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EXCALIBUR and the KNIGHTS of X [10.1]
(would be the sickest name for a cartoon ⚔️)
It’s the spiritual and literal successor to EXCALIBUR. It’s all Otherworld, all the time. It’s got girls, gays, Bei, and more than a few Saturday Morning Cartoon vibes. It’s that classic X-Men story of a world that hates and fears mutants…in a fantastic whole new way.
It’s Bob Quinn and Tini Howard’s KNIGHTS OF X.
(Discussion for the End of Excalibur #26 follows this image, so if you haven’t read it yet and would like to avoid spoilers, scroll down to the next banner section below.)
If you followed Marcus To and I’s work on Excalibur, you saw that the team glided our twenty-sixth and final issue to an incredible landing. I cannot thank this amazing team enough - Erick Arciniega on colors, Ariana Maher on letters, and the whole editorial team. Mahmud Asrar on 26 gorgeous covers and one hell of a mass battle issue. R.B. Silva, Phil Noto, and Wilton Santos on some stunning guest issues. One (hopefully two?) beautiful hardcover(s) and an event.
(A special shoutout to one of the hidden magic ingredients in Excalibur - editor of our first 24 issues Annalise Bissa. When Annalise switched offices it felt like a mighty harpoon tore its way into my side. Thankfully Sarah Brunstad and Anita Okoye are mighty editors themselves and we didn’t skip a beat, but I can’t emphasize enough how much of the first 24 issues and X of SWORDS were the result of Annalise’s brilliance. I hope to work with her again.)
To say that I wrote this book during unprecedented times is something of a bad joke by this point. I don’t know if I’ll ever again experience a creative process quite like I have in the X-Office - and that would have been the case even without the pandemic. We were given incredible runway, unprecedented space and trust to spread out and build a society. We were given a whole new way to try and make superhero comics, and it worked. I wanted to build an X-Men story built on crazy things like Alan Moore essays and anthropological ideas about magic and we fucking did it.
Thankfully, blessedly, I got to spend a lot of time in physical rooms with the rest of the Krakoan writers. Eating snacks, tossing ideas around, and of course - griping about having to work the whole time - I now absolutely miss those days and would sustain a (pellet) gunshot wound (to a delicate area, sure) to be able to have one of those days again.
I miss bumping knees with Vita under the table to encourage one another to speak, and Leah spending an hour doodling a joke to silently share with the table like an analog meme. I miss Ben and Al’s sonorous and serious pitches, like holy sermons. I miss Gerry’s laptop stickers, because they gave me a sense of comfort when I first walked into the room. I miss the way Jon eats a box of cereal like a bag of chips. I miss Jordan’s collection of X-Men t-shirts. I miss Zeb. I miss my editors. I miss the omelet chef. I hate that with some of these brilliant folks, like Victor, Si, and Kieron, I’ve only ever gotten to have these conversations over Zoom. I miss the way that when you’re in a room with someone who you creatively respect and adore, the energy of having them respond to your ideas is like nothing else in the world.
Excalibur survived (thrived!) through a first arc, and shortly into planning the second, we were able to begin planning our first DAWN OF X event, which I was asked to co-lead with Jon.
Meanwhile, our own society, out in the real world, was changing rapidly. According to my emails, I was invited into the room in November 2018: pre-release of HoX/PoX. Pre-2020 election cycle and all that followed. Pre-COVID. In that time, the concept of the X-Office went from a meeting in New York City with some of my favorite writers that I was very, very nervous about screwing up, to a tight knit Slack channel of some people who were fast becoming my close friends, people I spoke to every day.
We checked in about almost everything - COVID scares, bad days, or even - and sometimes this was the most vital - a safe space to say ‘it’s okay to check out of reality for a bit and come play pretend.’ In that Slack, we built our own Mutant Dream House of ideas and stories and interconnected narratives. We played. It kept me sane.
Oh, and we worked. A ton.
