X-Men ’92 was one of the breakout hits of Secret Wars. Written by duo Chris Sims and Chad Bowers, with art by Scott Koblish, the book brought back the energy from the most popular era of the series, the 90’s. On March 30th Marvel will be relaunching the series with Sims, Bowers, and rising star artist Alti Firmansyah. We here at Xavier Files had a chance to talk to the writers about the upcoming series that dives into the most X-Treme time for Marvel’s merry mutants.
Art by David Nakayama
XAVIER FILES: The early 90’s were the biggest years for the X-Men between the animated series and the incredibly successful relaunch. What from that era are you drawing from most?
CHRIS: One of the biggest things that we’re trying to do is create a world where the X-Men are as popular in the comic as they were in real life during that era. Like you said, this was a time when the X-Men were everywhere, from cartoons to video games to canned pasta, and we really liked the idea of telling a story where all of that stuff existed. So for us, in the ‘92niverse (I know, I know, but that’s what I’ve been calling it), the X-Men are these wildly popular superheroes that everyone knows about and most people love, even if they still hate all of these other mutants. It opens up some interesting possibilities, and it lets us build a world where the X-Men can be at the center of everything.
XAVIER FILES: What from that era resonates with you there most? Why is it so beloved and what are you doing to bring that to X-Men’92?
CHAD: Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, the animated series, and the Toy Biz action figures. I don’t think we’d be talking about the X-Men right now if you took any one of those things out of the equation. The X-Men were popular before, but they weren’t a household name. If you were into comics or were close to someone who was, you probably knew about Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, and Nightcrawler, or you’d at least heard of them. But Liefeld and Lee brought an excitement and energy to Marvel that I don’t think anyone had seen before. And then those toys hit, and later, when the cartoon premiered, the X-Men weren’t strictly a comic thing anymore. And that popularity outside of comics spilled back over, and led to the best artists and writers in the business working on the characters, and that was huge. It resonated throughout the entire industry. Several industries, in fact.
That said, the ongoing series isn’t about reproducing that in 2016, because that’s just impossible. What we’re trying to do is distill the best traits of an entire era – the art, the angst, the merchandising, the big crossovers – into a sort of cohesive, narrative that speaks to why we loved all of it back then, and why we still care about it today.
XAVIER FILES: A lot of the tropes comic fans associate with the industry in the 90’s came out of the X-Men line. What aspects of the X-Men need to stay in the 90’s? Do you think those aspects [characters, concepts, plots] can be redeemed?
CHRIS: Listen, if you only knew how many times I’d asked our editors to let us do a holofoil cover… Seriously though, I think that the excesses of the early ‘90s are definitely a part of the appeal to the franchise. For a lot of readers, especially readers our age, that was the era where they came to the X-Men, and I know that for me, that meant that those comics were almost overwhelming in how much they had in them. They were based on this long history from the Claremont years, and they were trying to build on that and do something new, and if you hadn’t been reading those comics all through that time, it was easy to get lost. I told Chad not too long ago that the one thing I remember more than anything else about that era was this feeling that there was so much going on that I’d never, ever be able to understand it all, and how that made the X-Men as a franchise seem both daunting and appealing to me. It always felt like there was something going on that I was never going to get to see.
Obviously, we don’t want to recreate that exact feeling in our book – the last thing we want to do is leave readers feeling like they’re missing out on the story – but I do think we’re approaching it with the idea that the X-Men need to be big to an almost overwhelming degree. There should be a ton of characters in there, people that maybe you’re not familiar with that are changing the story from behind the scenes. It’s hard to do that complexity without being overcomplicated, which I think is a hallmark of the era, but we’re definitely trying.
CHAD: So much of the 90s has been redeemed, though. Take Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Winter Soldier stuff for example. That’s the most 90s story ever, it just happens to have come out 20 years later. I think in the same way that guys like Roy Thomas, who grew up reading Lee and Kirby in the 60s, celebrated taking over The Avengers, Chris and I, and I’d wager a majority of our friends working in comics right now, feel the same way about the 90s X-Men, and Dan Ketch Ghost Rider, and Darkhawk. We love that stuff, and can’t believe we get to work on those characters. There’s a fondness for that era that guys maybe a few years older than us don’t have, which I get. Looking back, yeah, there’s a ton of excess, but I genuinely feel like some of the best storytellers of the modern age come out of it, and if you can get past the cover gimmicks, and polybags, trading cards, it’s like any other decade in comics, you’ve just got to find the good.
Art by Alti Firmansyah
XAVIER FILES: The animated series was one of the first to blend one-off episodes with season long arcs. What can readers expect from X-Men ’92? One and done adventures or long form epics?
CHRIS: Right now, we’re shooting for four-issue arcs that are broken up by one-shot stories that all building a big overarching story. That said, we’ve had so many ideas for side-trips and shorter stories. We’ve had conversations about what we’re going to do in the Annual, and I don’t even know if they’re going to let us have an annual!
