Brian Wood gets set for his new series with artist Olivier Coipel starring Storm and a group of elite X-Women!
By Tim O’Shea
Starting this April, writer Brian Wood teams up with artist Olivier Coipel on the new Marvel NOW! ongoing series, X-MEN.
Wood’s return to the mutant world includes a reunion with characters who flourished under his writing recently in Storm and Psylocke, but you cannot have a team book with only two cast members. The incredible line-up of X-MEN features a plethora of greats, including Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey and Rogue. The writer relishes the chance to write this iconic and dynamic cast.
We recently caught up with Wood to learn why he approaches this new series as an opportunity to capture the “classic X-Men” vibe.
Marvel.com: The opportunity to write X-MEN must mean a great deal to you to take it on at such a busy time for you. What is it about the potential of this new series appealed to you so much that you added it to your already busy and successful schedule?
Brian Wood: Well, I look at this as just taking up the same space that X-MEN [did] last year, when I was writing the title then. So, in my own weird way of justifying things, this adds no new work! Amazing, huh? But yeah, I am busy as hell and I deeply, deeply miss having any sort of free time, but how do you turn a job like this down? It's worth it to have a really intense year or two if it means having the chance to do this work and see it sitting on my shelf, in the end.
And the appeal of the series: this has a great iconic title, X-MEN #1. It's a chance to work with Olivier Coipel, to work with Jeanine Schaefer, to write a female-led book packed with marquee names—there's no downside here; it’s a X-book I could only dream of getting. I joke with Jeanine that Marvel needs to go ahead and announce this already because otherwise I don't believe her that it’s real.
Marvel.com: Not to harp on your busy schedule, but in the past you have made it clear that the only way you can tackle so many titles at once is by working with good editors. How much does your X-Men writing benefit from working with Jeanine Schaefer?
Brian Wood: I don't know a bigger X-Men fan than Jeanine, and I also feel comfortable confessing my ignorance when there's something I don't know about the characters or continuity. Her enthusiasm and willingness to fight for this book is the sort of thing that all writers want in an editor. And she doesn't let me slack; she'll send me back for a third draft if the story needs it.
Marvel.com: You are collaborating with Olivier Coipel on this new series. As you were waiting to see his pages, I wonder was there any character you were looking especially forward to seeing how he handled them?
Brian Wood: All of them? He's great, obviously, and the art's amazing. His Jubilee is fantastic and rendered Jeanine speechless.
Marvel.com: Speaking of the cast, for fans of the X-Women of the Marvel universe, is it too early to reveal who other than the core characters will be in the book?
Brian Wood: Not too early. Pixie and Bling! put in small appearances in the first issue. Our main villain for this first arc is Sublime, and he comes with a villain of his own in tow.
Marvel.com: A team with both Kitty and Storm begs the question, will you capitalize on the strong bond those two have? Also, on the Kitty front, does that mean we get to see Lockheed, or is he too busy teaching "Knowing Your Alien Races, And How To Kill Them" at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning?
Brian Wood: [Laughs] No plans for Lockheed. And if that's the sort of stuff Jason Aaron's getting out of the character, I'm not going to get in his way.
As far as Storm and Kitty goes, yeah, they have that bond but it’s not something I'm going to single out as a point of focus. I think there's going to be a lot of great moments with Storm and everyone else, since she's definitely in a leadership role and has history with everyone. Look for some Jubilee/Storm moments, actually. Storm was there when Jubilee was [first] rescued—so was Rogue, come to think of it—and there's something very similar that's happening in this first arc that will make for a then-and-now contrast.
Marvel.com: In terms of building the cast, how did you go about selecting the characters and did you consider the potential character dynamics you could explore when making that decision?
Brian Wood: This lineup came with the job, actually, and honestly, this is a good thing. I wouldn't have had the nerve to ask for a line-up like that, and it’s my nature to want to seek out the D-list underdogs. But a cast like this is better for everyone: for the book, for the readers, and for me as a writer. It's a challenge to work with a large, iconic cast, and do them all justice.
Marvel.com: Did you and Coipel take the occasion of this new Marvel NOW! launch to give redesigns to any of the characters?
Brian Wood: I'm tweaking some aspects of their powers—not in a way that changes what they are, but more of an elaboration. Psylocke, for example, will have a larger arsenal of psychic weapons than just her katana. Jubilee, while still a vampire, is going to be handling those supernatural traits as if they were superpowers and not just hindrances. That's as far as we've gotten, but I'm sure they'll be other tweaks along the way. Nothing too major; this book is designed to be a sort of classic X-Men with core characterization that hits the sweet spot.
Marvel.com: Is there a member of the team that their inclusion might surprise readers more than others?
Brian Wood: Jubilee, less for the fact she's on the team than for whom or what she brings with her.
Marvel.com: How do you view Rachel Grey's role on this team?
Brian Wood: She's the aggressive and idealistic one, the one who'll make her decisions based on the greater good. It’s a bit different from Storm, who does make decisions like that but makes them on the fly, in-mission, and as the situation dictates. Rachel thinks more globally, taking the big picture into account. I also want to get something happening for her in the romance department, stir up a bunch of drama there. Plans are afoot!
