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Predictive Factors: Peter David Talks X-Factor #200 and Beyond

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In December, Peter David's X-Factor will be reaching a milestone as its numbering shifts to #200, in order to celebrate the total number of issues published across its volumes. Peter David has now written more issues of X-Factor than any other writer, surpassing previous record holder Louise Simonson, with more than 70 issues and counting. Broken Frontier spoke with Peter about the milestone, and the big changes coming for the book in the months ahead.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Before the X-Factor #50announcement of X-Factor’s 200th issue, there was something of an uproar when it was noticed that there was no solicitation for X-Factor in November. Fans quickly concluded the worst, and you played pretty coy, suggesting that something was going to happen as a result of sales not being where you wanted them to be, which only led to even more anxiety from fans. Why do you think the book inspires such passion in its fans?

PETER DAVID: You'd really have to ask them.  I'm just trying to tell the best stories I can. If they strike a chord with the readership, then that's fantastic. But I don't think any writer ever knows for sure how people are going to react, or what's going to strike their fancy or leave them cold.
 
BF: Given the critical and fan acclaim, why do you think sales haven’t yet reached your expectations? Is it the economy and the rising cost of comics? And going forward, what are some of your and Marvel’s plans to give it a boost?

PD: I think retailers basically look at the numbers they ordered last month and order exactly the same this month.  It's very easy for them to know when to cut books; copies aren't sold.  For many of them, though, if they sell out of a title, they'll say, "Good, I know I can sell this many copies," and they'll order that same number of copies rather than be stuck with one they couldn't move.  As for giving it a boost, well, the jump to #200 seems a good place to start.
 
BF: Speaking of the renumbering, you’ve suggested that issues simply should be numbered #1-12, and then started over again the next year. But if someone walked into their retailer and asked for “X-Factor #6,” how would he know which one to give them? Perhaps they should just do away with numbering entirely and simply put the month and year on each cover prominently?

PD: I think if someone walked in and asked for X-Factor #6, the retailer would automatically give them the most recent one.  But sure, they could do away with numbering entirely.  There aren't any numbers on the "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" novels, and those seem to be doing okay.
 
BF: The other big change in the book is that X-Factor will be moving from their current headquarters in Detroit, back to New York City. I think I recall you saying that the move to Detroit was meant to give you a little more freedom to operate, since NYC is already such crowded territory. Is losing that advantage an issue for you?

PD: Somewhat, but it's a trade off.  You have the advantage of having various characters guest star without it being forced.

BF: Was this in response to fan feedback? Were they asking for more crossovers or even saying the book “didn’t count” since it wasn’t crossing over into the Dark Reign storyline?

PD: I think we need to clarify our terms.  Having the Fantastic Four guest star isn't a crossover.  Most of the real Marvel crossovers are global events, and I could tie in equally from New York, Detroit, Chicago or Altoona.  As for what the fans are asking for, I feel confident in saying that none of them were asking for more crossovers...but lordy, do they buy them when they happen. Still, I'm not relocating them to NY because of crossover potential; just to do more to put them into the mainstream of the Marvel Universe.
 
BF: How do X-Factor fit in to what’s currently going on in the Marvel Universe? Are they going to investigate Osborn? Find out where the bodies are buried?

PD: Not at this point.
 
BF: I asked Jeph Loeb about your recent comments floating the idea of an X-Factor/Hulk crossover, and he said the following:
 

I'm a HUGE fan of anything that Peter David does. His run on the Hulk is a giant inspiration to me and somewhat daunting when I took over that book. Just hearing about Peter's interest has my brain spinning. Right now, I'm totally swamped in making WORLD WAR HULKS THE EVENT of 2010 -- but after that?
 
So, what’s it gonna take to make this happen?

PD: To have the Red Hulk's identity revealed in X-Factor, which was what I said would be the ideal way to do a crossover with Hulk and stun everybody?  Probably way more funds in bribe money for Jeph than I have available.
 
BF: The Summers Rebellion storyline currently running has a lot of its roots in the John Ostrander Bishop comics of the '90s. What gave you the idea to follow-up on this in X-Factor? Did you read those comics in preparation for planning this story?

PD: Yes.  But since Bishop doesn't play a part in what's going on, and the Summers rebellion is largely unexplored territory, I'm pretty much free to do what I want.
 
BF: Given Bishop’s ties to this story, are there any thoughts about a crossover with Cable, where Bishop is apparently trying to prevent this very timeline from existing?

PD: Nope.
 
BF: This is a pretty dark storyline, yet you've still managed to work in some levity; the scene where Madrox is openly weeping and then declares "There's no crying in noir" comes to mind. How do you find the right balance of humor and pathos in a series like this?

PD: Instinct, mostly.  Being careful not to make things too maudlin.
 
BF: Also in this story, Doctor Doom has created a device that will enable Mark Gruenwald's rules of Marvel time travel to be subverted; in other words, changes to the past can be made to affect the future when these "Doomlocks" are used. Do you think Gruenwald's rules are workable from a dramatic standpoint, or should they be completely revised so future stories (no pun intended) don't have to deal with this issue?

