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The Death of Sabretooth?: An Interview with Jeph Loeb

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Today Marvel assembled a Q&A with writer Jeph Loeb (Wolverine, Batman: Hush, Fallen Son) and various members of the press for its podcast series. We here at Broken Frontier were lucky enough to be invited as Loeb hyped up the end of his run on Wolverine culminating with issue #55. Preview art distributed just prior to the Q&A seemed to hint at another major Marvel character’s death: Sabretooth.

"If ever there’s been a quintessential villain [for Wolverine] it’s been Sabretooth," Loeb said. "I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how they met, what was the beginning of their hatred for each other. When Wolverine woke up after House of M he remembered there was a sword that could actually kill him. If he were cut by this sword his healing factor would not work. As we have learned in this story, Wolverine and Sabretooth are not brothers at all but from the same species, and what will work on Logan will work on Creed. Hopefully you found that during the first five issues of the story Creed has stepped beyond anything he’s ever done and Logan has decided enough is enough. Without spoiling anything this is the last fight these two characters will ever have."

"I think this will be something people will be talking about for a long, long time," Loeb continued. "When I started this story everyone said here we go again: the definitive story of these guys until someone retcons it. And that’s not the case. I wanted to give Wolverine a new villain that would be on the level of a Mr. Sinister or Apocalypse, not a henchman but someone who pulled strings, and that will be Romulus. So this has been an origin story for [Romulus]. And we completely redesigned Wildchild and souped him up. He was always a character I found to be a joke. This was an opportunity to take a character that was a junior Sabretooth and make him into something even more dangerous."

The other big opportunity Loeb stressed was his desire to link and explain the connection between the many Marvel characters with feral backgrounds, including Wolverine, Sabretooth, Wildchild and Wolfsbane amongst others. Loeb wanted to etch out a place for them within the Marvel Universe. "With all the characters we tend to merge with humans it’s not ape stuff, it’s wolf stuff. It comes from a very strange idea that humans are related to dogs."

One member of the press asked point blank whether or not Sabretooth will die. "I won’t spoil anything but if you connect the dots I think the question is, if he doesn’t kill him then why didn’t he, and I’ve written that story. This will be different." This was followed by whether or not Loeb wanted to tell the final battle between Logan and Creed or simply define their back stories once and for all. "I don’t know how I could do one without doing the other. One of the things I learned going from Lost to Heroes is we tend to tell people what’s going on more regularly. You get the sense that you have to read comics every month because they’re going to answer questions you’re not expecting. If we got together two years ago and said Avengers was going to be the hottest comic by far we’d be laughed off the phone. Captain America and Iron Man weren’t big selling books. Who cares? Who would have thought Tony Stark would be the director of S.H.I.E.L.D? A lot of people are reading this Wolverine arc and we just want to get the word out there that it will not end with people going, ‘Ugh.’ It’s been my experience with Heroes to finish one story and leave bread crumbs for another."

With the Loeb penned Wolverine dealing with one mythical sword, and fan favorite Hiro dealing with another on Heroes, one listener asked whether or not there was any connection. "I think we’re all fans of something called Excalibur. For me it always goes back to the fact that King Arthur drew a sword that had unbelievable properties. I wasn’t there for the creation of the sword in Wolverine. It came from [Brian Michael] Bendis and I thought it was a cool idea to have: Wolverine’s kryptonite. And from the beginning on Heroes there was a Japanese character who came from a samurai culture where it wouldn’t be such a stretch for him to have such a thing. There’s no link."

When asked what villain would serve as the classic henchmen for Wolverine to contend with, Loeb didn’t give much away. "That’s a trick question. I’m not sure [Sabretooth’s] out of the picture. I think that’s still to come. There are other X-Men villains he’s gone up against that are pretty terrific. My job as a storyteller was to bring something new to the table, in the same sort of way I loved doing Hush because I wanted to leave a toy in the toy box that everyone else could play with. I hope we’re just seeing the beginning of a major character for Wolverine in Romulus. And I think Wildchild will confound Wolverine as he doesn’t know if he’s a good or bad guy."

Another listener asked why the final battle between Wolverine and Sabretooth was happening now. "The initial concept grew out of the fact that once we did House of M and Wolverine had some of his memories back he’d remember things that happened with Creed that were too horrible for anyone to have in their minds. Couple that with the fact that Sabretooth is being harbored by the X-Men and we all realized Wolverine wouldn’t stand for that. Everyone else was fooled by Creed but Wolverine was not going to let that happen."

   

   

Loeb then briefly touched on the art of the book, including the work of one of Marvel’s Young Guns Reloaded, Simone Bianchi, saying, "Out of all the guys I’ve ever worked with I’ve never experienced such enthusiasm in my life. It’s been thrilling and the book looks painted it’s so beautiful."

Marvel took this opportunity to announce two variants, a black and white sketch cover and an unsolicited spoiler cover that Loeb likened to the gorier covers of the EC Comics days.

A concern of fans since the early days of comics has always been lateness. Loeb pointed out that no one remembers now that Watchmen or Dark Knight were late. "When we sit down to go in a direction we have to go with it." He compared the swapping out of artists to watching a movie with Tom Hanks where Tom Cruise played the role for a couple of minutes halfway through. "We are trying to take this art form and whether or not you like the stories we’re telling we’re trying to go beyond the fact that they used to cost ten cents and you could stick them in your pocket. Everyone was up in arms that [Steve] McNiven didn’t get out the seventh issue of Civil War but if somebody else drew that issue everyone would think it was a waste of time."

Having written for projects as varied as television’s Lost and the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, Commando, Loeb was asked which franchise he’d like to see crossover with Wolverine. "A Teen Wolf/Wolverine movie would be the greatest thing ever. Teen Wolf passes the ball and Wolverine pops it with his claws and throws it back. It would be the shortest film ever shot."

When asked about the differences between working for DC and Marvel, Loeb stressed that, "Neither one is good or bad. While I was at DC I was given more than enough rope to hang myself with. There wasn’t editorial interference. I can’t speak for my friends who find that stories are being driven more and more by editorial now. I know by my experience in the [Joe] Quesada era that he’s just interested in a good story. That stems from what he believes is what Stan [Lee] always wanted. This phrase we use is What Would Stan Do?. If you look at the first five to eight years of comics [at Marvel] there were tremendous changes. Characters died. Peter [Parker] went to college and introduced a new cast. One thing comics have lost is a sense of surprise. At Marvel there is a greater desire to make changes to the bigger characters, the icons. There’s an enormous amount of consideration for who this story is for. We try to make them as inclusive as possible. For people we call fan men and the casual readers. We’re so lucky media outlets are covering Civil War and The Death of Captain America as viable means of entertainment for mass audiences. You can’t deny the industry is growing." He went on to talk about fans writing to him after the release of Batman: Hush, saying it brought them back into the world of comics. "If that was the thing Hush was remembered for I’d be the happiest guy in the world. I tell these stories so people will read them and if that means people say I’m the Jerry Bruckheimer equivalent of comics then that would be a very nice thing to be in my world."

Finally, Loeb teased about what’s next after his run on Wolverine finishes. "You’ll find out more about what I’m going to do with Brian Michael Bendis and the Ultimate Universe this summer."

So will Sabretooth really die? Can Wolverine survive a new lineup of villains? Will Loeb and Bendis divulge more about their Ultimate Universe plans at Comicon? And will Teen Wolf eventually team up with Wolverine? We’ll have to wait for Wolverine #55 to find out. Check it out when it lands on July 25th.

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