With issue #2 of X-Treme X-Men out now, it's time to lash down Greg Pak for another round of questions! Dazzler vs. a Gaggle of Gods? Questions must be asked! Answers must be given! Boy bands must be discussed! It’s time for another X-Treme X-Men Aftershow Party at Comics Bulletin – grab your hats!
Steve Morris for Comics Bulletin: What was behind your decision to choose these particular characters as gods? Was it tough to decide which god was best suited for marrying Storm? She fairly dominates the issue this month.
Greg Pak: After writing Incredible Hercules with Fred Van Lente for four or five years, I guess I still have gods on the brain. There's a fun parallel between the classic pantheons of gods and modern superhero teams, and this seemed like a fun way to run with it.
Thor just made perfect sense as a consort for Storm. As fellow thunder gods, they'd have a huge amount in common. And making Thor Storm's consort was a way to highlight just how fierce and imperious a heart Storm really has.
CB: Is Star Wars the one constant in every Universe? Why didn't Howlett get a slave Leia costume?
Pak: Well, Dazzler's the only one who's had a thing with Archangel in another reality, hence the one who draws this alterna-Angel's attentions the most in this one. But be patient. We've got a big Howlett-related surprise coming in issue #3.
CB: Altern-Ito! An alternate version of Dazzler’s love interest shows up, here as a court musician. Will we be seeing more of the variant Johnny Itos as the series progresses? And will Dazzler shout “JOHNNY ITO?!!?” each time please?
Pak: Heh. I kind of think of these Johnny Ito appearances a bit like when you dream about a friend doing something mean and wake up mad at him or her. You know it's irrational, but you can't help it. The 616 Johnny may have a lot to answer for if and when he and Dazzler ever meet up again.
CB: Dazzler's song appears to be an original piece. Were you ever tempted to give her an established song, here? Perhaps “The Flood” by Take That? Does Dazzler like Gary Barlow?
Pak: Alas, Dazzler sings only originals or public domain covers, but Dazzler loves hot stubbly singing rowers as much as the next girl.
CB: Techs-avier (say it out loud!) and Magneto appear on a flying car! Why isn't this what regular Xavier and Magneto are like? This Xavier doesn't seem too evil right now – he still refuses to kill – so where does that leave Dazzler's Xavier-slaying mission?
Pak: EXACTLY! Big conflicts and revelations will come in the next issue. All I can promise is SOMEONE WILL DIE!
CB: Is it difficult to balance silly fun stuff like the flying car Xavier and GodStorms with a solid story? Do you come up with the story first and then throw concepts at it, or build a story out of ideas?
Pak: If you start poking at 'em, every single comic book on the stands is completely ludicrous. But that's a big part of the reason we love them – we want to see crazy things we've never seen before. We want to go there. But the trick is always to find the emotional core underneath all the hijinks – and to make those hijinks actually essential to that emotional story.
Different stories come at me from different angles; sometimes I start with an image or a crazy idea, other times I start with a specific emotional beginning and ending place. But by the end, I have to figure out how the emotional throughline connects with the big ideas to make the story sing.
CB: How do you feel about writing team books? You did so with Alpha Flight recently, but those were established characters. Is it difficult to create a team of new-ish characters and give them all something to do?
Pak: I love writing team books. But yes, it's a big challenge to balance the beats and all the various characters' stories and emotional throughlines. I made things a bit easier on myself by making it a smaller team from the group we first introduced in Astonishing X-Men: Exalted. So we're going to have great opportunities to have very big and important moments for all of our characters as the series progresses. There's also a great opportunity here because literally anything can happen with these characters. The emotional stakes are enormously high for all of them.
CB: What' your favourite thing about SAGE?
Pak: I loved the way Morrison depicted her as the techno-detective in his New X-Men run. I'm also intrigued by her very ambiguous origins. Lots of mystery there, lots of great room for character exploration.
Issue #3 of X-Treme X-Men, which rounds out this first arc, will be released September 12th. And X-Treme X-Men looks to be double-shipping in September, so expect issue #4 to come out just before the end of the month! Don’t miss it, it’s going to be filled with DAZZLER!
Thanks again to Greg for his time, and for his uncanny ability to correctly spot a Gary Barlow reference when it’s thrown at him. Is there anything he can’t do?