An evil goddess fights the X-Men with an army of the dead!

Every day this month, a new supernatural character or story from the Marvel Universe gets a spooky spotlight leading up to Halloween!

Death follows the X-Men wherever they go.

One of the unfortunate side effects of fighting for equality, the mutant race negotiates with extinction on a semi-regular basis. And this practice reached a climax when the X-Men faced an army of dead reanimated to kill the living.

Selene, a the psychic vampire, used a Techno-Organic Virus mixed with her own dark magic to create a new concoction that raises the dead. She used that formula against the X-Men in an event called Necrosha that began in 2009 with the one-shot X-NECROSHA and then continued between X-FORCE, X-MEN LEGACY, and NEW MUTANTS.

X Necrosha (2009) #1

X Necrosha (2009) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Written by Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, Zeb Wells, and Mike Carey with art by Clayton Crain, Diogenes Neves, Clay Mann, and others, this story made the X-Men reflect on some of their biggest mistakes—and face them like never before.

This damned enterprise served Selene’s quest to become a goddess. On that quest, she and her undead crew—which included Wither, Blink, Senyaka, Mortis, and Eli Bard—utilized an army of zombie mutants to attack the X-Men in their home of Utopia. While the X-Men fought the horde, Selene and her inner circle traveled to Genosha where they made thousands more mutants and former mutants rise from the dead as a means to build her seat of power.

In NEW MUTANTS issues #6, #7, and #8, the recently risen Doug Ramsey followed Selene’s command to destroy his old teammates after helping the Hellions break into Utopia. Luckily for those involved, Warlock eventually showed up and helped quell the danger.

Meanwhile, over in X-MEN LEGACY #231, #232, and #233, a team consisting of Nightcrawler, Rogue, Colossus, Psylocke, Magneto, Husk, Trance, and Blindfold raced to Muir Island at the behest of Destiny. Once there, they faced off against Proteus—one of the X-Men’s deadliest foes. The ensuing battle led to teammates fighting possessed teammates, and only Magneto’s intervention could manage to save the day.

The main action took place in X-FORCE issues #21, #22, #23, #24, and #25, as the more violent X-Squad dealt directly with Selene and her plans. Working together to seize Selene and her evil cohort, the team also fought off a pack of Necroshan zombies. Though brave in their efforts, the X-Squad remained unable to stop Selene from undergoing a rite to reach her goddess form.

X-Force (2008) #21

X-Force (2008) #21

What is Marvel Unlimited?

In response, Warpath communed with his dead brother, John Proudstar, A.K.A. the first Warpath. They used their ancestral ritual to outfit the team with abilities to adequately counter the new deity. And at last, the mutants—the living mutants—prevailed.

Fright Fact

NEW X-MEN #23 and X-FORCE #11 provide further background to the players in the Necrosha epic. The former explores Wither’s past with the title team and illustrates how he started working with Selene. In the latter issue, called “Who The Hell Is Eli Bard?”, readers learned the answer to the titular question—and witnessed his first ever meeting with Selene.

And to see how Selene selected the rest of the major characters in her scheme, read up on X-NECROSHA: THE GATHERING. This story features some of the creepiest, most spooktacular monster art in the series!

Read More

Writer Marc Guggenheim peers inside the head of the terrifying TV tycoon!

After years of drawing the X-Men to his own nightmare realm, Mojo has decided to mix it up and swing by New York City instead. On October 18, Mojo takes Manhattan in X-MEN: GOLD #14!

Written by Marc Guggenheim with art by Marc Laming, the mutant crossover continues as the Gold team fights alongside their X-MEN: BLUE counterparts in a war with Mojo, the Brood, and Dark Phoenix!

So, what motivates the malevolent mogul behind all this chaos? We asked Guggenheim to find out.

Marvel.com: The first time we spoke about this crossover, you mentioned that Mojo would be your nightmare television executive. Now that you’ve written him, has that perspective held up?

Marc Guggenheim: Yeah, it really has. Even more so than I imagined.

The fun thing about writing Mojo has been the opportunity to get metatextual. I really, really pushed that—particularly in issue #14. There’s a page that has a really fun joke about the nature of X-Men capacity to not only avoid being killed but to be resurrected. It gave me a chuckle to see how Marc Laming executed that; the joke really lands.

Mojo can never be too broad or too big. No matter what you write for him, it never feels over the top.

Marvel.com: What inspires Mojo on a day-to-day basis?

Marc Guggenheim: For my money, Mojo gets motivated by three things: ratings, ratings, and ratings.

It makes him a very ego-simplistic guy. He has a very simple need: he wants the biggest audience he can get his hands on. There’s something very decadent about that kind of character—the kind that acts just so cravenly that nothing will stop him in his pursuit of ratings.

