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At Marvel he's a nanny, but with creator-owned he's a parent: Kieron Gillen on WFH vs. independent work

Kieron Gillen on WFH vs. independent work

Kieron Gillen
Image credit: The University of Bath

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The opportunity to work for Marvel is a big deal for a comic book creator, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the most creatively fulfilling deal, especially for anyone who wants to tell a complete story — a fact that outgoing X-Men writer Kieron Gillen underscored during his spotlight panel at Emerald City Comic Con 2024.

“Marvel is an ongoing story that will continue until I’m dead,” Gillen jokes to the crowded room when explaining that he maintains a less proprietorial relationship with his work-for-hire material than the work he creates and co-owns. “There will be cockroaches at the end of an atomic future telling all those stories, because their rates are cheap.”

He went on to describe the difference between working for Marvel and the work he’s created at Image Comics and BOOM! Studios by saying, “At Marvel, you’re a nanny, not a parent.”

“At Marvel, you’re a nanny, not a parent.”

“I’m not a lifer at working at Marvel Comics. I arrive, I do some fun stuff, and I step away,” he explains, comparing himself to creators who spend the majority of their careers with the company. “I work hard on work-for-hire stuff, but it’s still less work than it is on a creator-owned [book].”

When approached about returning to Marvel, Gillen says that one of his core questions was “what can only I do,” adding that he wanted to “use the skills I picked up on The Wicked + The Divine and Die on Eternals.” It helped, he says, that when was offered to join the writing crew for the X-Men family of titles, “I thought, ‘I want to be in that gang. They look like cool kids.’”

Now, of course, he’s wrapping up his time with the X-Men with the current Rise of Powers of X and the upcoming X-Men: Forever series, and he was willing to offer some teases for fans wondering what’s to come… albeit in a very roundabout manner.

“There’s going to be a fight scene. Joking aside, I finally got a fight scene in one of my comics,” Gillen says. “I just got the final pages from Rise of the Powers of X in, and they’re great. There’s a scene where I thought the artist had broke themselves… So much of me being a comic writer is, ‘how can I be effective without killing [the artist]?” He also teases, “Someone’s going to have their worst time, and it’s not even happened yet. The really bad thing is, like, several Wednesdays away. You’ll enjoy it.”

For now, Gillen’s sights are on completing his existing X-Men commitments, and then moving on to The Power Fantasy, his new Image Comics series that he described as the HBO version of Immortal X-Men. When it comes to what prompted the move, the writer was admirably blunt: ““I remembered why I left Marvel [the first time]. Not in a bad way, but I remember what you can do with Marvel… but I also remember what you can do at Marvel.” What’s next? We’ll all find out in August.

Get fully immersed in ECCC 2024 with Popverse's coverage of the event. From main stage panel livestreams to backstage interviews, on-the-floor coverage, news, cosplay galleries, and all the major panels we'll be m ocderating! We also have a list of the ECCC 2024 artist alley and the big booths to expect. We've even got you covered on where to eat near the convention center.