This April, Marvel kicks off "ResurrXion," a relaunch of its X-Men and Inhumans lines designed to bring the franchises back to basics. Leading the X-Men line is X-Men Gold, a title with a more superhero-focused mission for the mutant team, from writer Marc Guggenheim and artist Ardian Syaf.
For their first post-"ResurrXion" adventure, the X-Men will square off with a brand new iteration of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants - the X-Men's classic rivals. Newsarama spoke with Guggenheim ahead of the release of X-Men Gold #1 on April 4, learning the identities of the X-Men and the new Brotherhood, and Kitty Pryde's audacious plan to bring the X-Men back to the center of the Marvel Universe.
This article also contains previously unseen pages from X-Men Gold #1.
Newsarama: Marc, let’s talk about the line-up of X-Men Gold. There are some very familiar faces in there, and you’ve talked about some of the individual members previously, but I’m interested in them as a unit. How did you decide on these specific characters? What makes them the best representatives of the X-Men?
Marc Guggenheim: I’m always a fan of line-ups (and this is not just true of the X-Men, but all teams) where everyone has a different skillset, a different powerset. You don’t want a bunch of flyers on the team, for example. You don’t want a bunch of bruisers on the team. I like mixing things up.
Starting with Kitty, she’s my favorite X-Man, so I knew I wanted her. But what she brings to the table is something new to her role – she’s actually bringing tactics and strategy. She’s obviously still got her powers, but in this new role I’ve cast her in, she’s the leader. She’s out there calling the plays. So what she brings is her tactical ability.
Wolverine is super useful in the sneak-and-creep-and-occasionally-stab-people capacity. Nightcrawler – the fact that he can teleport is a big help to the team. That’s a unique power that you’ll see come into play in a lot of the action sequences in the book.
Storm, obviously, is one of the most powerful X-Men, especially when her abilities are employed to their full effect, and it also really helps to have a flyer on the team. Colossus is a blunt instrument. Most teams have at least one bruiser, and Colossus is the X-Men’s.
And then finally you’ve got Prestige, which is Rachel Grey’s new identity. It’s really useful to have a telepath. And one of the more fun things about writing Rae is figuring out new and different ways for her to use her powers offensively, so it’s not just her firing psi-blasts at people, but really getting into the applications of telepathy and the ability to read people’s thoughts. There’s a lot of fun to be had with that.
In short, everyone’s got a different power and a different role on the team from a tactical perspective. That said, I’m taking opportunities wherever I can to introduce other X-Men. There are so many fan favorites to choose from. Over the course of the first few arcs, I hope to give everyone at least a taste of their favorites, using the core-group as the tip of the spear, but bringing in other X-Men with other powers when the story calls for it.
Nrama: Getting more specific, you’re slightly reinventing or reinvigorating Rachel Grey with a new codename, “Prestige.” You’ve previously compared that to Carol Danvers taking the name “Binary” when her powers were drastically altered. What’s triggering this reinvention for Rachel, both from your perspective, and an in-story perspective?
Guggenheim: This is sort of a new beginning for all the X-Men, post –“ResurrXion.” It’s a reboot, the start of a new chapter. This is particularly true for Rachel. Kitty has encouraged her to adopt a new codename as a way to say to herself and the world, “I’m my own person. I’m not just the offspring of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. I’m not just a former Phoenix. I’m charting my own course, carving out my own destiny.” The point is for Rachel to be looking forward in contrast to her previous identities which have always been tied to some kind of legacy.
Nrama: Not to get too fanboyish, but Kitty Pryde is one of my favorite X-Men too, along with Colossues. With both of them on the team, is there a chance of seeing their romance rekindled?
Guggenheim: I don’t think it’s possible to get too fanboyish -- particularly with this book. I don’t want to spoil what I’m going to do, but I’ll not spoil it by spoiling it, in a way. Daniel Ketchum, my editor and I, one of the things we talk about a lot is that the best X-Men books, the classic X-Men books, are the ones where there’s a certain amount of superheroics and action, but the books really live in the “soap opera” elements. So with that in mind, I didn’t accidentally put Colossus on the team with Kitty. Make of that what you will.
Nrama: Springboarding off of that, you mentioned that X-Men Gold will have superheroics in the most classic sense of the X-Men. Why is that an important dynamic to explore, and how will you establish that feeling?
