Kieron Gillen Introduces the Five Lights of GENERATION HOPE

Kieron Gillen Introduces GENERATION HOPE

When Newsarama first talked to writer Kieron Gillen about his new Marvel Comics series Generation Hope, it was back in July at Comic-Con International: San Diego, and it was too early for him to divulge much information — not even the identity of the artist of the comic, or any details on the main characters other than the previously debuted Hope Summers.

It's now more than three months later, and with Generation Hope #1 in comic book shops today (preview up here), we've got a whole lot of details. We checked back with Gillen for a couple of follow-up questions, and to gain his insights on the stars of the series, the Five Lights — the first five new mutants (other than Hope) since M-Day, discovered at the end of "Second Coming" and (mostly) introduced in the just wrapped Uncanny X-Men story arc helpfully titled "The Five Lights."

Gillen did us one better, providing full profiles of each of the globe-spanning, uniquely-powered main characters. That follows after our Q&A.

Newsarama: When we first talked about the series back in July, you described it as essentially a mutant emergency response team — “House as a super-team” — but you also couldn't get into much details because the Five Lights story in Uncanny hadn't yet started. That hook is definitely apparent in the preview pages released for the first issue, though. Is that still the central concept of the series?

Kieron Gillen: Yeah — the “House as a super-team” aspect was clear there. As in, something is wrong with a mutant – can Hope and the lights help them out in time? That's still a core thing which drives the series. It's the device which makes them go out on missions.

That's key — the only aim of most young mutant teams is to train and, eventually, become X-Men. Generation Hope differ in that they've got their own purpose — and it's not one that is necessarily going to be always entirely sanctioned by Cyclops.

This, however, won't stop them.

That's the other thing which ties the series together. What is Hope? What's her relationship with the Lights? Because, as some have noticed, the fact that they're all immediately following Hope... well, that's a little uncanny. As people become more aware it, you can believe they'll be unnerved. How could you not be?

When starting to consider the whole “Mutant Messiah” thing, I found myself thinking back to my Catholic education. Specifically, the calling of the first apostles. Jesus turns up. Says “follow me”. They just drop their entire lives and go with him. What would all their friends and family make of it? What would you make of it if it happened to you? Hell, what would even Jesus make of it?

For me, there was clearly a whole lot of a room for drama there.

That's the two main ideas which the series hangs off: “House as a superteam”. “The mutant messiah and her apostles”.

Nrama: Also, when we talked then the series artist, Salva Espin, hadn't yet been announced. You've been working with him for a while now, how has that been? His rending of Kenji in the preview is pretty wonderfully horrifying.

Gillen: He's just great. His previous work has been great, but has leaned towards the cleaner, lighter side of superheroics. With this, you can see him just openly revelled in the physicality of the tumorous folds of flesh. He's perfect for how the book works – it's something which demands you draw Authority-scale epic city-smashing while still being able to focus in and show a genuine, emotional beat. Everything that was great about his work before remains, but with all this absolute darkness. The point has to be contrast. Hope and the opposite thereof.

[And now, here's Gillen's take on Hope and each of the Five Lights — the main cast of Generation Hope, presented in order of their introduction to the Marvel Universe.]

Hope (Alaska, “via THE FUTURE”): “Hope's the first mutant born since the mass-mutant-depowering that was M-Day. She's grown up in a string of dystopian futures, protected by her stepfather Cable. Now she's returned to the present. And her Dad's got killed. And everyone is calling her a Mutant Messiah. And that her return seems to have precipitated the appearance of other mutants may give those claims a little more credence.

Or it all could be coincidence.

The girl's name is in the title. You've got to suspect she's important, yeah?

Her powers are a big question. She appears to be able to tap other mutants powers, a process which exhausts her. That said, being her stepfather's daughter she's much more likely to rely on the skills he taught her since she was old enough to stand. And, of course, she's probably the only one who doesn't really get the reason why raptor flames appearing around her may not exactly be comforting.

There's a twist though, and it's a twist which drives her on. While new mutants are appearing, they're not in control, in any way. Laurie was suicidal, her entire body in pain. Gabriel was running so fast he disappeared and aged years. Idie was destroying everything around her. Teon crossed the Atlantic to get at girls he had an idle fancy for. And Kenji... well, we'll get to him.