If you think about ratings, they are kind of meaningless. And I say that as someone who has been working in television for 18 years. [Laughs]

There’s nothing special about ratings. It gives you an idea of how many people are watching your show, but they aren’t good onto themselves. So Mojo pursues this entire endeavor for his entire life and it is a very meaningless pursuit.

If you can see him through that light, you almost start to feel bad for the guy.

Marvel.com: What draws Mojo to the X-Men? Why does he find them so magnetic?

Marc Guggenheim: Well, that’s a good question.

He has a history with them. It’s almost like he’s killing two birds with one stone—he gets his precious ratings at the same time that messes with the people who have often made his life difficult.

Every time he deals with the X-Men, he comes away diminished. But it’s more than just the X-Men foiling his plans—he usually ends up taking a step back as a result of his interactions with them. For someone like Mojo, who has this massive ego, he gets really picky about these upstart mutants that keep vexing him at every turn.

Marvel.com: What are your thoughts on Marc Laming’s rendition of Mojo? What about his depiction really brings out those characteristics?

Marc Guggenheim: I really like Marc’s ability to capture a lot of the humor of Mojo. It can be one thing to draw Mojo as really diabolical or creepy looking, but Marc also manages to nail all the jokes that are written here.

Marc has also made Major Domo this really fun visual sidekick to Mojo. You’ll often see Major Domo’s facial expressions are providing a fun, but subtle, commentary on something probably all of us can appreciate—working with the worst boss ever. [Editor’s note: Not me! I love my bosses that will definitely read this article!]

Marvel.com: How did you and Marc go about capturing the broken physics and inherent strangeness of the Mojoverse?

Marc Guggenheim: In issue #14, Marc takes us on a tour of the X-Men’s Greatest Hits. His artwork does a fantastic job of not only replicating the look and feel of those stories, but really the look and feel of those eras.

For example, we open with a scene set around the start of “Mutant Genesis”—the beginning of [writer] Chris Claremont and [artist] Jim Lee’s three-part Magneto story in X-MEN. You’ll really feel like you are transported back. It’s really cool and fun.

I just want to say, Mike Mayhew drew issue #13, Marc draws issue #14, Diego Bernard will do issue #15, and all the issues are colored by Rain Beredo. All the artists are turning in unbelievable work. And Rain’s coloring brings it all together so even though three different artists are on board, it keeps a similar visual style all the way through.

They are really, really, really stunning looking books. All our artists are up to the challenge of the incredibly huge landscape we are playing with here. These are really big widescreen sequences across the biggest, most iconic X-Men stories that have ever been done. It has been really easy to write, but man the artists have had their work cut out for them.

Marvel.com: What about this story makes Mojo so dangerous to the X-Men?

Marc Guggenheim: Every time the X-Men have dealt with Mojo, it hasn’t just been on his terms, but on his playing field as well. For Mojo to make a breach into our world—it just ups the dramatic stakes. You’ll see throughout the series how Mojo’s plot eventually impacts Manhattan. To my knowledge—I’m always loathe to say we’ve never seen something because there are so many stories—I feel pretty confident in saying we’ve never seen this before.

Without spoiling the ending, I will say that by the end of this issue the battlefield will be very significantly changed. It sets up the climax that we will reach in X-MEN: BLUE #15.

The crossover continues in X-MEN: GOLD #14, by Marc Guggenheim and artist Marc Laming, on October 18!

Read More

Analyzing a mutant Marvel Legacy with writer Cullen Bunn!

Mojo may seem like a goof, but writer Cullen Bunn needs you to know that the villain has you—and the X-Men—fooled.

The mutant crossover continues between X-MEN: GOLD and X-MEN: BLUE as the two squads unite to wage war with Mojo, Sentinels, the Brood…and the past. On October 11, Bunn joins artist Jorge Molina to keep the fight alive as Marvel Legacy begins with X-MEN: BLUE #13!

Cullen took a moment to warn us about the danger of Mojo, the devious delight of unveiling Team Blue’s connection to Magneto, and the joy of collaborating with Marc Guggenheim.

Marvel.com: What made this the perfect time for a crossover between Blue and Gold?

Cullen Bunn: What’s more thrilling than two X-Men teams coming together and facing a threat that they simply cannot face alone? There’s a long-standing tradition of two different X-teams joining forces, mixing up the rosters, and facing some dire threat. With the Marvel Legacy initiative, it seemed like the perfect time to revisit that tradition in a big, action-packed, fun way.

Marvel.com: How did you decide on Mojo as the villain to bring these teams together?

