FREAK OUT SQUARES #1. Beautiful review of Freak Out Squares from Comics Anonymous!
Just thought I’d let you all know about my latest venture! I’ve teamed up with some of the most amazing comic creators in Glasgow to launch Unthank Comics, a new independent comic book stable. We’ve launched two titles so far, Neverending #1 by Stephen Sutherland and Gary Kelly, and Black Leaf #1 by John Lees and myself.
If you’re interested to know more, please check us out at: https://www.facebook.com/unthankcomics, where we’ll be regularly updating on future releases and where you can buy our books.
Great review from the Big Glasgow Comic Page for Black Leaf #1 which will be on sale this Saturday at MCM Scotland in Glasgow.
I had the opportunity to interview the Young Avengers creators at the Edinburgh Book Festival with my partner-in-crime, Stephen Sutherland. The main interview is here: http://www.geekchocolate.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=418%3Akieron-gillen-and-jaime-mckelvie-on-the-inside-with-the-young-avengers&catid=47%3Ainterview&Itemid=68. However, the guys were so generous with their time that it was a very extensive interview, and I’m glad to be able to post more of it here!
GM – Do you think coming from indie first [has helped with your approach to diversity and female characters, you know, because superhero books have really been set in stone for a long time and there is a kind of almost old-school puritanical thing about superheroes in a lot of ways, and that’s why that discussion seems to be happening in that genre rather than elsewhere. Do you think there’s something about coming from Phonogram, an arena in which you weren’t worried about gender, you know?
JM – I don’t know… A lot of people come from indie first. Maybe it was not so much indie but the crowd we come from.
KG – As well as a lot of our bands were… (To Jamie) Do you want to talk about our 90s bands? Like, women in bands?
JM – Yeah, I’ve talked about this before, growing and being into music I was really lucky to have a band like, say, Kenickie, to be into who took the riot grrl thing. Just from early on my heroes were men, women, you know across the board, and that’s who I learned about this things and that’s how I grew up with it. And that just moves over into what you’re doing. And I was very lucky to have that because that was almost a brief blip.
When you look at especially British music now, it’s seemed to become a lot more male-dominated again.
GM – And I suppose with women in pop music just now, it’s a very kind of narrow thing…
JM – Obviously there’s like anomalies like Savages and stuff like that but it felt like the lad culture came back in…
KG – Four blokes with guitars…
GM – The backlash…
JM – It’s kind of depressing what people have taken away from that. I mean it’s the same with grunge, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Kathleen Hanna, that was a catchphrase that she painted on Kurt’s wall, but now that’s been completely removed and grunge for everybody is just guys with guitars. And it wasn’t that at all.
KG – The patriarchy consumes all…
JM – Well yeah!
KG – I say that as a joke but it’s basically true. Everything descends to misogyny eventually… God I’m depressing!
GM – I’m going to have to ask about Uncanny X-Men then, since we mentioned X-Men. Obviously Marvel had started moving people around at the time and I know that a lot of your Uncanny was kind of consumed in a sense by AvX (Avengers vs X-Men), but reading it I felt like you had plans for where you were going to take it, is that the case?
KG – You had options, the idea of Marvel Now was floated around halfway through my run, I knew vaguely where I might take it. You know, Unit would probably have been the next thing I did, he’d have probably actually pulled the trigger on something stupid. Unit, bless him, he’s wandered in and out of all my comics and never really had much of a story. Poor Unit!
GM – I was really looking forward to a Unit arc.
KG – Well if you read the Origin of Tony Stark, that was originally planned to be Unit, and I decided for it not to be Unit for a variety of reasons. But if you just pencil in Unit in your head, and make him slightly less polite and slightly more competent that’s basically Unit.
Yeah I had ideas, but you always have ideas. You kind of know… I think originally I was planning to not have Sinister until after AvX, so otherwise AvX was going to be bubbling along and I was then going to do something after AvX with Sinister as well, but I realised if I move Sinister into AvX, because he really was the arch-villain of my run. So there’s a certain amount of flexibility, you see the options and then you choose them.
I knew AvX was coming from the start of my run, I knew Schism was going to be halfway through, therefore I knew the shape of my book was dictated by these larger plot events. So that became the themes I was interested in which was about power and corruption, and all that kind of stuff. Nothing I would elevate with a word like ‘plans’.
