I'll never get to write for the X-Men franchise, alas, though it may not have been out of the question just a few years ago when I was actively doing media tie-in work. I enjoyed my stint doing some work for the Terminator franchise and writing a sequel to the original King Kong movie, but this sort of work is probably not something I want to go on with, and I've not pursued possible opportunities for some time. The death in a car crash of my editor at ibooks, the great Byron Preiss, had a serious effect on my situation, and of course other priorities have come along, some of them unexpected (story of my life!).
Still, that stint with The Terminator was valuable in more ways than one; it certainly taught me new respect for people who make a living from media tie-in writing. It's difficult, skilled work, though also a lot of fun if you can play - officially! - with iconic, resonant characters and settings. It's something I'm very glad to have done.
If, by a miracle, I saw a reasonable prospect of doing some work for X-Men it's the one thing that would make me have another go. From varying distances, I've been following events in the X-Universe ever since primary school, and I think I have as good an in-the-bones sense as almost anyone of the dramatic structures and intentions underlying the whole franchise. So ... what with the world science fiction convention on its way, I've been taking a bit of trouble, just lately, to catch up. Alas, I'd fallen a fair way behind in recent years. It's not that I expect to be handed a run scripting Uncanny X-Men (though wouldn't that be cool!!) or the opportunity to do a trilogy of novels like the excellent ones that my pal and sometime editor Steve Roman published a few years ago. It just seems a pity to lose track of something that I've understood well.
Note here that I'm not talking about the movies or any other spin-off version: I mean the original "Earth-616" continuity.
When I was young and an avid reader of anything I could get my hands on - not least comics - there was, of course, no internet. It's always fascinating to see what controversy is generated on almost anything out there in internet-land. I see that there are a lot of people who really hate what is happening in the flagship Uncanny X-Men comics, currently being scripted by Matt Fraction, but there's also a lot of support out there for current directions. Well, controversy can be good.
By and large, I like what I'm currently seeing. Now of course we're talking here about superhero comics: don't expect the storylines to be scientifically plausible in the same way as a Gregory Benford novel. Expect plenty of deus ex machina endings, characters with sudden mood swings (suicidal one minute, euphoric the next), and other such flaws that would grate horribly in any other medium ... and do grate slightly even in comic-book narratives. Like everyone else in the world who's read it, I have my own theory about how the recent Second Coming cross-over could have been concluded with less of that good old deus-ex-machina feeling, but so what? I guess I really look for interesting extensions of the mega-text as we've received it - good, insightful work with the established characters that also leads to new directions. There has to be a respect for the core of the characters, but there has to be enough that's new to make the whole thing worthwhile continuing, which can even mean killing off some beloved characters like [Spoiler] and [Spoiler] in Second Coming (and making at least some of those deaths "stick").
For example, the decision some time ago now to pair off Cyclops and Emma Frost would have sounded crazy to anyone reading X-Men back in the 80s, but it's an innovation that actually works. These two unlikely lovers go well together in a bizarre way, and their blatantly lusty relationship adds a quirky element to X-Men, slightly amusing ... and just slightly sinister for fans with long memories of a more innocent Scott and a more villainous Emma. Strangely, but convincingly, Emma often seems like the more idealistic, naive one, as Scott has toughened up to do what he thinks has to be done.
I'm enjoying the line currently being taken with the rival visions of human/mutant relations espoused by Professor X and Magneto. That old theme is being respected, but also deepened and complexified. Good for Matt Fraction or whoever is driving this. And I'm especially liking the character work from Mike Carey on the X-Men: Legacy mag at the moment. He's doing very shrewd, deft work with established characters like Rogue (who is currently the central figure) and Magneto (who has rejoined the good guys in a big way, at least for now, and is being depicted very well). I'm going to watch the direction that Carey takes this. The artwork from Clay Mann in the current issue, #238, is beautiful in capturing these characters, with expressions and body language telling us much about them in addition to Carey's script.
With the modern trend to avoid thought balloons, artwork takes on a new meaning in suggesting the emotions and motives of characters. As one tiny example, I like the final page of X-Men: Legacy #238 for the way Rogue and Magneto fall into near-identical fighting stances as they suddenly face a common enemy. It makes a point, never explicit in the script, about these two hardened, effective warriors (both of them rather different from their cinematic equivalents).
If, like me, you have a long-standing love for the X-Men franchise, do have a look at what's been happening lately in the main continuity, or, hey, feel free to comment if you're more up to speed with it than I am.