NYCC 2010 Exclusive: Way's Monstrous ASTONISHING X-MEN Run


Daniel Way is no stranger to the X-Men titles. He's written a ton of Wolverine — stints on the main title and 50 issues of Wolverine Origins — and his two current gigs are helming the main Deadpool title and co-writing Daken: Dark Wolverine with Marjorie Liu.

One thing he hasn't doen much of, though, is write the X-Men themselves aside from brief guest appearances. That changes in a big way starting February 2011, as Way takes over as writer of Astonishing X-Men for "Monstrous," a four-issue arc where the X-Men encounter several classic monster characters from Marvel Comics history, fleeing Monster Island due to a larger, as-yet unknown threat.

Way's joined by a high-profile artist for this run, Body Bags creator Jason Pearson. Newsararma talked exclusively with Way on following in the footsteps of previous Astonishing X-Men writers Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis, which monsters readers will see in the arc, and Pearson's ability to render said monsters.

Newsarama: Daniel, from Joss Whedon to Warren Ellis, Astonishing X-Men is a title with a rather lofty writer legacy since its introduction in 2002. How did the assignment come about, and how does it feel being next up to bat on the book?

Daniel Way: It’s an honor. Axel Alonso approached me about it, and said that they spoke about it internally at Marvel. Then they put the ball in my court, and I pitched them an idea. It just kinda snowballed from there. I think Jason Pearson was already slotted.

I think me and Jason, though we’ve never worked on a book together, we’re kind of on the same wavelength. Kind of a natural fit. It’s been great. As an added bonus, I got to go back and re-read all the previous issues. It’s pretty cool when my job is sitting around, reading good comic books.

Nrama: In a way, it seems kind of inevitable that you would wind up writing the X-Men simply because you’ve been involved in that corner of the Marvel Universe for so long. Had you been hoping for a crack at the X-Men as a team?

Way: Actually, no, this kind of came out of the blue. I hadn’t really thought of doing a team book, and now that I’m doing it, it’s a much different style of writing and plotting. You always have to have room for each character to play that key role. None of them can be extraneous; just having them in the background doesn’t work. You learn very quickly in this business, every character is some fan’s favorite character. If you’re going to have a character in a book, you need to go all the way with it.

Nrama: What’s the roster of X-Men for this arc?

Way: Our story focuses, X-Men-wise, on Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine and Armor. Armor’s a very cool character. She really plays the reader’s perspective part in Astonishing. I think that’s really part of the magic that Joss Whedon was able to pull off — they were astonishing, because he saw a lot of it through Armor’s eyes, and other younger characters as they were brought into the fold. They saw this fantastic world, with incredible threats and these jaw-dropping acts of heroism, and you saw it from kind of a ground-level view. I thought that was important, and I thought it was really remarkable, because we comic fans, we’re very jaded to seeing this stuff. We see it in every title, every month. To have that book that came out and really reminded everybody, “this is why you fell in love with the X-Men,” I thought that was great, and that’s really what I’m sticking with. This is a very big story when we look at it from the ground up.

Nrama: And this continues the “Astonishing” tradition of being in continuity, but not directly heavily tied to anything else going on currently, correct?

Way: Right. This takes place in the X-Men universe. They’re very busy people.

Nrama: Plot-wise, this picks up in Japan?

Way: It actually starts out in the Sea of Japan. This is one of those stories where we introduce a couple of plot threads, and then about three-quarters of the way through the first issue, they all start to tie together. By the end of the first issue, they’re almost completely locked up. That helps give some scope to the story, because they are globetrotting heroes. They don’t just fight crime in San Francisco. These aren’t street-level heroes. These guys are there for the big threats, terrestrial and intergalactic, and this is about as big of a terrestrial threat as you can find.

Nrama: The X-Men travel to Japan because of a funeral. Are you able to share whose funeral that might be?

Way: It’s such a great moment, and it’s teed up so nicely that I don’t want to give it away, but it’s going to have some real lasting effects for one X-Men character in particular. This is the element of the plot that leads us into another plot thread, which gets us to our main conflict.

Nrama: Recently Marvel has shown a dedication to building up the presence of vampires in the Marvel Universe. Is this story a way of maybe doing something similar for monsters?

Way: Yes and no. Monsters have always played a part in Marvel superhero stories. Way back when, it was, “when and doubt, have a meteor hit the Earth and create a monster, have a guy show up and fight it.” That’s how we got this massive population for Monster Island. I thought it was kind of brilliant on Marvel’s part, or whichever writer or editor came up with the idea — that they would house them all on Monster Island.

I don’t want to take all of the goofy fun out of the fact that they’re these massive monsters, because, let’s face it, a good portion of the fun of watching those Toho Godzilla movies is kind of laughing at Godzilla. But these monsters present a real threat. It isn’t a very clear-cut battle. This isn’t a simple matter of “defeat the monster and send him packing.” There’s something behind this exodus on Monster Island — it actually ties into themes that we’ve seen recently in X-Men books.

Nrama: Readers are used to seeing characters like the Fantastic Four, Thor or Hercules fighting monsters, so it does seem like something new to have the X-Men doing it.

Way: That’s why I constructed the story like I did. It would stand to reason that if there were monster attacks popping up all over the globe, everyone would throw their hat in the ring. The X-Men have their island, and it’s theirs. And the monsters have their island. The only thing that makes it right is that they say it’s theirs. Wouldn’t it be a bit hypocritical for the X-Men to say to the monster population, “you can’t have an island”? They’re not villainous by nature, they’re just monsters by birth, or creation, or whatever. It’s their patch of land, and they’re going to fight to keep it, with everything they have.

What we come to find out, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away because you see him on the first page of the first issue, the true villain behind all of this is actually an old Kirby villain named Mentallo. He’s just this really hardcore bad guy. He just doesn’t give a sh*t. He’ll do whatever, and his main motivation is money. He does evil for money. That’s a nice, clean motivation. The guy just has no compunction. He’s not crazy, so you can’t blame it on that. He’s just a bad guy doing bad things. All of a sudden this d-list villain character becomes a real threat.

Nrama: How did you arrive on using him?

Way: Combing through old monster comics. The Internet. I wanted to stick with as many Kirby creations as I could, because I’m a big fan. There are some Ditko monsters in there that I used.

What I really like about X-Men at this point is that it’s not just the same old bad guys. It’s not always Magneto. Not only with villains, but also with heroes. We’ve got characters like Dazzler and Cloak playing key roles in big stories. I think that’s awesome, and it really broadens everything up.

As a writer, and I know I’m not along on this, we don’t always want to write the same old characters. A lot of the time with b and c and d-list characters — most of the time — you have a lot more latitude to play around with them. I can tell you from experience: You mess around with a character like Wolverine, you need to prepare for some backlash.

Nrama: Can you name any of the specific monster characters that are going to be showing up?

Way: I’ll just talk about who we see in this first issue, just because I can tell you who it is, but until you see Pearson draw it, it’s a whole ‘nother animal. You’ll see Monstro, the octopus. You’ll see Fin Fang Foom. That’s really the two main ones. I haven’t seen all of the art yet, so there’s really no telling what Pearson’s going to end up doing.

Nrama: On that note, how has the collaborative process gone with Pearson thus far?

Way: So far, swimmingly. [Laughs.] I think both of us have been waiting for a quite a while to work together, and he’s done quite a few covers for books that I’ve done. Jason’s one of those guys, he picks and chooses projects carefully. He’s had everything lined up, and it was finally time. Lucky for the both of us, it was a big project. The bigger the book, the bigger your response. We’re really going for it on this one.

X-Men + Monsters!

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