fredag den 29. juni 2012

Changing X-Men directions

From 1997 to 1999 the X-Men underwent several changes in writers while Chris Claremont waited in the wings, flirting with the characters he had helped make popular.

An X-Men reader poll published in Wizard #90 in 1999 revealed that 30 % of readers wanted Chris Claremont to write the X-Men again, putting him on top of the list with second favourite choice, Kurt Busiek, receiving only 18 % of the votes.

In 1997, the readers who voted on Claremont almost had their wish come true. “Bob Harras had become the Editor-in-Chief and we started talking again,” Claremont revealed in Comic Creators On X-Men.

“I, along with a lot of other creators in the business, have been bitching a lot in the last few years about how “Things aren’t going quite right” and “If I were God Emperor of the Universe, what could I do to make things work?”” Claremont told Wizard #85. “It got to the point where I think Marvel decided to call my bluff.” […] “My coming back was not a spur-of-the-moment decision – it’s something we’ve been talking about for about two-and-a-half years. There was a lot of discussion, negotiation.”

“When I came back to Marvel, the deal was… the expectation was that I would write one of the books,” Claremont said in Wizard #103. “But we could never make the timing work.”

“(Bob Harras) wanted me to come back and take over one of the X-books,” Claremont added in Comics Creators On X-Men. “Scott Lobdell would write the other. Bob figured that would be the best of both worlds. Scott had a certain following and so did I. We could maybe play to our different strengths. But, before I agreed to write X-Men, I had to settle some outstanding royalty stuff with Marvel as far as Toy Biz was concerned. While this was happening, Scott decided to leave X-Men and Bob suddenly had to get writers on both books. By the time I came back, the books had already been handed over to Joe Kelly and Steve Seagle. Since Bob had already made a commitment to these two guys, he felt he couldn’t just dump them. Instead of doing X-Men, I came back as editorial director and ended up taking over Fantastic Four because Scott had also quit that book. I was fine with FF.”

Unresolved plots

With Scott Lobdell leaving in 1997, a couple of his sub-plots remained unresolved. In Uncanny X-Men #339, Jean Grey’s telepathic powers acted up, and in X-Men vol.2 #61, she suddenly found herself momentarily transported to an abandoned version of Manhattan. Later, in X-Men vol.2 #65, she found herself momentarily transported to the Heroes Reborn Universe where she met Iron Man. No explanation was ever given.

In X-Men vol.2 #59, Cannonball caught presidential candidate Graydon Creed talking to a person hidden behind a door. It was never revealed who he was talking to, but it might have been the mutant-hating Bastion, who supported Creed’s cause.

Graydon Creed was shot in X-Factor #130 in 1997, and in Uncanny X-Men #353, an insert announced that the killer of Creed’s fate would be revealed in X-Factor #150. Unfortunately, X-Factor was cancelled with issue #149, leaving the mystery unresolved until X-Men Forever #2 in 2001, where it was revealed that Mystique had shot him.

When Scott Lobdell left the X-Men with X-Men vol.2 #69, he had wanted to do a team of all-new, all-different X-Men that included the Israeli mutant Sabra. “I went through the effort to bring her onto camera and hopefully get her likeable and interesting,” Lobdell told in Wizard #90. “And then I was told, “We don’t want her on the team after all.””

Lobdell also revealed that he re-wrote Uncanny X-Men #325 from 1995 “six times completely from scratch because I couldn’t bring myself to follow through on the (editorial) edict, which was to have Storm kill Marrow. It was only (on) the sixth time that I came up with the version that I was morally okay with, and even to this day I feel badly having written the story.”

Meanwhile in Wolverine

At the same time as Scott Lobdell left X-Men, longtime Wolverine writer Larry Hama also left Wolverine, leaving behind a mystery that subsequent writers didn’t touch. It regarded an artifact in the form of a box that Zoe Culloden, agent of the interdimensional company Landau, Luckman and Lake, sent to Wolverine for safe keeping in Wolverine vol.2 #111. In Wolverine vol.2 #113 and 114, the evil entity Ogun and Lady Deathstrike both coveted the box, which was opened by Storm. She didn’t say what was in the box, only that whoever possess it would have access to resources untold.

Although Chris Claremont didn’t return to the X-Men in 1997, he did write Wolverine vol.2 #125-128 in 1998, returning to the character he had helped make popular. In the story, Claremont defied the wishes of fans for Wolverine to get his adamantium reinforced skeleton back by giving it to Sabretooth instead. “In my mind, I want the villain to be significantly more dangerous and formidable than the hero – otherwise, what’s the point?” Claremont explained in Wizard #85.

