An Uncanny Update with Matt Fraction

An Uncanny Update with Matt Fraction

Uncanny X-Men #507

Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men seem to be settling down into their new San Francisco digs with relative ease. Oh there are the random ex-mutant refugees and a villain sprinkled here and there—but, for the most part, the X-Men haven’t had to endure too much bad weather on the sunny West Coast. That is, until now. It seems that a new set of dark clouds is gathering on the horizon. The Sisterhood are redefining the term ‘Girl Power’ as they prepare to strike and Simon Trask is gathering support for a new amendment, Proposition X, which would strip mutants of their rights to reproduce. Newsarama spoke with Uncanny X-Men writer, Matt Fraction, about his upcoming plans for the Marvel’s “Mutant Mothership”.

Initially, Fraction spoke about the upcoming introduction of the Sisterhood in March’s Uncanny X-Men #508. When asked about the all-bad girl line-up, Fraction responded, “I think evil male mutants have been pretty prevalent for the last 500 or so issues of Uncanny X-Men. We’ve enlisted the talents of two guys who both draw women very well—this is an area that both Greg and Terry excel in. It just seems like the X-Men had become a little bit of a ‘sausage convention’…One of our missions was to diversify both the good and bad casts of the book.” He mentioned that more female characters would be balancing out the roster - in the past several months, Dazzler, Karma and Pixie have had expanded roles in the book.

In terms of exactly who the Sisterhood would be adding to their ranks, Fraction acknowledged the obvious notables: Spiral, Lady Deathstrike, and Madelyne Pryor but was quick to correct, “The Red Queen—is a member. Whether or not she’s really Madelyne Pryor remains to be seen. She certainly seems to think she’s Madelyne Pryor.” Marvel’s solicits for April also indicate that a former friend would be returning as a foe—to which Fraction could only comment, “Wait and see, wait and see.”

Moving on to the theme of internal betrayal—in relation to the changing circumstances surrounding mutant extinction, Fraction offered, “That’s a very glass half-empty way of looking at the situation. I think that the stakes are high now; they’ve never been so high. There are fewer than 200 mutants left on the planet and there aren’t any more getting made. They are quite literally an endangered species—they’re dying off; they’re being hunted; and they’re being killed by predators.” He added, “These are desperate times—which call for more desperate measures. When using a term like ‘betrayal’, all I can say is that it’s a dangerous time and people are going to be pushed into all sorts of dangerous extremes. Everyone is doing what they think is best.” He referenced both Mister Sinister and Apocalypse—indicating that they too thought their pursuits were the proper course for mutantkind.

Fraction discussed the revelation of the Cooperstown Massacre and how the press leak had affected the popular opinion of mutants in general—this led to a healthy history lesson regarding Simon Trask, who first appeared in the 1995 Uncanny X-Men Annual as a member of Humanity’s Last Stand, and how his re-emergence would be affecting the X-Men for many months to come. Fraction stated, “We needed a finger of the Trask hand in the X-Men. Bolivar [Simon’s brother] is going to be appearing in X-Force. His role in the book will continue to expand.” Fraction added, “This book is an ensemble book—not only in terms of cast members—but storylines as well. Over the past several months, readers will notice that we’ve had a number of plot threads left dangling...nothing as diffused as a plot left dangling for 20 or 30 or even 40 issues but you’re going to see that we’re not going to leave any stories hanging for very long. There is a plan—and over time—it’s all going to become very clear.” Going back to Simon Trask, Fraction added, “Where [Trask] came from and where he’s going are going to be a very big part of the story.”

Trask, a character Scott Lobdell helped create in the mid-90’s will be introducing ‘Proposition X’—a bill that proposes a ban on mutant reproduction. In regards to Proposition X and how it echoes the recent Proposition 8—an amendment to the California constitution that eliminates same-sex unions, Fraction said, “You know, I’ve officially become one of those writers that writes something and then—a couple of months later—it really happens. I thought only Grant Morrison and Alan Moore wrote things and then they actually occurred.” He added, “This is one of the dilemmas of writing contemporary science fiction; we started planning and writing out these stories close to two years ago. Simon Trask and Prop X had been written into our plans before I had even heard of Prop 8,” he chuckled, “Were I a California resident—that may have been different; it’s just one of those strange synchronicities.”

Uncanny X-Men #508

Turning back to the notion that Uncanny X-Men is an ensemble book in more ways than one, Fraction added, “Axel [Alonso] refers to Uncanny X-Men as ‘the Mutant Mothership’—because it’s the hub for the entire X-line. We can have a couple of kids from Young X-Men pop up in the pages; we can have everybody show up for a second or two.”

