On July 19th, “Astonishing X-Men” launches from Marvel. This series is quite different than the “X-Men: Blue” and “X-Men: Gold” books that are currently out, going for a larger scale and a unique creative approach. Each issue, writer Charles Soule will be joined by a different superstar artist – folks like Carlos Pacheco, Mike Deodato Jr., and Ed McGuinness – to tell this huge X-story in a unique way. The series will launch under the inimitable pencil of Jim Cheung, and we are thrilled to share an exclusive first look at his interior pages for “Astonishing X-Men” #1. In addition to that preview, we were able to have quick chats with writer Soule and series editor Mark Paniccia about how the series came about. Final order cut off is June 26th, so make sure you pre-order the book at your local comic shop, and keep reading below for the preview and interviews!
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Jim Cheung
ONLY THE X-MEN CAN SAVE US! An ancient evil is attacking the world’s most powerful minds. It will have them by the time you finish this sentence, and a moment later, it will have us all. A band of X-MEN discovers the truth behind the threat, but there is no time left. PSYLOCKE, OLD MAN LOGAN, BISHOP, ARCHANGEL, FANTOMEX, ROGUE and GAMBIT will attempt to save a world that hates and fears them. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE THE X-MEN. From blockbuster writer CHARLES SOULE and joined by a roster of superstar artists beginning with JIM CHEUNG. ASTONISHING X-MEN. It’s the X-book you need.
“Astonishing X-Men” #1 launches very soon. It has an eclectic mix of X-Men characters. Can you talk about this mix of characters and what we can expect from them?
Charles Soule: Well, each character in the cast is very distinct, I’d say. They all have dark sides, and they all have history with each other. The book will use that history in a very particular way, almost as weapons. I know I’m being a little vague here – let me start over. Psylocke, Old Man Logan, Mystique, the rest… they’re all icons in their own way, each with huge moments and influential storylines from X history. I’m writing them that way – larger than life, but of it, too. They’re all sort of conscious of their role in the history of the world, the X universe and the Marvel universe – not in a meta way, but literally. They’re old soldiers, and they know it.
The current X-Men books are really varied and the characters are spread out in very different ways. Some of these characters (like Old Man Logan) are already involved in other team books. Could you talk a bit about how this series fits into the current landscape of the X-Men titles?
CS: “Astonishing” doesn’t contradict anything else (as far as I know), but it’s also somewhat in its own basket as far as the storytelling. The story’s enormous, both within the world of the book and its implications for the X universe (“Astonishing” will “count,” in a big way), but it also happens extremely fast. Once Issue 1, page 1, hits, it’s go go go – no rest for the X.
What will make “Astonishing X-Men” stand out?
CS: The tone feels different to me. This book is designed from the ground up to tell a very particular story. I know exactly where it’s going and why, and everything we see in the book serves that story. So, maybe it’s a little leaner, a little meaner? Or maybe a lot leaner and meaner. I’m not playing it safe with the cast, that’s for sure. I’m known in the X universe as something of a contract killer (after Wolverine, Cyclops, Madrox, etc. that’s probably at least a bit fair to say.) I love the X-Men, but I don’t think you can treat them with kid gloves, either – and this book holds to that principle 100%.
You’re working with a lot of artists on this book. Can you talk about any challenges and rewards with working with so many artists on one series?Continued below
CS: Every issue is drawn by one of the very best in the business. Not that all the X books aren’t like that, but this one in particular – just to start off with Jim Cheung on interiors is a huge treat. And then to move from that to Mike Deodato Jr… and Ed McGuinness… and so on. It’s fantastic. It’s reassuring to know that whatever the story needs will be beautifully executed on the page. That said, my recap page at the start of every script is getting longer, as I explain to each new artist what’s happened previously and what they might need to know. That’s not such a bad thing, though – it keeps me on track too. Man, this is a pretty book.
Mark, there are a bunch of X-books on the market, with different teams, different tones, and different purposes. How would you describe your goals for “Astonishing X-Men?”
Mark Paniccia: Yes, each book has its own voice, characters and stories to tell. We’ve literally got something for everyone. We’d been wanting to publish the “Astonishing” title for a long time–cut to Charles and a pitch he had for an X-Men story that was so rich with big ideas and concepts that it was hard to turn down. But where could it be told? We already had two flagship books–“Blue” and “Gold”–up and running. And Charles had some BIG things that happen and effect the X-Men universe. So “Astonishing” was born. It gives you a finite story with big reveals, takes you to almost every corner of the X-Men world and is drawn by some of the best artists in the industry.
The process of editing is something that a lot of fans don’t know a lot about. Walk us through your role in the creation of this book – were you involved with helping to find the talent on the book? What do your responsibilities look like on a month to month basis?
MP: We workshopped some of the elements of pitch with Charles, things that allowed him to use certain characters and give the reader more bang for their buck. He had originally pitched this as a limited but it had the potential to be a maxi-series. Once we got the beats down we looked at staffing this on the art end. Who would be best for each issue and who was available. It’s challenging to create a schedule for 12 different artists, to figure out where they will have time to break from their prior commitments or before they start a new project. So there is a lot of tracking and checking in and coordinating involved. But we’re working with such great artists that it’s a lot of fun too.
How does the X-office work, in terms of what characters are available for what series? Are there turf wars over who gets Nightcrawler?
MP: This is one of the hardest parts of the gig, keeping track of all the characters. We share scripts with the writers and we have a chart but the X-world is very big and we just do our best at sharing.
What’s the one or two sentence description for this book – why is this the X-book people should be picking up?
MP: It’s big in scope and scale and will impact the world of X in a way no one is expecting. And it’s drawn by a murderer’s row of great comic artists.
Complete this sentence: By issue #10, the series will have changed in this key way:
MP: We’ll be out of the Astral Plane but not out of danger and there will be an exciting new player in the game.
To end on a lighthearted note, one of our former contributors was, hands down, the biggest Maggot fan in the world. Is there any chance we’ll get a Maggot appearance anytime soon? I know one dude in Las Vegas who would lose his mind if that happened!
MP: No Maggot in the near future. Sorry.