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Bendis Explains Importance of “Old Man Logan” to “Secret Wars,” Marvel Universe

by  in Comic News Comment
Bendis Explains Importance of “Old Man Logan” to “Secret Wars,” Marvel Universe

In 2008, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven took readers to a dark and dangerous future, where most of America’s heroes were murdered when an army of villains launched a surprise attack, divvying up America like slices of apple pie. And while many died, not all of the heroes lost their lives. Wolverine survived, but without his fighting spirit, and throughout “Old Man Logan,” he undertook a cross country journey with the goal of reigniting his fierce, heroic drive.

This May, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Andrea Sorrentino return to the world Millar and McNiven created with a new “Old Man Logan” series that chronicles the character’s quest to bring justice and order to his savage world; a quest that has become even more perilous because the Secret Wars have begun.

RELATED: SVP Gabriel Clarifies “Secret Wars” Effect on Marvel’s Publishing Line

With Logan’s world now a domain on the single patchwork planet that the Marvel Universe has been reduced to, CBR News spoke with Bendis about his love for the original story, what readers can expect from his Battleworld-based sequel, and how the “Secret Wars” series that readers support will help shape the future of the Marvel Universe.

CBR News: It’s interesting that your “Old Man Logan” story takes place on Battleworld, since the original took place in a post-apocalyptic America that was divided up into different villainous domains.

Brian Michael Bendis: Very much so, and that first storyline is mostly a road trip. That means the sequel may be a road trip as well. This road trip, though, will take him into places that he will be surprised by. He’s going to Duckworld! [Laughs]

No, but there are places he will go that will be very unique.

Is the “Old Man Logan” territory on Battleworld all of America? Or just certain areas?

I’m not sure what I can say about that at this point. I’ve been trying real hard not to accidentally put a clue out there that lets three percent of the people in on something about “Secret Wars.” Then those people post it and everybody reads it, and by reading they think they’ve guessed things, which they have not guessed. They just read someone else’s guess. I don’t want to be part of that — but “Old Man Logan’s” place and importance in “Secret Wars” is very unique and the effects will be felt long after the event

About how much time has passed between the original “Old Man Logan” and your sequel?

That’s a good question. I thought about that a long time, because there’s something interesting about skipping a bunch of years. I don’t think much time has passed, though. If he’s on a quest, I think we want to see him on that quest. As a reader, when a character says that they’re going to go do something at the end of an issue, I like to see them doing that thing when I pick up the next issue.

I’ve broken that promise myself in the past, but as someone picking up a torch, I thought we should get right to it.

So this story starts out as a revenge tale?

I’ll be frank: It’s not a revenge tale. It’s mostly him dealing with the baby’s poopy diapers. There’s a lot of nods to “Three Men and a Baby.”

No, I kid. It’s more than a revenge tale because he got his revenge in “Old Man Logan.” At the end of that story, though, he got off his ass. He said that he was going to go fix things, and we’re going to see him try to do that in a world that looks very broken. It’s almost 50 years broken

Plus, he killed the “President,” so I imagine that world had to have changed.

Exactly! And with the President gone, who or what takes his place?

As you mentioned, the conclusion of the original story added another character to Logan’s orbit in the form of the infant Bruce Banner, whom he adopted after destroying the Hulk gang.

Yes, there was Banner and there was quite a few characters we bumped into along the way, like Emma Frost and some others. A lot of those people didn’t make it out of the book alive, but some did, and there were hints to other characters that were talked about, but never seen. There were some hints about character that disappeared and weren’t part of what happened to the heroes — the Fantastic Four was talked about. So there’s quite a lot of doors opened for “Old Man Logan” to walk through that will be both surprising to him and to readers.

Overall, the original “Old Man Logan” felt like a mash-up of “Unforgiven” and “Mad Max.” The sequel to “Mad Max” of course was “The Road Warrior,” which I think is one of the best sequels of all time. Is there a bit of “The Road Warrior” in what you’re doing with this sequel?

You’re right, the original was like a darker, noirish “Unforgiven,” and I thought I wanted to go Sergio Leone for this. “Unforgiven” is about this character’s quest to find his true self. He tries to escape his past and the past comes back to haunt him.

This story is not about the past. It’s about fixing what needs to be fixed, and I started thinking about Sergio Leone as I’m often wont to do. I did a whole two years of my life with the “Jinx” graphic novel, which was a tribute to Leone. I haven’t done something like that in a good long time, so I said, “Let’s do ‘Max Max’ as directed by Sergio Leone.” When he heard that, I believe Andrea Sorrentino may have wet himself.

[Laughs] It seems that this series could have lots of room for further tales. Could you see yourself revisiting the world of “Old Man Logan” in the future?

I’m not saying this lightly and I’m not trying to give anything away, but I think what people are most excited about with “Secret Wars” is that they know something big is happening and something even bigger is coming out the other side. A lot of these stories are going to have something that pops out the other side. “Old Man Logan” absolutely, 100 percent has a couple of things that will pop into the Marvel Universe, whatever shape it takes, after “Secret Wars” is done. In fact, every single one of the stories I’m doing during “Secret Wars” has a big piece that is coming forward into the new Marvel Universe, and “Old Man Logan” is right there at the forefront of that.

Yeah, I heard from other creators as well, that in almost every “Secret Wars’ series, there’s a puzzle piece of what the Marvel Universe will look like when the event wraps.

The audience is really going to decide, at the end. We have a very strong idea of where we’re going, but they’re going to be reading, buying and letting Marvel know what’s of interest. It’s certainly not going to be a “Choose Your Own Adventure” kind of thing, but there’s a lot of fun elements that are being brought back and there are characters that are debuting here that may or may not find their way forward.

