his run having started just a touch over a year ago, Brian K. Vaughan
has called Ultimate X-Men one of his handful of creative homes over the past few months, putting
words in the mouths of the Ultimate Universe’s mutants.
up to date, Vaughan is midway through “Magnetic
North,” with pencils by Stuart Immonen,
telling the tale of the Ultimate Lorna Dane, and the battle being
waged over her by Charles Xavier, Emma Frost, and Magneto.
part of our ongoing series of articles looking at the Ultimate Universe,
five years in, we spoke with Vaughan about his time in the
mutant trenches, as well as his impending departure, and more.
Newsarama: First off, take us back
a little - how did you get the gig? Did you have any second thoughts
before accepting, other than the usual “how can I find time in my
schedule for this?”
Brian K. Vaughan: I definitely had second
thoughts about following Millar and Bendis, but those two
guys have always been very supportive of me, and when Brian was
getting ready to leave the book, I think they both encouraged editor Ralph Macchio to let me pledge
for the Ultimate Fraternity. After much homoerotic hazing, I was
allowed to join the club.
NRAMA: What was the appeal that
caused you to say yes? I mean, you’re a busy guy, so writing this
is time that you could be working on something else – why did UXM
BKV: I’m able to write roughly
a book a week, but to keep things fresh; I don’t like to work on
the same kind of book twice in one month. I already had my teen
angst book with Runaways, my political thriller with Ex
Machina, and my post-apocalyptic road trip with Y:
The Last Man, but I really didn’t have
a balls-out superhero action-adventure book, which sounded like
a good challenge.
while I love the characters, the real appeal for me was the people
I’d get to work with. I’m sure Ralph Macchio’s forgotten about this, but way back when I was part
of the “Stanhattan Project” comics writing
workshop at NYU, I sent samples of my writing to just about every
editor at Marvel, and Ralph was the only one who called me back.
He had some very honest, very helpful advice for me, and I always
promised myself that I’d try to work with him if I ever succeeded
in breaking into the industry. He’s an excellent editor, and I’ve
learned a lot from him - and from assistant editors Nick Lowe and
John Barber, too.
with great editors, you’re also guaranteed the chance to work with
great artists in the Ultimate Universe. In the time I’ve been on
the book, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to collaborate with
Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Stuart Immonen,
Tom Raney, and Steve Freakin’ Dillon.
You can’t beat that lineup.
NRAMA: Going back to your earlier
comment about following Millar and Bendis, that
made you one of the earlier “non-founding’ Ultimate writers to come
into the universe. What were the guidelines that were given
to you from the start? Or were there any?
BKV: To be fair, I was actually
the fourth writer on the title, as Chuck Austen wrote two
issues a while back. I know it’s fashionable to knock Austen’s
stuff, but I thought his two-part Gambit story was really, really
good. One of the better stories starring that character, I’d say.
NRAMA: True, but still, you’re
part of a small group of writers…
BKV: Oh sure. As for “guidelines,”
there really weren’t any. I think readers remember so many creators
leaving X-books in the ‘90s because of “editorial differences” that
they presume there’s still a lot of interference, but that’s really
not the case. I get a ton of support from editorial, but my only
marching order has been to tell good stories. If you’ve hated my
run on Ultimate X-Men, I’m the only one to blame, because
I’ve only ever told exactly the stories I’ve wanted to tell.
NRAMA: You’ve worked in both
the regular Marvel Universe and the Ultimate – for you, what’s the
difference? Aside form the heaps of continuity, is there a difference
in “tone” for lack of a better word? If anything, it seems to be
more realistic with a heightened sense of paranoia…
BKV: You can’t dismiss the
relative accessibility of the Ultimate books. To me, that is
the major difference between the Ultimate Universe and the Marvel
Universe: the fact that anyone can pick up any trade of the Ultimate
books and fall right into it, without having done years of continuity
“homework.” Readers sometimes ask if I’ll ever work on a “real”
X-book, but to me, the Ultimate Universe is the real universe.
not the real universe, but you know what I mean…
NRAMA: That said, regular Marvel Universe vs. Ultimate Marvel Universe in regards
to X-Men. What would you point to as the major differences between
BKV: The Ultimate Universe
X-Men are students, the Marvel Universe
X-Men are teachers. ‘Nuff said.