Cullen Bunn: First of all, Mojo is awesome. I’ve been planning a Mojo adventure for a while now—there are hints of it in my UNCANNY X-MEN run. When we started talking about the Marvel Legacy arc, though, we knew we wanted to have the Gold and Blue teams come together, and my Editor [Mark Paniccia] suggested that this could be where the Mojo story takes place. I couldn’t agree more. Mojo gives us a great opportunity to revisit some of the greatest moments in mutant history—the Asgard War, the Mutant Massacre, the Death of Phoenix, Days of Future Past—because he has such vast abilities to warp reality in a deadly way.

Deadly.

Marvel.com: How would you describe your take on Mojo?

People forget this about Mojo—yes, he’s kind of a goofball and he cracks weird jokes. But he’s also extremely powerful and can be scary as Hell. Mojo can be terrifying and menacing. He’s still a character with a lot of humor, but he’s not to be trifled with. In this story, his back gets pushed up against the wall, so to speak, and that makes him extremely dangerous. I just looked at some lettering notes from one of the issues, and the Editor had written “So creepy!” on a Mojo scene. That’s exactly what we’re going for. Sometimes you hear that Mojo operates in an alternate reality, so his threats aren’t all that real. Well, in this story he’s coming to our world—and we absolutely do not want his plans to succeed.

Marvel.com: How does the Blue team react to their Gold counterparts? How about Mojo?

Cullen Bunn: The teams get along fairly well. There are some very interesting dynamics here. Cyclops and Rachel, for instance. Old Man Logan and Jimmy. Storm and Bloodstorm. Of course, the 800-pound Master of Magnetism in the room is that the Gold team does not yet know that the Original Five are working with Magneto. That’s going to change in this story, and it will put some tension on the relations between the groups.

Marvel.com: Describe the collaborative process between you and X-MEN: GOLD writer Marc Guggenheim. How’s it been?

Cullen Bunn: Marc and I both have X-Men lore wired into our brains. I know for certain that Marc’s notes for X-MEN: GOLD included “softball game!”—just like my notes for X-MEN: BLUE. I’m not one hundred percent certain, but I’m pretty sure he also had plans for Mojo. Working together has been an absolute blast. We had some phone calls early on to discuss the story, then we started trading planning documents back and forth, adding to the story, making it crazier and more epic.

Marvel.com: How have your respective artists, Jorge Molina and Mike Mayhew, contributed to that process?

Jorge and Mike helped so much in defining the look and feel of Mojo’s world—we’re seeing a lot of it here—and of Mojo’s technology and the “weapons” with which he attacks Earth. Also, seeing these two talents casting the current X-teams into classic situations—and classic clothing—is something special.

Marvel.com: Given that Mojo lends himself to both humor and horror, how would you describe the tone of the crossover?

Cullen Bunn: This crossover is all about action and classic X-Men adventure. In some Mojo stories, the X-Men are thrown into silly or goofy situations, but not here. These adventures are serious business with real stakes. This feels like a fun story, make no mistake, and there will be plenty of moments of humor—some of it fun humor, some of it dark—but I don’t think what we’ve got here could qualify as silly. The X-Men are trying to save themselves, but they are also trying to save the world, and time has started running out.

Marvel.com: Tell X-Men fans why they need to get onboard with this crossover.

Cullen Bunn: I think you could start this arc without reading either book beforehand, really. We give you everything you really need in those first couple of issues. Of course, you should read both GOLD and BLUE, because you’re missing out on some really awesome fun in those titles, but you can let this be your introduction to either or both teams and still have a blast.

X-MEN: BLUE #13, by Cullen Bunn and artist Jorge Molina, launches on October 11!

Read More

A classic X-Men storyline makes its mark on the acclaimed mobile game!

The X-Men joined the “Marvel Future Fight” team only a few months ago, but Apocalypse has already sniffed them out. Ever ready to eliminate those mutants he sees as beneath him, the powerful villain brings a new Age of Apocalypse to the world of “Future Fight.”

You’ll need to assemble your team, suit up in some new uniforms, and take the fight to the High Lord himself. Maybe—just maybe—you can bring him to your side.

To get the full rundown of everything the Age of Apocalypse brings to “Future Fight” fans this month, we grabbed a few minutes with Minkyun Kim, Dev Director at Netmarble Monster.

Marvel.com: Age of Apocalypse comes to “Marvel Future Fight” in a big way with this update. After the addition of the X-Men back in June, fans have certainly been eager to see some content from one of the team’s biggest events. What can you tell us about the apocalyptic additions?

Minkyun Kim: In this update, we will be telling an X-Men story from an alternate dimension with our mutant heroes under Apocalypse’s control. You’ll be able to experience World Boss content along with the X-Men, traversing an apocalyptic world.

Marvel.com: To combat the villainous Apocalypse, several of the recently added X-Men suit up as their Age of Apocalypse counterparts. Who will sport these new uniforms?

