The ‘Age of X-Man: X-Tremists’ Creative Team Reveals That This Series ‘Is Gonna Hurt’
“Hatred is what happens when love is left to rot.”
The X-Men finally live in the utopia of their dreams and peace for mutants is a way of life. Yet there are still dangers to face and Psylocke, Iceman, Northstar, Blob, Jubilee and Moneta team up to protect people from one of the most insidious threats… love?
Marvel.com chatted with writer Leah Williams and artist Georges Jeanty about the team-up and what makes them X-Tremists in AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #1, on sale now!
ENTER THE X-TREMISTS
Marvel.com: We get a little preview of the X-Tremists in AGE OF X-MAN: ALPHA #1, but what else can you tell us about this team-up? How did these characters come together?
Leah Williams: In terms of the in-world specifics, I think it may have been Nate Grey’s brain looking at them and deciding it was the appropriate role for them to play in this utopian mutant society. But in terms of how they came together from a creative standpoint, it was from a discussion I had with Jordan White about who was available, and me getting really excited upon finding out these guys were! Having a chance to write them at all let alone in this wild setting of the AGE OF X-MAN world was really thrilling for me.
Georges Jeanty: I was very excited that this title fell into my humble lap. I have drawn several of the X-Men in my career but never any of the team books. I'm glad I'm finally getting the chance. I hope you are too!
Marvel.com: What can readers expect from the new character, Moneta?
Leah Williams: She’s trouble, and not in the fun way.
Georges Jeanty: Your guess is as good as mine. I have never met this character before so I'm not sure what her origins are. I can tell you she is a bit of a rabble rouser! She is definitely the character who stirs things up!
Marvel.com: Considering this book is set in the AGE OF X-MAN event where Professor Xavier’s utopia is achieved, and the solicitation for this book calls love “the most insidious threat,” what hints can you drop about this idyllic reality where love is a threat?
Leah Williams: Hatred is what happens when love is left to rot. If you distill most conflicts down to their most basic components, you’ll find love or an inversion of it at the root of the problem. Love is a kind of variable that would open up this crimeless, utopian society to far too many potential avenues for conflict to enter. All love is forbidden love--not just romantic love.
Georges Jeanty: I certainly wouldn't want to give away too much, but I would say read up on your Orwell! Utopia in fiction for the last 50 years or so has almost become somewhat ironic, and this setting is no different. The X-Tremists are there to serve and protect... even when it's from yourself!
Marvel.com: How do each of you go about maintaining the utopian atmosphere, which implies a paradise, with anti-love sentiments? It seems like quite the juxtaposition to manage.
Leah Williams: It is exceptionally difficult, and X-TREMISTS has canonically gay characters in addition to writing them in this utopian world were love is forbidden. The biggest potential for failure that I see for myself, as the writer, is telling a story that is complicit in its erasure of all love instead of examining the consequences of assimilation and erasure. This world, and this setting--it’s difficult for each character, and for different reasons.
Georges Jeanty: That is a hard line to follow because all of the literature and art is still there, it is just outlawed. So, as you might think, any of this 'deviant' contraband must be kept in the shadows or locked away. Leah had expressed [a desire that] the architecture resemble the Brutalist Architecture that was the fashion from the 1950s to the 1970s. I was particularly interested in this because it gave me a chance to some interesting backgrounds and interiors. I love architecture and always try and incorporate the “texture” in the things I draw whatever they may be.
COVER & CHARACTER DESIGNS
Marvel.com: The cover of issue #1 by Rahzzah is quite effective at setting a threatening tone with the “Always Watching” banner set atop an eye with a familiar X at the center. How did this cover come together, and is “Always Watching” one of the X-Tremists’ tenets?
Leah Williams: Department X (which is the actual name of the team, while “X-Tremists” is the pejorative that the rebels use for them) is more “awake” than the rest of this mutant society in that they’re the ones working from the shadows to scrub every imperfection from this utopian society’s surface. They’re the only ones carrying that burden, and the only ones who don’t get to live in the same utopian world as even the X-men do. It makes them look like villains to everyone else.
Marvel.com: Can you tell us about the character designs, specifically the utilitarian outfits the characters wear and how they came to be?
Leah Williams: Rahzahh is brilliant and designed all of these character costumes—he has this amazing way of big-picturing core feelings and large concepts from keywords and basic outlines we give him. He brought us these amazing designs on the first try and we were all in love. Someone on Twitter said that Blob looks like a “thicc artisanal chef from Williamsburg” and that is exactly the kind of Blob we’re working with in AGE OF X-MAN. He’s softer, kinder, a pursuer of his passions. Kind of a hipster.
Georges Jeanty: Again, I'm coming in after the fact, but from what I gathered, these designs are based off Nazi Germany. They have a very military utilitarian look to them. I find it interesting that two of Marvel's gay characters would become what [used to be] considered storm troopers.
Marvel.com: What are some of your favorite super powers and abilities to write about/illustrate?
Leah Williams: I’m personally obsessed with Marvel’s telepaths. I love the nearly limitless potential for their powers, and it’s something I often think about in my own time. The possibilities for bending reality, dreams, and memories is fascinating. I also think of the telepaths as having telepathy styles as distinctive as their different personalities, because to me it tracks that the lens they use to enter another person’s thoughts would be unique to their individual worldview and experiences.
Georges Jeanty: As an artist it's always great to draw the powers that are more external or can be manifested. I always thought Jean Grey and Professor X were the hardest characters to render because their powers were always internal.
Marvel.com: Leah and Georges, you both have worked on X-Men books before but what makes this book different and why did you want to work on it?
Leah Williams: This is a world-breaking book, in the general sense of it being an alternate reality, but also in a more specific sense in that Department X gets to be the team who are at least partially aware of how complicit they are in curating it and get to decide how to proceed with that knowledge.
Georges Jeanty: Like I said, I've worked in the “outer ring” of the X-family. I've never worked on an X-team book, so I jumped at the chance to do the X-Tremists. The differences are obvious. A whole world where mutants are the norm? I thought it was a great way to show that in spite of our differences, mutants becoming the dominant race will inevitably show us that they are no different than humans.
Marvel.com: What would you like readers to know about this book?
Leah Williams: Each issue focuses on a different Department X team member. I wanted to give a loving spotlight to them as we move forward through the story, rather than having fans navigate a more broken-up narrative to get to their favorite character. This miniseries is also gonna hurt. It’s a difficult story to tell by nature, because of the role Department X was assigned in this utopian society without their choosing. They didn’t sign up for this, and X-TREMISTS is about the consequences of trying to force these beloved characters into a reality they would never consciously choose to comply with. Every issue is bringing pain and simultaneous catharsis, increasingly, until we end with a bombastic, jubilant, grand finale.
Georges Jeanty: This is a book unlike the normal crop of X-books you may have read. This series ostensibly tries to say something about not just the mutant race but how it mirrors with our own. At our core, regardless of our “special” abilities, we are all fundamentally the same. X-TREMISTS takes that issue and tries to dissect it.
AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS #1, written by Leah Williams with art by Georges Jeanty, is on sale now, online or at your local comic shop!
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