By Marc Strom
Fresh off his stints on the thrice-weekly AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, artist Phil Jimenez will jump aboard ASTONISHING X-MEN, joining current writer Warren Ellis for a five-issue story arc beginning this fall.
Jimenez has previously drawn Marvel's Merry Mutants during Grant Morrison's run on NEW X-MEN, and the artist tells us he's always had a great deal of fondness for the characters and their world.
"The X-Men was the first mainstream super-hero comic book I ever collected," remembers Jimenez. "Its lead characters—Storm, Wolverine, even the Beast and Emma Frost—have been near and dear to my heart since I was a kid. I love these characters, I 'get' them, and I find drawing them is a huge pleasure and a real luxury for which I'm incredibly grateful."
Even though Jimenez hasn't drawn the team in a number of years, he had no difficulty getting reacquainted with the mutant heroes, even though a couple of differences exist between his current work and his previous run.
"I'm new to ASTONISHING, but I fell right back into the X-Men world once Warren developed the script," the artist relates. "I think the big difference so far is pace. My memory is that the last time I was working on X-Men, we were working at a very fast clip. My hope is that with enough lead time, we can get some really strong artwork to match Warren's awesome scripts. Also, the cast was slightly different in NEW X-MEN. With ASTONISHING, I get to play with characters I love drawing like Beast and Emma Frost, as well as Armor and Storm, my favorite Marvel character of all time, and that brings me joy every day.
"Most notably, I'm looking forward to showcasing the work of my inker Andy Lanning as well as the incredibly talented Frank D'Armata, who's lending his powerful coloring skills our work. I've had glorious colorists at Marvel, but Frank brings the art to a whole new level. I want him nominated for an Eisner already."
As for the characters' appearances, Jimenez explains that he'll give them his own unique style without altering their costumes in any significant way.
"My assistant editor, Daniel Ketchum, has been fielding costume questions from me for weeks," Jimenez confesses. "I'll make some slight modifications here and there, but mostly, I'd like to honor the work of the artists and designers that have come before me. The flourishes I'll add will be standard 'Phil Jimenez' flourishes in character more than costume. Look for a change in Armor's hair style, for example; lots of grandness from Storm—I love her as the regal goddess; Emma being icy and fabulous; Beast being as elegant and refined as he is ferocious in battle, etc."
On the scripting side of things, many artists have praised writer Warren Ellis' abilities, and Jimenez comes as no exception.
"Warren is, I kid you not, one of my two favorite writers to work with," the artist exudes. "I've only drawn for him twice, but each time the script felt like it was hand made just for me. It's divine. He wrote me something he knew I'd want to draw and get excited over. I appreciate that care far more than I can ever say. I always tell young writers, if you want to know how to write a comic script for artists, look at Warren's best scripts. For me, they're flawless. But talk about performance anxiety! He's done me right, now I want to return the favor, and I'm actually quite nervous about it!"
Jumping from Spider-Man's smaller, more personal corner of the Marvel Universe to the X-Men's might seem like a dramatic change in material, but for Jimenez that change allows him to travel back into a world and style that he greatly enjoys.
"For me, the fun of mainstream super hero comics is their 'bigness'—the sense of grand, epic adventure; the over top characters wearing costumes you'd only see on our Earth in a gay pride parade; the operatic nature the narrative; sweeping, bold, sometimes ridiculous, mostly impossible, but always dramatic," lists Jimenez. "The X-Men, for me, epitomizes what I love about these kinds of comics. The book works on multiple layers—social commentary; soap opera; giant summer blockbuster—and the cast is varied enough and international enough to keep me engaged on every page. I think my style reflects that.
"Spider-Man and his world seemed to me to be a very different animal. I actually came to love Spidey and Peter, as well as stalwarts like J Jonah Jameson and Betty Brant, but I missed the 'bigness' and the over-the-top adventure books like X-Men provide me. It's nice to play the big notes again!"
Jimenez reveals that, while he's looking forward to a number of elements working on ASTONISHING X-MEN, two in particular might stand out above the rest:
"Storm and Emma. Working with Warren Ellis. Storm and Emma. Working with Warren Ellis. Beyond that? Maybe drawing cameos of the New Mutants and Emma's original Hellions—hint, hint, Warren!"
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