Minkyun Kim: In the first Age of Apocalypse update, you’ll be able to check out the comic uniforms for Cyclops and Beast, who appear as minions of Apocalypse. In a later Age of Apocalypse update, uniforms for Rogue and Wolverine will be available.

Marvel.com: And of course, some new faces join the team, as well. What do the Maximoff twins each bring to the table?

Minkyun Kim: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver will appear as World Bosses. They also play a very important role in the story. A huge event will affect not just the Age of Apocalypse dimension, but also the world of “Marvel Future Fight.”

Marvel.com: Not one to be left out of an interdimensional battle, Cable arrives on the scene as well. How will his unusual mix of psychic abilities and massive weaponry play out?

Minkyun Kim: He’ll have his basic weapon, a futuristic laser rifle. He will also be able to throw a smoke bomb, which will cover the enemy’s vision while he teleports away. With his rifle, he can fire at the enemy furiously or [launch] rockets and leave them suspended in the air using psychokinesis before suddenly activating them on unsuspecting enemies.

He is also able restore his health by meditating. During the meditation, he can use his psychokinesis to throw military knives to keep the enemy away.

If he needs more firepower, he is able to get support fire from the floating nation, Providence. He can also pull out a large plasma bazooka and destroy whatever is in his way. You’ll soon be able to experience his very powerful weapons and his amazing strength.

Marvel.com: Alongside the Apocalypse update, World Boss mode gets an overhaul. What changes are coming to the fan-favorite game mode?

Minkyun Kim: New users had a difficult time with the original World Boss modes, and it also felt too long. To alleviate this, we created a Beginner Mode for new users. Beginner Mode will enable players with lower level characters to participate in this core game content.

Marvel.com: Players will also be able to get their hands on a new currency with this update. What are Boost Points?

Minkyun Kim: The amount of energy consumed when playing through content will decrease, or the amount of experience gained will increase, depending on the amount of Boost Points a player has. Previously, Hot Time events enabled players to log into the game at specific times during the day to gain these effects, but players who lived in other time zones were unable to utilize it. Boost Points enable all players to make full use of these bonus effects, regardless of when they log in or what character they play.

Marvel.com: Apocalypse himself will join the fight in a few weeks; how will players recruit him and what will the world’s first mutant add to their team?

Minkyun Kim: To acquire Apocalypse, players will have to complete a newly added challenge in World Boss, unlock his stage and face him like other World Bosses in order to collect Apocalypse biometrics.

Apocalypse is a very powerful character who does not use any weapons. Even his slightest movements can crush the ground or blast enemies with a dark force, keeping [his opponents] at bay. He is also able to remove enemy buffs and can enhance himself [to] keep himself at an advantage. He deals continuous damage and his ability to deploy floating stones is also advantageous. He can also enlarge himself and destroy things around him with increased strength.

For all the latest on “Marvel Future Fight,” stay tuned to Marvel.com and @MarvelGames on Twitter!

Read More

Explore a wild kingdom only the mind of Kirby could imagine!

1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.

Join us this month to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.

Back in the 1960s when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby laid down the base for the Marvel Universe, they created a number of unusual and endlessly captivating nooks and crannies to explore. In 1965’s UNCANNY X-MEN #10, readers discovered a secret place called the Savage Land that played home to dinosaurs, Neanderthals, and other forms of life including the heroic Ka-Zar and his saber-tooth tiger Zabu. Those last two came into the merry mutants’ world by way of a television broadcast showing the “Antarctic Wild Man” saving a researcher wearing only a loin cloth and accompanied by a supposedly extinct cat.

At first thinking he might be a mutant, the X-Men wanted to go check the mystery out. Professor X told them that, had he been a mutant, Cerbro would have spotted him, but then allowed them to go anyway. Upon exploring a recently created crevasse, the team traveled down through an icy tunnel that emptied into a boneyard for huge animals.

From there, the teens saw many of the wonders hidden below the ice in the Savage Land, but also several of the dangers ranging from pterodactyls to primitive warriors riding huge birds and wielding impressive weapons. Those attackers got the drop on the X-Men and made off with Marvel Girl while Ka-Zar made his first appearance alongside faithful companion Zabu!

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #10

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #10

  • Published: March 10, 1965
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: April 08, 2009
  • Rating: T+
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

Thanks to some misunderstood differences in customs, the strangers fought one another, but only until Maa-Gor, the Killer, popped up to murder the self-proclaimed “Lord of the Jungle.” With that confrontation over, Ka-Zar agreed to help the X-Men save Jean from the Swamp Men. Angel flew ahead to scout, but got captured himself!

Ka-Zar and company made it to the Swamp Men’s walled village just in time to help Angel and Marvel Girl fend off an attacking T-Rex, thanks in part to the small army of mastodons the jungle lord called in for reinforcements. Upon freeing the captives, Ka-Zar bid the X-Men farewell, explaining concisely that he preferred his world to the one above.