“I think it’s great that Wolverine is vulnerable, that his bones can be broken,” Claremont continued. “Bad things can happen to him, and he has to factor his vulnerabilities into the equation. If a bad guy comes to him with a sharp enough sword, maybe the guy can take (Wolverine’s) head off, as opposed to the old days, where it was, “Hey. Cut me. I don’t care.” More importantly, now Sabretooth  - the one guy who truly doesn’t care – can’t be killed. How do you win a fight like that? Well, that’s the challenge. I’d like to give this concept a run for a while.”

However, it didn’t take long after Claremont’s story arc before Sabretooth’s adamantium was given to Wolverine instead by Apocalypse in Wolverine vol.2 #145 in 1999. Claremont commented on it in Wizard #103: “The whole point about Sabretooth and Wolverine is Sabretooth is Wolverine without any moral governing. That is why I wanted to give him the adamantium. Sabretooth should, in every shape, manner and form, be more formidable than Wolverine, so that in any given fight, Wolverine has the odds against him.”

Editorial interference

While Steve Seagle and Joe Kelly were writing the main X-Men books, “the editorial climate at the time was extremely poor,” according to artist Chris Bachalo in Comics Creators On X-Men. “They kept changing story directions from issue to issue. They’d have the meeting, decide on a direction and change their minds a few months later. I think it was all very frustrating for Steve (Seagle) and Joe Kelly, the writers at the time. They were having their differences with the editorial group and I think they got completely burned out after a year. I don’t know if they were fired or if they left, but it was just a horrible situation. And it made drawing the book really difficult. We’d get working on the storyline, and then it would change and go in another direction. Steve’s last issue was also my last issue. To this day, I don’t know why I was moved.”

Chris Claremont commented on the editorial effect on the X-Men books in Wizard #85: “Eleven X-Men books is probably too much because you’re drawing from the same well of characters and events. And the sheer logic of it: I think there are more mutants in the Marvel Universe than there are other superheroes right now. It’s hard to be the downtrodden minority when you outnumber everyone else two-to-one. And also, it used to be that the X-Men were the province of one writer, one editor. Then it became two writers and two editors. Now it’s four or five editors and a half-dozen or more writers. It’s very hard to maintain a consistent tone of focus.”

“Part of me wants to write them all,” Claremont admitted. “Part of me wants to put the whole canon in my pocket, run out the door and come back each month with stories. But my value to the company is in a different direction than that. And I would rather at this point make (Fantastic Four) more exciting and successful than it is than to go back to the X-Men.”

Abandoned storylines

The change in directions meant that two of Joe Kelly’s subplots were abandoned before reaching closure. The first one concerned the Black King of the Hellfire Club, Sebastian Shaw. In X-Men vol. 2 #71 he was approached by a wraith who gave him a letter with an Egyptian styled seal. It contained an offer, which Sebastian Shaw accepted in X-Men vol. 2 #73. It was never revealed what he agreed to do or what meeting would be called once he’d accepted.

The other abandoned plot concerned new X-Man Marrow. A mysterious figure approached her mentor Callisto, who was recuperating in the Morlock Tunnels, in X-Men vol. 2 #74. In X-Men vol. 2 #79, the mysterious figure was displeased with Callisto’s speedy recovery, but pleased that Marrow had joined the X-Men. It was never revealed, but the mysterious figure was probably the Dark Beast – a character with Morlock ties and whom Editor Mark Powers had revealed in Wizard #79 would be appearing: “You’ll see the Dark Beast doing something really nasty to someone you know and like.”

In Wizard #79, a storyline for August 1998 was also hinted at. “You will see more X-Men and X-villains gathered in one place – together, united – than you have ever seen before,” Steve Seagle said. “There are times where you have to rely on your enemies to save you and there are times where your friends don’t act at all like your friends. This August will be one of the times.”

“Even your friends can be your villains,” Seagle continued. “It is hard to say who is what. This story is going to lead to the biggest philosophical division that you have ever seen happen among all the X-characters. (…) You’ll see old friends turn against one another over philosophical differences.”

“You’ll see the fantabulous Beast butting heads with other longtime X-Men,” Joe Kelly added, while Mark Powers revealed that “an X-Man will die this year,” and Seagle added that “I’m thinking that it will be sometime around… August.”

However, this August storyline never appeared. Instead, Excalibur characters Nightcrawler, Colossus and Shadowcat rejoined the X-Men in a brand new direction for the books.

Why Kelly and Seagle left

X-Men writer Joe Kelly commented on the change of direction and why he left the book in Wizard #90: “If somebody told me from Day One, “We’re going to work out the story and hand it to you, and you just plot it and dialogue it,” I’d have no problem with that, because it’s very up-front. When that evolves over time, it becomes frustrating.”

