Leah Williams Serves Up Sexy X-Men With Grindhouse Themes in X-Terminators (Exclusive)

What happens when you take four female members of the X-Men and pair them with a creative team that knows how to dial up the sex appeal? You get X-Terminators, an upcoming miniseries from writer Leah Williams (X-Factor, Trial of Magneto) and artist Carlos Gómez (Amazing Mary JaneAmazing Spider-Man Beyond). X-Terminators isn’t your typical X-Men series. For starters, it takes some of the more underutilized members of Krakoa’s citizens – Dazzler and Boom-Boom, for instance, along with Jubilee and Wolverine (Laura Kinney) – and puts them in the spotlight. Second, it’s one of the few Marvel titles that come with a “Parental Advisory.” But while there is some blood, gore, and risqué subject matter, the five-issue miniseries is really about four powerful X-Women bonding over heartbreak and vampire hunting.

ComicBook.com spoke to X-Terminators writer Leah Williams to find out how the series was originally pitched, its original title of “Dazzler the Vampire Slayer,” the changes that came with the parental advisory, reuniting with her Amazing Mary Jane collaborator Carlos Gómez, who came up with the cast’s sexy outfits, and so much more. You can also find first-look pages at X-Terminators #1 below.

X-Men Meets “Grindhouse”

ComicBook.com: I just want to start by talking about the dichotomy of the X-Men franchise right now, how you have the Destiny of X era and Judgment Day, yet, there’s also room for a series like X-Terminators to exist. I want to ask how you came up with the idea to pitch this Grindhouse adventure.

Leah Williams: It’s kind of been a long journey. I guess it started around two or three years ago. I was at the X-Men Creative Summit, and that’s before the pandemic. We would have these kind of twice-annual gatherings of all the X-Men writers where we would come up with our stories and plan things out and just really tighten up the line and what we’re all doing. And Gerry Duggan brought up this kind of old pitch that he had once mentioned and then never pursued. And he referred to it as Dazzler the Vampire Slayer. And I was immediately entranced, like what? What? Gerry, what? Why are you not writing this? This is amazing. Are you kidding me?

And he was like, “Leah, it’s yours. It’s yours. If you want to do something with it, it is all yours.” And I was just like, okay, absolutely. I will write this book. Are you kidding? It’s an amazing idea. And from there it kind of shifted as the needs for the line changed. And it went from being Dazzler the Vampire Slayer, which we’d considered doing as a Marvel Unlimited comic, the vertical scrolling webcomic they have on the Marvel Unlimited app, to being a Grindhouse book, because after X-Factor and after Trial of Magneto, what I really wanted to do was Grindhouse.

There wasn’t a book like that in the lineup. And I kind of needed an emotional pallet cleanser after X-Factor and Trial of Magneto. I wanted something fun and action-packed and kind of joyfully stupid. I was just really, really into that. So it became Grindhouse of X is what we started calling it after Dazzler the Vampire Slayer. And it was Jonathan Hickman’s idea. So we really wanted that to be the title of the book and called it Grindhouse of X for a while.

And the way that cast happened is just kind of looking at the lay of the land and seeing who was in what book and what characters were available, if there was anybody else to star alongside Dazzler. And obviously, Boom-Boom wasn’t up to anything. So I was like, “Okay, well I’m grabbing Tabby,” and then Tini Howard kind of shuffled some stuff around so that Jubilee could come round out this trifecta of bombastic exploding, mutants in Grindhouse cause what could be better?

Laura Kinney was the last to join the team. And she’s like the pinch of salt that you add to brownie batter to make it all the sweeter. She just perfectly compliments the personalities of the other women. It’s been so much fun writing the four of them.

I think it’s important how you mentioned having this playful series. As much as I enjoy the seriousness and all the political nature of Immortal X-Men or the superhero adventures of just the regular X-Men series, it’s nice to have this book where you can just sit back and enjoy the characters bouncing off of each other and being playful with each other and having the witty banter and whatnot with some beautiful art.

Yeah. And that’s exactly how I feel about writing it. It’s nice.

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Parental Advisory

Of course, the parental advisory portion of the series made headlines. Did that choice come down to just wanting to stick to the grindhouse vibe that you were going for?

It did. And it was actually [editor] Jordan White’s idea. I have never given much thought to ratings and I didn’t know until this series that it was within my power to have an opinion on the matter. So Jordan came to me and he was like, “What are you thinking for rating?” And he asked me that in the X-Slack, in the X-Terminators channel and he suggested parental advisory. And I was like, “Oh my God, that’s an option? Yes, absolutely.”

