WonderCon 2012: Brian Wood's X-MEN Double Feature

WonderCon 2012: Brian Wood on X-MEN

It's a good time to be a Brian Wood fan.

Not only is he attracting rave reviews for his Conan the Barbarian book with artist Becky Cloonan at Dark Horse, he's also recently returned to Marvel after more than a decade away with the Wolverine & the X-Men: Alpha & Omega miniseries.

And that good time got even better Sunday at WonderCon in Anaheim, when Marvel announced during their "Next Big Thing" panel that Wood is taking over both X-Men and Ultimate Comics X-Men in June, making him the first creator to write the X-Men on an ongoing basis in two different universes.

Starting with X-Men #30, Wood is joined by artist David Lopez for the further adventures of Cyclops' "security team" on Utopia, consisting of Storm, Colossus, Psylocke, Domino and Pixie, investigating a threat connected to ancient proto-mutants. Over in the Ultimate Universe, Wood takes over from previous Ultimate Comics X-Men writer Nick Spencer as of issue #13, trusting Kitty Pryde with the lofty task of saving America.

Newsarama talked to Wood — the writer behind DMZ, Local, Demo and more — about embracing the world of superheroes in two separate ongoing series.

X-Men #30 cover.

Newsarama: Brian, your mainstream comic book career started in the X-Men world, and your first Marvel book back at the publisher after years away was an X-Men miniseries. Now you're taking on two X-Men ongoing series simultaneously — what is about the X-Men that keeps you coming back?

Brian Wood: It's hard for me to make the connection between the last time I worked at Marvel, which was in 1999/2000, and now. That early work, which was 13 issues of Generation X, was my first real comics writing gig and after that ended I made a conscious decision to build my career doing small press creator-owned work instead of pursuing the company-owned track. Doing more work at Marvel now feels like a brand new thing, not a resumption of something from before.

All that said, the X-Men is familiar to me and feels like home to me, in terms of a place to work within Marvel. I have a much higher comfort level with the X-Men than anything else superhero.

Nrama: In the Marvel Universe X-Men series you're taking over, it looks like you're focusing on Storm, Psylocke, Colossus, Domino and Pixie. That's a surprisingly (and refreshingly) female-heavy team — was that a conscious decision? The X-Men world has always had a good amount of important female characters, and a sizable female following — do you see as one of the major strengths of the franchise?

Wood: Well, the title was already pretty female-heavy… Warpath was on the team, sure, but so was Jubilee. So not a whole lot's shifted, but I agree with you that its a good thing. I was excited to take over the book for several reasons, that being one of them. I feel, and have always felt, that the X-Men is the most creatively-rich "group" in all superhero comics, with the most compelling characters and conflicts, and yeah, has always been female-positive. The fans are proof of that. In my career, I've avoided making a big fuss over track record with creating and writing female characters, but the record is there and this book here feels like a continuation of that for me.

Nrama: One of the main aspects of Victor Gischler's run on the series was that it was the place where you could see the X-Men interact more with the Marvel Universe as a whole, bringing in guest stars including Spider-Man, the FF, War Machine and more. Are you looking to do something similar? What can you say at this point about the direction you've got planned?

Wolverine & the

X-Men: Alpha and

Omega #1 cover.

Wood: I'm doing something different. To be blunt. [Laughs.] Seriously, that sort of thing is just simply not what I can do well and no editor would hire me for that sort of thing. I'm not a continuity guy or anything like that, and I think what I bring to the table is a different way of looking at the material, that of a comic book writer who hasn't been immersed in the big universes. This is what I'm approaching the X-Men with, and in doing my research I was struck by a phrase often used to describe this team, Cyclops' "security team." I'm making them a full-on, gnarly security team, the ones not just on the front lines, but way behind enemy lines, so to speak. They'll be operating at the bleeding edge of the human/mutant conflict.

Nrama: On X-Men, you're working with artist David Lopez, who impressed a lot of people with his work last year on Mystic. I'm guessing that you're a bit into your collaboration at this point — how has working with him been thus far?

Wood: So far it's been great. David's one of these guys with seemingly limitless enthusiasm and excitement for the job. Which, I have to say, is kind of a rare thing. I wish I was that turned on by my job, every single day no matter what! I need to bottle it, whatever David's got going on.

He's a terrific artist, has lots of questions and suggestions, and even though it's still early days it's looking like a really successful collaboration.

Nrama: In the Alpha and Omega series, you were writing Wolverine's side of the Schism, located at the Jean Grey School. Now you're writing the Cyclops-supporters on Utopia. Has it been fun to write a broad spectrum of X-characters in recent months? Do you lean towards one set of characters, or are they both enjoyable to write?

Wood: It's absolutely been fun. But in a way it feels a bit like I'm sampling, trying things out and seeing what clicks. First Wolverine's side, then Cyclops, and the Ultimate Universe. I can't say I lean towards one more than the other, at least not yet. And in the case of Ultimate X-Men, that is so different from 616 that any comparison is hard to make. But when the possibility of the X-Men, that specific title, came up I lobbied my editor for it hard. It felt like a right fit for me, for my sensibilities.

Ultimate Comics

X-Men #13 cover.

Nrama: Speaking of Ultimate Comics X-Men, life for mutants is in a very different place in that title and universe. Given everything that's happened since Ultimatum — we're talking about an X-Men comic in a world with no Professor X, no Magneto, no Wolverine and no Cyclops — how fruitful of a venue is it for ideas?

Wood: The whole thing feels wide open, and we ([Jonathan] Hickman, [Brian Michael Bendis and [Sam] Humphries, the other writers in the imprint) treat it as such. That was actually the first bit of advice I got, to go big and take the risks that would be impossible in the main books. For a writer like me, who is attracted to the X-Men because of the core concepts more than one specific character or bit of history or continuity, I see a huge amount of potential.

Nrama: Kitty Pryde looks to be the star of your first arc. What motivated you to focus on her, and what can you about the mission she's embarking on?

Wood: I wanted to focus on her for a couple reasons: she started off as a central character at the beginning of this book but sort of faded into the background as time when on, and who doesn't love Kitty Pryde as a character? Also, I felt I needed to narrow the focus of the title a bit and have a main character and a team to focus on, and she fit the bill (along with Bobby, Jimmy, Rogue, and Johnny Storm). I see The Ultimates as the big, epic, world-building title and the X-Men as the personal, ground-level reflection of those ideas.

Nrama: You're taking on these two books simultaneously, and despite both being X-Men titles, they're clearly very different. Do you see any thematic similarities emerging between the two emerging, or are you just approaching at them as completely separate entities?

Wood: I think there's one thing in common, a naturally occurring trait that is part of my philosophical approach, and that is the mutants in conflict not with other mutants or super powered beings, but in conflict with humans, with society, with the world. That's not to say that's all that happens, but it's a major element of my stories and one where I find the best material to write. It's topical, relatable, and very much in the spirit of what the X-Men has always been about.

That aside, I am forced to approach them separately if only to keep it all straight in my mind. I'm told I'm the first writer, ever, to be writing an ongoing book in both universes at the same time.

Nrama: And even though back in my first question we talked about your history with the X-Men, this is really your first time writing "the" X-Men in an ongoing series. What are you looking forward to exploring with the X-Men in an open-ended run?

Wood: I think I've covered that in the previous questions, so I don't want to repeat myself, but I would add to it by saying that last year, as my Vertigo books were winding down I made the decision that I wanted to try my hand in some big-two universe books and really jump in with both feet. DC, I hate to say it, really saw zero potential in me for that, so I'm very happy that Marvel feels differently.

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