'Age of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men': The Creators on Designing a Utopia
Writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler and artist Marco Failla talk to Marvel.com about an era of peace for the X-Men.
For as long as the X-Men have existed, they have sought peace but never truly known it. As a group of merry mutants, their ultimate goal is to coexist with humans in harmony. But there are those, mutant and human alike, that challenge this dream of peace leaving the costumed heroes to act as protectors in times of war. In AGE OF X-MAN: THE MARVELOUS X-MEN #1, the creators will explore an alternate reality where they achieve their utopian goal.
Eager to know what will become of the famous X-Men and the students at the Summers Institute, we asked writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler and artist Marco Failla to shed light on their upcoming comic five-issue limited series and how they approached it differently from what we’ve seen so far.
Marvel.com: What can you tell readers about how you approached creating AGE OF X-MAN: THE MARVELOUS X-MEN #1?
Zac Thompson: From the moment we set out to create the Age of X-Man we knew we wanted to do things a little differently. We’re exploring what it means to be X-Men in a world where mutants are no longer oppressed. That meant reorganizing the way we think about the team from the top down. They are no longer hated or feared but loved and revered around the planet. They strive to keep people safe from natural disasters and operate much more like gods presiding over society to keep things safe, secure and peaceful. It’s been years since they’ve fought a villain.
Lonnie Nadler: We tried as hard as we could to give readers a take on the X-Men they haven’t seen before, and one we desperately wanted to write. Age of X-Man is a melodrama that peels back the layers to explore how these beloved characters function and co-exist in a world where sacrifices had to be made in order to achieve their dreams. Like Zac said, the X-Men here are akin to deities, but at the same we’re trying to humanize them, to show them as real people who have a multitude of conflicting emotions stirring within them.
Marco Failla: First of all, the writers asked me for a specific atmosphere on this miniseries. They gave me cues and visual references to put me in the right mood for the book. The main characters in this alternative reality are different from the version we're used to, and the character designs I received from Mike Hawthorne contained many hints for the aesthetic of the series. The pages contains many little details useful to bring the readers into this destabilizing world.
Marvel.com: How will the students of the Summers Institute prepare to carry the torch in a time of peace?
Zac Thompson: The students in this world are sent to the Summers Institute, a boarding school in AoXM, where they must pick a major and define a career path as a working mutant in society. Some will go on to graduate and become X-Men, while others strive to be doctors, police, or farmers.
Lonnie Nadler: The students play a vital role here because they are the future. The students are the people past generations sacrificed their lives for in order to give them a chance at a better world. But oftentimes, it’s hard for the students to respect the past, and vice versa.
Marvel.com: What are some hobbies that the characters could potentially explore during peace time? Will they be able to do so?
Lonnie Nadler: The X-Men are so frequently dealing with threatening world events and endless villains that we rarely get to know them in their down time. But in a world largely devoid of those conflicts, it becomes a melodrama in the truest sense. In Age of X-Man we bear witness to their home lives, their isolation, and how they choose to spend free time. We’ll be seeing their home lives a recurring motif throughout the series, so I don’t want to spoil too much. I’ll just say that Colossus probably has my favorite hobby. It’s been shown before that he likes to paint, but here we see him as an almost obsessive painter and his subject matter pours out from the depths of his subconscious and onto the canvas. Honestly, we could do a whole book about Colossus the painter.
Zac Thompson: For us, this event was a chance to really look at the X-Men as individuals. Now that they live in peace they have more opportunities to explore what makes them unique as an individual. As such, we see them circling parts of their character that they may have left behind in the pursuit of peace. It’s was a conscious effort to bring the X-Men to a simpler time, one where they hung out watching television as a team and one that reflects a golden era long since passed.
Marvel.com: Why did each of you want to be on this book?
Zac Thompson: Age of X-Man is telling a very human X-Men story at its heart but we also wanted to celebrate the vast continuity we’ve come to love, and to put an indelible mark on Marvel’s X-Universe by pushing mutants to a place we haven’t seen before.
Lonnie Nadler: This is the biggest project we have taken on to date. It was a chance to build a sprawling, rich, and cerebral world from the ground up, and while it was daunting, it’s an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
Marco Failla: I was super happy to be involved in this big project! From a comic artist point of view, it's a challenging job: a rare opportunity to draw all these cool characters in such a unique setting. In addition, this book is different from what I usually draw, and it gives me a way to experiment with something different from my usual drawing style.
Marvel.com: What or who did you want to explore?
Zac Thompson: More than anything, we wanted to explore Nate Grey. We have been lifelong fans of his ever since the Age of Apocalypse and always believed that X-Man had a greater destiny. This is that destiny made real. Nate is the most powerful mutant to ever live. Knowing that, we deconstructed Nate’s relationship to mutantkind. He has always been the outsider, the one above all the others, without ever having a place to fit in. We wanted to look at that in a reactionary sense, and explore what an outsider looking in can do to “fix” things if given a chance.
Lonnie Nadler: Writing an X-Men event and building a new world with new rules is what we dream of doing as comic book writers. It was sort of like being handed the keys to a new kingdom and then being told “Okay, now you simply have to build everything around this locked door.” We talk about worldbuilding all the time and our goal here, aside from bringing X-Man back in a big way, was to construct a space that looks unique but also familiar enough to feel lived-in. The X-Men have always been fighting for their rights. Now, this is about exploring the X-Men and who they become when their world fundamentally shifts for the better.
Marco Failla: For this miniseries I opted for a "less light" style. There are lots of visual influences from the sixties ‘60s and winks to the brutalist aesthetic. Besides telling the story, we tried to give a unique vibe to that reality.
Marvel.com: What do you all want readers to know about this story?
Lonnie Nadler: This is not what you think it is. This is not a rehashing of the Age of Apocalypse. This is something else altogether. It’s a utopia. It’s the quiet American Dream come true for the X-Men and thus a world and lifestyle that has never been explored for mutants in the past. But there’s a lurking darkness beneath. We’re harkening back to classic dystopian fiction like Orwell, Bradbury, and Huxley, but this time it’s less oppressive and tackling contemporary issues. We’re slowing things down a bit, keeping it eerie, before stoking the flames again in order to explore who these characters become when they are allowed to be individuals, when they are allowed to be exactly who they want to be without fear of repercussion or persecution.
Zac Thompson: This book is about a different kind of oppression. It’s about exploring what you become when you’re faced to ask hard questions about what you’d do to keep the peace. It’s about tackling the age old X-Men theme of what it means to be an outsider with a modern subversive twist. Age of X-Man is about exploring what mutants become after they win a battle they’ve been fighting for their entire lives.
Marco Failla: My main goal is always to keep the story-telling as clear as possible and to achieve this, I especially take care of the characters’ acting. I spend a lot of time experimenting with different poses or facial expressions. This is a special project and I hope the readers will like it as I do!
You can see more of Mike Hawthorne's character designs in the gallery below! Here is the cover by Phil Noto:
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