Kirby returned to the Savage Land and Ka-Zar along with Lee for the first issue of ASTONISHING TALES in 1970. The character had appeared in various places in the five years since his creation, but this marked his first real showcase, though he had to share it with the villainous Doctor Doom! With the second issue, Roy Thomas took over for Lee on the scripts. Kirby only lasted one more issue himself before making way for artists like Barry Windsor-Smith, Herb Trimpe, Gil Kane, John Buscema, and Marie Severin.

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

Read More

Cullen Bunn details Beast’s bewitching future!

On September 13, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Douglas Franchin bring a magic wand to X-MEN: BLUE #11 as Hank McCoy (A.K.A. Beast) finds himself dealing with a sudden case of sorcery.

But how does he get these powers? How will he use them? And most of all, why does a brilliant scientist need to rely on the supernatural?

The answers to these questions—and more—come to light soon, but in the meantime, we decided to ask Cullen about what these new abilities could mean for the mutant Mr. McCoy.

Marvel.com: Beast has always been known for fighting with his claws and animalistic instincts—how might magic change his reliance on those abilities?

Cullen Bunn: Magic could change everything for Beast. Since coming to this time, he feels like he’s always running to catch uptechnology and science have left him in the dust, and it feels frustrating to no end. Beast has always relied on his scientific know-how and gadgeteering more than his muscles and agility, but now he feels as if he’s lost quite a few steps. Magic seems like a way for him to find a new groove.

Marvel.com: Like you mentioned, Hank McCoy is a gifted scientist and scholar. What does this newfound talent do for his outlook on the natural world?

Cullen Bunn: Hank approaches magic as a new science. Not that different, to his way of thinking, than chemistry or biology. He’s learning the “rules” of this science so he can master it. But magic is much more mercurial than any natural science—it has a way of slipping out of control no matter what you do…

Marvel.com: What kinds of challenges and dangers come along with these new powersespecially when bestowed upon an X-Man?

Cullen Bunn: Magic has been a part of the X-World for a long time—and it always seems to cause trouble for the mutants. When you get greedy for magical knowledge, you run the risk of making mistakes or drawing the attention of dark powers. That’s really the problem that Beast starts dealing with. He has called up a power that he cannot easily put down.

Marvel.com: What else can we expect to see in issue #11?

Cullen Bunn: There will be a few new characters popping up. And we’ll be seeing some magic-influenced versions of X-Men (who are being dubbed the Hex-Men) that I’m very excited about.

X-MEN: BLUE #11, by Cullen Bunn and artist Giovanni Valletta’s, drops on September 13!

Read More

Two of the Fantastic Four tie the knot, Hulk fights Thor, plus more!

In celebration of Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday, we’re reviewing the man’s legendary creations with a year-by-year examination of his unparalleled career at Marvel Comics. Read on and witness the work that made him comic book royalty.

Even a casual Marvel reader in 1965 might’ve believed that Jack Kirby worked on every single issue of every single title the House of Ideas published that year. The truth of it stands as something less than that, but Marvel editor and writer Stan Lee knew a good thing and ensured Jack’s presence across the line in varied ways, and with a concentration where the Kirby touch would bring comic book gold.

First and foremost, Lee and Kirby’s flagship book remained Jack’s true focus at the midpoint of the 1960s. In FANTASTIC FOUR #32, after a battle with the strange android Dragon Man, Reed Richards received the answer he’d hoped for from his marriage proposal to Sue Storm, setting up one of the true monumental moments in comic history: the wedding of Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Girl in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #3 that summer.

Not to rest on their laurels, Stan and Jack also introduced the Frightful Four in FANTASTIC FOUR #36, brought Daredevil in for a guest-spot in FANTASTIC FOUR #39, and following Gorgon’s introduction in FANTASTIC FOUR #44, unveiled their next big idea, the incredible Inhumans, in FANTASTIC FOUR #45 to round out the year.

Over in Thor’s universe, Jack illustrated one of the greatest clashes of comics, the Thor-Hulk match fans clamored for, in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #112, as well as designing a villain for the ages, Absorbing Man, for JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #114. In addition, Jack’s images of the robotic Destroyer impressed fans in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #118, but perhaps the real stand-out moment of the year in Thor’s world came in the introduction of Greek demi-god Hercules into the ongoing drama in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY ANNUAL #1.

Jack’s penciling duties for 1965 also extended into Captain America’s solo series in TALES OF SUSPENSE. For the first part of the year he produced covers and simple layouts for others to follow, but for his and Stan’s powerful team-up between Cap and Nick Fury in TALES OF SUSPENSE #78, he provided full interior art. From there, the duo planted dynamite under Cap’s world with the return of The Red Skull in TALES OF SUSPENSE #79, and the amazing Cosmic Cube saga beginning in TALES OF SUSPENSE #80.