Even when I got to the end of JIM, I still had bits of JIM I thought I maybe still wanted to do. There’s stuff in the first series of Young Avengers, there’s other stuff I kind of wanted to do and I just ended up not doing because it didn’t really fit in with the larger structure. That’s comics! It’s the semi-improvisational nature of them.
SS – I’ve thought that with YA it’s like your superhero ‘concept album’.
GM – And I’m loving the feeling of it being like a pop single again, like, Young Avengers feels to me like it felt when I was reading Claremont and Lee’s X-Men when I was like 14 or 15, you know where you’re actually really looking forward to reading it, and it’s just a burst and it’s done, but you want to go back later on. It’s been a while since I’ve had I’ve had a regular comic coming out where I’ve felt that about it, you know? But it’s that pop single feel, you know you’re buying the singles on a monthly basis and then the album comes out or the trade and you still want to buy the album even though you’ve heard most of the songs.
KG – That’s awesome. The people who like Young Avengers really like Young Avengers.
JM – Like at that talk last night, a lot of people said this is their first comic.
KG – It’s good, JIM had a bit of that as well but I think probably more on Young Avengers, which is nice. We were talking before about The Authority, having a book which is a gateway to other comics is enormously complimentary.
JM – Someone said to us last night that I really like how I can follow your comic, and it’s true, I deliberately keep a lot of the layouts clear, not simple necessarily, but clear, because so much of the other stuff, it’s like people having been reading superhero comics for years and years and the layouts have got more and more complicated. I mean they can look beautiful, but if it’s your first comic you can be completely lost, you’ve no idea where to go to next in the comic. I try and avoid that because again, it could be someone’s first comic.
KG – It’s funny because people talk about the experimental-ness of what we do in the comics but they’ve very much got an eye on clarity. It’s interesting. When The Ultimates was first coming out I was saying that the most beautiful comic on the shelf was also the most easy to read, and this when the widescreen panel, almost like British Commando comics, with the rigid simplicity of the layout, and that’s a reminder that what was once radical is now commonplace etc.
GM – As an artist, something I really aim for is that storytelling aspect which I think sometimes gets lost in superhero books. You know, the demand to show as much action as possible, to have so much going on, and like, with YA particularly there’s this idea that often it’s what’s getting left out that’s important, if you know what I mean, you know, editing it down do that we’re only showing what’s necessary to drive the story forward. And you know, still have it look beautiful and be complex and things.
At the talk last night you talked about putting together the page, and how you both go backwards and forwards. Could you maybe talk a wee bit about that for us, how the collaborative process works between you?
JM – Well, we’re very very comfortable, like we talk every day, and the way work is that the conversational part of the script is very much like you’d expect, panel, description, dialogue and as Keiron moves into the action we use the Marvel method, where there’s a lot of back and forth, unless there’s deadlines, and then there’s not so much back and forth.
KG – And then the pages just turn up and I’m like, it’s looking good…
JM – The Marvel method, what it is is it’s more collaborative than regular scripting because the artist gets to take on a lot more of the storytelling and the ‘beats’ and things like that. What we’ve always said is that you just try and act like you’re one person basically, you try and create a comic that’s as if it was created by one person all the way through.
KG – You’re a synthetic cartoonist.
GM – Nobody’s trying to compete to show of their skills…
JM – No, no. And all the way along the line everyone’s involved in the collaboration, from us, the editors, to colourists, to Mike (Norton) who helps me, and Clayton (Cowles), who’s the letterer, everybody has their own influence. And there’s a discussion all the way through.
GM – It does feel very well designed, with everyone working well together.
SS – There’s that great layout which is the action scene with Noh-varr, and there’s a key at the side telling you what he’s doing (issue 4 of the current run). How did the idea for that kind of page come about, a very different and very effective action scene?
JM – When we’re thinking about the action sequences, I’m always thinking of things I want to do, and I don’t know if I’ll get around to it but I wanted to do a first-person view fight scene, I might get to do that later on, and one of the ones I wanted to do was some sort of isometric thing. So when Keiron started writing issue 4, he showed me that page and we went through a bunch of different options, should we do one of those, but I was like no I want to do this instead.
