By Jim Beard
Writer Brian Wood’s many talents extend to the tricky tightrope of bridging the gap between universes, as he currently tackles not one, but two X-titles at Marvel with X-MEN and ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN.
The new X-MEN arc details the discovery of a new race of mutants on Earth, while ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN follows the growth of the Ultimate Universe’s Kitty Pryde. We caught up with Wood to help guide us through the ins and outs of working in two worlds on some of the most famous and iconic characters in the industry.
|X-Men #32 cover by Jorge Molina|
Marvel.com: Brian, over in X-MEN, what’s it like working with a relatively small team of the mutants?
Brian Wood: It's funny you ask that because to me, this is not a small team! I don't have much of a history of writing team books; most of what I've done has been non-super hero creator-owned, with single character POVs or small casts. So to me, right now, a five-person primary cast is big, and I'm still getting the hang of it.
Marvel.com: Some writers say that their characters tell them what they want to do; have you found that to be true in X-MEN?
Brian Wood: I've found this to be true, since these characters have so much history and written experience that helps guide what they say and do, at least in a reactionary way. Unless something really specific is going on, we all know how a certain character is likely to react to something. So yeah, this has happened and I've found myself pleasantly surprised by writing Storm. She's become more than I thought she would be in this story.Marvel.com: You're really doing a great job balancing quiet moments with big, splashy action. What's your philosophy about such balance in a book like X-MEN?
Brian Wood: I do it in all my books, or I try to. I'm always aware of finding what I call points of entry, places for the readers to connect to the characters. In the middle of a bunch of action, you can lose that connection, so I try and offset those scenes with quiet, personal beats or moments that give you the balance. I mean, lots of writers do it; it’s not just me, obviously. But I always try and remind myself, constantly, to keep an eye out for those opportunities.
|X-Men #33 cover by Jorge Molina|
Marvel.com: Being an artist yourself, how would you characterize your working relationship with both David Lopez and Paco Medina on your books?
Brian Wood: Honestly, I stay out of the way! Always have. I feel that's the best thing I can do for an artist once the script is in their hands. I'm around to field questions, but the last thing I would do is hover over their shoulder. So I back off and let them do their thing. And for the most part I've felt that every moment has been one of those great partnership moments. David is amazing, so is Paco, so is Alvaro [Lopez] and Jorge [Molina] and Rachelle [Rosenberg] and Juan [Vlasco] and Reilly [Brown] and Marte [Gracia]—God help me if I'm leaving anyone out. They've been very kind and responded well to the script and I think the finished work shows that. I'm happy. This is why we write comics, right, as opposed to something more solitary? The magic is in all the various pieces coming together.
Marvel.com: With ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN #13, out now, you've instituted a change in the book's direction. How do you bring at title around to your own vision, but also maintain its core, established values?
Brian Wood: I rely on my editors. Truly! They called me up and asked me to do a pitch for the book, and I did, and we met and talked and over some weeks worked out something that everyone was happy with. Clearly, my fingerprints are all over it, and even shifting the focus as we did in #13, it's built on the foundation, the narrative and world that [previous writer] Nick Spencer built. But in short, I trust my editors to tell me when I'm on the right path or not, and comic writers are really writing for their editors; well, for themselves first, then the editors.
|Ultimate Comics X-Men #14 cover by Dave Johnson|
Marvel.com: How did Kitty Pryde’s new look come about in ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN?
Brian Wood: Kitty's new costume was an idea of mine that Jorge Molina kindly made into reality, and it’s entirely about supporting events in the story. It's part of Kitty's new no-hiding, no-label, no-codename philosophy—almost an anti-costume. For her to have anything else would be in opposition to the story. I generally like costumes when they feel real and are practical, that look like human hands made them. I don't have total control over them, of course, these aren't my characters, but whenever possible that's the approach I'll take.
Marvel.com: where does Kitty's leadership ability come from, in terms of your own experiences or research? What makes her a good leader?
Brian Wood: She makes herself a good leader. At first, she decides this is what she wants and then goes out and literally takes it; she aggressively becomes this mutant revolutionary, this freedom fighter. And I'm using those terms in an old school, 20th century way, shades of Che [Guevara] and of Malcolm X—people out to reclaim power from the occupiers, nothing more. And before anyone starts getting alarmed at those references, they’re not meant to be literal.
Marvel.com: What sorts of threat will we be seeing in the months to come in ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN? And what role will the book play in Divided We Fall?
|Ultimate Comics X-Men #15 cover by Phil Noto|
Brian Wood: The threat is there. Genocide is literally being committed on the mutant population; it doesn't get any [direr] than that. This is the battle Kitty and Co. have to wage, one for literal survival. How that fits in with the [Divided We Fall] events overall, like in ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES, is both books are telling the same narrative. [ULTIMATES writer] Sam [Humphries] has the job describing the epic, world-building struggle and the X-Men are the human face of that, the grounded, emotional angle.
Marvel.com: Overall, what are you discovering the greatest pleasures to be of writing both these X-books simultaneously?
Brian Wood: First off, it’s flattering to have been asked to write these books and all I ever want to do is a good job with it. It's also been fun to use some different creative muscles than I have over the last 15 years. It's also great to be writing these characters; the X-Men are the super hero group that I relate to, that I "get" more than anything else, so it’s a good fit. I'm looking forward to the future. We're only one issue into both of my runs, so we've only just started.