What's next for the X-Men? Transhuman villains and the mutant generation gap

On the eve of the New York Comic Con, io9 caught up with Generation Hope author/newly minted Uncanny X-Men writer Kieron Gillen. Gillen filled us in on all things mutant and why Sabretooth is a beaujolais man.

Gillen, who co-founded the gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun, first made a splash in comics with his cult hit Phonogram for Image. The two Phonogram miniseries covered the exploits of a cadre of British phonomancers, or modern magicians who draw their power from music. Moody twentysomethings channeling the arcane powers of Blondie and Pulp LPs is a curious topic, but it was a logical antecedent to Gillen's present project: the original oddball youth, the X-Men. This autumn, Gillen will be co-writing Uncanny X-Men with Matt Fraction and penning a solo series, Generation Hope, which details a brand new team of globe-hopping mutants. We asked Gillen to X-pound on these books:

First off, what's been your experience with the X-Men as a reader?

I came to comics as an adult, but I read them as an early teenager. I came back into comics circa 2000, right around the time of Grant Morrison's New X-Men. It was one of the main draws. But X-Men goes back to my childhood too – I came from a small town and we had a comics shop there. What you had was the occasional American issue and reprints of old 60s stuff. It was a great hodgepodge of stuff, so you never had a sense of the continuity,

What's next for the X-Men? Transhuman villains and the mutant generation gap

Speaking of Grant Morrison, it look like the villain from his run — the sentient microorganism John Sublime — will be playing a big role in your run on Uncanny. What eras of the X-Men's mythology are you approaching?

When Matt and I sat down to plot the book, we looked at it as a tapestry, as a cultural thing that resonates with comics across the years. We're trying to look at the X-titles as this whole.

With Sublime, he's a virus at the beginning of time. But that's not the only interesting thing about Sublime – he's a creature of ideas; he's got his U-Men. They're fascinating – they've bought into this idea of a tranhumanic species. That's the kind of ideas we're going to see. The Sublime Corporation is also going to play a large role. In terms of cast, it will be slightly less sprawling than the X-men cast has been recently. We're going to be drawing on particular X-Men for particular stories that feed into the core narrative. Uncanny is the tentpole of the line, but you need to cut down the cast in a way that makes thing meaningful.

What's it like working with Matt Fraction on Uncanny? How'd you guys meet up?

Chaotic, which is how we like it! But no, I've known Matt for years, we were introduced by a mutual friend. Our Image books Casanova and Phonogram came out very close together, so we had that preexisting relationship.

You're helming Generation Hope. What makes this title unique from previous young mutant titles like New Mutants or Generation X?

It's very much a story of people coming together because they have changed; with teams like the New Mutants and the New X-Men, there's a sense now that they're X-Men. The key difference is that the X-Men haven't had new students for a while [due to the Scarlet Witch depowering mutants on M-Day], and that there's this generation gap with these new mutants and Hope. The generation gap is in the form of the mutations – it's a story of how these mutations came into being.

Tell us a little about your upcoming science fiction series for Avatar Press, The Heat.

I'm a little hesitant to talk about it because I'm not quite sure when it's going to come out. It's a cop action drama that's set on Mercury a couple hundred years in the future. A comparison to the book is Greg Rucka's Whiteout, a police procedural set at the South Pole, although it's not as much as a procedural as much as it is Judge Dredd. The entirety of the story is shaped by the fact that it is on Mercury; the days are blazing and the nights are freezing. A large part of the plot focuses on characters staying with a habitable band of climate and outrunning the sunrise. It's essentially about environmentalism and culture and there's a lot of psychosexual tension. It's big exciting stuff, like 2000 AD.

What's next for the X-Men? Transhuman villains and the mutant generation gap

That's particularly salient given the discovery of Zarmina. Now that you're a Marvel exclusive, please make my (and every other Phonogram fan's day) by telling us you'll releasing the book on Icon.

The good news is we just got the accounting checks from Image 3 months ago, and the trade paperback of The Singles Club made a profit. But unfortunately me and [series artist] Jamie McKelvie are so incredibly busy at the moment. Even if a bag full of money fell from the sky, me and Jamie wouldn't be able to do it.

In the trade paperback of The Singles Club, you mentioned that you instituted a policy of "method drinking" when writing certain characters (i.e. you drank what the character you were writing drank). Does this policy apply to the X-Men as well?

Phonogram I tended to write drunk, X-Men I write sober. With X-Men it's ongoing, so you have to keep your wits about you. The one bit of method drinking I did do for the X-Men was with the 2009 one-shot X-Men Origins: Sabretooth. I was drinking red wine when I was writing Sabretooth. I was kind of thinking, "I want this to be like there's something red and bloody in my mouth. This is what Sabretooth is thinking all the time." For Sabretooth, it's about bloody red steak and fine red wine.

I like it! He's immortal so I bet he would know a good vintage.

Exactly! When you're a hundred or so years old, you know the finer things in life.