“Joe (Kelly) and I, along with (editor) Mark Powers, proceeded to produce two detailed, yearlong plans for the two X-books which were filled with interesting stories, sweeping long-range character arcs, shorter stories, one summer “big event” crossover, and enough marketing spikes to make any retailer happy without irritating the fans,” Uncanny X-Men writer Steve Seagle added in Wizard #90. “I was led to believe this plan had been accepted, and proceeded to start laying in the threads of these stories in the issues I was writing. Then all four tires blew out from under our wagonload of good stuff.”

“You never know what it is, but (Editor-In Chief) Bob (Harras) was answering to other people and this was a chaotic time at Marvel,” Seagle continued. “Certainly the redirected lineup – which neither Joe nor I were too happy about – I don’t think that came directly from editorial. I think that came from outside forces, whatever they may be – marketing or people above Bob, or who knows what.”

“Steve and I had a cool, magic thing going, but it wasn’t the kind of magic they were looking for, so what you get is something that falls in between their vision and our vision,” Joe Kelly added. “One of the things we definitely were going to do was split the books up and give each one a definite agenda. My team was going to include Beast running the school with the younger team members – Cannonball, the new guys, and maybe Kitty Pryde. Steve would take the ‘70s X-Men, which would be more active, with a more focused agenda. Cyclops was going to lead that team, with a very clear dream that was different from Xavier’s.”

“It really started to get troubling when the one character Joe and I both wanted in the book, which was Phoenix, (was something) we really fought for and we were basically told, “No,”” Seagle revealed.

“Phoenix had started expanding her powers,” Kelly added, “and there were going to be characters who had been watching since the Phoenix saga to see if the Phoenix force would return.”

Enter Alan Davis

“After Kelly and Seagle left X-Men, Bob (Harras) took me aside and asked who I would choose to write it,” Chris Claremont revealed in Comics Creators On X-Men. “I suggested Alan Davis. I remember we asked him to do both books for about six months. That six-month gig turned into two years.”

“Chris Claremont phoned and asked if I’d like to pencil six issues of the X-Men?” Alan Davis recalled in Modern Masters Volume One. “Within about a week and a half of this, I realized there was something going on at Marvel, something political. I still don’t know the full story. It was between Joe Kelly and Mark Powers, and I think Steven Seagle was involved, but I didn’t really have anything to do with him. Only a few weeks after beginning pencilling, Mark Powers phoned and said Joe Kelly and Steven Seagle had quit, and asked if I’d help out by plotting the next issue. I said I would and sent a plot in. Mark phoned and said they really liked the plot and would I plot Uncanny as well? So I said okay, and then it was, “Can you plot next month’s as well?” I said there was no way I could manage to do the dialogue, so I just continued pencilling one and plotting both X-Men titles and suddenly 18 months had passed and I’d pencilled 11 issues and plotted 24 or more. I had sorted out all of the continuity stuff Mark had wanted so all the titles could be integrated – but there were a lot of new writers resisting the new line. More politics!”

“Mark Powers gave me lists of characters and events that had to be introduced or resolved to tie in with other titles,” Alan Davis added. “It was complicated because the other editors and writers didn’t want to play ball. It got very messy. Working on X-Men was my most “professional” writing, in that I was problem-solving rather than coming up with ideas that I would have chosen.”

X-Men characters in Fantastic Four

Meanwhile, Chris Claremont wrote Fantastic Four vol.3 #4-32 and used some X-Men-related characters like Roma, Saturnyne, Charlotte Jones and Margali Szardoz in the book. Claremont would also have liked to use Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) in Fantastic Four, since Excalibur was getting cancelled anyway. Her role would have been working as Reed Richards’ laboratory assistant – an idea which probably came from Uncanny X-Men #178, wherein Kitty Pryde broke into the Fantastic Four’s headquarters and thought: “I wonder if Dr. Richards’d like an apprentice?”

“The only problem was (X-Men Editor) Mark Powers and the writers of the X-Men books had other plans for her,” Claremont sighed in Wizard #85. “Their wishes take precedence.”

“The problem with carrying over characters and plot elements from previous titles is that the editors involved – of both the prior and the current titles – may have other ideas, as might the writer(s) who came after,” Claremont told in 2001. “Folks complained when I used X-Men elements in the (Fantastic Four), complained again when FF elements showed up in the X-Men. Thing is, everyone has their turf and protects it with a vengeance. Sigh!”

Fantastic Four entered the top ten of Preview’s Top 100 list of best-selling comics when Claremont wrote the book, but he was still fired from writing Fantastic Four when he agreed to return to writing both Uncanny X-Men and X-Men vol. 2 in 2000. “I made my decision to return to Marvel, and ultimately to the X-Men for the same reason that I decided to leave in 1991,” Claremont stated to in 2003, “because it felt like the right thing to do.”

