Enroll at the Hellfire Academy Pt. 1

Wolverine & The X-Men writer Jason Aaron introduces the faculty and student body of this wicked new school!

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Hellfire Academy faculty and student body

By Ryan Haupt

The Hellfire Club has expanded into education with the introduction of the Hellfire Academy! Do you have what it takes to join such an illustrious staff and volatile student body? We sat down with WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN writer Jason Aaron to find out just what he might have in store for the less altruistic complement to Jean Grey’s School for Gifted Youngsters!

Marvel.com: What first gave you the idea to have a dark complement to the Jean Grey School?

Jason Aaron: Well you know going back to issue one [of WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN], we’ve seen this new, younger version of the Hellfire Club as the main opposition to the school because they manufacture Sentinels. They make a lot of money selling Sentinels to people all around the globe as we’ve seen. So they like a world where mutants are hated and feared. Wolverine opening a school that’s meant to teach these kids how to find their place in the world and live in peace with humans; this is the last thing that Hellfire Club wants to see. They’ve always been about usurping the school, manipulating these kids, and just screwing up Wolverine’s plans. We’ve seen them up to something for quite a while now. They were manipulating Idie, and they’ve been coming after other kids at the school. We saw Glob was the first one to defect over, so this has all kind of been in the works for a long time, and this is their ultimate plan to not only hopefully drive Wolverine to the point where he realizes he’s not cut out to be a headmaster of a school for kids, but also stealing away some of his mutant peoples and turning them in to future members of a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Wolverine & The X-Men #31 art by Nick Bradshaw

Marvel.com: That’s interesting. I hadn’t realized that there was such a strong economic component towards wanting to keep the Sentinel business going.

Jason Aaron: Yeah, it’s pretty much all about money and power. The Hellfire Club kids are some of the richest, most powerful kids in the world. We’ve seen how they’ve taken control of their families’ businesses, killed off their parents in a lot of cases, and continued to amass power and wealth. So, you know, this Hellfire Club has always been sort of the club that Victor Von Doom would’ve joined when he was 13 if it had been around. The club filled with the people who are going to rule the earth in the coming years. This is their club and they’re building a lot of that wealth on the backs of mutants by selling all sorts of newfangled Sentinels all around the globe.

Marvel.com: We’ve spent a little bit of time with the inner circle: Kade Kilgore, Manuel Enduque, Max Frankenstein and Wilhemina Kensington. They also have different names: Black King, White King, Bishop, Queen. Are those relevant ranks or titles? What does it mean for them to have those different roles?

Wolverine & The X-Men #31 art by Nick Bradshaw

Jason Aaron: Those are just the traditional titles of the Hellfire Club’s inner circle, the Lords Cardinal. The Hellfire Club is a public group. They have a public headquarters in New York that we’ve seen plenty of times and several members. There’s always been a secret group within that that controls the group, and it’s usually something nefarious. These kids have taken those roles and taken control of the Hellfire Club’s many assets, and holdings, and secret properties, and hidden wealth that goes back many, many years.

Marvel.com: Since the Hellfire Club is a publicly known entity, how do you reconcile that with them being—in terms of the Hellfire Academy and looking at the syllabus a little bit—so outwardly evil?

Jason Aaron: Well, the Hellfire Academy is not going to be advertising on TV and accepting all applications.

Marvel.com: I’m imagining a bunch of those Phoenix Online ads that pop up all the time, but instead it’s the Hellfire Club.

Jason Aaron: Right. Exactly. That’s really one of the main stories of this arc, is the X-Men trying to find this Hellfire Academy. They don’t know where it’s at, they don’t know where the Hellfire kids are, [and] they don’t know where their mutants have disappeared to. There’s some sort of strange force at work blocking Cerebro, blocking mutant scanning devices. Somehow the Hellfire Club has figured out a way to hide their school from the X-Men.

Wolverine & The X-Men #31 art by Nick Bradshaw

Marvel.com: Interesting. So how did you go about putting together the faculty of this academy? Because obviously, the Hellfire Club’s inner circle, they’re too young to be professors, right?

