By Ben Morse
“The first American graphic novel I ever bought, at the age of 12, was UNCANNY X-MEN: FROM THE ASHES,” recalls British-born and bred artist Jamie McKelvie. “I read that book so many times. I still have it and it’s barely holding together now.”
Just as the X-Men ushered a young McKelvie into the world of comics, he will now return the favor by reimagining the mutants’ earliest days alongside writer Dennis Hopeless in the X-MEN: SEASON ONE original graphic novel, set for release in March of 2012.
|X-MEN: SEASON ONE preview art by Jamie McKelvie|
As with the rest of Marvel’s Season One initiative, this project will journey back to a classic origin—in this case the X-Men’s—and put a modern spin on it, both in terms of storytelling sensibilities and from a design standpoint. With these qualifications, McKelvie found himself presented with unique opportunities as well as challenges.
“It’s back to the original core concept [of] super powered teenagers and the emphasis is on their lives around the costumed fighting,” he explains. “As such I get to bring in a few more ‘real world’ influences, fashion, design and the like. It’s a balancing act, matching the original stories in some respects, while at the same time updating and modernizing them.”
McKelvie did not shy away from walking that tightrope, putting in the time to make sure X-MEN: SEASON ONE will be a story that appeals in a visual sense to fans new and old alike.
“There’s a lot of research involved, thinking of ways to update costumes and so on in ways that are sympathetic,” he notes. “We had a lot of back and forth discussion about how to do it. As you’ll see, the X-Men uniform isn’t that different from the original, but some elements of it wouldn’t have worked well in an updated setting. Other designs stood the
To aid in paying homage to the past even as he pushed into the future, the artist looked to his long list of predecessors in X-Men lore for inspiration.
“Paul Smith is always a massive influence,” McKelvie shares. “His work on the X-Men in the 80’s was astounding. So striking, clean, energetic and fashionable—my all-time favorite X-Men artist.”
X-MEN: SEASON ONE will feature the original team line-up of Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast and Marvel Girl, as well as their mentor Professor X and enemies including Magneto and more. With such an iconic cast, McKelvie developed relationships with each character as he breathed new life into them.
|Cyclops costume designs by Jamie McKelvie|
“Jean [Grey has] been my favorite so far, because she acts as our eyes into this strange new world of the X-Men,” he discloses. “We get to see her react to the bizarre sights and situations, and it’s been a lot of fun to draw that.
“As for most challenging, possibly The Blob. He could easily come off as comical instead of threatening, but I think I managed it.”
While they chronicle the formation of the X-Men, McKelvie and Hopeless have gelled into a formidable team in their own right. Their collaboration promises to make X-MEN: SEASON ONE an integral tale in one of comics’ most impressive mythologies.
“He’s very open to discussing ideas and shooting concepts back and forth,” says the artist of his creative partner. “Can’t ask for more in a writer, really—well, except for great scripts, and he’s got those too.”