James Busbee: Danger Room, Wizard #90, February 1999
Tom Defalco: Comics Creators On X-Men, April 2006
Chris Hutchins: Chis Claremont, Wizard #85, September 1998
Richard Johnston: Waiting For Tommy,, 2003
Christopher Lawrence: Chris Claremont, Wizard #103, April 2000
Eric J. Moreels: Claremont Talks New X-Title,, 24 January 2001
Eric Nolen-Weathington: Modern Masters Volume One – Alan Davis, April 2003
Matthew Senreich: Team X-Men, Wizard #79, March 1998

fredag den 15. juni 2012


Was Cable or Stryfe the clone, and who had the cure for the Legacy Virus?

John Romita Jr. made a spectacular return as the artist of Uncanny X-Men starting with issue 300 in 1993. However, his return was fairly short-lived, ending with #311 in 1994. “After I got on the X-Men, then I got screwed off of it again by a guy named Kelly Corvese,” Romita Jr. revealed in Modern Masters vol. 18. “They asked me to do the Punisher/Batman crossover, so I asked for one month off of X-Men to do the Punisher/Batman. They gave it to me, and then they wouldn’t let me back on because (artist) Joe Madureira was discovered.”

“(Editor) Bob Harras was pleasant to me up front, and then didn’t like my work behind my back,” Romita Jr. explained. “He didn’t want to cause trouble at the company, so he let me work without telling me he wasn’t thrilled with my work, and I was kept off of a lot of books, and I was screwed out of doing the X-Men by (assistant editor) Kelly Corvese when Bob Harras should have done the right thing, and he didn’t.”

Abandoned plots

In 1993, the X-Men books were littered with new plot twists and a few of them were abandoned before reaching any resolution. In the Stryfe’s Strike File one-shot, a new character named Holocaust was introduced: “Hero? Villain? Anarchist? How does one classify a mutant who dares to frustrate the Upstarts at dawn, singlehandedly destroys a Sentinel-processing plant at noon, and attempts to slay the X-Men at dusk?” it was asked. “He does not speak, his thoughts are cloaked (…) and his mutant powers seem to adapt to any given situation.”

However, Holocaust never appeared in the X-Men books, but a different-looking, alternate universe version of him was introduced in the 1995 Age Of Apocalypse crossover. “We know Holocaust had a human form and something happened for him to need the crystal armor,” Uncanny X-Men writer Scott Lobdell told Hero Illustrated in 1995. “Theoretically he could be the janitor at the high school and you wouldn’t know it.”

Another character that never appeared was the new Hellfire Club leader Shinobi Shaw’s mother despite an introductory mention by writer Fabian Nicieza in X-Men vol.2 #22.

In Uncanny X-Men #299, writer Scott Lobdell introduced a telepathic mutant in the employ of anti-mutant legislator Senator Kelly, but readers never found out if that was a good or a bad thing. He appeared again in Uncanny X-Men #322 and 323 in 1995, thinking about dark days about to dawn, but besides a cameo appearance in X-Men vol.2 #51 in 1996 that was the last that was seen of him.

A cure for the Legacy Virus?

In X-Factor #68 from 1991, Scott Summers (Cyclops) had to send his son, Nathan, into the future to save the boy from a techno-organic virus infection. Then, in 1992/1993, the X-Men line of books featured a crossover entitled X-Cutioner’s Song, which featured the villain Stryfe. It was suggested that Stryfe was the adult Nathan come back from the future to torment his parents for deserting him and that Cable was a clone of Stryfe.

“When the Cable character was first created, it was decided that he was to be the clone of the child that got sent to the future; the son of Scott (Summers, Cyclops) and Madelyne Pryor,” Uncanny X-Men writer Scott Lobdell confirmed in Comics Creators On X-Men. “The actual son became Stryfe, who grew up to do horrible, horrible things, and his clone was Cable.”

“I remember calling (editor) Bob (Harras) up and saying, “If Scott sent this kid into the future and this kid becomes a raving mass murderer, that kind of suggests that Scott is partially responsible for turning his son into this horrific creature.” However, if Cable was the real son, the clone then becomes the flawed version that went off and did those horrible things.”

And so it was revealed in Cable #6-8 in 1993/1994 that it was Cable who was actually Nathan and that Stryfe was the clone of Nathan.

The X-Cutioner’s Song crossover ended with Stryfe unleashing the deadly Legacy Virus on mutantkind. Then, in Excalibur #80, plotted by Scott Lobdell in 1994, Stryfe granted his rebellious servant droid, Zero, full awareness, including full access to data that might lead to a cure for the virus. However, Zero was destroyed, but not before downloading the data into the technorganic being, Douglock. But Douglock never realized that Zero had given him the means to find a cure for the dreaded virus. In Excalibur #98, written by Warren Ellis in 1996, Douglock was captured by the secret government organization Black Air, and their technicians extracted the information from him, but never did anything with it.

