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Planning a Vendetta

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Marc Guggenheim was kind enough to sit down with Sam Moyerman to discuss his upcoming Wolverine arc.  Read along to find out what Marc thinks of the Canuck and why a fishing trip to the mountains of Montana may be in his future.

BROKEN FRONTIER: You are the latest writer to come from the film and television ranks, so the first big question has to be: Why comics?

MARC GUGGENHEIM: I just love 'em.  Always have.  In fact, I wanted to write comic books before I wanted to write anything else.

BF: More specifically, what about your writing style—do you think it lends itself to graphic narrative storytelling?

MG: To be honest, I'm not sure it does.  The proof, I suppose, will be in the pudding—i.e., if people respond to the comics I'm writing.  That bit of too-much-honesty aside, I've been reading comics since before I could read (I'd just look at the pictures) and I used to be a very avid, though awful artist, so I tend to think visually, anyway.

BF: It seems that lately the opportunities for writing comics are coming from everywhere. How did you land at Marvel?

MG: Short answer:  They asked.  And I know Marvel has been getting this going-after-screenwriters reputation, but Wolverine isn't my first comic book work.  I did two issues of Aquaman last year for DC.  Then, my manager, Lisa Santos, hooked me up with Marvel recruiter Ruwan Jayatilleke. Ruwan hooked me up with Axel Alonso, who edits Wolverine.  However, I wrote a Punisher one-shot for Axel first and, off that, he offered me the Wolverine arc. I didn't have to think twice because I've been a longtime fan of the character.

BF: Do you have any memories of reading his stories as a youth?

MG: Yes. Vivid ones. I was first introduced to the character through the first issue of Uncanny X-Men that I bought, which was #139. That issue marked the first appearance of the (in my opinion, superior) brown and tan costume.

BF: Who are some of your favorite creators that have worked on the character?

MG: Chris Claremont and John Byrne's run on "Uncanny" pretty much defined the character.  I'm a huge fan of the Claremont/Miller mini-series and even the Kitty Pryde & Wolverine "sequel" Claremont did with Al Milgrom.  (Hello, Marvel?  Could you put that out in a trade?  Thanks.)  Recently, however, I loved Mark Millar's run with John Romita, Jr.  That was great, fun stuff.

BF: Well, you might be in the best position to get Marvel to reprint that series.  And I’m sure we could find enough fans out there that would join you in asking for it.Based on your experiences reading the character and as a writer, what types of characterization do you feel works best with Wolverine?

MG: I think there's room for different interpretations.  I'm partial to the samurai take, myself, mostly due to affection for the Claremont/Miller mini-series.  However, I'm not fond of stories that try to "deconstruct" Logan's psyche.  The guy's a killer.  He's good at it and he enjoys it to a certain extent.  I don't think he's shallow, but he's not a navel-gazer, either.  You won't find Logan on a therapist's couch and I think it's a mistake when writers try to figuratively accomplish that.

BF: One of the biggest complaints you hear about Wolverine is "overexposure."  He is a member of two teams and now has as many solo books.  Has that factored into how you planned out your arc at all?

MG: Not really, no.  However, there is some dialogue in my first issue that makes a pretty direct comment about it.  That having been said, I'm a little curious as to why people complain that Wolverine is "overexposed."  First of all: is two team books and two solos much exposure in comics?  I can think of plenty of characters over the years that have had that much exposure without people complaining.  Second, I'm trying to think of why people might care.  I mean, if there's a concern that multiple appearances per month are going to "water down the character," I'd suggest a very simple solution:  Don't buy those appearances—including the one I'm writing—if you think the character is watered down, then buy only the appearances you think are worth buying.

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BF: I've often referred to comic book creators as "the keepers of modern mythology" in that these are timeless stories read by many people.

MG: I like the sound of that.

BF: Thanks, I’ve been trying to get it into the lexicon for a while now. [Laughs] Based on that, have you felt any obligations towards what has come before and has it weighed on your mind as to what you are bringing to the character?

MG: Yes.  Definitely.  I'm writing Wolverine here, not some other character of my own creation wearing Wolverine's skin and costume.  I want to be true to the character and his history.  I'm also trying to write a story whose quality will allow the story to "live on" after I'm finished with it.  It'd certainly be nice if people are picking up the "Vendetta" trade five, ten, fifteen years from now.

BF: How will you not only make your stamp on the character but still keep his universally recognized characterization?

MG: The area where you'll probably see my stamp the strongest is in the internal monologue that we use to narrate the book.  That's probably where my P.O.V. as a writer comes through the "loudest" but I'm still writing in Wolverine's "voice."  I'm also trying to shed some light on Wolverine's character by getting readers to see him through the eyes of other characters.

