The shadows of the Marvel Universe are a dangerous place, often home to sinister organizations like the Hand, an ancient cult of ninja assassins who commit murder and numerous other foul deeds as a way of securing power and worshipping their demonic master, the Beast. Centuries ago, the Hand’s deity honored his acolytes by granting them access to a number of dark sorcerous secrets, including the knowledge of how to raise their enemies from the dead, as servants of the Hand.
The ninja of the Hand are among the most fearsome and frightening opponents a hero can imagine, and this June, two champions join forces in a “Savage Wolverine” tale by the original “Avenging Spider-Man” creative team of writer Zeb Wells and artist Joe Madureira. We spoke with them about the arc, which teams the titular character with not only the wall-crawler, but also the assassin known as Elektra, a one-time member of the Hand, herself.
CBR News: People have been asking about the work you guys are doing together for some time, so I thought I’d start off with a question about the evolution of this project. Was this story originally envisioned as an arc of “Avenging Spider-Man?” And if so, has the story changed significantly since becoming a “Savage Wolverine” story?
Zeb Wells: Yeah, we originally planned it for “Avenging Spidey,” but with the massively talented Chris Yost coming onto that book and the lead character changing to “Superior Spider-Man,” it didn’t fit quite as well.
The story was leaning more towards Wolverine and Elektra anyway, so with that in mind — along with Joe needing to wrap up some work at his company and me getting consumed with my “work” on “Robot Chicken” — editor Steve Wacker made the brilliant (Steve’s words) decision to move it to the new “Savage Wolverine” book.
Luckily (read: because I was so late) we had the story generally outlined but not scripted, so I was able to turn it into a Wolverine story from the ground up. It’s not going to read like a Spider-Man story that stars Wolverine.
Zeb, you’ve written Wolverine before, but it’s typically been as a guest star in another character’s book. What’s it like writing him in his own series?
Wells: Wolverine is such a great character to write as a guest star, because he’s a polarizing hero and you learn a lot about the protagonist by how she/he relates to a killer in a costume. It was an unexpected but delightful challenge to write the story from his point of view. To actually get inside his head and see what makes him tick.
The most intriguing thing about him is the idea that he’s a hero who wants to do good, but he has this feral side that takes control when he gets too riled up. At that point, he loses control and has to sit back and watch himself kill things, even though it will torture him later. I think everyone has a side to themselves that they can’t control. For me, it’s the side that’s too terrified of failure to sit down and start writing and would rather hide on the couch for hours at a time. My side isn’t as sexy and interesting as Wolverine’s side.
Joe, what’s it like returning to Wolverine? When was the last time you
drew the character in a full story?
Joe Madureira: God, I honestly can’t remember the last full Wolverine story I drew — I’m too afraid to think about how long ago “Uncanny X-Men” was — though he’s appeared as a guest in various books I’ve done, such as “Ultimates 3.” Wolverine is up there with Spidey and Hulk as a character I just absolutely love to draw. I have a lot of fun with this more feral side.
How new reader friendly is your “Savage Wolverine” story? Is it tied to
or does it pick up the aftermath from Frank Cho’s previous story?
Madureira: It’s nicely self contained! You can jump right on in. There’s Wolverine, Elektra and lots and lots of Hand ninjas! What else do you need to know?!!!
Wells: Yeah the nature of it’s evolution makes it self-contained. I would have loved to have tied into Cho’s story, though — I’m really enjoying it.
[Our story is] about Wolverine’s dichotomy, and how it allows him to run with both the Avengers and a stone cold killer like Elektra. We get a sense of the toll this takes on him, playing hero on one team while knowing he’s capable of great violence himself.
Your last collaboration in was essentially a pulp fantasy story with underground barbarians and giant monsters. How would you describe your “Savage Wolverine” story?
Madureira: This feels like a pretty classic Wolverine story. For some reason, despite the decades worth of Wolverine stories that have been done, there are only two versions of Wolverine that resonate or sort of define the character for me. One is the feral naked guy in the woods hunting deer and surviving on his animal instincts; the other is fighting ninja in Japan alongside Mariko. I think it’s because these were the stories I was reading at the height of my comic obsession, and I was thrilled that this story took me back to those days. There’s an awesome bit of nostalgia that hits me when I draw Wolverine slicing through a ninja. Is that crazy?
Wells: It’s funny, but I really wanted to do right by Joe in the “Avenging Spider-Man” arc, so I tailored the story to things I thought he’d like to draw. But as I got his pages, it became clear that Joe can draw anything. he isn’t just a bad-ass artist, which is undeniable, he’s also one of the best visual storytellers in the field. Bar none. So this time around I focused on making the story as complex as I could, and just trusted Joe to MAD! it up. And MAD! it up, he did. I couldn’t be happier with the results.
Elektra is a pretty important character in this story. Joe, have you drawn her before, and what’s it like drawing her for this story?
Madureira: No! I’ve actually never gotten the chance to draw Elektra before! She’s another one of those characters that I was obsessed with back in the day.
She’s pretty challenging to draw, actually, because I’m determined not to make her just some hot chick. That’s not what she’s about. She’s a chiseled, muscular killing machine whose entire body is a weapon, expressionless and cold. It’s challenging getting that all across while still having her be “attractive,” but I’m trying!
What can you tell us about the story’s antagonists?
Wells: When you’re working with Joe, you’ve just got to create some new characters. His design sense is so strong, you’d be crazy to waste it. One of the things Joe, Steve and I talked about was keeping the Hand from reading as an anonymous ninja organization, so the main antagonists are the Hand, but we try to add to the mythology. In doing so, we created some Hand characters with distinct personalities and characteristics. I’m insanely excited for people to see what Joe did with them.
Joe, what can you tell us about the overall look of the story? How does it compare to your recent work on “Avenging Spider-Man?”
Madureira: I think it’s slightly darker and a little grittier. Spidey was big and fun! This is a more intimate story, definitely a little more grisly. Wolvie isn’t restrained when he’s with Elektra, so it’s been great fun killing characters left and right. Something Spidey would never condone!
Finally, you guys have obviously been living with this story for a while. How does it feel to finally have the project only a few months away from fans being able to read it?
Madureira: The anticipation is killing me! I don’t draw too many comics these days, so when they do hit, I’m always anxious for people to see the work, get their reactions etc. I really had a blast on this story.
It was a great honor to work on this book with Zeb. I think he writes a fantastic Wolverine — it just hits all the right notes. Personally, it fulfills a couple items on my artist bucket list. I’m proud of this one!
Wells: I’m really proud of this thing too and think people are going to love it. Take it from someone who’s seen it — it’s worth picking up!