At C2E2 2012, Marvel Comics announced Jeph Loeb and Simone Bianchi would return to “Wolverine” for the ominously titled “Sabretooth Reborn.” The storyarc follows Loeb and Bianchi’s “Wolverine: Evolution” story from over five years ago where Wolverine beheaded his longtime nemesis — but from all accounts, it looks like Sabretooth is back for another stab at the best there is at what he does. In a special live press conference call, Loeb and Bianchi teased some of the major details of their upcoming “Wolverine” reunion and bringing Sabretooth back to the Marvel U.
Moderator and Marvel Sales & Communications Coordinator James Viscardi kicked off the call by introducing Loeb and editor Jeanine Schaeffer (Bianchi was late), passing the baton to Loeb, who spoke about taking Sabretooth off the table in “Wolverine: Evolution.”
“I don’t think any of us thought it would be five years,” said Loeb, who gave a lot of the credit to Axel Alonso and Schaeffer for keeping Sabretooth off the table. “Obviously, writers can write more than artists can draw, except in my case. We just waited it out until Simone had an opening in his schedule. The closest thing I can imagine this to is when you’re trying to make another film after making the first one, you just have to wait for all the pieces to come together again, so here we are.”
The writer further noted that readers can look forward to “some of the most glorious artwork Simone has ever produced” and passed to Schaeffer to speak about her role as editor and “divining rod” of the story.
Schaeffer said she felt Loeb excelled at creativity and accessability when it comes to stories. “On top of it is all this cinematic action. You’ve got the girls and the revenge and the tortured past … it is something that cuts to the heart of who we are as humans and how we interact with each other,” she said, citing her enjoyment of “Wolverine: Evolution.” The editor further said “Sabretooth Reborn” would take some of what had occurred in the five years since “Evolution.”
Loeb also noted his goals at coming back to tell the second half of his story. “I always try to tell the best story that I can,” he said. “Hopefully, you learn from the previous experiences and move on to the next one. This is sort of a unique experience where I’ve worked on characters with artists and come back to them with that artist but I’ve never really told the second half of a story. In other words, there really is a challenge creatively for us to grow and exceed what it did five years ago, but by the same token it has to exist as its own piece.”
The writer further said he didn’t want to call “Sabretooth Reborn” as a sequel because “it’s just the second half of the story.” At this point, Bianchi jumped on the call.
“I picture you having to get out of bed with some beautiful girl, but down by the ocean,” joked Loeb. “You have to get on a bicycle and ride all the way out into the mountains. You have to get to your castle up in the Italian alps.”
“I was actually working, believe it or not,” said Bianchi, laughing. “I was working and got so concentrated that I forgot about the conference!”
Wasting no time, Bianchi jumped right in, speaking to his collaboration with Loeb and how his storytelling has developed since “Evolution.” “If I am allowed to say, what I’m trying to do is simplify my storytelling,” Bianchi said. “Jeph knows that too. If you see my work on the ‘Evolution’ series, I used to lay out the page in a more complicated way. I’m trying to use that kind of complex layout to a minimum amount of page and use an easier geometric layout to the rest of the story. I think people are going to love it.”
While Schaeffer described the first issue as “chaotic, but in a good way,” Bianchi described the second issue differently. “I have a word for the second issue. The second issue is crowded. It’s full of Sabretooth everywhere!” said Bianchi.
“It is!” agreed Loeb, noting the pages from the second issue that he’d seen were “so beautiful.”
“This isn’t a story where we pick the needle up off the record and drop it back down again on the same song. On the years in between in the first part and second part, there are some extremely talented people who have worked not only on the ‘Wolverine’ book and ‘Wolverine: Origins,” Loeb said, calling out Daniel Way as someone who had taken their storyline and run with it, mentioning they wanted to acknowledge that contribution. “Our story opens and something has happened because we find Cloak at the Empire State Building. There is all of Cloak and Dagger and Romulus and Sabretooth — all of those characters are tied together, no pun intended, in what has happened previously in order to get us where we are currently.”