NRAMA: But still, there seems
to be a difference in “face time” for lack of a better word. Why
the differences in the characters and their relative importance
in the series? Is this your preferences, or something mandated?
BKV: Again, no mandates, I
just use whatever characters I think will work for the story I’m
telling. I love writing Wolverine, for example, but a little Logan obviously goes a long way, so I try to
use him sparingly.
Dazzler, on the other hand, may very well be Bendis’ single greatest
contribution to the free world, so I use her way too much.
NRAMA: Along the accessibility
lines, is there a stress on keeping this X-Men team/universe as
close to the movie version as possible, in order to make an easier
entry point for people who come to the comics via the films?
BKV: Nah, accessibility is
always a goal with the Ultimate books, but I’m worried about all
new readers, whether they’re familiar with the X-Men from the
movies, the cartoons, the video games, or even if this is their
first exposure to the characters. The comic is its own thing.
NRAMA: Going back to your preferences,
in your run, you’ve introduced Sinister and Apocalypse, Yuri (with
hints at Storm’s Ultimate wild past), Lady Deathstrike,
Longshot and other characters from the ‘80s regular Marvel
Universe X-Men. What’s the appeal to those characters and that era
BKV: All of the good characters
I didn’t start reading X-Men until relatively recently - I was more
into solo characters like Spidey and Batman
when I was a kid, so I don’t have any real affinity for a specific
era. Still, I know enough about the X-Men to realize that it would
be stupid to try to write the “Ultimate” Dark Phoenix Saga. That
story was already perfect once, why write it again?
rather take characters with cool powers or interesting designs who maybe never got a chance to fire on all cylinders, like
Sinister and Deathstrike, or fun characters
who were sort of shoehorned into the old X-Men comics like Longshot
and Mojo, and find ways to update and
streamline them, or just more organically integrate them into the
NRAMA: Moving to your most recent
arc, “Magnetic North” - you’ve got Magneto and Xavier, along with
Emma acting as the three larger puppetmasters
– each with their own philosophy, with Lorna the prize. Is that
BKV: More or less, yeah.
Basically, Lorna does something awful with her magnetic powers,
and the only cell on the planet that can hold her is the one currently
housing Magneto. Lorna’s boyfriend Havok
- as well as some other familiar faces from Emma Frost’s school
- want to bust her out, and it’s up to Havok’s
brother Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men to stop them.
did I mention that Magneto’s cell is inside the headquarters of
Ultimate X-Men, I always wanted to write several different
arcs that would stand very well on their own, but then bring all
of the new elements that I’d introduced over the last twenty issues
or so crashing together in one explosive conclusion, one that I’ve
been quietly setting up since the first page of my first issue.
And like I said, I’m a big fan of Mark and Brian’s time on the book,
so I also wanted to incorporate some lingering mysteries form their
runs: What’s up with Xavier’s cat? Who sent Wolverine into that
cave? Whatever happened to Emma Frost and Havok? into one final epic adventure.
NRAMA: Well, let’s see how much
we can get out of you along with those teases. In the arc, it was
revealed that Scott Summers (Cyclops) had dated Lorna as well…when
was that and for how long?
BKV: They dated shortly before
Scott joined the X-Men. And yeah, Lorna was able to control her
powers back then… better than she can now, it seems.
NRAMA: Catching up with Magneto’s
goals – is he still all about the rise of mutants at the cost of
humanity, or has his time in prison helped him get rid of that notion
BKV: I hate spoilers, so I’ll
plead the fifth. But I will say that Magneto is probably one of
the ten best fictional villains ever created in any medium, and
I’m having an absolute blast writing him.