No-show characters

In 1995, the X-Men books featured the Age Of Apocalypse crossover set in an alternate reality. When things returned to the normal Marvel Universe, plans were afoot for a few changes in the books’ character line-ups.

“We’ve dissolved the concept of Blue team and Gold team,” Scott Lobdell told Hero Illustrated. “Uncanny X-Men and X-Men will both be working with the whole cast. While the stories will still be grounded within the individual books, the subplots will be weaving much, much tighter between the two.”

“Northstar may end up joining the X-Men,” Scott Lobdell told Wizard #41. “He’s one of the new candidates.” Asked if he would pick up the issue of Northstar being gay, Lobdell answered: “If he appears in the book, yes. I don’t think it would be fair to introduce him into the book and not explore every facet of the character.”

But Northstar did not join the X-Men at this point and the changes planned for X-Factor didn’t happen either. In The Age Of Apocalypse Universe, the series introduced a pair of twin mutants, Jesse and Terry Bedlam, called The Bedlam Brothers. Editor Kelly Corvese announced in Wizard #41 that the regular Marvel Universe version of one of the twin characters from The Age Of Apocalypse was coming on board. It would be X-Factor’s first non-Caucasian character. The Age Of Apocalypse version of the new character had a twin brother in his universe, but the version in the regular universe would not have a brother.

During The Age Of Apocalypse, one of the twin brothers was supposed to die and then the other twin would come to the regular Marvel Universe, meaning that two of the same character – the Age Of Apocalypse version, who just lost his twin brother, and the version in the Marvel Universe – would be existing at the same time in the same universe. However, none of the Bedlam Brothers died or made it to the regular universe, but the character idea was in used in 1998 in X-Force #82, where the Marvel Universe version of Jesse Aaronson (Bedlam) joined the team.

Thoughts on X-Men popularity

“It’s interesting to note that (The X-Men) weren’t popular at all during the ‘60s,” comic book writer Mark Millar speculated in Comics Creators On X-Men in 2006. “However, Len Wein and Dave Cockrum’s revamp just seemed to capture the zeitgeist and Chris (Claremont) and John (Byrne) took the whole thing to a new level when they did a few years on the book.”

“Creatively, the book was close to perfect and even when it wasn’t, in the ‘90s, the momentum from the ‘80s was so strong that it took five years before people realized they weren’t enjoying it after Claremont left. (…) I don’t know if it’s possible to recapture the excitement of the Claremont era – it might just be unique to Chris.”

“It’s been four years and the book has evolved in a vastly different direction,” Claremont noted in Wizard #51. “Characters have evolved in different directions; they build their own audiences. If I came back, I would either have to tap into storylines, characters and approaches that I am not comfortable with or I would have to set in motion a storyline to take the book to what I was comfortable with, which would mean invalidating huge chunks of continuity.”

“You have a lot of fans out there who enjoy the book as it is now. I would feel wrong coming in and just saying to them, “Well, screw you. This is my stuff. I am imposing my interpretation back on the X-Men. I am going back to the way I thought it was cool.””

“You don’t do something for 18 years of your life, you don’t stay associated with a company for your entire working life, without missing it one way or another,” Claremont admitted in Comics Focus #1. “Of course I miss it.”

Comics Focus #1, June 1996
Tom DeFalco: Comics Creators On X-Men, April 2006
Chris Golden: X-Men – A Post-Apocalyptic Future, Hero Illustrated 1995
George Khoury & Eric Nolen-Weathington: John Romita Jr., Modern Masters Vol. 18, July 2008
Clifford Lawrence: After Xavier…, Wizard #41, January 1995
Jim Lee: Dynamic Duo, Wizard #51, November 1995

fredag den 1. juni 2012

Upstarts, High-Lords and Armageddon

The artists and the editor took control of the X-Men’s destiny.

With legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont gone, the artists got their way with the X-Men in 1991 and 1992. Having already plotted X-Factor #65-68, Jim Lee plotted X-Men vol.2 #4-11 and Uncanny X-Men #287, and Whilce Portacio plotted Uncanny X-Men #281-286 and 288 with occasional help from Jim Lee. Legendary X-Men artist John Byrne, who had since taken up writing, was brought in to script their drawn pages.

“It was very early in the run of a new book that we’d promoted a lot, so I had to figure out how I could give it a sense of continuity,” editor Bob Harras told Comics Creators On X-Men. “What name other than Chris Claremont is most connected with X-Men books? John Byrne, of course. So I called John and we went with him.”

“I wasn’t coming up with the stories,” Byrne stated in Arena Magazine #11. “I was just the hired typist, basically, to come up with the words.”

