Now, the biggest surprise of Fred Van Lente Day – our exclusive announcement of Fred Van Lente’s new book for Marvel Comics, debuting in March 2008.
Wolverine First Class!!!
(Click on the Salvador EspÃn cover to enlarge)
Read on to see a discussion between Fred and I about the comic.
1. Please pitch the new series to me. What’s the high concept?
This is why God gave us solicitation copy:
Return with us again to the early days of the X-Men for all-new adventures of Wolverine and Kitty Pryde! The next generation of students has arrived at Xavier’s School — Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, and the mysterious Wolverine — and with them new teaching methods. Professor X pairs up green recruit Kitty Pryde with the been-everywhere, done-everything Logan, and neither of them are all that happy about it. But unless they learn to work together, neither of them will come back from their first mission together alive!
2. These adventures of Wolverine and Kitty are going to be “in Marvel continuity,” right?
Yes, the first eight issues are set between X-MEN #139 and #150, so right after Jean Grey’s funeral at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga and right after Kitty Pryde shows up at Xavier’s school. Cyclops has struck out on his own after Jean’s death, leaving Storm the new leader.
3. How closely did you pay attention to the older issues of Uncanny that these stories are told “in between”? Is this similar to Untold Tales of Spider-Man, or is it a lot freer than that?
I think the average fan would be shocked to learn how much time and energy Marvel puts into getting continuity 100% right. Given the number of books and creators and the history involved perfection is never achieved, but when I started working here I was somewhat stunned at how seriously continuity is taken.
In fact, Marvel has a team of four or so crack X-Perts who pour over each Wolverine First Class script and make sure every iota slides neatly “into” the X-Men era mention above. You should see the memos I get! But it’s cool, it actually has enhanced the scripts and certainly hasn’t prevented me from telling any stories I want to tell.
And it means all our First Class tales are official parts of X-Men lore, in “616” continuity, as they say, which is really exciting.
4. Who came up with the idea for the project? Was it your pitch?
From Marvel I got the title and the mandate that it was to be set during the Claremont/Byrne era. The idea to pair Wolvie with Kitty was mine. I wanted a hook to get female readers interested in the series and furthermore I thought it was a proven concept that hadn’t been done in a while– not since the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini in the ’80s, I don’t think.
5. What can you tell us about the artist on the project?
Salvador EspÃn is our wonderful cover artist and Andrea Devito of Dan Slott’s Thing fame is handling interiors. I was absolutely blown away by Andrea’s work on Priest’s Captain America and the Falcon series and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with him for the first time.
6. Is this the first time you’ve written either Kitty Pryde or Wolverine in a comic?
It is, actually, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s fun to deal with Wolverine this early in his career — at least his publishing career, before he became such a Marvel mainstay. He’s still a “bad boy,” on the fringes of society, even on the fringes of the X-Men, uncomfortable being a team player — and now he’s stuck with a 13 year old girl partner, which makes for some pretty awesome scenes.
Dare I make a comparison to The Professional…?
7. How would you describe the tone of the book – is it lighter than standard X-Men fare?
The stories are very character-driven, about the growing relationship between Kitty and Logan, and that can be light or dark, depending on the circumstances. Tagging along with Wolverine can expose a 13 year old girl to a lot more than her maturity level should be able handle but by the same token Kitty’s presence prevents Wolverine from being grim-and-gritty 24/7.
The analogy I used in my pitch was that Kitty is to Logan what Robin is to Batman — a humanizing factor.
8. How much will the other X-Men characters have a role in the new series?
Very minimal. Almost none. The “high concept” of the book is that Professor X is sending Wolverine off on solo missions and making him take Kitty along for the ride, so she can learn how to be a hero from his wealth of experience. She’s like his intern. Which of course both Logan and Kitty think is completely insane.
But Professor Xavier is crazy like a fox. He has an ulterior motive for sticking them together…and therein lies our first story.
Oh, and Kitty’s growing feelings for Colossus play a pretty important sub-plot role too.
9. Are you going to be sticking to the X-Men brand of characters, or will you be using the Marvel Universe as a whole?
I actually am trying to avoid, avoid, avoid the usual X-gang so I can stick Logan and Kitty in interesting and different situations with characters you wouldn’t think of associating them with.
Nevertheless, we will see Mariko Yashida, Siryn, Dazzler, Alpha Flight (all stalwarts from this X-Era), and Sabretooth, because I think Sabretooth has a clause in his contract that mandates he must appear early on in any Wolverine title.
10. Can you tell us what villains they’ll be facing? How many of them will be new villains?
I mentioned Sabretooth. The High Evolutionary and his New Men pop up — and where they roam, can the fearsome Man-Beast be far behind?
Does anyone miss the Soviet Super-Soldiers? I know I do. Worst part of the Berlin Wall coming down, you ask me.
In addition, there will be new villains — at least two I can think of off the top of my head, including one introduced in our first issue.
But for more info, as my Herc homie Greg Pak likes to say, “All will be revealed in the fullness of time.”
11. Will the title be told in arcs, or is it more of a “series of done-in-ones”?
12. How far ahead have you planned the series?
I’ve already plotted out to #8.
That should about do it. Feel free to add any other info you want about the project!
#1 ships in March ’08! Woo-woo!