By Ben Morse
X-FACTOR has never been your average book.
For over five years, writer Peter David has been penning the unusual adventures of Jamie Madrox, aka the Multiple Man, and his X-Factor Investigations team. The motley crew has faced off against mass conspiracies, robots from the future, vampires and Norse death deities while trying to earn a buck solving mysteries.
However, the exotic bad guys and oddball action may be the tip of the X-FACTOR iceberg, but the deep ties between the characters has always been at the series’ heart. Madrox could support an ongoing soap opera simply interacting with his duplicates, but the assorted cast that also includes the likes of Strong Guy, Banshee, Monet, Rictor, Shatterstar, Longshot and Layla Miller provides for engaging portraits of love, irritation, and a dozen other dynamics.
Unquestionably one thing that has attracted a lot of attention to X-FACTOR has been the portrayal of a homosexual romance between Rictor and Shatterstar. Just this week, David and the rest of the creative team received recognition from GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in the form of their 2011 Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book.
Marvel.com spoke with David about this impressive honor, the current X-FACTOR storyline featuring J. Jonah Jameson and a mysterious group of assailants, and what’s ahead for the mutant investigators, including the long-awaited birth of Wolfsbane’s baby and fate of Strong Guy.
|Shatterstar & Rictor|
Marvel.com: Congratulations on receiving the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book. For anybody unfamiliar with GLAAD or these awards, can you give a quick rundown?
Peter David: Well, the simplest thing is to quote from GLAAD's website: "The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the issues that affect their lives. The GLAAD Media Awards also fund GLAAD's work to amplify stories of LGBT people and issues that build support for equality." I think that pretty much covers it.
Marvel.com: What does it mean to you to receive an award like this?
Peter David: It's very flattering, obviously. Recognition is always appreciated. I feel a little odd having them say "We're giving this to Peter David" considering the collaborative nature of comics. The artists, including most recently Emanuela [Lupacchino's] lovely work, and the editors and of course the overall support of Marvel itself—without any of that, then none of this happens.
|X-Factor by David Yardin|
Marvel.com: As Rictor and Shatterstar share one of the rare homosexual relationships in mainstream super hero comics, do you approach writing them with any special sort of care or is it just another pair of characters you treat as you would any others?
Peter David: I really don't think of them any differently from any of the other characters: People who work and live together and have a close personal bond, but who I can also put through emotional wringers. I don't consider Rictor and Shatterstar as the gay guys any more than I think of Theresa as the Catholic Irish girl. They are who they are.
Marvel.com: Why do you think the Rictor/Shatterstar relationship has been so well-received, both by fans as well as groups like GLAAD? Is it a pleasant surprise to you or just validation that you’re crafting an endearing pairing?
Peter David: Honestly, I had no idea how it was going to be received. I didn't know if the fans would rise up in protest or take it in stride. It was, for the most part, the latter, and I admit that's something of a relief. Generally speaking, if you're weighing the choices between doing something that you think your audience is going to be able to handle it versus not doing it because you think the audience isn't going to be up for it, it's generally a good idea to give the readers some credit. I think it's been well-received because it's just honest. Marvel's been hinting around about the characters for years; this is the 21st century. We don't need to take that tactic anymore, and I think the readers rightly feel that we respect their ability to handle the subject directly rather than tip toe around it. I suppose the most gratifying are the gay and lesbian fans [that] come up to me or speak out at panels to tell me how much they appreciate the storyline and how much it means to them.
Marvel.com: The current arc of X-FACTOR has seen the team hired by Mayor J. Jonah Jameson to protect him from some mysterious assailants and last issue ended with the cliffhanger of Strong Guy being shot in the chest—what can you tease for the rest of this arc?
Peter David: Guido is going to have a very honest conversation with Monet that might be their last words together. Meanwhile the team is going to find out that Jameson has been less than candid with them, and considering the result has been Guido winding up in critical condition, they're not going to take that very well, particularly in Monet's case since she's going to realize that if she hadn't recovered Ballistique's memory for her, none of this would have happened. There's going to be some very definite blowback from that. The Black Cat is doing more than just a cameo; she's going to be a central player for the rest of the storyline.
Marvel.com: Where did the concept for new villain Ballistique and her team come from? How much more will we be learning about them?
Peter David: We'll be learning their basic origins which are tied in very closely with their reasons for going after Jameson and Ryan. As for the concept, honestly, I don't know. One of them, Syl, has already showed up in the book during the earlier Bastion arc. Ballistique just kind of popped into my head, and then I put together Rocky to keep the other two company.
Marvel.com: You seem to have really taken to have writing Jonah even just in the two issues he’s been in; is he just the type of character who’s easy to dig into?
Peter David: I love Jonah because he's such a study in contradictions. He absolutely doesn't care if he does things that don't hold together; he charges into things full tilt and sometimes the result is a Jonah-shaped imprint on the wall. He rails against extremists even though his opinions are extreme because he feels that, well, he's right, so it's okay then. He has no patience with other people making fools of themselves but will not hesitate to do so himself. Here's someone who objects to people who take the law into their own hands, but has no trouble using robots or creating super-villains to commit assault and battery. He's basically one half of a really terrific guy: He's someone with firm convictions and strong beliefs in personal responsibility; he just doesn't hold himself to the goals he sets for others. It would be easy to say, well, that makes him a hypocrite, but I think that's simplistic. I think his mind is kind of bifurcated; it's almost like one side of his brain is unaware of what the other side is doing. I find that fascinating.
Marvel.com: Both Spider-Man and The Black Cat have appeared in this arc, following up on recent guest spots by the Fantastic Four and Thor. Who else will be stopping by in the near future?
Peter David: We have some interesting guest stars showing up in connection with the next story arc, which is going to bring Rahne's pregnancy to a head. I don't want to turn the book into Marvel team-up; I just try to have guest appearances be organic to the storyline. And it's way easier to have the series be more rooted in the Marvel Universe by having them in New York. That's where the action is.
|X-Factor by Kevin Maguire|
Marvel.com: As you said, following this arc, Wolfsbane will finally be giving birth to her baby—what can you say about what’s in store for Rahne and X-Factor as far as that event?
Peter David: All hell is going to break loose. There's going to be some fairly heavy hitters who are going to be interested in the birth of this child and will be showing up either to facilitate it or prevent it. The team's going to be under assault from beings that they've never seen before, and I assure you the fur will fly—sometimes literally.
Marvel.com: What is on the long-term horizon for X-FACTOR?
Peter David: I'll be doing a kidnapping story that will have a fairly unusual twist to it. And the team is going to be finding itself in more and more situations that have a bizarre, even arcane angle to it. I really liked Madrox and Layla's foray against a bizarre vampiric creature, and the birth of Rahne's child likewise has those supernatural elements to it. I think it's an interesting direction to take the team. None of these guys are Doctor Strange or even Brother Voodoo, waving their hands around and casting bolts of mystic energy. So stories with arcane elements keeps them out of their comfort zone, and I think that's where they should be. The team's at its best when they're in over their heads.
Peter David: Ever is a long time…