Bobby Drake, the mutant member of the X-Men known as Iceman, has been through the character journey in recent years. Following the X-Men schism between Cyclops and Wolverine, Bobby began to make a concerted effort to become more in control of his abilities to reach his fullest potential as an Omega-level mutant. That preparation didn’t necessarily prepare him, however, when he came face-to-face with his younger self, who, along with the original X-Men, were time-displaced from the past in the present. Still, that meeting led to Bobby confronting some truths about himself that he hadn’t addressed publicly before: After his younger self was revealed to be gay, Bobby came out as well.
Now the founding X-Men member will have the opportunity to fully explore not only his sexual identity, but what it means to be a superhero and a civilian in his new solo series Iceman, with issue 3 hitting Wednesday, July 26th. Writer Sina Grace is navigating Bobby through fulfilling his maximum potential while giving him a chance to breathe and working on relationship-building, those romantic and familial.
Sina Grace spoke with us recently about why the character of Iceman appeals to him as a writer, how Bobby is negotiating his status as an out gay man, and what we can expect going forward for him as superhero.
FreakSugar: For folks who are considering picking up the book, how would you describe the genesis of Iceman? How did you become involved with the series?
Sina Grace: The genesis of Iceman was a pretty simple one. I’d been doing some work on the X-Books, and when they were building out the relaunch, an editor called me and was like, “So… Iceman came out a year ago, and we haven’t had the time to explore that. Do you have any interest in writing a solo series for the older Bobby?” From there, I did some thinking on the character, and what kind of journey would be awaiting a guy who has an opportunity to basically jumpstart his life in a big way.
Over the course of developing the series with editorial, it became clear to me that the first thing I wanted to do as the writer was advance the relationship with Bobby and his parents- they’ve been a bit one-note for so long! I feel like the more Bobby learns to understand himself, the more he’ll be in sync with his abilities, the less his parents will affect him negatively.
FS: Your love of Iceman pops throughout each page and it’s a joy to see. What is it about Bobby’s character that makes him such a joy to write?
SG: This may be a stupid answer, but I think the reason Bobby and I have writer/ character chemistry is that he’s kind of this dude who I’ve seen at parties for years, and with this opportunity, I went up to him and struck up a conversation… turns out we have a lot in common!
FS: What role do you see the young, time-displaced Bobby Drake in older Bobby’s life? As much as a mentor older Bobby is to young Bobby, he seems to be learning from younger Bobby just as much.
SG: From a logistics standpoint, I don’t get a lot of time with time-displaced Bobby because he’s knee-deep in adventures with the Madripoor-based X-Men Blue. That said, it has been fun to bounce their respective journeys off each other as a means of showing Bobby where he’s at with his own emotional growth. Little Bobby is living a life without the extra decade of his parents giving him Irish Catholic guilt, without the years of torment and worry… so he’s legit carefree whereas the Bobby Drake in Iceman is kind of faking it.
FS: In the second issue, we see Iceman and Kitty Pryde discuss their relationship in terms of Iceman coming out and how that affected Kitty. Will we see any other such interactions between Bobby and his teammates or former partners?
SG: Readers will get to see Bobby work on opening himself up in different ways. As early as the third issue, we see him reach out to a few friends… I think it’s pretty funny, readers will certainly let me know on Twitter 7/26 what they think!
But yeah, sporadically, and when it makes sense for the story, we do get to see how Bobby’s friendships are evolving as a result of him trying to be honest and open.
FS: Following up on that, in issue 2, Bobby mentions that it’s difficult to talk about his recent coming out with others when his younger self is out dating openly. Is that something that he’ll carry with him as he becomes more open emotionally about this big part of his life that he’s still accepting?
SG: Bobby Drake was never one to be good about expressing himself when he was the lovable kid in the team… it doesn’t get any easier.
FS: Iceman has always been one of my favorite X-folks, and it’s heartening to see him being given the attention he deserves in recent years. What makes now a good time for Bobby to star in his own solo series?
SG: Now is the best time for Bobby to have his own series because for once in the character’s history, he has a thing of his own to deal with outside of the X-Men. From a storytelling standpoint, Bobby’s trying to improve his relationship with his parents, his colleagues, and he’s also going to be looking for romance. You have all the ingredients for a perfect X-Men title: a marginalized member of society can become more powerful by embracing their unique attributes, but life is gonna stand in the way.