KG – Actually reading the thing I was surprised, the top-down version, your version was much better than that, but it was less of a leap than I thought it was. As in there was clearly ideas a bit like it in the mix anyway. And then I counter-punched, Jamie came out with this isometric layout.
JM – And I was literally just going to number the bits in the sequence that related to panels, then I was going to number them all the way through, which meant we had all of these numbers which meant that could become the key on the side, which then Kieron wrote so that it adds a lot more character stuff to the page that wasn’t in the initial script. I mean, it speaks of the collaborative process that we don’t remember exactly who did what.
KG – We talked about instead of the numbers having an arrow path so we tuned those options. It’s a kind of weird page in sequential art in that it’s not sequential art, the idea that this is kind of like an expanded moment. And you’re meant to be able to process all these things, he’s got two internal dialogues.
JM – It’s almost like one of them is what he’s thinking and one is his DVD commentary afterwards.
KG – One of them is the actual thing, one is what he’s telling you.
GM – This is actually bringing something up which you’ve obviously done before, which is the folded narrative in (Phonogram Vol. 2) The Singles Club. I’m a big fan of anything that takes a kind of non-linear approach and does it well, and I’m a huge fan of Singles Club, because I think it’s so, it’s something that you get in movies fairly often and TV programmes but something that we don’t explore in comics a lot. And obviously the Noh-Varr scene is something like that, where we’re dipping in and out and back in again to the scene, it’s not like it’s been and happened and that’s it, we are kind of seeing Noh-varr go back in and almost say this is what happened.
KG – Well in comics it’s closure, that’s the thing. Comics works by closure. And we often kind take, and here’s the word literal again, here is an image and then we close it between the two. And a page like that creates a space and you fill in all these other gaps. And we use a lot of time cuts in Young Avengers, and we use a lot of implied larger structure, like when we’re doing dimension-hopping, we try to imply a story and then your imagination closes the gap in the rest of what’s happening here. So we’re going for the active reader participation as part of comics. And the folded narrative for me seems an expansion of that kind of philosophy, and I think that’s very interesting.
GM – We were both talking about Grant Morrison, and it’s kind of unusual that for someone who’s been so influential and been so big in comics, there hasn’t been more of a post-Morrison generation, and I feel like the folded narrative and the meta-narrative is something that he really pushed in mainstream comics. I mean, do you fell like there’s more opportunity to explore this, do you wonder why there aren’t people doing it more often?
KG – That’s a good question… What do you think? [To Jamie]
JM – Haha…
KG – I think the thing is, if you read The Invisibles [Morrison’s seminal and sometimes controversial Vertigo title that ran for six years from 1994-2000, and which attracted an army of fiercely loyal readers who still debate its various meanings to this day], and you only really get The Invisibles if you hold the whole thing in your head sometimes, it’s the fractal design. You have to actually know, I mean it’s an enormous contradictory blob, but you need to know it all at once, the whole thing, I mean I think I’ve kind of got The Invisibles for periods of five minutes at a time, spread randomly.
I read The Invisibles, I think the trades were published out of order weren’t they?
JM – I think they did the same thing with The Sandman too, I think they published the second volume first?
KG – But it was even worse with The Invisibles because they published the third series and then went back for the second series, and of course I wasn’t following it in comics, so I only got it out of order, which of course is fine because it’s The Invisibles and it makes no sense anyway!
The fact that you had to read it all, and you had to read it repeatedly, meant that even the fucked-up trade thing added to the impression of The Invisibles.
Post-Morrison? I think Aaron’s quite post-Morrison, I think a few people at Marvel now…
JM – I think people are in different ways.
KG – Me, Fraction, Aaron I would put in the same sort of… It’s basically if you use Marvel Boy you need to have at least some sympathy for Grant. It’s interesting, I haven’t actually read much of Grant’s stuff over at DC recently, just because of time, and there’s only so many superhero comics you can read. Eventually I’ll read his whole Batman run, but I sort of dabbled in and out.
GM – Last question, can I just ask, I know that we know roughly when it’s coming out, but can you give us anything at all about Phonogram vol. 3?
KG – What do you want to know? It is written.
GM – well I want to know everything, but… Are we going to get anything different in terms of the narrative, because obviously there’s a big change from vol. 1 to vol. 2, is there going to be anything significantly different happening in vol. 3?