In Uncanny X-Men #281, Shinobi Shaw was leader of the Upstarts and self-appointed new king of the Hellfire Club. Upstart Trevor Fitzroy wished to wrest both titles from him. It was learned in Uncanny X-Men #283 that the Upstart competition was presided over by the Gamesmaster, who in turn was ruled by Selene of the old Hellfire Club. In X-Men vol.2 #5, Fenris and Matsuo Tsurayaba believed that the prize they competed for was immortality, but in Uncanny X-Men #283 Selene told Gamesmaster that the Upstarts didn’t know the true nature of the game or the actual prize for which they strove so mightily. It was never revealed what devious prize Selene had in mind for the winner, and the subsequent writers, Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza, never seemed able to settle on what prize the Upstarts thought they were competing for. In Uncanny X-Men #299 from 1993, the group was told by the Gamesmaster that the winner of the competition would inherit the resources and servitude of his fellow Upstarts. In Uncanny X-Men Annual #17, 1993, Trevor Fitzroy told new recruit Siena Blaze that the prize was omnipotence, and in New Warriors #45 from 1994, Shinobi Shaw thought that he would gain all of the players’ combined powers.

Trevor Fitzroy then turned on the group’s founder, Selene, in Uncanny X-Men #301 in 1993 before getting killed in X-Force #33 in 1994. Fabian Cortez was killed off in Avengers #369 in 1993, written by Bob Harras, and Shinobi Shaw decided to concentrate on his Hellfire Club endeavors instead in X-Force #33, leaving just Siena Blaze, Graydon Creed and Fenris in the competition. The storyline ended anti-climactically in New Warriors #46 with Gamesmaster abandoning the competition without any winner being declared or any kind of prize being claimed.

How John Byrne got replaced

John Byrne ended up only scripting X-Men vol.2 #4-5 and Uncanny X-Men #281-285 and some of #288. “Between X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, I think I only scripted six issues,” John Byrne recalled in Comics Creators On X-Men. “The problem was the books were terminally late when I was asked to script them. Jim (Lee) and Whilce Portacio would both send me the plots and then they’d send me three pages of pencils. I’d script those because they had to be scripted right away and fax the scripts directly to Tom Orzechowski, who was lettering the book.”

“Then I’d get one more and the one page didn’t match the first three pages because they’d taken off on a tangent, and they were both doing this. So I was constantly writing and re-writing, and re-writing and writing and re-writing, and re-writing and writing. It was just a nightmare. I was working weekends, which I never used to do in those days.”

“It was not the best situation,” Bob Harras admitted to Comics Creators On X-Men. “John wasn’t given much time at all to script those issues, and I could see that the pressure was unfair to him, and we probably weren’t getting his best work.”

“I finally threw the closest I get to a hissy-fit and I called up Bob and said, “This is nuts. The writer normally gets a month to do his job, I would like to have at least two weeks,”” Byrne told Arena Magazine #11.

““Something’s gotta be done about this. This is insane,”” Byrne continued in Comics Creators On X-Men. “And Bob said, “We’ll take care of it.” Years later I was told, you should always be careful when Bob says, “We’ll take care of it.” What ultimately happened was about two weeks later, Terry Austin called me and said, “Hey, I hear Scott Lobdell is writing X-Men,” and I said, “Huh?” And he says, “Yeah, at a barbeque at Berni Wrightson’s place, some friend of Scott’s was there and said he’s just picked up the X-Men assignment.” That’s how I found out I wasn’t writing X-Men. That’s how they’d “taken care” of it.”

The ascension of the High-Lords

Scott Lobdell had previously written some fill-in issues of Excalibur and a Nightcrawler/Wolverine team-up in Marvel Comics Presents #101-108 when he was offered the job of scripting Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio’s X-Men starting with X-Men vol.2 #6 and Uncanny X-Men #286 in 1992.

“Scott (Lobdell) was a guy who hung around the X-office a lot,” Bob Harras recalled in Comics Creators On X-Men. “When John (Byrne) decided to leave, I needed someone to script an issue fairly quickly. Scott just showed up at my office door one day, so I handed him the pages and said, “Okay, here’s your shot.” To Scott’s credit, he turned the script in very quickly, and it wasn’t bad.”

When Whilce Portacio left Uncanny X-Men in 1992, Scott Lobdell stayed on and became the writer of the book. “He really “got” the characters,” Bob Harras explained in Comics Creators On X-Men. “He also saw the core concept of the book more along the lines that I did. We were kind of simpatico. We didn’t agree all the time, but the common vision was pretty much consistent.”

Meanwhile, artist Rob Liefeld was plotting New Mutants and revamped the title into X-Force with Fabian Nicieza as the scripter. In X-Force #8, 1992, it was revealed that Cannonball was a High-Lord that would live well into the 24th century and that Cable had travelled from the future to Cannonball’s present in order to protect him and ensure his ascension. While it was implied that Cannonball ascended by dying in X-Force #7 and coming back to life as an immortal High-Lord in X-Force #9, it was revealed in X-Force #10 that a group of mutant High-Lords existed, calling themselves Externals, and in X-Force #12, an “ascension of the Externals” was hinted at.