NRAMA: Okay – but with their
Odd Couple situation one of necessity, does Magneto have
any interest in Lorna at all, aside from swaying her to his cause?
BKV: Stay tuned true believer.
NRAMA: Okay – how about looking
towards next issue - Scott and Alex fight…over Lorna? And the X-Men
have to bust into the Ultimates HQ?
BKV: I don’t want to give
anything away, but yes, there will definitely be a showdown between
the Ultimates and the X-Men.
NRAMA: Chart things out for
us a little – after “Magnetic North,” is there another arc with
you before you start with Bryan Singer,
or that not yet officially on the books at this point?
BKV: Actually, I’m afraid
“Magnetic North” is going to be my last arc on the book for the
foreseeable future. I had always planned for this to be my big
finale, but when Singer’s run got pushed back a few months, Marvel
was nice enough to ask me to stay onboard. Still, after much consideration,
I decided that I’d rather go out with a bang than potentially overstay
the Ultimate office has hired a much better writer to take my place,
someone who I’ve been dying to see write the X-Men for a while now.
It’s not my place to say who it, but I can say that he/she will
unquestionable kick ass, and will most likely continue to plant
more seeds for Bryan Singer’s upcoming story.
way, I’ll definitely be doing more work at Marvel - including a
very cool top-secret thing with 100 Bullets artist Eduardo
Risso, as well as continuing to come up
with some all new ideas for more creator-owned series at DC and
elsewhere. Keep checking my dumb blog and insane message board at www.bkv.tv
for more details.
NRAMA: Well – that’s a change
from what’s been reported. You were at one time supposed to be working
with Singer, correct?
BKV: Yeah, and before you
ask, sorry, I can’t say anything other than it’s excellent, an even
better story than X2. I think Bryan and screenwriters
Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris want to take the time to really
make this something special, and as soon as production on the Superman
slows down a bit, Ultimate X-Men will be their number one
to Ex Machina being optioned by
New Line, I’ve suddenly become busy with screenplay stuff of my
own, so depending on our changing schedules, I’m not sure if I’ll
still have time to assist Bryan & Co. in adjusting their scripts
to comic-book form, but honestly, they never needed my help. Their
story is tight as drum, and some of the stuff they have in store
is going to blow readers away. It’s very, very dark.
NRAMA: Also in terms of present
rather than future stuff…Ultimate X-Men Annual hit this week…Rogue
and Gambit, Vegas…and…
BKV: Rogue and Gambit go to
Vegas to steal something from the evil Fenris
twins. Juggernaut, who has a bit of a history with Ultimate Rogue,
bad things happen.
don’t hate me.
NRAMA: Finally – with wrapping
things up at just over a year – is this about how long you expected
to stay on the series, or were you thinking it would be longer?
BKV: Well, I was originally
going to write just four issues, but I ended up having such a good
time that I stuck around for twenty - and one annual!
Ultimate X-Men is a tricky book, because
while your target audience is theoretically people who’ve never
read an X-Men comic before, in reality, the vast majority of your
readers - at least those of the monthly issues - are hardcore X-fans
who’ve been following these characters for years. If you don’t
reinvent a certain amount of the mythos, long-time readers get restless,
but if you change characters and relationships that already work
very well just for the sake of changing them, you risk alienating
those readers who are discovering this world for the first time.
somewhere around the middle of my run, I decided to just stop worrying
about that, and instead started simply trying to tell great stories
about young people who are feared and hated because they’re different.
I think some of my arcs worked better than others, but I’m proud
of all of it - especially that Steve Dillon standalone [#58], and I think Stuart and I have saved the best for last
with “Magnetic North.”
characters that I didn’t invent is usually very difficult for me,
but Ultimate X-Men has been nothing but fun since day one,
so I’m extremely grateful to everyone who’s supported my run.
Coming Ultimate X