This is an important month for Kieron Gillen.
Last week, Uncanny X-Men #534.1 — his first solo issue following four co-written with Matt Fraction — hit shelves. This week, he’s got another issue of Uncanny X-Men out, #535 (preview here) plus Journey Into Mystery #622 (preview here), the new old title of Thor (which itself is relaunching later this month with the Fraction-penned The Mighty Thor #1).
Journey Into Mystery — a comic Gillen intriguingly describes as a “logical meeting of Sandman and Queen and Country” — retains the old Thor numbering, and sees the writer returning to the Asgardians after his late 2009/2010 run on the God of Thunder. This title, though, stars Loki — who now happens to be a kid.
In Uncanny X-Men #535, Gillen’s also returning to somewhat familiar territory, specifically the Breakworld and Agent Brand, whom he wrote in the five-issue S.W.O.R.D. series. #536 is scheduled to ship this month as well, bringing Gillen to five single issues in April.
And don’t forget Generation Hope — the saga of Hope and the “Five Lights,” who very well appear to be the future of mutantkind — which starts a new story arc later this month titled “The Ward.”
Yeah, that’s a lot, and Newsarama talked to Gillen about all of it, including how Jason Aaron’s upcoming X-Men: Schism relates to Generation Hope, the inherent challenges in writing a likeable PR person given Gillen's journalism background, and what the youthful Loki has in common with a certain beloved Belgian comic strip character. All that, plus big words like “avuncular.”
Newsarama: Kieron, first, I have to ask: as a journalist, was it an especially daunting task to write such an extraordinarily gifted PR flack — Kate Kildare — as one of the main characters of Uncanny X-Men #534.1?
Kieron Gillen: Well, by showing a PR in such a positive light I feel that I was betraying my old fraternity. Writing a PR as anything other than a supervillain feels wrong.
Honestly, it was a lot of fun. Clearly, I've interacted with a load of PRs, and I was inspired by various little aspects from many of them. Except Kate would absolutely pick up the phone and never pretend not to be in the office. Because she is, of course, a fictional character.
Nrama: The Point One issue devoted a lot of time to Magneto, and raised some important questions about his place on the team. So it looks like though he's been announced as a big part of X-Men Legacy post-“Age of X,” he'll also continue as a main character in Uncanny? (Not the first time a Marvel character was prominently featured in two comics at once, I'm pretty sure.)
Gillen: He's as predominant as any of my core cast in Uncanny. I've plans for Magneto for the next couple of years at least. That he's such an enormous powerhouse means he plays directly into Scott's plans for the X-Men team.
Nrama: For the “Breakworld” arc, the focal point characters are Colossus and Kitty Pryde. Why was exploring their dynamic a priority for you, early in your solo run? And given Kitty's current perpetual intangibility, what is it about romantic X-Men couples and being unable to touch (in the rich tradition of Gambit and Rogue)?
Gillen: There's no love more dramatic than a frustrated one.
Basically, I wanted to do something that concentrated on that question. Something's clearly wrong with Kitty, and I felt that we needed to explore that as soon as possible. Her getting a solidity suit was a major step. I wanted to take another one for her, and that logically enough meant bringing in back all the things which made her intangible in the first place.
Nrama: In Generation Hope #5, Hope further added to Professor Xavier's bag of guilt by telling him that the whole "school for gifted youngsters" was actually part of the problem rather than the solution. Obviously Hope is sassy pretty much all the time with everyone, but can that scene be interpreted as sort of a final dismissal of the old X-Men way of business, for anyone who misses that status quo? Basically, that Xavier's way is gone and ain't never comin' back? (Also, was the line "There's few things I enjoy more than seeing young mutants at play" meant to sound kind of creepy, or was it just me?)
Gillen: I wouldn't say a dismissal, but rather a demonstration of where the future of the X-men lies in 2011. The basic Magneto/Xavier dichotomy has proved a magnificent story device — but it's a story device which has been pretty well explored now. Each generation rephrases the political debate, and the X-Men should do likewise. I would say having Magneto and Xavier both working on the same project, following someone else's (Scott's) design is as much of a statement of the current status quo as Hope's picking at some of the loose strands in Xaviers' philosophy.Borderline creepy, but I think Jamie [McKelvie, Generation Hope #5 artist and Gillen’s collaborator on Phonogram] sells the avuncular nativity of Xavier. Once upon a time you could say that, y'know? It's nowhere near as creepy as seeing Hope and the Lights on the firing range. Both were, for me, funny scenes, but there's more than a little darkness there too.
Nrama: Coming up later this month in Generation Hope #6 is "The Ward," which comes with the tagline in the solicitation, "THIS STORY WILL BE TALKED ABOUT FOR YEARS!" What can you tell us about that story, and how is merits such a lofty proclamation?
