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Building Uncanny X-Force

Building Uncanny X-Force Pt. 1

Sam Humphries talks about recruiting Psylocke and Spiral, working with Ron Garney and more!

Uncanny X-Force #1 cover by Olivier Coipel

By Ryan Haupt

Beginning on January 16, writer Sam Humphries, artist Ron Garney and a team of misfit mutants will patrol the darkest corners of the Marvel Universe—the places even the X-Men hate and fear—in the all-new UNCANNY X-FORCE.

But how do two tenured allies, one pint-size Canadian and an extra-dimensional villain—not to mention that lady who bears an uncanny resemblance to one Fantomex—come together? We sought answers on this and more from Humphries himself.

Marvel.com: The first thing I wanted to know is are you an X-Men guy, or is this your first foray into the world of X?

Sam Humphries: This is hardly my first foray into the X-world.  I was a huge X-Men reader/obsessive growing up. I guess I was actively reading on a monthly basis starting around Inferno, but I went backwards pretty far throughout the entire [Chris] Claremont era including NEW MUTANTS, X-FACTOR and EXCALIBUR; so I am no stranger to the X-Men universe. 

Marvel.com: So are you bringing some of that sensibility to UNCANNY X-FORCE?

Sam Humphries: Yes and no. The best version of these kinds of books are where you can meld the shock of the new with the intrigue of the old, so it’s always a balance, and there’s a lot of things that I want to do in this book that hearken back and touch upon [old] stories and spin them in new directions, but there’s also things that I want to do that I never recalled having seen before in the X-Men universe. It’s a balance, you want to do a little of both.

Marvel.com: You’re following up Rick Remender’s well-received run on UNCANNY X-FORCE.  

Sam Humphries: I love Rick’s UNCANNY X-FORCE. I’ve loved it even before Marvel knew my name, much less offered me the book. I think it’s great. I have the privilege of knowing how it ends. It has a fantastic ending that really wraps up his story. Throughout his entire run he asked questions, he addressed them, and the last issue is kind of the equivalent of Rick dropping the microphone and walking off stage. [Laughs]

Marvel.com: There’s the Marvel style of making comics, but there also seems to be the Marvel style for ending comics, where you leave the guy who’s coming after you in awe of what you just did.

Sam Humphries: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. You’re talking to the guy that had to fill in [Jonathan] Hickman’s shoes on ULTIMATES, so I have a little bit of experience.

Marvel.com: So you already have a little bit of scar tissue built up.

Sam Humphries: Exactly. I have some posttraumatic stress disorder that I’ve already coped with. [Laughs] But I love Rick’s run enough to respect it, but I also love it enough to really leave it alone. Rick’s story is its own thing, it has a beginning, middle and end, and I have no desire to try to be a watered down Rick Remender. That would just suck for everyone involved. Nobody wants to see that. Rick doesn’t want to see it; he’s not going to be flattered by it. Marvel doesn’t want to see it, people won’t want to read it, the retailers will be unhappy, so this is a new story. UNCANNY X-FORCE is a title that has a history of reinvention while always staying on the fringes of the Marvel Universe and the mutant universe, and we’re definitely going to keep that tradition going. We’re taking what Rick has built and where he’s left those characters and we’re taking a turn into new territory.

Marvel.com: So let’s talk about the team. Were you given carte blance as to who you picked on the team? How did that process go?

Uncanny X-Force #1 preview art by Ron Garney

Sam Humphries: I was given complete freedom to pitch the team that I wanted. It’s a shared universe, so you don’t always get what you want. There are characters that are busy elsewhere and that there are already plans in place for them, but I had complete freedom to come up with a team chemistry and a team dynamic that I felt suited the kind of story I wanted to tell. It’s a very collaborative process [that] involved a lot of fun conversations with myself and Senior Editor Nick Lowe and Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso; it’s a process where it’s fun to get the feedback and throw ideas back and forth, and make each other cringe and laugh, and shake each others heads and all that kind of stuff. Never at any point was there a mandate that I had to use this character or it had to be this type of situation.

Marvel.com: So the one character that’s sticking around on the team is Psylocke. Why did you want to keep her around from Remender’s run? 

Sam Humphries: She’s always been one of my favorite X-Men characters and I really love her for being a survivor. And I see her as a survivor on two levels. One is that she is a survivor in the Marvel Universe in the comics. She’s died and been reborn, she’s had to kill her own brother, and she’s been through failed relationships, all sorts of stuff. I really admire her character for always getting back on her feet. But on a kind of larger meta level, she’s a fictional character that exists in a shared universe; this is a character that has survived quite a lot shifts in direction and changes in the fashion of comics, quite a lot of different versions of her have come and gone, but the core of Betsy has always remained, and that’s something that I’m really excited to write.

Marvel.com: Was she the first character you decided on because she was already on the team?


Sam Humphries: She was one of the obvious choices because she was already on the team and has a history with X-Force, but for me what really clinched it is where Rick is leaving her at the end of [his run] and where I wanted her. She’s a great character to use as the center of your book because she’s everything; she’s a strong personality and she’s a total badass, so she’s a great character to always come back to in a team book. She’s a good tone-setter for sure.

Marvel.com: Who was the next most obvious choice for you to have on the team?   

Sam Humphries: The next most obvious choice for me was Spiral. 

Marvel.com I think Spiral is the one that I’d imagine people are the least familiar with.

Sam Humphries: Well, she’s traditionally a villain, but she’s a character that kind of sits in between the X-Men and a larger villain, Mojo. [She] and Betsy [Psylocke] have a lot of complicated history together, and I really wanted to see what it would be liked to put them in a room together, so to speak. Spiral is also a sword fighter, she has multiple arms, and she’s also a total badass.

Marvel.com: She just has such a cool look.

Sam Humphries: Absolutely. She’s just one of those classic Art Adams character designs that has barely changed and shifted over the year.

Uncanny X-Force #1 black and white preview art by Ron Garney

Marvel.com: Speaking of art, how awesome is it to be working with Ron Garney?

Sam Humphries: Oh my god, it’s great. His pages have been coming in for a while now and they look fantastic. He’s a great storyteller, he’s got great sense of action, and he does really well with characters; I think his character work is not always noticed because his action work is just so bombastic. But I’m super excited to be working with him on the book.

Marvel.com: Outside of Psylocke and Spiral, who have you been the most exited to see him draw on the team?

Sam Humphries: Definitely Puck. He does a really great Puck. He did not disappoint me. Puck is awesome.

For more on Puck, the creation of the team and all things UNCANNY X-FORCE, check back here on Marvel.com later this week!

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To know the X-men you have to from Uncanny 100 to the end of the series. I like that Puck is back. Thanks.