Marvel’s Next Big Thing actually involves five things-or five people, rather. Wolverine, Psyclocke, the Punisher, Deadpool and the Hulk star in the upcoming five-issue, weekly miniseries “5 Ronin.” The title re-imagines the quintet of heroes as masterless samurais in feudal Japan out for revenge. Writer Peter Milligan pens all five issues, while a rotating cast of artists pencil each installment, including Tomm Coker, Dalibor Talajic, Laurence Campbell, Goran Parlov and Leandro Fernandez.
Milligan and Marvel Editor Sebastian Girner spoke with reporters today in a conference call moderated by James Viscardi about the upcoming miniseries, which launches in March and runs throughout the month. CBR was there to help bring some guidance to “5 Ronin.”
Things started off with discussion on how the idea came about. “The egg of this idea was born in Sebastian’s great interest and passion in all things Japanese,” said Milligan. “Sebastian and I made an omelet out of that egg.”
Girner said that the samurai armor reminded him of superhero uniforms and he started putting things together on paper. “I tried to image which characters would,” and took it from there, he said.
Talk then turned to the specific characters. “The characters changed a little,” admitted Milligan. The writer said he was a big fan of the “Seven Samurai” film and concept. “The characters all represent an aspect of this Japanese society,” he said. He said that it was interesting to see how these characters molded and became a part of the Japanese landscape as the brainstorming went on. Milligan said that Wolverine made the most sense, as did the Punisher, for the atmosphere and culture.
Girner said that it makes sense to a lot of people why Wolverine would be a vital character in the tale, and that other characters proved a little more different to make work. “We got further and further away from the historical roots to making the characters inhabiting the story of the world that they’re in.”
Psylocke is a character that might make you raise an eyebrow, Milligan said, but also argued that “Psylocke is the character that fits in most beautifully” with the story.
In regards to the story itself, Milligan went into a little bit of detail. Each chapter focuses on one of the characters, but the stories are intricately linked through a common catalyst. “All these characters have to rediscover as the story continues” that there’s a reason they’re all connected and drawn together, explained Milligan. They each have problems that stem from the same source.
The decision to have multiple artists said works brilliantly for the nature of the story, said Milligan. The writer said that each installment has a certain tone and atmosphere specific to that character and their story that it almost necessitates a different artist than the other story. Girner talked about the various artists involved and his previous work with them, including on “Daredevil: Noir,” “Punisher MAX” and “Deadpool.”
“Tomm worked a long time on page one and it’s the opening page of this series and it’s so detailed,” said Milligan. The writer said he owes the artist a beer for how beautiful the image came out-an image based on an actual Japanese battle.
Question then opened up to the press. Milligan revealed that the story begins in 1600 in feudal Japan and follows a few years after that. “When we pick up, one age is coming to and end and the other is painfully about to be born,” explained Milligan. Girner said that the story follows from 100 years of civil war and is an important era in Japanese history and culture. “A lot of great stories take place in the Eto Era,” said Girner. Milligan pointed out that “Seven Samurai” takes place during this time.
In regards to the Hulk and how he fits in the story, Milligan said that he was the most interesting and counter-intuiative character. “He’s not this rampaging Green Monster” revealed the writer. “He’s a monk.” The writer said the internal battle between Hulk and Banner actually represents what a monk is about-finding that balance within yourself.
Samurais themselves have become a legendary icon in popular culture, similar to the cowboy. In regards to the comparison of the two and how both have become romanticized, Milligan said that “the cowboy as we know him is an entire fabrication. The samurai obviously existed with their own code and conduct.” The writer said that he took a good look at that code and their lives and reality of the samurai when researching for the story.
“The characters are meant to be recognizable,” confirmed Milligan. The writer said that the characters are still “100 percent the characters we read” in regular Marvel books every month. When coming up with the story, they wanted to make sure to keep the core of the characters the same, despite the change of the setting. Girner added that each story plays with things that we know about each character. This went into not only the design of their outfits, but also keeping that inner turmoil and the heart of the character that went into their original creation at Marvel.
Milligan said that there aren’t really other analogues of Marvel characters in the story. “The one character we haven’t talked about was the villain of the piece,” but that is not an analogue but based on a historical figure-a rather evil and wicked one, he said. Milligan said he turned want to turn into a gag of who you could fit into feudal Japan. The story is about these five characters and their problems specifically.
In regards to doing more stories in which Marvel heroes placed in different time eras, Milligan said that it all boils down to whether or not that time period warrants exploration and makes sense for the character and story. “I think there has to be something in this era and this time that really moves and interests you and forces characters to learn and do things that they wouldn’t have,” said Milligan. He added that the era of this story forces the characters to be constantly on edge and makes for a valid reason to put the characters in the setting. Milligan compared his other miniseries “Sub-Mariner: The Depths” where he set the story in the 60s because it worked for the tone and theme of the story he wanted to tell.
When asked to tease their favorite moments from the series, Milligan said he especially enjoyed a scene with Logan and Psylocke where Wolverine isn’t sure if “they’re still fighting or having sex.”
“That’s the best moment of the whole series,” laughed Girner. “The first time we see the Punisher,” he also stated as one of his favorite moments.
To close out, Milligan discussed his recent resurgence of more mainstream titles, having been previously known for more offbeat work and smaller miniseries. “It’s one thing that leads into another,” he said. “Certainly, I’m open to this world that I don’t always partake in. I’m the opposite of jaded, is how I feel about this stuff.”
“5 Ronin” begins March 2 and continues every week after that