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X-Men: School Ties Pt. 1

Brian Michael Bendis explores the philosophy behind the Jean Grey School!

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Jean Grey School faculty and student list

By Brett White

Unlike previous generations, the new mutant generation emerging around the world has a choice between two schools of differing philosophies. The Jean Grey School for Higher Learning no longer has the distinction of being the only institution for mutants wishing to learn how to cope with their powers. Cyclops, along with his team of revolutionary X-Men, has founded a new Xavier School for the sole purpose of preparing the next generation for the harsh realities of the world.

These clear divisions will be put to the test, however, when Cyclops and his team appears on the front lawn of the Jean Grey School, offering a home and education to those who agree with his more extreme views.

The Jean Grey School serves as the primary location for writer Brian Michael Bendis’ ALL-NEW X-MEN. There, his time-displaced original X-Men have protection from an increasingly divided public opinion on mutants. The Jean Grey School prioritizes a well-rounded education over training, a fact that differentiates it from its "sister" school.

We spoke with Bendis—who also writes UNCANNY X-MEN, home of Cyclops and his philosophies—about the Jean Grey School.

Marvel.com: What would you say is the main philosophy behind the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning?

The Jean Grey School by Nick Bradshaw

Brian Michael Bendis: We just had a [Marvel creative] retreat in New York City, and on Sunday we had an X-Men only retreat and [WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN writer] Jason Aaron and I, and [X-MEN writer] Brian Wood, were happily in agreement that the Jean Grey School is sort of a prep school preparing you for all things mutant. I talk about it a little in an upcoming issue of ALL-NEW X-MEN where Beast tells young Angel, “Listen. You’re in this school—it’s like an oasis. Like everything’s fine here. You step outside here and you have to be prepared for the racism, the misunderstanding, the fear, the loathing, and the madness that surrounds us. Here we are in this gated community and it’s kind of a utopia of no one bothering you.”

Now, in my personal life, I’ve witnessed this a couple times. My mom sent me to Hebrew school when I was a kid and I’d never heard an anti-Semitic thing in my life. And then I got out of that school and went to another school and all I heard was anti-Semitic stuff, so it was like, “Whoa. Okay. That wasn’t the real world.” And I’ve talked about this a little bit online, but I have a multiracial family, and here in Portland no one even bats an eye at us. Like, no one even does a thing, which I’m grateful for, because they shouldn’t. But if we go visit relatives in Florida, or anywhere else, they just stare at us. I’m like, “Why are they staring at us? Oh, yeah, that’s right, we’re 'The Munsters'.” So, I think about that a lot when I think about what goes on inside the school versus what goes on outside the school.

Marvel.com: How do you think the school’s namesake, Jean Grey, reflects what it is? Do you think there is like a correlation?

Brian Michael Bendis: I do. This was done by Jason [Aaron] before my time. I talked to them about it too, like what philosophy does this school reflect? And, it’s interesting; it kind of reflects the generation passing. Xavier had a dream. That dream has been co-opted, or corrupted by any number of mutants on any side of the field. What Jean Grey’s school is, number one it is a reminder that horrible tragedy and sacrifice can come to people who live this life, but it also kind of represents the next generation of philosophy. It’s not Xavier’s philosophy; it’s Xavier’s students’ philosophy, or what they do with that philosophy.

Jean Grey School students by Ramon Perez

It also represents a haunting image for [young] Jean Grey who now attends the school, on some level. Even though she’s not a student of the school, they are living there right now. If I was living at the Brian Bendis Memorial anything, I would be a little weirded out.

Marvel.com: What type of student do you think should go to the Jean Grey School?

Brian Michael Bendis: It’s ones that are looking for an all-encompassing philosophy of mutants. You have Wolverine and Storm and Beast all giving you different points of view of which you then take into yourself and decide which one applies to you the most. You know, I remember when I was in college, all your teachers would tell you crazy [expletive], and some of it, you’re old enough to go, “I don’t believe that. That’s not right.” But you would find that one teacher and you’d go, “Yes. That’s what I’m looking for. Those are exactly the words I needed to hear.” So, I think that’s what the students should be. Even though he’s there under duress, more and more, Quentin Quire goes, “Oh, you know what? Wolverine is speaking to me. And Storm is speaking to this one, and Beast is speaking to that one, and Kitty also.” They take from it what they need.

And I also think that’s a different thing, too. At the [original] Xavier School, Charles Xavier was the teacher, right? With this one, there are four or five different major points of view going on all at once. It makes it a pretty well rounded scenario for the new students. So they’re getting something the original X-Men never got.

Marvel.com: How does the Jean Grey School faculty view what Cyclops is doing with the new Xavier School?

Jean Grey School faculty by Nick Bradshaw

Brian Michael Bendis: This will be expressed very clearly in upcoming issues, but he’s talking dangerous talk. He’s talking dangerous rhetoric. Not to all people, but to some people, it sounds like he’s picking a fight.

He’s like—and you’ll see this in both books—he stands up and says, “If you’re mutant, we’re coming to save you. If you’re human and you’re not on our team, you’re against us, and we will fight this fight.” And that’s cause for worry of a mutant civil war; that’s cause for worry of an upcoming mutant genocide because if you are pushing people who are already afraid of you, how far can they be pushed?

Marvel.com: If you were a recruiter for the Jean Grey School, what sales pitch would you make to a potential student to convince them to enroll?

Brian Michael Bendis: First of all, tuition is nothing because all the mutants are filthy rich [Laughs]. No, it is, just like I said, what you want for your young mutant is an all-encompassing experience: a positive, reinforcing experience. How they can use their powers to help mankind, to help themselves, to help further the cause, so that mutants and humans can live together in harmony, just like all races and sexes are all working to live in harmony together. And what’s more important than building a future of positivity and peace?

Tomorrow, Brian Bendis goes the other direction and discusses Cyclops’ Xavier School!

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