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BF: Is there any particular aspect of the character that you will be highlighting?

MG: Logan's code of honor is in play for the length of the arc.  That's probably the most significant aspect of the character in this story, which is a revenge story.  Logan is out for justice and his definition of what that means in this particular case will change a couple of times over the course of the arc.  I'm a lawyer by training, so I don't believe that justice is a cut-and-dried concept.

BF: And what type of stories do you feel Wolverine is best served with? Non-stop action, introspective, or something else?

MG: I think the strength of the character is that he can "handle" quiet stories and loud, action blockbusters.  I'm trying to write my arc with a bit of both.  In each issue, I'm trying to write at least one "action" moment and at least one "quiet" moment.  If you do that, the action is louder and the quiet has more impact.

BF: It can be argued that the one character changed most from House of M is Wolverine, in that he now knows his past.  This aspect of his character is obviously the focus of the other ongoing series (Wolverine: Origins), but how much of that new knowledge and new aspect of his character was involved in your research and planning of the arc?

MG: To be honest, not that much.  I'm too lazy to do research.  Kidding!  The real answer is that this particular story doesn't delve much into Logan's past or his recollection of it.  Logan's restored memories just don't have a place in this story, so I'd have to "force" them in somehow and that's not something I believe in doing.  That having been said, I see Logan as being a whole lot more pissed off since remembering what's happened to him over his life, so I AM making an effort to write him from an angrier place.  But the effect is subtle.  In other words, I'm not writing any narration where Logan says "Man, I've been extra-special pissed off since remembering that..."

BF: Your arc is officially listed as a Civil War tie-in where Wolverine does his own bit of snooping into the Stamford disaster.  Did this force—or perhaps "enable" is a better word—you to become intimately involved in the planning of Civil War or were you able to take your own portion and just run with it?

MG: A little of both, maybe leaning towards the latter.  Here's how it laid out:  Axel called me up and told me that they needed a Civil War tie-in story for Wolverine: The Regular Flavor.  He sent me a copy of Mark Millar's (kickass) script for the first issue as well as a copy of Mark's (even more kickass) outline for the whole series.  My job was to then pitch Axel a tie-in story that would work.  I had two ideas, but I felt strongest that they would work best as a single story. 

The truth is, I didn't think Marvel would go for what I'd pitched, but they did.  However, what I was pitching kind of necessitated the involvement of another character who plays into Civil War, so I worked that element into the story as well.  I know I'm being really vague, but I don't want to spoil any plot points.

BF: As mentioned earlier, Wolverine, as a member of two teams, has a large supporting cast that he has and can interact with.  Should fans be expecting any guest stars or surprise appearances in your arc?

MG: There's one appearance that I'm trying hard to keep a surprise, but there's this pesky thing called the Internet...

BF: Teammates?

MG: Yes. From both teams.

BF: Old foils?

MG: Depends on your definition.

BF: Love interests?

MG: Well, I keep promising this guy at my comic book store that I'm going to write "Brokeback Wolverine"...

BF: That Northstar murder must still be weighing heavy on his heart… [Laughs]
Let’s talk about the selection of Humberto Ramos as the artist for your arc.  Were you familiar with his artwork already and did you request him or was this a lucky break?

MG: I was definitely already familiar with him, but didn't have the chance to request a specific artist, so you can consider this a lucky break.  Actually, it's a VERY lucky break because Humberto is doing some of the best work of his career here, certainly the most exciting and different work of his career, and he's making me look REAL good.

BF: Finally, do you have any last teases about your storyline that you want to get out there that we might not have covered already?

MG: Like I said, I don't want to spoil any surprises.  However, I can tell you a couple of things I'm trying to do with this arc:  (1) I want it to be a true and significant tie-in to Civil War, not just a run-of-the-mill Wolverine story with the Civil War trade-dress; (2) I want each issue to feel like its own entity, with a beginning, middle and end; (3) no friggin' decompression; and (4) I want it to have plenty of action, but also some interesting character moments. There's a two-page exchange between Logan and Luke Cage in my first issue that I'm kind of proud of, if for no other reason than it may raise some eyebrows.

BF: And what about your first major experience with comic book writing, should we be expecting more from you?

MG: Yeah.  The aforementioned Punisher one-shot will be published eventually.  I don't have a timeframe on it, but I've seen the first twenty pages and they are jaw-dropping amazing.  I wouldn't recommend that anyone pick up a book just for the art, but if they were going to, this would be the book.  In addition to Wolvie and the Punisher, I'm also writing a Batman arc for DC.

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