Peter David – X-FACTOR Interview

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Longtime comics writer and novelist Peter David has recently returned to X-FACTOR, a series that he popularized in the 80s. David took the merry band of mutants known as X-Factor and made it into something unique and very much his own. There are very few casts of characters in comics that equal X-Factor in terms of diversity, pathos, and most definitely humor. The new X-FACTOR series incorporates elements and characters from David's previous run but promises to tread a path that will ultimately prove to be as unique and memorable as its predecessor. Marvel recently caught up with Peter David and interrupted his mutant mayhem scripting chores for a short Q&A session: Marvel: You're returning to the X-FACTOR concept after several years. Why go back, and why now? Peter David: It was really an organic series of events. When (Editor) Andy Schmidt approached me about the prospect of doing a film noir detective take on Madrox, it seemed a project that was both unlikely and potentially a lot of fun. We both had in the back of our minds that it would be a nice set-up for an X-Factor series, but I was frankly dubious that it would happen. But the combination of strong reviews and encouraging sales was enough to make it happen. Besides, it's not as if I wrote X-Factor for years and years and was sick of it. It was one of the shortest runs I ever had on a series, and I felt as if I was just starting to get to know the characters. M: Editorially and creatively, how much of a free hand have you been given on the new X-FACTOR? PD: Totally. As compared to my original run where I'd three months of stories dictated to me...including entire issues that featured none of the book's leads...this has been heaven. M: The new series utilizes some of the original characters, plus some new ones. Which do you believe need your attentions as a writer the most, and why? PD: Probably Layla at the moment, since she was the toughest sell to the fans. Rightly or wrongly, they saw her merely as a plot device for HOUSE OF M, and were reacting to her inclusion in the book with as much enthusiasm as if George Lucas were going back through all six "Star Wars" films and digitally inserting Ewoks. The same people who have read thirty years worth of Wolverine saying "I'm the best there is at what I do", were declaring, "I know stuff" to be repetitive after two months. I swore that I'd get people to reassess their view of her by issue #3, which seems to be happening, and issue #6 should completely turn around the remainder of the skeptics. M: Humor plays a major part in all of your work, comics and novels. Is X-Factor a humorous team or do they need a sense of humor? PD: The humor in the book will arise naturally from character interaction. Also, it will serve to set up the serious moments. Alfred Hitchcock said the best type of laughter from an audience is the type that catches in their throats. So although there will be snappy dialogue and such, be aware that sometimes we'll be in the midst of what seems like a humorous moment and then, bam, something unexpected happens that leaves the reader going "Whoa. Didn't see that coming." M: Many writers have said that team books are notoriously challenging to write in terms of juggling the cast. What gets the most of your attention in X-FACTOR, team dynamics or individual personalities? PD: Both. I'm sorry, but that's the only answer. Andy provided me with a list of potential members and I went for the ones whose personalities were not only interesting to me, but I felt would work well in contrast with each other. That's how drama works: People in conflict. But you want to strike a balance. A group of people whose basic personalities will cause them to have disagreements, but at the same time they achieve a "family" feel so the readership will be pulling for them. M: Your fiction is known for surprising turn-arounds, revelations, and cliffhangers. Any chance we can get you to spill the beans a bit on what to expect in upcoming issues of X-FACTOR? PD: Well...no. I mean, if I give you hints to specifics, then I risk blowing the surprises. However, I will tell you the following: Yes, we do have Siryn reacting to the news that her father is dead, and yes, Quicksilver will be showing up in a most unexpected manner, and yes, X-Factor IS going to make headway on learning what happened with the Decimation, which is going to shake things up considerably. M: Is there an over-arcing story you're telling in the book or a series of smaller tales? Which do the characters lend themselves to best? PD: The overarching storyline involves X-Factor and its conflict with Singularity, including a major revelation about Singularity's boss, Mr. Tryp, which will happen in issue #7 that's going to bring a lot of the subtext into sharper focus. However we're going to be seeing how the big events of the Marvel Universe--the Decimation, the Civil War--affect our characters on a personal level. M: Madrox is a character that apparently had what it takes to carry his own miniseries. Which other X-Factor team member could do the same, in your opinion? PD: Ideally? Any of them. I'm hoping to build up any and all of them so that they would garner that sort of story and reader support. At this particular moment? Probably Siryn. Perhaps Rahne. I think they'd have the most potential. M: X-FACTOR is of course part of the larger X-universe of Marvel titles. How would you like your readers to view the book in comparison to its mutant-laden brethren? PD: I dunno. That it's better? I mean, to many people we're the afterthought X-book, the one they needn't care about. A group of B and C list characters. So the only way we're going to get the kind of support we need to survive is to be seen as quite simply better than the books they're already buying. M: You've written your fair share of original novels and film novelizations. Would you be interested in writing an original X-FACTOR, and if so, what could you accomplish in it apart from the monthly comic series? PD: If the offer came to me, I doubt I'd throw it back in someone's face, but it's not as if it's a major aim. If I DID do an X-FACTOR novel, I could emphasize investigation procedure. That's not the most incredibly interesting thing to portray visually and I have to find ways to make it compelling for the artist and comic reader. But in a book, as long as the dialogue is interesting, that's all you need. M: You've got a large and very loyal fan base among Marvel readers. How much does fan reaction/input play a part in, if at all, your writing of X-FACTOR? PD: Well, the fans know what they want, and they're not reticent about it. And sometimes I accommodate them and sometimes I don't. I mean, a number of them want various dialogue exchanges to bring up all manner of continuity going back ten, fifteen, twenty years. And I'm not doing that. I'm not going out of my way to contradict continuity, but if it means streamlining dialogue and making the book accessible to people who HAVEN'T been reading the mutant books for twenty years, then I'm going to do that. And indeed many people have been commenting that the book is accessible for readers who aren't long-term. I'm pleased about that, but that accessibility comes with a price. I'm asking the long-term fans to bear with that for the book's ongoing health. X-FACTOR is on sale monthly, written by Peter David.
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