As announced by Marvel Comics at WonderCon, writer Brian Wood is about to take over the X-Men books in two universes. No joke. The writer - who returned to the House of Ideas after a long stint at the Distinguished Competition to pen the currently running Wolverine: Alpha & Omega - will be taking over X-Men with issue #30 along with artist David Lopez, and Ultimate Comics X-Men with issue #13, art by Paco Medina, both in June. To talk more about the unprecedented move, how he keeps his scripts straight with so many of the “same” characters, and which Editor he likes the best, we chatted with Wood over e-mail before the announcement:
Geek: Between the two books, you currently have four Editors. Be honest: who’s the best?
Brian Wood: See, I bet you didn't think I would answer this straight, but I will: Jeanine Schaefer. Of course, for the purposes of this question I'm limiting the criteria down to who did I work with first, and she is that person. Seniority counts!
Geek: Creatively, does your process differ in terms of how you approach either book? Or Universe, for that matter? Or is a script a script?
BW: When it comes right down to it a script is indeed a script, but there is a difference in the process. In the case of the Ultimate universe, its so close-knit, those three books fit together pretty closely so there's lots of meetings, sharing of scripts, and more than a few spreadsheets that keep it all in sync. On X-Men, I'm edited by Jeanine and I know Nick Lowe reads the scripts but aside from that I'm pretty much on my own. For my entire career up to this point I've always been on my own, so its a bit of a change on Ultimate X-Men.
Geek: Entering into working on books so interconnected like X-Men, and Ultimate X-Men, what are the challenges for you; versus something like, say, a Northlanders, or even Alpha & Omega? I realize in comics you’re always going to be serving some sort of masters, but I imagine there’s a bit more difficulty when everybody is sharing the same toys in the toy box...
BW: There is a classic frustration when you have a great idea and wanna write it, or you have a character in mind for something, and you find out its not possible due to some continuity footnote or another writer beat you to it. I mean, its never THAT bad a disappointment, but it does remind you quite clearly that this ain't all about you. On Northlanders or any of my creator-owned books I am essentially the boss of it all in terms of decision making and creative vision. And I've worked that way for forever. I try and look at all of this as just exercising different creative muscles and challenging myself in new ways. When you work on company books or licensed books, if you don't maintain a healthy perspective you'll go insane.
Geek: Other than the fact that they’re both X-Men, these are two very different universes… What do you think essentially makes X-Men who they are in the 616, versus the Ultimate Universe?
BW: I think at the core the X-Men are the X-Men, at least as far as I'm concerned. That great core concept, the primal conflict, its all there in each of them. The differences are in the details, I guess, and the history. The biggest difference would be the histories of both, how far back one goes compared to the other. The Ultimate books also have a mandate of sorts to take advantage of that and take bigger risks and not be afraid to mess with characters and status quo in a way that would not be acceptable in the 616. On the other hand, the 616 does have that rich history to draw upon...
Geek: More important question: how do you keep the names on your scripts straight? Do you have two different computers so you don’t accidentally start writing Ultimate X-Men, when you’re supposed to be writing adjective-less? MTV Geek: asking the hard computing questions since 2010.
BW: I have two different dioramas set up with action figures, actually, to remind myself what's going on. What?
Geek: Let’s talk about X-Men (regular style) first… What does this team bring to the table? What kind of dynamics can we look forward to?
BW: I'm taking their "security team" label and running with it. The book will shift away from what it is now, which features a lot of guest appearances from other Marvel heroes, to a gnarly, full-blown, real-world action comic where the team is actively out there. I call this the bleeding edge of the human/mutant conflict, that locus where the trouble happens, where the mutant cause needs protecting.
Geek: I know you’re dealing with a centuries old mutant race in this arc… Where have they been? What makes them unique… Or similar to groups we’ve seen before?
BW: They've been dead! They've been laying in mass graves since the days of the black plague. Our villain finds them and a la Jurassic Park starts creating them all over again. This is a big deal. The existence of this proto-race of mutants changes everything for modern day mutants. It gives them a history, a larger claim to planet earth than perhaps people are willing to give them now, and tells them they are not some fluke, one one-off mutation. Now, these "proto"'s are cruder, more primal and medieval, not the relatively elegantly designed mutants of today. And they have no idea what's going on.
BW: The main team is Kitty and her crew as it exists now: Bobby Drake, Jimmy Hudson, Rogue, and Johnny Storm. Possibly another to be added in short order. The book so far, Nick Spencer's run, has been this huge, sprawling epic with a hell of a lot of moving pieces, and the general feeling (mine, and editorial) is we need to spend some time with this core cast and start revolving the book around them. Kitty will be the star, the character everything will start to revolve around as we move forward.
Geek: I think we’ve talked about this before, chatting about Wolverine: Alpha and Omega, but with you taking over two X-Men books, does this at all feel like a bit of a homecoming for you? Or are these titles so different from where you were when you first wrote about Mutants that it’s a different animal altogether?
BW: It's not the titles that are different, but me and my career. It was 1999 when I got the Generation X job, but for the last twelve, thirteen years I've been off doing my own thing for the most part, building a career as a creator-owned guy. I have a lot of affection for those Gen X issues, especially the (uncollected) "Four Days" arc, and I'm pretty happy to be writing the books I'm writing now, but the two aren't part of a timeline, necessarily. And the Marvel Universe is REALLY different now than it was then.
Last year when my Vertigo books were winding down and I made the decision to spend some time working on some company books, some higher profile titles, I found a closed door at DC but a very open and welcoming one at Marvel. And I'm really flattered by that, and gratified, considering it had been a decade between Marvel assignments.
Geek: I’m sure there are plenty of plans in the works for this anyway, but given the announcement about Marvel’s Infinite Comics and AR plans this week, is that something you’re writing at all with a mind to? Is that an area you’d like to play in - with, or without the X-Men - in the future?
BW: I don't know if I know enough about it to say. I do have a creator-owned project in the works that's digital first and that's about as deep into it as I've gotten. I tend to look at digital as a new and exciting delivery mechanism rather than a medium unto its own. My end goal will always be a printed book, regardless of how it's first published. I realize that may sound antiquated, and maybe it is, but I got into the career I'm in because I like books and personally want books around me. I'll welcome any format and any medium and any innovation to the form of comics. There just needs to be a traditional book in there somewhere. For me, if for no one else.
Geek: Lastly, anything you want to tease about what’s coming up in either book?
BW: The year or so I mapped out on Ultimate X-Men, I think, is some pretty great stuff, and hits all the themes I am most known for it my other books. I'm really looking forward to building that world for the X-Men and for Kitty in particular.
Both titles begin in June from Marvel Comics, with X-Men #30 and Ultimate Comics X-Men #13! The full sized covers to both are below: