Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Gregg Schigiel

The X-BABIES writer discusses why the cutest mutants on the playground can also be the baddest babies around

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By Kevin Mahadeo

Things get extra adorable this week when those itty-bitty mutants from the Mojoverse, the X-Babies, return in their very own self-titled four-issue limited series by writer Gregg Schigiel and artist Jacob Chabot facing a threat almost too impossible to fathom: a set of new kids in town looking to out-cute the cutest mini mutants on Mojo TV.

Created by the media mogul Mojo as a ratings cash cow for his non-stop television programming schedule, the pint-sized powerhouses first appeared in UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #12 and have made occasional appearances in the various X-titles ever since. They return this week under the guidance of Schigiel and Chabot, who rock the cradle hard when they oust Mojo and bring in a new executive looking to make programming a little more "kid friendly."

The series also brings in a few characters last seen approximately 20 years ago from the defunct Marvel imprint Star Comics.

Schigiel took some time out of babysitting the rambunctious crew to talk about bringing back the X-Babies, writing comics with kid characters and the completely insane adventures of Top Dog.

 

X-BABIES preview art by Jacob Chabot
Marvel.com: What appeals to you about the idea of the X-Babies?

Gregg Schigiel: I've said it a couple times that they are to me more like a Saturday morning cartoon version of the X-Men. It's all the cool stuff-the super powers, the costumes, the adventures-without all the baggage. There are interpersonal relationships between the characters, but not as steeped in continuity or history. It's really more pure super hero stuff and less drama. I think that's what appeals to me about it: the simplicity of it as a super hero avenue.

Marvel.com: The X-Babies were originally created as a parody on the influx of kid versions of adult shows in the 80's. At the same time, those things were hugely popular...

Gregg Schigiel: I think it's the same way that people like dogs, but they really like puppies. There is something to things that look cute. But then when you factor in the way the X-Babies were written then-and hopefully people feel that we're trying to go back to those ideas-they're not written as cute. Wolverine as an X-Baby still has attitude and he's still a scrappy little Wolverine. He's not a Kewpie doll Wolverine. It's all [that] attitude in a tiny package. It's like the movie "Role Models." There's a little kid in that [film] that curses like a sailor. It's hilarious. Granted in this book nobody is cursing like a sailor. I think there is an appeal to cute visuals and that can certainly draw a lot of people in. Then it's what you do with it. If you do something like what Chris Giarrusso does with his stuff, the fact

X-BABIES #1 cover by Skottie Young
that they're kids is secondary to the fact that it's funny. So, hopefully with our story, the fact that the X-Babies are kids [comes] secondary to the fact that we're telling a rip-roaring adventure, super hero yarn.

Marvel.com: I understand that the X-Babies aren't the only kid characters in this comic. This also brings in some Star Comics characters, which was an imprint specifically created for comics geared toward kids. Isn't it a bit weird to "kidify" kids?

Gregg Schigiel: [Laughs] It is a little weird on the outset, but in context it actually makes a lot of sense. I don't want to spoil anything or give anything away, but in the context of the story the designs of these characters that people have seen came out of talking about this story with the artist and how to best visually communicate what we're doing. I think by the end of the first issue there will be a very strong sense of, "Oh so that's what they're doing." But we've definitely sort of amped up their adorableness.

Marvel.com: Immediate question when it comes to Star Comics characters: why? Were you just thinking about the story and thought, "Got it! Top Dog!"

Gregg Schigiel: It actually did sort of happen like that. These characters were lying around that, as far as I knew, no one cared about and they were perfect for the kind of story we were trying to tell. And TOP DOG, by the way-I went back and found early copies of those books and re-read nearly all of them-is insane. That comic book is completely mental and I love it. There is a certain amount of logic that has to go out the window when you have a talking dog. There is this one issue where there is

X-BABIES #2 cover by Skottie Young
another dog that looks just like Top Dog that's sneaking into a military base and you find out that's actually a military spy wearing a dog costume. It's a crazy case of mistaken identity. It's madness and I love it. I love it when things get a little off kilter. But there's one issue of TOP DOG that's a total scam. Spider-Man is on the cover, but then you read it and the whole story is about a guy who runs a comic shop that is having some sort of problem, so he gets a guy to dress up as Spider-Man. But-spoiler alert-the last two panels [have] news reporters reporting on it and Peter Parker is there. That's cheating.

Marvel.com: I wanted to touch upon your approach to writing these X-Babies. You mentioned that you keep their personalities, but they just happen to look adorable?

Gregg Schigiel: For the most part. I approached them with the Hollywood pitch of mixing two things together: the X-Men meet the Little Rascals. So, you take all the adult, mature thoughts out of the X-Men. Wolverine is not thinking about the lost memories he may or may not have. Rogue is not worried about touching anybody. Wolverine does say "bub," Rogue has the drawl, Storm is a little bit more responsible, and Cyclops is a little more responsible than that to the point where he gets annoying. It's the adult X-Men personalities filtered through a younger prism. But I made the decision at one point that Kitty Pryde would not have her l's sound like

X-BABIES preview art by Jacob Chabot
w's because that would be going too far. I thought about it because that is adorable, but I'm doing enough with Rogue's accent and Wolverine dropping g's off the ends of words that I didn't want to overdo it.

Marvel.com: You talk about the line you walk, and you look at some cartoons and even though they're geared toward kids you can still watch them as an adult. Do you find that you have to find a certain balance because even though it's for kids doesn't mean you have to talk down to them?

Gregg Schigiel: Absolutely. When you ask if there is a message to what we're doing, that's part of it. You can do entertaining comics for kids without abandoning the ideas of good stories and good characters. I've had this conversation with fellow friends and cartoonists. If you look at the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West's weakness is water. It's okay to be like, "What? Water?" But in the context of that story, water is

X-BABIES #3 cover by Skottie Young
horrifying to the Wicked Witch. What we drink and shower in and is all around us that is the biggest and most dangerous threat in Oz. If you create a story that dictates the level of danger, you can make a really dramatic and really intense sequence using water. If you write it to that strength, it's not stupid. It becomes an extra obstacle. It becomes an extra piece of danger that to a kid or an adult there is tension and drama. It's really small potatoes on paper, but in the context of these character's actions, it's huge. Don't bring that water near me because I will die. And I say all this in hopes that I pulled it off. Hopefully it doesn't go down in flames. But Jacob's art will mask any of the mistakes or overshooting I've done. [Laughs] I'll buy Jacob a sandwich after that.

 

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