When James Howlett was born in the final days of the 19th Century, his parents probably didn’t imagine he would become one of the Marvel Universe’s most dangerous denizens. While a covert operative of the Weapon Plus program, the world came to know him by other names including Weapon X, Logan and Wolverine. The program took Wolverine’s mutant gifts of bone claws, heightened senses, and a healing factor and and enhanced them, endowing him with a skeleton made of the unbreakable alloy, adamantium.
The end result was one of the world’s most lethal covert agents and assassins, and Wolverine served that role for years until he was tasked with killing a mutant rights activist named Charles Xavier, who used his mental powers to wipe Wolverine’s mind. That mental fresh start gave Wolverine the opportunity to change his life and become a hero of Xavier’s mutant peacekeeping group, the X-Men. Today, Wolverine is one of the most active heroes in the Marvel Universe. He serves as a member of the Avengers, is the leader of X-Force and his own branch of the X-Men, not to mention headmaster of the new Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, dedicated to training the next generation of mutants.
All that doesn’t mean Wolverine has left his violent tendencies behind. His exploits are often brutal, bloody, and full of fatalities, especially in his self-titled solo series. That visceral aspect of Wolverine’s adventures continues in April when writer Cullen Bunn and artist Paul Pelletier become the new creative team on “Wolverine” with #305. CBR News spoke with Bunn about his bloody plans for Wolverine and the series.
CBR News: Cullen, following the announcement of “Captain America and Hawkeye,” this is your second ongoing Marvel series to be announced in less than a month, and it also features one of their highest profile characters. How does it feel to be writing two of the biggest characters in super hero comics? It seems like writing Wolverine and Cap in “Fear Itself: The Fearless” whet your appetite for both characters, is that right?
Cullen Bunn: It’s pretty crazy. Just a little over a year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be writing regularly for Marvel, let alone writing a Captain America title and a Wolverine title. Sometimes it still seems unreal — then the crushing pressure of handling these characters overwhelms me and I snap back to reality! I know how much these characters mean to the readers. I know how beloved Jason Aaron’s run on Wolverine has been. No one wants to “do right” by these characters more than I do. Since both of those characters appear in “Fear Itself: The Fearless,” I had the chance to find their voices and get into the rhythm of writing them. And, yes, once I got a chance to write those stories, I couldn’t wait to continue.
Wolverine is a pretty complex and multi faceted character, especially these days. He’s a hero with the Avengers and the X-Men. He’s a teacher and headmaster at the Jean Grey School. He’s the leader of a team of heroic assassins with X-Force and there there are countless other roles he’s played in the past that still impact his life in some way. What aspects of the character are you most interested in exploring?
Your question actually touches on something I jump right into exploring in the very first arc. How does someone balance all of those very different lives? What happens when one of those aspects of his life threatens to spill over into another? In this case, Wolverine’s killer instincts put his friends and students in serious danger, and he embarks on a violent journey to regain control of his life. He’s in a tough spot, though, because he’s raging against this violence by using violence, and he may just be sinking deeper and deeper into becoming this killing machine he fears.
Exploring Wolverine’s character often means throwing him into dangerous situations, but his healing factor and unbreakable skeleton means he’ll be able to survive most of these situations physically unscathed. Is it tough to create intense and dramatic situations for a character like that? Or do the situations that Wolverine gets involved in automatically lend themselves to tense, exciting, and dramatic stories?
In many ways, the healing factor and adamantium bones give me a free pass to be as cruel as I want to. I don’t plan on holding back or taking it easy on Wolverine when it comes to the physical confrontations. On a physical level, Wolverine’s battles are simply more visceral and fiercer. For me, a fight in which two guys with claws wade into each other is a lot tenser than a fight between two guys with laser eyes. Even though Wolverine is hard to kill, his supporting cast and the other people around him aren’t immortal. Wolverine often fights to protect them. One misstep and someone close to him could very well die.
The other thing to keep in mind is that there are ways beyond the physical to hurt Wolverine. There are so many horrible things I have planned for Logan. Cue maniacal laughter.