CHAD: If we’re taking any cues from the show, it’s the willingness to adapt just about anything from the X-Men’s 50 year history, even when it means having to recast major roles and settings.
XAVIER FILES: Will readers be able to pick up #1 and understand everything or does the Secret Wars series lay the groundwork for your book?
CHRIS: It definitely follows from Secret Wars – we pick up right from the end of the miniseries, with the school open and a mention of Cassandra Nova causing trouble – but people could definitely start here. It’s a new story with a new set of villains and challenges. And of course, while the events of the Secret Wars story definitely happened to our characters, we’re certainly not on Battleworld anymore.
XAVIER FILES: The first series was an Infinite Comic and the new volume is a traditional book. How do you two approach writing this differently?
CHRIS: With the miniseries, we wrote “Marvel Style,” putting together a plot and then sending it to Scott Koblish to do the breakdowns and set the pacing, and then back to us for dialogue. All of those fun digital tricks that you saw if you read the Infinite Version came from Scott, and he was amazing to work with. For this one, we’re back to writing full scripts for Alti – and she’s amazing, too!
CHAD: Writing an ongoing series comes with its own set of rewards and challenges, too. I think we’re both looking forward to diving into some characters stuff that we didn’t have room to do in the mini-series. At the same time, now we have this big story we’re trying to tell over smaller arcs, and that’s not something we’ve done before, and surprise – it’s a lot harder than it looks!
Art by Alti Firmansyah
XAVIER FILES: The solicits for the book have shown a traditional line up of villains, Alpha Red, and Dracula as antagonists. Are you looking to tell more traditional X-Men stories or do what you did in Secret Wars and tell a story that that cartoon never could?
CHRIS: Our big philosophy for approaching this book is that we don’t want to do stories that you’ve seen before, because we can never be as good as your memories (or at least our memories) of reading those comics and seeing Omega Red or the Brood underneath New Orleans for the first time. So instead of just trying to cover the greatest hits, we’re trying to tell stories as though that era of X-Men comics never stopped. When we start, all of your favorite stories still happened – maybe not the way you remember them, though.
XAVIER FILES: Alti Firmansyah is illustrating X-Men ’92. What does a newer artist like Alti bring to the book?
CHAD: Even though we’re all pretty close to the same age, Alti didn’t grow up reading X-Men comics or watching the show like we did, so she approaches the X-Men a little differently and has a unique perspective on these characters that Chris and I, maybe sometimes, take for granted. Quite honestly, having her on the book is invigorating and downright refreshing, and seeing what she does with our scripts is the highlight of my day. Readers are going to absolutely love what she’s doing!
Art by Alti Firmansyah
XAVIER FILES: You two are also working with Rob Liefield on a graphic novel, Deadpool: Bad Blood, that looks to heavily feature the 90’s incarnation of X-Force. Does collaborating with one of the best know creators of the 90’s X-Men books impact how you write this book?
CHAD: We didn’t begin work on the Deadpool OGN until after we were basically finished with Secret Wars, and now I can’t help but wonder what the miniseries might’ve looked like if we’d been able to talk with Rob while we were writing it.
Rob’s great, and I don’t know if it’s possible to talk with him about comics without being influenced and inspired. He’s the most enthusiastic creator you’ll ever meet, and I genuinely feel like he’s probably the closest thing to Jack Kirby the modern age is likely to see.
But Deadpool: Bad Blood has way more in common with what’s going on now than it does with what happened 25 years ago. X-Force is in there, but only because our story spans the entirety of Deadpool’s life.
Art by Rob Liefield
XAVIER FILES: Maggott is a fan favorite of this blog and your guys gave him more screentime in ’92 than he has had in years. Any chance he or any of the Rej-X come over to the new volume?
CHRIS: I don’t think we’ve gotten Maggott in there yet, but we have to eventually, right?
CHAD: Chamber’s definitely a player in the ongoing. In more ways than one, actually. And we’ve got Artie running around. And look, I’ll say this, if Alti’s take on Artie doesn’t make him the most beloved bumpy headed little dude character in all of comics, well, that’s only because Teen Doop’s already won your heart!
XAVIER FILES: We want to thank Chris and Chad for taking their time to talk to us today. Remember to pick up X-Men ’92 #1 out on March 30th!
Chris Sims is a comic book writer and the world’s leading Batmanologist. He is the senior writer for Comics Alliance where he did an episode guide for the entirety of X-Men: The Animated Series. He co-hosts the podcasts War Rocket Ajax, Movie Fighters, and Sailor Business. You can find him on twitter @theisb.
Chad Bowers is a comics writer, and co-founder of the Action Age Comics initiative. He has reviewed comics for Multiversity Comics and co-hosts The Hour Cosmic podcast. You can find him on twitter @chadbowers.