Happy book release to the team at Aconyte Books and Alisa Kwitney! We got the opportunity to interview Alisa for her Marvel Heroines book Rogue: Untouched.
1. Congrats on this new book release! Can you tell me how you got involved in this project and were you an X-Men fan before this book?
I was leaving San Diego Comic Con in 2019 when I sat down at a table with my old friend Stuart Moore, who was on staff with me at DC/Vertigo back in the 90’s. He was sitting with Sven Larsen, who had recently become Vice President of Licensed Publishing at Marvel. Sven and I were on the same flight back to NYC, and we shared a cab to the airport and got to talking about dream characters and projects. I think I mentioned Rogue, along with lesser known characters Shanna the She Devil and the Cat, as characters I had always wanted to write. A few weeks later, he introduced me to Marc Gascoigne and Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells at Aconyte, and I pitched a bunch of ideas…but Rogue was the one I was hoping would pass the finish line.
As for whether or not I was an X-Men fan…I’ve always loved Rogue. I was an X-Men reader back in college, in the eighties, when Chris Claremont was writing. I just loved the romantic soap opera element, combined with all these weighty philosophical and psychological ingredients. But I didn’t identify with Jean Grey or Storm, and then, when Rogue came along, I was thrilled. She had all this lovely internal conflict, but she also had a sense of humor.
2. Rogue is such an iconic X-Men character and I liked how you took classic aspects of her origin story but modernized it for today’s reader. What sort of research did you do before creating your version of Rogue?
Modern X-Men continuity can be a little overwhelming, like trying to jump into a game of expert double dutch with multiple plot threads all criss-crossing at high speed. I wanted to give new readers a place to jump in without fear. I know a lot of readers who are intrigued by Rogue but have not been consistently following the X-Men in comics. As for research, I did read Kelly Thompson’s Rogue and Gambit, which I loved, loved, loved, and I read some of the older Gambit stories. I’m still dying to read Mr and Mrs. X, but at a certain point in my writing process I try not to read too much. I need to find the characters’ voices and feel a certain freedom with story, and too much reading of what other writers have done—especially great writers who have done it really well—can be inhibiting.
3. You introduce new mutants in this novel like Tessa who ends up being a really important ally to Rogue. What was that process like?
I looked back at Marvel’s X-Men films and then did some research to see what some of the lesser-known X-Men and Evil Mutants had done in comics. Whenever possible, I wanted to use characters who had some Marvel backstory. Writing Marvel characters is like digging in a garden that you inherit from someone else. You don’t want to dig something good out—you want to help it bear new fruit. But one of the great things about the X-Men is that they have a wheelchair user, Professor X, who is a unique and powerful character with a central role. I have a friend, the comics artist and writer Al Davison, who uses a wheelchair, and he helped me realize that it’s all too easy to fall into writing disability or deformity as a sign of villainy when you’re writing comics and mutants. In any case, I couldn’t use Charles Xavier, so I thought I would make another character who also uses a wheelchair. I try to be conscious of all my casting choices, when it comes to writing, so that I don’t wind up with an all white, hetero-normative, able-bodied young cast—unless I have a specific story-based reason for making that choice. The most fun I had, though, was with my reimagining of a Marvel character who has been depicted as pretty much immortal. In the comics, she always looked young and blonde and gorgeous. I have a different take on her, a sort of aging grande dame version, which was more fun for me to write.
4. Towards the end of the novel, Rogue makes the decision to stay with the Fellowship of Mutants rather than go with Remy. To me, this is one of the most realistic aspects of this novel. She decides it’s more important to explore her powers and to use them for good then to chase after a handsome man. It shows her growth as a woman and as a mutant. Was that a hard decision for you because a part of me wished she would run off with Remy and have lots of adventures!
It wasn’t hard for me to separate Rogue and Gambit, because I’m a huge fan of the When Harry Met Sally paradigm of rom com storytelling. Just because two people are right for each other at one point in their lives doesn’t mean they’ll be right for each other at every stage and age. I love romances that show people connecting and then losing each other before reconnecting. As I said, I love the soap opera element in comics.
5. Will there be a sequel to Untouched? Can you share any future projects you are working on?
I do have an idea for what happens to Rogue and the Brotherhood next, but at the moment I’m writing a really fun, humorous time travel mini-series with a mostly female cast for Ahoy comics. The artist is Alain Mauricet, who is amazing and is doing some of his best work ever.
About the Author
ALISA KWITNEY was an editor at DC Comics/Vertigo and is the Eisner-nominated author of a variety of graphic novels, romantic women’s fiction and urban fantasy for adults and teens. She was one of the authors of A Flight of Angels, which made YALSA’s Top Ten List for Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and the YA graphic novel Token, named a highlight of the Minx imprint by PW. Alisa has an MFA from Columbia University, and lives in upstate New York.