AlphaFlight.net is proud to present an interview with it's writer Simon Spurrier.
(Please note: This interview was conducted in October 2011 before the release of the seralised #1)
AF.net: - Simon, firstly thanks for agreeing to the interview.
Absolutely my pleasure.
You've been gaining quite a few writing gigs within Marvel lately which a lot of our readers may identify you with, but you first started writing comics over at 2000AD, back in 2001 if I'm correct. How did you decide to get into the comics industry?
Almost by accident. I didn’t read my first comic – notwithstanding kiddie stuff, or my beloved Calvin and Hobbes – until I was about 16. 2000AD was an eye-opener straight away, and I instantly fell in love with the medium. I’d been a bit of a wannabe author since my annoyingly precocious childhood, but it had simply never occurred to me that there was such a job as “comic book writer”. I fancied a crack at that,
and started pitching stories. It took me three years to shake-off the usual “I’m better than everyone” teenage nonsense and actually start paying attention to the editor’s feedback – and also to ditch the mistaken belief that there’s anything simple or easy about writing comics – and that’s when I finally started getting work.
Having written for the screen, prose novels, comics and now web-comics for Avatar Press what do you think it is about the comics medium that still has relevance and works today?
There’s no reason it shouldn’t have relevance. It’s as viable a means of telling stories as any other – novels, movies, videogames. In fact I could rant for hours about the many ways in which comics are a far more sophisticated and elegant narrative tool than a lot of other media, given the right story… but of course I’d be preaching to the converted.
As far as I’m concerned genres and sub-genres may come and go at the whim of the zeitgeist – and quite rightly too, if they’ve outstayed their welcome in the spotlight – but as soon as we all start to worry that comics in general are no longer significant we’re guilty of misunderstanding the potential of an entire storytelling form. Or, more likely, we’re guilty of confusing the relevance of a medium with the relative
trendiness or tiredness of the genres that fall within it.
Are comics being read less than in some previous decades? Yeah. Is that because comics can’t compete with novels/movies/video-games etc? No. It’s because the sorts of stories comics are telling aren’t always as appealing to the massmind as they once were, and so the massmind has forgotten what a clever, adaptive, expressive format comics are.
In my utopian world, if a person wanted to experience a crime story (or horror, or comedy, or romance, or superhero, or whatever), they’d walk into a store, find the relevant section, and then browse through movies, novels, comics, games – all displayed side-by-side. I believe every story has its perfect medium – this tale wants to be a movie; that tale could only ever be a comic, etc – and in my perfect world it’s the tale that matters, not the form.
That’s a ludicrously optimistic world, of course, but frankly the advent of digitisation – the ability to watch films, read books and enjoy comics, all via one gadget – makes it a lot realer than it’s ever been before.
I’m ranting. Consider a nerve accurately hit, there.
Are there any existing comic characters or franchises that you'd really like to take a stab at?
Yeah, loads. As much as I love the Big Superheroes – I get a kick out of every book I see with my name under the “Marvel” logo – I tend to be drawn towards the weirdo stuff: the guys and gals whose agenda isn’t always clear cut, and whose motivating motto isn’t always as simple as “Find Crime, Fight Crime.”
I like antiheroes, I like spooky stuff, I like Kirby-krackling sci-fi, I like crime. Gimme your Dr Stranges, your Ghost Riders, your Silver Surfers and your Blades. Preferably all at once. And possibly while fighting Elder Gods on the psychedelic lip of a sentient Black Hole.
Your current Marvel project sees you take control of the X-Club (the Science team formed within the X-Men consisting of Dr Nemesis, Kavita Rao, Madison Jeffries & by association; Danger), a team that you've already written a few times now(In the one-shots Blind Science, Smoke & Blood and the one-pager in the Origins of Marvel Comics: X-Men). How did the mini come about? Was it something you were approached to write because of your association with the team, or a story you wanted to tell and pitched?
The latter. I fell in love with the characters during the one-shots, and couldn’t stop my brain gurgling away at the possibility of something bigger. My editor Daniel Ketchum has always been keen, so it was just a case of pitching the right story at the right time.
When Regenesis reared its head I figured a way of tying it all together, and kaboom – we were off.
Having read the solicitations released so far and a few interviews with you about the storyline it strikes me as a really intriguing concept; The Marvel Universe has always had its geniuses, but as our science fiction moves closer to becoming science fact applying this fictional team to solving the read-world idea of a space elevator
definitely makes a lot of sense. What motivated you to bring this aspect to the book?
