For months, I eagerly awaited the arrival of Marvel's all-women series X-Men #1. I wasn't sure what to expect: would the all-woman series be marketed as a comic for girls or just another showcase of all the great female X-Men characters?
X:Men #1 was worth the wait. The series starts out dramatically and little is revealed in the first comic (released May 29), which left me hanging and anxious for more. The comic reads pretty much just like any other solid comic in the X-Men series—I appreciated that, since I don't want the series to be wildly different simply because all of the characters are women.
It's about time the women of X-Men get their own comic. I spent my tween years obsessively playing the arcade game X-Men: Children of the Atom and fell hard in love with its superheroines.
The new series, like the beloved X-Men nineties cartoon, follows Jubilee as the lead, along with Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Psylocke, and Rachel Grey, who reside at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. In the first issue, Jubilee returns to the school via train with a mysterious baby. The comic has a dark and modern look to it, with the characters looking tough as ever (including the return of Storm punk rock mohawk).
Jeanine Schaefer edits the series for Marvel and took some time to email about the new release and why the new series isn't being called X-Women.
CRYSTAL ERICKSON: How long has this series been in the works?
JEANINE SCHAEFER: Last year, [writer] Brian Wood's run on X-Men starred four women plus Colossus, characters he chose solely for their availability and how they could function in the kind of story he wanted to tell. But seeing how well it worked, and this being an idea I've been wanting to see if we could pull off for a long time, I said to him, "Hey, what if we just made an entire team all women?" Not only was he totally on board, he had about 75 ideas for stories he wanted to tell and characters he wanted to play with, so we brought it to X-Men Senior Editor Nick Lowe and Editor in Chief Axel Alonso and their answer was basically, "When can you start?"
Marvel as a team has been incredibly supportive in bringing more female-led titles to our line. For the past few years, we've been aware of a lack of significant female-led solo titles and team books, and there's been a huge effort to rectify that. There's no formula, but Axel has been a huge proponent of finding the right creative team and actually giving them the room to make it work: Captain Marvel, Journey Into Mystery, Fearless Defenders and Uncanny X-Force are all just a few examples of that working.
How long do you anticipate the series will last?
Is "forever" too optimistic?
You've done other all-female comics in the past. How is this project similar or different from Girl Comics?
They're pretty different in terms of mission statement. Girl Comics was a project we did to celebrate women in comics—it was a three-issue limited series created entirely by women, meant to showcase the breadth and range of women working in mainstream comics. X-Men is certainly female-friendly in that there are women working on it and there are female characters involved, but we're aiming for a classic X-Men feel. Saving the world, punching villains, romance, it's everything you'd expect to find in any X-Men comic. The only thing that's the same about them, really, is that we're trying to appeal to anyone who might like comics: women, men, X-Men readers, Avengers movie-goers, Captain Marvel readers, Birds of Prey readers—anyone with a pulse and a penchant for comics.
Are you editing this series to make sure it's female-friendly?
I've long said that there's nothing you have to make sure exists in your comic (or movie or TV show or book) to specifically get women interested, you just need to make sure there's not a giant sign on it saying, "No girls allowed." And I think my point of view is probably inherently one of being more sensitive to things that might turn women off from comics. Though I also can't speak for all women, either. So while this isn't aimed only at women, yeah, I hope that female readers who might be looking for something that could speak directly to them will find something here.
Why didn't you call it X-Women?
I really felt like that would be ostracizing it from the line. These women are X-Men. They have been since they were created, and this book is an X-Men book. No one would think twice about an all-male team, making sure it had the word "men" in the title, so why do that here?
How did you decide which X-Men characters to use in the series?
It honestly was nothing more complicated than starting with the heaviest hitting characters, then seeing who would play well off them, who would create the most interesting stories. Also, who did we have a soft spot for?
Why the focus on Jubilee? Because she has a baby? Is she going to raise it in the series? Have male characters rescued babies in other series?
We love Jubilee! She's such a great character that has a lot of room to stretch her legs, not to mention she has close ties with all the women in this: Rogue, Storm and Psylocke were three of the women Jubilee had her first X-Men adventure with in her very first appearance, and she and Kitty have a connection in that they both spent some time as sidekick to Wolverine.
So let's talk about the baby. Like I talked about a bit before, family is a huge theme in X-Men. We did a recent run of Cable, which centered around Cable rescuing a baby that he thinks could be the savior of the mutant race. His entire story is about realizing that this girl isn't just a figure to be protected, but his daughter, and coming to terms with fatherhood, as well as dealing with own issues with his father (who is actually younger than him because comics). And that story led into a huge event for us that really centered around the X-Men as family and what each character would do for that family.
The baby that Jubilee comes home with in the first issue is Brian's creation. We'll learn a little more about him and a little more about how Jubilee came to have a baby strapped to her back in the next issue.
Who are your favorite X-Men characters and why?
I love Jubilee. Have loved her for years, I really saw myself in here when I was a kid. She was wish fulfillment, you know, like all the best characters are. A mall rat discovers she has super powers and gets adopted by the X-Men? I'm from Long Island, so that REALLY spoke to me as I was hanging out at the Sunrise Mall and the Busy Bee (RIP Busy Bee).
UPDATE JUNE 11TH: Good news! The numbers are in and this issue was the #1 selling comic in America in May! The issue sold over 177,000 copies.