Guggenheim: One thing I’m trying to do is strike a balance between X-Men stories that are centered around mutants, and X-Men stories that stem from purely external threats that aren’t related to mutants. For the last several years, most X-Men stories have come out of situations where mutants were facing extinction, or dealing with a particularly powerful mutant. In short, the books have become very mutant-centric. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing - it’s a comic about mutants, after all - but under Kitty’s leadership, the X-Men’s mission statement is going to be to build relationships outside the mutant community. I want to reflect that in the writing. I want the stories to be as much about the X-Men protecting a world that hates and fears them as they are about dealing with mutant issues.
All of this relates to the X-Men’s new status quo. They’re gonna be located in the middle of Central Park, for a very specific reason: they want to reconnect with the rest of the world. So in order to be true to the vision that Kitty has for the team that we’ll start setting up in X-Men: Prime, it’s important to strike that balance between mutant-centric stories and stories that don’t involve mutants.
Nrama: The team’s first enemies in X-Men Gold will be a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Who is involved in the new incarnation?
Guggenheim: There are a couple surprises in there. We’re going to introduce new incarnations of Pyro and Avalanche. Longtime readers of the X-Men know that both of those characters are dead, but Daniel Ketchum and I have great affection for those characters, those powersets and those particular threats. So we’ve got a new Avalanche and a new Pyro coming our way.
Nrama: Making Kitty Pryde the leader of the team is kind of a strong mission statement – she might be the best example of Charles Xavier’s goals for mutantkind, and for the potential of the X-Men. You mentioned her mission and the things she’s personally trying to achieve. What is that mission statement?
Guggenheim: Basically, it’s to get out of their self-imposed exile. The X-Men are no longer, at least for the time being, worrying about extinction or survival; they’re looking forward to the future. And a big part of that future, in Kitty’s mind, is reintegrating with society, getting out there even though the world hates and fears them. This means not just acting as heroes, but interacting with humans. If you’re gonna get people to stop hating and fearing mutants, the first step is to get them to understand mutants better.
For the longest time mutants, particularly the X-Men, have segregated themselves - in Westchester, in Utopia, on Genosha, in Limbo. The X-Men have long had a habit of separating themselves from society, so basically Kitty’s big idea is that that’s not a good approach. If you’re gonna get humans to trust mutants more, they’ve gotta know more about them and interact with them more. So she puts the X-Mansion smack in the middle of Central Park in New York, so all the mutants, all the X-Men, are front and center in a way that they’ve never been before. (Admittedly, she does this without a consideration for what the property taxes on a piece of real estate like Central Park are like.)
Kitty’s hope and dream is that moving to Central Park fosters better relations between humans and mutants. And you’re right, it’s an evolution of Xavier’s dream. One of the obvious metaphors here – in this case I think it’s pretty literal – is that Kitty is the student who returns to become the teacher. So she’s taking with her some of Xavier’s teachings, but she’s interpreting them in her own way.
Nrama: You’re working with Ardian Syaf, who is no stranger to that kind of classic superhero art that defined the X-Men in the 70s. How is your creative relationship developing, and what’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for X-Men Gold so far?
Guggenheim: There’s a lot of great stuff to pick from. I think my favorite so far is a double-page spread early on in X-Men Gold #1, where the X-Men have basically defeated their “villain of the week,” and all the bystanders who they’ve saved are gathering around, and Kitty has to deliver this speech in response to some fairly racist comments made by one of the bystanders. It’s just a pure character moment – there’s no fighting or punching. I always think those are the hardest things to ask an artist to draw, because they require the artist to “act” on the page.
Ardian did such a beautiful job with that moment. The facial expressions really sell exactly what I was going for in that moment, the bigotry that the X-Men face, as well as Kitty’s equanimity in dealing with that moment. She doesn’t yell or lose her cool, it’s about her standing up for herself and other mutants in a way that is constructive rather than destructive. It’s just a really hard spread for any artist to draw, and Adrian made it look effortless.
Nrama: Regardless of what the goals are for “ResurrXion,” and more specifically for X-Men Gold, there are going to be a lot of diehard fans that are skeptical of the relaunch. What would you say to those fans, who are looking for “their” X-Men?
Guggenheim: There are so many X-Men, and so many X-Men fans, that it’s impossible to make all of them happy, so you go into this knowing that that’s just not going to happen. I’m approaching it as an X-Men fan – I’ll stack my X-Men fan bona fides against anybody, any day of the week – so my barometer has been: I’m writing the X-Men book that I would most want to read. I’m hoping that what I want to see as a fan is what a lot of people want to see; again, knowing that not every X-Men fan wants the same thing. Bottom line, I am going into X-Men Gold with the best of intentions both as a fan and as a writer.