Hello. My name is Simon Spurrier and I’m a scienceaholic. I’ve now been experiment-free for four weeks, and—
Seriously, it was just too good an opportunity to miss. The space elevator is just one of the many concepts you’ll find in the X-Club serial which are united in being aaaaaaalmost accessible to us mundane mortals in the real world, but not quite. The brilliance of the Marvel Universe is that we’ve got all these guys running around with amazing abilities who – if correctly deployed – can give us the leg-up we need to explore these astonishing ideas we can’t quite reach ourselves.
The space elevator is the crudest example of the whole thing. In the real world we don’t quite have the technology to build a strong enough umbilical tether, or shield it from radiation, or launch the counterweight platform, etc. But in the Marvel U? You’ve got polymath geniuses like Nemesis who can intuit new solutions, you’ve got tech-manipulating savants like Jeffries to build it all, and you’ve got impossible powerful ex-villains like Magneto to heft the whole thing into orbit.
Honestly, anyone with even a passing interest in science will know that we live amidst a conceptual swamp of brain-meltingly insane truths and mysteries. Every time we make a breakthrough we explode a billion new questions. Ours is a universe where – just to give you one example – two particles can be “entangled” so that by manipulating one, the other mirrors its behaviour instantly… even if they’re separated by massive distances. And nobody knows exactly why. Even Einstein, everyone’s brainiac of choice, called it “spooky action at distance”.
Some people act like Science is this boring force which comes along and steals all the magic and mystery from the world, and yet here we have one of the greatest intellects of the recent past describing things as “spooky”…?
Science is brilliant.
…of course, it’s worth mentioning, just in case I’m scaring people off with my geekgasm, that the X-Club serial isn’t about science per se. It’s about a bunch of brilliant, deep, fascinating and dysfunctional characters who set out to explore the bleeding edge of biology, technology and weirdology, and then have to scrabble about like maniacs when it all goes horribly wrong.
Doctor Nemesis seems to be a character that although only relatively recently introduced to the X-verse seems to be a lot of fun for writers to play with and one that you definitely seem to have a handle on. What do you think it is about the character that people like?
Ha… he’s great, isn’t he?
I think a lot of people respond really well to that sort of arch, pissy, snarky character on a purely surface level: his grumpy spleen is always a pleasure to read, though you probably wouldn’t want to spend much time round the real version. If you’ll forgive the stereotyping, it’s a personality-set that I think appeals particularly to the Brit inside me: we tea-quaffers can’t help but get a guilty stiffy at the thought of that much distilled sarcasm and wit. That said, it’s almost too easy to think that’s all there is to the guy: a genius so comfortable with his own brilliance that he doesn’t suffer fools easily and, worse, assumes everyone he meets is a fool.
My take on Nem is that he’s desperately proud of his team and his place in the mutant community, and he’d do anything to protect the people around him. He cares deeply for mutantkind in general and his crew in particular. He’d simply never dream of telling them so.
To me he’s the perfect combination of brilliance, bastardliness, and – bizarrely – charm.
Being an Alpha Flight website, the character most of our readers will know about is Madison Jeffries – one that's changed quite a bit from his days in Alpha Flight. What would you say defines Jeffries' current mental situation and the way he chooses to isolate himself from the world and his former friends?
I have to be a bit careful here, because one of the major threads in this serial is about precisely that. What’s really going on in the guy’s head…?
I’ll say simply this: readers can’t have helped noticing Jeffries becoming more and more distant over recent years. It’s as if his particular gift – an intuitive affinity with technology – has started to rob him of his humanity. In X-Club we’re going to find out a bit more about that, and bring it to a very clear conclusion.
Given the recent events of Schism what is it that you think motivates Jeffries to stay on Utopia rather than pack up and leave?
The answer to that is broadly the same for all the members of the X-Club. They each have their own set of preoccupations and agendas which – to them – absolve them of any need to get involved in the “party politics” of the X-Men.
Kavita sees herself as a guardian of mutantkind in general, not of factions within it. Nemesis is the same – all he cares about is protecting his people – and Utopia’s facilities offer the best hopes of doing so (although he’d probably disguise his own honourable intentions by sneering about the pettiness of schoolyard squabbles).
Danger is very much a part of Cyclops’s “vision” for the Utopia X-Men, but her stated interest – the incarceration and rehabilitation of villains – keeps her on Utopia as much as anything else.
