genres in this manner or do you want to stick to writing noir stories with characters from the Marvel Universe?
Calero: Fred and I have ideas, some of which also combine noir fiction with other genres to create interesting blends that, to us, are both new and exciting. We hope to bring them to life in the future.
VanLente:: I would really love to combine the Avengers and bass fishing. Seriously. I think there's a market for it.
NRAMA:: Is this a dream project for the two of you? What sort of project could Van Lente and Callero see themselves working on together in the future?
Calero: This was my dream book. But there's a humor book involving a Marvel character that Fred and I hold out hope for, something that we came up with the first time we met. I hope I'll be working with Fred for a long time to come.
VanLente:: Dennis and I have such a blast working together we've started kicking around a few creator-owned projects; hopefully those will bear fruit sooner rather than later.