Jonathan Hickman Explains Why House of X and Powers of X Have so Many Data Pages

Jonathan Hickman's "Dawn of X" story arc is doing no less than reinventing the entire X-Men mythos for the modern era, and the Marvel fandom has certainly stood and taken notice. The alternating events of both House of X and Powers of X have thrown readers for a wide loop, with some mind-boggling sci-fi concepts, but Hickman's books are also distinguishing themselves for including graphic designer Tom Muller's dense sections of charts and text files that accompany the story.

So why does a Marvel Comics storyline with so many fantastical sci-fi concepts need a science textbook's worth of supporting data? EW sat down with Jonathan Hickman to talk about that very subject. Scroll below for the acclaimed comic book writer's explanation for all the additional reading material:

“Even in my first work, I’ve always played with the idea of what is narrative and what isn’t? If narrative is all art and words, then graphic design is a part of it as well...” Hickman explains. He went on to explain that what that graphic design elements of the narrative are actually key in controlling the pace of the storyline. Apparently, Hickman wants his readers to invest more time and attention than the average comic book offers:

"The reason why I like it is because it changes the way you read the book, just in terms of how long it takes you to read a page. Even if it’s a super wordy page or a dense book, there’s a certain amount of time you allocate to each page, and you know how long it’ll take to read an average comic. When you start interlacing that stuff with things that take longer to read or things you digest in a different matter from a standard comic page, if you change the mechanics of the way people read the books, you’re exerting more finite control on their experience reading a comic. That’s super important because people consume so much pop culture nowadays. It’s not like it was when I was a kid, where’d you save up your money to buy comics, or spend a whole week waiting for the next episode of Knight Rider. All of that’s changed. Everything is hyper-compressed and super dense.”

That answer shows the authorial intent of Hickman's design for the House of X and Powers of X books; however, he is vastly underestimating the effectiveness of the technique. More so than the actual comic book panels telling the story, the charts have been the biggest talking points of "Dawn of X," sparking massive fan theories, discussion, and Easter egg discoveries. In fact, the charts are not only causing readers to spend more time doing careful study of the finer details of the story - they're actually causing fans to go back and re-read the various data dumps in previous issues, in order to truly get the full picture of the story. In that sense, Hickman's "Dawn of X" books may be redefining the entire nature of what readers expect from a comic book story - something Hickman himself claims is part of his end goal:

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" ...because we need to maintain a certain velocity in the comic industry, we’ve become more homogenized in the product that we’re producing. So what you have is a book that’s 20 pages, and it’s produced in the same manner, so you get the same type of cadences throughout the book. You’re teaching people ‘this is how you read in time, this is how a comic book functions.’ Any time you can disrupt the mechanism by which people read the books by engaging a different part of their brains, they have to work harder and it makes the reading experience more effective just by being different. If you can also make it really good and engaging, you’re winning not just the battle but the war of, ‘Are our books cool?’ That’s my thinking behind it. It allows me to cheat narratively. I can do a more cinematic book if I’m not robbing the reader of information in the interim pages. I don’t want somebody to spend $4 and be done with the book in five minutes."

Powers of X 1 & 2, and House of X 1 & 2 are all now on sale, with new issues of each book released in alternating weeks.