Majorie Liu and John Barber on Bringing Back NYX

The cover of Marvel's re-launched NYX, due in August, 2008.

More than four years ago, writer Joe Quesada and artist Josh Middleton introduced readers to a new, unique corner of the mutant world. There weren’t gigantic 10 on 10 battles against super-villains in this world. Instead, there were a few kids trying desperately to make their way. It was presented with a style that hadn’t really been seen in so-called “mainstream” comics; a style that has since exploded, and can be seen all over the stands. Now, three years since that series’ conclusion, novelist Marjorie Liu is hitting the comics world with new tales of Kiden and her friends. We spoke with Liu and editor John Barber about the past, present, and future of NYX and what we can expect come August.

Newsarama: Marjorie, your first work with Marvel was on the novel, X-Men: Dark Mirror. How did that lead to you working on NYX?

Marjorie Liu: It was a foot in the door, more than anything else. It gave me an excuse to march up to Ruwan Jayatilleke (Vice President of Development) at New York Comic Con and give him my card. He had liked my work on X-Men: Dark Mirror, and a couple weeks after the convention we started talking about the possibility of doing more -- specifically, comic book work. It took about three years of going back and forth, but here I am!

NRAMA: Your novels seem to focus on two major themes – Romance and the Paranormal. Will readers see those themes enter into the series?

ML: I can't see there being much romance in these books, but as Kiden's dad is a ghost -- and he's a rather important part of the current story line -- the paranormal is definitely going to be part of the series.

NRAMA: How is writing for comics different from writing novels? Was the transition easy to make?

ML: Not easy -- but not as difficult as I thought, either. Storytelling is storytelling, whether you're writing a comic or novel. It's the format that makes things trickier. When you write a novel, you plow straight through and everything works together in an easy mess. But with a comic book script, you have to separate dialogue and description into two distinct parts, and it's a very different kind of effort. Once you get used to it, though, it's a lot of fun. I've been lucky to have a lot of support from my editor, John Barber, and NYX's artist, Kalman Andrasokszky.

NRAMA: How does your law degree affect your writing? Do you feel that education creeps into your stories at all?

ML: I'm certain it does, if nothing else because when you study the law, you also study the human condition -- in a distant, highly compartmentalized sort of way.

NRAMA: You’re a reported fan of the first volume of NYX. How long have you been reading comics?

ML: Since college, so...about eleven years? There was a comic book shop down the street from my school (here's a shout-out to Powerhouse Comics in Appleton, Wisconsin), and it was the first time I ever had easy access to comics. I had watched the X-Men cartoon before that -- found fan-fiction on the internet -- and suddenly got the urge to check out actual comic books, for real. I never looked back.

NRAMA: The first series was grounded in reality much moreso than most mutant books. Is that something you’re still shooting for here? What will be the general tone of the book?

ML: I always try to shoot for reality in everything I do, even if I'm writing about the crazy and fantastic -- and the first series was indeed very gritty, very dark. This one is, too, but the difference is that Kiden and her friends have matured slightly. It's not enough for Kiden to party anymore. She's got friends she feels responsible for, a desire to live off the street and keep a roof over her head. Not that she still isn't spunky and smart and fun -- but her priorities have changed somewhat. I would say that describes the general tone of the book, as well. These kids have formed a unit since the first run of the series, and everything they do will be about preserving the life they've built together as a disparate little family. They still want to be kids, but the world is making them grow up fast.

NRAMA: Tell us about the characters we’ll be seeing. There are some familiar faces on the cover to issue 1…

ML: All the old characters are back! Kiden, Bobby, Tatiana, Lil'Bro...even Cameron Palmer. I kept everyone, because I loved them all so much, and I still felt they had stories to tell, questions to answer. There will be some new faces, but they won't be friendly.

NRAMA: District X, or Mutant Town, was just set ablaze in the pages of [b]X-Factor[b]. Have Kiden and company set up residence elsewhere?

ML: Yes. They're living around regular people, doing the same things as everyone else -- trying to survive, make ends meet, have a little fun when they can.

NRAMA: Where are the kids, storywise, in relation to the first volume? How much time has passed since that initial story?

ML: Hard question. I would say at least six months to a year. Time has always seemed a bit intangible when it comes to comics, at least for me, but they've had enough time to grow into a routine, and get comfortable with each other and their new lives.

NRAMA: This book, and these characters, were co-created by the E-i-C of Marvel Comics, Joe Quesada. Does that increase the pressure of a writing assignment like this?

ML: To be honest, I haven't thought about it. I care about and respect the characters very much. That alone puts enough pressure on me!

