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  • February7th

    Continuing my commentary on the newly released X-FORCE OMNIBUS, I’m focused on New Mutants #98, my first issue as both writer and artist. Except, I didn’t want to provide the actual dialogue, our deadlines were tight enough with me penciling and inking the boards, I didn’t want to hold the book up with writer’s block. I had met the talented Fabian Nicieza early on in my career at Marvel, he was working in the sales department and wanted to break in as a writer. We had attempted to put together a Soviet Super Soldiers mini-series about a year earlier but my schedule didn’t allow it to come together as planned. Fabian had a great ear for dialogue and responded well to my ideas for New Mutants. The decision came down to him and a couple of other writers, but in the end, I favored Fabian because I felt we had a good connection and relationship. I would write out my plots on yellow lined notebook paper, illustrating for him how I was imagining each page and sequence as I drew them. We would usually follow up with a call running through each page and Fabian would produce the fabulous scripts that made the book sing. You won’t ever hear me do anything but praise Fabian, he worked under diverse conditions, many times catching up for the time I lost on the book, and he always came through with fantastic results.

    Allow me to apologize in advance for the poor scans of these pages, I’m running a low rent operation here and really, shouldn’t you actually have this book in your collection by now?

    So PAGE 1, PANEL ONE, SPLASH! Here is Gideon! My penchant for biblical names was once again in full focus, blame it on my southern baptist upbringing, I love those Bible names. I may even have a son named Luke….

    Anyway, Gideon, new character, smiling menacingly, or annoyingly, depending on your view point years later. Nice ponytail. Why the ponytail? Well, anything that could whip around in motion was desired by me in order to provide another element of energy on the page. Capes, webs, braids, ponytails….I’m in! My Art Adams influence is very strong on this page, tiny waist, thick thighs, it’s all there. Art Adams was my east, my west, my north, my south, he was who i aspired to be. The smile is pure Art Adams mojo lite. Ditto the long spingely-fingers. My inking line was very McFarlane-esque, lots of little nicks and pull outs, gritty and bloopy. Yes, those are the professional terms for inking techniques. “Gimme more bloopy lines and work on your pull-out’s” were common verbiage among the comic book jet set circa 1991. The image and the crop of Gideon was a nice reminder that we were treading brand new ground starting with the very first page.

    PAGES 2-3. Nothing says “Fear me” more than a pony-tailed vest wearing figure pummeling a room of giant robots. “Hello, I am an exciting new bad guy and I work out in the morning with my robots!” It’s a fail safe, go-to move for all the new bad guys. It worked here as Gideon is introduced via an “us vs. them” action sequence. The “Dear Sebastian” refers to Sebastian Shaw the head of the Hellfire Club, establishing a direct and immediate link to a classic stable of the X-Men universe.

    By page 4 of the issue, you see that Gideon is a tough customer, more than just strength, he can fly and assimilate multiple powers at one time. We were very clearly trying to establish his power levels from the outset. By page 5, we have shown that Gideon is a capable and formidable foe with ties to the larger mutant universe.

    Next up is a Danger Room sequence mirroring Gideon’s, depicting Cable and Cannonball as they hone their own muatnt powers and abilities. Cable offers distinct and specific directions regarding Cannonball’s force shield while revealing a brand new technological ability in his own cyber-arsenal. I had waited until I had more control of Cable’s character to depict that his arm could actually deploy firepower on his own.He didn’t actually need a gun, his arm had plenty of firepower. Again, part of my strategy was to introduce as many new, complimentary elements to the existing New Mutants cannon as possible. At the end of this sequence, Cable re-affirms to Cannonball that they are soldiers now, not students, further emphasizing the new direction that we had in mind as far back as New Mutants #87.

    An artistic note is that I did not ink either of these pages, I was running behind and needed assistance. Art Thibert inked page 8 and Joe Rubenstein inked page 9. Neither gentleman has been credited in the past, so after 23 years, I figured they were due!

  • February7th

    It was almost a year into my run on New Mutants that I was offered the opportunity to both write and draw the book. As with any creative endeavor, the old guard changeth and Louise Simonson was moving on after a long and successful run. Our sales had more than quadrupled by this point and the book was riding a wave of surging popularity with retailers and fans alike. the introduction of Cable had created a stir and driven increased attention to the book. In short, I was living the dream, but now it was time to step up to the plate and see if I could hit a home run in the major leagues. It all started with this cover.

    This cover tells the whole story, all of the changes and drama to come was right there in full view. I felt tremendous pressure to make an immediate impact with my first issue writing the comic, I had to prove to readers and skeptical retailers that the book was in good hands under my direction. It was my intention to load that first issue with as much excitement as I could muster between 22 pages. This was the time to lay the groundwork for a new path for the series as we prepared to launch a new team and a new concept with X-Force. Three new players were set to be introduced, Domino,an assassin with a mysterious past tied to Cable, Gideon, a wealthy mutants with designs on Roberto/Sunspot and his family fortune and a contract killer known as Deadpool.

    Each character was important in establishing our new storyline. Gideon was the first member of a clandestine mutant group known as the Externals. His arrival put a powerful new presence into the mix and his connections to Roberto and his father’s corporate empire would provide drama and conflict as he exerted his will on Sunspot. I had to clear out some existing characters to¬† make room for the new one’s I was introducing and Gideon helped service that agenda while also giving us a new threat that would loom larger down the road.

    Domino was the love interest that the book sorely needed, but rather than some damsel in distress, I needed a dynamic counterpart to Cable. Domino, black and white, like a Domino, had mutant powers of probabilities, you never knew which way the luck would fall when she was present. She didn’t rely on that though, she relied on her physical skills and training, and her arsenal of knives and weapons. She knew Cable and that in and of itself was going to give the book another layer of mystery as we could examine how and why she knew the new headmaster.

    Deadpool was a name I had on my list for sometime, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t taken already, so I scooped it up. I was obsessed with Wolverine and the fact that Wolverine was actually labeled Weapon X, a product of experiments that produced at least NINE others before him. I pitched Deadpool as Danny Devito from the movie Twins, Devito was described as the “crap” before they got to the perfection of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character. He was tossed out and I felt there was a great story to be told with the experiment right before Wolverine, a project, a guinea pig that had failed to come together as planned. He would be disfigured and dismissed and pissed off. And a smart ass. Visually I was creating Spider-Man with guns and swords. During this time, Todd McFarlane was my closest friend in the industry and he would always rub it my face about how easy he had it with Spider Man because he wore a full face mask with big eyes. No eyeballs, nose or mouth to line up, just a mask. I wanted one of those characters, no one in New Mutants wore a full face mask, I needed something simple and fun dammit! Deadpool was my entry into the Spider Man derby, and it paid off bigger and better than planned. I used the black and red Spidey motif, added pouches, swords and a gun and felt that he would be a powerful graphic visual in the book. A deranged killer with a contract on Cable, a character capable of taking down the entire team, he was as much of a sure thing as I could bank on given the books increased popularity and influence.

    So that’s the behind the scenes on the cover to the comic that has proven to be one of the most sought after books of it’s age. I’ll start commentary on the interiors in part 2.

    NEXT: Fabulous Fabian!