Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CBR X-POSITION: Kieron Gillen - More of my Questions Asked

Well it's happened again! On the same week Marvel vs Capcom 3 came out, CBR did it's latest X-POSITION with Kieron Gillen and just as before my questions got asked. It's turning out to be a good week for me. I feel like that Ted Williams guy with the golden voice who was everyone's darling for at least a few days before fame went to his head and he went back to praying to the Druglore, the god of intoxication. I know it seems childish, making a big deal about it every time my questions get asked. But as a fan, it's still pretty damn thrilling so anyone who doesn't appreciate it needs to either cut me some slack or find some better weed.

Kieron Gillen is currently in a very powerful position with the X-books. He's writing by Generation Hope and Uncanny X-men. Generation Hope is a book that spun directly out of Second Coming and deals wit Jean Gre-I mean Hope Summers (sorry, still can't tell them apart) and how she's kick starting the mutant race again. Uncanny X-men has been the X-men's flagship title, a position once held by Grant Morrison's New X-men and Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-men. Matt Fraction has made Uncanny that title with his run, which had it's ups and downs but did more than any other run since Chris Claremont to make Uncanny relevant. Kieron Gillen just started his run, but he's got some major issues in the X-books that he has to work out.

CBR X-POSITION: Kieron Gillen

The biggest issue that I can't stop bringing up for obvious reasons is the Hope/Jean issue. Even Gillen admits that this is a major sticking point. Ever since Hope Summers was introduced, she's drawn comparisons to Jean Grey. She looks like her, dresses like her, and has the Phoenix Force like her. Even Jean Grey derivatives like Madelyn Pryor and Rachel Grey had more qualities that set them apart. At least they had different hair styles that allowed you to pick them out of a police lineup if you had to point out which one stole your wallet while flirting with you. Plus, there's the whole Phoenix Force know, that thing that destroys entire planets? It happens to be most associated with Jean. In the Phoenix Endsong story that came out six years ago, it was stated plainly that Jean is Phoenix and Phoenix is Jean. Now Hope has Phoenix and if Phoenix is Jean then what does that make Hope? It's one of those mysteries that's so blatant that it would earn a double facepalm from Sherlock Holmes.

Now I've brought this up before and Marvel isn't saying anything. Their response is always the same. Keep reading. They won't drop any hints to either prove or disprove a Hope/Jean connection. I still try to ask other questions about this issue because there are many. This week, I asked four. Two of them were Hope/Jean related.

MarvelMaster616 sent in a slew of questions. Be sure to breathe between answers!

1) I know you've gotten so many questions about Hope Summers and Jean Grey that you're probably tired of them. However, I can't help but think of Grant Morrison's Jean Grey when I read Hope in "Generation Hope." Do you think the long list of similarities is hurting her character? Even if she is different in many ways, what do you say to those who call Hope a Jean rip-off?

I'll admit it: bar the physical appearance, I really don't get it.

Jean wouldn't walk around with guns for a start. She wouldn't impulsively ignore the rest of the team and go off on her own desires (ala the first "Generation Hope" arc). She didn't have the odd state of grace that Morrison's Jean had -- and I mean "grace" in its religious sense (e.g. the bit where she lets Sage into her mind in the Emma-Frost-Murder-Mystery arc). The temper is about the only real connection I can see, and Hope's temper is much more a physical thing. Hope punches people out when she's annoyed with them, as a matter of first course.

Jean wouldn't go around wearing a ratty scarf for a month either.

2) Beyond the Jean issue, do you think Hope is a bit over-powered at the moment? She has every mutant power at her disposal plus the Phoenix Force. How do you temper something like that?

I described what powers she appears to have earlier. Yes, they're hefty, but -- at least at the moment -- they're also very limited use.
Generally speaking though? Yeah, she's a powerhouse. She should scare people. She scares people far more than she's actually aware of yet… though the realization is kinda growing on her.

3) I know Matt Fraction will be writing "Fear Itself," but how will the events of that series affect "Uncanny X-Men" and "Generation Hope?" And which characters will take center stage?

I can't say the villain for our arc tying to "Fear Itself" yet, but he's one of my favorite X-Men villains. Since the arc is on such an epic scale, it's the sort where you'll see cameos from just about everyone, but its core emotional focus is on Emma/Scott/Namor and Peter/Kitty/Magik. And "Fear Itself" doesn't really affect "Generation Hope" that much -- though they'll appear in 'Uncanny' as part of the army of cameos. Generation Hope are, er, up to other stuff, which I can't talk about yet.

4) You've mentioned that an upcoming issue of "Uncanny X-Men" will cover the public's perceptions of Magneto joining the X-men. Given his history, how will the X-Men and their PR firm convince everybody that Magneto won't cause trouble? Do the X-Men even believe he's going to stay on their side?

