August 11, 2010

Retro Interview: Marc Guggenheim talks “Young X-Men”

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Written by: Andy
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Back in June 2009 Young X-Men writer, Marc Guggenheim, did a signing at my comic shop, Collector’s Paradise. I chatted with him at that time, and immediately transcribed our conversation for publishing. I posted it on my personal blog, but that’s where it has humbly remained…until now! It’s dated, sure, but X-Men fans will still appreciate this inside look at the doomed series that was Young X-Men. Enjoy!

On Saturday at my comic shop we had Marc Guggenheim (Amazing Spider-ManGreen Lantern movie script) in for a signing event to promote his original work, Resurrection by Oni Press. Well, being the X-Men junkie that I am, I couldn’t help but pick the affable writer’s brain about his short lived series, Young X-Men. Also, being the unprofessional comic book reporter that I am (hey, I work pro bono!), a tape recorder was something I was lacking. However, rest assured that once I was done speaking with Marc I bolted to the computer and jotted down notes while they were fresh in my mind.

Marc gave me the green light to write this little ditty on our conversation about Young X-Men, and as you’ll soon read he was very candid with what he had to say…

Our dialogue began with my asking where the character Ink came from and why he chose to use him in such a prominent role for the series. His response was that Marvel told him to not populate Young X-Men with a majority of front runners from New X-Men, but to create a bunch of new characters to introduce into the Marvel Universe. He of course did this with Ink, Leon NunezCipher, and by elevating the status of Wolf Cub to team leader. He thought Ink was a cool concept for a character, given how his power set was virtually limitless. When asked why he ended up making Leon Nunez be the mutant and Ink just the pawn, Guggenheim did it for the sake of a plot twist, a fun reveal. He put the two characters in a coma at the end of the run because yes, it made sense that a Phoenix Force tattoo would drain the energies of both, but also so that another writer could pick the two characters up again at some point down the line. A quick follow up on that sentence was that he doesn’t foresee this happening in the near future.

I then asked him why he decided to have the virtually unknown, and unpopular, character of Wolf Cub take the role of team leader when some better options were available. His reason was that he knew he wanted to kill him off so he gave the character an opportunity to be cool before doing so. We both agreed we weren’t so sure if that panned out to satisfaction. I had to ask who his favorite character to write was and without missing a beat he answered “Rockslide.”

Guggenheim’s original concept for Young X-Men was to call the series New Mutants and pen a team comprised of the characters in New X-Men, but Marvel shot down the idea. So he worked with what he had, but what he had to work with ultimately wasn’t enough for the series to survive. When asked why he thought that was, Marc sighed and said he’d be the first to admit that looking back on the run some not-so-great decisions were made on his behalf, but what can you do? One such decision would be to have revealed Donald Pierce posing as Cyclops at the end of issue #2 instead of #5. Reason being that many fans were confused why Cyclops was leading this young team of mutants in the shambles of the Xavier Institute when everyone else had already made the move to San Francisco. This turned fans away from the title early on as they mistakenly chalked a clever reveal up with another book that pays no attention to the ‘mainstream’ continuity. Guggenheim did appreciate how the title’s fan support increased after the first arc, but by then it was too late as the plug had already been pulled.

We both were in agreement that the main reasons why Young X-Men got off to such a slow start was because A) people were expecting to see a team made up of the New X-Men, not unknowns like Ink and unpopular mutants like Wolf Cub, and B) writing any team of younger mutants is difficult because the fan base isn’t there for a title to survive solely based on a new generation of characters-  people also want to see the main players like Emma Frost or Wolverine. So in the case of Young X-Men, the timing was just flat out bad since it took place after Messiah Complex when all of the New X-Men were disbanded and the adult X-Men all moved to California. With the big names out of Westchester (where the title took place), Guggenheim was denied the use of a more recognizable supporting cast.

He said that early into the run Marvel informed him that he was going to be pulled off the book and be replaced by another creative team. Therefore Marc was forced to scrap three years worth of ideas and instead pick out the high points, summing it all up by issue #10, his last scheduled issue. If you go back and read #10, you can see how Guggenheim sets the stage for someone else to take the reins. However, a short time later Marvel told him that the series was getting canceled at issue #12, so the new creative team would produce only the final two issues. Marc said fuck that, deciding to write the final two installments himself, saving Marvel the trouble of bringing on new names who were totally detached from the series for it’s finale. So, he stated that the final story line was rushed, but it was his best effort at summing up what he wanted to accomplish over the course of three years.

What were some of his plans that he had to scrap? Well, for one, he was grooming Anole to become a top member of his class, building to a point where the character would eventually emerge into a prominent leadership role. Guggeheim said he wanted to remove more of his appendages so that they would grow back like his right arm, buffing up the character, making him more of a force to be reckoned with. He also wanted to evolve Dust by showing that she has a weakness, which I think he accomplished even with the early cancellation. Ink’s story line was supposed to be a roller coaster ride, ending with the Phoenix tattoo as a climax as opposed to a solution to the character being placed in comic book limbo.

Marc also admitted to having a rocky relationship with his editor, which began right from the get go as they disagreed over which direction the title should take. The two had trust issues as the editor would miss little things like messing up the title of the second story arc, calling it “Books of Revelations” as opposed to “Book of Revelations,” understandably making it difficult for Marc to trust his advice with larger topics. Hindsight is 20/20 though, because his editor was the one who advised that the Donald Pierce reveal happen sooner rather than later in the series, but Marc originally disagreed. Like he said, some things he would have changed looking back.

Marc Guggenheim is a totally cool, down to Earth guy who is enthusiastic to talk with and genuinely grateful to the fans who read his work. However, after his experience with penning Young X-Men he admitted that he’s going to stick with writing sol0 characters for the near future!

The entire Young X-Men run is available in two trade paperback volumes, entitled Final Genesis and Book Of Revelations.

For more X-Men, click here!

Andy Liegl



  1. Jeff Jackson

    Very interesting. I don’t completely buy that this title was all Marvel’s fault. The dialogue was clunky, the art was atrocious. If Marvel was to be blamed for anything, it was canceling New X-Men altogether and allowing Guggenheim to touch any of these characters.

  2. Infinite Speech

    I never found the appeal for this title and I really tried.

  3. I didn’t think it was THAT bad. Wasn’t great sure, but I liked the character moments with Dust and Anole.

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  5. Billy

    Never read the series…I like old X-Men just fine. 🙂

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