Speaking of Nick Fury, Jack’s visions of technological wonders expanded exponentially when he and Stan promoted the sergeant into their newest concept, S.H.I.E.L.D., in the landmark STRANGE TALES #135. For the next several issues of the mag, Jack would do layouts and covers, helping guide his former World War II star into the Swingin’ Sixties.

Jack relinquished penciling chores on AVENGERS in 1965, but also helped out with layouts and covers, same as with SGT. FURY and TALES TO ASTONISH. Over in UNCANNY X-MEN he worked to illustrate the memorable meeting of the young mutants and the Avengers to fruition in X-MEN #9, and introduce the savage Ka-Zar in X-MEN #10.

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

Read More

Acclaimed creator Ed Piskor takes on mutant history in a unique way!

For the last year and a half, writer and artist Ed Piskor has worked in secret on a project for Marvel, and recently, the House of Ideas revealed said secret—X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, a trilogy of two-issue limited series that will retell the first 280 issues of the X-Men in Piskor’s unique style.

Best known for his work on Hip Hop Family Tree for Fantagraphics, another ambitious project that recounted the early history of hip hop, Piskor shared more details on his love for the X-Men and its creators, and his plans for remixing the material into something new.

Marvel.com: Ed, before getting into the project itself, obviously, you have a lot of love for the X-Men to embark on a project like this. Do you remember the first X-Men comic you read?

Ed Piskor: I do. [UNCANNY X-MEN #157], which has a cover date two months before my D.O.B. I think my dad was excited for me to be born because, even though we weren’t well off by any means, he still did what he could to spoil me, and there were always toys and comics around during my very first memories. That issue of X-Men is also responsible in a major part for me becoming a cartoonist because the credits box on the first page let me know that there are actual human beings behind these comic books. That became my goal from age four, probably. I never flip-flopped. Never wanted to be a fireman or an astronaut. Always a cartoonist, and if I got to make X-Men comics, well then, that’s just icing on the cake.

Marvel.com: What are some of your favorite moments from the X-Men’s history, and your favorite characters? Which X-Men creators really stood out to you over the years?

Ed Piskor: Some of my favorite X-Men comics are from when Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, and Dan Green were churning them out on a bi-weekly basis. There’s a kinetic energy to them that is really fun and inspiring to me. I, un-controversially, think that the best era was during the [John] Byrne run. It’s one of the very few cases where there is complete synergy among the talent all the way through, from [writer] Claremont, to [artist] Byrne, to [inker Terry] Austin, to Tom [Orzechowski] on lettering, and Glynis [Oliver] on color. I can count the great collaborative teams in the history of comics on one hand, and this would be on that extremely short list. Most comics feel like the creative players are competing for shine rather than working together to try and make the best comic possible.

I’m not really a character guy. I more like the idea and spirit of X-Men than I’m into it because Wolverine’s a badass or something. I guess I was a Longshot fan as a kid, but I think I just couldn’t articulate that I was a massive Art Adams fan at the moment.

My favorite Jack Kirby inker is still Chic Stone from those first bunch of issues. You can tell that’s the stuff that guys like Bruce Timm go nuts for. Those big, chunky lines. From [Jim] Steranko forward, the art of X-Men was to die for. It seemed clear at a certain point that the mandate must have been to put Marvel’s top [artists] on the book, and it shows. Steranko, [Neal] Adams, [Dave] Cockrum, Byrne, Paul Smith, Art Adams, [John Romita Jr.] C’mon, man. You can’t step to this crew. And Chris Claremont was the glue that gave X-Men its heart.

Marvel.com: This sounds like such a cool project, but at the same time it is pretty different from what people might expect from a major comics company, bringing in someone to “remix” the history of one of their biggest franchises. How did you go about pitching it, and what was the reaction?

Ed Piskor: I’m hip hop oriented with lots of bravado, and I simply tweeted one day that Marvel should just let me make whatever X-Men comic I wanted to. [Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Axel [Alonso] hit me up within an hour or two, and the ball began rolling from there. I told him that I can make the first 8,000 or so pages of X-Men work as a 300-page story. He told me to do it in 240. I accepted.

Marvel.com: What’s the format of X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, and how will it be released?

Ed Piskor: X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN is basically a trilogy of two-issue [limited series] or arcs—your choice of nomenclature. Each issue will be 40 pages. Six issues total. Every two issues will be collected into a giant format book similar to my Hip Hop Family Tree comics. Same paper quality and design sense. Each big book will also come packaged with a classic reprint. This first book will reprint Kirby and [Stan] Lee’s [UNCANNY X-MEN #1], and I’ll be recoloring it to keep the entire volume congruent. It’s a pleasure to examine that classic work at its molecular level.