It’s exciting how much people are buying into the ride. They’re not exactly sure what kind of ride they’re buying into, and that’s kind of cool. They like the mix of Jonathan Hickman’s insanity blended with all of our dream lists of things to do. I think about it, and I think, if I was just a reader and I heard that this writer with this grand vision was getting Marvel to shut down their line for the summer, which is crazy, and all of the other writers and artists are getting to roll up their sleeves and be so additive with bringing things into the Marvel Universe that weren’t there before, and the end result is something that wasn’t there before — I would be fricking excited! That sounds great to me!

And while you guys are doing all that, we’re getting a great, diverse mix of books. What excites me is, the “Secret Wars” titles appear to run the gamut of genres. We’ve got superhero books, Kung Fu tales, westerns, fantasy stories, sci-fi and cosmic epics —

Yes, there’s a lot of talk about diversity of creator, diversity of character, and diversity of culture within mainstream comics. And though there’s a lot going on, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it, there’s a whimsy almost about how far Axel Alonso is willing to go with these tie-ins.

I’ve said many times to you that the audience votes with their pocket book, if they have pocket books, or fanny packs, or whatever they vote with. If you buy a book, you voted. This is true with anything in pop culture. If you buy a ticket for a movie you’re casting a vote for five more of those things. In this instance, fans of certain kinds of sci-fi, or fantasy, or Kung Fu mixed with their superheroes, or other genres really can vote with their dollar and let Marvel know, “Go crazy! I think these books are awesome!”

I’m excited. I think a lot of readers are going to try things they haven’t tried before, and a lot of readers are going to get somethings that they really, really miss. And they’re all going to be able to scream from the rooftops, “Do more of this!”

This has been one of those interviews where I’m so excited about the project, and I have to be so vague, because the journey is a secret and the outcome is a secret. I know there are a lot of people who haven’t read the original “Old Man Logan,” because when I started talking about this I got a lot of Tumblr e-mails from people who finally read the story because I was showering it with so much praise.

Confession: I was one of those people.

Oh? You had never read it before?

Nope. I bought it to read in preparation for this interview and read it all in one sitting.

And you loved it, right?

I did!

It’s Mark unfettered, and it’s Steve being wonderful. I enjoy getting people to read something I really liked and hearing from them. That’s great, but imagine if you read it seven years ago and you wanted more. There wasn’t any more coming though. Now there’s more coming! It’s faithful to the spirit of the original, and at the same time faithful to the idea that it was unique in the marketplace, and very bold and cinematic. That’s what we’re going to follow the original with.

I’m excited that we’re getting people to read the original. I’m excited that we’re following up with something equally unique and special, and that its outcome is reflected in what is to come in September.

It’s clear that you love the original “Old Man Logan” story. The creators certainly set the stage for a sequel, but what made you want to revisit their story? And how long have you wanted to tell this tale?

I actually wanted Mark and Steve to do a sequel. I waited, like, seven years, and they didn’t. So in the grand tradition of making comics that I wanted to read, when we were laying down plans for “Secret Wars,” what was out there and what would be cool and interesting, “Old Man Logan” came up. I raised my hand because, I did feel a big affinity for the world that was built up and where the character is in his life.

It’s very influenced by Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” which though a Western is very much a crime story. It’s very much like a Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leonard novel set in the west. That is my big, big sweet spot. So I jumped at the chance.

I did say “Old Man Logan” is probably Steve McNiven’s best book, which hurts me to say because I’ve worked with him a couple times. He’s done amazing work with me, but that’s one hell of a Steve McNiven experience. People either consciously or subconsciously will expect something of equal worth in the art department. That doesn’t mean someone who rips off Steve McNiven. It’s someone who’s at the top of their game like Steve is. When I started working with Andrea Sorrentino on the “X-Men Annuals” it was very, very clear that it was him.

It was certainly a case of, if Andrea doesn’t do it, I’m probably not going to do it, because I couldn’t think of anybody else once that idea got in my head. Andrea jumped at the chance. It was also exciting because we were going to go from our time hopping story in the “X-Men Annuals” to a couple chapters of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” where he got to scratch a cosmic itch. Then we moved full on into a proto-nouveau, futurist Western with “Old Man Logan.”

So we’re traveling all over the place. Also, there’s a chapter in the “All-New X-Men Annual” where Eva Bell is in the Old West and meets the Rawhide Kid that gives a little taste. Even though there’s nothing like that in “Old Man Logan,” it did make me go, “Oh, yeah! This is the guy. No doubt.”

Like McNiven, Andrea is great at action, but mood and tone are what he really excels at. Can you talk about that will translate to his approach for your “Old Man Logan” follow up?

I’ve reread the original “Old Man Logan” a number of times over the years, but I reread it a couple times before I started working on this. My take away was that Steve drew this very specific chapter in “Old Man Logan” and then when we pick up the character he’s on a new quest.

At the end of “Old Man Logan” he says that he’s going to do this certain thing. Then we pick up as he’s doing this thing. That lends itself directly to what Andrea does, which is darker and moodier, but within those shadows is the scary stuff. There’s a lot of scary things in this world and they pop out of the shadows. That’s something I love to write and see on the pages.

Now, as we’re talking, I just last night received my first big batch of pages from Andrea, so I flat out know that this is a gorgeous book! He flew into it right away! It’s all very exciting, and that’s why I sound so hyper and excited. I’m not just hoping that this is a good book — I know it’s an absolutely beautiful book.

It’s also going to hold a special place in “Secret Wars,” because Old Man Logan’s perspective of Battleworld will be very unique. That’s all I’m allowed to say right now. He’s going to be going places that other characters are not going to be going.

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