An Interview with writer John Francis Moore

 

How did X-Men 2099 come about? 

John: With the success of the first 2099 titles, an X-Men 2099 book was inevitable. However, the book was not going to be under Bob Harras's editorial purview so there would be no reference to the contemporary X-men characters or any of their future timelines. Like the previous 2099 books, a slew of writers were commissioned to write proposals for the book. My proposal was a dystopian western called "Brand X" (whose spin off book would have been titled Not Brand X of course). I don't think I have a hard copy of that proposal anymore, but I know I tried to avoid the usual X-book structure. My group peers that weren't students of an older authority figure, and they weren't direct descendants of any contemporary characters.

 

None of the submitted proposals including mine hit the mark for editors Joey Cavalieri and Mark Gruenwald. Joey and Mark then created a series blueprint with the original characters (Xi'an, Bloodhawk, Cerebra, Skullfire, Meanstreak, Metalhead, Junkpile and Serpentina--all very early 90s superhero names) and Xi'an's role as a kind of Malcolm X figure in this future. I believe the assassination of Xi'an was part of that proposal.

 

When I was given the assignment, I took their guide and built upon it.

What recollections do you have about working with the artists on X-Men 2099: Ron Lim, Jan Duursema (also worked with you on X-Factor). Also Kyle Baker on the Duke Stratosphere short? Graham Higgins on the Halloween Jack solo story?

John: Before Ron was given the X-men 2099 gig, I tried to convince Mike Mignola to do the book with me. (I think he had done an issue of X-Force early in its run.) He passed saying that he was working on his own project with monsters and Nazis which of course became Hellboy.

I hadn't worked with Ron before X-men 2099, and it was always a pleasure to see his pencils arrive via fedex or fax. The characters were primarily his design, and whatever input I provided, he made better. One of the unexpected joys of doing the book was seeing that the toys were faithful to Ron's designs. I would have been happy to finish the book's run with Ron, but editorial wanted a new artist as a promotional tool, a commercially sound decision, but creatively disappointing.

Jan only worked on the final handful of X-men 2099 issues, and did an admirable job jumping onto a book that was in editorially turbulent waters. I can't look at those books without wishing I could have finished the book (or my run on it) without having to incorporate the bullshit end of the world event.

Kyle's a friend, and I was happy he agreed to draw the Duke Stratosphere origin story. He made the story vibrant and fun and look like we'd brought Mad magazine sensibility into a cyberpunk comic.

I wrote the Halloween Jack script without an artist in mind beyond Dr. Seuss of course. Graham Higgins brought my silly Cat in the Hat pastiche to life.  .

What recollections do you have about creating the graphic novel, Oasis, and working with the Hildebrandt Bros.?

John: I was a fan of the Hildebrandt's fantasy illustration, and I was blown away when Joey told me that they wanted to do an X-men 2099 project. I met with them in Joey's office and they were both really great guys. I think they said they really liked Bloodhawk, so I knew he'd be a major player in whatever story we developed. They didn't enter the project with a lot of conditions. They seemed genuinely happy to get to play in this corner of the Marvel universe.

I can't remember ever writing a full script for any of my Marvel work. I gave them a plot and some time later received Xeroxes of pencil art (Hildebrant art!) to dialogue. Then it went back for them to paint, and they did a phenomenal job. I only wish that it could've been published before the 2099 line was axed. It was a beautiful book that I think was sadly under promoted.

The bulk of your Marvel work consists of X-Books, were you a big X-Men fan to begin with?

John: I discovered Dave Cockrum's Legion of Superheroes when I was in elementary school, and then when I saw his work in my friend's copy of Giant Size X-men #1 I was hooked. I started buying the monthly book with issue #99. In high school, during the Claremont/Byrne era), I was a member of X-APA, an old school fan collective (or amateur press alliance) that collated its members' mimeographed or Xeroxed fanzines into a larger whole. Mary Bierbaum (who later wrote the Legion with her husband Tom) wrote a Starjammers comic that I illustrated when I was 16 or 17.