NRAMA: Have you enjoyed your first comics experience so far? Any other projects lined up, or that you’re dreaming of?

ML: Oh, this has been a dream come true. I've wanted to write for Marvel since I brought home my first stack of X-Men comics, all those years ago. And yes, there are some other projects lined up. And some I'm dreaming of. 'Nuff said!

NRAMA: John, in August, it’ll have been almost exactly 3 years since the last issue of Volume 1 of NYX. Why bring it back now?

John Barber: We always felt that NYX is a book where the only reason to even DO it, is that we have an exciting take on it. And Marjorie’s understanding of the characters provided just that take. Once Marjorie came on-board, it was really just a matter of waiting until ]Messiah CompleX laid down the ground rules for the X-books. Just like X-Force, this book has a unique place in the world of X, and an utterly distinct feel to it.

NRAMA: Seeing that it has been so long, is this story being designed with new readers in mind, or fans of the first series, or both?

JB: Both, absolutely! I think it’s important that any story arc should work for new readers, really. But especially with something like this, where (as you say) it’s been 3 years since we checked in with these kids, in a very real way, EVERYBODY’S a new reader. We’re definitely treating this as a jumping-on point. And to be brutally honest, I think the original NYX series had shed some of it’s readers over the time it took to actually conclude. So, to anybody that jumped off, here’s a great chance to jump back on!

All that said, if you’re already invested in these characters, their lives are DEFINITELY moving forward in this series, so you won’t want to miss this next chapter in their lives.

NRAMA: The return of NYX was teased at Wizard World LA 2007. Is this the pitch that was being teased then?

JB: Yeah, absolutely. Wait, you mean at a Marvel panel, right? DC wasn’t teasing an NYX series, were they?

NRAMA: How was this creative team chosen? They aren’t exactly household names to the average comic reader (yet)…

JB: Marjorie had written an X-Men novel and got in touch with Ruwan Jayatilleke here at Marvel, who was (for a while) overseeing all the Marvel novels that were coming out, but who was also reaching out to creators from other mediums. I guess they got to talking, and Marjorie wrote a spec script for NYX, kinda like they do with TV shows—not a script that was actually expected to run, but something that showed how she’d write and how she’d handle the characters. Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso loved it, and got the ball rolling. When I moved into the X-Office from the Ultimate books, Axel handed the editorial reigns to me, and at first I had no idea what to expect…Marjorie’s a New York Times bestselling author, but I gotta admit, I hadn’t read any of her books. We talked for a while, and she seemed like she might be really good—then she turned in the first script, and I KNEW she was good. It really floored me.

Kalman Andrasofszky, I knew from working with on the Legion of Monsters series, which, while it, uh, wasn’t exactly a sales powerhouse, was one of the best series I ever worked on. He was actually the one person on that book that I didn’t know before going in. Chris Allo, here at Marvel, suggested him. And Kalman did an amazing job on the “Satanna” story. So when we were figuring out NYX, we knew we needed somebody with a unique look to do the art, and Kalman fit the bill. Then, when he actually started drawing it, he went and proved he was an even better artist than I thought he was. I’m pretty sure he’ll be a household name pretty soon…

And Kalman also suggested John Rauch for the coloring. I’d worked with John before on some Ultimate stuff, but nothing prepared me for what he started doing on this series. He’s really great, and adds a very important part to the creative team. Joe Caramagna, too, on letters, is trying some very unique things! Everybody’s pulling out all the stops.

NRAMA: This is being solicited as a six issue mini-series; is there a chance for more, if well received?

JB: Absolutely. The 6 issues will really stand together on their own, but there are a lot more stories to tell.

NRAMA: Similar to what we asked Marjorie, will the general style and tone from the first series remain here?

JB: We’re trying to push things in the direction of this being as stylish a book as the first series was. It’s still about the same mutant teenagers in the dark underbelly of Manhattan. A little time has passed, but Kiden and Tatiana and Bobby Soul and Lil’ Bro are all still here. The tone remains pretty dark. We’re definitely not giving all the kids spandex and super-hero names. That said, the landscape of mutantkind has really changed. In the first series, these kids were all just another bunch of mutants out of a population of millions. Now, those four represent more than 2% of the total number of mutants on Earth. If anything, there’s even more at stake. Not just their survival, but the survival of the entire species.

NRAMA: What’s one moment from the book that’s blown you away as the scripts have come in?

JB: I think the end of issue #2. I don’t want to give it away, but in quick succession two very exciting things happen to Tatiana. One shows Marjorie’s thinking outside the box about how these kids work, how they think, and how their powers work, both physically and emotionally. The second shows that in Marjorie’s world, nothing is sacred and nobody is safe…

Twitter activity