In March, IDW announced that The X-Files would be returning with a tenth season in comic book form. Almost immediately, fans began speculating about what stories this new season would include; when would the stories be set? Would the show’s incredibly complex mythology be continued? Would “baby” William be involved? I spoke to series writer Joe Harris and illustrator Michael Walsh about some of their plans for Season 10, and the difficulties of bringing such an iconic, cult show back for a new season after more than ten years off air.
What made you both decide to become involved with the new The X-Files series?
JH: IDW had asked me if I was interested and, in a span of about three seconds, the question registered, sank in and motivated my “hell yes!” reply. I’m a huge fan from way back at the beginning and the opportunity to write these beloved characters, and contribute to one of the greatest mythologies in television and science fiction history, was too great to let pass.
Michael Walsh: When IDW asked me about working on The X-Files I was ecstatic. I had been coming off of a Crime/Sci-Fi comic and was really in love with the idea of drawing something with some horror themes and supernatural elements. Not only that but I loved the show as a kid and it gave me the excuse to go back and watch it from the very beginning. It was an instant “Yes, when can I start?”
When Chris Carter came on-board as an Executive Producer/Consultant did you have to change any of your planned stories/arcs as they didn’t fit in with the plot of a hypothetical third film?
JH: When my editors first told me about Chris Carter’s involvement I was both thrilled and, I think you can probably imagine, intimidated as hell. It all came about so quickly, and organically though. He had read the story outline I’d put together, along with my script for the first issue, and was so complimentary and supportive it’s almost embarrassing. He also had some notes and wisdom to impart, as well as some great advice. His coming on board did help to refocus the original scope of our opening story arc and I feel like we’re really fortunate for his coming in and offering what he’s been able to impart.
How many comics are you planning for the first run/season?
JH: That’s a good question. Honestly, I’m not certain. As of now, we’ve got an opening five-issue arc that re-establishes everything. The characters, the mythology, the conspiracy, everything. Then we’ve got a bunch of shorter stories, two-parters, and single issue standalones that will harken back to the “Monster of the Week” formula and, in some cases, be direct sequels to some of my favorite old episodes. New monsters and paranormal stuff as well as some returning characters and creatures. After that, I’ve got another big storyline lined up that further builds on the “Mytharc,” the alien colonists out to retake the earth, Mulder and Scully’s connection and role within it all, and conspiracies both old and new related to it all.
Whether or not we rebrand ourselves as “Season 11” after that, or at some other point, remains to be seen. But the series will be published monthly for the foreseeable future, regardless.
There are a couple of other TV shows that have continued on as comics. Have you looked to those for any lessons, i.e., things to do or not to do in a comic extension of a TV series?
JH: Well, there’s been a lot of this sort of thing getting done right lately in comics. From Buffy, including Angel at IDW, to the more recent Star Trek and Doctor Who books, the appetite for a continuation of these stories starring the characters the fans don’t want to say goodbye forever to doesn’t seem to let up.
With The X-Files, I really want to give the fans what they want while maintaining some of the mystique and coyness that kept us coming back season after season. It’s really its own thing, so it’s hard to gauge. I mean, we’re going to nail the likenesses and, I’d like to think–or, at least, I hope–the voices of the characters. We’re going to be presenting what I hope feels like the next chapter in a long narrative we’ve been following for many years now, as well as something I hope really harkens back to the vintage energy and paranoia and sense of “holy s*** did you see that!” that used to really permeate the series.
MW: I’ve definitely been skimming through comics that have been adapted from television and film. It’s interesting to see how different artists depict characters that have already been portrayed by iconic actors in other media. Mostly I’ve been trying to grasp when artists are really nailing likenesses and when the drawings are becoming too stiff or referenced, then applying those ideas and methods to my own work.
Will each comic be an episode in its own right as most of the original ones were, or will one case run across multiple issues as in the 30 Days of Night series?
JH: It depends. Like I said earlier, the first storyline will span five issues. I think the next story after that is slated to be a two-part story to be followed by a couple of single-issue, standalone tales. Before we gear up for another big “event” storyline that will run five issues, all over again.
Have you taken any cues from previous The X-Files comic runs in illustrating the new series or did you want to take the look in a completely new direction?
MW: I briefly took a look through the The X-Files/30 Days of Night crossover as well as what I could find of the Charlie Adlard illustrated Topps stuff. That said it was more out of curiosity than a desire to emulate what had been done before. I’m starting fresh, stylistically speaking, when approaching The X-Files comics. If you’re familiar with my work you will see a lot of the same approaches in terms of rendering and framing that I’ve used before on other work but I’ve taken a lot of cues from the actual show in terms of pacing, lighting and acting.