Specifically in the form of a 22 chapter all-hands-on-deck event, the first of the DAWN OF X era, called X of SWORDS. Jon and I brought our shared story of Apocalypse to an incredible…end, I guess. I wrote dozens of pages of prose material (some of which made it in as datapages), drew maps, spent time on the phone, worked in time-zone driven shifts and really, mostly, just stayed inside and hunkered down through this pandemic the only way I knew how. By being creative.
After X of SWORDS, Excalibur had a whole new angle, and we took a few issues to answer some big questions about Betsy Braddock’s past and her relationship to herself, her body, and specifically, Kwannon - aka Psylocke.
I was honored to give this a try - it’s a lot to reconcile, and there’s the tangle of resolving things within the story that were the result of external, non-story decisions some 30 years ago. But Betsy and Kwannon’s relationship is a connection that crackles with potential lessons about race, womanhood, agency, and bodily autonomy, and it seemed right to begin that story now. It also didn’t escape me that I had the great pleasure of doing so with an artist of Asian descent in my co-storyteller Marcus To. Ultimately, I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out, and I think there are plenty of great Captain Britain and Psylocke stories to be told, hopefully by me and other writers for years to come.
But after that, for many layered reasons, it seemed like the time to end Excalibur was on the horizon. And many of those reasons were governed by forces inside the story, which is a rare treat in Big Two Superhero Comics. Which gave Marcus and I lots of advance notice and plenty of time to make ourselves a nice big terrible ending, where everything went wrong, Merlyn rose to power, and Otherworld became a realm where mutants could not only die, but were now hunted. You know, so I could write the book about what came next.
The Starlight Citadel is fallen, Saturnyne is on the run, and the wizard Merlyn and King Arthur hunt and kill witchbreed on sight from their Lunatic Citadel. Enormous Furies stalk the land like Sentinels on the hunt for mutant heroes.
So if everywhere else in the galaxy promises a golden age for mutants…
…what would bring them to this dangerous realm, far from the range of their resurrection technology?
…what brings the KNIGHTS OF X to an Otherworld that hates and fears them?
Well for one, Betsy Braddock is in there with her Captain Britain Corps, fighting a one-woman war.
For the rest, you’ll have to wait until April.
Lastly, I desperately wanted to do tell this story with an artist who already understood Krakoa. I talk so much about the writers in the X-office, but you’ll see we love to work with the same artists again and again, too - Krakoan visual language has its own learning curve. Which is why I am so excited to be working with Bob Quinn, already a true Krakoan by way of WAY OF X, as our series artist. He’s taking us on an incredible, fantastic quest. He blows my mind with every page. You all are going to flip when you first see how he draws our gorgeous cast.
Ah yes, the cast…Who will be the KNIGHTS OF X? And what is their quest?
Can’t tell you that part yet.
Until then, Excalibur readers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking with us through this journey. I said from the beginning that I wanted to get weird, and I damn well say we did. And I couldn’t be prouder of it. If you haven’t been an Excalibur reader, I can now whole-heartedly recommend it to you. And I hope you’ll join us for KNIGHTS OF X - it’s a great jumping on point for Otherworld and the X-Men.
And I’m so proud of Betsy.
A bit of super minor housekeeping- you might not even notice - but I moved the numbers for my numbering system on these posts to the end of the titles. I didn’t want folks thinking they’d missed the first 9 posts before this one, or something, but I do like a numbering system, so I’m just tagging them on the end. If you noticed this or care, you should treat yourself to something nice, for being so observant and clever.
If you’re dying for an X-fiX from me before April, you’ll have to reach for SECRET X-MEN #1 by me and Francisco Mobili, with a really sick Leinil Yu cover. If that team looks familiar to you, it’s because they’re the losers of the 2020 X-Men election, because damn, that makes a good team.
It’s a 30 page one-shot, and you should sit down and read it with a pencil and your thinking cap on. I’m serious. It’s important.
Next week, however…
It’s kittycat time, pussycat dolls.
Stay weird, talk soon.