Marc Guggenheim and the New, New Mutants

A comics interview article by: Adam Volk
When it comes to both Hollywood and the comic book industry, there are few writers who have achieved the same level of success as Marc Guggenheim. A triple-threat who has established a career as a television, video game and comic book writer, Guggenheim was originally born in Long Island New York, eventually working as Boston based lawyer for five years before making the move to Hollywood. While in L.A., Guggenheim cut his teeth as writer on the hit television series The Practice, as well as penning scripts for Law & Order, CSI: Miami and Brothers & Sisters. He has also served as a supervising producer on the series In Justice and Jack & Bobby, and more recently is the creator, executive producer and co-head writer on the soon-to-be released television series Eli Stone (airing January 31st on ABC). During his time in L.A., Guggenheim has also worked as a writer on several video games including the World War II shooter Call of Duty 3 and Rare/Microsoft's Perfect Dark Zero.

In addition to his work in television and video games, Guggenheim has also made a name for himself as a prolific writer of comic books, penning scripts for DC's Aquaman and The Flash, before making the move to Marvel where he has worked on titles including Wolverine, The Punisher, Squadron Supreme: Hyperion vs. Nighthawk, Marvel Comics Presents and Blade. More recently, Guggenheim was brought on as part of a rotating writing team on Amazing Spider-Man in the events following the "One More Day" storyline, and will also be writing the all-new series Young X-Men, with pencils by Yanick Paquette.

Comics Bulletin's Adam Volk sat down with Guggenheim for a sneak peek at Young X-Men, as well as the opportunity to discuss his work in television and comics, his upcoming projects and the changing face of Marvel’s X-books…

Adam Volk (AV): Alright, first things first. What exactly is Young X-Men and how did you end up landing the gig?

Marc Guggenheim (MG): About a year ago or so, I was in New York for the first post-“One More Day” Spider-Man summit, and I stopped in to pay a visit on Axel Alonso to discuss my potential involvement in a new X-related project. Axel had a chart with all of Marvel’s post-Messiah CompleX plans laid out on it, and I was intrigued by one entry. So intrigued, in fact, that I said, “Forget <>, I want to work on that.” And I pointed to the chart. It said: NEW MUTANTS written by TBD….I wanted to be “TBD.” The old school Claremont X-Men and New Mutants are among my favorite comic books ever. Claremont’s X-Men is my all-time favorite continuing series, and I dove at the chance to work that side of the street. I immediately pitched Axel a take and that take, with little alteration, is what evolved into Young X-Men.

AV: Young X-Men is going to focus primarily on the exploits of Rockslide, Blindfold and Dust, three mutants that aren’t exactly household names, even among regular Marvel readers. How do you intend to approach the challenge of making long time X-book readers care about three new, relatively unknown characters?

MG: Well, Rockslide, Blindfold and Dust are just part of the book. We also have Cyclops - who is both familiar and should be a big draw - two new mutants, and appearances by the founding members of the New Mutants. And, oh, a group of familiar faces I like to refer to as “The Original New Mutants.” Yup. Dani Moonstar, Sunspot, Cannonball, Magma and Karma all play a pivotal role in the book. I can’t tell you what role because, to be honest, it’s too cool and surprising to ruin in an interview.

AV: Damn! Well, you can’t say I didn’t try! Okay, as of X-Men #207, Professor X has been killed causing the X-Men to disband. Given the major impact of these events, was “Messiah CompleX” designed as a way for Marvel to clean house with its large number of X-titles?

MG: I can’t really speak to how Messiah CompleX was designed because I wasn’t involved in the breaking of that story. I can say, however, that the landscape in the aftermath of Messiah CompleX is relatively clean and provides a fresh start for the X-titles.

AV: Fair enough. Then as a fresh start for the X-titles, what can we expect to see in terms of both Young X-Men and the remaining X-books?

MG: Well, since House of M, mutants are on their way to extinction. That’s what makes Young X-Men different than its predecessors. These kids know they are the last group of X-Men. In fact, my initial arc is called “Final Genesis.” Cyclops has brought together the last group of X-Men there will ever be.

AV: Speaking of some of the last mutants, we now know that Young X-Men is replacing New X-Men as a regular series. Will there be a continuation of the characters, plot threads and themes established in New X-Men or will Young X-Men be heading into largely new territory?