Dude! That's the plot for the issue. Leave me with something to amuse you with when you read it. Alternatively, I could tell you now and then change the script so it's just the X-Men on Utopia, performing an enormous, thrilling dance-routine. I like this idea! It's the perfect excuse for the Dazzler Spotlight issue I've been dying to write.

In short -- Kate knows it's a hard-sell, but has a few ideas. Convincing Magneto that they're a good idea is the first battle, however.

Do the X-men believe Magneto's entirely redeemed? Hell, no. He's Magneto! A good chunk of them don't even trust Emma yet.

As usual, Gillen is a good sport about the questions I ask. I'm sure he gets sick of this shit because he probably knows the truth and has sworn a blood oath to Marvel not to reveal or he'll lose his soul in addition to his job. However, I can't help but feel a little put off by his response to the question about the Hope/Jean similarities in personality.

First off, he only cites the similarity in appearance. That's telling enough, but there's also the whole issue of having the Phoenix Force. That's what links Hope to Jean more than any other redhead. There's also the color scheme of her clothes. There's also the uncanny parallel of her being raised in the future by Cable, who was in turn raised in the future by Cyclops and Jean Grey. Besides that, saying Jean wouldn't go running off on her own is just plain wrong. She did it in X-Factor under Louise Simonson. She did it when the All New All Different X-men came together back in 1975. She stayed away in college. Jean has been known to go on her own missions. When everyone told her Cyclops was dead after the Apocalypse ordeal, she didn't believe it. She went after him and saved him. So on three counts, he's wrong.

Also, the whole grace aspect of Jean is a bit overstated. Jean Grey does have a temper. Why else would she be host to the Phoenix Force? In Grant Morrison's run Jean Grey did use her fists a bit more than her powers. And when she found out about the psychic affair between Cyclops and Emma, she mind raped Emma. I'm sure if she had a gun she would have used it. Also wearing a raggedy scarf isn't above her. A waist scarf is part of her Phoenix costume last I checked.

That may be nit-picking, but I get the sense that Gillen is overlooking some key differences that are plainly evident in past comics. Either he's overlooking it on purpose or he doesn't see it. If it's on purpose, that's understandable. But if he really doesn't see it, then that's a problem.

Why is it a problem? Because if it turns out that Hope has no connection to Jean Grey, then she essentially becomes a Jean Grey ripoff. She looks so much like Jean that it's hard to tell her apart. She doesn't even have a hair style to make a difference. She also has the Phoenix Force, something Rachel and Madelyn don't have. It's not like Marvel had to make Hope look exactly like Jean. They could have made her look like anything, but since she was introduced so many hints have been dropped about a Hope/Jean connection that to not have that connection would come off as outright fraud. Maybe I'm weird, but I don't like being de-frauded. I consider that tantamount to being mugged. Some have gone so far as to say that Hope is a replacement for Cable, not Jean. Well Hope doesn't look like Cable and Cable never had the freakin' Phoenix Force. Hold up Hope Summers and Jean Grey and they're pretty hard to tell apart. Unlike other redheads in Marvel, Hope has the Phoenix Force and to have that without Jean Grey is like trying to have a one-sided coin. It's impossible and asinine.

I certainly hope that Kieron Gillen and others at Marvel understand this. Hope, like it or not, is tied to Jean Grey. When fans see her, they often think of Jean Grey. Why else would they ask questions about her? Mine wasn't the only question. Someone else chimed in as well.

Thanks for the food for thought -- I'm stuffed! Mr. Brower is now bringing out the dessert and wants to discuss a few more specifics regarding Hope:

Kieron, I have been a fan of the X-Men for many, many years and Jean Grey has always been my favorite character. Therefore, I'm curious -- are we ever going to hear more regarding when Emma saw Hope and the Phoenix effect manifesting behind her (which triggered Emma remembering Jean telling her to prepare)? It just seems like it's been kind of forgotten. I would also think Emma would have said something to Cyclops by now.

She has. And you definitely get some more on the Hope/Emma axis in #5. It's there and it's shaping the Mutant-High-Command's decisions. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to mention it directly to her. I mean, one of the key things which pushed Jean into her Dark Phoenix moment was the fact she was mentally unstable due to the influence of the Hellfire Club. They've got a tough but grieving girl. How are you going to drop "Oh, we think you may have a cosmic world-destroying deity in your head. Don't stress now!" on her without possibly precipitating something bad? They're watching her, and watching her closely.

And are we ever going to see Hope talk about the locket Cyclops gave her which has photos of him and Jean in it? That fact also seems to be neglected.

I haven't got anything planned in the immediate future with it -- bar that it's in her room on Utopia, as I think Jamie drew in #5.