Jason Aaron: Right. They’re there in sort of an advisory capacity. They’re the guys footing the bill and pulling the strings and making the decisions. But yeah, I didn’t want to do a bunch of classes for 13-year-olds taught by 13-year-olds, so they do bring in some super villains as teachers. We’ve seen how Kade Kilgore has been working with Sabretooth. He’s kind of a mentor. Sabretooth has taught him how to fight, how to kill, how to hunt. We know that Sabretooth has his own crew of folks now including Mystique, the Silver Samurai, and Lord Deathstrike. I kind of always knew that all those people would be involved, and I brought in a few more [that] were either characters from storylines that had already been a part of WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN or characters that were going to be a part of future storylines. So everybody’s kind of there for a reason,  reasons even bigger than just this one arc.

Marvel.com: There are a few people from the Jean Grey School who are now faculty members at the Hellfire Academy, namely Toad and Husk. How did you decide to make them switch?

Wolverine & The X-Men #31 cover by Nick Bradshaw

Jason Aaron: That’s another storyline that’s been in the works for quite a while. Husk was one of the original cast members of WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN, was a teacher there, but there was always something kind of off about her. Her powers seemed to be on the fritz; she had wild mood swings in correlation with her powers which we had never really seen before. And that built to her stepping down from the school and leaving in anger around the time she sort of developed this romantic relationship with Toad. So that’s all been leading towards this. As we see that Husk had been sort of out in the world, looking for her place and now we see she seems to have found it at the Hellfire Academy, and Toad, because of his love for her, has betrayed Wolverine and the X-Men and come over to her side as well.

Marvel.com: Well he was originally a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, so I guess it’s fitting.

Jason Aaron: Right. It could be Toad returning to his roots. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Marvel.com: How did you go about thinking about which students might be willing to leave the Jean Grey School and go try a different style of education?

Jason Aaron: I wanted them there for different reasons. Idie has come to the Hellfire Academy for a very specific reason, as we’ve learned in issue #30. She’s there to find the person who shot Broo and killed him, which is kind of, again, something that her character arc has been building towards for several issues now. And Quentin Quire comes after her because he feels like he’s the only guy who can save her. Broo gets sucked in on his own as well through the manipulations of Dr. Starblood, who we’ve met previously and has a great interest in Broo and is an alien super-scientist/mass murderer who winds up on the teaching staff.

Wolverine & The X-Men #32 cover by Nick Bradshaw

Marvel.com: So would it be safe to say that people like Idie and Quentin are undercover, or are they legitimate students? Is that going to be part of the story, them figuring that out for themselves?

Jason Aaron: Yeah, that’s kind of part of the story. They’re there for different reasons, but Idie, Quentin and Broo are all characters who’ve been very troubled in their own rights. It’s not going to be like they’re immune to the manipulations or dark teachings of the Hellfire Academy. They could all very easily fall sway to what they’re being taught there.

Marvel.com: There are students like Snot and the Tinman whom I’m not familiar with at all…

Jason Aaron: Snot’s brand new. This is his first appearance in issue #31. I’m certain he’ll be the big breakout character of 2013. This time next year, we’ll be seeing Snot action figures and Snot cosplay.

You know, Snot I’ve had tremendous fun with. I think it’s a character that [editor] Nick Lowe regrets having ever approved, as he’s continuously disgusted by him.

Marvel.com: That’s got to be one of your biggest joys as a writer, getting to gross out your editor and rub it in his face that you got away with something that he now regrets.

Jason Aaron: Oh sure. I’m still surprised I got it under his radar. But Tinman has popped up before. He was in an arc of X-MEN a few months back, so he’s a new mutant who’s popped up post Avengers vs. X-Men. Mudbug also popped up in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN. He and I share a common upbringing—he’s from Alabama. Steven Sanders, when he drew that issue, drew Mudbug’s dad to look pretty much just like me. Not much subtlety there. So yeah, Mudbug pops up for people who have been eager for the return of Mudbug. He’s here.

Wolverine & The X-Men #33 cover by Nick Bradshaw

Marvel.com: Now, I don’t know if you saw it, because it just came out today. There’s a PhD student in North Carolina created a map of the United States based on what people call “the miniature lobster found in lakes and streams.” Mudbug was not one of the options! You could choose crayfish, crawfish, or crawdad. Those are your choices.

Jason Aaron: Hmm…well maybe when the popularity of the new Mudbug mutant sweeps the country alongside Snot, they’ll adjust that.

Pick up WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #31, part one of the Hellfire Saga, available now, and rejoin us later this week as Jason Aaron shares the Hellfire Academy syllabus and more!

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