A two-issue series/arc and a book collection will come out each year for several years.

I’m basically good for 80-90 pages a year if I promise to work seven days a week. [Laughs]

X-Men: Grand Design by Ed Piskor

Marvel.com: And are you doing everything yourself—writing, art, lettering, etc.—like you did on Hip Hop Family Tree?

Ed Piskor: Yep. Could this be the first Marvel comic done completely by one person? I think it is. I just don’t know how to not do all the jobs. I’m a cartoonist. Not a writer. Not an illustrator. Not a letterer. I have to do it all so that I can be totally accountable for the quality of the piece. I don’t want to be in the position to blame someone else for the end result after I grind as relentlessly as I do. If it works, I can look in the mirror with satisfaction. If it doesn’t, then I’m totally accountable. I live for this kind of pressure. I take it very seriously and with great respect that I’m being trusted to do right by the property.

Marvel.com: So 280 issues of X-Men—minus the 20+ reprint issues that preceded the launch of the new team in issue #94, of course—condensed down to about 240 pages…how exactly are you doing that? What do you plan to cut from that material, and will you make any additions?

Ed Piskor: Well the short answer would be that you need to read it and see how it’s done rather than me explaining how the sausage is made, but I can explain a few things. There was a legendary editorial dictum from former [Marvel] editor-in-chief Jim Shooter that every comic is somebody’s first comic. This is something I can sort of get behind, though it created lots and lots of redundancy issue after issue. That’s the first stuff I stripped away. We only need Cyclops crying about his vision once. We only need Rogue lamenting that she can’t touch people once. Wolverine doesn’t need to say, “I’m the best there is at what I do…” a hundred times. From there it’s about figuring out the bigger theme of each arc and then curating events to meet those ends.

There will be some creative re-edits to get everything to work together, but I wouldn’t call them additions, per se. The raw materials are generally so good that the actual job is to just prune and reduce things down to the most crucial elements.

I’ve literally gotten well over 10,000 hours practice at this exercise on my Hip Hop Family Tree comics for four years, and it all built to prepare me for the task at hand with X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN.

Marvel.com: Issue #280 of the original series takes you right up to before the team split into the blue team and gold team, and into two X-Men books. Why did that make an ideal place to stop? 

Ed Piskor: It’s about where I left off personally. I won’t go into much detail, but you can imagine I was one of those millions of kids who followed the artists away when they decided to do their own thing. I did pick it up a little here and there. I liked [John Romita Jr.’s] second run when his style was more codified. I’m also a fan of Joe [Madureira’s] contribution.

Marvel.com: Finally, I have to ask: what’s more difficult, capturing 15 years worth of hip-hop history in roughly 400 pages, or condensing 280 X-Men comics into 240 pages?

Ed Piskor: They each come with [their] own sets of challenges, but I would never in a million years choose a project that is easy where I can coast just to collect a payday. I only work on dream projects, so the challenges are met with open arms and I don’t feel right if I don’t go to sleep completely exhausted and mentally drained each day. Both projects have rabid, passionate fans who need authenticity, and it’s no question I can meet and exceed those demands. One benefit of the X-Men comic over Hip Hop Family Tree is that Charles Xavier can’t call me at 3 AM to ask why I didn’t mention him on this or that page, and Ororo Monroe can’t yell at me because I drew her with the wrong kinds of jeans on.

Experience history in the making with Ed Piskor’s X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, kicking off December 6!

Read More

Artist Mike Deodato unleashes The Shadow King on Marvel’s mighty mutants!

Nightmares often fuel our fears even during the daytime. As the fragments float through our heads, we spin around to see something glimpsed only in the corner of our eye and then gone.

The Shadow King brings those bad dreams to life as he takes over bodies and plays with victims’ minds. In the pages of today’s ASTONISHING X-MEN #2, by Charles Soule and Mike Deodato, he plagues the newly gathered X-team consisting of Old Man Logan, Psylocke, Fantomex, Archangel, Rogue, Mystique, Bishop, and Gambit.

The first issue of ASTONISHING X-MEN featured the artistic talents of Jim Cheung and the next will see the baton tossed to Ed McGuinness, but right now we’re talking with Deodato about jumping in on this unique project, playing some of the best loved X-folks off of each other, and chronicling these adventures with Soule.

Marvel.com: This book has an interesting approach with different artists tackling each issue. Did that offer any unique challenges?

Mike Deodato: I think the bigger challenges are with the editors who have to coordinate everything and make sure we are all on the same page. Me, I just have to worry about keeping up with the quality of art of the previous artist, which in my case was a tough one to follow.

