Marvel Comics Peter David Interview Talks X-Factor's Polaris, Rictor and Shatterstar's Homosexual On-Panel Kiss at Five Points Festival

ComicsVerse CEO Justin Gilbert Alba sat down with Marvel Comics writer Peter David at Five Points Festival NYC. The discussion centered around Polaris, Layla Miller, Spider-Man, HOUSE OF M, Madrox, X-FACTOR, and Ben Reilly from “Clone Saga.”

ComicsVerse: We’re here at Five Points Festival with Peter David. I’m ComicsVerse CEO, Justin Gilbert Alba. I’m so excited to have my first video interview. I usually host the podcast, but I wanted to have one over here with Peter David. Remember, you’re watching ComicsVerse. First off, I wanted to ask you about how great it is that you’re bringing a lot of gay characters to the forefront. I know you’ve been asked a lot about Rictor and Shatterstar. What made you choose to focus on their relationship? Was it that Rictor was in X-FACTOR at the time?

Peter David on Consummating the Relationship Between Rictor and Shatterstar

Peter David: The main reason I introduced Shatterstar into the series was to give Rictor somebody to play off of. When I brought him in, I had them face to face with each other for the first time. I thought to myself, “You know what? This is the 21st century. We’ve been hinting about this for years. Why not just be upfront with him?” So, I had the two of them kiss. You have to understand that to me it was no big deal. It was, in fact, panel five of a six-panel page. It was not like this was a full-page thing and, “Oh, my God, they’ve kissed,” and all that kind of thing.

Peter David wrote this page of X-Factor where Rictor and Shatterstar kiss for the first time on panel.
Rictor and Shatterstar kiss in X-FACTOR #45 written by Peter David. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Peter David: It was, to me, a throwaway moment. It didn’t really mean much, but it meant a lot to a lot of people, obviously. It, I mean, meant so much that I wound up reading Google notices about it in Russian newspapers. I’m seeing the stuff that’s written in Cyrillic, and I can make out, “Peter David and Shatterstar,” and the rest of it’s in Russian. It just had a huge impact, and I was very pleased with it.

I had the two of them kiss. You have to understand that to me it was no big deal

The Fan Reaction

ComicsVerse: Do you find that you get any pushback from fans who are maybe a little bit less progressive, or do you have any pushback from any companies you’ve worked with in terms of writing more progressive characters?

Peter David: From the companies, absolutely not. No. There was no pushback whatsoever. I didn’t have any editorial meetings. I just tossed it into the script, and I had no problems with it at all. The only person who gave me serious pushback was Rob Liefeld, God bless him because the story broke, and it had a news cycle, and that was fine, and it was all wearing down, and then Rob Liefeld came forward and said, “No, no, no. Shatterstar is not remotely gay. He’s like an ancient Greek warrior.” We’re going, “Dude!”

Peter David: “If you had the slightest knowledge of history, you were aware of what the Greek warriors did before they went into battle. They banged the young boys who accompanied them.” Of all things for Rob to say. Apparently, 99% of comic book fandom was aware of Greek history, something that apparently Rob didn’t know about, and so it suddenly had this massive resurgence as everyone is piling on poor Rob. I mean, I felt bad for him, to be honest. But other than that, no, I didn’t really get a negative reaction from fans.

ComicsVerse: That’s great that it was mostly positive.

Peter David’s Run on X-FACTOR

ComicsVerse: In terms of X-FACTOR, I have a feeling that Jamie Madrox is probably your favorite character, but I wanted to ask, who else did you enjoy writing for in that series, and was there a character that, as you’re writing them, that really surprised you?

Peter David: Well, to a certain degree, Madrox, to start off with, but all of the characters I adored. I really grew to love Layla Miller. I mean, she started out as this character, and the fans didn’t seem to know why she was there or care about her very much. Then around the third issue, with her knowledge of the future alone, she managed to take out a guy who was attempting to assassinate X-FACTOR. As the guy is lying there dying, he says, “Who are you,” and everything around her is in blackness, and she holds up this flashlight and she says, “I’m Layla Miller. I know stuff,” and clicks off the flashlight.

Peter David created the Layla Miller character.
Peter David created the character Layla Miller for HOUSE OF M and X-FACTOR. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

All the fandom went, “Holy God. Who the hell is this kid?” I really had a great deal of fun writing the character and then bringing her back and up-aging her from the future, which was, again, something that the fans were not expecting, but I was very pleased with the way Layla turned out.

