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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Writer Victor Gischler, Part 2: X-Men vs. Vampires

In the second part of this conversation with author and comic book writer Victor Gischler, we turn our attention to the launch of X-Men #1, and the first story arc which pits the mutants against vampires.
EARTH’S MIGHTIEST: Some years ago I read a comic that had the X-Men meets STAR TREK, and I realized that anything is a go. But does the vampire genre lend itself to an X-Men/superhero book? Is it odd bringing those two worlds together?

VICTOR GISCHLER: You know, it doesn’t feel odd. I’ve written some of the issues and am still working on others, but the way I think about it is that, yes, vampires have a certain mythos and attitude, but if you think about it, mutants have their powers and vampires have their powers. If you can find a supervillain with super strength and super speed, you’re kind of doing that when you’re fighting a vampire. They have weaknesses, they have strengths, so it doesn’t feel weird to me. Now if I was trying to do something really moody or gothic, and trying to make that work with a superhero comic, maybe that wouldn’t come together. But the way we’re approaching it, it doesn’t feel unnatural or forced. I hadn’t thought about it until you just asked, but it seems that it’s going together pretty well.

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST: Thinking about it, there might be a common bond between them in that you’ve got these two freaks of nature, even though they’re battling each other, there is a certain similarity in the sense that they are a step removed from humanity.

VICTOR GISCHLER: And to varying degrees, they’re feared and hated by humanity, so there is a strange twisted kinship there between mutants and vampires.

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST: Is that something touched on in the book or just something you and I are talking about?

VICTOR GISCHLER: It’s certainly touched on in editorial meetings and things like that. That’s something that once you think about it, you realize that they are strangely similar. Not in every way, obviously, but in some ways. It’s something talked about. It’s not necessarily a centerpiece of the arc, but it’s something that gets mentioned and sort of brushed up against. It does add some flavor to the story, the idea that these two groups have a kind of strange kinship.

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST: And the X-Men going up against a group of vampires isn’t, I suppose, all that different from them going up against a team of supervillains.

VICTOR GISCHLER: In one way of thinking about it, you’re exactly right. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory, but this has become a little bit of an event. In a practical, sort of theoretical sense, it’s like going up against other supervillains, but it’s got that gravitas to it and the X-Men quickly see that it’s a step or two or ten beyond just going up against some villains. These are not just the villains of the day, they’re causing a little more problems than that. One of the ways the X-Men go about solving the problem almost makes you wonder if they’re making things worse rather than helping. That’s one of the things that gets debated. I think there are some interesting surprises and cool things coming.

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST: I’m looking at a couple of variant covers, one that has Gambit as a vampire and another that has Emma Frost as a vampire. Are these gimmicky covers or are these part of the storyline that we’re actually dealing with in the sense of conversions of some of these characters, at least temporarily?

VICTOR GISCHLER: Let me answer it this way: before I even thought of writing an X-Men comic, when I was writing Punisher or Deadpool or something else, I learned very quickly that there’s a lot of artistic license in covers and not all of them are necessarily going to represent exactly what goes on inside. But I think sort of THEMATICALLY those covers are accurate in terms of the tone and what the X-Men are facing. So in a broad sense there’s accuracy, but maybe not every single one of those characters become vampires. That being said, those covers just look so good. I wish I had a poster-sized Emma Frost image like that.

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST: In your mind, what is the significance that X-MEN is coming out as a #1 all over again?

VICTOR GISCHLER: I think there’s just some automatic gravitas with X-anything. The first feeling is just nervousness. I mean, there’s excitement, there’s gratitude – I’m glad that Marvel trusts me to do this and thinks that I’m the guy to do this, but there’s nervousness, too, because it’s bigger than anything I’ve done. X-Men has a lot of knowledgeable, serious fans and I realize there’s probably gong to be some scrutiny there. When I write DEADPOOL: MERC WITH A MOUTH or DEADPOOL CORPS, I want to please the readers and want them to like it. But when I sit down to write it, I just have fun with it. There’s a lot of satisfaction doing X-MEN, but it’s not as whimsically fun as working on Deadpool. There’s always this feeling of, “This is serious. The editors are looking, the readers are looking, everybody is waiting for this.” I do feel a sort of gravity about it, that this is not just HOWARD THE DUCK #1. It’s X-MEN #1. I’m taking it very seriously, but I’m trying not to let that paralyze me. It’s an ongoing mind-adjustment, really, to just stay in the groove; to take it seriously, but don’t freak yourself out.

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST: X-Men is important to a lot of people, but how important is it to you?

VICTOR GISCHLER: It’ important to me because, first of all they’re great characters. I grew up on the Chris Claremont run, so when somebody says X-Men to me, a lot of things click into place from when I was a teen. It’s important to me in that I know they’re great characters and I know they’re great stories, plus the fact is that I’m a professional writer. When you’re a professional writer, you want to be able to step up to a challenge. When marvel says, “We think you’re the guy to write this,” that’s my opportunity to step up to the challenge. So it’s important to me as a professional. As a fan and reader, I like the X-Men, but as a professional it’s important to me because it’s not the kind of opportunity that comes along all the time.

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST: Not being a slave to the X-Men, does that give you more creative freedom to find new areas to explore with these characters?

VICTOR GISCHLER: It does a little bit, but when you’re working with established characters you’ve got to walk the balance of bringing something new, doing something different, but also preserving what everybody likes about these characters and what makes X-Men, X-Men. Because you’re playing with other people’s toys. I didn’t invent X-Men, so it’s my obligation to bring something new but also to do what I’m supposed to do. I suppose that’s true for any pre-established character. I remember I cut my teeth on Punisher, and on my first try I got a little too creative and my editor said, “That’s not what Punisher does,” and I said, “Okay,” and made Punisher do what he was supposed to do. So it’s my job to bring the new wrinkle and new spark and to justify the existence of this comic and this world, but also to preserve what is already there. That’s the balancing act I’m always walking.
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