Nice. Let’s talk a little bit then about some of the agents who will be carrying out those horrible things, the villains of Wolverine’s rogues gallery. What’s your overall opinion on his antagonists? Are you interested in expanding their roster or using some of the classic and newer Wolverine villains that were recently introduced and reintroduced by writer Jason Aaron?
I definitely have plans to expand the rogues gallery and add my own characters to the mix, but in the first arc I’m returning to the well of villains Jason left me. Jason introduced some of the coolest bad guys to ever go toe-to-toe with Wolverine — characters that are perfect foils for our hero. Of course I want to revisit some of them. In my first story, one of these villains resurfaces to put Wolverine through living Hell. Wolverine, fearing that he’s a danger to those around him (and rightfully so), goes on the hunt to put a very definite end to the villain’s plans once and for all.
Speaking of Jason Aaron, one of the things he really tried to do during his run is provide a variety of stories in terms of both genres and tones. Will that continue in your run? Or are you interested in telling a longer story that tackles a few certain genres? And what types of Wolverine stories seem especially compelling to you as a writer?
Wolverine is a character who can “play ball” in almost any genre or in both small scale, “grounded” stories, and really insane, epic adventures. My goal is to keep the reader guessing in terms of the type of stories I’ll tell using the character. I think the “chapters” of a longer story can each have their own unique feel and cadence. Wolverine as the lone stalker definitely appeals to me, especially in terms of this book.
Let’s talk a little more about your initial story. You already touched on it a bit, but what else can you tell us about the plot and themes of your first arc? Since your first issue hits in April, is it an “Avengers Vs. X-Men” tie-in?
My first story is not an “Avengers Vs. X-Men” tie-in. I had one in mind if that was route I needed to go, but for my first Wolverine yarn it was more important to tell a story that pretty succinctly told readers where I’m coming from as a writer. Readers should be prepared for lots of blood and guts (figuratively and literally) as Wolverine clashes with some of the nastiest bad guys he’s ever faced.
Wolverine also possesses a very large supporting cast including everyone from his current girlfriend, Melita Garner, to his teammates on the X-Men and Avengers, not to mention a number of acquaintances he’s met throughout his very long life. Which of these characters will play have a recurring role in your initial Wolverine stories? Are there any supporting character whose dynamic with Wolverine you’re dying to explore?
My gut reaction is to keep most of the X-Men and Avengers on the sidelines of these stories. They’ll appear — they’re such a huge part of Wolverine’s life, so how could they not? — but this is Wolverine’s story, and he’s going to need to rely on himself. Some of the other supporting cast, like Melita and some new characters I’d like to introduce, will play bigger roles in the story, though. Wolverine’s relationship with Melita is interesting to me, as is his interaction with his students. There will be some characters from Wolverine’s past showing up soon who may shake up his current relationships a bit.
We’ve talked quite a bit about story and characters. Let’s start to wrap things up by talking about art. What does Paul Pelletier bring to the table?
I worked with Paul on “Fear Itself: The Fearless.” It’s nice knowing what to expect from an artist on a book like this. Paul is a wonderful storyteller. His character designs are awesome (and that’ll be important for me) and he handles crazy action scenes and more subdued character-driven scenes with skill. Every page of art I’ve seen him do is simply gorgeous. It’s the kind of art that, to me, makes me go back to a story again and again.
Finally, Wolverine’s current writer, Jason Aaron, is finishing up a fairly lengthy run with the character. If your stories resonate with fans are you interested in spending several years with the character as well? Or do you have a set number of stories and ideas you’d like to explore and then move onto something else?
I love writing shorter story arcs, but my true passion is taking my time in exploring a character and doing a little world-building over the course of a longer series. I’m really hoping the stars align and fans dig what I’m doing, because I would most certainly love to sink my teeth into a much longer story.
Is it April yet? I’m really excited to see what people think of my take on Wolverine. I think it’ll be a wild ride. Snikt, baby. Snikt.
“Wolverine” #305 by Cullen Bunn and Paul Pelletier slices into stores in April.