With additional reporting by Paul Montgomery
“The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier”—sounds pretty important, right?
Brian Michael Bendis thinks so, and when he reveals its contents beginning in UNCANNY X-MEN #23 this week, you will, too. It’s all part of the ORIGINAL SIN event and it will impact the X-Men and their future in many significant ways.
We checked in with Bendis to get the scoop on all the juicy secrets and a few hints on what’s to come.
Marvel.com: Brian, what’s your philosophy in approaching crossovers like this? How do you fit them into the whole ongoing narrative of everything that’s already been going on?
Brian Michael Bendis: That’s an interesting question, actually, and I have a very unique perspective because I’ve been the architect behind some events and have watched the tie-ins be built from inside the hurricane and outside. So I’ve seen both versions and I think I’ve seen a winning formula in the ones that didn’t need to be part of the event. You know what I mean? There’s just a damn good story and it’s an excuse to get to that story.
Like in SECRET INVASION, the best ones were the tie-ins where it didn’t matter what was going on in the main title—“here’s an interesting story.” And some of the best CIVIL WAR tie-ins were as good as if they were the event themselves. There was so much meat on the bones that people could pick stuff off and have their own event inside the event. So that’s kind of the mantra I’ve come up with for my two Original Sin stories. “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” is just a big, giant X-Men story that happens to involve Charles Xavier’s original sin. And the one that I’ve been holding on to is the Guardians of the Galaxy story which is how Peter [Quill], Drax, and Thanos are still alive even though they were murdered so badly, so violently, at the end of THANOS IMPERATIVE. So I was sitting on my biggest original sin for them, waiting for the perfect time to unleash it and knowing that this event was coming. For Original Sin, it’s like, what’s the biggest secret of the X-Men? What’s the biggest secret of the Guardians? And I’ve got two of them. Boom.
Marvel.com: So, how scary can a piece of paper actually be?
Brian Michael Bendis: Listen, Charles Xavier is a man with a lot of secrets and was living almost on a different plane of existence than the rest of us, having been able to read minds and manipulate them if he needed to. So there’s a lot of things that he could have done that they would not have known about and sometimes people have a whole secret life. People have whole things in real world life; people pass away and the kids find out that the dad had another wife. These things happen all the time, you hear about them constantly. You hear about them for centuries. Add to it, Charles Xavier’s very unique perspective in the world of being able to read minds and knowing why he would keep a secret from people. If he keeps a secret from Scott Summers, it isn’t because he’s trying to lie to him, it’s because he knows what Scott’s reaction will be because he can read his mind. So, to get these secrets out [after] his passing, it’s juicy stuff.
Marvel.com: Can we trust the veracity of this document? Can we trust that this is real?
Brian Michael Bendis: Yes. The biggest question that the X-Men had, legally, which I had some fun with, is when do you read a will? When, in the Marvel Universe, is dead really dead, legally? She-Hulk is the reader of the will and she has to determine, based not only on Marvel Universe logic, but in specifically X-Men time-travelling, multi-dimensional logic, are we sure he’s dead? Are we absolutely [sure?] Before I read this, is he a baby, is he anywhere in another body? Has he moved to the Shi’ar planet? Are we absolutely sure he’s dead dead?
Marvel.com: Who of the X-Men will be hit the hardest by the contents of this document, both good and bad?
Brian Michael Bendis: Almost everybody, particularly the major players and the ones with the longest relationships with Charles. And also, they haven’t really had time to mourn his passing. It’s just been chaos since AvX, so this is a moment where they are dealing with each other, because this is also one of those wills where the family has to get together and they’re not speaking. And now this family that’s got major issues are forced to sit in a room together and do this thing that they don’t want to do, so there’s that extra added bonus. But the original X-Men, and I’m not talking about the All New X-Men who are here from the past, but Scott and Bobby, who have been in the house since they were kids, this is hitting them the hardest.
Marvel.com: That’s a big legal nightmare if there’s two of Cyclops out there.
Brian Michael Bendis: Exactly. If you leave something to Scott Summers, which Scott Summers are you leaving it to? Hmm? And, since it’s Charles Xavier, could he have possibly even considered the fact that Scott Summers would be somehow, somewhat responsible for his death? Is that reflected inside the will?
As soon as you start having discussions on [it], you go, “I have to do this. I have to tell this story.” And luckily, it hasn’t been done a lot in comics. There’s been wills read but this really opened up [for me]. On top of who gets his stuff and what stuff is it, there is a question of something that Charles had done in the past that they don’t know about and they’re gonna find out about it and deal with it. It’s something that they’re gonna have to deal with together as a group, because that was in his will and they’re not really in a position to be in a group right now.