Gillen: Nick Lowe drinks cough medicine all day and then gets loose on the Internet.Generation Hope
#6 cover.Really though? It's me playing with some more extreme mutant manifestations. It's full of genuinely creepy imagery, and presents the team with a problem which you just can't punch. It's very much the sort of thing which people will bring up in comment threads in a "Remember when they did XYZ?". It's a simple idea, but —I think — powerful. The whole next six or so issues of Generation Hope is me pushing for new angles on the young mutant experience. It's about dealing with change and not dealing with change, and trying to maintain hope and all that.
Man, I should drink some of Nick's cough medicine. I'm too English and reserved to properly hype stuff.
It's work I'm very proud of, in short.
Nrama: A rather big story called X-Men: Schism was announced earlier this month at WonderCon, with writer Jason Aaron saying in our interview with him, "I would keep an eye on what Kieron Gillen is doing on Generation Hope." So, how closely should readers examine upcoming issues for hints towards what's coming in Schism? And while they're at it, should they re-read #1-5, too?
Gillen: I think it's worthwhile reading 1-5 just because I think people will get a different perspective on the opening Tokyo scenes knowing what happened in 1-3.
But with Schism in mind, you should absolutely keep an eye on Generation Hope. We tie into Schism on Issues 10 and 11 of Generation Hope directly, and the character development between now and then is key influences on Schism. The team that emerges from the struggles up to issue 9 is going to have to deal with the enormity of Schism. They've been previously acting on their own stage - as in, mutant-rescue group. This is when all the past history of mutantkind — the sort of thing which made Xavier call it a School for Gifted Youngsters — come crashing down on them.
Nrama: Turning to the Asgardians — at C2E2 last month, Matt Fraction referred to Journey Into Mystery as "Kid Loki as the Asgardian Tintin," as enticing a description as any. Would you say that's an accurate elevator pitch for the series?
Gillen: I love that line, and it's totally accurate, but I've been avoiding using it just because Tintin isn't quite the thing in America as it is in Europe. He's the sort of character you can imagine doing the boys-own-fiction equivalent of climbing the world-tree and scrumping apples. Him creeping out a lesson he's meant to be in, to go to Hell and hang out with demons. That kind of thing.
But the other side of this is that we have this hyper-clever boy character dealing with the seriousness of the mythological side of our universes. Loki hasn't got the raw power to deal with a problem like Thor would - instead, he's going to have to be proper sneaky. At the least, he has to find some way to make people who *do* have Thor's kind of raw power to help him out... and then find a way to keep it quiet that he was ever involved. The one line I use has been if The Mighty Thor is Avengers than Journey Into Mystery is Secret Avengers. Same universe, but a very different approach to the material. If you want two comic references from the American market, I almost see Journey Into Mystery as a logical meeting of Sandman and Queen and Country.
Nrama: And looking at the preview for Journey Into Mystery #622, as I was mere seconds before typing this question, it looks like Thor is around plenty, for this issue at least. Will he continue to be a recurring character in JIM? (Based on Fear Itself #1, it certainly seems like he'll be occupied for a while.)
Gillen: The relationship between Thor and Loki lies at the heart of Journey Into Mystery. Even if Thor isn't in an issue of our Fear Itself tie-ins, the relationship between them is what's motivating Loki. He's the only person who appears to even vaguely like Loki. This is important. How could it be otherwise?
cover.Nrama: Loki's had an interesting, ahem, journey these last few years — died, reborn as a female, back to normal, died again, reborn as a child — what's appealing about writing a youthful Loki rather than just regular ol' Loki? What can you do with Kid Loki that you can't do with Adult Loki? (Uh oh — now I'm the one who sounds creepy.)
Gillen: Loki's the God of Mischief, but he's been traditionally used in a manner more akin to the God Of Evil. That's not the only mythological take. With Journey Into Mystery I'm trying to explore the idea of "Loki as Trickster". That's something that sits much better with a younger character, I think.
The most interesting thing is that we've the position where the Young Loki is dealing with a reputation of his older, clearly evil self. Everyone presumes this is a ruse. Hell, even the reader should have an eyebrow raised. It's Loki! Something's up. By the end of the first issue, we know what's going on, which adds real drama. The only thing which is keeping Loki from a knife in the dark is that his older brother's protecting thing. As the world turns bad for Thor, as seen in the first issue of Fear Itself, they turn similarly bleak for Loki.
And one boy trying to help a city of Gods, most of whom despise him? That's dramatic for me. And as well as that, it has a wonderful element of sadness beneath all the adventures. We can root for him, but we can't help but also
suspect that maybe the people who hate him are right.
It's an unusual book, Journey Into Mystery. I can't wait to see what people make of it.