Behind ‘X-Men Icons: Emma Frost’: Drew Johnson speaks about the unpublished series

Back in the “New X-Men” days, Professor Xavier summoned Emma Frost to tutor a mischievous psychic named Val Dunphy. Emma pitted the girl against herself to compete in a game of intrigues with a top-level businessman as the object of their affections.

The plot belonged to 2002′s “X-Men Icons” title, which allowed creators to work with their favorite characters. Cyclops, Rogue and Iceman had the green light, but Grant Morrison wanted to write an “Emma Frost” ongoing, so the character-focused “X-Men Icons: Emma Frost” was halted. Morrison never wrote the ongoing, but it finally was published with Karl Bollers, Randy Green and Greg Horn in 2003.

Scripted by Sean McKeever and inked by Rick Ketcham, “X-Men Icons: Emma Frost” was pencilled by Drew Edward Johnson, who revealed the unpublished series on his blog last year in September. He provides us with behind-the-panel information, several additional scans of his own pencils and reasons why he loves EMMA FROST.

“X-Men Icons: Emma Frost” Interview with Drew Johnson

x-men icons emma frost #1, page 6What – pardon the unintentional pun – drew you to the series, Drew?

DREW: Mainly my lack of a job! Not to be unglamorous about it, but I was honestly just lucky enough to get called for a job featuring one of my favorite characters and a chance to work with a writer I really wanted to work with.

So, you’re a big Emma Frost fan. She has a diverse fanbase who have so many different interpretations of her — and that’s a really awesome scope. Why do you like her so much?

DREW: She’s a very three dimensional character. Ironically known as The White Queen, morally, she seems very gray. The continuing balancing act of good versus evil within Emma gives her a depth that many super-powered characters lack. This, coupled with Emma’s natural elegance, make her a fascinating character to work with. In the unpublished series that Sean McKeever and I worked on together, Sean really played on these elements well. Often, we see her tightly in control; sexy, super elegant, and powerful. But from time to time within the series, Sean pulls back the curtain and gives us a brief glimpse of Emma’s inner person — or does he? There are so many layers to Emma, that we can’t really know if we’re seeing her true face, or if it’s a facade. This made for a great character driven story for me to draw, and challenged me to push my artistic abilities to make the character act, and bring these layers within Emma forward visually. It’s more fun to work with characters that demand more from me as an illustrator.

x-men icons emma frost #1, page 8Emma has a shady, convoluted back-history, like many X-characters. Would this series have attempted to clear some of her background regarding her Hellfire Club origins? Or what would have the general plot addressed? (Note: The “Emma Frost” series discontinued at issue 18, before the Hellfire Club origins arc.)

DREW: I don’t believe Sean was addressing much, if anything of Emma’s past. It’s been a while since I’ve read the script, but from what I remember, the story was much more an exploration of Emma’s heart vs Emma’s personality. It was a story in which Xavier asked Emma to help mentor a young student who was very much like Emma herself — a powerful psychic with questionable morals — only the young girl, Val, lacked the polish and self control that someone like Emma could teach her. In an effort to bring the girl under her control, Emma challenges the student to a continually escalating game to see who can win the heart of a famous industrial giant. I hope Sean will forgive me if I didn’t remember correctly, but I think that was the main gist of it.

Why did the series get replaced? Was the series supposed to be a miniseries, but Marvel decided they wanted to extend it to an ongoing with the “Emma Frost” title?

DREW: The series was originally supposed to be one of the “X-Men Icons” series that Marvel had been producing back around 2002/2003, which was when we worked on it. The “X-Men Icons” books were focused on individual x-characters and gave creators a great chance to do stories with some of their favorite characters.

As it was explained to me at the time, Grant Morrison had planned to write an “Emma Frost” ongoing series, so they decided to set our book aside. Ultimately, Morrison didn’t end up working on the series, but Marvel did produce an “Emma Frost” ongoing. If I remember correctly, I think that they used the covers that Greg Horn drew for our “Icons” series as covers for the ongoing instead.

X-Men Icons: Emma Frost #1, page 12 x-men icons emma frost #2, page 22

How did you feel when you heard Marvel canceled the series you were working on and how many pages had you drawn so far?

DREW: They asked for me to stop work when I was just abut half way through the third issue.

I was bummed of course. Sean had written a compelling story, and I felt good about the work I’d produced for the series. Rick Ketcham’s inks over my pencils were just beautiful. I’m sorry that it didn’t get published. These things happen though, and overall, practically speaking, I got paid. I got to work on a story I enjoyed with other creators that I was thrilled to get to work with. And I got to work with Mike Marts, who was just fantastic to work for. At the end of the day, I have no complaints. I learned a lot artistically while I was working on “Emma Frost” and came out the other side a better artist for it.

The art you drew depicts Emma in a rather glamorous lifestyle – drinking wine, taking taxis and wearing fancy clothes and all that jazz. Where and when would the series have taken place in Emma’s life?

DREW: Current X-MEN continuity circa 2003, I believe, in New York City and surrounding areas.

I can’t help but notice…but…is that you looking at Emma? The face does look like a bit like your blogger profile!

x-men emma frost #1, page 3 X-Men Icons: Emma Frost #1, page 4

DREW: …Yep, that’s me… At the time, I only had the script for issue one in hand. The script called for an obnoxious lout, so I thought it would be fun to throw myself in there for a bit part. Turned out, it wasn’t a bit part, and the fellow was the love interest’s right hand man, a recurring character throughout the series. I didn’t mean to put myself into the whole series, but on the fun side, I did get to draw myself picking my nose in a men’s room mirror. I was also thrilled to find that comic-me would have died violently in issue four. Thrown into a vat of acid, I believe. Now that would’ve been fun to draw!

About Drew Johnson

Drew Edward Johnson started drawing comic books in 1995 with Dark Horse Comics’/Lucasfilm’s STAR WARS X-WING: ROGUE SQUADRON.

His work has since been published by DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Top Cow, DDP , BOOM! Studios, and Wildstorm.

Drew is probably best known for his work on DC Comics’ WONDER WOMAN #195-210, #211, and #214. Other ongoing series work has included DC Comics’ SUPERGIRL, and Wildstorm’s THE AUTHORITY.
Over the course of his career, Johnson has been a member of Macon, GA’s Jolly Roger Studio, Macon, GA’s Studio Phoenix, which he co-founded with Ray Snyder and Dan Jolley, and Portland, OR’s Mercury Studio, which is now known as Periscope Studio.

These days, Drew lives in Burbank, CA with his wife, Animator/Director Karen Carnegie Johnson, their daughter Cole, and a really dumb cat named Lucy.

Drew is currently at work on his creator-owned series, MIDNIGHT SOCIETY: THE BLACK LAKE, a four-issue series from DC Comics coming in late 2012, or 2013.

Blog: cursethatmonkey.blogspot.com
Deviantart gallery: drewjohnson.deviantart.com

Comments

  • Niklas B

    I saw these blog posts last year, but it was very interesting to get a more complete story. Great work!

    Finally also an explanation for the ill-fitting covers of the (other) Emma Frost series. They had already been commissioned for this mini and Marvel was too cheap not to re-use them :)

  • Niklas B
  • Khino

    Pretty good interview, Aimee! Good job!

    Ah, so that’s where those covers for her series came from.