KG – Have you even read the script? [To Jamie]
JM – Yeah, I’ve read it.
KG – What did you make of it?
JM – It’s quite good… [laughs]. It’s more like one than two.
KG – It’s a synthesis. It’s about the war of personality between Emily and Claire, and that’s the basic device, and our folded narrative is more folded through time, which is kind of something we did a little bit of in The Singles Club, sorry, in Rue Brittania. Metaphorically, Rue Brittania is about Kohl turning 30, metaphorically The Immaterial Girl is about Emily turning 30, and this is basically ageing crisis for the pair of them. So it’s more like the first one, but it’s kind of better… That’s the best way of putting it. It’s certainly more fantastical, the magic comes back in quite hard. And it’s basically about music videos, like the first scene has Claire watching music in 1985, and it’s about the Faustian pact she made.
It’s set in 2009, and there’s a bit of it in 2001, there’s more of the coven stuff, which we flirt around, but we actually show the formation of the coven. And we get bits of Kohl before that, Emily post… Emily coming out after the deal she made, all that kind of stuff.
GM – So we see her just afterwards?
KG – Yeah, and we kind of go around time, there’s a device in the story that allows you to read through time, essentially. It’s weird, it’s the weirdest motherfucker, it genuinely is very weird.
GM – I’m looking forward to it!
Here’s another preview, this time page 6. I’m hoping to get the first 7 pages packaged up for a submission, so I’ll preview those then crack on with the rest. Got John Grieve on colouring duties and Colin Bell on lettering, so while they beautify the first bundle, I’ll continue in the hope of getting a B&W preview issue up in time for the Glasgow Comic Con. Then I can send the subs package away, get issue 1 completed, and move onto other things while I wait to see if anyone takes the bait.
This one shows a bunch of layers on top of each other, and for this page and the last I’m using a totally digital workflow, which has taken some getting used to, but which I think is starting to settle.
Who is Andel Novak? He’s effectively the lead character of Gonzo Cosmic, and he’s a billionaire entrepreneur from a Czech family, raised in Unthank City in an unnamed country that looks a lot like Scotland. At the beginning of the story, his company is just announcing that they’ve created the first working Faster Than Light space vehicle, and he’s basking in praise and amazement. Unfortunately, it’s all going to go very wrong for Novak due to an age-old rivalry with another businessman, Ira (pronounced EE-rah) Tappan, whose first attempt at something similar resulted in the worst space disaster since the space race began.
But through major disaster, Novak will realise something very powerful about himself and the world, that its growth is severely stunted by the old structures of capitalism, communism and religion. As the story reveals, many beings have been offered the same opportunity he is, but not everyone has his unique drive and vision to change things – a single-minded determination that will see him commit acts of atrocity in the name of the greater good. A man willing to do what is necessary, to have the blood on his hands and no one else’s, to deliver a future for Earth that is fit for everyone.
Gonzo Cosmic is concerned not only with how he gets this power to change, but also what he does with it afterwards…
He’s an inverted Reed Richards in my re-imagining of the Fantastic Four template – a genius, a businessman, and soon-to-be a powerhouse post-human, but someone who doesn’t think that dressing up in spandex and becoming a superhero will really cut it.
Just showing some more of the layout work I’m doing for Gonzo – this one is page five. You’ll probably notice by now that I’m being a bit luxurious with the layout – so far we’ve got 2 splash pages and a DPS (double page spread). I figure I can get away with this because pages 2 and 3 contain a lot of information, and page 5 has panels floating over the top to break down the information the reader is presented with. Whether or not it works remains to be seen, but from here on in, I’ll be reverted to a fairly traditional use of layout and structure.
This preview shows all the perspective and underlay drawing I’m doing for page 5. I’m being particularly fussy with the perspective as 1. it’s way easier using Photoshop and a Cintiq, and 2. it is really necessary for my style. I’ve tried the freehand approach, but it doesn’t work when the line work is as tight and detailed as I like it. It takes away from the better-rendered characters, and leaves me open to all kinds of weird stuff happening with the angles. So while it’s still a bit laborious, the time gained by going digital for this part more than makes up for it.
