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Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Peter David

The X-Factor writer reflects on his eight year journey and prepares for the end!

X-Factor #257 preview art by Neil Edwards

By Paul Montgomery

With “The End of X-Factor” this summer, writer Peter David boxes up years of open and closed cases with Jamie Madrox, Layla Miller, Strong Guy and the rest in the pages of X-FACTOR. By the time it all wraps in September, he’ll have logged 106 issues with the motley mutants of X-Factor Investigations in their most recent volume, and even more going back to the initial permutation in the early 90’s.

Despite a decade-long hiatus, the story of Peter David and X-FACTOR bristles with complex equations, from the simple addition and subtraction of friends, lovers and bitter enemies, to heartbreaking team divisions. Paramount to all, the multiplication of one indecisive troublemaker called Jamie Madrox.

We spoke to David about shuttering a detective agency, scripting a landmark kiss and disappearing a baby. He spoke with refreshing frankness about bringing this era to its natural, inevitable conclusion.

X-Factor #257 preview art by Neil Edwards

Marvel.com: You’ve commented that the “Hell on Earth War” felt like a natural conclusion for the story you’ve been telling all these years. Did you know that going in, or did you realize that in the writing of it?

Peter David: It was something that developed as a consequence of writing it. The more I got into it, the more I saw that the various storylines and characterizations I had begun really culminated in the “Hell on Earth War.” I decided that this would really serve as a good time to wind down the entire series.

Marvel.com: In these final issues, you’re telling stories about single characters or pairs, right?

Peter David: Sometimes. #257 focuses on Layla Miller, #258 focuses on Rahne. Rictor and Shatterstar are #259. Polaris is in #260.

X-Factor #257 preview art by Neil Edwards

Marvel.com: Which is the greater challenge, plotting the larger scale blockbusters or these more intimate issues and tying together loose ends?

Peter David: Oh, definitely the big blockbusters stories. It’s probably why I don’t really do a lot of them.

Marvel.com: What is it about them?

Peter David: I don’t know. Because you’re trying to do two things at once. You’re trying to tell this big massive story, but by the same token, you still don’t want to lose sight of the individual characters. You still want the story to be about the characters rather than just have them be fighting cyphers in the course of the story. You want to make sure that they maintain their individuality.

Marvel.com: Does that tie into the choice, with this most recent volume, to turn it into a sort of detective series?

X-Factor #257 preview art by Neil Edwards

Peter David: No, not particularly. The idea of making a detective series came from the original editor, Andy Schmidt.

Marvel.com: How did you feel about that focus, of doing detective stories?

Peter David: I thought it was unlikely when it first started. I didn’t understand why in the world Madrox would be running a detective agency. It seemed like such an utterly arbitrary thing for him to be doing. But the more I got into it, the more that it made sense to me or I managed to make it make sense.

Marvel.com: The book is called X-FACTOR and, appropriately enough, it involves a lot of math. A multiplying man. The subtraction of powers and even a baby. Is part of the fun in the giving and taking away from these characters?

X-Factor #257 cover by David Yardin

Peter David: Yeah, I suppose it is. The fact that I can have things happen to them that will have a permanent effect is certainly liberating, as opposed to having to put everything back to the way it was. I can do stories that are definitive or have major moments in it that has them having to deal with the shock of loss or the unexpected acquisition of things.

Marvel.com: When disappearing a baby, did you ever feel like that was too much? Did you worry or delight in what the reaction would be?

Peter David: I was positive that people would freak out. Absolutely positive that people would freak out, and I was okay with that.

Marvel.com: Did you ever consider, “I shouldn’t do this?”

X-Factor #259 cover by David Yardin

Peter David: No.

Marvel.com: We’ve already mentioned reader reaction and taking them along for the ride. How often is that in your thoughts?

Peter David: Always. I’m always thinking about how people are going to react to certain things. People talk about they can’t wait for the next issue to come out because they can’t wait to see what happens. I, to a certain degree, can’t wait for the next issue to come out because I can’t wait to see how they’re going to react to it.

Marvel.com: Rictor lost his powers, but that’s not even the most fascinating thing about him. Did the Shatterstar kiss register at the time as a landmark moment?

X-Factor #260 cover by David Yardin

Peter David: No.

Marvel.com: Does it feel that way now?

Peter David: Yeah. Absolutely. When I had Shatterstar kiss Rictor, I wasn’t thinking about it being a big deal. I mean, it was panel five on a six panel page. It wasn’t like I made it a full-page thing and made a big deal about it. It was just something that seemed natural after all this time. This is the 21st century, why are we screwing around with this? I really didn't’ think about it being a big deal, which is why it broke me up when some people accused me of doing it specifically to be a big deal.

Marvel.com: So fan response and the time since that has made it feel like a milestone?

X-Factor #1 cover by Ryan Sook

Peter David: Oh yes. The fan response was massive. Absolutely massive. Perez Hilton picked up on it and all of a sudden my Google Alerts are getting articles from Russia. I’m looking at this article written in Russian and the only words I recognize are “Shatterstar,” “Rictor,” and “Peter David.” It was something of an experience.

Marvel.com: Let’s talk proudest moments in terms of each character, both for their history and for you as a writer. Wolfsbane?

Peter David: I loved when the pregnant Wolfsbane crashed into Shatterstar when she found him in bed with Rictor. I loved that moment, I thought that was great.

Marvel.com: Strong Guy?

X-Factor #39 cover by Mike McKone

Peter David: Probably the most recent moment with him, where he ends up killing Tier and taking over hell so he bring Monet back to life.

Marvel.com: Monet?

Peter David: I kind of like when she fell into bed with Madrox. It was such a totally arbitrary thing on my part. I thought that was an interesting lapse.

Marvel.com: Rictor?

Peter David: I would have to guess when he lip-locked with Shatterstar. It helped to define the character and got the book a lot of attention.

Marvel.com: Banshee?

X-Factor #45 cover by David Yardin

Peter David: Probably the sequence where she gives birth and the baby gets absorbed.

Marvel.com: Layla Miller?

Peter David: Her return in issue #40, when she came back disguised as a nun from the future.

Marvel.com: Madrox?

Peter David: Oh, there’s definitely too many.

Marvel.com: I thought so. Enough for each of his multiples, probably. Those are most of the major players. Am I leaving anybody out? Is there any seemingly incidental characters that have moments that resonate to you?

Peter David: Darwin. I really liked the issue where he was wandering in the desert and wandered into an old west town. I thought that was pretty cool.

X-Factor #214 cover by David Yardin

Marvel.com: Who’s the hardest to leave behind?

Peter David: Probably Madrox. I’ve been living with the character for so long wrestling around in my head.

Marvel.com: What is it about Madrox that appeals to you? Is it just the time spent with him or is there something else there?

Peter David: I like the notion of the character who literally can’t decide about anything and decides to do everything.

Marvel.com: What’s the X-FACTOR difference? What made it as special as it was? What’s the x-factor for X-FACTOR?

Peter David: I think its emphasis on a whole bunch of characters, none of whom people are particularly interested in. It was a challenge to get them interested.

Prepare for “The End of X-Factor” by catching up with the full run of X-FACTOR

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