But if she touches them, they stabilise. The flickering lights get their bulb screwed in. She saves them.

Hope is a grieving girl, dropped into a world she doesn't understand, and with no real friends. She needs a purpose.

Maybe being a messiah isn't a bad thing to be after all.”


Laurie (Canada)
: “Laurie was the first of the cast Matt and I made up. In some ways, she's the purest. When we meet her, she's in pain and wants to die. She tries to kill herself. Hope dives off a building with her, her touch transforming Laurie... who can now fly, rescuing them both and – bonus! - feeling great.

Generation Hope in a nutshell: let's save each other.

She's pure in a different way. Laurie's smart, sure, but she's not a genius. Almost anyone who's been at school or — especially — university can think of the person who literally revises all year. You normally see them disappear under a stress disorder. That's Laurie. Her life was an arrow, aimed at the education system. That's changed. She was tied down and... well, now she can fly. And she resists that, literally and metaphorically.

In a line? Imagine if Kitty Pryde wasn't actually nice. And — er — could fly.”


Gabriel (Mexico)
: “When we met Gabriel, he was sitting an exam. He wanted to get out of his parent's lives and go somewhere he can have some fun. The compare and contrast with Laurie is important, really. Laurie's parents worked her to death. Gabriel's parents are rich. He's a little bit spoiled.

We should hate him, yeah?

Well, no. He leans flighty and impulsive, but he's the one who actually likes people. In the team-chemistry, he's the one with the smart mouth, the one-liners and the immediate urge to annoy people just for the hell of it. Given a chance to grow up, he'll be an especially charming young man.

His problem is that his growing-up is happening too fast. He aged a year or two in the time it took Hope to stabilise him, his superspeed aging him. He's stabilised now. The question of what “does stabilised mean” has yet to be answered.

In short: there are things you can't outrun.”


Idie (Nigeria)
: “She's the character who's taken the most research. The core of the idea came from a few years ago, when I discovered about the Witch Children situation in the Delta region. You can go and read about it here. Please do, in fact.

Her power set grew from that: they wanted to set her on fire. In the end, she set herself on fire and the whole village with it. The Girl Who Wouldn't Burn. She's immune to temperature and can manipulate its extremes. It's not as simple as HUMAN TORCH + ICEMAN, and should lead to some really distinctive visuals for her.

Of all the power-sets of the Lights, Idie's is the one which causes least problems. Her problem is that she even has a power-set. Idie has been poisoned by ideas about herself.

When writing, she's the one who most regularly surprises me. And it normally scares me.”


Teon (Ukraine)
: “The core of the idea was wanting to twist the “Primal” archetype in a different direction. Yeah, he's fast and tough and strong, but that's not really what Teon's about. The problem with most primal sorts is that they buy into the idea of nature red-in-tooth-and-claw, making them a savage random killer – or that being what they have to resist. That's a simple, arrogant and somewhat Victorian way of viewing nature. Instinct drives all life on this planet. With Teon, the idea was to try and create someone who exists entirely in the modern world, but who processes it in a different way to the rest of us, resting primarily on a hypercharged instinct. He has changed into something else, something new. Lacking subtlety, but enormously efficient. A mutant intellect.

He's also a man who now acts a lot like a dog. That can be pretty funny.

It's also tragic.”


Kenji (Japan)
: “The attempted stabilisation of Kenji is what the first arc of Generation Hope is about, so I'm going to have to be a little looser with him than I was with the other characters. In short: he's the one Light who may have a claim at being the genius. But rather than being the genre-friendly maths or science whiz, Kenji is a celebrated multi-medium modern artist, the enfante terrible of the Tokyo art-scene.

And then he becomes something just as blackly nihilistic as his work.

Kenji's basically my hymn to eighties Japanese body horror, nineties British modern art, 19th century banned literature and the whole concept of art and artistry generally. In that way, he's the character who most reminds me of my work on Phonogram.

You know: where do you get your ideas from? What do you get from your ideas? And if your work is only going to be understood after you're dead, is killing everyone really that smart a move?

That kind of thing.

There's also an alternative one-line description which I'll start using after issue three. Let's just say that it's not quite as highbrow as referencing Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Damien Hirst.”

Will you be checking out GENERATION HOPE this week?

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