Do you recall, or have any idea, why the One Nation Under Doom story line was cut short?

John: I don't know. Possibly because there was editorial pressure to create the next "Event" which would have been the time jump that Joey was working on before he was fired.

Did the quick end of the One Nation Under Doom story affect your plans for the X-Men book? Did you have more stories planned for the team in Halo City?

John: Halo City was designed to give the characters a temporary home. I didn't really intend for the book to become about governing a city, but it played into the idea that these characters were activists, trying to change the status quo of the corporate governments. The group would have fractured because of politics of the city.

Do you recall anything about plot lines which were left unfinished:

 

- Meanstreak, where did he go and what were those flashing lights?

John: I wanted to distinguish Meanstreak's abilities from other speedsters like Quicksilver and the Flash. It would have been revealed that he was siphoning energy and inertia from another dimension (comic book physics), and that by doing so, he was creating pockets into that other dimension. The lights were creatures of that dimension.  

- La Lunatica (her ‘other relatives’ and her relationship to Brimstone Love)?

John: Sometimes your drop hints of relationships or events that haven't been worked out yet. Luna, despite her name, was fairly sane as comic book berserkers go. Any blood relation would have been more extreme.

- What was Book’s plan/objective?

John: All I remember about Book is that I wanted to create a mutant who was physically disabled. He had a superior intellect and computer like retention of everything he read, but his size meant that he was confined to a low gravity environment.

- What was Morphine Sommers’ plan for the X-Men?

John: I inherited Morphine from Warren Ellis but I didn't have much mapped out for him.

-Vulcann, what was the Shaper’s Guild all about? Book's reference to someone named “Essex”

John: I don't remember any of that. The Shaper's Guild might have been a collection of mutants who could manipulate physical objects like Forge in the regular X-continuity.

-Joaquim (Rosa's baby boy)....was he meant to be the Mutant Messiah being searched for in X-Nation?

John: I didn't have a lot to do with X-Nation. Rosa gave Eddie someone to protect. I didn't have any long term plans for her baby.

- Puzzle Samurai, they appear briefly in X-Men 2099 #29. These made it into the unmade 2099 video game, was there a story to these characters or was it just a cool design that got borrowed for the game?

John: I'm not sure if I came up with the name Puzzle Samurai or it was a name Warren referenced in Doom 2099 that I latched onto. Had we seen them again, they would have been like toys. Their body parts were expendable and interchangeable.

What are your recollections about the end of 2099?

John: I was sad that Joey was let go. He was a great editor and a good friend. His enthusiasm jump started the 2099 line and kept it going through his tenure. I debated whether to leave the book with Joey, and I still don't know if I made the right choice staying.

I know that editorial and creative teams always change in mainstream comics. It was disappointing not to have a chance to finish the book cleanly. Instead all the books were saddled with the flood that led into the single 2099: World of Tomorrow book.

Bob Harras never liked the fact that there were X-titles out of his control (and I understand that). I believe X-men 2099 and X-nation 2099 were on life support as soon as he became editor in chief of the entire Marvel line. The book was still selling relatively decently in that declining market, so it was foolish to cancel it. It could have been saved by making it part of the real X-men continuity, something that was finally possible with Bob heading editorial. .

Joey was planning an event called “Fast Forward” to jump 2099 two years into the future into 2101. Did you have any plans for the X-Men in 2101?

John: I'd like to say I had an entire year's worth of story plotted out, but I was always writing close to the last possible deadline. The time jump would have given me an opportunity to shake up the book. I might have tried to make the stories stranger and less super-heroic.

Of your 2099 characters (both Doom and X-Men), do you have a favorite?

John: Halloween Jack's my favorite. Ron's design made the character sing, and he was the most fun to write. Plus, Toy Biz made a Halloween Jack toy that still sits on the file cabinet by my desk.


 

 


 

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