One year ago this month, the original X-Men – Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel and Beast – jumped forward in time from their earliest days as heroes into the present day in the new series All-New X-Men. The original five were fish out of the water, getting used to the world, their fellow mutants, and their legacy. Now after the events of X-Men: Battle of the Atom they’re getting used to the future – whether they like it or not is another story – and they’ve decided to dress for the times.
At 2013’s New York Comic Con, Marvel unveiled new designs for the founding X-Men – designed by series artist Stuart Immonen. Gone are the gym shorts and masks, and in their place are more modern uniforms that give each character a unique element while also tying them together with common elements. These costumes are set to make their official debut in January’s All-New X-Men #22 by Immonen and series writer Brian Michael Bendis. Senior Editor Nick Lowe, who oversees All-New X-Men and the redesign process for these characters, says it was a long time coming – a half-century in fact.
“Their costumes were designed 50 years ago, so it seemed like time! But really, it comes down to a character moment and motivation out of where the characters are after X-Men: Battle of the Atom,” Lowe tells Newsarama. “We toyed with doing it at All-New X-Men #9, but with the accelerated schedule of the book out of the gates, they would have only been in the Jack Kirby costumes for five months or so of publishing and a few days of their time. So we pushed it back and it ended up fitting perfectly.”
Immonen’s new designs may differ from the original Jack Kirby designs, but they do offer a subtle callback to other artists’ work on the characters; namely Walter Simonson’s designs for the characters during the early days of X-Factor, as well as Werner Roth who drew the characters an early 1970s run on Uncanny X-Men. Lowe says that he, Immonen and Bendis talked about the various costume changes the characters went through over the years, but relied on Immonen’s abilities to do it without much direction. As Lowe tells Newsarama, his request to Immonen was pretty succinct.
“New costumes, please! Stuart is such an amazing artist that we knew we didn’t need to do much coaching,” Lowe says. “We wanted Stuart to give them current costumes for this day and age. And I love them.”
As seen in the character designs shown with this article, Immonen gave Lowe several options for design elements for these updated costumes, and according to Lowe it only required minor “nit-picking.”
“The fact is that Stuart is a way tougher critic of himself than Brian or I could ever be. Our general response to him showing us his art is to drop our jaws and drool,” reveals Lowe. “That’s been my editing style with Stuart for 10 years.”
Given these characters are pivotal in the X-Men books and Marvel at-large, you’d expect there would be several levels of red tape and approvals to get these designs approved, but Lowe says no.
“There isn’t a lot of red tape up at Marvel, thankfully. There’s some, of course, but it’s generally just passionate people being passionate about art and characters they love,” the long-time Marvel editor explains. “Getting approval for these was really simple. I sent it to Axel [Alonso, Editor-In-Chief], Tom [Brevoort, Senior Vice President of Publishing / Executive Editor], my fellow Senior Editors, the Sales and Marketing folks and what I got back was generally ‘Those are terrific.’”
Although these designs were literally just completed during the summer and won’t hit stands until January, Lowe says he “wouldn’t be surprised” if they started showing up in ancillary Marvel projects like video games in the “near future.”
“That’s another fun thing about Marvel right now. Across the different types of business we do, integration has never been easier. I don’t have any info to share, mind you, but looking at our past track record, I don’t think it’ll be very far off.”
The new redesigns have surprised some fans and had some negative comments due to their change from the classic Kirby costumes have emerged, but generally the fanbase has given a thumbs up to these designs – as has Immonen’s fellow comic creators. Newsarama spoke in passing with artist Cully Hamner, who designed DC’s Blue Beetle as well as many of the publisher’s “New 52” characters, and he gave Immonen’s redesigns his seal of approval.
“Well, you have to understand that I’m starting from a point of loving pretty much everything Stuart does, but I think these are really great,” Hamner tells Newsarama. “Colorful, tasteful, simple, individually distinctive, modern and classic at the same time… just smart all around.”
Immonen is best known as an interior artist with his work on All-New X-Men, New Avengersand Ultimate Spider-Man, Immonen has done numerous redesigns for characters in the Ultimate line during his time there, the Fear Itself event series, as well as the cult-favorite Nextwave – also edited by Lowe.
“Stuart is generally the right person for every job and I wish he’d let me clone him, but he has his ethical standards,” Lowe states. “I’m a really lucky person. I have a job that I love and it lets me work with some of the best artists in the field. And nearly every big-time artist I’ve worked with goes out of their way to ask me about Stuart and to see what his pencils look like and just gush about his work. He’s an artist’s artist who quietly knocks home runs out of the park on a more regular basis than anyone else working today. We’re so lucky to have him on All-New X-Men and I didn’t spend another thought on anyone else designing the costumes. And to top it off, this answer will probably embarrass him because he’s also the most down-to-earth and humble artist, too. What a guy!”