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New to the Mansion - Part II

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New to the Mansion - Part I

BROKEN FRONTIER: Let’s move on to talk to you a little about the team, consisting of Mystique, Sabretooth, Iceman, Rogue, Cannonball, and Cable. Where these all your choices?

MIKE CAREY: Yes, they were.

BF: Arguably the most interesting aspect about the roster is the choice of the two villains. Trying to turn rogues into heroes has been done before—Mystique had her own book for a while, while Sabretooth, at various times, has been a partner to Wolverine and a partner to the X-Men, before turning on them. How will you set these characters up so that these changes will really have an impact?

MC: Well, the thing is, I’m not going to change them at all. I’m not going to try and show a heroic side to Sabretooth’s nature; I’m not going to retcon him so that there are reasons for his actions that make him forgivable.  The things he’s done are not forgivable and he can’t be redeemed. I’m not making him into a hero; I’m making him into a team member and there are reasons within the first storyline as to why he ends up fighting alongside the X-Men against another enemy. And there are reasons why it’s not so easy to simply shake him off again [afterwards]. 

There are things that are going on that will sort of unfold during the first year of my run which explain his being there and explain his being accepted with very, very grave misgivings into the team.

Mystique is a different situation. Her story was an ongoing plotline from Pete’s run.  You know she’s come to the mansion and she asks to stay there and there’s a big debate about the rights and wrongs of it.  At the end, she is allowed to stay, not in the first instance to be an X-Man, but to stay in the mansion and to be sort of sheltered there. Towards the end of Pete’s run, you’ll see her coming more into the spotlight and I’m carrying on with some of those ideas.  Obviously, there are very big problems there too.  Like Sabretooth, Mystique has done appalling things to the X-Men and their friends. Longtime readers will remember she was responsible for the death of Moira MacTaggert. 

Also, she has history with Rogue that makes it particularly difficult for Rogue to have any kind of interaction with her. And yet, they end up on the same team together.  Again there are explanations for why that has to happen and ultimately it’s Rogue’s decision.  It’s Rogue who says “I want her on my team.” And she explains why and I think people will be satisfied with the explanation.

There are dangers, I think, in just saying, “These character are so interesting, let’s just put them on the team; they deserve the spotlight. Let’s just say, they always had this other side and changed their minds and are now going over to the side of the angels.”  If it’s done badly, that’s just appalling.  It breaks through the illusion and makes you sort of less convinced by everything else that’s going on around it. I think, having said that, the rehabilitation of Emma Frost was one of the most inspirational things that Grant Morrison did during his run and it’s played out beautifully.  She remains this kind of terribly morally ambiguous figure.

BF: Just as a quick aside on that, are you going to try and throw Emma in?  It seems like every X-writer has loved the fact that they now get to play with Emma Frost. 

MC: Yeah, she gets a walk on part in my first issue. [Laughs]

What also plays a part in it is that all the X-teams operate out of the same location, so you have to sort of let the casts intermingle.  I’m trying not to do that when it’s not strictly dramatically necessary.  But yes, I do have Emma.  I do have Cyclops and Beast, so I’m getting to play with some of my other favorite X-Men.

BF: Continuing the discussion of the roster, you spoke a little bit about having Mystique and Rogue on the same team, but then there’s also Cable and Cannonball who have to co-exist. It seems like you’re set to play with these parent/child and teacher/student relationships gone bad.

MC: Well, I did consciously choose characters that had interesting back stories. I think the Cable/Cannonball relationship is fascinating; it’s multilayered and been through many different phases in it’s time.  Obviously Cable is, in many ways, Sam’s most important mentor and has had the biggest hand in shaping him into the man he now is.  And as you say, it’s been through turbulent times and there’s certainly been periods when it seemed like that relationship was dysfunctional, where it wasn’t really working, certainly for Sam Guthrie. 

All that has reached a resolution in the X-Force mini-series that Fabian Nicieza did last year, where Sam sort of accepted what Cable has been doing for him and sort of understanding Cable’s point of view. I don’t want to open up that particular crisis again, but I will be drawing on the fact that these two guys have been through so much together, and that that provides for a deep bond of trust in one sense. Still, I think it can also be exploited in other ways that I don’t want to say too much about.

BF: Understood. The one character we haven’t discussed yet is Iceman.  He’s been played a lot more childish and playful, especially since the movies came out. He was always the youngest of the original X-Men, but it seemed like a lot of his growth has been pushed aside recently.  Is there anything particular with Iceman that you’re trying to get through?

MC: Well, I want to pick up on the fact that Iceman has been through some huge changes in his life in the wake of Decimation. And I don’t want him to be the “tyro”, the child joker of the group.  He’s got as much combat experience as any of the others and I think in particular, there’s this Rogue/Cannonball/Iceman unit within the team because they’ve worked together a lot in the past and I think that Rogue relies on both of them in ways she’s not going to rely on the other three members.