When asked about the challenge of potentially cramming such a broad spectrum of characters into one monthly book, Fraction laughed, “Ultimately, I just writes ‘em. Nick [Lowe] and Axel have to edit the sucker. I think we all like each other […] there’s a great deal of camaraderie and team spirit amongst us—everybody wants to help everybody else out and pitch in. The goal is to make the strongest line of X-comics and the most entertaining events. Let’s be honest, the X-Men are the coolest characters in comics. Hands down, they have the best costumes and the coolest powers—it’s just the unassailable truth.” When asked about cohesion with the other X-title writers, Fraction commented, “There’s a lot of communication; everyone is kind of aware of what’s going on in everyone else’s book and we all just kind of do our best to pitch in and keep track of what’s going on. It’s not hard for me to drop Mike Carey an e-mail or for [Marc] Guggenheim to drop me a line with a question about characters A, B, or C.”

The conversation turned towards the recent return to stories displaying the breadth and depth of continuity in the X-books; Fraction remarked, “We’re doing this in a way—if you’re an ‘X-fanatic’ like most of us working on the books were at some point in our childhoods and you are in fact reading everything—you’ll start to see the method behind our madness.”

In regards to the mutant extinction, and how even the X-Men have weaknesses due to the extreme decline in the mutant population; Fraction remarked, “You know I got to my first real fight scene—in issues #501 through #503—and it dawned on me that the X-Men were deficient in certain areas. They were chasing Empath in a car because there wasn’t anyone fast enough to keep up with him. I made a note to myself that we needed to get someone who was fast on the ground.”

Asked if the X-Men will find members to fill that gap with the current conditions, and if the Marvel Universe finally heading towards an event the level of ‘Days of Future’s Past’ or something far worse, Fraction’s tone was grim, “Oh something much, much worse—for a couple of reasons. Mainly, the marrow of that previous storyline has been sucked to the bone; and now we’ve come up with something much more terrible.”

And Dark Reign maybe the sign of those darker times ahead, as Fraction spoke of Emma Frost’s rise to prominence amongst the X-Men and her role in Norman Osborn’s cabal, “[Emma] is starting to keep secrets from Scott—they’re keeping secrets from each other, actually. That’s never good in a relationship,” Fraction said. “Scott has been raised his entire life to be a general and now he’s paying the burden of being in charge of this entire race of people—and she’s kind of become a co-chair to the X-Men with Scott; and, in a way, she’s doing the same thing. When Osborn came to her with a position in his cabal, she took it—not knowing what Scott is up to—she saw an opportunity. Her entire life arc, if you look back to her earliest appearances in Uncanny, she’s always been about the training of the future generations of mutants and protecting them even when she was in the Hellfire Club.”

Uncanny X-Men #506

He paused and added, “Both Scott and Emma are headed down a path that is going to irrevocably alter their lives.”

When asked about a possible ideological split from within the X-Men when Cyclops’ and Emma’s actions are revealed Fraction was quick to remark, “It ain’t gonna be shrugged off—I can tell you that much.” He alluded to Warren’s recent secret reversion back to Archangel by saying, “By now, people have read [issue #506], the Science Team is stuck on that island—and their only way off rests squarely on Warren’s shoulders.”

Fraction also talked about the current members of what he called, “The X Club”: Beast, Dr. Nemesis, Madison Jefferies, Dr. Rao, and Archangel—and the potential for more fringe science based storylines, saying, “The X-Club roster is complete for now. I think this is a wonderful group of characters and if fans like what they’re seeing I’m sure there will be more potential storylines for these characters in the future. I just finished writing issue #512 which is an X-Club centric 38 page done-in-one adventure. It may just be the craziest comic I’ve ever written.”

The discussion turned to the idea of the done-in-one story and if the industry would be better suited by producing stories that the casual, less-experienced reader could engage without the burden of months of serialized story. Fraction stated, “That’s a misnomer—just because #512 is a single story doesn’t mean they shouldn’t want to check out #513 as well. I think continuity is a beast and all but it’s the consistency of the storytelling that’s the most important aspect of these books. There are ways to bring people in without the burden of all of decades of continuity. I’m always seeking new ways to do that without making a character seem completely neurotic with needless exposition.” He continued, “There are rewards for the people who enjoy the heavy continuity—Simon Trask is a good example. Most readers may not know who he is—but the long time readers can remember that he’s been in the background before. Dr. Nemesis is another great example. Only three people might get the joke, so to speak, but it’s those three folks who are going to high-five us at conventions for using a rare character that only they remember.”

Closing out the conversation about Marvel’s premiere mutant team, Fraction was asked about the challenges of connecting with characters—with special regard to the characters he felt he was not able to connect with so readily. Fraction mentioned several characters that he enjoyed writing; but, when it came to the few he had difficulty with he was honest, “It wasn’t until I wrote the scene with Storm and Emma that I really felt like I had connected with Storm—that I knew who Storm was.” He added, “Iceman is someone I wanted to use more—but I hesitated initially to let the Manifest Destiny story take place…so I’ve barely touched him. Those are the two I’ve had the most trouble with—but you’ll be seeing more of both of them in the second year.”

Uncanny X-Men #507 is due in stores on March 18th.

Twitter activity