Greg Pak and Dazzler! What will the neighbours say?A article by: Steve Morris
If sequins maketh the woman, then Dazzler is the greatest woman of all time. And, as we all know, sequins certainly are the primary cause of womanhood. So hurray for Greg Pak and Steven Segovia, who this week revive the X-Treme X-Men name in order to create a new series with Dazzler in the spotlight. A dimension-hopping, reality switch Dazzfest, X-Treme X-Men Vol. 2 will send Dazzler into alternate universes, in order to save parallel worlds in a mainstream fashion. Joining her will be some familiar faces, in unfamiliar clothes. It’s basically a new version of Exiles, only this time there’s a disco queen as the lead.
As one of the foremost members of The Glitterati, I simply had to ask Mr Pak a few questions about the book - what’s going on? Who’s going to appear? What’s your favourite type of boot? And, luckily for all of us, he kindly agreed to answer. Here you are, then – a complete run-down on X-Treme X-Men.
Steve Morris: X-Treme X-Men! It’s back! Why the decision to go with X-Treme X-Men instead of Exiles or – and this is my preference – The X-Pendables?
Greg Pak: Because we're X-Treme, baby! Honestly, I love the title because anything at all can and will happen in this book. The stakes are ridiculously high and we have the freedom – indeed, the responsibility – to do things with these parallel universe characters that you could never do in the main Marvel Universe. This is the glory of a book like this – we're going to explore characters from surprising and sometimes shocking new angles that will let us think about heroes we love in entirely new ways. And the story will eventually make its way back to the Marvel Universe proper, so there's an excellent chance that a good number of "our" Marvel heroes will face their doubles and come up against some disturbing or revealing truths.
Steve: What was behind the decision to bring THE AMAZING DAZZLER back to the forefront of a title? It’s been a long time since she was a focus character, let alone leading a book.
Pak: When I was talking with the X-Editors about a character from "our" universe who could serve as a leader of the team, Dazzler's name kept popping up. And the more I thought about it, the more I loved it. Dazzler's ridiculously powerful – her power set's not unlike Cyclops's, when you think about it. And she has a real civilian identity and job, which grounds her and makes her a great, accessible POV character for a massively mind-blowing adventure like this. She's also a huge amount of fun to write because she's a smart, funny survivor who wears her heart on her sleeve. If it's in her head, she's probably saying it, which makes her a great foil for traditionally laconic hero-types like Howlett.
Steve: Are you planning to start fresh with her, or are you looking to pick up any of the LEGIONS of dangling plot threads writers have given her? At last count she’s got a missing baby, is apparently immortal, has a comatose evil sister… oh, and once she apparently did a rap album.
…Any chance of retconning those out?
Pak: I ain't retconning anything. I love continuity and will draw on it when the time's right. But there's plenty that doesn't necessarily need to be mentioned right away. As with almost all the comic stories I write, I want anyone who loves comics and superheroes to be able to pick up the book and run. So when I can, I like to take my time and gradually draw on those bits of back-story over time that resonate with the storylines we're dealing with at the moment.
Steve: How famous do you think Dazzler is at the moment? Is she on par with Gaga, or better – with Kylie? This is, of course, massively important. I’ll cry if you say she’s on the same level as Jessie J.
Pak: I'm thinking she's right around Joan Jett level. Which is the best place to be, right?
Steve: Do you think Dazzler should wear a different outfit in every issue she appears in? Every ten pages she walks off for a costume change?
Pak: Ha. She actually has a few different costumes in the first couple of issues.
Steve: Last question about Dazzler for the moment: roller skates or high heels?
Pak: Cowboy boots.
Steve: One of the struggles for alternate reality books is that readers tend to decide they aren’t ‘important’ and therefore ignore them. Does that make it a struggle when plotting out a new book?
Pak: Honestly, every single superhero book on the stands has this challenge, regardless of whether they deal with alternative realities or not. My job is just to tell the most mind-blowing, emotionally resonant stories I can and to get as deep as possible with the characters I've been lucky enough to have the chance to work with.
Steve: What would you say to readers who are on the fence about picking up an alternate-reality series?
Pak: Everything in the book is in-continuity. And the story will eventually curl around to smack the Marvel Universe in the face.
Steve: What books have you read for research in the run-up to this series? Are we looking at something similar in tone to Jeff Parker’s run on Exiles, for example, or are you looking to head back towards the feel of Claremont’s original X-Treme X-Men run?
Steve: You’ve written books for Marvel which are incredibly diverse in tone – from the light-hearted Incredible Herc series to the sombre Magneto Testament. Whereabouts does X-Treme pitch in terms of humour or drama?
Pak: Probably more like Incredible Hercules than anything else I've done. Herc and Dazzler have some interesting similarities, actually.... Okay, now you've got me thinking...
Steve: When characters reality-hop, there are generally two ways for the stories to move forward: one would be as a series of one-and-done arcs each set on a different world, where something needs to be fixed or changed. The other would be a long-term story with an interconnected team working across multiple worlds. What is the mission statement for the main characters here? Should we expect a rotating cast, or will set members of the team remain for the long-term?
Pak: We're doing both of the above. I can't reveal the full mission statement for fear of spoilers – let's talk again after the first issue and I'll fill you in some more. But our heroes are hit with an absolutely bonkers injunction in the first issue – we'll see how willing they are to actually carry it out.
Steve: What is Dazzler’s priority in the book? Is she looking to get back to Earth, or does she have an objective?
Pak: She has a very important reason to get back to Earth – namely her new love interest, Johnny Ito. But she's called on to serve as a hero and X-Man. We'll see the tensions between desire and responsibility play out through the storyline.
Steve: You’ve said that you’re looking to bring in a number of well-known alternate reality characters as the story progresses – are there any you’re particularly keen to get your hands on?
Pak: We're focusing on brand new alternate realities during our first few story arcs. But anything's possible as we move along. I never wrote anything about the Maestro during my Hulk run, so that's tempting, but a lot of writers have drawn from that well over the years, so I'd have to be sure I have a heck of a story before plunging into something like that.
Steve: And finally….
With this being a book called X-Treme X-Men… which has an Exiles-esque premise…. might we see SAGE return at some point? She’s ever so great!
Pak: Lots and lots and lots of people have asked about Sage. And you know what? I kind of love that character. Hey, it's an infinite universe. Anything's possible!
(Yes, the title of this interview CERTAILY IS a reference to the classic Girls Aloud album of the same name. Pop scene!)