And then he just kind of paused for a second and he was like, “Yeah. Yeah, we have to.” Because of the issues that were already completed. And I think it was around Issue #3. I was writing Issue #3 when we committed to being a parental advisory. And from that point on, now that I knew we were going to have a PA rating, I started stress testing the boundaries of this rating. Like how far can I push this? Because I thought I was playing it safe in the first two issues, but now let’s really see how far I can push that parental advisory rating. And it’s every time an issue comes back from S&P, we do a victory lap in the Slack, all of the other writers and Jordan and the editors, we celebrate what actually got through.

Were you getting a lot of notes back from S&P?

No, because they know that it’s a PA rating. “We’re going to give you some latitude here because we know what you’re doing. We know that there’s a warning on it.” I guess it’s because it’s always kind of a negotiation with that kind of thing. Like curse words, that kind of thing. “Damn” and “ass,” stuff that I think is like PG-13, it’s not PG-13 in a Marvel comic. That’s a parental advisory warning.

You said around Issue #3 is when you started to push it a little more. So is that a case where readers will notice back from the first two issues to Number #3, the boundaries being pushed a little more?

Yeah. So the way that it’s going to come across in the story is the plot escalating. It’s not something that, like the tone hasn’t changed, the style hasn’t changed, but the plot is escalating, events are accelerating. It’s a natural kind of flow. And I got an interesting comment back from a friend who I asked to read over the third issue. She came to me after reading it and she was like, “Okay. This is the issue that made me sit there in stunned disbelief that Marvel is actually publishing it. This is the issue that I was like, ‘I can’t believe this exists.'”

I was like, “Oh, okay. That’s interesting, because that’s when I found out about the PA rating.”

That has me excited to get to the third issue, because just from the first issue I already was enjoying it. So that’s something to look forward to.

Oh absolutely. It kind of sets me up. I’m finishing the fifth issue today. And it kind of sets me up in this position where I have to outdo myself every time. Not just because of story reasons, but because Carlos Gomez, the artist, his reactions to the scripts have been so gratifying that every time I’m like, “Okay. I got to impress him even more now.”

And I’m sure that the same can be said of readers. I want to impress you guys even more with every new issue.

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Hilarious Dialogue

I started my X-Men journey with the original X-Force team. So seeing Boom-Boom living her best life has been a joy for me.

I’m so glad. She’s definitely the runaway favorite, the crowd favorite that we weren’t necessarily expecting.

I liked the back and forth between her and Jubilee in the bar.

I think that’s probably my favorite page in that issue.

For the conversations, were you pulling from personal experiences and conversations you’ve had with friends, or was it more just spitballing what sounded fun?

I’m laughing because the dialogue that you’re referring to, like… Jubilee accusing Boom-Boom of dressing a certain way. I wouldn’t want that to be from my personal life. It was just me kind of putting myself in their heads. The dialogue, the way that it plays out is I have these completely intact versions of these characters in my brain and the way that they interact with each other and stay in character is just kind of crystallized. So you’ll see the same sort of dynamic between Jubilee and Boom-Boom again in Issue #2, again in Issue #3.

They have this chaotic energy that really plays well off each other, especially because Boom-Boom… she’s not dumb, but she is kind of a bimbo. She’s like a bimbo with a heart of gold. And she kind of uses that bimbo front to hide a lot of her vulnerability and loneliness and that kind of thing. She’s not going to talk about it. She’s just going to make you laugh about something stupid instead. And Jubilee, her heart is all the way open. So of course she knows that about Boom-Boom and she’s game. She’s going to play along. And they’re just going to have a wild time and say the just most flagrantly out-of-pocket stuff to each other. Their dialogue throughout the series, my friend came back and she was like, “I can’t believe Marvel is publishing this.” It’s because of stuff that Jubilee and Boom-Boom were saying to each other.

It reminded me of back in my college days when my friends and I were just always going back and forth with each other over the silliest of things. So I could relate to some of it at least.

That’s good to hear. I wanted it to be natural and kind of show an existing friendship. Like these women are comfortable with each other, Laura, less so because she’s not as close with Dazzler and Boom-Boom as she is with Jubilee. So she kind of has to warm up to them. And that’s also something that happens around Issue #4. She finally meshes with the other two women and then her humor starts to show.

