Newsarama: Skottie, starting with you. You’re much more known for your art than for writing- what drew (no pun intended) you to this particular series?
Skottie Young: A few things really. [X-Editor] Nick Lowe has really been on my side when it comes to writing. Over the years I’ve written a few short stories for him in the X-Office and the reaction was always great. We’ve been talking about developing a mini series for a bit and Nick started throwing a few options my way. I passed on a few because I just didn’t think I would be the right fit. Then he hit me the option to write Magneto. This got my attention right away. I’ve always loved Magneto. There’s something about his convictions that intrigues me as an adult, but as a kid it was because I had the Secret Wars Magneto figure. I had Magneto beating up G.I. Joes and He-Mans left and right. I still have this figure so he’s been coming in handy for reference.
Also, I like the idea of being able to play with ideas and tones that people wouldn’t expect from me. Over the last 3 or 4 years I’ve become known as the kids book artist with OZ and the humorous cover guy. I love that I’ve been able to become both of those because that’s who I am. But I also love stories and I have many I’d like to tell that wouldn’t really fit well in my art style. So it’s nice to be able to branch out and team up with guys like Clay Mann that are so good at their job and so far away from what I do stylistically.
Nrama: Magneto has certainly been there and back again as far as his flip-flopping allegiance. What’s different this time, and how unprepared could the X-Men REALLY be for this?
Young: No matter how trusting the X-men are I think it’s a big mistake to let their guard down completely. This is Magneto. MAG-F’N-NETO. I don’t care if he convinces me he’s selling girl scout cookies, I’m assuming he’s only seconds away from hurting some fools. So yeah, I think that if you look at the history of Magneto, there’s always a version of him that will make you lose a little sleep at night. I’d like to explore that a bit.
Nrama: Clay, You have drawn the X-Men in various groups and forms quite a bit. Do you feel like the tone of your art has to shift a bit having a villain as the lead?
Clay Mann: I’m not sure that’s a given, it will if the story takes it that direction. Magneto to some isn’t a “villian”, to some he’s a hero and it’s not so automatic.
Young: I think this is a story about Magneto coming to grips with who he is. It’s an identity issue. Who is Magneto and which version of him will win out when it comes down to it.
Nrama: In that regard, who are some of the supporting cast we’ll be seeing?
Young: Oh man, that’s a tough one. I think I have to keep this under my hat for now. There will definitely be some baddies from Magneto’s past showing up, that’s for sure. I will tell you who didn’t make the cut… Maggot. I called my buddy Ron (from iFanboy) because he’s like some human X-Universe database. I was brainstorming ideas, characters that I could throw in and since we’re both 90′s X-Men kids we hit on Maggot. haha. People seem to hate this guy and so I thought there’s no better reason to bring him into the mix. I did a few outlines with him as a part of the story and each was a mess. I tried and tried to make him work but at the end of the day, he was being forced and I let it go. I promise you though, i’ll be writing that guy at some point and I plan on making you all love him like I do!
Nrama: Coming off of Age of X, Clay, how does it feel to be drawing the X-Men in their “normal” costumes and setting again?
Mann: Great. Growing up wanting to draw comics, I was in love with the X-Men. DrawingAOX was a great time, but they were mine and in some way visually didn’t connect with that feeling I get when I draw them in their normal X outfits. It sort of brings an excitement I remember as a kid.
Nrama: We recently noted in a story that Jack Kirby’s design for Magneto, while it’s shifted temporarily a couple of times, has remained virtually untouched for the 48 years of his existence. What makes this costume work THAT well?
Mann: That’s a good question. It’s such a simple design, but so is Superman. I don’t know why they last … I mean I wish I could give you a smart answer, but I can’t (go to editor Daniel Ketchum for that). Simply, it works. That helmet, along with the rest, is awesome and you’d be a fool to touch it… I’d be a fool anyway.
Nrama: How has a long career as an artist prepared you for writing? What are some of the things you apply to a script that you might not have thought of without that art experience?
Young: In November, I will have been drawing comics at Marvel for 10 years straight. Year in, year out. I’ve had the chance to work with so many writers, all of which bring something unique to the table. After reading that many scripts you can’t help but learn from them all on the writing and structure side of things. Being a visual storyteller allows me to keep in mind the breaths to take, the pauses in those moments where it would be easy to keep pushing thru with dialog or action. I know how it feels to be on page 17 and feel like I’ve been drawing for days and days at the same intensity, or lack there of. It helps me remember that I want to Clay to have fun on this and get excited to get to work that day because that’s what I want out of the scripts I draw. And most of all, this is a visual medium so I’m trying my best to put Clay in spotlight here. He’s a beast and he’ll pull off things that will be more powerful by you looking that them than me telling you about it.
Nrama: How closely are you working with Skottie, Clay? Do you feel he’s giving you more or less leeway as an artist-turned-writer?
Mann: I’d say close. I know that Skottie is 100% cool with me throwing ideas his way. When I first was offered the book, I didn’t even care what the book was. It could have been Squirrel Girl by Skottie Young and I would have said yes. The idea of drawing for an artist just sounds exciting, and is something totally new for me.
Nrama: For both of you, What is it about Magneto that has made him such a fundamental and lasting villain?
Young: For me, a good villain is someone who not only thinks they’re right, but given a little time may convince you to agree with them. Magneto has such strong beliefs that you can’t deny that it may just be right sometimes even if his way of trying to achieve his goals isn’t always the best. And let’s face it, he looks like a bad ass.
Mann: I guess I’ve been drawing him too long because I don’t see him as a villain. I don’t agree with his choices but I understand him. When I think of Magneto, I think of a guy who would do anything for the survival of mutants. If a poacher is killed by a ranger protecting a heard of elephants, who’s the bad guy? Magneto is just protecting his own.
Nrama: To that end, how do you approach, art wise, making a character seem dangerous and imposing, yet presumably still sympathetic?
Mann: Well, specifically on Magneto I think about his size, the way he stands, etc. I think a lot about how each character acts even if it goes unnoticed. To me, Magneto does not have to look dangerous, but fearless. Not evil, but stern. I like my Magneto to look fit, not like an old man you could push over, plus this guy is stealing southern girls from men half his age, he should look that way.
Nrama: Is there anything else either of you can tease from Magneto: Not a Hero? A favorite bit or scene from this first issue perhaps?
Young: Well, I did have to do a little research on some group that Magneto started back in the day…