I’m trying to use planes better, following some advice from Frank Quitely. He pointed out that I focus a lot on mid-range shots, and that they can be broken up and made more interesting by showing an object close up at the end of the frame to give us some depth. I don’t want to end up doing that all the time though, so I’m going to have to seriously consider how I lay things out to still get across the important part – the storytelling – but make it interesting for the reader.
Anyway, that’s yet to come, here’s the preview:
I’m trying to get into the habit of using this blog again (I’ve been busy with Suddenly Something Really Interesting) so I’m going to start posting up some preview images of stuff I’m working on just now; primarily ‘Black Leaf’, the graphic novel I’m working on with John Lees, and ‘Gonzo Cosmic’, my first fully creator-owned series that I’m writing and drawing.
The first three pages of Gonzo are in the bag – page 1 and the pages 2 and 3 double page spread are below:
I’m also working on a lovely new Cintiq 22HD, which is already transforming my work after only a few days. The first few pages were laid out digitally, and pencilled by hand, but the digital layout was messy and not exactly what I was looking for. For page 4, I’m dropping in perspective lines, using the path tool to set up other perspective grids, and layering varying degrees of detail over the rough thumbnail. Here’s a preview of that page:
There’s obviously a lot of work still needing done here in terms of posing etc, but the basic layout is there. (Those perspective lines are for panel 4, and come from a tool Freddie Williams II created and distributed through his website.)
I’m considering trying to do final pencils digitally, if I can make it look natural enough, but if not, I’m going to do an almost-final layer that I can print in blueline and pencil by hand.
Look, I know, I know. X-Friday was a wash-out. After I let it fall by the wayside, my mate Jules and I even talked about doing a kind of call-and-response thing where we would encourage each other to write about Nation X and onwards.
But it never happened.
I don’t know whether it was my increasing trepidation about Avengers vs X-Men or whether I just got bored with the idea of de-constructing a world that I was increasingly disassociating from, but it never happened.
Meanwhile, Avengers vs X-Men is still underway. Halfway through, it went from a really boring battle royale to a potentially interesting saga with the arrival of the Phoenix Five and Cyclops and Co establishing Pax Utopia – a paradise that is so close to my own ideas for Gonzo Cosmic that I felt rather uncomfortable reading it.
I started to get a good feeling – maybe the X-books were going in the right direction. Maybe the mutants were returning and we’d get the future promised by Morrison that I’ve been moaning about since I started this blog. Then there was the announcement about Marvel NOW and the ridiculous line-up of books they’ve got planned. All New X-Men with the really old team, Uncanny Avengers ffs… You know the drill, if it’s something that interests you. If not, why are you even reading this?!? 😛
Whatever, it fills me once again with real trepidation. Whatever folk say, I think the X-Universe is big enough to exist on its own, adjacent to and sometimes overlapping with but generally outside of the Marvel 616. And recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what the future of that universe might be…
Some people will have seen some recent images on my Facebook page, something called “X ≠Ω”, or “X is not Omega”.
These are drawings I’ve done of some significant ‘X’ characters as imagined being a few years older than they are now. It’s all part of this large tapestry I’ve dreamed up, a way of trying to re-imagine a future for the X-teams, one that doesn’t involve incessant crossover, but which can recreate a context that would not only involve some really interesting stuff in itself, but would also hopefully create a fertile soil for future creators to continue to write the X-books.
If you look back at my first post about the X-Men where I talk about picking up Claremont and Lee’s X-Men #1, you’ll know why I thought it was a great re-introduction. Although canon and continuity would potentially disagree, I look back and see that re-introduction of the mutants as making them all slightly older. Although there’s not much difference between the previous Uncanny run and this book, there’s a definite sense that everything’s grown up a little. I feel like that same happened in New X-Men – this was the X-guys in there 30s and 40s now, older, hairier and greyer around the temples, with more wrinkles.
Now, I know that it’s difficult in a Batman or Superman book to make your main character age significantly in continuity. It “spoils” the future for other creators and more importantly, for the fans. But the X-Men is an ensemble book, which is more about the context than any one individual team. This is proven by the main and varied main teams there’s been over the years. When the books struggled, it was often prudent to simply change the entire main team, keeping maybe one singular character like Wolvie to bridge the gap.
So while I understand that making any kind of leaps in age would make Marvel nervous, I posit that it’s something you could quite easily “get away with” with the readers – so long as those old favourites were still accessible in some form, and so long as the stories warranted it and were exciting and dangerous again, I think they’d forgive that. I would. Hence the idea.
