Jeff Parker is a damn fine storyteller in my book. Well not my book, because I don’t have a book. But with Halloween fast approaching, Parker and company have put together Giant-Size X-Men: First Class #1 (set to hit your store this Wednesday) with a Halloween theme. As detailed by Marvel: ” Just in time for Halloween, The Beast starts conducting investigations into his own “X” files around the world! Are there aliens among us- or things even weirder? Featuring special guest-star artists and classic material too! And emboldened by the safety net of Nowlan inks, Parker even drew the cover!” As noted by Parker at his fun-lovin’ site, Parkerspace, Comic Book Resources has a preview of the book here. I was able to snag Jeff for a brief email interview recently, which is always fun for me. This blog would not exist were it not for Jeff’s encouragement and support, so I’m always happy to throw back some support his way.
Tim O’Shea: How did the Giant-Size X-Men: First Class with Halloween theme first get developed?
Jeff Parker: Me. I love Halloween specials, as might be obvious from the Monster-Size Hulk with the Frankenstein monster that came out this month. And my cool editors were fine with doing another special.
O’Shea: Given the amount of writing you do these days, how much fun was it to get back to drawing a story?
Parker: It’s mainly fun because I could geek out after Kevin Nowlan got ahold of my cover and two pages. I’m not exactly brimming with confidence in my art these days, partially because I now work with so many phenomenally talented artists, I can’t keep my tunnel vision perception of my own work- I’m acutely aware of my failings. But knowing I’ll get to see Nowlan art out of it is a big incentive.
O’Shea: What did you say to get Kevin Nowlan involved in the project?
Parker: “Please.” He’s got a lot of deadlines so we have to give him a break for a while, but dang I love seeing how he goes over something I started. When he changes something like Marvel Girl, I’m forced to look at what I could have done better and learn. And when he leaves in something just as I had it, like Bobby in the first panel, I get excited- “I did something right- Kevin liked it!”
I especially like his changes on Professor X, I love the mug he gave him. Ironically enough, he makes Xavier look a lot like Ian McKellan. I wonder if he would make Magneto Patrick Stewart?
O’Shea: Is Halloween your favorite time of the year, at least in terms of storytelling?
Parker: Yeah, it’s such a natural when you work in comics. Most cartoonists I know go all out for Halloween, making props and costumes. It really should be mandated that all comics publishers will do Halloween material.
O’Shea: When you first started doing the First Class stories, did you have a particular X-Men that was a favorite of yours, is that character still your favorite–or has one of the cast grown in terms of your admiration and enjoyment for writing them?
Parker: I always really liked Cyclops, and that hasn’t changed. I’m always a bit hemmed in by what came later, but I think we’ve been able to expand and flesh out his stoic personality so you can see a real person in there. Most rewarding has been giving Jean Grey a personality, because she rarely had one.
O’Shea: Can you tease folks by confessing some of your favorite scenes from the stories in the book?
Parker: Dean Haspiel drawing Bobby Drake making The Thing’s hand breakdance. Michael Cho putting Cyclops in the role of Gort. Nick Kilisian showing the X-Men as Pod People. David Williams somehow putting EVERYONE in one double page spread and making it look beautiful.
But I think one feature that readers are going to love is Roger Langridge’s two-pager featuring young Charles Xavier, done in an Edward Gorey style. People who have heard of Roger and wonder what why he’s so praised will understand what the big deal is. Normally I greedily hog all writing chores with First Class, treating it like I’m Dean Martin with my own little variety show where everyone comes on to sing or do skits with me. But Roger is not someone who needs anyone writing for him, he’s a show all his own, so I just briefly suggested that since we were following an old sci-fi movie theme with the book, that he delve into The Midwich Cuckoos/Village of the Damned for his subject. It’s soooo good.
Parker: It began with me, but getting timing right on something like that is very much up to the artist to pull off so that it reads the way you want it to. And Michael Cho has excellent instincts on staging that stuff. I suspect he and I have about 98% overlap in entertainment tastes.
O’Shea: You clearly love working with Langridge, and it leads me to a question about your love of two-pagers or other small collaborations with folks like Colleen Coover. Marvel has tried its hand at anthology concepts before, but I really think the X-Men: First Class one-shots might lend themselves to unique talents (like Langridge) taking the characters in unique ways. Do you hope to do more of this or is that more a call by your editors at Marvel? Was getting Langridge your call or someone else’s idea?
Parker: I suggest these things, and then it’s up to whether that matches the editor’s vision too. Luckily, Mark Paniccia, Nate Cosby and I see eye-to-eye-to-eye on a lot of this. Roger had already done some short bits for Marvel, but I was just aghast that he wasn’t being asked to do more things- now, I think he is.
O’Shea: While admittedly you are to a certain extent hemmed-in by continuity, I was pleasantly surprised about the big reveal in this issue that connects it “current” Marvel continuity. Was this something you’d always planned to reveal with the character, or something you concocted in recent years?
Parker: I had different vague mystery origins to Agent Baker, and once Secret Invasion cranked up, I knew the one I wanted to go with. Also I thought it would be an interesting thing here at the end of the event to offer another early point of it how it all got began. It doesn’t disrupt any X-Men continuity, and neatly ties into the modern MU.
O’Shea: I just have to sneak in one Agents of Atlas quuestion: Are you going to install a countdown clock at Parkerspace–counting the days until the monthly series launches?
Parker: That’s a good idea! Maybe I’ll do it at the Agents of Atlas site, which is going to relaunch soon.
O’Shea: OK, Halloween-related question before we wrap this up, which X-Men are you dressing up as this year?
Parker: Angel, if I can find some more birds to pluck for my costume.