I want to try and explore aspects of Bobby’s personality that haven’t been foregrounded much recently and I want to make him more of a mature, layered personality than he often has been, rather than just taking him back to the comic relief.

BF: Since I mentioned the movie, it’s always rumored in fandom and other circles that there’s a constant push to make comic book continuity more accessible for people who’ve seen the movies.

MC: Right, right.

BF: Now, with Iceman and Rogue on the team and seeing how in movie continuity they’re an item, is that something that came about, without asking explicitly if you’re going to put them together?

MC: Because of the movie?  No, not at all.  And there’s never been any discussion along those terms.  The movie is happening way off in another space, I’ve not been privy to the decisions being made there and I haven’t been under any pressure to change my own decisions on that basis.  I think in a way Rogue and Bobby sort of know each other too well to become romantically attached to each other now. I think the Rogue and Bobby that we’ve seen in “Adjectiveless X-Men” are close, but in a way that would almost preclude any kind of sexual entanglement.

BF: Does the term “Adjectiveless X-Men bother you?

MC: Nah.  I like that it’s an oxymoron.  It’s like having a book called “This Book Has no Title”.

BF: Getting into the larger field, you’re coming in pretty much after the events from House of M have been set into play a little bit. Do you think these developments have given you more freedom or would you rather have had millions of mutants to work with?

MC: I like the current situation very much, where in a way, things have been reset to a situation very similar to that obtained in the very, very early X Men stories: the mutants were a beleaguered minority, were sort of outmanned and outgunned and they were outcasts in the margins of society. I like it to find myself back in that place, because I think it’s one of those things that made the X-Men such an appealing and fascinating title to begin with.  We had reached a situation where it seemed like there were mutants under every bush and pretty much half of them were Omega level, while humans were the ones with the victim status, which to some extent diluted the unique selling point of the book, if I can put it that crudely. 

I do like what House of M has opened up, that the X-Men are sort of up against the ropes, to the point where they’re having to accept “protection” from their greatest enemy, the Sentinels, who are symbols of human oppression of mutants.  That’s a very powerful visual metaphor right there.  I think there are other aspects from that House of M storyline which are going to unfold themselves in the next couple of years, which are going to be as compelling and as disturbing as the original mini-series was.  So yeah, I look at it as much more of an opportunity than anything else.

BF: You’re also coming into X-Men and the Marvel Universe at a time when another big event, Civil War, is happening.  Joe Quesada has gone about saying that a lot of the X-books won’t be specifically influenced by this and Ed Brubaker has said he’s taking his team cosmic, with the Starjammers and all. Has Civil War been anything that you’ve had to worry about?

MC: No, not really.  And there are sort of good reasons why not.  In particularly now that they are so thinned out, the X-Men are already registered. Therefore, the Superhuman Registration Act is not going to be big news to them.  The government knows who they are and where they live.  So, it’s not an issue for them and it’s not something that they’re going to get directly involved in or where they have to take sides.  In a way, their war has already been fought.

BF: Alright. You’re getting to work with Chris Bachalo on this arc. Was that someone who you had asked for or was that a lucky pairing?

MC: Chris was available and Mike [Marts] raised the possibility of him working on the book. I was very, very excited about that right from the start. Chris does immaculate figure work and spectacular action scenes and he’s just full of storytelling ideas.  Also, of course, he goes back a hell of a long way with these characters and it was very reassuring to come onto this and find somebody with that degree of knowledge as my “other half” as it were.

BF: Have you found yourself writing anything specifically because he was on the book with you that you would not have tried otherwise?

MC: There is certainly one character who we’re putting in the first few storylines purely because of the way Chris draws her.  He had already sketched her for an issue on a different book… I’m trying not to be specific here.

BF: [Laughs] Not getting that one out of you, eh?

MC: Nope. [Laughs] But there’s so much to this character that she’s got to come back.  People are going to want her to come back and we’re going to want to know what her story is. She’s not a member of the team (at least not initially), but she’s going to be a very important supporting character in our first few arcs and that was purely because Chris did a superb job of drawing her.  We’ve got lots and lots of new characters coming in, the first arc has a cast of dozens and I knew that Chris could handle whatever I threw at him. That he could take hints and turn them into real flesh and blood people and create fascinating visuals the readers will want to explore, to get to know better. In that sense, I guess I have angled my approach to his strengths.

BF: Good.  Recently one of my favorite issues that he did was the “24 Seconds” issue.

MC: Yeah, that was pretty amazing wasn’t it?

BF: It was spectacular in terms of storytelling and the way he put it together and the way you follow through with it.  His pacing was amazing and I’d love to see some of that stuff on X-Men.  I don’t know if you’re going to let him loose in terms of his storytelling ideas or how much you put in there specifically with your scripts.

MC: I tend to write full script, but we’ve already discussed this and I’m comfortable with Chris coming on board with ideas for narrative viewpoint and storytelling and pacing because I trust his judgment. I think it is going to be a very organic way of working.

Visit this little corner in comic cyberspace again on Monday to read the third and final part of New to the Mansion!

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