Novelist and comic book author Marjorie M. Liu is somewhat of a matchmaker—a matchmaker whose clientele include mutants and costumed vigilantes. In addition to writing several best-selling novels, Liu is the current scribe for Marvel Comics’s Astonishing X-Men. The imprint will play host to a landmark storyline in June, when current X-Man Northstar marries his long-term boyfriend in Astonishing X-Men #51. We spoke with Liu in advance of her signing at Comicopia.
Photo from comicopia.com
On top of your work with Marvel, you’ve written “paranormal romance” and “urban fantasy” novels. Do you find that genre influences your comics writing?
The books I write are heavy on action, they’re heavy on romance, they’re heavy on those adventure thrills. When you grow up and you read comic books—as I’ve read them for many many years—comic books are really the same way.
Comic books, especially the X-Men, are one big soap opera.
You’ve got these strong, powerful relationships, romantic or otherwise; you’ve got crazy battles; you’ve got mystery—all of the above.
Romance novels are about relationships; that’s really what it comes down to. And relationships inform character.
So writing about how your character relate to one another, interact with one another, their friendships, their dislikes, and yes, occasionally, their romances between one another is a way of exploring the characters, and I think giving readers an experience that’s maybe a little deeper, hopefully, along with the space battles and fights and things like that. That’s my intention.
You worked on the—fairly grim—Dark Wolverine and X-23 series prior to taking over on Astonishing X-Men. Was there a problem making the transition between those?
Actually, yeah. There were a couple things. Dark Wolverine and X-23 are grittier, and they are darker, and there’s more violence and—especially with Wolverine—there’s more sex. I guess there was part of me that thought I could go into Astonishing and do the same. There are a couple of areas where I had to pull back just a little bit, and those were areas that had to do with gore.
In one battle… there was a lot more impalement, let’s put it that way.
And a lot more blood-spurting [Laughs]. So we had to tone that back a bit.
Do you feel any pressure or obligation writing for Northstar, Marvel’s preeminent gay character?
When dealing with characters that have been historically underrepresented, in comics or in any media, I feel a deep obligation to write them the best story I can, and to try and ring true to who these characters are and their life experiences.
It’s a responsibility that I take very seriously.
How much does recent real life rhetoric on same-sex marriage enter into the comic?
What we’re trying to accomplish has everything to do with telling a love story, and nothing at all to do with politics. These are two characters who have been in a relationship for a while. The key is to keep evolving and keep pushing your characters. Rather than break them up or give them some sort of artificial strife, we’re writing about what many people do in real life: they get married. We’re reflecting off of the real world, in the sense that not everyone is going to be okay with this wedding. Some of these characters are going to turn down invitations.
You also have a background in law. Does that enter into the work you’re doing with Marvel?
The study of law is the study of human nature. The worst side of human nature, because when you’re in law school you’re not studying about people who’ve done good. You’re studying about people who have broken the law and committed crimes.
You’re studying trouble.
You’re studying all the trouble people get into, and how they react to that trouble, for better or for worse. The study of law, [though] it’s not something I consciously draw on, has influenced my work for the last eight or nine years.
The X-Men—and mutants in general—are marginalized characters in the Marvel universe. The two have often been interpreted as representative of the LGBT community. How does that reading intersect with this explicit address of same-sex issues?
The X-Men have always been a window into people who feel like they are on the fringe and on the outside of society—whether you are a person of color, an immigrant, gay or lesbian, transgender. Just this idea of you being different, and persecuted for it, resonates deeply with many people.
MARJORIE M. LUI
464 COMM. AVE.