Walter and Louise Simonson Bring X-Factor Back in 'X-Men Legends' #3
After three decades, the Simonsons are reuniting with X-Factor, Apocalypse, and another old foe...
Back in the ‘80s, Louise Simonson and Walter Simonson had a very memorable run on X-FACTOR (1986). At the time, the series was a spotlight on the five original X-Men: Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, and Angel. That series also introduced Apocalypse, and ultimately paved the way for the original five to eventually rejoin the X-Men.
On Wednesday, April 28, the Simonsons will finally revisit their stint on X-FACTOR in X-MEN LEGENDS #3. This new story will take place before X-FACTOR (1986) #43 and will fill in a gap that’s been previously unexplored. And the team is going to have their hands full, thanks to the machinations of two of their greatest enemies.
Marvel.com recently caught up with the Simonsons, and they happily shared the story of how they came back to X-Factor.
“My editor, Mark Basso, asked me to write a couple of X-Factor stories for their X-MEN LEGENDS line, so I said ‘sure,’” related Louise. “I had to find a story that fit into the old continuity, because that's what they're doing in that particular line of work. So I thought of something, and we could start.”
“And I really like working with Louise,” added Walt. “So I chirped in and said, ‘Oh, actually I'd love to draw it.’ Which when it came to the deadline, Mark may be regretting it now!”
During this era, the X-Factor team was living in Ship, the sentient vessel that was once controlled by Apocalypse; Louise noted that her new tale will build on Ship’s origins. “It was a backstory to Apocalypse and what Ship was all about,” Louise said. “And eventually, I would have done it....I knew what Ship was. I guess that if we had revealed that in the Judgment War storyline, but this is Apocalypse's part in all of that. He is more [involved], which I had known about all along, but just hadn't revealed in regular continuity. And then I got off the book and never revealed it. So now it's revealed.”
While Walt enjoyed the opportunity to revisit this era, he did express some surprise about how the characters had changed in his absence.
“There's Caliban, who's in it,” explained Walt. “While I was drawing it, he was pretty slender. And apparently he was on a heavy regimen of workouts and protein shake diets, so he's become a lot bulkier. I've bulked him up some, but probably not as much as he was in the comic after I left.”
“Well, it's earlier in the continuity,” added Louise. “ It's pretty soon after he joined Apocalypse. So he's still working out. He has some issues still.”
“Yeah, so it's a lot of fun to get back and draw these characters again,” continued Walt. “Well, I draw Apocalypse and the X-Factor guys. Even Ship. Ship's great because he's a shape-shifting kind of thing. You can do whatever you want. I like those comics.”
Since this story also takes place after INFERNO, it also means that Jean Grey is carrying the memories of both the Phoenix Force and Madelyne Pryor, in addition to her own life experiences. The significance of that change won’t be ignored by this story.
“We have a couple of instances where she kind of flashes on being the Phoenix,” admitted Louise. “I guess there's one instance of that. And I don't think she actually flashes [on Madelyne]. She knows Madelyne is in the back of her head, yelling at her. She knows. Her relationship with Scott is, she's loved him in any relationship [and] in any form that she's been in. So that's a constant in all of her many bizarre incarnations.
"That's sort of the way I approach it. When she flips on the Phoenix, she makes you a little confused about what her powers actually can do. In this story, she's beginning to get her telepathy back, but only slightly. With [Scott’s child, Nathan] definitely. At least there is empathy, because the baby doesn't talk yet. But with Angel, she's actually more aware of how everybody feels and how everybody's life has changed. She's not fully telepathic yet. But she's getting a lot of vibes. So that's what I'm doing with her right now as part of the continuity."
“And there are a couple drawings in the first of the two issues that act as touchstones for both her previous identities and the Phoenix side,” added Walt. “Yeah, she's Phoenix-looking, but there's another drawing and it touched on the Phoenix identity as well. I just drew it for fun.”
One of X-Factor’s first enemies, Cameron Hodge, also returns in this story. These issues pick up after Archangel beheaded Hodge in X-FACTOR (1986) #34. But thanks to Hodge’s deal with a demon, he survived. While discussing Hodge’s comeback, Louise shared some surprising insight into his character.
“Oh, I always kind of liked him,” explained Louise. “He's such a mean guy. I love that he's this human who wants to destroy mutants, and yet he wants the power that they have. He's a really conflicted, messed up character, and his hatred for Warren, his love-hate for Warren, I think he's just a really twisted kind of guy. There's no way he's ever going to be happy.”
“I think in the olden days, he worshipped Warren,” she continued. “I think Warren was everything that he wanted to be. He was rich. He was handsome. He was athletic. And then it turned out he was a mutant. He had powers beyond anything that Hodge could have aspired to. And I think Hodge saw that as a betrayal.”
Louise also noted that the story does act as a transition for Hodge’s eventual transformation in the classic crossover, X-TINCTION AGENDA.
“Another reason I wanted to use Hodge was that we had a transition in our continuity where Hodge—Angel had cut off Hodge's head, but we knew Hodge was immortal. The next time we see Hodge in the X-FACTOR continuity, he's in Genosha, doing his Genosha thing. And I wanted to show the transition there about what happened and how the hell he went from just being a head laying on the ground to a man who has become a self-created monster.”
While many artists have made the leap to digital comic art pages, Walt told us that he remains a traditionalist at heart; all of his pages for this story were still drawn on paper.
“I'm strictly a physical guy,” said Walt. “I digitally fix typos. That's about the limit of my digital skills. So I'm really just a guy that does stuff with pencils and pens and inks and brushes. And I will say, one thing I'm very pleased about is that Marvel gave me the dispensation to get the artwork lettered on the boards.
"John Workman lettered this, [and] I've now worked for John forever. The nice thing about that for me is it really enables me to control the compositions within the panels and on pages in a way it's not possible in digital lettering, where it's like a layer on top of the art. Which is, of course, what it is.
"If I can get it, I really prefer getting stuff lettered on the boards. And some jobs, you can do that. The companies let you do it. Sometimes they won't. And in this case, Marvel let us do it. They grandfathered me in, as I'm now the age of most of their grandfathers! That's probably how that works.”
Finally, the Simonsons shared their favorite aspects of revisiting these characters at that point in time.
“I have to say, my real favorite aspect was getting to work with Weezie again,” noted Walt. “I liked her X-Factor [stories] to begin with. They were fun to draw. That's really why I came back to do this myself, because I just thought it'd be fun to work with her again. It'd be fun to work on these characters. And it really has been. And also, Apocalypse is so much fun to draw."
“You know what? I think [my favorite thing is] explaining why a lot of stuff happened that I didn't get around to doing,” added Louise. “I love working with Apocalypse. I just like the X-Factor characters. They're really fun to deal with. And I think my favorite thing about having done the stories is the artwork is so gorgeous. You tend to forget how great it is working with a specific artist, but then you get art by them again, and it's like, ‘Oh my God. This is just so gorgeous.’ The first issue we're doing is really great. And I think the second issue is even better. It is so gorgeous.”
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