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X-Men: School Ties Pt. 3

Jason Aaron provides a guide to his creation, the Jean Grey School!

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The Jean Grey School faculty and student body 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.

Writer Jason Aaron created the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning for his ongoing series, WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN. His institution has offered students a well-rounded education in addition to field trips to the Savage Land. Even with a focus on teaching, Headmaster Wolverine and his senior staff have still squeezed in high-octane action during their planning periods.

We spoke with Jason Aaron about the Jean Grey School and the thought that went into its creation.

Marvel.com: What was the main philosophy behind the Jean Grey School when you created it?

The Jean Grey School faculty by Ramon Perez

Jason Aaron: It came out of [the X-Men event] Schism. The idea was that we would split the X-Men into two very distinctive camps. We would kind of recreate the old Magneto/Professor X dynamic with Cyclops and Wolverine. Cyclops would stay in Utopia and San Francisco, and Wolverine would go back to Westchester and open the school. That was kind of my mandate and set-up. I got to take it from there. We could have just had him reopen the old Xavier school, but since Xavier wasn’t going to be a part of the book, it seemed strange to me. I liked the idea that this is Wolverine's school. We’re going to embrace the idea of Wolverine as headmaster and Wolverine doing his version of Xavier’s school. It would be something different, so of course he would name it the Jean Grey School. In part because of his love and respect for Jean Grey but also as a pretty not-so-subtle jab at Cyclops, by naming it after his dead wife.

Marvel.com: Do you feel that the name of the Jean Grey School actually reflects the school itself?

Jason Aaron: I don’t know. If nothing else, I like the way that it speaks to X-Men history and how she was one of the original [Stan] Lee/[Jack] Kirby X-Men and was at the heart of probably the most memorable story of what’s considered the true heyday of the X-Men, from the Chris Claremont and John Byrne era. She played a big role in what’s probably my favorite era of X-Men, the Grant Morrison era. She’s a character who has been through a lot of changes over the years. She’s died and come back and her history is woven through all these different areas of X-Men history. And now she’s back again, running around in the form of her teenage self.

The Jean Grey School student body by Ramon Perez

Marvel.com: What type of student do you think is attracted to going to the Jean Grey School?

Jason Aaron: Most of the characters that we have seen there, up until recently, were pre-existing X-Students. Going back to the NEW X-MEN era [and] the YOUNG X-MEN up to the Five Lights from GENERATION HOPE. There’re different groups of X-Kids and it’s accumulated over the course of a couple of years. We kinda just threw them all in one place and focused on some and others have wandered through the shadows. It’s only recently that we’ve seen new students start to pop-up, which is what I think any X-Men school needs. You need the kids who are still new and discovering their powers and figuring out what it means to be a mutant. That’s a big part of it.

One of the things I also wanted to do was to branch out in terms of students. When WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN first started, we had an alien in the cast. A young Brood was a student. In my mind, [it was like] when “Star Trek: The Next Generation” debuted and there was a Klingon on the bridge. I liked that idea. We also threw in Kid Gladiator, who is a Shi’ar, and the son of Gladiator who is king of the Shi’ar, who has a long history with the X-Men too. I liked expanding that cast of characters who still have a strong connection to the X-Men but technically weren’t mutants. They wouldn’t fit in the Xavier School in the past. It just shows that this school was a bit different and takes Xavier’s dream into the future. It’s about integration and mutants learning to live in peace with the whole world. I think at some point, the Jean Grey School should be fully integrated with human kids and all other types running around and not just mutants.

The Jean Grey School by Nick Bradshaw

Marvel.com: What priority does the Jean Grey School place on proactive action and self-defense as opposed to just education? It seems like it’s more of a school and not a boot camp.

Jason Aaron: Right. That was a big part of the idea. Wolverine felt that Cyclops was just training kids to be soldiers and they didn’t really have any other options. One of the main focuses of the Jean Grey School is to teach these kids to be whatever they want to be. They shouldn’t all have to grow up to be superheroes and X-Men. If they want to be an accountant then let’s teach them to be an accountant.

Marvel.com: You have Iceman there, so you have a teacher for that.

Jason Aaron: Exactly. You can get your CPA. We’ll see that going forward. We’ll see kids start to graduate and find their place. I’m not saying we’re going to do a whole bunch of books with young X-Men as accountants but I want to show that these kids are doing more than to just go fight against the Juggernaut. We’ve seen a little bit of that. We’ve seen Anole, Blindfold, and a couple of other characters that have become Board of Directors of Worthington Industries. They’re helping Angel get back together. We’ll do more stuff like that and show that the school is working. This is the point of the school and it’s to teach these kids to do whatever they want to do.

Tomorrow our X-Men education odyssey concludes with Jason’s evaluation of Cyclops’ new Xavier School!

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