Marvel.com: The book features Psylocke, Old Man Logan, Bishop, Fantomex, Rogue, Archangel, Mystique, and Gambit. That’s an eclectic team with varying degrees of history between them; do you enjoy playing with all that on the page?

Mike Deodato: Charles did such a great job on the dialogue and interactions between them that made it quite easy for me to figure that out on paper.

Marvel.com: The villain of the piece happens to be The Shadow King. How has it been putting your spin on that classic character?

Mike Deodato: We see his astral version of himself and it is a quite scary one. My approach for the whole story was based on his visual. I wanted it all to look like a very weird and scary nightmare, so I used all that I had learned from books like Eerie and Creepy and all of those masters of horror like Ortiz, Maroto, Wrightson, Sanchez, Corben, and so forth.

Marvel.com: Your cover to issue #2 with the X-Men sitting in a theater with skull faces is very striking. Can you talk about how that may connect with the story inside?

Mike Deodato: I dunno if I can say anything without spoiling it actually. It will make sense after you read it. It was Mark Pannicia’s idea. A lot of covers I do are ideas given to me by writers or editors but I get all the credit in the end.

Marvel.com: How has it been working with Charles on this issue?

Mike Deodato: Very nice and supportive guy. It is a very complex issue to be translated for the artist but he made it look very simple. I hope we can do it again in the future.

Get your hands on Charles Soule and Mike Deodato’s ASTONISHING X-MEN #2 today!

Read More

Cullen Bunn brings back a familiar face as part of Secret Empire!

Secret Empire gets the cold shoulder in the upcoming X-MEN: BLUE #7, out July 12, as writer Cullen Bunn and artist Cory Smith bring Emma Frost back into the mutants’ midst. Hiding since the war against the Inhumans, the former White Queen finds herself in a dark place despite being a ruler of the mutant homeland of New Tian.

Oh, and did we mention that she’s also receiving push back from both the X-Men and Magneto?

We spoke to Bunn about Emma’s return and some of the threats she’ll be facing, both physical and psychological.

Marvel.com: Just to catch everyone up, where has Emma Frost been hanging out before this issue?

Cullen Bunn: Emma has been in hiding since the events of [Inhumans Vs. X-Men]. But don’t think that means she’s been doing nothing. She has been very busy. She’s been building alliances and positioning herself to make some big moves. You’ll see some of that play out in the Secret Empire story. But we’re really going to be setting something really, really big up for Emma in the future. Ever since we revealed her return, I’ve been receiving messages asking me to immediately return Emma to her status as a hero. I understand the sentiment, but that’s not something I can do right away. Emma can’t just come back from where she was with the flip of a switch. She’s in a dark place right now, and if she comes back from it—that’s a big “if”—it will take time.

Marvel.com: Going off that, what’s compelling her to join the fray now?

Cullen Bunn: Emma is part of the “ruling council” of the new mutant homeland of New Tian, and she sincerely wants to see this new society succeed. But she’s still very angry—so angry—about everything that has happened of late. Sometimes when you’re full of rage, you lash out at everyone, including those closest to you.

Marvel.com: What will Ms. Frost bring to both X-MEN: BLUE and SECRET EMPIRE?

Cullen Bunn: In SECRET EMPIRE, Emma gives us a look at a world leader who has been deeply wounded. She wants what is right for her people, but she’s so hurt and angry that she is ruthless in her pursuit of her ideals. She’s an antagonist for the X-Men, without a doubt, because the X-Men simply cannot accept what she’s doing. She’s also—in my mind—a very tragic figure, because she has lost so much and she’s fallen so far.

X-Men: Blue #7 cover by Arthur Adams

Marvel.com: Do you have personal favorite aspects of her character that you enjoyed writing/exploring?

Cullen Bunn: Emma is proud and confident, and that’s always fun to write, but underneath is a great deal of pain that she is trying—unsuccessfully—to hide. That makes her a rewarding character to write. I am looking forward to exploring how she grows and changes for some time to come.

Marvel.com: What kinds of threats will she be facing and how are her powers well equipped to handle them?

Cullen Bunn: Emma can handle just about anything you throw at her. Initially, the threats she faces come from the X-Men as they make moves against her regime. But her biggest challenges in the future will be dealing with her own sense of loss without letting it drag her into madness. And she’s making some alliances that could be very, very dangerous for her in the future.

Marvel.com: Are there any more epic mutant returns in the cards?

Cullen Bunn: Oh, yes! We know about Emma and we know about Polaris. But even in the Secret Empire arc, there will be several other mutant returns. Some of the mutants that will be popping up will be changed in mysterious ways. These changes play into something big that we’ve already been building in X-MEN: BLUE and we’ll be exploring in future issues of the series.

Face the return of Emma Frost with writer Cullen Bunn and artist Cory Smith next week in July 12’s X-MEN: BLUE #7!

Read More