X-Men Monday #202 – Ann Nocenti Talks ‘Storm’

Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!

Legendary comics writer and editor Ann Nocenti is back — both at X-Men Monday and in Marvel’s X-Men universe (or at least the X-Men universe of the 1980s). Storm #1, written by Ann and illustrated by Sid Kotian, goes on sale May 24.

I had a chance to read the first issue early, and X-Fans who crave great character moments among that iconic From The Ashes-era team are in for a treat. Read on for Ann and I discussing the new Storm mini-series through Ororo Munroe fans’ burning questions.

AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Ann! You’re fresh off your X-Men Legends arc where you got to revisit Longshot, Spiral, and Mojo. How did the opportunity to tackle Storm in an all-new mini-series come about?

Ann: Well, I really like working with Mark Basso and Drew Baumgartner. They’re just a great team and really good editors. They’re very careful with everything and really into it. So when Mark said, “Do you want to work together again?” I said, “Sure.” And he pitched this idea from the ‘80s era.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The ‘80s were this decade when me, Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, and at this time, Paul Smith would go to lunch constantly and talk ideas. Comics have changed quite a lot since the ‘80s, which was pre-internet. People used to come into the office and you went to lunch a lot and yacked and made diagrams.

Chris would always do these little drawings about his plan. I think Louise Simonson was the editor of the X-Men and I was her assistant when Storm decided to go punk. It was sort of a crazy idea that they went with. Paul Smith rode motorcycles and sometimes Paul and I would be someplace and he’d be in his leathers and he’d be drawing at a bar while we were talking over a plot and drinking beer. I don’t really remember what happened, but I think that it was just, “Let’s give her a new look. We’re sick of the wind rider look.” And so they decided to do this.

Now this is 1980s New York City, so punk is exploding all over the place. But to me, punk was the Sex Pistols. There was a club downtown called CBGB, where you had Richard Hell, Television, and Patty Smith. Everybody was really lean and in all black. But that punk sensibility of rebellion — in The Wild One, someone asks Marlon Brando, “What are you rebelling against?” He says, “Whadda ya got?” It was kind of that sensibility when punk first hit the scene.

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So the idea of Storm looking like a punk, which had a couple logical steps to it. She beat Callisto, she became leader of the Morlocks, she took on the leathers. But also, what does that mean? How does that fit into the landscape of the times? So when Mark Basso said, “You want to do punk Storm?” It was like I instantly started having flashbacks to going to see Television play at CBGB and it kind of became an odd question in my head — “How do you address this odd costume change and fit it into the landscape of the times?”

AIPT: I feel like we touched on this just now, but our first X-Fan question comes from ororoswind, who said Storm is an incredible character with many different phases in her life. Why pick the punk era specifically as a period to highlight in this flashback story? Anything else you want to add?

Ann: It was the assignment. But I went for it partly because I have a lot of affection for Louise Simonson, Chris Claremont, Paul Smith, and that whole era. And because of every one of the issues Chris wrote, you could take any scene and fracture out something interesting from it. So it was sort of like how people are constantly reviving classics. People do Shakespeare over and over, or, you know, the opera. I have a friend that’s right now reviving The Magic Flute.

You can’t think of these stories as relics. If you’re going to look at a so-called relic, you have to fit it into the modern landscape. And so for me, it was that Storm is a weather elemental. And now it’s 40 years after we first started to say the planet’s dying. So I wanted to — not in a boring or pedantic way — but I wanted there to be an awareness that. “Wow, she’s a weather elemental and we’re really in trouble.” You know, now we’re really in trouble in a way that we were in trouble in the ‘80s, but we’re in even more trouble now.

So, I wanted to bring it into the modern landscape, and yet you can’t use completely modern terms. You’re never going to say “climate change” in a comic that takes place in the so-called ‘80s. And the other thing is… what is the formula for Marvel characters? They age one year for every decade or something like that. It’s sort of like, even though this is 40 years later, Storm is only four years older, so it’s like you’re always telescoping time and saying, “Yeah, that was a long time ago, but it’s also just yesterday.”

Then it was really just Mark and Drew sending me a couple issues of Uncanny X-Men and saying, “It should take place between these two issues.”