When Rob Liefeld left X-Force and Jim Lee left X-Men vol.2 in 1992, Fabian Nicieza became the writer of both titles, as well as of the new Cable series. In X-Men vol.2 #23 from 1993 the Dark Riders’ Hardrive told Cyclops that the battle for ascension of the High Lord would commence with Cyclops at the forefront of the killing fields in the “king of the world” contest.

In Cable #1-3 and X-Force #25, 1993, it was revealed that in the future that spawned Cable, Apocalypse (En-Sabah Nur) and his Canaanites had won a hundred-year war against mutant clan families of which Cable belonged to the Askani Clan Chosen. The Canaanites sent Sinsear back in time to prevent the time-travelling Cable from threatening their control over the multitude of High-Lord ascensions and to ensure the cross-timeline ascension of External High-Lord Apocalypse.

It was Cable’s hope that Cannonball could be developed into a High-Lord that might someday in the future become mankind and mutantkind’s saviour (by ascending instead of Apocalypse).

However, the battle for ascension of the High Lord never commenced, and in X-Force #54, 1996, written by Jeph Loeb, Selene killed off her fellow Externals save one whose identity was never revealed. But it might have been Candra, who was still around.

Selene also called Cannonball’s High Lord immortality into question, saying that he wasn’t an External, and that X-Force should ask Cable about Cannonball’s supposed death and resurrection in X-Force 7 and 9, which they never did.

The coming of Armageddon

The only X-book written by an actual writer at the time was The All-New, All-Different X-Factor, with Peter David of Hulk-fame launching the new group with X-Factor #71 in 1991. In X-Factor #88 from 1993, X-Factor went to Genosha, the island nation built on mutate slavery. “The Genosha storyline will (…) introduce a major new villain called Armageddon, who is going to be pulling together a lot of story threads, and helping give the entire book more of an underpinning and a feeling of its own backstory,” Peter David announced in Marvel Age #122. “I will also be introducing a new character who will be joining and should be shaking up the mix a good deal – very mysterious extradimensional-type character.”

“There will be things about (this new character) that I think will cause a good deal of debate among the readers. I want to try to add some mystery to the book, but a mystery that can be solved, instead of people just speculating wild theories. (…) I am trying to strike the balance of introducing this mysterious new character – about whom people can actually take some educated guesses – while making the book as fun as possible.”

However, Armageddon and the extradimensional type character never appeared in X-Factor, although it was announced in Marvel Age #124 that X-Factor #91 would feature X-Factor versus Armageddon. Peter David left X-Factor with #89 in 1993 being his final issue.

“When Peter David left X-Factor, he had built up this plot over several issues that introduced this character called Armageddon,” Scott Lobdell told “He left, and I wasn’t going to take over, but they asked me if I could come in and do a few issues until they found a writer. I called Peter up and said, “Peter, it looks like you’ve really put a lot of thought into this character. I’d rather you take the character and do what you want with it. I’ll call him something else and I’ll just come up with his motivation based on what I’ve seen.” My understanding is that that character has since shown up in the Hulk, and he has been using him in that way.”

Whomever Scott Lobdell thought of to replace Armageddon with never appeared, leaving readers hanging with an unresolved subplot from X-Factor #89 that featured the first and last appearance of a shadowed and unnamed Armageddon vowing to new Genoshan Director of Genetics, Sasha Ryan: “I swear the day will come that our country will once again be free of the genetic dregs known as mutants!”

How the X-Men were written

“We have meetings among all the writers, and we discuss things and hammer things out,” Bob Harras told Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “People have individual desires and plans and we have to make everyone as happy as possible in the long run. The final decision is mine – and I have to disappoint one person and make somebody else happy. We all want these meetings because you have to coordinate. We have lunches with Scott (Lobdell) and Fabian (Nicieza) a lot, and we have big meetings about twice a year now. Usually we talk about characters, which I think is the most important thing.”

“I think the X-Men in general are very editorial driven,” Bob Harras admitted to “But I think because we work with people like Scott (Lobdell), it becomes a merging of what the writer wants and what the editor wants. I’d say very clearly that if what a writer wants doesn’t fit the big picture of what the X-Men are about or where the general storylines are going, we do nix those stories.”

“It’s difficult because if you’re writer, say, on Cable, and you’re writing Cable and you have this great plan for Cable, but it doesn’t fit with what we’re planning to do in X-Force, or it doesn’t fit with what’s gonna affect Jean (Grey) and Scott (Summers) over in Uncanny, we gotta say, “You cant do that.” That’s where the editorial direction comes in. I’ll say, “You can’t do this and you can’t do this because of this reason and because of that reason – how about if you do this? And then that’ll have impact over there.” So it’s stressful being a writer on the X-Men and the books in general.”