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Vampire Villains

What made vampires the perfect antagonists for the series? Because you rarely get to see them outside of supernatural titles.

Well, Dazzler is uniquely equipped to annihilate vampires. She’s like a one-woman vampire genocide. She could just end it all for the vampire nation. And I find that fascinating. And I can’t believe that it hasn’t been explored more or focused on. It was shown in Deadpool. She teamed up with Deadpool in an issue. They showed her killing vampires, but that was just like a single issue. And it was a Deadpool, not a Dazzler comic. I think it should be a Dazzler story and it should be front and center and we should get the full gory glory of what she can do with her powers to vampires. It’s incredible. And the vampire nation in the current continuity, they’re actually not at war with the greater Marvel Universe or anything like that. So the vampires that we’re dealing with in X-Terminators, just in case anybody’s concerned about this, do deserve it.

They do deserve what’s coming to them. They are defectors from the vampire nation.

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Reuniting With Carlos Gomez and Sexy Characters

I did want to bring up how The Amazing Mary Jane was a favorite of mine. So I was excited to see you back with Carlos Gomez again. How has that collaboration process been working then till now and has anything changed?

I think we’re more used to each other now. We worked together for the first time in Amazing Mary Jane. And we weren’t as communicative because we were going through our editors. And I remember inks coming in on Amazing Mary Jane and everybody was so sexy, like Quentin Beck. I had never found myself attracted to Mysterio before and now I’m looking at Carlos’s inks and I’m like, “Oh my God. This is a problem.” So I would give these notes back to our editor that just said, “Bisexual panic.”

I never told Carlos about that until now, until X-Terminators, because working with him on Amazing Mary Jane is exactly why I requested to work with him again on X-Terminators. He draws really gorgeous women. He draws gorgeous everybody, but his dynamism and expressiveness and curves and action… I love the way he revels in that kind of thing with these characters. And it’s been an absolute joy working with him again, not only because of that, but because I think by around Page 13 of the first issue, he had developed a huge crush on Boom-Boom. And it became really evident.

Yeah. You could tell [laughs]. That actually brings up a follow-up question I was going to ask. Who gets the credit for the sexy outfits, you or Carlos? It sounds like Carlos.

I think Carlos would say me and I would say Carlos, basically. Because I’m the one who picked out what everybody is wearing. I made folders of references and it was like a single photo for Dazzler, a single photo for Jubilee, a huge folder of like kawaii bimbo references for Boom-Boom, specifically, because the same way that I feel so strongly about Dazzler being a Vampire Slayer, I feel about Boom-Boom. Her final Pokemon evolution is as a bimbo, she looks like a bimbo. And I feel really validated by the response she’s gotten so far when previews have dropped because people love the way that she looks. And the particulars of the outfit, like I didn’t choose the dress, but I did choose the sunglasses. And I did provide references for the kinds of mini dresses, baby doll dresses, knee socks, and platform sneakers that I think she would be wearing. I showed that to Carlos. But the final thing, the sexiness of it, that is all him. And I think now we’re up to seven times now Carlos has been asked to lower her hemline just slightly, which is always my favorite part.

I like how during the bar night, everyone is dressing down but of course, Boom-Boom gets dressed up because she was told they’re going out to have a good time.

Yeah, yeah. Of course, she dressed up and felt nice about it. It kind of becomes a recurring theme throughout the series where the way that they choose to dress themselves is seen multiple times over with some costume changes. And we’ve been having way too much fun with it.

So we can expect more costume changes as the series goes forward?

Absolutely. And people are going to love it. We’re going to get a lot of cosplay mileage out of the series.

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What Fans Can Expect From X-Terminators

What can you tease fans about what to expect out of X-Terminators as the series continues? Without giving too much away of course.

Clown Girl Boom-Boom.

I like it.

I’m not going to explain why. I’m not going to explain how the story gets us there, but I just want to plant that seed in people’s minds about seeing Boom-Boom in a sexy clown girl outfit, because we did that.

That raises so many questions that I’ll just leave unanswered for now. My last question is you’ve obviously found a home in the X-Office. Are there plans for you to work on any other series or stories once X-Terminators wraps up?

Oh, I definitely hope so. I adore Jordan D. White. I love working with him. I love Lauren Amaro and I cherish my X-Office colleagues and want to continue with this for as long as I can. It’s a great place to work and I definitely hope there will be more.

X-Terminators #1 goes on sale September 21st.

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