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

And there’s that great scene that Chris wrote when Kitty says to Storm, “You got a Mohawk haircut? You didn’t tell me?” It’s such a great teen moment. Like, my best friend got a haircut and didn’t tell me. So I had a lot of fun playing with that moment. And then also the X-Men at that point had just gotten Rogue from the Brotherhood, and they don’t trust her. So I decided to play with those two things that Chris came up with. So it’s sort of like an homage to Chris’s time on the X-Men in a way where I could find two kinds of very dramatic things. Are they going to trust or not trust Rogue? Just how mad is Kitty? So it became really fun and then coming up with a new villain and also deciding to give Storm a romance. That was really fun.

AIPT: X-Fan OG Storm asked, what is Storm’s emotional state at the start of this story?

Ann: I think that she’s nervous because she’s the leader of the X-Men. And if you look at each one of the X-Men — I mean, that’s the other beauty of it — these characters are really alive for me because I spent all those years with Chris. And for every story the reader saw on the page, there were another hundred stories that he pitched to me that he didn’t get to do. So I know these characters really well and I love them.

I think that leading the X-Men is a big job. I wouldn’t want it. Logan doesn’t want it — he wants to do his own thing and kind of vanish sometimes. Colossus is easily way too young and naive at this point, and he’s barely out of the now former Soviet Union. When Cyclops leaves to go on his honeymoon, it falls to Storm to be the leader. I think that she’s a little nervous. “Can I do this job? Maybe not, but I’m going to pretend I can,” you know? So I think that’s her state of mind.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

And the first issue opens with a specific scene. What I was trying to do there was say, not only does she find that she loves being the leader of the X-Men, but her style of leadership is very much like a chess player. It’s the Brotherhood versus the X-Men. And the thing you don’t see is Storm probably doing her homework. You know, what are the key powers of every member of the Brotherhood? What do we have to do? Destiny can predict everything that happens, so we have to somehow neutralize her. We’ve got a bunch of big powerful guys. She needs to figure out how to topple giants. And so she does all this strategy and she’s kind of showing off her style of leadership. 

AIPT: As I was reading Storm #1, one thing that really stood out to me is the burden of leadership and seeing how Ororo clashes with the strong personalities on this X-Men team. Do you think the X-Men respect their new leader deep down?

Ann: I think they absolutely respect her. I mean, Storm walks into a room and she emanates power, serene, calm, you know, ethereal goddess. I don’t know that any of the other X-Men, other than Xavier, emanate that at all. Like, Kitty is obviously still a teenager mad her best friend got a haircut. She’s not leadership material yet. [Laughs]

The other thing is I said to Mark is, “Well, where are the X-Men now?” I’m so busy with 50 billion different things, so it’s not like I’m reading current X-Men comics. So he sent me a bunch of X-Men comics. And also, you know the CEREBRO podcast. I love Connor. I was on the CEREBRO podcast and was like, “What are the good current X-Men books?” And he gave me a list, and I went and I got all the ones Connor recommended.

So I had the ones Mark recommended, the ones Connor recommended, and then you’re kind of like, OK, Kate Pride, that makes sense. And you’re like, OK, Storm is the Regent of Sol or something like that. And so I went, OK, what I want to do in this little Storm series is also somehow seed it. And I did this a bit with X-Men Legends, where Kitty Pride has a few moments like, “I could fly the Blackbird.”

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

AIPT: X-Fan butterflykyss said one key principle Ororo held before her punk phase was that she would never take a life after being assaulted by a man as a young girl. The ferocity that came with her embracing the punk persona and letting go of the goddess one was one of the more exciting aspects of her transformation personally for me as a Storm fan as she was no longer bound by her self-imposed moral code. Will your series explore some of the more complex topics around the morally gray areas that give a deeper look into how embracing the “punk” completely changed her?

Ann: Well, that’s a great question. I think I try to get into that somewhat. I mean, you’re limited by how you’re squeezing your six-issue story between two of Chris’s issues. So for instance, I can get into certain things by building on why she went punk. She had the moment with Yukio in Tokyo where she kind of went a little wild. Chris laid the groundwork that something was going on inside Storm. She was sort of tired of always having to be this goddess. What would it be like to be worshiped? I mean, it’s probably kind of really uncomfortable and makes you squirm. 

