X-POSITION: Marjorie Liu on the final issues of ‘Astonishing X-Men’

(CBR) Marjorie Liu has had a good run on “Astonishing X-Men.” In fact, by the time her run finishes with “Astonishing X-Men” #68 in October, Liu will have written a number of issues second only to the title’s original scribe, Joss Whedon. During her time on the series, Liu has brought more of a grounded take on superheroics with everything from romantic entanglements to conflicted creative impulses — and while she’s currently built up a Death-Seed-enhanced Iceman as one of the biggest threats Wolverine’s squad has ever faced, it still stays cemented in the relationships of her characters with human reactions and interaction.

For more insight on Liu’s current arc and final issues of the series, the scribe joined X-Position for a series of fan questions about her run with the characters, possible future plans and a number of revelations about Iceman.

Derek kicks off this X-Position with a few questions about Iceman and his past relationships.

1) In this arc, we’ve seen several women that Iceman has been involved with over the years with varying degrees of severity — from a one-night stand with Nurse Annie to obsessive unrequited love with Polaris to his first serious relationship with Opal, etc. As far as I’m aware, it is the first time you’ve written several of these women. Was it strange to come at all these characters for the first time from a relationship they had with this same man?

Marjorie Liu: I won’t say it was strange, but I found myself wishing I had more space to explore their characters. Writing women from the starting point of a relationship with a man — as in, defining them only by that relationship — is pretty unfortunate. This was a story, though, that was all about relationships — Bobby’s — and how our ability, or inability, to have one says a lot about who we are.

2) Looking at Bobby’s love life, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious thread of commonality to explain his choices. What do you think he wanted from each one during the relationship and what do you think they saw or in some cases of several didn’t see in him? Also why did you decide on the women you did include, while excluding Darkstar and Zelda?

I think the common thread, with the exception of Opal, was that these women weren’t really “available” when he started dating them (or tried to date them). Polaris wasn’t into him — she had a crush on Havok, in fact — and the same was true of Nurse Annie, who had the same fixation. What does it say about a man (or woman) who always dates people who can’t be truly available and open to a relationship? The problem with Opal was that she was open, available — and so he found excuse after excuse to push her away and make himself unavailable. Yikes.

I couldn’t include all of Bobby’s past relationships! Too many women! I chose the ones I was most familiar with — and Opal, of course, because I felt that she was the closest Bobby ever came to having a real, serious, girlfriend.

3) I’m not sure if you’re aware but there is a very vocal group that’s convinced that Iceman is in the closet. Given you’re writing a story about his relationships with women in a very gay-friendly book what’s your take on the theory?

Listen, it’s fun to look for undercurrents and create alternate relationships for our favorite characters! Just think about Kirk and Spock, or “Supernatural’s” Dean and Castiel — heck, “Hawaii 5-0’s” “bromance/romance” between Steve and Danno is part of their actual advertising! Personally, I love to play with sexuality in my work, and tease relationships, possibilities and so on. But do I think Bobby is gay? Who knows? In some ways — maybe in every way — that’s up to the reader to decide. What I will say, though, is that Bobby has always been written as a straight man, and what I love about him as a straight man is that he’s like the “everyman”: the guy who has daddy issues (and other problems), and who has got no game, whatsoever, when it comes to picking up girls. The dude who is always the “really good friend” but never the “boyfriend.” For me, that’s what Bobby represents. But if he ends up coming out of the closet, that’s cool, too.

4) Why did you decide to have Polaris seem so interested in starting something with Iceman? I’m an uber Polaris fan but looking at their shared history she been a real bitch to him in the past stating to him she never considered them a couple and joked about how under no circumstances that she would ever sleep with him to all of their friends. As a former horseman and likely Apocalypse’s intended mate during her incarnation of the Horseman of Apocalypse does the presence of the Death Seed make him attractive to her? At least to me it’s never came across in the past as genuine romantic interest from her — more of a manipulative friendship to prop her up when she’s was feeling particularly vulnerable. It’s not nice but it’s certainly very human.