A lot of fans were upset that Agent Doggett and Agent Reyes did not appear in the second The X-Files film, will we get to see them in the comics at all? Are they still with the FBI?
JH: Yes. And yes. 🙂
All the characters are now much older than they were during the show, has that influenced the stories you wanted to tell or the illustration style at all? How much freedom were you given in creating the current “look” of the characters?
JH: I’ll let Michael speak to the specifics regarding the “look” of the characters, but I can tell you, from my end, it’s a balancing act. The short answer is, yes, of course, the stories are affected by these characters’ experiences, along with the audience’s. We call the series “Season 10” right from the get go, so we’ve got a little baggage to sift through. A lot of triumph and tragedy and unresolved stuff. But we want to make it feel fresh too. We want to make a satisfying read for people who’ve followed Mulder and Scully’s journey all this way, as well as do something fresh and new and now.
MW: Since the story is canonical with what has been established in the show, these characters aren’t the spry young Mulder and Scully from the first few seasons. This is how they might appear had they filmed another season directly after the second film. I’ve slightly modernized them and designed some plain-clothes looks for the characters based on their already established style. That said, when designing the look of the characters I played it really close to the show and really tried to capture what makes them so iconic. So far I think I’m having the most fun with Skinner.
The biggest question in the fan community is about William, will his story be addressed in any way?
JH: Baby William Scully–who, I guess, wouldn’t really be a baby anymore–will figure prominently.
You’ve said that issue one begins with Mulder & Scully living “normal lives together under secret identities.” How will that be set up as we left them back from exile at the end of the second film?
JH: We’re going to hit the ground running a little ways after the bikinis and boats glimpse of their “happily ever after” post-credits moment at the end of the second movie, if that’s what you’re referring to. Some time has passed.
That said… we may go back and fill in some blanks in some instances, or we might leave things mysterious and full of questions in others. I have plans to include some “untold” moments in The X-Files chronology, going back to the early days of the show, to just after the end of that second movie.
Can you give us any indication of how far after the second film issue one is set?
JH: Some time has passed. One thing I really dug about the second film is that the creators let the characters live and age, and Mulder and Scully have been out of the game for a little while. The break is kind of integral to the genesis of the new comics series.
The Lone Gunmen appear on the cover of Issue #2, can you give us any clues about how they will be involved considering they were killed off in Season 9?
JH: Well, they did die “off camera” so I’d like to think the opportunity to bring them back in some way shape or form was always there. So far as what they’re up to, or how they figure into our story, I can’t give away too many details. They’ve been through some stuff and experienced some more. But, suffice to say, they’re going to play a familiar role.
You’ve also said that an iconic villain from the show will be making a return, what was it like to continue that character’s story and to illustrate them in comic form?
JH: We’re bringing back a bunch of folks: allies, enemies, and shady characters who aren’t quite one or the other too. That’s been the candy so far, for me. When it comes to the icons, be it the Lone Gunmen or some of our other, yet-to-be-revealed returning champions, I feel so giddy to be doing this, yet, sometimes anyway, so intimidated! It’s a tremendous amount of fun bringing back this character or that one and I feel a lot of pressure to get it right. In some cases we’re really presenting the next chapter in their chronology, or even filling in some past blanks that shed new light on who they are or why they do they things they do. In short, I’m honored, and psyched, and at least a little scared.
What prompted you to choose that character to bring back? Was it someone whose story you didn’t feel had been completed on the show?
JH: I had a wishlist I wanted to tackle with regard to which characters I wanted to bring back. In the case of folks we haven’t seen in a while, or whom we’ve been led to believe might have met their demise, I made sure I had a good reason why or how, and I presented my ideas to the publisher, as well as to Chris.
We’ll be introducing some new characters too, but I know who, as a fan, I’d want to see if I were just reading this series. So I let that sensibility guide me.
Regardless of what approach you take it is unlikely that you will please all of the The X-Files fan base. Are you prepared for the criticism you will likely face from some people?
JH: Hey, writing comics isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re going to step into the arena, you need to be prepared to fend off a few slings and arrows. I’m hardly inexperienced when it comes to criticism. That said, I respect fandom deeply. I only get to write this series because the studio and the publisher are betting on a reservoir of support and appetite for the further adventures of Agents Mulder and Scully and their long and winding journey down the rabbit hole. And I’m here to serve that want and fill that need.
MW: As an artist you receive criticism all the time, It’s something every professional artist understands. Knowing when to learn from it and when it put it aside is an ability that comes with time. I’m really trying to capture the feeling of the show and service the fans while still maintaining my own established style and artistic sensibilities, it’s a balancing act that I hope long time The X-Files fans can appreciate.
Many thanks to John at IDW for setting up this interview, to Joe and Michael for their time and to the X-Philes at Idealists Haven for providing some excellent questions.