And I don’t know how wild she went… they just leapt across rooftops. [Laughs] But it just felt like Chris was laying the groundwork really carefully for the idea that she needed to get away from being considered a goddess. She needed to get away from being seen as the elemental wind rider. And she wanted to get back to something kind of basic. And so, even though maybe the punk outfit was kind of like Paul Smith going, “Why don’t we do this?” And Chris and Weezy going, “Yeah.” You know, I think there’s even an apocryphal story that I don’t know if it’s true or not, of Walt Simonson shaving his beard and their daughter walking in the room and having a kind of a Kitty-level reaction to Walt getting a haircut. 

AIPT: Since you just mentioned Yukio, X-Fan Emily said one of Storm’s most compelling relationships is her dynamic with Yukio, particularly during the punk era. Has Ororo’s time with Yukio and Yukio’s influence on her impacted this solo? Can we expect to see Yukio in it?

Ann: I mean, it’s sort of like when you’re doing your six-issue diagram for how the six issues are going to go. Because I’m old-school Marvel, I wanted anyone picking up this series to know who Storm was. So I wanted there to be beats where you understood that she put on the leathers because she fought Callisto and, you know, that the wildness was kind of seeded by Chris with the Yukio stuff.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

I had a moment when I was like, wouldn’t it be great to have a scene where we expand on her relationship with Yukio because it’s very potent in today’s landscape. I always feel like even though this series is reassuring to old-school fans who love the old-school stuff, the places the X-Men are going today are really exciting. And I wanted to have a hint of that by having a cool scene with Yukio showing up in town. But I mean, it’s probably the thing I didn’t get to do because of space that I missed the most. So I never got to do that. So it’s a sad answer — but I wanted to. [Laughs]

AIPT: X-Fan Troy has been excited about this mini-series from the moment it was announced, and has been a huge fan of yours since reading your X-novel, Prisoner X. You really understand these characters! There was one line you wrote in Prisoner X about Storm where you said, “At her command… seas part.” Any chance we’ll see any other massive feats of power display?

Courtesy of Amazon

Ann: I mean, that’s a big part of this series. Also, I haven’t said anything yet about the two artists. We have two artists working on this series, Sid Kotian and Geraldo Borges. They’re both great. I almost want to say, even though they’re young and new, that they’re kind of old school. They really feel like they’re drawing comics that were made in the ‘80s. So that’s kind of fun. Sid draws the first half of the series and Geraldo draws the second half.

We created a villain that has similar powers to her, and he can magnify her powers. So yes, her powers are going to go off the charts. I didn’t want to play too much with the current climate change crisis, but that’s in there too as subtext, even though we never actually say much about that. One of the ways that I found that I could talk about that is that Storm has a romance in this series, and the guy she meets is working on climate change from a tech perspective. So she falls in love with someone who speaks her language of love of nature, love of science, and it’s kind of a love affair that could be a friendship. It’s based on someone you really love to talk to. So that’s fun to have that happen in the series.

AIPT: X-Fan Iker Huitzi was wondering what your favorite Storm story is.

Ann: It’s one of those Sophie’s Choice questions where you have to pick between a couple of your babies, you know? I mean, overall for me, I just loved working with Chris and it’s sort of a Chris Claremont question. He had a couple mentors in his life, strong female women. I think somebody in his family was in the Air Force or flew airplanes. But Chris always had this understanding that the females in comics weren’t empowered. A lot of my time working with Chris was watching how he gravitated towards making the female characters more and more empowered. So I guess I can’t pick a single issue, but, you know, I certainly had a lot of fun during Chris’s run with the characters. That’s a really boring, lame answer. I wasn’t prepared for that. I should have had an issue picked out that I loved. [Laughs]

AIPT: No, all good! X-Fan Mike Trobaugh said you’ve made many contributions to the X-books in many different roles. What elements that you added to the X-mythos are you most proud of?