“The most difficult thing is that this is a shared universe,” Bob Harras continued in Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “That is extremely difficult to write, because nothing you write exists in a vacuum. Whatever you come up with will have an impact on the other books. That can be the fun part as well, because it’s very exciting. Another writer might say, “Oh, I can do this with that character,” and that can generate excitement. It can be tough, because it might force things in a direction the writer wasn’t thinking of. Everyone wants to have their own baby, but when you have to share the kids, that’s tough.”

Why Peter David left X-Factor

“When you’re doing comics in that kind of an environment, where everything is being coordinated and there’s a great deal of gang mentality – “This must be done in this book, this must be done in this book” – and you start to reach a point where you realize, “I’m just too old for this crap,” it can go a long way toward killing the spontaneity,” Peter David told Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “To my mind, it was no longer an environment I could work in consistently. Certainly other people can. Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell have no trouble with it. God bless ‘em. I wish them the best of luck. Marc DeMatteis is going to be dialoguing X-Factor – great. It’s not something that everybody can do. It’s a question of what you are individually capable of handling, and I just couldn’t handle this anymore.”

“If I had continued writing X-Factor, the story would have lacked – I think – whatever that ineffable quality called enthusiasm might be. I would have been doing it purely for the money. Writing something purely for the money and only for the money makes me a hack – and that’s not fair to the editor, not fair to the fans and, ultimately, it’s not fair to me. That, in a nutshell, is why I left the series.”

“The minute you begin to integrate all the various books, the writer becomes less and less of a factor and the editor becomes more and more pre-eminent,” ex-X-Men writer Chris Claremont opinionated in Wizard #22. “The editor is the person, presumably, who knows all the directions, who is aware of what everybody is doing, who can say “no” when people step on other people’s toes. It’s a very short step from that to saying, “Okay, you go here, you go there, you go there. This book goes that direction; I want this to happen in this book.” Suddenly, as a natural evolution, the writer is the person who does what the editor tells him to write the book.”

“You may goose in some stuff around the edges, you may throw in a line or a character that speaks to you, but these are grace notes on a symphony that’s being written, fundamentally, by someone else. Why should I – or anybody worth the name – waste their talent executing someone else’s vision, especially when you get into the moral question of why the person whose vision you’re executing doesn’t go write his or her own stuff?”

A parody of the X-Men

“What you have now are editors, in a lot of cases, who do not view themselves as facilitators but who view themselves as active participants in the production process,” Claremont continued in Wizard #22. “They say, “I am going to tell you what the story is. I am going to decide the direction of the book. You will help enable us to get there” – rather than the writer coming in and saying, “This is where I want to go” and the editor saying, “Okay,” or not. If you want to hire a writer to write the book, let him write it. If you want to write the book yourself, do that.”

“The perception may be that, in a time when you cannot guarantee the quality of the writers, when you have to hold together a vastly expanding, convoluted, Gordian knot, cats cradle of continuity – maybe this is the only way they figure they can do it. I think it’s wrong. I think you end up with a lot of second-rate work. By the same token, none of the people involved – save perhaps the editorial staff – have any long-term vested interest in what they’re doing. It doesn’t really matter what the work is – it could just as easily be making cars. You’re producing stuff, you’re not creating anything. It’s the illusion of creation.”

“I grant you that that’s at odds with a lot of the audience. You go to conventions and signings and kids are saying, “Whoa! Did you see this? I love what’s happening in Wolverine.” Fine. But for me a lot of the books aren’t what they were, and I’m left with the attitude, “Why bother?””

“Some people can view it as just pure pride in their work. I know Peter David takes tremendous pride in the work he does at the moment he does it, but once he leaves a series he doesn’t care what happens next because there is not an ongoing relationship. There are times I wish I could divorce myself that completely, especially from the X-Men. I look at that and I think, this is my entire working life, up until two years ago, and it’s taken them 18 months to gut it like a fish, to trash the characters, to kill off a tremendous amount of the context and cast, and to turn it into, to me, a parody of what it was.”

Tom DeFalco: Comics Creators On X-Men, April 2006
Marvel Age #124, May 1993
Patrick Daniel O’Neill: Claremont Returns With The Write Stuff, Wizard #22, June 1993
Patrick Daniel O’Neill: The Future Is Now, Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty, August 1993
Evan Skolnick: Mutant Mouthpieces, Marvel Age #122, March 1993
Jerry Smith: John Byrne - Headed For The Future, Arena Magazine #11, July 1993
Tue Sørensen and Ulrik Kristiansen: Interview With Bob Harras,, 1995
Tue Sørensen and Ulrik Kristiansen: Interview With Scott Lobdell,, 1995