Kelly Thompson is not afraid to make a spectacle of the X-Men. As part of the three-pronged writers braintrust relaunching Uncanny X-Men later this year (alongside Ed Brisson and Matthew Rosenberg), the Marvel 'exclusive' writer says with something as important as a new Uncanny X-Men series, "you gotta go big."
And "big" is exactly what's in store, with an all-new "Age of X-Man" story engulfing the entire world as the series, which will release weekly, unfolds.
But before Uncanny X-Men #1 arrives on November 14, Thompson spoke to Newsarama about what readers can expect when Marvel's merry mutants' flagship title returns, breaking down the process of creating a weekly series, getting in depth about the cast of characters that will appear, and even addressing the elephant in the room - Scott Summers.
Newsarama: Kelly, you’ve got a growing name as an X-Men writer. How did the opportunity to help relaunch Uncanny X-Men come about?
Kelly Thompson: Well, you probably would have to ask the editors what made them bring me on, but I like to think it was because they could tell I was a huge X-Men geek in literally every conversation and email as well as Rogue & Gambit mini-series scripts.
Nrama: Uncanny X-Men is coming back with a weekly story – in broad strokes, what can fans expect from this relaunch?
Thompson: Well, it’s Uncanny X-Men, so you gotta go big. Big Uncanny X-Men relaunch is not a “quiet story.” So fans can expect a lot of classic players on the board, a lot of high-stakes plot, a lot of punching, a lot of complex moral dilemmas as the X-Men are known for, and of course… dinosaurs.
Nrama: The announcement of the Uncanny X-Men creative team came with a huge teaser featuring 50+ X-Men characters – and we know there will be even more in the story. Which characters from that huge cast have you been most surprised by? Are there any of your favorites you can talk about?
Thompson: The book does bring in a huge cast, but we obviously won’t be focusing on all 50+ of those characters…otherwise everyone would get a couple panels annnnnd there would be no actual story. I’ve enjoyed writing Jean and Bobby a lot. I haven’t gotten a ton of time with Storm but I love her. Armor has long been a favorite character of mine – that I have been trying to write in a some capacity going all the way back to 2015! – so I am relishing a chance to get to write her for more than a panel or two. I’m also loving the chance to write Laura (X-23) again. I finally got to have Laura eat orange slices off her claws…and what is more important than that? Clearly that is the beating heart of this event.
Nrama: Is there a “core roster” for the X-Men in this series, so to speak?
Thompson: Pretty early on the narrative has three teams being created to deal with various threats - and also to save our artists from killing themselves (or us) you try to look them in the eye when you put 20 characters on a page, it does not go well! Those teams are made up with some of the classic characters featured on the covers that have been released: Jean, Storm, Multiple Man, Beast, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, Bishop, X-23, Jubilee, Iceman, Cannonball and a few others we haven’t seen (cough Northstar and Polaris cough). Armor, along with a few of the other younger X-Men – Pixie, Glob, and Rockslide - have pretty juicy roles.
Nrama: You’re also writing Mr. and Mrs. X, featuring Gambit and Rogue. Are we going to see the newlyweds’ adventures touch Uncanny X-Men?
Thompson: No, Mr. & Mrs. X doesn’t tie into Uncanny X-Men, which is a deliberate choice we made. Editor Darren Shan and I both felt like the book was way too young to get drawn in to such a big event story. It would have gotten lost and so would Rogue and Gambit’s individual stories which we’re really excited to tell.
Nrama: What’s the dynamic like working with Matt Rosenberg and Ed Brisson? How did you work out the weekly story routine?
Thompson: Ed and Matt are two of my best friends in comics. After this experience they are now two of my biggest enemies in comics. Uh, no, it’s been pretty great. We figured out the overall story together, including a couple intense days trapped in a conference room together at Marvel and then it’s been a million DMs and emails and Slacks. We take turns doing issue outlines and then we divvy up pages – so we’re each writing in every issue. I mean, they definitely hate me now, but otherwise it’s been great!
Nrama: In an environment where you’re working with two other writers, how do you get your specific voice across? Are you each handling specific storylines?
Thompson: Well, I think the goal here is for all of us to smooth out the edges of our respective voices so that the book and characters feel as seamless as possible. But it’s tough to thread that needle between smoothing that out and not sawing off all the edges that make things interesting. Hopefully we’ve found that balance.
Nrama: Along with two other writers, you’ve got multiple artists in R.B. Silva, Mirko Colak, Mark Bagley, Mahmud Asrar, Yildiray Cinar, and Pere Peréz. Do you, Ed, and Kelly tailor the story of each issue to the artist drawing it?
Thompson: You have to write so far ahead on something like this that we were several issues in before the other artists were assigned. And with a story like this – with a complex plot that has a lot of moving parts – it’s a bit harder to try to write to a specific artist’s strengths. I will say that these guys are killing it - some of the best work of their careers. Really incredible stuff. And in some cases we have asked for stuff that is really tough.
Nrama: I have to ask you about Cyclops. Will he be a part of Uncanny?
Thompson: Do you…want me to be killed? I feel like with this question you’re telling me you want me to be killed.
But seriously, January’s Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 is all about Cyclops.
Nrama: In 2018, what do you think is the driving force of the X-Men, as a team and as a concept?
Thompson: The X-Men have always been powerful allegories and insightful reflections of the real world. Their heart, and ironically, “humanity” has always been something that sets them apart. They’re also the best ever “misfits that form their own family” which is one of my personal favorite themes.