Marvel.com: If you could have any of Charles Xavier’s stuff, what would you want?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well, he had an Infinity Gem; that sounds pretty cool. I have a feeling he’s got the best wheelchairs ever.
Marvel.com: So Dazzler plays a big role in this, right?
Brian Michael Bendis: Dazzler plays a role in it. A lot of people play a big role. What we’re also dealing with is the fallout of what happened to her in the last arc, which is that she was kidnapped, she was held and her body was used to make poisonous drugs for other mutants. So she has been physically and emotionally kidnapped and abused and the fallout is huge for her as a character and is reflected in her redesign, in her new viewpoint of the world and which X-Men team she decided to be part of.
Marvel.com: Were you simply looking at her power set or were you really interested in her as a character and how she’s perceived by the audience and wanting to take her to this other place?
Brian Michael Bendis: All those things, really. I loved her character, I think she’s fantastic. I think that a lot of us always felt, even in her earliest days, that there was a lot more to her and there was a lot more that can be done with her and certainly she’s a character that maybe needs to evolve with the times. There’s something cool about her being so immersed in pop culture; I think even her origin was created because of pop culture, but she should either reflect pop culture as it is right now or she should be some kind of weird retro statement. But, we kind of thought we’d seen enough of the retro Dazzler statement and people are offended by me calling it a retro statement. She was created in 1981 and was called Disco Dazzler and disco was long gone at the time she was created so it would make sense if she reflected parts of our culture now that her character and her style would be potent, is the way I thought. And also, she’s angry. She’s pissed off. She’s in a dark place and that should be reflected as well. And I know that the redesign is upsetting for some people but hopefully when you read the story it will make sense.
Marvel.com: You mentioned She-Hulk. How fun or challenging was all that legalese?
Brian Michael Bendis: It was fun. It is out of my natural wheelhouse, but you have to do it right so it’s always fun to ask a lawyer who isn’t immersed in our language of comics. This happened to me on DAREDEVIL a lot, where I would ask my lawyer or lawyers that I am friends with questions that are based on nothing but nonsense. But if they could help me craft and argument or craft a document, so it was relatively easy. And almost lawyer I know always points me to some online service that just has contracts already written out or wills written out. “That’s legal, use that!”
“Does it matter that they’re psychic?” And then they just stare at you. “What?”
It’s so funny. This is what happens: They stare at you, and then a minute later they go, “You know, there is precedent, in Georgia there was this case where a man claimed to be psychic.” They always conjure up some case and it’s pretty funny.
Marvel.com: So any other characters to watch out for in UNCANNY X-MEN? Any particular character dynamics that you happened upon?
Brian Michael Bendis: Because this is kind of a reunion of a lot of X-characters that have been geographically not near each other in a while, some people who have been clamoring for the Nightcrawler/Kitty reunion, the Dazzler/Beast reunion, characters with a long history with each other who haven’t been in the same room or had a chance to talk, you’re gonna see this tempered out all over the thing. The other thing too is, and this is something I wanted to address, the Will itself, beyond being part of this Original Sin event, is also a massive X-Men story that’s leading into a very big moment in X-Men history for next year and we’re very excited about it. It’s a thing that we can really turn over some trucks and have some fun with a lot of characters. And things will not look, next year in the X-Men universe, the way they look right now. I doubly bring it up because of all the false information out there that Marvel’s somehow canceling all the X-Men books even though it’s absolutely ridiculous. We’re planning so hard and everyday we’re working on this. So it’s frustrating that people think the books aren’t going to exist next year when so much is going to happen next year. It’s like the total opposite.
Marvel.com: Did you think you were going to have this much fun with the X-Men characters back when you shifting from the Avengers over to the X-Men side?
Brian Michael Bendis: I did, or I wouldn’t have taken the job but it has grown exponentially with every week. There’s some new facet or new character or old character. Even the Dazzler thing, I’ve loved Dazzler. I’ve always loved Dazzler and Dazzler wasn’t on my list of things to do when I started, but there’s so many characters and so many relationships and new characters that we’re developing in ALL-NEW X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN. All of them growing and growing and growing. So yeah, it’s an amazing amount of fun and it’s a great challenge and the only downside is that there’s so much to do that getting to do it all in a proper way, that’s the biggest frustration of the book is that, as many books as I’m putting out for X-Men, which is quite a lot, I wish I had twice as many just so I can get to everything. And hopefully, I will get to everything. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Marvel.com: You have to pace yourself.
Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah, you gotta tell the story right. You can’t rush through things. We keep making annuals and other things so I have time to do my thing.
“The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” begins this week in UNCANNY X-MEN #23!