|Uncanny X-Men #5 cover by Frazer Irving|
By Brett White
With the return of UNCANNY X-MEN as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative lurking just around the corner, the time has come to look even further into the future of mutantkind. Debuting in February, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Chris Bachalo promise to take readers even further into Cyclops’ inner machinations as he plots the survival of the next generation of mutants.
After the explosive first arc, Cyclops’ team of mutants will be placed in the dynamic hands of artist Frazer Irving, who makes his debut as the second regular artist on UNCANNY X-MEN.
We spoke with Irving as well as Bendis about the series.
Marvel.com: What led to Frazer becoming involved with UNCANNY X-MEN?
Frazer Irving: Well I was at a strange point in my career around the time of New York Comic Con last year when I had a rather large number of projects being offered to me, all of them good, all of them interesting, yet I am but one man and thus I had to choose carefully based on a secret system I use for making difficult decisions. Factoring in scheduling and the writers involved, I chose two projects to work on the next year, UNCANNY X-MEN being one of them. I admit I was flattered and a little bemused when it was offered, but once I’d heard why they wanted me to do it, I felt a lot more confident that I could actually bring something to this party. In short, they asked me, I looked at the calendar, I said “Why me?,” they said nice things, I agreed.
|Iron Man by Frazer Irving|
Brian Michael Bendis: Anyone who’s read a comic book in the last few years knows that Frazer Irving is a very unique, amazing talent. When his name came up as someone who could work on UNCANNY, I was thrilled to get him. I sent an -email to him right away asking him where he’s at as an artist and what he wants to do. He sent this whole big letter back and it was ninety percent of what I was already going to give him. I couldn’t be happier with the story that I have for him to do and his enthusiasm about doing it. I think about 80 percent of the success of the X-Men books has been the quality of the amazing artists that have worked on WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, ALL-NEW X-MEN, and now UNCANNY X-MEN. Frazer is right up there with them and this’ll be great.
Marvel.com: Frazer, have you noticed anything different about drawing the X-Men?
Frazer Irving: In the past it was always a case that there are too bloody many of them! Always the crowd scenes. Always. However, I’ve matured and have a different take on what the differences are. I read mostly Marvel stuff as a kid, so when I approach these characters I feel like I actually know them. Whether this will make the chemistry work better or not is what we’ll find out once it’s all done and out there I guess.
Marvel.com: Brian, right now you’re working with Stuart Immonen and David Marquez on ALL-NEW X-MEN and Chris Bachalo on UNCANNY, all artists that you have worked with previously. What is it like working with a new partner?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well, it’s funny that you say that. Marquez is still a new person even though we’ve become friends very quickly. I pride myself on having very long creative relationships with many people. There are a lot of artists that I’ve worked with for a very long time. I look at that with the same kind of pride that I look at the long relationship with my wife. Look at that, I guess I’m not a total [expletive].
|Uncanny X-Men #1 cover by Chris Bachalo|
At the same time, it’s such a wonderful experience to find someone new to connect with creatively and see what they can bring out of you and what you can bring out of them. When it works, it’s the best feeling in the world. Any writer or artist will tell you this. When you can find someone that you don’t even know and they’ve got something for you to draw that you would have never thought of to do by yourself, or that artist draws your stuff in a way that no one else has ever thought of, it’s the best feeling in the world. That’s why I got so excited about Frazer. I saw someone who’s making some choices that are completely unique. Completely different from the choices that I’ve been making. I want to see that all rubbed up with what I do.
Marvel.com: Do you have any particular favorite past runs of issues that you're bringing with you, or do you have new ideas you'd like to add to the X-Men mythos?
Frazer Irving: The John Byrne and Chris Claremont days were the best for me. I grew up on it, I cite it in conversation all over the place, and it made me want to draw comics. It also taught me tragedy, integration, political and social structures, tolerance, and many other virtues and concepts that school failed at miserably. In that respect what I’m bringing with me are those themes, as opposed to the gaudy uber-violence aspect that some artists may have been attracted to at different stages of these characters’ lives. Each of the X-Men is a cipher to me, an idea made flesh—or pixels, if you want to start getting pedantic about it—and that’s how I see them. That’s how they act at the end of my Wacom stylus.
Marvel.com: UNCANNY X-MEN has a large cast, as most X-Books tend to have. What is your approach when working with a larger cast as opposed to a smaller one?
|X-Men by Chris Claremont & John Byrne|
Frazer Irving: Each time it’s different. This time I was going to try cloning myself, but I realized that I would just spend all day arguing with myself in a rhetorical Mobius strip. Then I figured that the best way to tackle ensemble casts is to modify the way I draw them so that they become distilled into far simpler patterns of shade and color so that they would be recognized even if they were small figures or drawn in two tones. It helps that they have super hero costumes for that. I try to apply different textures specific to each character too, and to enhance the depth I even restrict certain mark making to the mutants to avoid the humans looking too much like them. We’ll see if it works.
Marvel.com: You're working with some newer mutants as well, like Christopher Muse and Eva Bell. Is there more leeway with how you handle them as opposed to icons like Magneto and Cyclops?
Frazer Irving: Nope, [because] I still have to use Chris’ designs, so essentially I’m working with the same sort of material. Us artists always have a way of making characters our own, even if it comes down to modifying the costume to suit our strengths.
Marvel.com: Are there any new characters or designs that you'll be tackling during your arc?
Frazer Irving: I cannot say. There’s this bit of paper, possibly from someone whose name could be Naria Dee Anderson, which says stuff like I’m not allowed to say anything before the boss okays it, and it mentions windows and stuff, so best bet is that I keep my trap shut on such matters.
Marvel.com: Brian, with these two artists on UNCANNY, how does this book’s tone compare to other series? And Frazer, what’s it like to follow someone as distinctive as Chris?
|Cyclops by Stuart Immonen|
Frazer Irving: I never follow him anywhere; it’s just someone that looks like me.
I don’t mind being the second artist on a book like this. I did it before in other series and if anything it encourages me to be more myself as I know that the tastes of the readership will be catered for in the long run even if they don’t dig my particular take on it, so I don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone. I just do the doodling.
Brian Michael Bendis: There are people who see Immonen and Marquez as similar, where I wouldn’t see them as similar at all. Bachalo is very, very, different, but when you hear about [him] on the same book [as Frazer], it sounds right. You might not know why, but it feels right. It’s the same thing with Marquez and Immonen. What you want are artists who have their own identity. You don’t want people imitating Immonen or Bachalo. You want unique flavors. That’s kind of what we did on Avengers for many years. At the end of the day, people want the highest quality book with unique flavors. They want us to raise our flag and do our thing. I’ll continue on that road with X-Men as I did on Avengers. Back when we went from David Finch to Steve McNiven on NEW AVENGERS, you wouldn’t think that they would match. What they did match was keeping the quality of the book high. That’s my goal. That way, when Chris comes back, people are excited. The same with Frazer. It’s always exciting and always surprising.
|Iron Man by Frazer Irving|
Frazer is very excited to be doing this. I mean, the right kind of excitement. As a fan, behind the scenes, when I know someone is this excited about the book, I know it’s going to be special. They’re coming it at from the right place and there’s going to be something there worth a damn.
Marvel.com: UNCANNY X-MEN is a title with a lot of history, 50 years of history this year, to be exact. How does it feel to now be a part of such a long-running title?
Frazer Irving: 10-year old me would have wet himself.