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The Way of the Rider - Part 2

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In addition to writing one of Marvel’s most famous characters, Daniel Way has also been given the envious task of bringing back the Ghost Rider back into the world.  Known for writing the darker characters of the universe, Way sat down with BF to talk about all of his writing assignments.

Part One

Going from his former Wolverine art team (Way worked with Texeira and Saltares on Wolverine #33-40 – ed.) to his new collaborator on his Wolverine title, the choice was amazingly simple for him to make. “Who did I want to tell this extremely screwed up, centuries spanning spy novel with huge history and all these points of extreme violence that is Wolverine: Origins? Steve Dillon!

Click to enlarge“We had worked together before and Steve was the guy for this—he could pull it off. I really like working with Steve, because we seem to be on the same wavelength with a lot of things and that really helps the collaboration process move along.  We can communicate a lot with a few words.  I’m familiar with his work, so I can normally see where he’s going to go with certain themes or pages and when I see it, I’m normally pretty close but Steve normally does it better than what I was thinking.  With such a dense story with so much going on it helps to have someone who can handle the big moments as well as the small ones.

Axel Alonso, my editor, said the same things; the two of them go back a long way because they did Preacher together. Steve is a 30-year veteran and he is excited about this book.  When he gets the scripts and has any questions, he’s right on the phone and asking me.”

As for trying to live up to Dillon’s work with his most famous collaborator, Garth Ennis, Way kept a good head about it. “I get compared to Garth sometimes, which I love because he’s a great writer.  But we’re different in a lot of ways in how we write and approach our writing.  Garth has a bigger heart and you see that in his characters.  My characters tend to be a little more nihilistic… But I don’t feel any pressure there.  If there is any pressure I feel while working with Steve, it’s that I don’t want to waste his talent.”

When asked what it was like doing a mainstream superhero book, Way was quick to dismiss Wolverine: Origins as one of those stories. “The case here is that we’re using a mainstream superhero, but we’re not telling a mainstream superhero type of story.  This is more like a spy novel, more like an epic historic fiction type of thing.  We’re taking the character very seriously.  We still have the big action scenes and a lot of the things that you associate with comic books, but this is a more literate and grown-up approach. 

“This isn’t about guys in costumes fighting each other; this is about the guy who’s 100 years old finding himself,” he continues.  “It’s a century of World History.  This guy has lived through all the wars and they’ve been a big part of him, as much so that he’s become to symbolize the human conflict. Even though most people just think Wolverine is cool, there’s a lot there to be mined. Logan has all the characteristics of that entire archetype of the boogeyman—a beast from the dark woods that comes out and gets you.  Not many characters are built that well on such great source material, but Logan is.”

In comparison with Ghost Rider, who has a very confusing origin based on what has been written, Wolverine’s origin is very confusing because of what hasn’t been told.  But once again, Way found himself up to the task. “I didn’t have to do any research.  When I got the Wolverine book, I told them that this was the story that I wanted to write.  I spent almost a year researching back issues and appearances, putting together some road maps of what he had seen, what we hadn’t seen, and how these things link together, comments that supporting characters had made that knew Logan earlier in his life.  And I came up with this overarching story that connects all the seemingly disparate episodes from his past and ties them all into one repeating cycle that he’s been placed in.

“Then you can go on [and pose] questions like: Why was he stuck in this cycle?  Who was at the top of the food chain? Why would they need Wolverine, this “animal man”?  Why did James Howlett become Wolverine? Why was he so well trained?  Why was he so well outfitted? Why was he always in the right place at the right time and in the wrong places at the right times?  [Laughs]

“I put in a lot of research, but the more I got into it the more I enjoyed it.  This pattern emerged and it was cool to see it coalescing in front of me.  There was a really cool story between the cracks of what had been told and what hadn’t been told—this is the origin of Wolverine, but the book is called ‘Origins’ plural, so we’re going to be exploring a lot more. We have to get all the players out on the field first and then see what happens, but even when we fill in the blanks, the mystery won’t be over.  Logan’s story won’t be over until he’s dead and for all we know he’s not going to die.  I’m sure as hell not going to kill him.” 

To make the entire experience of Wolverine: Origins even better, Way has gone, well, out of his way to make sure that everyone else can get their hands on his source material by placing a bibliography or recommended reading list in the back of each issue. “This is for people who want to know where all this is coming from,” the writer clarifies. “I’m pointing them to the source material that I used as inspiration for my stories. 

Click to enlarge“It’s like you see Logan talk about something and then you can go check the back of the book to find out where it came from.  It’s kind of like you’re Indiana Jones and you go into the comic book store to dig up this old, yellowed, comic book.  And you crack it open and there it is.  And the date on it says 1984 or 1981; it gives you a real sense of history. Maybe it can get people who have only started reading Wolverine—or comics—in the last 5 years to go back and read some of that old stuff. Get them to buy into this whole massive mythology of the character because that’s when you really start to appreciate how big the story and Logan himself are.”

When asked for some final teases on his two projects, Way threw out some very interesting buzz words and some character names that should get people very excited. “For Ghost Rider, think Dr. Strange,” he says. “With Origins, two characters will be showing up very soon.  One I cannot name yet, but the other one is Omega Red. For so long, Omega Red has been claiming that Logan had taken from him in the past but Logan always had that ‘I don’t remember’ excuse.  But now that word is out that he has his memory back, it won’t take too long until Omega Red hears about it.” 

Ghost Rider and Wolverine: Origins aren’t the only places where you can find Way’s work. He’s got some creator-owned books on the radar that will be published through his own Bad Press Label, including the unabridged Gun Theory book that was part of Marvel’s short-lived Epic line and a book with My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer creator Ken Knudtsen.

All in all, Way is almost as surprised as anyone that he has been given so much freedom at Marvel to create the types of stories he’s best at telling.  And for most people who have read his work, they couldn’t be happier.  One can only wonder with an odd sense of excitement and apprehension which character he will be allowed to work his nihilistic ways on next.

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