Classic X-Men writer Fabian Nicieza is about to return to the franchise he helped redefine in the '90s for the first arc of the new title X-Men Legends, which flashes back with new, in-continuity stories set in past eras of the franchise.
Kicking things off, Nicieza will explore the mystery of the so-called 'third Summers brother' (though Nicieza is quick to point out the number of brothers is something of a red herring), revealing the truth behind a plotline he started all the way back in 1995.
In the time since, other writers have picked up Nicieza's ball and run with it. But Nicieza states that his story will appear on the page almost exactly as he intended it all those years ago.
Newsarama caught up with Nicieza ahead of X-Men Legends #1's February 17 release, to dig into the mystery - and history - at hand, not just waxing nostalgic but looking ahead at what X-Men Legends means for the X-Men line.
Newsarama: Fabian, you're no stranger to the X-Men. You wrote various X-titles back in the '90s, and now you're flashing back to that era for X-Men Legends. How does it feel revisiting the stories you were telling in that era?
Fabian Nicieza: Well, I've written the characters here and there over the last 25 years, from Gambit to X-Men Forever to Cable & Deadpool to the Secret Wars: Age of Apocalypse limited series, so it's not like I'd gone cold turkey.
The real oddity of this situation was the nature of the book itself, new stories set in canon from the time of the original continuity, and the fact I was being allowed, encouraged even, to finally write the story of Adam-X.
Nrama: Speaking of which, the opening arc of X-Men Legends flashes back to the mystery of the third Summers brother, which you seeded in the '90s. How will you address the developments in the mystery of the Summers brothers that have happened since you left the X-Men?
Nicieza: It flashes back to the mystery of the Summers brother. The numbers were just creations of fanzines. Never in print did anyone say "third brother." Sinister said brothers, so it could be one, two, or 52.
As for the current fourth brother in continuity, it has zero impact on my story, since Adam's story is being told at the time it was originally planned to be told, which precedes any character awareness of Vulcan.
Nrama: We know from the solicitation for X-Men Legends #2 that Adam-X will tie-in to the story of the Summers brothers, and you just brought him up again. How closely will the version of Adam X's story that's going on the page now resemble the idea you had back then?
Nicieza: My story is exactly what I had planned to do in 1995. Beginning, middle, and end, it's all the same. Because I had originally planned for a four-issue limited series, that would have meant 88 pages of content.
The two X-Men Legends issues are 50 pages of content, so I had to cut some scenes and trim some of the 'slow down' moments originally planned. That quickened the pace of the story, but muted a little of the downtime I had wanted between the brothers. My editors Mark Basso and Lauren Amaro were integral in helping me piece that together in a way that worked best.
So, maybe it's a bit less quiet in parts, but I hope its pace and scope offset that in an exciting way.
Nrama: For that matter, how does the value of hindsight and a couple decades more experience in the industry affect your approach to X-Men Legends? Are you trying to capture your '90s sensibilities in the script?
Nicieza: I honestly think you would have to ask other people. I'm not the same writer I was then, so I'm not trying to mimic who that was. I get a little acid reflux just thinking about it! I just wrote the story with the sensibility of that time in mind without necessarily trying to impersonate it.
We did do some visual things though, like not use the current norm of Locator Captions and went back to 'banner caption' styles, but that was Mark's idea more than mine.
I'm asked to do a lot of nostalgia-oriented writing for mainstream superheroes, and I understand why, but it's not the way my brain thinks or necessarily my preference for the kinds of stories I want to tell.
Nrama: The Shi'ar, Starjammers, and of course the entire '90s X-Men roster will show up in this two-issue arc. What aspects and characters of the X-Men mythos were you most excited to dig back into?
Nicieza: The story's focus is almost entirely on Adam, Scott, and Alex. Because Adam's story is of Shi'ar origins, that's the main exploration of the mythos.
As for what excited me? Just writing these characters finally interacting with each other after all this time and openly acknowledging what had been not-so-subtly hinted at was fun.
Just to breathe a sigh of relief knowing the story had been told after it had been so ineptly presented and scuttled so many years ago, and say, 'Finally!'
Considering most of my X-tenure was not being able to say that, it felt good to write the scripts!
Nrama: What's different about writing an in-continuity flashback story, as opposed to a new, in-sequence issue or an out-of-continuity tale?
Nicieza: With out-of-continuity tales, you're free to do whatever dumb thing you want to do. Telling in-continuity stories limits how stupid you can be.
The irony of Adam's story, when people read it, is that I leave it exactly how I had always planned to leave it. I won't say more than that.
Nrama: With X-Men Legends launching as an ongoing title, is there a chance you could for another arc later on, to explore other unturned stones from your time with the team? Is there a story or character you're still itching to get back to?
Nicieza: When Mark originally called me, he asked if I would be interested in pitching a two-parter and a one-parter. Since I already delivered the script for the self-contained issue, the answer to your question is, yes, there's a chance I'll do another issue in the future.
I honestly don't know how much 'exploration' of unused ideas or aborted plans I feel like diving into. Certainly I had plenty for X-Men, but while I was considering Mark's original offer, I realized I didn't have that much excitement necessarily in going back to tell most of them.
Now, if we can get Tony Daniel or Greg Capullo to draw a couple issues, maybe there are some X-Force stories I wouldn't mind revisiting…
Nrama: For both longtime fans who think they know the story of the third Summers brother, and newcomers digging into the X-Men's history with this new title, what do you want to say about this opening arc of X-Men Legends?
Nicieza: I wanted to tell a fun story of a character I thought got short-shrift – due to my own failings as much as anything editorial might have obstructed.
It was always planned as a big, sweeping, Luke Skywalker-like story, and, even though we had to squeeze a lot of toothpaste into the tube, I think we have managed to do justice to Adam's story and still keep some of those big moments.
I think when original X-Men readers of that time see Brett Booth and Adelso Corona's art, they will feel a tingling in their loins that will remind them of their pubescent dreams. Knowing that Walt and Louise Simonson are telling an X-Factor story after ours starting in X-Men Legends #3 actually gave me that same tingle when I saw Walt's promotional art.
It's just fun – and to me, that's the most important aspect of the book: let's bring some damned FUN to the comics! I've never been one to think superheroes should be staring out windows watching it rain for six issues, so between the Juggernaut limited series and my X-Men Legends story, it's nothing more than me trying to have fun and hoping that if I am, then so will the readers!
Stay abreast of everything that's coming in the current 'Reign of X' era with our listing of all Marvel's upcoming X-Men comic book releases.