Tuesday Q&A: Kieron Gillen

Tuesday Q&A: Kieron Gillen

By Jim Beard

With such Marvel series as UNCANNY X-MEN and JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY humming right along under his watchful eye, writer Kieron Gillen looks forward to expanding the X-Universe as part of the Avengers Vs. X-Men event. His experience working with characters like Thor and the X-Men should serve him well when he plans out the fantastic fights at the heart of AvX.

We checked in with Gillen about what’s ahead for the Children of the Atom as the war comes to Utopia, how Spider-Man will face a Juggernaut like never before in AVX: VS, plus much more.

AVX: VS #2 inked preview art by Salvador Larroca

Marvel.com: Kieron, in general, what is it like for you as a writer to be part of a sprawling event like AvX? What do you do to make it the very best experience for the reader it can be?

Kieron Gillen: The Marvel events are enormous landmarks in the topography of the Marvel Universe. With my UNCANNY X-MEN run, I've been building towards [Avengers Vs. X-Men] for as long as I've been doing the book. I've been making a situation where a confrontation between Avengers and X-men isn't just logic, it's kinda necessary. So, when I'm taking part of the event, this is basically lighting all the fuses to the fireworks I've been laying down, and sitting back and hoping everyone goes "cool!" at the explosions in the sky.

Marvel.com: Has being the flagship X-writer shaped your role on the AvX design team? And how would you quantify the interface between you and the team?

Kieron Gillen: I'm one of the guys at the big summit, so throw my collection of tuppence there, but after that, it's looking at the larger structure of the piece and working out what are the most satisfactory ways to dovetail with the main narrative while also including all the main elements of the story so people who are just following UNCANNY X-MEN can follow what's going on. I look at AvX and work out what's specifically important to UNCANNY X-MEN, what's important to mutantkind and what's the best way to get as much drama from the interface between the two.

Which is actually relatively easy. This is enormously important stuff for mutantkind. It's actually about picking where I want to focus.

AVX: VS #2 inked preview art by Salvador Larroca

Marvel.com: Spider-Man vs Colossus in AvX VS #2—you picked that fight to tackle. What's the history there between them? What threads do you pick up to leap into this tussle?

Kieron Gillen: The twist is really the opposite of that. There's not an enormous amount of personal history between the pair. The history is between Spider-Man and Juggernaut, whose powers Colossus has borrowed. So the story's emotional aspects are really about playing with that resonance. And "playing" is probably the word. I do a Colossus/Red Hulk brawl in UNCANNY X-MEN #11, which is dark, serious, character-motivated stuff. The VS [book is], as the preview art perhaps [tells], all about the spectacle of super beings going for each other.

Why did I pick it? Well, editor Nick Lowe called me up and asked if I'd be interested in writing it. And because I never wrote Spider-Man, I figured it could be fun to do. And it was. I immediately descended to walking around the house, improvising really bad Parker-esque wise-cracks.

Marvel.com: The bout will be your first work with Salvador Larroca on art; what's the experience been like so far there with him?

Kieron Gillen: It's been a delight. He's drawing it in a style pretty much divorced from what people are now used to seeing over in [INVINCIBLE IRON MAN], and he's just created a real spectacle. It really couldn't have been easier. I've written a script full of difficult things to draw. Salvador draws it, seemingly effortlessly. I hail him! I hail him with all my power!

Marvel.com: What are the advantages and disadvantages for Peter and Piotr in the fight? Does either have the upper hand?

AVX: VS #2 cover by Salvador Larroca

And does Piotr's deal with Cyttorak and the ongoing issues you've played with in UNCANNY figure into this at all?

Kieron Gillen: Peter actually talks about this mid-fight, in terms of the traditional axis. It's a "What happens is I tire myself out punching you eight million of times, you get angry trying to hit me eight million times and never connecting and then I drop you into a concrete vat" situation. That's how Juggernaut fights go. The difference is Piotr. He's not exactly a superbrain, but he's a damn sight smarter than Cain Marko. That nudges a traditional Spider-Man advantage away.

But the key thing about the Juggernaut/Spidey fight is always that Spidey's out of his league in terms of physical power. Juggernaut is unstoppable. However Spidey doesn't ever give up. That's always been Parker's biggest super power, and that's right at the heart of it.
And, yes, in a small way Piotr dealing with the power of Cyttorak is certainly there. Piotr basically thinks he's going to kill Spider-Man, and his conscious mind doesn't want to do that. But the thing that lurks inside him would love to paint all Latveria red with Parker's blood...

Marvel.com: So, how might this particular 'versus' roll into other aspects of the AvX event or even into other Marvel titles? What are the ramifications?

