By Marc Strom
Some teams you just can't keep apart.
When the New Mutants originally formed in 1982 they represented the next generation of potential X-Men. Now, with its members all grown up, the team comes back together in NEW MUTANTS #1 on May 6, courtesy of writer Zeb Wells and artist Diogenes Neves.
But don't expect a traditional trip down memory lane as Wells and Neves intend on pushing the team firmly towards the future as they reunite and place themselves as a force for good on par with their former mentors, the X-Men themselves.
Beginning a week of New Mutants coverage, we spoke with Wells about his plans, influences and what role Magik will play, and more!
Marvel.com: To start with, when you began researching for this series, what did you read and what, to you, were the key creative runs on the book that really influenced your take on the series?
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I chewed through the entire 100 issues of the original NEW MUTANTS series just to reacquaint myself with the material. I think the ideal New Mutants run—and I think a lot of people agree—is the Bill Sienkiewicz [drawn] stuff. There was something about his artwork that kind of pushed [New Mutants co-creator Chris] Claremont into some more emotional writing. It seemed like they kind of fed off each other and the tone of the book during that run—there's just something special about it, I like how dramatic it is, how emotional it is, and kind of how experimental it is at the same time.
Marvel.com: Jumping back to the present, at the end of X-INFERNUS we saw Illyana Rasputin, aka Magik, return to the X-Men—what type of role will she play in NEW MUTANTS? Will she be a permanent member of the team?
She'll definitely be a permanent member of the team, but we'll be playing a lot with Illyana's role and where she fits in because she's really a creature of two worlds at this point. Everything isn't gonna be hunky dory when you've spent half your life being raised by demons and basically living in Hell. But also, there's the fact that she's a time traveler, she's a teleporter, and so nothing that has to do with Illyana I think will ever normalize because she's gonna constantly be the wild card of the team. But
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at the same time, I really want to make sure that she's a part of the team at all times.
Marvel.com: And will you be directly picking up on any threads from X-INFERNUS?
Yeah. At first, we kind of meet an Illyana that's a little older and wiser than the one at the end of X-INFERNUS, but by the end of the third or fourth story arc that we have planned we'll see how all the X-INFERNUS stuff fits into [NEW MUTANTS].
Marvel.com: And speaking of blasts from the New Mutants' past, Legion's been revealed now as the villain of your first arc. What made you pick him for this story?
I think he's just a great character because of his background with the New Mutants and the fact that they've all had some fairly intense adventures with him. And in the overall tapestry of the X-universe, he's one of the big guns; he's one of the big threats. One of the things I really want to do with this book is to really make sure that I'm not throwing second-string threats at this team, because one of [my] main goals is to
show that they've graduated to their own X-Men team and that they're not the second-stringers anymore. So I thought that he would be a great character [for this opening arc] because of all the gut, personal reactions the team can have at seeing him as well as the fact that, right out of the gate, they're facing [a major] threat.
Marvel.com: In the future, then, will you continue to use villains from the New Mutants' past, or will you also be introducing some all new bad guys?
We've definitely got some all new ones, but even with the all new ones I'm trying to find ways to connect them to the characters' past. I think one of the strengths of this book is that these characters have such a rich past together, so I wanted to create new villains for them to fight, but I think you're doing a disservice to the fans and the characters if these threats aren't somehow commenting on the shared history these characters have together.
Marvel.com: You've said that Karma's really at the heart of this opening story. Do you plan on continuing with that model in future arcs, having one character act as a sort of focal point for the story alongside the regular team interactions?
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Yeah, I think so. I think that the story's going to dictate that, of course, but I do think that the storylines that we have coming up in the future usually dissect a certain nugget of [particular] characters that we want to get to. I think the second arc is going to deal with Amara and her past with Empath and so on. But at the same time every character is gonna get their due in every arc, for sure.
Marvel.com: While you're moving these characters and their relationships forward, as you've touched on already, they have a very rich shared history with each other. How do you juggle that past with the present in a book like this so that it's still accessible to a reader unfamiliar with these characters and their history?
I think that when you bring up stuff [from] the past, and you bring up a shared history, you've always gotta do it in the context of commenting on a character or in a conversation that the characters are having. You have to word it correctly so that people who don't have any idea what [the characters are] talking about will at least know, "oh, that's the kind of adventures that they had" or "obviously they're talking about something where they learned this about each other." [The series] is going to ride the line between being for the people that know and have read all 100 issues of the previous NEW MUTANTS series, but at the same time it's not going to be an encyclopedia of their adventures [where I] just throw out random facts.
Marvel.com: Since this is the first time you've written an ongoing series in a regular capacity, have you noticed your writing style change at all? Is it any different plotting out and writing individual story arcs in this series knowing that you'll be writing another one immediately following it?
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I have noticed that there's a lot more rewriting and restructuring going on than I'm used to in the past, because as you write one arc, all of a sudden ideas pop into your head for the second arc, and then when you start breaking that second arc you see more connections and more groundwork you can lay in the first one. So if there's any difference, it's that there's more [of] a constant state of flux. Even up to the [lettering stage] you can find little clues and little subtleties that you [can then] throw in there if you know where the story's going as a whole.
Marvel.com: So how far out have you planned this series? Earlier you referred to the third and fourth arcs—do you have a larger picture in mind for this series?
Definitely. The reality is [that] the market will dictate how much of this stuff gets to play out, but if the book goes for three years I know what I want to do with the book for the three years. Me and [editor] Nick Lowe have had conversations and we've definitely got a plan if the market allows us to do it.
Marvel.com: You've probably seen a lot of the art from Diogenes Neves by now—what do you feel he really brings to the book?
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I really like his clean lines and I think he's got a good design sense. There are a few parts in issue #1 especially where he really brings some good acting to the characters' faces, which I think is really important in a book like this. There's some stuff with Illyana especially that's really powerful.
Marvel.com: Wrapping up then, we've covered a wide range of topics so far, but is there anything else you'd like to mention about the series?
This first arc is all about getting the team back together. We've got to lay some groundwork, because I didn't want to just start this series with the New Mutants back together. I thought that would be a disservice to everything that these characters have done in the mean time, since the New Mutants broke up the first time. If you want to know how these characters get [back] together, this is the place to see that. This arc ends with a bang, and from then on forward it's just pretty much gonna be going full out.
New Mutants Week continues tomorrow as we focus on one of the team's original leaders, Cannonball!
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