Get to Know the Writer Behind 'Captain Marvel', 'Uncanny X-Men', and 'Mr. and Mrs. X'
Get ready for 'Mr. and Mrs. X' #8 by seeing how Marvel’s mutants inspired Kelly Thompson's career!
When a young Kelly Thompson first glimpsed the X-Men’s Southern belle, Rogue, flying through a shopping mall, dress torn, and en route to assaulting a Sentinel, the future MR. AND MRS. X writer did not recoil at the peculiarity, instead she knew she'd found a kindred spirit in fiction. Kelly quickly considered Marvel’s mutants a second family and immersed herself in their lore—a journey that would ultimately lead her to the House of Ideas.
Today, Thompson tells tales of CAPTAIN MARVEL, JESSICA JONES, WEST COAST AVENGERS, and more, but Xavier’s brood will always hold a special place in her heart, and the recent opportunity to help bring back the venerable UNCANNY X-MEN title marks a milestone in an already landmark career. And tomorrow, Kelly's journey with Rogue continues at your local comic shop with MR. AND MRS. X #8!
Kelly opened up to Marvel.com about her formative years as a comics fan, what set her on the path to professional writing, of course, all things Rogue, plus much more.
Marvel.com: How did you first get into comics as a fan? Was it Super Heroes right away or was there a gateway?
Kelly Thompson: I had two gateways actually. I read Archie comics as a little kid and I think that’s important because it taught me from an early age how to read comics, which is definitely a learned skill that can be a roadblock for readers who come to comics later in my experience. The other gateway was a cartoon…
Marvel.com: Heck yeah! So what role did X-Men: The Animated Series play in your youth?
Thompson: Like so many fans of a certain age the X-Men animated series was what got me into the whole wide world of monthly comics—and into Super Hero comics specifically. One look at that cartoon and I was in love; X-Men comics were not far behind.
Marvel.com: So why did X-Men as a concept speak to you, both in general and specifically as a teenage girl growing up?
Thompson: I always was—and still am—very interested in misfits and found families—making your own family—and I think the X-Men embody that more than almost any other comic. And I think that’s an especially relatable concept for teens looking for their place in the world.
Marvel.com: You’ve got a long personal history with the character of Rogue, whom you’re currently writing in MR. AND MRS. X. What forged your early connection with her?
Thompson: When I saw Rogue in a mini-dress punching a Sentinel in the face while flying through a mall [in the pilot episode of the animated series], I was in love. And that love affair only got more intense once I started reading the comic. There was so much I loved about her, but in retrospect, a woman that feels untouchable and utterly alone is very relatable for a teenage girl. Dramatic perhaps, but relatable.
Marvel.com: Backing up a little, what did you want to be when you grew up as a kid?
Thompson: I wanted to be a writer since I can remember. When I was six or seven I wrote these stories about mermaid sisters and then, not satisfied with just writing them, I made them into actual books with little die-cut covers. So I think from an early age it was not just about writing, but publishing—sharing those stories.
Marvel.com: Do you know where did your interest in writing began?
Thompson: I honestly don’t, it was just always there. But I’ve been so grateful for that. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to create and a lot of people search their whole lives for something they can love like that—a lot of them never find it.
Marvel.com: Tell me more about these mermaid books...
Thompson: [Laughs] Umm. I’m sure they were pretty terrible. I wish so much that I still had them.
Marvel.com: Ok, moving forward, where did you go to school and what did you study? Were you still laser-focused on writing?
Thompson: I went to the University of Arizona for a couple years and majored in graphic design and I really liked it, but I was also taking a sequential art class at night taught by a guy that ran the local comic shop—Captain Spiffy’s!—and published an indie zine. And one day I realized that everyone in my graphic design [program] was eating/breathing/sleeping graphic design, and I was just a tourist because I was eating/breathing/sleeping comics. And so I transferred to the Savannah College of Art & Design to study comics.
Marvel.com: So what ultimately led you to drop design in favor of really going after the writing dream?
Thompson: Mostly I dropped it because I just wasn’t very good. I knew it was going to take a tremendous amount of constant work in order to get good enough to maybe be mediocre—but I felt like if I kept writing I had half a chance at developing into a good writer. It was definitely the right call.
Marvel.com: After college, did you immediately pursue a career in comics?
Thompson: No. Like most people I know I floundered a bit. Took a “straight” job. I started working on a graphic novel, but I also wrote a prose novel about girls with super powers—years later that would turn into my first novel, “The Girl Who Would Be King”—and even dabbled in some poetry—don’t ask! It took years for me to find my way back to comics in a real way. Wish I could get those years back! Don’t be like me, kids!
Marvel.com: Why did you move to Los Angeles?
Kelly Thompson: I was considering trying to get work in storyboarding in L.A. I tried a little bit, but I was so afraid of being without work that I caved very quickly and took a job at an architecture firm working in administration.
Marvel.com: As you said, though, eventually you would find your way back to comics. What was your first published work?
Thompson: Well, my creator-owned graphic novel Heart In A Box with artist Meredith McClaren was already in the pipe at Dark Horse when my pitch with Sophie Campbell was approved for Jem & The Holograms; but Jem #1 beat Heart In A Box to publication by several months. And I suppose technically I also did a four-page short in the charity project Womanthology with artist Stephanie Hans before both of those!
Marvel.com: And then while you’re doing this, you’re also writing for a comic book website—how did writing about comics prepare you to write comics?
Thompson: I don't think anything will teach you how to write comics better than reading a lot of good comics and a lot of bad comics and being forced to write reviews of them; it really forces you to examine what works and what doesn’t and why. I cringe at some of those reviews now—I’ve seen how the sausage is made and so I want to be more understanding about things going wrong and why—but I wouldn’t change any of it as it really helped my development as a writer. I also interviewed a lot of smart people who gave great advice.
Marvel.com: What did it mean to get assigned the X-Men gigs you've received over the past year?
Thompson: The X-Men were—and are!—my real first loves in comics, so it means everything. Even as a kid dreaming about writing comics, I don’t think I really ever dreamed someone would say, “Here! Write a Rogue & Gambit book!” Like that was beyond the bounds of my imagination.
Marvel.com: How was the experience collaborating with Matt Rosenberg and Ed Brisson as the writing team that brought back UNCANNY X-MEN?
Thompson: Matt and Ed are two of my best friends in comics and also two creators whose work I love, so I was really excited that our UNCANNY adventure would be taken together. It was only after I accepted the gig that I realized it might be a bad idea to work with my two best comics friends—what if it all went horribly wrong and we hated each other when it was over? Fortunately that didn’t happen.
Well, I mean, we obviously hate Matt, but otherwise everything is cool. These are the jokes!
Marvel.com: What is your favorite X-Men moment you've written thus far?
Thompson: Hmm. Probably something from the ROGUE & GAMBIT limited series. I feel like we really broke some storytelling boundaries there and re-invented those characters a little bit, gave them new life, and I’m really proud of that.
Marvel.com: What do you still want to do with the X-Men as a writer that you haven't yet?
Thompson: So much! I mean, I can’t really narrow it down, there are so many characters I haven’t really gotten to write yet and so many stories I’d like to tell. I’ve never even gotten to write Wolverine or Cyclops!
Marvel.com: Last question: After all these years, is Rogue still your favorite character?
Thompson: It’s hard to let go of first love, man! Plus: that hair!
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