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!