Published January 19, 2023

X-Men: A Firestar Is Born

Creators Steve Foxe and Andrea Di Vito discuss shining a spotlight on Angelica Jones in 'X-Men Annual' #1!

Cover to X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1 by Stefano Caselli and Federico Blee.
Cover to X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1 by Stefano Caselli and Federico Blee.

In the four decades since young Angelica Jones discovered her mutant microwave powers and took on the name Firestar, she’s done a lot of living all over the Marvel Universe. She’s been an “Amazing Friend” alongside Spider-Man and Iceman, a charter member of the New Warriors, and even made the big time as part of the Avengers. She’s walked on the dark side as part of Emma Frost’s Hellions, found love and lost it, and even beaten cancer.

Now, Angelica has taken on a somewhat surprising new role on the roster of Krakoa’s X-Men. Despite her mutant origins, the heat-powered hero has had surprisingly little interaction with the Children of the Atom. That’s something writer Steve Foxe and artist Andrea Di Vito seek to explore along with all of Firestar’s facets in X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1, available in print and digital comic shops now.

We spoke with the creative team behind this super-sized celebration about their own X-Men origins as well as why they sought to bring Firestar to the forefront.

What’s your origin story as an X-Men reader, Steve?

STEVE FOXE: I’m a child of the late ‘80s, so I was in the ideal strike zone for all things mutant. Some of my earliest memories are of buying the first Toy Biz X-Men figures off the rack at Toys "R" Us, and of picking up Pryde of the X-Men on VHS. The toys were a huge factor—before I had easy access to comic shops, they sparked my imagination and pushed me down the path to making up my own stories. By the time X-Men: The Animated Series launched [in 1992], there was no going back for me—and really no breaks, either. UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) and X-MEN (1991) were the first comics I started reading off of the shelves and I never stopped.

What classic or current X-Men runs have influenced you as a writer?

STEVE FOXE: A few years ago, I started a full chronological re-read of every X-Men comic ever, beginning with GIANT-SIZE X-MEN (1975) #1 (sorry to the Silver Age diehards out there—I had to skip ahead a bit). If you had asked me this question before that, my answer would have been Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s radical reinvention of the franchise [with NEW X-MEN], which blew my mind as a preteen. But now my inspiration is really scattered all over the place—the layered plots of early [Chris] Claremont, especially by the time Paul Smith joined him; Larry Hama’s full-tilt wildness on WOLVERINE alongside [Marc] Silvestri and other killer collaborators; Fabian Nicieza’s wildly under-credited flair for snappy dialogue on early X-FORCE (1991) issues. Everything is swirling around in the ol’ noggin now, including—and perhaps most importantly—being inspired by my fellow current X-creators and all the fresh directions they’re pursuing with the current status quo.

Where did the idea for this story come from?

STEVE FOXE: The only real mandate for the issue was not to do a holiday story (AKA the first thing I brought up) because DARK WEB takes place over Christmas. [Editor] Jordan White and I discussed which characters on the newly elected team were getting the most attention in the months leading up to and following December. Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Iceman had huge moments during A.X.E.: JUDGMENT DAY. Forge was the main player in the latest “Vault” arc. Magik got a lot of recent attention in NEW MUTANTS (2019). Synch is having a romantic moment right now. And Havok...whoo boy, good luck to Alex Summers during DARK WEB. So Firestar stood out as a good choice for the Annual since her ongoing story is going to unfold a little later down the line. I’m also a lifelong fan of Angelica Jones, thanks to VHS [copies] of [cartoon] Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Splitting her off into her own mission alongside Cyclops, the subject of my only pop culture-related tattoo, all slid into place very quickly. Not that I could resist using the rest of the crew, too.

Preview from X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1 with art by Andrea Di Vito and Sebastian Cheng.
Preview from X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1 with art by Andrea Di Vito and Sebastian Cheng.

So, beyond being a fan, what was your relationship with Firestar going into this?

STEVE FOXE: I met Firestar before I met most of the X-Men. I probably knew who she was before I knew Havok or Forge even existed. My entry point to AVENGERS (1963) was George Pérez and Kurt Busiek taking over, and one of their first additions to the team was Firestar. She’s been a bit of a constant presence in my reading life, though I won’t lie and say she’d have cracked my personal top ten before she won the election. Heck, I voted for Monet! But the X-Men are outsiders, and seeing Firestar thrust into such a specific dynamic as an outsider among outsiders for being sort of an insider…that’s exciting as both a fan and a writer.

