James Asmus Takes on GENERATION HOPE in the REGENESIS Era

James Asmus Takes on GENERATION HOPE

Generation Hope

#13 cover.

Almost exactly a year after writer Kieron Gillen launched Generation Hope, a Marvel ongoing series starring Hope Summers and the "Five Lights," James Asmus is replacing him on the book — which has lost Idie Okonkwo to Wolverine's side of the post-Schism, "Regenesis" era, divide, but gained a new primary cast member in the widow's-peaked form of a freshly mindwiped Sebastian Shaw.

The new era begins with Generation Hope #13, scheduled for release on Nov. 16 and illustrated by Ibraim Roberson, who previously collaborated with Asmus on Steve Rogers: Super Soldier Annual #1. Call it "Generation Hope: The Next Generation." (Or don't, actually, because that sounds dumb.)

Asmus has written plenty of X-Men comics for Marvel — including last year's Uncanny X-Men annual and last week's issue of Astonishing X-Men — but this is his first ongoing series gig at the publisher. Newsarama talked to the Los Angeles-based writer about his plans for Generation Hope as they stick with Cyclops on Utopia, how much Kevin Bacon's portrayal in X-Men: First Class is shaping his depiction of Sebastian Shaw, and the creative freedom inherent in writing Marvel characters that don't come with decades of continuity.

Newsarama: James, you're on board Generation Hope as of this month, and it's your first ongoing series for Marvel. As a reader and an X-Men fan, had you been following the book closely before the assignment?

James Asmus: Yeah, absolutely. Generation Hope had quickly become one of the very few books that I was actually making a point to buy every month.

I think in general, teen superheroes really are so gratifying, especially in the Marvel approach to heroes, which are flawed and sort of relatable — where their emotional journey is as much a part of the story as any fisticuffs. Teenage heroes who, just by virtue of their station in life and how much they're learning, and how emotional those years are — it makes my favorite kind of superhero stories, if not just the best superhero stories. You get to see someone fail, and learn, and have your own sort of emotional chaos equal to that of the supervillainy around you.

Generation Hope

#14 cover.

The mutant metaphor has been used for a lot of stuff over the years — civil rights, and certainly gay rights — but at its most basic, it's feeling ostracized. Feeling strange and "other," and you can't ignore how perfectly that lines up with being a teenager, and the exact time you start to really worry about what other people think about you. Much like mutants, teenagers are experiencing strange changes to their bodies. [Laughs.] Everything feels life or death. I always think that's fantastically fertile ground.

Specifically with Generation Hope, these characters are just really, really intriguing to me. Kieron and Matt Fraction set it up to sort of introduce these characters closer to some more general team constructs, and then as the book pushed a little bit further, they were unearthing all these weird little wrinkles. Teon is that wild, feral, Wolverine-ish character — once you find out how his powers work, and his nature, it's totally different. They basically went through this with all of their characters, and to me, that's much more inspiring and engaging as a writer than just giving someone an accent. I fell in love with the characters, and I saw so much potential in how specific their viewpoints are, and how clearly they laid out how these characters feel about their own mutation. I already know that I have more stories I want to tell than I will have time to tell them, unless I get a Claremont-ian run on this book.

These characters being new also give me a different opportunity that I'm excited about. When you're writing someone like Cyclops, so many people have written them over so many years, that the audience has their idea of what the character is, and who they want them to be. Generally, it's whatever version they've read first. People really only have like, 14 issues of these characters to hang over my head, so I also incredibly excited by the freedom.

Nrama: So will the book maintain the same general direction as it had during Gillen's run? Is the team's mission statement staying consistent?

Asmus: I love so much about Kieron's run that I'm not looking to totally upend what he did. The team's purpose is definitely going to stay the same, initially.

I'm also really excited to dig in and pay off some of the storylines he has set up as kind of a slow burn. Sooner rather than later I'm going to get into the bubbling future betrayal that Kenji and Laurie have been plotting and planning in the shadows of the book. There's no shortage of big events that will arrest the attention of our characters.

Nrama: One big addition to the book is a character that has been around for a long time — Sebastian Shaw. Obviously a lot of people saw Kevin Bacon play Sebastian Shaw this past summer in X-Men: First Class. How significant is that factor in what you're doing with Generation Hope?

Asmus: The thing that really makes me aware of that is that is the way my wife knows who he is. Whenever I'm talking about what I'm working on, I frequently have to remind her that it's Kevin Bacon in X-Men: First Class. Having a wife who's only just learning a lot of comics helps me remember that I want someone to be able to come onto any book I'm writing at any time they might happen to pick it up. I try to be aware of building off things that have already happened without making it so intensely self-referential and mired in its own continuity.

Generation Hope

#15 cover.

The nice aspect of the particular story we're telling about Sebastian Shaw is, the last time anyone saw him he had his mind wiped. He was essentially a blank slate. This story we get to tell is the tension of questioning nature versus nurture. If you know that this person had become something horrible, something unrepentantly destructive, before, then it becomes the question of, "Is that inherently who he is?" Or is there the opportunity to turn him into something else? I will admit, I'm still deciding, and I'm hoping to let the stories kind of reveal his path for me. That one's not going to be a fast transformation. I hope we can get some really good mileage out of it.

At the same time, there's the extra tension of knowing that Sebastian Shaw was one of the major corruptive influences that turned Jean Grey into Dark Phoenix. Of course, everyone is worried as to whether or not Hope has some sort of connection with either Jean or the Phoenix. It feels like the perfect match of characters to just keep turning up the heat.


Another thing I'm excited about is, as Kieron has been shaping up his Uncanny X-Men team to be just a whole bunch of ex-villains, I was very interested in figuring out our own way to sort of echo that on Generation Hope. I think it thematically fits a little bit better with their side of the Schism.

Nrama: And with Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost both ostensibly on the same side post-Schism, can we expect some interaction between the two?

Asmus:  Absolutely. I have a deep love for Emma Frost, so I will admit, selfishly, another thing that sold me on the choice of bringing him into the book is that it essentially forces me to write more Emma Frost scenes, which I was really excited about. 

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