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The writer aims for everything in the series to be classic, from characters to relationships

10:00 AM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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However, the writer aims to have everything else about the relaunched Marvel Comics series be classic, from characters and themes to villains and relationships.

"I'm definitely an X-Men fan, but I'm not deep into the world," says Wood, who's pairing with artist Olivier Coipel. "I'm not a writer who's been writing it forever, so my natural instinct is to go basic and simple and to its core.

"Marvel takes a look at its spectrum of X-Men books and fills needs. This is the book that is like a traditional X-Men book."

Debuting in April, Wood's series is the third relaunched X-Men-centric title in the Marvel NOW! initiative, joining Brian Michael Bendis' All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men (which premieres next month). And Wood had been on the X-Men series last year along with Ultimate Comics: X-Men.

He's just glad to be talking about the new series now: "It's like any second, I'm going to get a call and they're going to be like, 'Oh, no, we're giving it to Bendis,' " Wood says, laughing.

Since their first appearance 50 years ago, the X-Men have had a history of strong female characters, even before it was cool. Wood has had many of them in his books, too, going back to Generation X in 2000 – his first paid gig in comics – and his recent X-Men.

However, with this new X-Men he gets all the A-list X-women: The book's main star is Jubilee, but it also includes Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey and Psylocke.

"I feel like as far as the X-Men go, the women are the X-Men," Wood explains. "Cyclops and Wolverine are big names, but taken as a whole, the women kind of rule the franchise.

"If you look at the entire world as a whole, it's the females that really dominate and are the most interesting and cool to look at. When you have a great artist drawing them, they look so amazing and always have."

The drama is starting right away in X-Men, beginning with Jubilee bringing home an orphaned baby who might be key to mankind's survival. Meanwhile, someone else shows up – namely Sublime, a villainous bacteria from Grant Morrison's New X-Men run that can take over human beings but is currently faced with a threat of his own coming from outer space.

"He's forced to go to the X-Men for help," Wood says. "He's like the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend situation."

Things only get more interesting from there, with Sentinels, a potential alien invasion and an ancient war between siblings.

Having such a deep roster is "an honor in a way," Wood says, but it has been overwhelming for him at first juggling all of them and making sure they all have a clear logic and reason to be there. However, X-Men editor Jeanine Schaefer has been essential in reminding him what's important about each one. "I've never met a bigger X-men fan than her. She's hyperactive about this stuff."

While Emma Frost isn't around – "I did ask her for her, though, but she's busy," Wood says of Cyclops' love interest over in Uncanny – Wood's liked putting Jubilee in a starring role, although he's keeping many aspects of her story secret thus far, and continuing a popular take on Storm.

Other characters have been trickier, though, like Rachel Grey. "She's not as distinctive as others are. There's different learning curves for each one, but I want to get them all down," Wood says.

"I don't want to make it the 'Jubilee and friends book.' They're all A-list characters – I've got to make them all shine."

Wood's taking two past X-Men runs as inspiration for his book, starting with Chris Claremont's stint as Uncanny X-Men writer in the 1970s and '80s and his focus on character.

"I didn't read it at the time - I've gone back and read it in collected form – but I can really appreciate how riveting that must have been reading it monthly. You're just dying to know what happens each issue to these characters," Wood says.

"It was how they related to each other and the stuff they went through personally."

But he's also using the first handful of Morrison's New X-Men issues from 2001 as a "personal template for how you do what I'm doing now," the writer says. "It had everything: It had that classic cast doing the classic stuff – very recognizable and big action.

"If I can make the reader feel the way I felt about that, where you're just like, 'Ah, this is just right, this is the X-Men,' that's the kind of vibe I'm going for."

Wood, who also writes Conan, Star Wars and The Massive for Dark Horse Comics, says Marvel has made no secret of the fact that that want really compelling human moments from him – a trademark of his comics career.

"I really love getting into people's flaws as well as their attributes. I'm not afraid to show flaws in their characters, which I feel is unusual a lot in superhero books," Wood says.

"That's all I'm interested in writing at Marvel. Every so often I get asked, 'Is there anything else you want to do?' And I'm like, 'I don't know.' The X-Men are right up my alley – what I'm most comfortable with."

Wood also promises to bring a lot of relationships, love and sex into the book, "in the classic X-men way – the way it used to be."

He wants to challenge the double standards that have been in superhero books for years, were Wolverine can sleep with anybody but if a female character does it twice, she's promiscuous, which Wood sees constantly online.

"To everybody's credit, these people are often shot down immediately for being sexist and unfair, but that is a very common thing," Wood says.

"We're just going to do it. We're not going to worry about that. If Kitty or Rogue has basic human bodily urges, tough luck (to those opposed). To me, that's as much of the X-Men as anything else."

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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