Westfield:What exactly is X-Men: Reload?
Marts: Reload is an event which is happening in May for basically all of our X-Men books from the main core titles down to the secondary titles, where we have the opportunity to showcase, in some instances, new talent - new writers or artists who are coming onto the book - or a change in either the artist or the writer. And also just sort of a ground floor approach where we're starting fresh. There's been many things going on in the X-Men books over the past few months where the X-Men team and their mansion has really been devastated. There's been a few deaths and the mansion's been destroyed so this is kind of a starting fresh approach.
Westfield: The past few years, while the books are related, each book has very much stood on its own with a specific team in each book. Is that going to continue or will there be more interaction between the series?
Marts: Each book will still stand on its own the way it has the past few years. Someone could pick up Uncanny X-Men, read that, and not feel like they have to be compelled to pick up X-Men or New Mutants or something else. But there will be some crossover of characters and we'll definitely see similar things happen in some of the books, especially where they share the same physical space. All the books that are headquartered at the X-Mansion, we'll see similar things within each of those.
Westfield: How hard is it to coordinate everything that's going on in all the X-Titles?
Marts: It's pretty tough, but after a while you just kind of get the hang of it. Certain things have to get priority over others, but actually we've become pretty good at it. I hope that we're successful at maintaining a cohesive universe.
Westfield: Let's talk specifically about the books involved in X-Men: Reload. I'll give you a title and you tell me what you want people to know about that book. Let's start with Excalibur.
Marts: Excalibur is a new #1 title. It's a name that people are familiar with, yet the concept is quite different from the Excalibur of old. This is Professor Xavier, mostly on his own, separated from the X-Men for one of the only times in his life. We're going to be following his adventures as he sets up base camp in Genosha, the mutant island nation that was destroyed a few years back, as he tries to rebuild that nation from the ground floor up. That's Chris Claremont writing with Igor Kordey as the artist and Andy Park from Tomb Raider on the covers.
Marts: With issue #46 we have the debut of a new writer and a new artist. Tony Bedard, who has been doing a lot of work down at CrossGen for the last few years, starts off as the new writer. He's been great so far. We have four plots in from him. He's got a great knowledge of the X-Men Universe and is stepping in to fill the spot that Judd Winick and Chuck Austen did, and he's doing a great job. The new artist is Mizuki Sakakibara, who has been our cover artist for the past 6 or 7 months, maybe even longer. She's stepping in to be the regular artist with Jim Califiore still remaining on as our secondary artist. We've had a lot of Exiles issues over the past few years and this year will be no exception. We'll probably ship somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 to 18 Exiles issues.
Westfield: Is New Mutants part of X-Men: Reload?
Marts: It's actually not. New Mutants comes to an end with issue 13. What we'll see at that point is the writers of New Mutants, Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, have been doing such a great job that we're starting a new title with them called New X-Men: Academy X. This will follow some of the characters that we've been following in New Mutants, but basically this book will attack the point of view of the young students at the Xavier Mansion. There's probably over 200 there at the mansion. This is an opportunity for readers to see what it's like to be a young kid at the mansion. These are the new X-Men of tomorrow. Randy Green is the penciller on that.
Westfield: How about X-Men?
Marts: We have Chuck Austen and Salvador Larroca on the book. In May we start off a story called Day of the Atom wherein we have what I think will be the shocking return of a character that we definitely didn't expect to see back so soon. This is going to be the high action X-Men book. This is the book that fans of the X-Men movie will enjoy; a lot of adventure, a lot of excitement, some soap opera, some romance. I think this is the year that Salvador Larroca is going to break into the top 10 lists of superstar status. The work he's been doing on this is just phenomenal.
Westfield: Why did you decide to change the name back to X-Men from New X-Men?
Marts: When we did the New X-Men book, the concept behind it and the ideas that went along with it were pretty unique and it deserved a new title. What Chuck and Salvador are doing is different enough from what Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely had established that we didn't want readers to be confused and think we're just following on with what Grant and Frank had done. This is back to basics X-Men; this is the continuing adventures of the X-Men so we decided to drop the adjective and go back to the old title.
Westfield: Uncanny X-Men.
Marts: Uncanny will be the book for all the old timers. Chris Claremont and Alan Davis, two guys long associated with the X-Men franchise, are on this book together. We have artist Michael Ryan also helping out as a secondary artist. This is the book that captures the feel of the X-Men as a family unit more than any of the others.
Westfield: Astonishing X-Men.
Marts: A new #1 title coming out in May. This will be the hip, cool place to be for all X-Men fans. John Cassaday is the artist and Laura Martin as colorist. And it's written by Joss Whedon.
Westfield: Weapon X.
Marts: We start off with a new direction with #23 wherein we kind of tear down the cast and we're going to focus on a just a few characters from this point forward. Mainly characters that have been associated with the Weapon X program in the past; namely Wolverine, Sabretooth, Fantomex, and Maverick. Frank Tieri remains on as writer and we're welcoming Tom Mandrake as the new regular artist. Andy Park does covers.
Westfield: District X.
Marts: District X is a new #1 title. It's an X-Men book but launching under the Marvel Knights banner. This is kind of a crime noir type book set down in Mutant Town which is the fictitious mutant ghetto that was set up in New X-Men a year or so ago. It centers around Bishop, he's one of the main players down there, as he tackles the mutant/human dilemma on a street level. David Hine is the writer of the book, who you'll be seeing a lot of over the next year at Marvel. He's not really a newcomer to the industry, but he's new to Marvel. The stuff he's been writing for us is just phenomenal. David Yardin, a new artist, will be doing the pencilling chores, and Steve McNiven is doing covers.
Marts: Mystique will have a new writing and art team as of issue 14. The new writer is Sean McKeever from Sentinel and the new artist is Manuel Garcia.
Westfield: The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe: X-Men 2004.
Marts: The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe: X-Men 2004 is a 48-page special with no ads, which features character dossiers on all of your favorite X-Men team members, plus special behind-the-scenes material including design schematics of the new X-Mansion. Cover by Salvador Larroca.
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Marts: I think a lot of people look at the size of the X-Men books and the X-Men franchise, and it can look a little daunting, but this is definitely a good jumping on point for anyone who has not been reading the X-Men books. We're starting over with new, accessible story arcs that people can understand and don't have to worry about 30 or 35 years of past history to catch up on. We're trying to provide everyone with a nice jumping on point.