Marvel.com: Is there any member of the team that you find yourself thinking, "Wow, they are fun to write dialogue for?"
Brian Wood: Jubilee, again! But all writers say that, don't they? Jubilee has a special place in my heart, since my very first paid writing job was on GENERATION X.
Last year, when I was doing my run on the last version of X-MEN, I started off a bit unsure as to how I was going to write Storm. I wasn't sure I had a handle on her, and in the end I just went with gut instincts and let her rip. And people really responded—they really responded, and so I'm eager to keep that going. I'm not changing a thing. I also have fun writing Rachel as a headmistress-type, going back to my WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN: ALPHA AND OMEGA [limited series] where she cracked the whip.
Marvel.com: What do you view as the proper approach to writing Psylocke?
Brian Wood: In this case, she's the military wing of the team, as well as Storm's informal second in command and confidant. Because of what she went through in UNCANNY X-FORCE, she sort of has an emotionally distant/emotionally overwrought thing going on; she's dealing with a lot just under the surface despite her seeming cool and calm on the outside. That's really meaty stuff for a writer to get into. I don't want to say that's the "proper" way of writing her, but I think that's the way she should be written here.
Marvel.com: You are a writer admired for building team books where you still give each character a moment in an issue where the reader gets a better understanding of that person. How hard is that and how important is it for you to be able to do it?
Brian Wood: It's really hard, and I have to say that I don't think I'm that great or even known for writing team books. I've always avoided it, or structured it in ways so that I was only ever writing one or two in any given scene. But I've been forced to get better at it. Jeanine Schaefer helps with this tremendously, making sure every character has a reason and a purpose to be on the page, and they all shine equally and it feels natural.
The character moments, that is something that comes naturally to me and it’s what I feel I can bring to any project and really deliver on. The X-Men is the perfect venue for that.
Marvel.com: What do you view as the greatest advantage/benefit to writing an all-female cast?
Brian Wood: Personally, a high comfort level in writing women. I've always written female characters, going all the way back to my first book ever, and I'm known for it. But that aside, the X-Men are full of truly excellent female characters. I would say that on balance, the women rule the men in the x-world, hands down. It's a real anomaly in comics, and I think it’s what makes the X-Men both special and successful—and appealing to all genders and all types. You can see this reflected in the fan base. So I get great women to write, complicated, complex, multi-faceted, flawed, wonderfully relatable characters, and here is this series where all that can shine. It's a no-brainer, I think, and anyone ready to dismiss it is missing what the X-Men is all about.
Marvel.com: In your recent 2012 run on X-MEN, one theme was the political strife between Cyclops and Storm. In approaching Storm in this incarnation, does that experience inform your approach at all?
Brian Wood: Like I said, I went with my gut with her and it paid off. I wrote her tough and smart, obviously, but flawed; she had the absolute best of intentions and was quite selfless in her decision making, even when she was wrong. She genuinely did what she thought was best, and if that meant breaking the rules or screwing things up for Scott, that was just what had to happen. It's a very flawed trait in someone, but at the same time you have to admire her for it. I love writing flawed characters; if anything I do is my "secret weapon", it’s that. I've never afraid to show that side of a character, and it makes a hero that much more heroic. It also makes them very human and relatable.
Marvel.com: In the opening issue of X-MEN, a baby plays a prominent role in the action. What's the secret to successfully involving a baby without making a character that cannot speak or act in any manner be little more than a football that the characters pass around?
Brian Wood: Well, I have a couple babies of my own and I know from experience that they don't have to talk to communicate. That said, I think the secret to that will be to make sure to show how people react to the baby, let that do the heavy lifting rather than to rely on the child itself. I'm very careful, as a father, in how I'm handling the infant in the story, avoiding violence situations and anything that feels gratuitous or like it’s treating the child like a football. And without giving too much away, this child isn't a plot point that will come and go, but will be around for as long as I am, at least.
Marvel.com: As a creator who clearly relishes doing research for his stories, do you care to delve into what you have pursued for X-Men?
Brian Wood: I took a couple issues of X-Men—[Brian] Bendis' new ALL NEW X-MEN #1 and Grant Morrison's [first issue of] NEW X-MEN—and picked [them] apart for [their] mystical secrets of how to write a compelling #1 issue, one full of action and drama and retaining that sort of "yes, that’s the X-Men!" vibe. Like I said before, I'm aiming for that sweet spot of big action and crazy dramatic moments, mixed with intense character drama. And sex and romance, of course, that which drives the X-Men and kinda always has, really?
Marvel.com: What is the key to tapping into capturing the "classic X-Men" vibe?
Brian Wood: A little bit of what I said above, about the characterization. The X-Men are perfect, when you get down to it. They don't need anything, they are this great community of interlocking personalities that generate all the action, drama, love, sadness, betrayal, and sex you could ask for, and more. My approach is to facilitate that, let them be the X-Men everyone recognizes and knows, give them classic villains to fight, plenty of chances for action, and not pull any punches in the process.
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