In terms of the roots of Sabretooth’s return, Loeb mentioned that he both drew from his original story plan and the events that occurred in the five intervening years. “I’m not a big fan of a decision [to bring a character back to life] and try to figure out how to make that work if it wasn’t done from the beginning,” he said. “It was discussed from the very beginning when Axel and I first discussed this story, if he was going to come back, and it was an if, how we were going to do that.”
Loeb also said the seeds had been planted back during “Wolverine: Evolution” as to how Sabretooth would be resurrected and sharp-eyed readers had come up to him at conventions and mentioning that particular sequence.
The writer also spoke a bit about the separation between stories, citing his experience with “Batman: The Long Halloween” and “Batman: Dark Victory.” “This is a different kind of story in that this is a story that began with the death of Sabretooth and now continues with the life of Sabretooth. … There’s no villain who sees himself that way. … How do you embrace that kind of side in Sabretooth who has an opportunity … where is that going to take him?”
Loeb was cagey about other character appearances in “Sabretooth Reborn” from “Evolution,” mentioning Wild Child “was taken off the board.” “There is a new character who will join the pantheon of character. Wolverine has such a rich cast of characters more than the other X-Men in such a singular way … you really get a chance to add to that and that’s one of the things that I really love about working with Simone is that his extraordinary ability for design really creates a look for the characters.”
Bianchi spoke a bit about his evolution as an artist, citing three main changes from the first storyarc. “The main thing to my eye that has changed a lot from the first story arc is, again, the storytelling,” Bianchi said. “What I’ve tried to with the other storyarcs that I did in the meantime like ‘Astonishing X-Men’ and ‘X-Force,’ I was trying to go in for a complex layout of the pages and what I’m trying to do this time is step back a little bit and make things look a little easier. I want to say more geometric. The other thing that I tried to do especially with the second issue is I tried not to inkwash my pages. I’m going to have a different inker on the second issue. It’s going to be regular traditional black and white artwork.” Bianchi said he said the black and white artwork would really give his colorist a chance to show off their skill. “I’m also trying to explore empty spaces. I tend to detail my characters and background so much, I’m trying to balance those details with some empty spaces where eyes can rest.”
Loeb said the story would focus on Wolverine and Sabretooth and “the lies they have been told,” and that despite Wolverine’s current position as headmaster of the Jean Grey School, there won’t be any guest appearances by the school’s staff.
As for Sabretooth, Loeb mentioned readers would hopefully see some changes in the traditional villains. “It would seem odd to have — simply returned and not gone anywhere,” he said. “It was actually when Axel and I first started talking about the story and ultimately when Jeanine and I started talking about the story, the question was ‘What’s the takeaway here?’ The idea of him simply returning the way he was seemed like a missed opportunity.”
Bianchi spoke briefly about working with Loeb. “I actually can’t stand Jeph Loeb. I like to work with Warren Ellis much, much better. It’s a much better time,” he joked as the panel laughed. “What can I say about Jeph? I’ve known him for six years now, he is the writer who I work with that can really take the best out of my artwork. That’s what I can say about his writing. Every time I sit and work on one of his scripts and I look back at what I did, they’re always the best pages. It’s chemistry. I don’t know how to explain that. Jokes aside, this kind of personal relationship that we’ve been having for the past six years helped us to work much better together. It’s a pure pleasure for me and it’s not by chance.”
“I would love to draw a Spider-Man story with Mr. Jeph Loeb!” Bianchi said.
As for hooking up with the massive event of “Avengers vs. X-Men,” Loeb said “Sabretooth Reborn” would be set apart. “It’s a self-contained, standalone story,” said Loeb, who mentioned there were talks about including some of the “AvX” fallout. “There wasn’t any way for us to hook directly into it.”
As for the new character, Loeb teased he or she comes from “a well-known place that has to do with one of our characters. Because this character’s identity is a major plot point, I wouldn’t want to spoil it just yet.”
With that, the call wrapped. “Sabretooth Reborn” begins in “Wolverine” #310 on July 4.