Though still very early in its existence, the new volume of Marvel's X-Men (just "X-Men," as opposed to fellow ongoing titles like Uncanny, All-New, and Wolverine and the), has showcased an impressive roster of artistic talent joining ongoing series writer Brian Wood.
The book was initially launched with Olivier Coipel on art, and David Lopez is coming on board during the "Battle of the Atom" crossover, which starts in September. As first announced Sunday during Marvel's X-Men panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego, November's X-Men #7 sees Terry Dodson, a major artistic contributor to Matt Fraction's run on Uncanny X-Men a few years back, joining the series for an arc starring Lady Deathstrike and her newly formed Sisterhood — a concept first attempted by Madelyne Pryor during Fraction's Uncanny X-Men, with Lady Deathstrike as a participant.
Newsarama talked with both Dodson and Wood about the latest developments for Marvel's all-female mutant team (headlined by Storm, Rogue, Psylocke, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey and Jubilee), the challenge of bringing back Lady Deathstrike given her current status, the reception to the series so far and what Dodson is looking to do differently this time around with Marvel's mutants.
Newsarama: Terry, you've obviously got quite a bit of experience illustrating the X-Men — what has you excited about joining Brian Wood with X-Men #7, on a series that is obviously different than a lot of past X-Men comics just by its very premise?
Terry Dodson: Honestly, working with Brian Wood is a big factor in this. He's a tremendous writer and visionary so it's great to see what he brings to the title. I've drawn the X-Men numerous times in my career. so it's really comes down to the writer and story to make me interested.
Nrama: Brian, in a lot of ways, Terry seems like a great fit for the book, and he even did a variant cover to #1— what has you excited about working with him for the first time, and how do you see his strengths fitting in to the series?
Brian Wood: Sure I'm excited! I always get asked these questions, like "what's it like working with this amazing artist?" and the most honest answer is simply "It's amazing!" What else can I say? Terry, like both Olivier and David, are really talented and experts at drawing these X-Men. So, yeah, it's amazing. It's one of those situations where I wisely know when to just stay out of the way.
Nrama: Terry, how does your approach to this arc compare to some of your past X-Men work? And are there still plenty of characters in this story that you haven't drawn before? (Off the top of my head, I think Rachel Grey was in space during your time on Uncanny X-Men…)
Dodson: Approach-wise, there are storytelling elements I want to play around with I haven't done previously in X-Men. And this book is so much different than my run on Uncanny — that was a Scott/Emma dominated series of stories.
I've actually drawn five covers for the first seven issues (variants for #1, #5, #6 and the regular for #4 and #7), so I've had a chance to play around with most of the characters and the new redesigned costumes and, now it will be great to draw them from all angles in the interiors. I have not drawn the baby yet so I would have to put that at the top of my list.
Nrama: An intriguing element of the story is Lady Deathstrike returning, and with her a new Sisterhood — and thus, presumably lots more villains. I know the story is still months away, but just Lady Deathstrike herself is a fun visual — how important is it to you to have colorful villains on a story like this?
Dodson: I love designing characters so to be able to do that in the comforts of an X-Men book is a great opportunity. This version of Lady Deathstrike that I designed with input from Brian and X-Men editorial is a completely new character with hints of the old so she will be a nice contrast to the X-Men.
Nrama: Brian, Lady Deathstrike, is a classic X-villain that you're reintroducing in a big way — what interests you about the character?
Wood: She's driven by revenge… so many years of built-up anger and a desire for vengeance, I think that makes a great villain really scary. She looks cool, has a great name and has a lot of fans. The perfect villain to introduce to this series. Classic, like you said.
But, her current status presents some problems. There is no Lady Deathstrike, at least not in physical form. She's just a digitized consciousness right now, and the X-Men are gonna need something tangible to punch! So I solved that, I'm creating a little something new to address this, and it's no doubt something people are going to have a lot to say about.
Nrama: And with her comes an all-new Sisterhood, which seems like a natural concept to bring to the series. I imagine you don't want to get too specific at this very early point, but is it essentially what it sounds like — a formidable team of female mutant antagonists, acting as counterpoints to the book's main cast?
Wood: Pretty much exactly that, and they'll be a persistent, longterm threat, not just for a story arc. Lady Deathstrike is, I think, a pretty formidable opponent, and once she has this new Sisterhood intact, it's going to be an incredibly serious threat to the X-Men. The type of threat where they'll no doubt lose a bunch of battles before they figure out how to win.
Nrama: Terry, this year saw the American release of Muse, the second volume of your European graphic novel series, and in a few months you'll be coming on board X-Men. At this point in your career, how valuable is it to be working on a variety of projects of different genres?
Dodson: Very important!
I grew up being a fan of comics and genre fiction not just superheroes so it's really important for me to work on as wide a range of material as possible — simply because I love so much stuff! At this point it's a matter of finding the material that excites me the most to produce my best work so I can keep growing as an artist and trying new things.
I plan on splitting between company and creator-owned work for the next few years (leaning heavier on creator-owned). This year will only see a few US issues from me, but I've taken on numerous cover assignments to a) allow me to focus on creating singular images and b) keep my art out there on a regular basis. I've been busy most of the year working on my next European/creator-owned book, which is almost finished — it's kinda Tarantino meets Shaft spy thriller set in 1977 LA — it will be released here by a "major" publisher under the title RED ONE. You can see designs from it in my new sketchbook Bombshells 7, featuring Red One on the cover (to see more go to my website).
Nrama: Brian, I think of all of Marvel's recent launches, X-Men was one of the books that sparked the most discussion among fans before the first issue was even released. Now that a couple issues are out, though it's obviously early in the run still, have you been pleased with the reaction you've gotten from readers? (X-Men fans are obviously a devoted — and not necessarily shy — bunch.)
Wood: Overall, and by that I mean a solid 90 percent, is positive. Interestingly, the pre-launch negativity had to do in large part with skepticism that such a book was worthwhile. Post-launch, most of the negative comments have to do it with it somehow not being enough, or lacking in execution. Which is fine, I can take that, but I'm pleased that the book is coming across as something vital, that it "matters," to use the comics-relevant term.
Being as objective as is possible, I can look at it and see a terrific artist and colorist, an editorial team that pulls no punches with me — there are multiple rewrites to both the outlines and the scripts — and a publisher that believes in the team. The characters are all solid and well-loved… it's just a good book, very satisfying for me to see, also very humbling to work with all these great people. I think as long as I can hold up my end, we'll have a successful book that'll run for a long time.