To a certain extend Jeffries is the odd one out. His suite of abilities makes him – and I truly believe this – one of the most powerful mutants on the planet, but his state of mind is a problem. It’s not so much that he sees himself as “above” the schism… rather that he has bigger problems of his own. As I said above, we’re going to be exploring that in this serial.
Since his introduction into the X-verse Jeffries has pretty much stuck to the tinkerer aspect of his character but over in Mike Carey's Age of X we saw him suit up in his Box armour which pleased a lot of fans, due to Jeffries habit of getting knocked out a lot over the last few years. Will we get a chance to see Jeffries use his powers pro-actively for combat over the course of the mini-series at all?
Yes. Eventually. And not in the way you might think.
Something that a few eagle-eyed readers picked up on was the cameo of Jeffries and his brother Lionel over in #1 of Age of X: Universe, a character that not a lot of people have ever heard of. Did you ever read any of the original Alpha Flight run involving him, or was this a case of really good research?
Sorry to say, the latter. I did my homework on Jeffries back when I did my first X- Club one-shot – including digging up some pages from the AF run – so I knew all about his flesh-manipulating bro. I figured they’d jointly make a really fun tag-team in the creepy alternate-world of Age of X, particularly as an Iron Man enemy. They ended-up fusing poor Mr Starks’ body into the metal of his suit, making him a sort of walking cyber-zombie. “The Iron Corpse”. Y’see? FUN WITH SCIENCE.
On art duties for the mini-series is Paul Davidson, an artist that you've already worked with on the Blind Science one-shot and a few other projects. What does Paul bring to the book?
Paul’s got a great eye for character. He’s one of those rare artists who can dramatize expressions and figures in a way which – in less capable hands – would look exaggerated or cartoony, but which he can render to be just as dramatic, serious or iconic as the scene demands. My sound-bite of choice at the moment, in describing Paul’s skill, is that he can “reconcile the epic with the intimate”. Given we’re telling a story about four complex characters in the context of reality-shaking global science, that’s exactly what’s needed.
You gained a lot of respect from Alpha Flight fans for your Aurora story in Dark X-Men: The Beginning #3 (also drawn by Paul Davidson) wherein you dealt with her multiple personalities in a fresh and unique way. How did you come up with the concept of essentially using her personalities as weapons to choose from, in an almost Mission:Impossible team-selection way? Had you done much research into MPD?
A little bit of research, yeah, though it’s worth saying the MPD we see in movies and comics – including the way I approached it – is a lot “neater”, a lot more exciting, and a lot less psychologically harrowing than the real world version.
Regarding the Aurora story, I just approached it from the direction of not going down the obvious path. She’s a mutant with an incredibly powerful skillset – we all know that – so what story can we tell which shows-off her other facets, in a way which still makes her look smart and capable? In that light, getting her to use her own malady as a weapon to escape Norman Osborne was a fun solution.
Before we finish, is there anything you'd like to say to anyone that's still on the fence about picking up X-Club #1?
Miss it and you’ll be missing the following: Magneto’s grand moment! The most embarrassing day of Cyclops’s life! A sinister new enemy assaulting the X-Men from within! The weirdest cliffhanger in history! Aaaand the chance to see Kavita Rao putting seagull poop to a use for which it was never intended.
And then in episode two Doctor Nemesis gets chemically bonded to a starfish.
Simon, it's been a pleasure, thank you once again.
Simon can be found online at:
X-Men: X-Club is released to Comic Stores on June 20th.
X-MEN: X-CLUB TPB
Written by SIMON SPURRIER
Penciled by PAUL DAVIDSON
Cover by NICK BRADSHAW
“WE DO SCIENCE!” In the wake of SCHISM, the members of the X-Men’s Science Team take it upon themselves to make a gesture of goodwill on behalf of mutantkind and better the world — using SCIENCE. But just as construction of the X-Club’s state-of-the-art space elevator nears completion, chaos erupts! And it appears to the world that mutants are to blame. Can Dr. Nemesis, Madison Jeffries, Kavita Rao and Danger clear the X-Men’s name before their experiment backfires? Don’t miss the story that will surely change how you look at the X-Men and the Periodic Table of Elements FOREVER! Collecting X-CLUB #1-5.
120 PGS./Rated T+ ...$16.99
To celebrate the release of the TPB we have a copy of the first single issue of X-Club, signed by Simon, along with an original Paul Davidson sketch of Danger to give away to one lucky reader, wherever they are in the world!
To enter, all you have to do is add a comment in the section below this interview - It's as simple as that!!!
One commenter will be chosen at random on July 20th 2012 and offered the prizes.