PD: No, I think the rules are good ones.  If changing time were easy, everyone would be doing it.  Coming up with a way around them is part of what the story is built upon.  I bent Mark's rules, but didn't break them.  Because let's face it, if anyone in the MU is going to figure out a way around the rules, it's gonna be Doc Doom.
 
BF: Madrox fell for Layla pretty quickly upon their recent reunion; even though she's an adult now after having spent years in the future, is it weird for him to get involved with her given that she was a young girl to him just a few months ago?

PD: Think about what he's been through for the past month.  He's been through the emotional wringer.  She's throwing him the equivalent of a life preserver, and it's natural that he's going to grab it with both hands.  They have not, however, slept together, which is what a number of fans seem to have concluded.  Madrox is still uncertain of his feelings for Layla, and he's not about to rush into anything.
 
BF: Obviously Layla as a young girl was a big part of the book early on, and soon you’re going to guest-star Valeria Richards. Readers know from the recap pages that several young girls are a big part of your own life. Has having four daughters played a role in bringing these characters into the book, and how you handle them?

PD: Well, they always say, "Write what you know."  Having had four daughters, currently aged from six to 27, I feel confident in writing females of various ages and in all stages of their lives. 
 
BF: Probably the single thing that's gotten the most attention in the past few issues is the kiss between Shatterstar and Rictor. Shatterstar co-creator Rob Liefeld reacted rather publicly and negatively to it. Were you surprised by that?

PD: Yeah, I was, particularly because I was giving Rob exactly zero thought when it came to the storyline.  I was thinking about what seemed right for the characters, not about how the guy who created him two decades ago would react.  I have to say, though, that when you're trying to assert that a character isn't gay, drawing a direct lineage to the ancient Greeks is probably the wrong approach to take.  Still, Rob's alluding to "Gladiator" inspired a bit of business for #200.
 
BF: Shatterstar's debut in the book was preceded by Longshot, and they both come from the same dimension. Was this connection something you thought about before bringing either of them into the cast?

PD: Nope.

BF: In issue #42, we saw an interesting scene where two possible outcomes to a dangerous incident played out simultaneously when Longshot was involved. Longshot's powers have been established to alter probability; is he now able to warp reality itself?

PD: No, not really.  I was trying to do something with that that I'm not entirely sure worked.  I was trying to convey that there were two possible outcomes for that moment, and Longshot--by his nature--was a living random factor who confounded the probabilities.  That in the original scenario, in another reality, Longshot failed to save the girl, and that time line briefly supplanted the existing one and overwrote it.  But in our time line, Longshot was just fast enough to get the job done, and the time line shifted back before the overwritten one could take hold.  That's why Hecat'e only blinked out for a moment.  Now if that sounds incredibly boring to describe, well...it is.  And who in the story is going to have the knowledge to explain it, unless I introduce the Watcher, who's basically an info dump on two legs.  So I tried to depict it visually and hoped people would be able to figure it out in some measure for themselves. 
 
BF: Another controversy the book inadvertently got caught up in was the shutdown of the Scans Daily site. Users of that site blamed you because you objected to over half the pages of a recent issue being posted, although there was no evidence that you had anything to do with the shutdown. In light of this, what are your thoughts on how the Internet is going to affect comics going forward?

PD: If the Internet had any serious impact on comics, then the Vertigo line would be the top selling books in the industry and Marvel would be publishing one mutant book and never do crossovers.  While there is a good deal of compelling discussion on the boards, and there are a lot of great people I've encountered, purely from a sales point of view, the Internet--to quote the Bard--is full of sound and fury signifying nothing.  And just for the record, I didn't "object" to half the pages being posted.  It wasn't my place to object.  Just as any number of conscientious fans have pointed me to pirate sites where my books have been put up, I pointed out the posting of the pages to Marvel.  Am I supposed to act in a less conscientious manner than the fans? 

To this day, no-one at Marvel has told me what happened after I let them know about the existence of the pages online.  The conjecture is that Marvel went to Live Journal, and Live Journal first yanked the pages--which I would think would have satisfied any complaints from Marvel.  And the further conjecture is that Live Journal took a long, hard look at the site, realized that it was routinely flaunting and breaking the rules that every single one of the 8000 members had agreed to, and nuked the place.  Personally, I think it was overkill.  But nobody at Live Journal asked my opinion.  They set the rules--rules that they were legally compelled to set so as to protect their own interests.  S_D members agreed to abide by the rules and then went back on it, they paid the price for it, and still find the need to blame me for it.  * shrug * I feel badly for them that it happened, but I didn't cause it.  They did.
 
BF: Solicitations have revealed that the new artist will be Bing Cansino, who’s relatively new to Marvel. Have you seen his work yet? If so, what do you think of it?

PD: I've seen pages of his, and I think they're great.
 
BF: Any other teases about what's coming up for X-Factor?

PD: I'm seriously considering having Squirrel Girl as X-Factor's new receptionist.  On the other hand, I haven't slept in two days, so that could just be the sleep deprivation talking.
 
BF: What other projects do you have on the burner?

PD: Dark Tower is chugging along, and for IDW I'm working on the next Fallen Angel limited series, "Return of the Son."  Plus some novel stuff I can't discuss at the moment.

X-Factor #50 goes on sale next week October 28th priced $3.99

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