Ann: I mean, the problem is that I was always the editor. I mean, I did some of those Classic X-Men backups with the wonderful John Bolton. Chris and I took turns working with John Bolton, kind of letting him do whatever he wanted. You know, John has a sort of a surrealist mind. And we had done a graphic novel together called Someplace Strange. And Chris and I both loved working with him. So with Classic X-Men, when they started reprinting the earlier stories, we had this backup that we both worked on. And that was really fun because that was kind of like, what is the weird X-Men story that you’d never be able to tell in the main book? They’re all bizarre and they were all so much fun. 

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Chris is very easy to work with. He has a billion ideas, and it’s really just kind of like saying “That one, that one, that one, no, not that one.” So I guess that’s it. Also I learned from Louise Simonson — I was her assistant. I watched her, I absorbed her. I like to say I just became a clone of Louise Simonson and just like, “OK, this is how you get great X-Men stories out of Chris.” So I guess my contribution would be as an editor continuing the legacy that Louise Simonson set up of shepherding him.

AIPT: When your Storm mini-series is finished, will you share it with Chris?

Ann: It’s funny, Chris and I just hung out at a comic con together. We had dinner and it was just sort of Chris being Chris — kind of pouty and he’s like, “Well, I’m going to read it, but I’m going to be really jealous if it’s good, you know.” [Laughs]

AIPT: [Laughs] I love that. Final question: Next up, you have Captain Marvel: Dark Tempest. Are you enjoying your return to Marvel and are there even more projects in the works we’re not yet aware of?

Ann: I don’t know. I don’t plan that far in the future. I’ve got plenty of work right now. But again, it’s Sarah Brunstad. She’s another phenomenal Marvel editor. She’s just so much fun to work with. When she called me, my mind flashed to Kelly Sue DeConnick because in the ‘80s when we were making comics, Chris was trying very hard to have strong, empowered females. I feel like I just was kind of writing the guys. I wrote Wolverine and Punisher and Daredevil for years. I didn’t try that hard to bring female readers into comics.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

When Kelly reinvented Carol Danvers and created the Carol Corps and brought all those female readers into comics, I was really impressed. So when Sarah called me, I was just like, “Oh my God, the character that Kelly Sue got all those females to read?” That’s very intimidating, but it was one of the things that I was very impressed by when she did that. And then Sarah sent me Kelly Thompson’s work, which is just rollicking fun.

And I realized that even though Carol Danvers is not someone I think I would like — to me, she feels like an authority figure. She’s Air Force, military, she’s Avengers, she’s sort of like the cops, you know? I’m more like the X-Men — misfits. Carol’s like the people that come in and save the day. They’re the SWAT team. So I thought, how am I going to bend my head around this? And it was really just reading Kelly Thompson’s stories and realizing that she’s just funny. Carol Danvers doesn’t take her authority that seriously, so it became a fun book to write. 

One thing that I loved was that Carol Danvers lives in Maine, and I spend a lot of time in Maine and know Mainers — they’re very tough. So she gets this gig in between world-saving moments where she goes to a teen center for at-risk kids and give a maverick talk, you know? And it was funny because I had done a Ted Talk called “Mavericks”. These are all tough New York kids that are just like, “Why should we listen to you, Avenger?” You know, “Cop, why should we even listen to you?” And then they all get swept up on an adventure, and I was able to find Carol by how she relates to these kids that are not impressed by her at all. So that’s how I figured out how to write Carol.

AIPT: That sounds like a lot of fun! I think you just swayed a lot of X-Fans into reading your Captain Marvel comic (on sale July 5, X-Fans). But on that note, thanks so much for stopping by X-Men Monday, Ann! It’s always an honor to get to chat with you.

X-Fans, remember to pick up Storm #1 when it goes on sale May 24. And since that’s still a bit far off, our friends at Marvel were nice enough to share this early sneak peek at the first few pages.

Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artist: Sid Kotian
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: VC’s Ariana Maher
Cover Artist: Alan Davis

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

What happens next? Find out at your local comic shop later this month.

Speaking of what happens next — X-Men Monday is taking a break next week. But we’ll be back May 22 with a special Sins of Sinister eXit interview featuring Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen, and Si Spurrier. Be sure to get your questions in!

Until next time, X-Fans, stay exceptional!


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