Last week, we were teased by Marvel with one simple word: Legacy. Sadly, it's NOT the sequel to a David Hasslehoff movie we were all hoping for, though it is something even better: a brand new take on X-Men Legacy, from writer Si Spurrier and artist Tan Eng Huat. And though the title is changing hands, and even leads - the lead is now on Professor Xavier's son Legion, in a post-Avengers vs. X-Men world that may - or may not - be without Xavier himself, it seems like the focus is the same... Namely, what the X-Men have left behind.
We chatted with Spurrier about all this, who else might be showing up, and a first look at the cover by Mike Del Mundo... Which deserves a little analyzing of its own. We'll leave it to you though, dear reader... Here's Spurrier:
MTV Geek: First off, correct me if I'm wrong, but this is your first, full fledged ongoing title for Marvel, after tackling a few minis, shorts, and one shots. What's it like getting given the keys to the castle, so to speak?
Si Spurrier: It's my first Marvel ongoing, yeah. It's stirred up this freaky cocktail of excitement, pride and sphincter-perforating terror. Like: I just totally wrote a scene set in the X-Mansion. So on the one hand I'm calling my dad to brag about it ("what's... what's an ex-mansion, son? Isn't that just rubble?"), and on the other I'm jibbering in a corner in case I described the X-curtains wrong or put the wrong X-kids in the wrong X-dorm with the wrong X-roomies, or whatever. (Pro tip: saying "X" a lot is fun.)
Seriously, the distinction between writing an ongoing and writing a serial is so profound I'd almost be tempted to call them completely different media: the mentalities needed to construct stories are completely distinct. (And mentality, as you'd imagine of a protagonist like Legion, is going to play a very central role.)
My background is in writing prose novels (weirdo junkie esoteric murderous bloodsoaked crime fun, bookfans), so to a degree the serial approach is always going to be the more intuitive for me: I like stories to have a definite (and definitive) ending. Buuuut what you quickly discover when you start thinking about something more longform is that you can kinda have your cake and eat it: you construct your tale in arcs and counterarcs, so the extraneous stuff – the other characters' stories, the themes and subtexts – can each be brought to a natural and satisfying conclusion while your main guy’s never-ending struggle goes smashing through it all like a white hot comet powered by kirby krackles and angst.
I say "never-ending", but of course you can't think like that: you've got to keep at the back of your brain the nebulous eventuality of something more final – whether it gets deployed in six months, five years, or never at all – so you know what you're heading towards and the sense of momentum can be embraced.
...of course, hahaha, *sob*, this story acknowledges, smiles at, then cheerfully ignores almost all of those practical concerns. That's because the nature of David's journey - the sheer brain-shattering nuts-out twisty weirdness we're going to be throwing at the poor guy in between the more "classic" threads of rompy explodo spandexery - blurs a lot of the conventional narrative practices. I don't want to go into it too far, but let's just say that David's tale has two very different but simultaneously-occuring strings - tangled, intertwined, but utterly alien to one another - so nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems.
Geek: So I'm getting that you're maybe a little excited? The title has gone through many, many iterations, both with Mike Carey, and Christos Gage, but there's always been one real constant: that Legacy aspect of mining the X-Men's past for villains, threats, and even relationships... What's your take on the title, then? What's the MO for the new book?
SS: I'd go so far as to say the title's historically had a second constant too: a certain focusing of perspective; an earnestness and personality-led truth which comes from experiencing things through the eyes of a single character rather than bouncing between all the members of a team. It’s a more direct narrative POV, essentially. In the past the title has been principally preoccupied with Xavier, then Magneto, then Rogue... Now it's David's turn. The whole point of doing things this way is that we get a really unique perspective on the Marvel Universe in general and its mutanty side in particular. I tend to think things take on a richer, more truthful flavour when they're being processed through a character's direct filter, and it opens the door (or in David's case, ha, doors) to a lot of interesting new stories.
...all of which is a slightly wanky and pompous way of saying this title's a headstrong little bastard and it doesn't always like to be team player. Think of Legacy as the black sheep of the X-family.
As for the vibe you identifed – the (literal) legacy of the x-verse – yeah, that's still hugely important. We're going to be bumping into a lot of surprising but familiar faces and concepts along the way. Part of my original pitch was to treat one half of David's tale as if it were a homage to Claremont-era X-Men, then juxtapose and strike sparks off it with the other half. Which I can’t really talk about at all.
Geek: How about Legion? This is a character that could be almost anything, so how do you - as a writer - focus on his personality. Does he even have one, core, personality?
SS: Good question. Does he have a core personality? Yeah, definitely. It’s debatable whether that’s something which has historically always been the case – he’s passed through so many writers’ hands and been characterised with so many different psychic flavours – that I’m not sure it’d be possible to really say “this is what he’s always been like”. But there are clues in the mix, and recurring themes, so this title is really our opportunity to coalesce everything and say “this is the definitive David Haller.”
I hesitate to say too much about him because part of the journey we’ll be taking is about meeting this amazing guy properly for the first time. But there are a few obvious notes you’d expect to see: he’s haunted by the trouble he’s inadvertently caused in the past, he’s shaped to a certain extent by his relationship with his father, and he’s constantly anxious about his own mind. He’s got a fascinating setup: he’s one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe but he can’t trust his own brain. That’s a fantastic, and often spooky, tension.
I’ve made a few other stylistic choices too, because all too often David’s been treated as a Walking Plot Point rather than a fleshed-out character – it’s vital to reverse that trend. People tend to forget he grew up on Muir Island, so I’m instilling him with a faintly British – even slightly Scottish – accent. It lends itself well to sarcastic sniping, and I’m finding that as I get to know David he’s kinda characterised by a rich vein of black gallows humour. He’s seen so much tragedy and trauma, but he’s witty and sharp and able to force a sad smile in any situation. One snarky sod, basically – although underneath it all he’s the same frightened kid, scared of himself, as ever.