You’ve got a good read on her character! I don’t think her interest in him now is particularly genuine. The presence of the Death Seed only magnified what was already in Bobby, and in the case of his texts to all those old exes, I imagine that his new confidence made him seem attractive — or at least, worthy of a second look. A little flirting, a little kiss — for someone like Polaris — means nothing. And as you suggested, right now she could be feeling vulnerable and in need of some propping up, which is what Bobby might have provided at the time this issue begins.
Marcus is up next with a quick queries about Iceman’s younger self.
1) You recent storyline arc centered on Iceman and his power levels. Wouldn’t this have been a good idea to bring in the Original Iceman in to the storyline considering the fact that out of all of the Original Five X-Men, Bobby just remained the same in terms of power?
I would argue that Bobby has changed more in power than Cyclops has, actually. And yes, bringing in the original Iceman would have been great, but I didn’t have access to him. I think it might have complicated the story even more.
2) I truly enjoyed your take on She-Hulk, one of my favorite Marvel Comics heroines. Have you ever considered writing more of her in the future?
Thanks! She’ll make a brief appearance in the last issue of “Astonishing X-Men.”
Gambit fan Purplevit wants to know more about Gambit and Cecelia Reyes’ flirtatious relationship.
1) Will we see more flirting between Gambit and Cece?
Something like that. Of course, I’m answering this e-mail before my edits come back, so that could change in the next twenty-four hours!
2) From Gambit #15 we know that one kitten is named Oliver. Do you have plans to give names for other kittens?
I gave the naming of the kittens to [“Gambit” writer] James Asmus! I’m just so glad they’ve made their way into his solo title. Even Cajun master-thieves need kittens, right?
Rodrigo hopes to play “What If…?” with the possible future plans “Astonishing” would have had if it avoided cancellation.
1) Can you tell us some of the ideas planned for the book that due to the cancellation we won’t see?

I had an idea that would have brought Jubilee, X-23 and Daken into the book — with a completely new, startling spin on their characters. They would have been around for a 4-issue run that would have forced Cecilia into the spotlight. I regret not having a chance to do more with her character, and Gambit.

2) I was wondering about the future of the members of your team, Northstar and Iceman will go to Aaron’s “Amazing X-Men,” Warbird is part of “W&TXM” and Wolverine is pretty much everywhere. Do you know what will happen to the rest of the cast? Any hint on the future of Gambit, CeCe and Karma would be great.

I honestly don’t know. I wish I could tell you.

3) I always thought that the friendship between Gambit and Wolverine is very entertaining. Can you tell us a little more about their upcoming adventure?

It’ll be a continuation of events in #66, and they won’t be running solo. They’ll have a stowaway — several of them, in fact — one of whom I think some fans will identify with. It’s both a space adventure, and an examination of how the X-Men impact the lives of “normal people” in the Marvel universe.

mr_infinite wants to know more about your possible future plans outside the Marvel U.

You’ve had a massive run on “Astonishing X-Men” — far longer than most other creators on the title. Why do you think this cast of characters had such a wonderful longevity under your care?

I feel as if I just started on the book, to be honest! I give all the credit to my editor and the X-Office for being so supportive. I was allowed to play with the characters, and find my footing — and I’m so happy that I was able to write “Astonishing” for those twenty issues.

While another Marvel book by you hasn’t been announced yet, is there a character outside of the X-Universe that you’d really like to take on?

I’d like to do something creator-owned next. And I’m writing a short “Red Sonja” story as part of Gail Simone’s run, which is a character who I totally love.

Wrapping up, cora reef asks about the overall goals of the series and the types of stories you’d like to tell moving forward.

Dear Ms. Liu, Looking back over your time on “Astonishing,” what do you feel your primary goal with the series was? Do you think you achieved it?

My goal was to tell stories that started first with the characters — and not the big fight, or explosion. I love the X-Men, each of these characters, and I wanted to delve into them, to explore who they are and create stories that allowed them to grow in meaningful ways. I wanted the book to have a quieter vibe, to be firmly entrenched in the “real world.” Did I succeed? That’s for the reader to decide, but I know I tried.

I was a big fan of “Astonishing” as a book somewhat apart from everything else that was happening. As you move forward in your comics career — and especially with work at Marvel — are you hoping to tell more stand-alone-ish stories or those more deeply entrenched in everything else that’s going on?

Time will tell. My process as a writer, the stories I love to tell, is always evolving. What I do like about working on books that are set slightly apart from the rest of the Marvel Universe is that it gives me a certain freedom to do what I want. I don’t have to be bound up in the big crossover, necessarily.

Finally, here’s our Behind-the-X question: If you could bring any of Wolverine’s past loves into your book, who would it be and why?

Domino. Because she’s got this beautiful edge and wildness, and a grim sense of humor that I love to death.

Special thanks to Marjorie Liu for taking on this week’s X-Position!

Next week, it’s a jaunt to the Deadpool side of the Marvel U as “Deadpool Kills Deadpool” super-scribe Cullen Bunn joins X-Position to take on all questions about every Deadpool across the multiverse! Got a question for Cullen about his vast library of Marvel work? Send your questions over via e-mail with the subject line “X-Position or in a 140 character question via Twitter. Either way, make sure those questions are in by Friday! Do it to it!