FS: In addition, there’s been a concerted effort to bring him to the fore, both in terms of his Omega mutant-level powers and in terms of taking on a greater leadership role. Will we see more of that growth in Iceman?
SG: I’m a big believer in the logic that your mutant powers are directly related to your mental health. Look at all the stories where Bobby’s powers go haywire– it usually has to do with where his head is at. You can be an Omega level mutant, but if you don’t believe it yourself, you won’t tap into that stuff. My goal is to have Bobby be responsible for some of his coolest moments, not the Apocalypse seed, not Emma Frost, not anybody else. Making Bobby Drake a more active agent in his life is certainly lending itself to some fantastic fight scenes (wink).
FS: I adore how you approached the opening of the series, both in terms of introducing the character via Bobby wading into the online dating pool and giving hints to his emotions about dating in general. How do you tackle delving into Bobby’s emotional state? Is he a tornado of excitement and hesitancy?
SG: My sense of Bobby’s emotional state with dating is like that of a nervous dog. He’s all smiles and tail-wagging on the outside and he’s pacing around in circles… from the outside everyone thinks he’s so happy and excited when really he’s having a mild panic attack. Personal growth scares the crap out of this guy, and while he loves his hanky panky as much as the next guy, he has no clue how to be gay. Add to that, his time-displaced self is diving in with no problems. The anxiety is high with this one.
FS: We’ve seen so many X-Men relationships play out over the years, but, on the whole, there hasn’t been a great deal of exploration of the sometimes-thrilling, sometimes-excruciating trial-and-error process of dating. With Iceman and Bobby recently coming out, it’s almost as though he’s beginning anew, although he has years of dating behind him. How will his past relationships inform how he approaches his new dating life?
SG: To quote Glee, Bobby wants to Get it Right. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that Bobby has an awareness of how he handled romance in the past, and he’s not going to apply those tactics to being gay. I won’t be wasting much screen time with him trying any proper dating… I wanna dive in and give him a proper Marvel love story!
FS: Speaking of relationships, Bobby’s parents make an appearance in the inaugural issue and it looks as though issue 3 will possibly address Bobby coming out to his parents. Given his past tumultuous interactions with his father, what can you tease about that initial conversation?
SG: Well, does Bobby manage to come out to his parents in issue three? Readers will have to pick up the book to find out! What I can tease is that we do get to see Bobby’s parents as human beings. I don’t necessarily work hard to make the Purifiers any more layered, but their presence speaks not only to Bobby’s journey but the Drake parents, too. I like taking two staunchy Irish Catholic figures (one of the Purifiers, Bobby’s dad), and balancing their perception of religion to illuminate who they are as people and why they act the way they do. Plus weapons. All that heady stuff PLUS weapons.
FS: Bobby contends with a Purifier in the first issue and angry townspeople in issue 2. What other folks will we see Bobby come to blows with? Are there any villains that in the X-sandbox that you’ve been itching to play with?
SG: I cannot stress just how much I am excited to be writing Daken into the book. He shows up in issue four, and he finds lovely ways to ruffle Bobby’s feathers. Then there’s Juggernaut in issue five! We’re getting pages for that issue, and it looks SO epic. THEN there’s the Champions in issue six! I’d love at some point to put Bobby and Mystique in the same room, but there hasn’t been an opportunity to do that yet…
FS: You’ve done work outside of Marvel. How has that past work inform how you approach a series like Iceman?
SG: Working on autobio books at Image (Nothing Lasts Forever, out now!) allows me to play with how to implement very raw human emotions into the comic book medium. Having worked for Robert Kirkman at his Skybound imprint taught me the ins and outs of contributing to something BIG. Overall, I’d say I learned how to check my ego, play well with others, and most importantly: I learned how to always have fun making comics… ‘cuz if I’m not having fun, it’s not worth it!
FS: What can you hint about what we might want to see moving forward?
SG: Juggernaut spins a carousel on his finger and it’s quite menacing. I am not kidding around here.
Iceman #3, written by Sina Grace with Alessandro Vitti on art, is on sale Wednesday, July 26th, from Marvel Comics.
From the official issue description:
Iceman heads home to visit his folks! But they aren’t too pleased with their son’s latest news…And to make matters worse, a gang of revenge-seeking Purifiers comes calling! Will Iceman survive this family dinner? Or the throwdown with militant mutant-haters that follows?