Comicbookresources.com has a great interview with New Mutants co-creator Bob McLeod. At a time when interest (and sales) were flagging for the once great Uncanny X-Men, Marvel Comics decided to introduce the first spin-off to the series. With the departure of John Byrne, many of the series’ readers had lost interest in X-Men. A new series starring a group of X-Men-in-training was hoped to re-invigorate the franchise and bring new readers in while drawing old readers back into the fold.
New Mutants is fondly remembered by many fans of Marvel comic books from 1980′s. The series remains one of the most under-rated classics of the super hero genre and one that deserves more respect than it gets. At a time when the X-Men were dropping in popularity, The New Mutants brought that appeal back to the fold. Featuring some of the most well developed characters such as Dani Moonstar, Rahne Sinclare and Sam Guthrie, the series also garnered writer Chris Claremont‘s best writing in ages. It seemed that the collaboration with McLeod really fired up the interest in much the same way that working with John Byrne did.
“The first I had heard of it [The New Mutants],” McLeod told Pop!, “was when they asked me to come on board, but Chris had already been developing the series, I guess with Louise, the editor, and he had some names for the characters, and some abilities. It was still kind of in the works, but he had a lot of that stuff nailed down already, and what they mainly wanted me to do was visualize the characters and make other various decisions. Like, we weren’t sure how many people to have in the group, or what the mix would be, and I suggested I’d like to have more females than males, just because every other group had more males than females. And Sunspot was originally going to be this real big, Hulky guy, and we ended up making him smaller. Same thing, like, Cannonball, it was my idea to make him kind of lanky and gawky-looking.”
Within McLeod’s work, the readers were going to witness a 110% effort from the meticulous artist who wanted to impress readers with his rich characterizations and attention to detail on his debut – and, I feel, he’s one of the few in the industry that could accurately render children and teenagers without a drop of sweat. Add in Claremont’s trademark for rich written dramas and captivating characterizations, and “The New Mutants” was going to be a uniquely different comic from the other Marvel team books. McLeod shared this little insight into his approach. “I first got into comics from reading ‘Mad’ magazine. My favorite artist in there was Mort Drucker, and Drucker would caricaturize the whole body rather than just the face. So, when I got into comics, I liked drawing individual body types. A lot of comic artists draw a generic body type, and just change the hair and the facial features in some way, but all of their characters have a general body type to them, and that just wasn’t me at all. I always liked making every character very individual, so I had Dani kind of flat-chested and thin and I had Rahne real short and full-figured, that kind of thing.”
Introduced in the last X-Men film, many feel that the young mutants will take over the franchise and that X-Men 4 will largely be a New Mutants affair (something I highly hope to be true). It’s surprising to me that these characters are not used more frequently in the X-Men cartoon. While they are featured in the X-Men Evolution series, it seems to me that Marvel could have done so much more with them. Maybe the forthcoming ‘sequel’ series Wolverine and the X-Men will build on this idea?
This week Marvel is attempting to catch lightning in a bottle once again with the new title ‘Young X-Men.’ Will it be as good as New Mutants was back in the day? Who can tell, but I know I’ll be in line at my local shop with a copy to find out.
Read more about this series here.