I’m trying the best that I can to tell the stories to the greatest effect in a way that fans will enjoy.

Polaris aka Lorna Dane

ComicsVerse: Yeah, it was really interesting. Her, sort of, evolution from the kid in HOUSE OF M to who she became at the end of X-FACTOR. A few years ago, you came up with a, I remember talking with you about this once at New York Comic Con. You came up with a wonderful backstory for Polaris that was absolutely in canon and went back to the airplane thing that happened when her parents died pre-Len Wein X-Men. How did that come about, and what made you decide to focus on Polaris’ backstory?

Peter David: It seemed like a good idea at the time. I just wanted to flesh out a little bit about Polaris and answer some longstanding questions about her, and that’s where I came up with the idea that she was responsible for the death of her parents, but she had no recollection of it.

ComicsVerse: I’d say she’s one of my favorites, so I’m really glad you wrote about her. Also, I noticed that your writing really spans a lot of different styles. I remember when I read “The Death of Jean DeWolff,” SPIDER-MAN, I was surprised that you wrote it because I was reading your X-FACTOR at the time, and of course, you wrote HULK: FUTURE IMPERFECT, which you’re super well known for. Do you have a different approach to the different styles that you have, or do you kind of go into everything kind of the same?

Peter David: Oh, no. I go into everything the same. Ultimately, it all comes down to, I’m trying the best that I can to tell the stories to the greatest effect in a way that fans will enjoy. I write pretty much everything the same in that regard.

Peter David on Ben Reilly the Scarlet Spider

ComicsVerse: In terms of Ben Reilly, he was a villain in “Clone Saga,” and now he’s a hero. Can you talk a little bit about what’s ahead for him in terms of being a new hero in the Marvel universe, or perhaps an antihero?

Peter David: Well, I mean, Ben considers himself a hero, even though an imaginary version of Scarlet Spider said to him, “You had a plan that was defeated by Spider-Man. That pretty much by definition makes you a bad guy.” The thing is that I think that in that regard, Ben’s probably one of the most realistic individuals in the Marvel universe, because in the real world, the people who we perceive as bad guys, ranging from everybody from ISIS to Donald Trump, see themselves as a hero. Everyone is the hero of their own story, and Ben Reilly is no different. He doesn’t think of himself as a bad guy. He thinks of himself as somebody who is trying to help people. The fact that he tried to do so in such a spectacularly stupid way to him doesn’t matter as much as what his intentions were.

Peter David: That’s something that we are going to be very much exploring over the next issues. Kaine is going to catch up with him, and there’s going to be a major throwdown, and in issues six and seven, we are going to be doing a story that directly addresses his personality and why he is the way that he is.

ComicsVerse: That’s exciting! You get to see a character from a different perspective, from their perspective. I think the fans are going to get to learn a lot about that.

Peter David: Yeah, I agree.

Ben Reilly The Scarlet Spider #1 Greg Land Variant Cover written by Peter David
Greg Land Variant Cover courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Peter David’s Inner Thoughts

ComicsVerse: Really quick. I did this once with Chris Claremont. We had a really good time. We did kind of like a word association. When I mentioned a character, he kind of told me what he thought of them in one or two words. Really quick, I wanted to mention Polaris.

Peter David: Would-be leader.

ComicsVerse: Havok?

Peter David: Another would-be leader.

ComicsVerse: Jamie Madrox.

Peter David: Retired.

ComicsVerse: Rahne Sinclair.

Peter David: Retired.

ComicsVerse: Monet St. Croix.

Peter David: Out there.

ComicsVerse: That she is, right?

Peter David: Yeah.

ComicsVerse: What about Rictor?

Peter David: Struggling.

ComicsVerse: Shatterstar?

Peter David: Serene.

ComicsVerse: Layla Miller?

Peter David: Knows stuff.

ComicsVerse: That’s kind of the perfect thing to say about her.

Peter David: Yeah. Pretty much.

ComicsVerse: Ben Reilly?

Peter David: Confused.

In Closing

ComicsVerse: That’s awesome. Thank you so, so much for this interview. We really, really, really appreciate it.

Peter David: You’re welcome. Not a problem.

ComicsVerse: Again, this is Justin Alba at ComicsVerse. Thank you for watching. Remember to check us out at ComicsVerse.com, and we’ll see you on the website.

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