Here it is then. (Disclaimer: much of the pre-Omega stuff is a void because while I would like to see Hope do her stuff and re-activate the mutants, I’m not sure it’s going to happen. So imagine if you will that this takes place not too long after AvX, and that the end of that saga is the one I “hope” for… It’ll be easier and less painful that way. But the story’s not dependant on it…)
Okay, the book launches with an indeterminate gap having taken place. This is not an “actual” timed chronological space – merely a very large gutter space and a significant “closure” for the reader. There will be no future “plugging the gap” storylines, nor any attempt to explain why things are now the way they are. We’re going to assume that the readership is smart enough to realise that we’ve taken some liberties, and will go with it.
I suppose it’s a little like the “five year” condensation in the DC New 52. But also not.
We’re just returning back to the X-teams after a brief sojourn, right? So there’s been no big events in between, but we have to catch up with old friends, and find out where they’re all at.
It kind of begins with Scott, as it should. After skating perilously close to become a mutant terrorist/fundamentalist religious nut, but having been proven right by the return of his race, Cyclops has decided that he no longer has the right to manage the X-Men. He has stepped down from active duty, and has taken a role as mutant ambassador at the UN. It’s a fraught relationship he has there, which makes him the same as every other representative. They’ll all got their hands dirty in one way or another, human or mutant, no matter the country. He’s there to ensure his people have their say, and also to try and help smooth over the inevitable transition from a human to a mutant way of life. He’s older now, pushing 50, and greying at the temples. World weary, but wise, he’s a perfect mix of Xavier and Magneto, distilled into something uniquely Summers.
As influential a leader as Cyclops was, his break away from the team has resulted in a rather large amount of active members retiring. This has resulted in a lot of former X-Men taking up various roles and duties elsewhere in the world, some personal, some political etc. But in order to keep a watchful eye, they’re formed the Council of X, an advisory body of non-participatory ex-men who help the younger generation as they move up. Storm leads this body, and it doesn’t have a physical presence in the States, composed as it is from mutants who are now scattered across the US and wider.
Hope is now the incumbent headmistress at the Jean Grey school, now largely the only remaining X-Men facility still active. She has tried hard to shake off the mantle of the Phoenix and make a place for herself that isn’t in the shadow of Marvel Girl, so she has cut and died her hair and tries resolutely to govern the school in her own manner, different from Jean, Xavier and Wolverine (who holds the title of headmaster, but is rarely seen these days…)
She is helped by a large staff team of mutants from the second and third waves of X-Men, including Kitty, Chamber, Rachel, and others. There is one active field team, led by Professor Ω, or Quentin Quire. Manifesting his own slice of the Phoenix Force, he has grown up to be a fierce young leader, still rebellious and experimental, but very gifted. Hope trusts him to do the right thing out in the field, which means that she trusts him to do his thing. She has no interest in telling him how to run his hand-picked Omega team.
Beyond that, the X-Men in their original sense is now a disaster relief and recovery squad, which also performs various acts of espionage, politicking etc as and when needed. Instead of existing as a solid team, response units are chosen from the entire roster of active volunteers, as required, based on their skill sets. Very often the work required isn’t offensive, but a mix of crowd management, trauma response and rescue/rebuilding. Hope has a very special team of mutants who help her decide who to choose – the Luck Police – Blindfold, Nate Grey and Domino. Blindfold and Nate Grey extrapolate possible scenarios, while Domino using her luck power to help pick the most likely one, and the team is chosen based on the outcome.
There are also active project teams on site at Westchester – these guys are the X-Club, which is no longer the elitist scientific cabal it once was, but is now a laboratory for exploring the future – scientifically, sociologically, politically, environmentally… Groups of mutants, teachers and students, work to build a brighter future, one where humankind peacefully integrated into mutantkind, and which is better for all forms of human.
Outside of the X-Teams, the world has changed. The re-emergence of the mutant populous has resulted in some tensions, but also an emergence of mutant popularity. There are mutant popstars, including one who rivals Dazzler’s former glory and has become the darling of the media. Rock bands, shock artists, reality stars – they’re all here, and they’re winning over the human populous.
