Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Kieron Gillen about his upcoming work at Marvel Comics. It was in a social setting, so i wasn't "on the job", nor was any of it on the record. Funnily enough, it wasn't even Gillen who called attention to Generation Hope #9, rather someone else at the table who, with a few side comments to me, made it clear that Gillen, along with long time collaborator and artist Jamie McKelvie, were up to something worth noting in Generation Hope #9. Unfortunately that something worth noting is a topic I'm sure we all wish we didn't have to write about. So, I though it was time to put my "Press" hat on, go on the record with Kieron Gillen and find out what this upcoming issue was all about.
I started, plainly, by asking what the sensitive issue this story was about? Gillen explained it simply:
"It was directly inspired by the conversation around the very public gay suicide stories. It doesn't get much more sensitive."
He then explained that the origin of the idea to tackle the subject within Generation Hope came from his former Uncanny X-Men writing partner, Matt Fraction:
"When the stories [about gay teen suicide] started to break, the first place I heard about it was actually from Fraction. We'd just passed the baton, and he said "If I was still writing the X-Men…". I read the news and could only agree.
It's not the type of story that fits in any other major superhero book. It's simply not what those books are about. But the X-Men? X-Men is a book about mutants, used as a metaphor about prejudice. And of the X-Men books, Generation Hope is fundamentally about new mutants trying to survive dealing with the fact they're mutants. With the metaphor in place, you can not just do a story about it – I dare say you should tell a story about it. In a real way, it's the sort of story Generation Hope exists to tell. If we can't tell this story and tell it as well as we can, the book may as well not exist."
In my conversation with Gillen, he pointed me to the recent interview Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso gave to Complex magazine where he was quoted when discussing societal issues in comics, "Be topical because you have something to say, or—even better—because you feel that you may have something new to say." I found that idea interesting and was curious what is it that Gillen, as the writer, had to say in meeting his challenge?
"Responses to the situation are complicated. I tried to make the story likewise without just reducing it to 'We cant say anything about this situation.' And it speaks to my own personal frustration, and turns that into drama. I've felt like most of the characters in the book when thinking about it. It's also, inside our own mutant-world, a crucially important story for the cast. I mean, what does someone like Hope who grew up in a different world to ours know about prejudice? Nothing. That perspective is a useful tool. And the characters really won't be the same after this issue."
With tackling a subject with such weight to it, sometimes the initial intention gets lost in the process. I asked Gillen if, when he finished Generation Hope #9 and saw the final issue all drawn and completed, did it achieve the personal goals he set out when he first decided to write the story?
"I don't want to jinx it and it's not a project you want to sound like an egomaniac when talking about. The story's the big thing and it's up to you to decide whether it's something or not.
That said, I did everything I could slant the odds in its favour. If I want to do something that draws a close focus on contemporary life which lives and dies on a perfect expression, I'm going to swallow my pride and work with Jamie McKelvie again. No matter the pain. I set it in a locale I know well, to make sure each of the details rang true. I shared it with a small group of hyper-critical readers, who gave it the nod – and I know the script's been to the top at Marvel.
It'd be inexcusable to mess this one up. I don't think I have."
Generation Hope #9 is in stores on July 20th, 2011, written by Kieron Gillen with art by Jamie McKelvie, and sells for $2.99