Others have taken noticed. I'm not playing the conspiracy card or smoking too much weed. Hope/Jean is not going away and the longer Marvel drags it out, the more they risk annoying the fanbase. If Hope and Jean end up being linked then that's not really a problem. That makes perfect sense. The problem is it may make too much sense and Marvel will try to get cute. Well there's being cute and there's being stupid. A kid drawing on a wall is cute. A kid climbing into a stove is stupid.

Besides the Hope/Jean question, Gillen did give some very valid answers to my other questions. He revealed who would be the major players for X-men in Fear Itself, which I'm completely stoked for. He also explained logically why others in the X-men haven't brought up the topic of Hope and the Phoenix. This is a girl who just lost her adopted father and is in a very vulnerable state. That's a BAD combination when the Phoenix is involved. That's like someone with Parkinson's holding a jug of nitro-glycerine. It doesn't take much to make the situation messy. So in this sense I understand why the issue about Phoenix and Hope isn't being discussed amongst the X-men. They're not stupid, even for comic characters. You don't want to reveal the shit about the Phoenix until the time is right. At the moment, the time just ain't right.

There's a lot that can happen between now and the end of the year. It looks like Fear Itself may drive a wedge in the X-men and Cyclops will get humbled somewhere along the way. Gillen also hinted that the relationship between Cyclops and Hope will take a major turn very soon. That's going to be vital and it may offer more clues (as if we didn't have enough already) about the connection between Hope and Jean Grey. If by this time next year we're still not clear on the Hope/Jean issue, then I'm calling a doctor for everyone at Marvel because that warrants a medical emergency. I hope Marvel doesn't get too cute or too foolish. There's are many ways the Hope/Jean issue can go right, but there are many more ways it can go wrong. I'm trying to be optimistic, but disappointment is the norm when dealing with Phoenix related issues. I'll believe it when I see it and hope I don't have a weak stomach.

Oh well, back to playing Marvel vs Capcom 3!


  1. I'm glad to hear that the Emma/Scott/Namor situation is being addressed, especially since he's already gone through at least two girlfriends since he and Emma remembered their past, together. Namora and the other girl (whose name I can't, presently, recall, for the life of me). Maybe this has some sort of connection to the thematic exploration of 'Fear Itself'? Constance, from the Shades of Grey forums, and I were discussing Emma and Scott's relationship in terms of immature love and what one partner can gain from the other and vice versa, within that kind of relationship. She says, and I agree, that Emma finds validation in it, to be a good person. However, she also suggested that Emma is just beginning to learn to stand on her own. If that is true, then couldn't it also be true that Scott's possible transformation from simply a General giving orders to his troops to a pro-active, interactive and empathetic guide, could sever their relationship even further? Especially not least considering that she would have an excellent example, right in front of her, in the form of two men (Magneto and Cyclops) on how to be a good person standing on your own two feet.

    Anyways, I think you forgot to mention Revolution Phoenix in your (accurate) estimation of the true limits of Jean's 'grace'. :P

    Madelyne did have a portion of the PF, at least in Earth 616. That was, after all, how she gained consciousness, initially.

    I don't like secrets. Never have, never will. If Cyclops and the others have intentionally given Hope the implication that there is something they're not telling her, until she's ready, fine. But, irl, secrets that aren't acknowledged in any way, shape or form, have a habit of blowing up in the face of the person(s) that held them.

  2. Oh right, thanks for the reminder! Revolution Phoenix was quite a bombshell as well. lol

    But as much as I want to believe that the Cyclops/Emma relationship is deteriorating, the powers that be seem intent on putting it on a pedestal. I find that blatantly hypocritical because that's exactly what they used to do and heavily criticize with Cyclops and Jean. I do believe that Emma is deeply attracted to the power Scott embodies when he's in charge, but if after Fear Itself he starts to pull back then it makes sense that it would cause problems. However, knowing Marvel they'll resist that. There seems to be a concerted effort to make Cyclops and Emma more palpable than they really are and I think that's doing a disservice to both characters.

    As for the issue with Hope and the Phoenix, there's secrets and then there's caution. When you're dealing with the Phoenix, caution is necessary otherwise the universe is in danger. Nuff said!

    Thanks for the comments! I appreciate it.

  3. Too true, MM. Constance and I would both agree with you. Sadly.

    Well, we'll see if it's caution versus secrets that's being played out, here.

    You're welcome, too. :)

  4. The writers just don't care WHAT the fans what: it's what THEY want. They could care less about what sells or what makes sense. Marvel prefers their Mary Sue, Hope Summers, over the real deal, Jean Grey, the one with a respectable and passionate fan-base. I may be in the minority here when I say I just don't really feel anything for Hope. She's just a Jean rip-off and I can't feel sorry for her for having a fainting spell because she used her super extraordinary powers or that she's supposedly the savior of mutant kind before she's even twenty years old. Because she doesn't have the full blown Phoenix Force baggage like Jean has, she's supposed to be easier for Marvel to handle? I swear this has given me a horrible headache that probably won't go away any time soon. The worst of it all, is that the writers CAN do something about all of this and try to make some sense of the matter, but they won't. They're having too much fun doing what they want to do.

