In recent years, Christopher Yost has quickly become one of my favorite comic book writers on some of my favorite titles, demonstrating a particular knack for breathing life and energy and treatability into young characters and situations, like those featured in New X-Men (one of my personal favorites), X-23 Innocence Lost/Target X (further must-reads) as well as Red Robin for DC comics.
In addition to his impressive catalog of comic book works, Yost, often alongside frequent collaborator Craig Kyle boasts an impressive track record in film and television, having filled a variety of key roles in numerous comic book related works ranging from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Fantastic Four: Worlds Greatest Heroes and his most recent foray into animated television: Wolverine and the X-Men,which hit shelves recently.
Mr. Yost was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to speak with Big Shiny Robot!
Big Shiny Robot!: You seem to straddle the comics and animation worlds fairly equally, which came first and did they naturally lead to the other?
Chris Yost: Animation came first, then comics. The comic work came directly out of the animation through the character of X-23 that Craig Kyle created for the show ‘X-Men: Evolution’ Craig had pitched the character to Marvel for the show, and then she even showed up in a comic called NYX. She proved popular, and Marvel was interested in doing an origin mini-series for her… and came to Craig and I for it.
BSR!: Why don’t you give us your take on the latest televised incarnation of the X-Men. What distinguishes Wolverine and the X-Men as a series from what we’ve seen before?
CY: Seeing the whole series on Blu-Ray really hit it home, but head writer Greg Johnson came up with the initial concept, and he and Craig Kyle developed the show based on the notion that a mysterious event tore apart the X-Men and Professor Xavier and Jean Grey went missing… and it was up to Wolverine to re-unite the X-Men to save the day.
What I like about it is that it flips the usual X-Men dynamic on its head. Wolverine is usually the loner that breaks the rules, that won’t listen to the leader… and now he’s the leader. He’s making the rules. So seeing him relate to the X-Men, to Cyclops in this new role is something we haven’t seen before, and it was a lot of fun both to watch and to write.
BSR!: This series seemed to really up the ante for action and drama and darker tone from what we’ve seen before, are you finding children’s television a less restrictive venue for these type of stories in recent years or where you guys just testing the limits?
CY: There’s a big range of animation out there, and audiences for everything. Wolverine and the X-Men falls somewhere between ‘Super Hero Squad’ and ‘Hulk Vs.’ where the violence and blood isn’t so evident, but it’s not for the pre-school crowd.
Wolverine and the X-Men is honestly more like the comics in tone. There’s still fun to be had, but the X-Men story is a drama, a serial drama… watching the whole series on DVD is pretty gratifying, from a story perspective. You’re really taking a journey with these characters. And I think kids of all ages can find something to relate to in it.
BSR!: Super-heroes have obviously made an indelible impression on the mainstream media outside of comic books in recent years – Did this sort of “super-hero literacy” factor in to the process of writing Wolverine and the X-Men?
CY: Not really. Each episode has to make sense, it has to tell a clear story. We stick in some things for fans, but if you don’t recognize a character here or there in the background, it’s not going to affect your enjoyment of the story.
Watching the whole thing like this, on DVD… it’s fun to see the stand alone stories, but at the same time seeing the whole X-Men comic universe come to life.
BSR!: “The Inner Circle: Reflections on Wolverine and the X-Men” was a really in depth look at the making of the project – an incredibly passionate and talented team behind the project. What was it like working with such an experienced group of people on such an ambitious project?
CY: It was amazing. From top down, everyone working on the show is a fan, and has a great love for the characters and stories. It’s a passionate, creative environment, working with the best – honestly, it’s a great job. I won’t lie. Getting the whole series on blu-ray was just icing on the cake.
BSR!: I think I speak for a lot of people in my generation when I say that the first X-Men animated series served as a potent gateway into X-Men comics to which I am unabashedly hooked for life – As a writer for both TV and comics do you treat your work in television as a gateway to good old fashioned paper comics?
CY: I hope so. I love comics, and like to think of the shows, which reach a much larger audience, as a first look of sorts to the comics. If you liked this show, then you’ll love the comics… but there are kids out there today that don’t even know what comics ARE. They know these characters from the show, from movies or video games. Unless they’ve actually been in a comic book store, they have no exposure to comics.
Hopefully we can help change that.
BSR!: On the subject of comics - Your work on New X-Men really absorbed me in to a title that I had only casually read in the past, taking the sort of teen angst that is so often disingenuous, transparent or just plain annoying in comics and making it really identifiable, compelling and even moving while spinning it into some of my favorite X-Men sagas in the last decade. Anyway, enough ass kissing – Where young characters really seem to stifle many writers (or are simply boiled down to a bad attitude, bad haircut and a skateboard), they really seem to be a perfect fit for you. Talk about that.
CY: I love Spider-Man and Cap and Thor, don’t get me wrong. I love ‘em. But in some ways, the young characters are more fun. When the Avengers fight Kang, it’s like – oh, you again. With the Young Avengers, you’re seeing it fresh through new eyes for the first time. These characters haven’t seen everything, haven’t done everything, and as teenagers, their emotions are so raw… it’s an explosive mix. Kids are fun!
BSR!: While you certainly didn’t shy away from dark subject matter in New X- Men, your X-Force was easily the darkest X book I have ever read and I loved it. Talk about what it like to write someone like Wolverine for a children’s program vs. Wolverine gutting religious zealots by the building full.
CY: Well, Wolverine’s a blast to write in any medium, but in X-Force, we can really cut loose. In the cartoons, a lot of robots get cut. A lot of doors and walls get cut through. But in the comics, and in ‘Hulk Vs,’ well, those claws are put to the use you and I all know [what] they’re for. I don’t prefer one over the other, per se, but realistically… people would get cut around Wolverine. I’m just saying.
BSR!: Taking into account all the television, the animated features you’ve written for Lionsgate and the comics you’ve done for Marvel – are there any character’s left that you’re itching to get your hands on that you haven’t had the opportunity to yet?
CY: I’ve been extremely lucky. There’s a few characters I’d still like a crack at… Cloak and Dagger, the Defenders, Quasar, Alpha Flight… I’m greedy. I want them all.
BSR!: With that, I will hand the reigns over to Swank who has a couple of DC related question… Thanks for your time. Clang! Boom! Steam! Out.
Your run on Red Robin (Part 1, Part 2) is probably 12 of the best issues the Bat-family has had in the last ten years. You really understood Tim better than a lot of writers who took up his reigns and your love for the genre and world is apparent. Do you have more DC stories to tell?
CY: Well, thanks! I’m wrapped up in a few things right now outside of comics, but one day I’d love to jump back in.
BSR!: If you could get your hands on an animated DC property, what would it be?
CY: I’d make a animated DVD of Grant Morrison’s JLA story ‘Rock of Ages.’
BSR!: Last question: What comic books are you reading for entertainment right now?
CY: Hickman’s FANTASTIC FOUR. Love it.
BSR!: Thank you, sir!