The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Marvel Comics announces
new X-Men creative teams


January 18, 2001
By Franklin Harris

The conference call:

"What's that buzzing?"

"I think it's a cordless phone."

"Is someone on a portable phone?"

The buzzing noise gets louder.

"Whoever is on the portable phone please hang up!"

Silence.

"That's better..."

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

"Hey! Will whoever is on the cordless please hang up?!"

Click. The buzzing stops, and at last we get down to business.

At one end of the conference call is the press. There is the fan press -- guys and gals from Comics Buyers Guide, Wizard magazine and half a dozen Web sites. Then there are a few of us ink-stained wretches: me, the guy from The Washington Times and someone from a newspaper in New Jersey.

At the other end are the head honchos of Marvel Comics, newly installed Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada and President Bill Jemas, plus the new creative teams on Marvel's two most popular titles, "X-Men" and "Uncanny X-Men."

Drum roll, please.

And the new creative teams are, on "X-Men," Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, and on "Uncanny X-Men," Joe Casey and Ian Churchill.

Ta da.

No doubt about it. This isn't your dad's Marvel Comics.

"This certainly represents a departure in recent policy for us," Jemas says. "We've gone out of house and recruited sort of the best and brightest in the industry, people who have established themselves as independent creators, and put them, not just on middle-of-the-line books or new creative projects, but ... on our very top books."

And, for once, all the hype is true.

Morrison, recently departed from DC Comics' "JLA," has proven he knows how to write great superhero comics, especially team books, which he says he prefers. Casey, writer of "Wildcats," has had similar creative success, even if he hasn't matched Morrison's sales figures. Anyone who can make "Wildcats" readable has no small amount of talent.

The artists aren't slouches, either.

Quitely is fresh from a run as artist on "The Authority," probably the best superhero-team book around. Churchill, meanwhile, is the only good thing ever to come out of Rob Liefeld's inappropriately named Awesome Comics. While there, Churchill created and pencilled "The Coven."

It's out with the old and in with the new, and it comes not a moment too soon.

Granted, the X-Men titles are still Marvel's top sellers, but, in a shrinking market, they don't sell like they used to. When even the release of the X-Men movie last year doesn't help sales, you know something is wrong.

What has been wrong with "X-Men" and "Uncanny X-Men" for some time -- years, actually -- is unintelligible plots and too many characters, most pretty near useless.

In March and April, the two titles will take part on a four-part crossover called "Eve of Destruction," which will tie up dangling plot threads and clear the decks for the new creative teams, whose first issues will arrive on stands in May.

Nobody is talking about what we can expect that month, but Quesada drops one pretty big hint: "I will tell you this and this only about the story, because I've seen where Grant is going. In Grant's second issue, in one page, he will kill more mutants than probably ever in the history of Marvel Comics."

There are shouts of joy. So much for the unbiased news media. We want all those deadweight characters gone as much as the next fanboy. We read these comics, too, you know. And face it: There are now more mutant superheroes in the Marvel Universe than there are regular people. How can they be an oppressed minority when they have the numbers?

Yes, May should be an exciting month, at least for the X-titles that are still around.

Another part of improving the X-titles involves canceling the excess books. On the dead list are "Gambit," "Bishop," "X-Man," "Mutant X," "Generation X," and "X-Men: The Hidden Years."

Reportedly, John Byrne, writer and artist on "The Hidden Years," swore he would never work for Marvel again when he heard the company had canceled his book.

Considering the havoc Byrne wrought a while back on "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Incredible Hulk," I want that promise in writing.

Current "X-Men" and "Uncanny X-Men" scribe Chris Claremont will get a new book to play with, thus limiting the damage he can inflict.

The other surviving X-titles are getting new creative teams, too, including Howard Chaykin as writer of "Cable" and the bizarre team of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred on a revamped "X-Force."

Telephone difficulties aside, I can hear the enthusiasm from Quesada and his new creative teams. I'm sold. For the first time in years, I'll be reading X-titles on a regular basis.

It's a new day for Marvel Comics.

No static at all.

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