MG: Largely new territory. Craig [Kyle] and Chris [Yost] haven’t left me that many dangling plot threads. I also want Young X-Men to be new-reader friendly. You can jump on even if you haven’t been following the X-books for some time, or at all. That having been said, Craig and Chris wrote an amazing series in New X-Men. I picked up all the trades to familiarize myself with the series once I landed the YX-M gig and I was, like, “Why isn’t this book a top-ten seller? It’s fantastic.” I guess that’s my way of saying, I hope that YX-M continues the level of quality of storytelling established in New X-Men.

AV: Speaking of Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, how will Young X-Men tie into their new X-Force series?

MG: We’ll be operating pretty independently of X-Force initially. I want to establish the Young X-Men on their own as a team before integrating them with the rest of the X-titles. When the YX-M team crosses over with the other X-teams, I want it to be an event, a significant moment. Accordingly, because of the events of “Final Genesis,” the YX-M are going to be very, very suspicious of other mutants. Very.

AV: Is writing a book like Young X-Men, which focuses on three lesser known characters, more attractive to you because you have more freedom with the characters than you would if you were writing an X-book which focused on more iconic Marvel characters?

MG: Jeez, if you keep repeating that YX-M focuses on three lesser known characters, nobody’s gonna buy the book! [laughs] We got Cyclops, baby! We got the New Mutants! My goal here is to create an X-spin off that feels like a flagship book. The idea is to establish the YX-M as a team of X-Men that you follow and love every bit as much as your favorite X-Teams over the years.

AV: Yikes! Okay, okay! You win! There will definitely be a lot of familiar faces in the book. But, given that it is a new book, how much freedom will you have with the characters?

MG: Well, the nature of the first arc keeps the YX-M pretty segregated from the rest of the X-universe. So I’ve had my own little playground so far. That having been said, I’ve always felt a great deal of freedom when I write at Marvel, iconic characters or not.

AV: Fair enough. Alright, getting away from the X-Men for a minute, what is it about comic books in general that makes them so appealing to you as a medium?

MG: Oooohh. Good question. As a writer, I find the relative artistic freedom - compared to, say, television - and the ability to play with the toys I grew up with, the two best parts about comics as a medium. As a reader and a fan, I respond to two things: First, I love super heroes and the medium of comics tells the stories about super heroes better than any other medium. So super heroes were my gateway to the medium, and I’ve grown to appreciate the strengths of the medium - budget-busting visuals, continuing storylines, a wide breadth of narrative voices and styles...Comics is its own art form and it remains a unique blend where you get the writing of literature with the visual component of cinema.

AV: You've primarily made a name for yourself as a television writer, how difficult is it to juggle your work in both television and comic books?

MG: Some days, really, really difficult. For the past year, I’ve been writing comics and simultaneously working on my TV show, Eli Stone. It wasn’t until I stopped working on Eli due to the writers strike that I realized just how crazy I was to try to juggle both mediums. My goal is to get far enough ahead in my comic work during the strike that when I return to Eli, I’m not doing as much simultaneous work. That having been said, I’m extremely proud that I generally carry an average of three books a month and none of my titles have missed shipping due to my Hollywood responsibilities.

AV: No kidding. That is a hell of a lot to pull off! You've also written a variety of characters in the Marvel U, from Wolverine and Blade, to the Punisher and Nighthawk and now Spider-Man and the X-Men. Discounting the superheroes you've already taken on though, which Marvel character would you absolutely love the chance to write for?

MG: Writing the flagship X-Men book on a monthly basis remains a long term goal for me. I also wouldn’t mind a crack at the Fantastic Four at some point. I wrote a little Reed Richards story in Marvel Comics Presents and really had a blast with that.

AV: Alright, shameless plug time: What projects can we expect to see from you in 2008 in terms of your work in both comic books and television?

MG: I love shameless plug time! First and foremost, Eli Stone premieres on January 31st. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Which means that if you like my stuff, you should really love the show. And if you hate my stuff, there’s a chance you might like Eli. Then in February, my first three issues of Spider-Man see publication, and that’s extremely exciting. Finally, I have an ongoing creator-owned series for Oni Press called Resurrection which has been getting great reviews and responses on the ‘net. It’s about life after the end of an alien invasion. Fun and crazy stuff. After that, who knows? It’s only January...

AV: Awesome! Best of luck with everything and thanks Marc!

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