In the first part of our interview with writer Mike Carey, posted Friday, we discussed in-depth about Age of X, his seven-part alternate timeline X-Men story starting in January 2011.That left a lot to ground to cover, though, which we cover in the second half of our chat — more on Age of X, including the art from Clay Mann and Steve Kurth plus the marketing campaign behind the story arc; Thor: Wolves of the North, his one-shot out this week with longtime collaborator Mike Perkins ; 2011 video game X-Men: Destiny; and even a bit about his Vertigo title, Unwritten. [Newsarama note: This interview was conducted before Mike Carey was announced as the writer of relaunched CrossGen title Sigil.] Nrama: Mike, one of the things that has generated a lot of interest regarding Age of X is the innovative marketing, from the initial teasers to the barcodes appearing in comics, unlocking images with a scanner. Have you had any input on that end?
Carey: Not really. Those key moments in the Age of X timeline, I collaborated with Daniel in deciding what those should be: what events we should show, and how we should show them. A lot of this stuff though, is happening in the X-office and then I’m getting to hear about it. But it has been fantastic, the way which the rollout has happened, and the way X-Men fans are reacting to it. It’s great to be at the helm of something like this, it’s really, really exciting.
Nrama: This is probably your biggest story, in scope, at Marvel.
Carey: Oh yeah. I think so. And it’s a story I’ve got total confidence in and commitment to. From the moment that we started putting it together we just felt like we had the wind at our back, that this is something really, really cool and we could do some great things with it.
Nrama: And in the history of X-Men, there’s a pretty rich, pardon the word, legacy, of these types of alternate timelines and futures.
Carey: Yeah, there really is. “Days of Future Past” is still considered to be a classic. It’s one of my favorite X-Men stories of all time. I would rather in some ways that people would see it in that tradition than compare it straightforwardly to something like “Age of Apocalypse.” It’s a unique animal, I think, this story.
Nrama: Art-wise, it’s Clay Mann, who you’ve been working with on X-Men Legacy, and then Steve Kurth on New Mutants.
Carey: That’s right. I’ve started to see pages come in for the first two issues. The pencils for both of those issues are effectively complete now. It’s just amazing, awesome stuff. There’s so much design work to do for this story. Everyone looks different from their 616 counterparts, every time we bring a new character in they have to be rebuilt from the ground up. The settings are very different and very strange, both the exteriors and the interiors. Clay and Steve are just hitting it out of the park, to use a tired metaphor. The pages are absolutely gorgeous.
Nrama: Is there an artist that maybe took the lead on doing the redesigns for the characters, or has it been collaborative?
Carey: It’s been collaborative. Clay was sort of activated earlier, so those designs that you’ve been seeing recently have mostly been his first wave of designs, but Steve has done a lot of work since then as well. It’s been very, very smooth interaction between the two of them, they’ve been firing materials back and forth with each other, talking about who’s going to get to a particular character first, and who’s going to take the lead on the design, stuff like that. They’ve been really good at passing the baton backwards and forwards.Nrama: Touching a little on some of the other stuff you’ve got going, let’s move from a very big story to a one-shot — you’ve got Thor: Wolves of the North coming out this week.
Carey: Yeah, that’s right. I’m lso ooking forward to seeing that. It’s always a huge pleasure to work with Mike Perkins. We go back a long, long way. One of the first comic books I ever did in the American market was the Dr. Faustus for Caliber, for which Mike did the art. He’s been one of my best friends in the industry ever since, as well as being a truly fantastic and inspiring artist. He brings out the best in me – and then makes me look better.
Nrama: Sounds like it’s going to be a good team for that type of story, since it’s an ancient Asgardian tale.
Carey: That’s right. Completely outside of current continuity, it’s Thor in the Dark Ages, fighting an army of demons, and Hela, and it’s sort of all-out mayhem, fantasy-action.
Nrama: And that was your first time writing Thor in a starring role, correct?
Carey: I think I wrote, like, two pages of Thor in “Second Coming,” I had him in a scene with the Avengers., where they’re trying to break down the barrier around San Francisco If you include Ultimate Thor, he also came into one scene in my Ultimate Fantastic Four run, but I’d never written a full-on Thor story before this, and it was crazy fun, I really enjoyed it.
Nrama: You’ve been so entrenched in X-Men stuff, and also Unwritten, that other than your work on the Ultimate titles from a few years back, you haven’t really written much in the Marvel Universe outside of the X-Men. With the Thor one-shot under your belt, is that something you’re interested in continuing to explore?
Carey: I would love to do more in the mainstream Marvel Universe. They’re fantastic characters. It’s always a real blast to play in that sandbox.
But, yes, I’ve been colossally busy this year. Busier than I’ve ever been at any point in my life, and I used to be a teacher! I’ve been writing a novel, writing a movie, writing a game…Nrama: I wanted to ask about that game, X-Men: Destiny. A new trailer for it just came out. It’s still a long ways away — almost a year until the game comes out — but what has the experience been like so far? It’s your first video game, right?
Carey: Not exactly. I did some work for one of the Electronic Arts subsidiaries for a game that is not now going to happen. And way back in the day, I did a tiny, tiny bit of work on Fable. But this is the first time I’ve been centrally involved in writing the script for a game. So yes, it was a first in that sense.
It’s fascinating because it’s a very different kind of storytelling from comics or movies, though superficially it looks similar. It’s different in that the whole structure, the whole logic of the narrative has to work differently. In a comic, or in a movie, you have essentially on sequence of events, where in a game you have branching events which pull the story off in different directions. You have kind of a diastolic/systolic, with events spreading out and coming together, with some key moments carrying through in lots of story strands, and some only in a few. In a way, it’s like having your cake and eating it. You can play out all the consequences, instead of just choosing one line. The challenge, then, of course, is to keep the sense of a narrative.
Nrama: It also seems that for a video game like this, you have to present the characters in their most recognizable form for a wider audience.
Carey: For the franchise characters, I think that’s true. One of the coolest things about X-Men: Destiny is that you’re not playing a core X-Men cast member. You’re playing a young mutant, who’s just come into their powers. So you’re interacting with all the X-Men, and with other characters from the X-Men universe, but you’re not yourself an X-Man. You’re still earning your stripes, kind of thing. It’s a cool and unique approach to writing an X-Men game.Nrama: I don’t know if it’s just coincidence or not, but that sounds like it match up well with what you’ve been doing in X-Men Legacy, which has involved lots of the younger mutants, especially lately.
Carey: Yeah, that was just a pleasant coincidence, but you’re right, it is similar in a lot of ways. I love taking characters that people are sort of neglecting, and trying to find a different angle to present them from. Not reinventing them, because the cool stuff is already there, but just putting a spotlight on it.
Nrama: Mike, I think that about covers what you’ve got going on Marvel-wise at least, but is there anything else you want to make sure readers know about?
Carey: Can I say something about Unwritten? Issue #24, it’s not coming up all that soon, but we bring back one of our favorite characters so far – when you see the cover, you’ll know who we mean – and it has a cast consisting entirely of talking animals.Which upcoming Mike Carey project are you most looking forward to?