    I'm really glad that some of your Jean questions are getting answered by some of the writers, even if the answers aren't exactly satisfactory or vague at best.

    BTW I picked up the Marvel Girl one-shot today. Will you be reviewing it in the near future? You already know how much of a blast I get from reading your honest reflections!

  5. I would argue that using personal biases in writing is poor business practice, but then I remember One More Day with Spider-Man. Most fans didn't want Peter and Mary Jane broken up. However, it was the bias of men like Joe Quesada that made it happen. To me that's a real disservice to the fans. Fans are the ones that buy these books. If they're pissed off, they're less inclined to support the creators and that's bad for business.

    I do have some soft spots for Hope, but again I still see her as a blatant Jean Grey derivative. She's different only to the extent that Madelyn was different. The parallels between her and Jean are just too blatant. Marvel could have made Hope look like anything, but they chose to make her look exactly like Jean Grey. I know having red hair and green eyes isn't enough, but when they gave her the Phoenix Force that was it. That crossed a line. As far as I'm concerned, Hope can't be her own character. She's too tied to Jean Grey. She seems like a tool for Marvel to avoid bringing Jean back while still getting her star power with the Phoenix. I find that horribly dishonest if not a little insulting. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Hope will NEVER be as beloved as Jean Grey. They can't keep teasing forever. The longer it goes on, the more fans will get turned off.

    I'll try to ask more Jean questions in the future, but I don't know how much longer Marvel is going to tolerate answering them. As for the Marvel Girl one-shot, I'm sorry but I don't have time to review it. There are only so many comics I can review and I have Uncanny X-Force and Generation Hope this week. I would if there were more hours in the day, but just know that I did read it as well and I thought it was awesome.

    Thanks as always for your support!


  6. You would think that the writers would realize that they are proving that Jean's image is necessary for the Phoenix Force to have any real meaning to fans when they blatantly display such similarities between Jean and Hope.

    I say this, even though I am somewhat of a fan of Hope's, lol.

  7. I get the sense Marvel is trying desperately to get Jean's star power without bringing her back. Because bringing her back would mean telling stories about Cyclops and Emma Frost and other X-men they don't want to tell. It's one thing to avoid bringing her back, but to create a character like Hope who is so blatantly derived from Jean Grey is insulting. I don't think Marvel realizes this and until they do, fans will have their head submerged in a toilet full of shit with the flusher just a half-inch out of reach. Nuff said!

  8. Cyke and Emma will never be as iconic as Scott and Jean because it lacks one big thing (besides the 40 years of continuity): Mythological Symbolism. One paired concept appears again and again in mythology; creation and destruction, life and death, whatever words you use, those two concepts appear in tandem again and again. Jean, as the Phoenix, obviously represents life and rebirth. And the guy in black with megaton stare is a pretty good stand-in for destruction. Emma frost will never be able to fill the "force of life and rebirth" role to make the pairing work on the same level.


  9. Interesting take, Rothstine-Smash. I never considered that angle. Cyclops and Jean Grey do have a lot of iconic back story supporting them, but I do see some symbolism with them as well. It does seem to compliment them. Cyclops is a reserved guy who is still emotional on many levels. Jean Grey is a passionate woman who can sense those emotions even if they're not being expressed. That along with the creative/destruction element adds to their mystique. I don't see that with Cyclops and Emma. All I really see with them is the uptight leader having arm candy or the writers giving their favorite character a hot woman to enhance him. The whole Cyclops/Emma relationship has become way too contrived and I think it would work best if it was ended and ended soon. With Fraction leaving, I hope that happens. But with Gillen and his Morrison love, I doubt it.

  10. Scott and Jean have a dichotomy between them on several levels. There is the whole rebirth/destruction angle, plus on a lower level their limits also come into it. Scott is defined in large part by his limits. No control over his power, lines he won't cross (not so much now, but if the writers knew the character those decisions should be eating him up), ect. Jean is defined more by potential.


  11. Again, I cannot disagree with you. You make plenty of compelling points. The problem is I don't think Marvel sees it that way. I get the sense that Marvel doesn't see any stable relationship as viable. They broke up Peter and MJ. They broke up Scott and Jean. They really don't seem to care about these deeper relationships anymore. They certainly won't make Cyclops and Emma that serious. Maybe that's why they haven't broken them up. They're not married. They're not iconic. They don't evoke a classic sense of love. Maybe I'm weird, but I find that completely fucked.