Spider-Man’s no mutant, but he’s been tasked to train the next generation of homo superior in the upcoming series Spider-Man & The X-Men. This series will pick up the pieces from the climax of the current Wolverine & The X-Men series, which sees the Jean Grey Academy pick up the pieces after the death of its founder (and the title’s namesake), Wolverine. The wall-crawler won’t be running the school however, but will be what series writer Elliott Kalan describes as the school’s “special class guidance counselor.” The web-slinger also has a secret mission – one not even his fellow staff at the school knows.
Kalan comes to this series after doing a handful of one-off stories at Marvel in Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Wolverine and the comedic books Shame Itself and Marvel: Now What?!. Kalan may be new to comics but not to storytelling – with a comic twist; Kalan is head writer of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, working there since 2003. Working with artist Marco Failla, Kalan seems a natural choice to write Spider-Man and do so in this strange new environment. As they say -- welcome to the X-Men. We hope he survives the experience.
Newsarama: Elliott, what can you tell us about this new series Spider-Man & The X-Men?
Elliott Kalan: Spider-Man & The X-Men is a new ongoingseries starring everyone's favorite wall-crawler and a select group of Jean Grey Academy students: Rockslide, Shark Girl, Glob Herman, Eye Boy, No-Girl, Hellion, and Ernst. It's a vehicle for high-adventure, fast-paced fun, and unexpected character dynamics. If you ever wanted to see the X-verse and the Spider-verse collide in surprising ways, then this is the series for you!
Nrama: This series will replace Wolverine & the X-Men, but I don’t see Spider-Man filling Logan’s role of head of the school. So what is Spider-Man’s role exactly at the Jean Grey Academy?
Kalan: Officially, Spider-Man is the "Special Class Guidance Counselor", charged with mentoring students whose needs aren't fully being met by the school. In reality, though, Spidey was given a secret mission from Wolverine before the old canucklehead died -- someone attending the school may be playing for the other side and it's up to Spider-Man to figure out who. Did Wolverine tell the rest of the faculty that this was Spider-Man's mission? Of course not. At the same time, however, Spider-Man has a personal goal of communicating his own ethics to these mutant kids and showing them there's more to being a hero than just battling other mutants.
Nrama: Will this be akin to Xorn’s “special class” from New X-Men?
Kalan: Spider-Man's special class is a little different in that 1) all of the kids are suspects and 2) these aren't new students the way Xorn's class seemed to be. These are students who have been at the school for a little while now, but haven't yet achieved their potential and have reason to be generally disgruntled. All these characters should be at least somewhat familiar to readers of the last few years of X-Men books, but they've been mostly supporting figures lately rather than big stars (no Quentin Quires or Broos in this one). It's time for them to get a chance to show off what they can do.
Nrama: Mutants for the most part don’t have secret identities, but for Spider-Man his is a big secret. Will that play a role here in this series?
Kalan: Mainly, Spider-Man's secret identity gives the faculty and students another reason not to trust him. He's already a non-mutant in trouble with the law, now he won't even show them him his face? The bigger problem is for Spider-Man -- keeping a secret identity in a school full of telepaths.
Nrama: Spider-Man’s no mutant, but he’s had some crossings with them – even kissing the namesake of the school once in Marvel Team-Up #4 and being close friends with Iceman. Who’s on Spider-Man’s side when he comes to the school?
Kalan: To be honest: nobody. He's always had friendly relations with the X-Men (aside from that whole Avengers Vs. X-Men thing), but he's not a member of the family -- and his becoming a faculty member at the school is like if your close friend decided he was a member of your family and started living at your house and telling your relatives what to do. He's an outsider, and they don't really want him there. That being said, the Bamfs seem to like him.
Nrama: Will this pick up any of the storylines from the current Wolverine & The X-Men series that this is replacing?
Kalan: Only in that these are characters at the school who show up sometimes in that book. This is meant to be an easy-to-drop-into, fun-packed, filled-to-the-brim-with excitement book. Spider-Man wants to make a difference in the lives of these kids -- but he doesn't really need to get wrapped up in the ongoing X-soap opera. He's got enough to deal with in his own life.
Nrama: Elliott, you’ve done a number of one-off issues at Marvel, but this would make your first actual series you’re taking on. What’s that like, and what made these characters the right one to do a more long-term project with?
Kalan: The main thing it's like is incredibly exciting. To be able to portray and explore a set of characters for more than a single issue is a lot of fun and a new challenge. A big part of the enjoyment for me is coming up with adventure after adventure for Spidey and the students to get caught up in. For the first time in my comics-writing experience I'm actually getting to put cliffhangers at the end of stories, which is hugely satisfying to me.
As for what made these the right characters, the X-Men have always been such a rich vein of characters and emotions, and only more so in the past eight or nine years as so many new cast members have come into being. It's been fun for me to select a bunch of the newer X-kids that I find intriguing and get to know them better while writing them. It makes sense to do that with a longer-term project just because there are so many of them!
And Spider-Man is a character who's been beloved to me for over 20 years now, since I first started reading comics as a kid. As close as a fictional character can get to feeling real to you, that's how I feel about Spider-Man. For most of my life he's been something close to a moral polestar in how I deal with other people. I'll need multiple issues just to do his personality and ethics justice.
And let's not forget how many opportunities multiple issues provides for Spidey villains to team up with X-Men villains. We may have to tack another ten or eleven issues onto this thing!