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Avengers VS X-Men

Tuesday Q&A: Jimmy Palmiotti

The writer of What If? Avengers Vs. X-Men prepares to turn one of the biggest stories in Marvel history inside out!

What If? Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 preview art by Jorge Molina

By Jim Beard

With over 35 years of speculative stories, What If? stands as a keystone concept of the Marvel Universe, asking big questions and delivering thought-provoking answers. The latest installment, WHAT IF? AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, hits with a four-issue series that plays out over the entire month of July and revolves around one of the biggest events in Marvel Universe history, Avengers Vs. X-Men.

WHAT IF? AVENGERS VS. X-MEN writer Jimmy Palmiotti got his start at Marvel in 1991 as an inker and worked on some of the company’s biggest characters. Today he’s tackling the most iconic of them all in a way that will provide a new look at the struggle between Marvel’s most popular teams. We checked in with Palmiotti to talk to him about what makes for a good What If? story, how he sees the paths of WHAT IF? AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, and a hint of what the future holds for him.

Marvel.com: Jimmy, what are some of you most favorite What If? stories of the past and why?

What If? Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 preview art by Jorge Molina

Jimmy Palmiotti: I like the What If? concepts that take what I know about the character and go way out there with the concept. “What If Conan was in modern times?” was something that stuck out for me because it was creative and fun. I also enjoyed the story where the Fantastic Four had never gotten their powers. A good amount of past What If? titles and concepts eventually became part of the regular storylines in the monthly titles. I think when approaching the concept a writer should get as abstract and inventive as they can. The ones I remember are the ones that have taken the ideas so far and wildly from the original concept, they became their own thing.

Marvel.com: In general, what do you believe makes for the best "pivot points" for What If? stories?

Jimmy Palmiotti: Taking a scene or outcome that a reader is familiar with and turning it on its head. I don’t think changing it just a bit is enough. The idea should be reaching out there and getting as wild as they come. Even when working on this four-issue series, I had a tendency to go a bit extreme with some of the ideas. There is a point I wanted to just forget how the original went down and write something totally off the wall. That happened in a few places. The important part is to have the actions be loyal to who the character is, no matter how insane things get.

Marvel.com: In what ways is the original AvX fertile ground for What If? stories?

What If? Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 preview art by Jorge Molina

Jimmy Palmiotti: The set up and concept was one of the biggest events in Marvel history and for that reason alone, it should be messed with and become a What If? story. It features classic Marvel characters pitted against each other, but in a way I feel, given the right set up, the body count on the series should have been sky high. We will not have that problem in WHAT IF? AVENGERS VS. X-MEN. Expect the unexpected is the motto we are following. I know what we do each issue will have people talking, which is right what we want. Why bother if we cannot go wild?

Marvel.com: So you’re saying there will be character deaths in your series that didn't occur in AvX?

Jimmy Palmiotti: Yes. Since this is a What If? story, I took it upon myself to go a little overboard and crush, fry, explode, stab and destroy some of the greats of the Marvel Universe. Where else but with a What If? title can I make that happen? Daniel Ketchum, my editor, had some wonderful suggestions as I was breaking down the issues and we have some very meaningful deaths because of it. People are going to hate how some of their favorites meet their end. These things happen. We shot for madness here folks. We created a series that you can absorb weekly and talk about. Think “Game of Thrones,” but with super heroes. No one is safe.

Marvel.com: How do you kick off this series in issue #1?

What If? Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 preview art by Jorge Molina

Jimmy Palmiotti: I take the first sighting of the Phoenix Force coming towards Earth and have it spotted by the Guardians of the Galaxy and show they do not stand a chance. I start the book off with a bang. It is something spectacular and sad at the same time. I wanted to show how dangerous the Force is right away and it made sense having heroes out in space meeting up first.

Marvel.com: Which characters in AvX did you find yourself gravitating towards while planning these stories?

Jimmy Palmiotti: It is only natural that Hope, Magneto, Iron Man, Captain America and the Phoenix Force itself are in the forefront. What I do mess with is the idea of some characters asking for some peace between the two groups of heroes and them getting their butt handed to them in one way or another. [Wolverine] comes into play more towards the end and for obvious reasons as the story reveals itself. Do not trust the covers; they lie on purpose to the reader. It was a real treat to see covers that are playing with the readers. I think when people look at them, there is a tease of false hope.

Yes, I am taking great pleasure messing with everything you think you know, and hope you enjoy the ride on the way. One of my favorite moments in the series is a scene with Black Panther in #3. Having worked on his title years ago, I had a blast taking him places he has never been.

Marvel.com: What was it like working with artist Jorge Molina? What are his strengths in WHAT IF? AVENGERS VS. X-MEN?

What If? Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 preview art by Jorge Molina

Jimmy Palmiotti: Jorge is able to handle the big scope of what is going on in this series. Unlike the original story, we had to tell a condensed and somewhat quicker story because of the limitation of pages. We have 80 pages to tell a story that had over 200 pages originally, so we focused on the key scenes and went in our own direction. Jorge did an amazing job with the passion and gore of the project and nailing all the different super heroes in the process. I got really lucky having someone with his skill on board for this. The book looks amazing.

Marvel.com: In general, what do you love most about the Marvel Universe and its characters?

Jimmy Palmiotti: I grew up with this gang. I feel like I know them and in a way they have been a huge part of my life. I started inking at Marvel in the 1990’s, started up Marvel Knights with Joe Quesada later on, and had my first solo writing gigs on DEADPOOL, getting to write the first Punisher-Deadpool crossover and more. Some of my most proud moments in comics have been with Marvel and I feel right now, having the opportunity to work on some more projects with them feels like the most natural thing in the world. These are the flawed characters, the human characters and the ones that make you care. This is the house that Stan and Jack built, and these characters are in my blood.

Marvel.com: Got anything else cooking at Marvel for the near future?

Jimmy Palmiotti: I have a three-issue Daredevil/Misty Knight story I am working on and a secret project that we will be announcing in San Diego this summer. A lot of exciting things are happening and I am super happy to be part of it all.

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