The Hellfire Club has gone corporate – no longer engaging in its previous petty power plays, the newest owners have grown up to realise that all this fighting is costing money and hampering profits. They have instead opened the Pleasuredome, a palace of hedonistic delights, where you can go and legally experience anything you desire, as it all takes place in the mind and body chemistry.
Also, much to the chagrin of Cyclops and the Council, a new figure has emerged, a Mister Sinister type. He is interested in mutant husbandry – he purifies the gene pool by forming an elite of wealthy individuals who attend his sumptuous parties, and he introduces perfect breeding partners together. Although the X-men find his actions to be morally repugnant, he is committing no crime, and is therefore untouchable.
Emma has left the prison of the X-Men and works freelance for whoever will pay. She operated The Switchboard, a massive office tower in the heart of New York, along with the Cuckoos. On split shifts, the offices are filled day in day out by a willing, and handsomely paid, workforce, who offer up their brains. They sit at desks 9-5 or whatever, literally unplugging themselves while Frost and her girls turn them into a massive psychic battery. All the worlds secrets are open to The Switchboard, and while the authorities want her closed down, they have a hard job planning any offensive against her.
Henry McCoy has undergone another metamorphosis and hasn’t been seen for several years. Some say he hides in the basement of The Switchboard, helping Frost to keep the technology running. He sits alone in darkness, and no one knows what he has become, although some of Frost’s workers have reported hearing a massive slithering sound emerging from the dark when they go down to fix the generators.
Bobby has slowed right down… All the wisecracking and joking he used to cover up the ice at his heart has stopped, and he sits in the grounds of Westchester, completely frozen. The kids call it The Grotto, and although no one has spoken to him in a while, they are sure he stills breathes and thinks – just very slowly. It’s like he’s carefully trying to put something together, something that’s Not. Quite. Right.
Rogue has left active service and now runs a farm in the midwest, where she fosters mutant runaways and acts as a psychotherapist. She’s a hippy earth mother who’s left her fighting days behind her. Although she’s now happily single, she gets occasional visits from a certain Cajun who stops by some summers to help her plough her furrows.
Meanwhile, somewhere far from Westchester, two old men sit still, facing off against each other in an endless game of chess. Watched over by their nursemaid, Xavier and Erik are slipping into dementia, outdated and outmoded and obsolete, tired of the world they tried so hard to save only to have gained so little. New students to the Grey school are taken on a pilgrimage to their mansion, to visit with the old folks, who rarely acknowledge visitors, locked as they are in this game of chess, this one holdover from their lifelong battle. One can only wonder what’s happening in the minds of the world’s brightest man and the mutant who controls the electromagnetic spectrum, but then, one also wonders whether they’d even be able to tell us anymore.
There are many, many other examples of characters who’re a little bit older, and a little bit changed. Each of the propositions for the characters looks at who they’ve been for the last 10, 20, 30 years and extrapolates what I feel is a coherent future for them, albeit with some twists and turns along the way. The soil for the story is there, and I’ve got some ideas for individual plots. The way I see it is that doing this, you could spend 2 or 3 years at least just telling lovely individual stories that weave in and out of a couple of larger plots (and I’ve got a doozy for one of those…). We’d get this rich understanding of who the characters are, and the time shift would release us a little from the complex “ongoing” problem. Plus the new characters arcs lend themselves to plots, rather than vice versa. We would also get to allow some of the more interesting younger characters take the field and centre stage, as well as positing a new future that we can watch emerge. Let the Marvel Universe play catch up. Don’t age Cap America or Thor, there’s no need – they can still engage with an older Summers or Storm without any hitch – they’ve already done it, many many times over the decades. Cap hasn’t ages much in the time it’s taken for Jean to grow out of bobby socks, skintight jumpuits, massive hair, die, be reborn, die again, kill everyone, destroy the universe then repair it. You know? This is obvious! The X-books are far more malleable, and it doesn’t interfere with the 616 in any negative way.
So this is it. This is X≠Ω. This isn’t a new X-Men story so much as it’s a whole new instance of world building within the X-Universe. I think it’s fucking badass, and I’d really read it all. I’d also love the opportunity some day to sit down with the big mucka mucks at Marvel and explain to them why this would work. Hopefully one day I will… Comments much appreciated, especially from X fans 🙂