What makes Firestar a compelling figure to center an entire issue around?

ANDREA DI VITO: I believe that Marvel has a hidden treasure trove of characters beyond the most popular ones. Firestar truly belongs in this category, not for her powers or her looks, but for the history that the character brings with her. She is surely relatable for many people and offers a fantastic point of view with the depth of her experiences. Not only has she been an Avenger and been connected to some of Marvel's most popular characters, but she is also a cancer survivor.

STEVE FOXE: The thing I love about Firestar’s current status quo is that she has never been ashamed of being a mutant, even though her powers have come with a lot of negative side effects. But some Krakoans—and plenty of readers in the real world—have reservations about her as a member of the main X-Men team because she’s spent more time as an Avenger or a New Warrior or whatever other team you want to name. This Annual became a really interesting opportunity to reintroduce Angelica to readers who may not know her full story, and put her unique position within the X-Men—and within the mutant community as a whole—under a microscope.

This is a new look for Firestar, Andrea—how much were you able to play around with it?

ANDREA DI VITO: Let me say that I love the new look, very modern, elegant. It was a true pleasure to draw. I love high contrast in a costume and she is a perfect example of “less is more.” I particularly enjoyed the flame designs and how they complemented her looks when she takes flight.

Preview from X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1 with art by Andrea Di Vito and Sebastian Cheng.
Preview from X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1 with art by Andrea Di Vito and Sebastian Cheng.

Any regrets over not getting the classic Firestar costume outside of flashbacks?

ANDREA DI VITO: I am a sucker for classic costumes, so yes, a part of me regretted not getting to draw her most iconic look. There's something in the most “flamboyant” aspects of Super Heroes that really makes them fun to draw. Firestar’s mask belongs there, like Mysterio’s dome or Wolverine’s mutton chops!

Steve, why did it make the most sense to pair Firestar with Cyclops, aside from liking both characters?

STEVE FOXE: Cyclops is my favorite male mutant, my first favorite comics character, one of my first fictional crushes(!), and still my Super Hero role model in a lot of ways. He’s also one of the leaders of the current X-Men, alongside Jean Grey, so it made sense that he’d want to get a feel for how Angelica operates away on her own. They’ve had very minimal interactions in the past, and were on opposing ideological sides the last time Firestar had a major association with the X-Men. As a tactician and a planner, Scott needs to really understand Firestar if he’s going to effectively deploy her in the field—and foster her place on the squad. But mostly…because Cyclops is cool, let’s be real.

In addition to Firestar, Andrea, you got to draw the current roster of the X-Men and a bunch of enemies as well. Who were your favorites and who did you find most challenging?

ANDREA DI VITO: Zombie X-Babies take the prize. If I could do a [full] story in Mojoworld I would be the happiest man on Earth. Honorable mention goes to Miles Morales. I was really not expecting to find him in the story and I will never thank Steve enough for putting him in there. In all my years at Marvel I rarely have had the chance to work on a story like this one; it really felt like a love letter to the X-Men, and their place in pop culture. Drawing it felt amazing!

Preview from X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1 with art by Andrea Di Vito and Sebastian Cheng.
Preview from X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1 with art by Andrea Di Vito and Sebastian Cheng.

Ultimately, what were you trying to accomplish in regards to advancing Firestar’s journey here?

STEVE FOXE: Most of Firestar’s story to tell right now is in Gerry [Duggan’s] very capable hands, so my approach to the Annual was less about planting seeds than it was about taking stock: who is Angelica Jones, why is she Firestar, and how is she tolerating the scrutiny of being an X-Man in the Krakoan era—especially because she didn’t even choose to be nominated! X-MEN (2021) is a very fast-paced and action-forward series, so the Annual allowed us to slow down and check in on her a bit. I don’t need readers to come away rooting for her or even liking her, but I hope they understand her and her role on the team a bit more.

X-MEN ANNUAL (2022) #1 is available in print and digital comic shops now!

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