Kieron Gillen: It's funny. I actually said that these are absolutely about the joy of super heroic combat, but it's something, in retrospect, people will realize is foreshadowing some pretty important stuff later in AvX proper. I won't say any more, but it's surprising.

Uncanny X-Men #11 preview art by Greg Land

Marvel.com: Well then how will AvX then play into UNCANNY X-MEN? Which X-Men and Avengers characters will be woven into the title and what will it do to the status quo therein?

Kieron Gillen: Basically, UNCANNY focuses in hard on the mutant-centric Utopia-focused side. While the core book will be about both Avengers and X-Men, mine is primarily interested in what this means to mutantkind, both now, and looking towards whatever comes next. The Avengers are antagonists in my book. I'm interested in them as enemies. I shamelessly don't give them a fair shake. I get inside my characters’ heads. I write some secret history. I look at how the events of AvX shake up the already volatile internal politics of the Extinction Team.

I mean, you want some examples? For the former, you ever wondered why Namor's on the mutants' side? I do that in issue #11. For the middle aspect, the mystery of the Lights has been a bubbling plot for the mutants’ corner of the universe. I deal with it in #13. And for the latter...well, for that you'll have to wait. Thinking about it, there is an exception to the "X-Men over Avengers" focus I mentioned above. That's issue #12, where I go to Tabula Rasa. It's ended up as something tonally separate to the vast majority of my X-Men run. Its primary focus is on Namor and The Thing, and it's something of a diversion from my relatively serious approach. I mean, it's still high stakes, but I think people will laugh a lot. It’s a return to the scene of Namor/Tapeworm Queen intimacy, after all.

Oh, I also throw some villains into the mix. Sinister returns in an enormous way. And, from his perspective, AvX is basically called "Mister Sinister presents...Avengers Vs. X-Men." In fact, from Sinister's perspective, it's "Mister Sinister presents…the whole Marvel Universe, ever.” He's nothing if not an egotist, as issue #14 will make clear.

Uncanny X-Men #11 preview art by Greg Land

And there's more there too. I don't want to say anything, but I manage to throw another curve ball into the whole mess with my last issue before AvX. It's sneaksie, to say the least.

Marvel.com: Now, which UNCANNY X-MEN characters will benefit most from the event, in a sense of growth as fictional characters, not necessarily in their "lives"?

Kieron Gillen: I've said before, I've been building towards AvX. It's meaningful for all my key cast. The big people to watch? Scott, Namor, Hope, Emma, Piotr, Illyana and Danger. My other three—Storm, Magneto and Psylocke—have important roles too, but perhaps not on the same level of redefining them. They're actually more the people who are a half-step back from the chaos, and as such are about giving perspective on everything.

“Benefit” is an interesting word, though. I'm not sure it's the word I'd use. It's going to be very hard on all of them.

Marvel.com: Kieron, you've been the primary Cyclops writer for the past year or so – in the sane vein of what you’ve been saying here, what have you done in that time to set Scott up for the big event? What’s Scott's overall viewpoint on what's going down?

Kieron Gillen: The key arc for cementing Cyclops as a man who would go to war with the Avengers was the Fear Itself arc, just prior to the relaunch. There he works side with side with the humans of San Francisco, only to discover that they were considering—if all went wrong—to deal with the threat to them both and sell out the mutants, sinking Utopia.

Cyclops goes and saves the day anyway, only to return to actually openly threaten the mayor with murder if she ever thinks of it ever again. It's a "Just because we save you, don't go thinking you get to sacrifice us".

Uncanny X-Men #11 cover by Greg Land

It's a hardened line—willing to be an implicit threat while still acting in an entirely morally upright fashion—which is where we find Scott. He's pretty much said this Extinction Squad is a nuclear weapon which he'll fire if someone crosses them. AvX is, in a real way, them calling his bluff.

Interesting times for Scott.

Marvel.com: In the end, as a writer, what are the overall advantages of utilizing a universe-wide Marvel event in an ongoing title? What are the biggest challenges for you?

Kieron Gillen: The challenges are actually the most prosaic parts of it. As in, technical things. Stuff like making sure everything lines up and that your book stands alone and tells its own story, while still keeping everyone up to date with the larger picture, without just recapitulating a load of scenes which people have already seen before. That's the hard work.

The advantage is one of scale. The art is taking that scale and tying it to the emotional life of your characters so it becomes meaningful.

And that, I love doing.

Don’t miss out on all the action in Avengers Vs. X-Men, available in comic shops worldwide and on the Marvel Comics app!

Which team will reign supreme? Join the conversation on Twitter with #AvX!

For more on Avengers VS. X-Men, please visit http://avx.marvel.com

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