It’s also worth pointing out that it’s hard to find an editor who’s as much an X-Men fan as Daniel Ketchum. As a result - and this is true across the entire line - these are the sort of X-Men comics that fans will really love. So much of this relaunch is Daniel’s vision. I’d love to take credit for the X-Mansion landing in Central Park, and the direction in terms of getting back to basics, but I’m really running with the ball Daniel put in play. He keeps me honest. He’s an amazing editor, and he really loves these books. I think you’ll feel that. Plus, he chose Ardian. If you just look at Ardian’s art, that’s very much a visual representation of what we’re trying to accomplish with this book.
There have been a lot of different X-Men relaunches over the years, and I’ve been reading along as a fan. What makes this relaunch different is that it’s more about the X-Men as heroes than the X-Men as a struggling minority fighting for their very existence. That existential crisis is tabled for the time being. It’s been a while since the X-Men have really been able to catch their breath and not worry about the end of mutantkind. We’re really going back to the days where the X-Men could just be heroes, and play softball games, and have soap opera stories and romantic relationships. It’s something you haven’t seen in the X-Men books for a while. So for super longtime fans – A.K.A. old people, like myself – it’s an exciting return to the basics. And for fans that are younger, it’ll be exciting to see the X-Men in a way that they might not have really seen in recent memory.
Nrama: I want to talk about something you touched on a little bit there. The X-Men have long been a platform for Marvel to explore social issues, especially as a metaphor for groups that are seen as different or separate from society. In an environment where Marvel’s line is increasingly focused on these ideas in general, is that a necessary component of an X-Men title? Will the action-oriented stories of X-Men Gold carry that undercurrent of the struggle for civil rights and societal acceptance?
Guggenheim: Yes. X-Men Gold is intentionally a very timely book. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now that I think the X-Men are uniquely suited to address. I love the amount of diversity in Marvel’s line – and I give Axel Alonso all the credit for that. The first arc of X-Men Gold deals with the issue of extremism. And it shows that there’s more than one way to tell a story about prejudice. If you look at what’s going on in the world right now, there’s prejudice that takes many different forms. You don’t always have to do a story about equality and civil rights – though I think that’s important.
In this case, we’re doing a story about extremism. If I’ve done my job correctly, people will finish the arc and see parallels to some of the rhetoric that’s going on in the world right now. If anything, I think the X-Men are more relevant today than they have been in a long time in large part because of what’s happening in current events.
Nrama: That raises another question. You mentioned diversity, and obviously the X-Men are an incredibly diverse group – the line up for X-Men: Gold is evenly split between men and women, and you’ve got Storm, arguably Marvel’s prominent black, female character in the Marvel Universe on the team – but there are a lot of different perspectives in the deeper X-Men bench. Are those characters that we’ll see brought into the line-up? Are there characters you’re going to incorporate to, as you said, reflect that diversity?
Guggenheim: You’re being very polite. I’ll be less polite: In this line up, there’s only one person of color (not including Nightcrawler). And I’ll be honest, I was colorblind when picking the lineup. I just chose characters who were at the core of the team when I first fell in love with the X-Men. I wasn’t thinking about diversity and I should have been.
That said, there will be characters of more diverse backgrounds coming down the pike. Rockslide and Armor play important roles in #3. Cecelia Reyes makes an appearance in #4. Anole seems to keep showing up because I love him. So long as the story warrants it, we’ll continue to see more mutants in the book and many of those will be people of color. And also true to the line as a whole, by the way. Everyone is very mindful of all forms of diversity particularly because this is the X-Men. I think you’ll see that play out the “ResurrXion” line entirely.
Nrama: Without venturing too far into spoiler territory, what can readers expect from X-Men Gold?
Guggenheim: Right now, because we’re double shipping, the arcs are constructed to be rather short – three to four issues apiece. And I’m really enjoying writing in that pace, because I think when books double ship, you wanna move through the story faster. And I think it’s allowing me to tell tighter, better constructed story arcs that are more in keeping with the X-Men books of yore. It’s obviously a book written in the 21st century, with a 21st century perspective, so I’m using 21st century storytelling methods, but the overall approach to the book is very much back to the basics. If you’re a fan of the Claremont era, I think X-Men Gold is a book you’ll really respond to.