Above all he’s a good guy. He wants to help – to matter – to make the world a better place. It’s just that he’s completely conflicted, not to mention constantly facing violent opposition, whenever he tries to figure out how to go about it.
Geek: Here's something you won't be able to talk about! There certainly seems to be the suggestion of... Something... Happening to Professor X at the end of AVX. Without getting too into spoilers, how does this event - or events - affect Legion?
SS: Profoundly. Heh. And you’re right – I can’t talk about it.
Geek: Let's try this then: Legion's following in his father's footsteps, and Xavier is another character who has gone through many, many iterations. So when we kick off in issue one, what's Xavier's - sorry for the terrible pun - legacy?
SS: Forgive me – I again have to be a bit circumspect about answering that. David’s identity in this story is so bound-up in that of his father (actually, that’s not true unless we add the caveat “to begin with”) that it’d just be giving too much away to wax lyrical. Let’s simply say that if your father is treated by people like some living saint, that’s going to rub off on you in a host of different ways. Some positive – pride, aspiration, moral certainty – but some far less healthy.
So, yeah: part of David is naturally keen on serving his father’s legacy; trying to emerge from this almighty shadow, imprinting his own name on the world. But one of the interesting things which we’re going to slowly see is our guy realising he doesn’t completely agree with his father’s goals after all – or at least with the way Xavier has historically pursued them.
Geek: As we follow Legion, is this him, Incredible Hulk Lonely Man style wandering the world looking for his place? Or is there more of a mission?
SS: Let’s be honest: David is one seriously f**ked-up kid. He’s spent huge amounts of his life in an induced coma because, historically, whenever he’s on his feet and wandering around he tends to make the entire planet crap itself. (That’s right, carnagefans, we’re bringing you an ongoing series about a living, breathing, mutant WMD.)
So, what’s his goal? There’s obviously a redemptive arc in there, to cover all the horrible collateral damage he’s caused during his messy life. More importantly, there’s the practical consideration of how he can function in the real world without accidentally tearing the universe a new shithole. Again, I can’t say too much about that, but I think we’ve found a way to turn David’s personal torment into a dynamic, intense, relatable struggle.
But above all there’s the shifting, evolving way in which David chooses to attack his own future. This goes back to what I was saying before about the challenges and joys of writing longform comics. If you do it right – assembling stories in staggered fractals with their own outcomes and standalone stakes – then you can avoid the dangerous pitfalls of imposing a restrictive status quo on a brilliant character. David learns, grows, makes mistakes, changes. And as he changes his aims change with him. Sometimes he’ll get what he wants (though of course there’ll always be a next step waiting to be taken); sometimes he’ll stumble and fall; sometimes the journey towards a goal will teach him that it’s been the wrong goal along. The whole thing is gloriously organic. The most you can say about David’s S.Q. (ahhh, comics parlance) is that he’s a supremely powerful mutant looking for a way to validate himself, whose brain is often his worst enemy.
…but that’s a slightly soulless and analytical way of putting it, so instead let’s say STUFF GOES KABOOM ALL ROUND THE WORLD. And let me reassure you that he very swiftly works out what he wants – or, rather, what he thinks he wants – so there’s no aimless bumbling to get in the way.
Geek: How about a team? Are we going to see other characters gathering around Legion as we go? Other than, you know, the other characters in his head.
SS: Another good question, and another answer I have to cautiously fudge. Actually, no – sod it – I think I’m probably allowed to say: this isn’t a “team book”. At least, not in the conventional sense -- and to start with not at all. Whiiiiiich isn’t to say we won’t have appearances by big, recognisable characters in every episode, because we will. David’s story is very much a part of the X-Universe’s own developing yarn – it’s simply that he’s not going to be wearing a brightly coloured supersuit and having team-up banter. In fact, he’s very aware from the getgo that in a certain light the X-Men are kinda obliged to regard him as a villain.
Where does he stand in the X-Canon? He’s the flaw in the diamond, if you like. The exception that proves the rule. This whole thing is about providing us with a very different perspective on Charles Xavier’s good ole’ superteam(s), in a way which feels natural and empathetic and honest. There are going to be many, many occasions when David encounters – and even spends considerable time alongside – well known X-universe (and wider Marvel Universe) characters. Whether he does so as an ally or an enemy is something that’ll change according to circumstances. But you can’t ever escape the obvious: this kid just doesn’t really fit among the rest of them.
Which is a wonderful thing to tell stories about.
Geek: Thinking back to the beginning of the title, the focus was very much on Professor X and Magneto. With Legion stepping into Xavier's shoes, does he have an opposite? Is there a Magneto to Legion's Xavier?
SS: Yes. Yes, there is. But I can’t say who it is. Or what it is. Or where it is, or where it comes from. But it’s… yeah. It’s pretty nasty. And you won’t see it coming.
Geek: Last, what can you tease? What's coming up that you can get fans psyched about?
SS: Psychic insanity! Telepathic parasites! Golden Age characters! Multi-dimensional prison! Kirby krackles! Romance! Murder most foul! Parental Trauma! Classic villains! New villains! Sex! Drugs! Memetically altered rock music! Wraparound weirdness! Aliens! A bloody enormous crow! EVERYTHING EXPLODES!
And, because one can never be too icky about self-promotion, let the record state that I spend 99% of my time tweeting nonsense as @sispsurrier and will be talking process, teasing details and twitching curtains aside from behind-the-scenes from Legacy’s get go.
X-Men Legacy #1 & #2 are coming this Fall from Marvel Comics!