Even though his stories for “Savage Wolverine” #20 and “Original Sins” #2 are single-issue affairs, the tales do build on the writer’s previous work with the characters. In “Savage Wolverine,” the former Wolvie solo writer digs back into Logan’s past as a part of the infamous Chicago Valentine’s Day Massacre of the 1920s. Meanwhile, in “Original Sins” Tieri spins a new chapter in the legacy of the Black Knight — a character he previously opened up to new mythology during his “New Excalibur” run.
Ahead of the stories, CBR News spoke to Tieri about how he’s bringing his signature style to both series, and below the writer digs into why bootlegging and Al Capone are the perfect ideas to hang a gritty Wolverine story on, how the legacy of the ebony blade will change Dane Whitman forever and more.
CBR News: From when “Savage Wolverine” was announced as an anthology series, I’m sure a lot of readers expected that you’d step up to bat at some point. You’ve returned to the character and his world a number of times since your original run on his solo title. With the format and approach of “Savage,” did you have an initial take in mind, or did you start looking to his past after you knew you were going to step in?
Frank Tieri: Yeah, I guess it’s not exactly a surprise I’m doing some Wolvie again, huh? What can I tell ya? Love the guy. I’ll write him as long as we live. Oh wait. [Laughs]
But as for this story, the truth is, it was actually one I’ve been wanting to tell way before the “Savage Wolverine” series ever existed. This was just the place where (thanks to editors Jeanine Schaffer and later Tom Brennan) there was an opportunity to tell it.
Wolverine comics have had a crime element to them at various times in the past, but this is a very specific crime story set in a very specific era. What was the draw of placing him in Chicago at the height of early gangsterism?
I always liked the idea that while history tells us there were seven men shot that fateful Valentine’s Day in 1929 — there were in reality eight. That there is actually one secret, sole survivor of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre that history doesn’t know about. So when I realized that guy would be Logan, that this was going to be an untold tale from his past — that due to his healing factor, he just brushed himself off and left before the cops came — everything else just fell into place after that.
Plus, come on, it’s Wolvie versus Al Capone, for crissakes! Scarface versus Guy Who Makes Scars! Who wouldn’t want to see that? That’s worth the price of admission alone.
On the personal side of history, we’ve seen some of Wolverine’s past from throughout the 20th Century like his days in WWII. Where is Logan at at this point in his career, and how does his own story fold into the world of classic bootleggers?
This is still a very raw Wolverine. I really have to stress that. He’s not all that far removed from that early encounter with Sabretooth where he loses Silver Fox so he really doesn’t know much about what he is or what he can do at this point. This is very much the beta testing version of the character — he doesn’t have all the bugs out yet. So whereas the Wolverine of today eats bullets for breakfast with a side of toast, with this early version getting shot up during the Massacre like he does… well, it really almost kills him.
As for the bootlegging, it just seemed to fit to me. As history tells us, a lot of the illegal booze from the Prohibition came from Canada and Canadian bootleggers. And Logan — certainly no stranger to booze, by the way — I figured he would absolutely think the whole Prohibition thing was just plain dumb. Stupid Americans making hooch illegal equals mucho money for Logan to buy more cowboy hats and sideburn gel.
As a crime buff, what kind of real life figures are you hoping to draw into the story? In what ways does this book allow Logan to “walk between the raindrops” of history?
Logan “walking between the raindrops” of history as you put it is part of my appeal to him and long lived characters like him. I’m a history nut, and I love the chance to play with it with a story like this. You just have to make sure what you’re doing makes sense and that it adds to the character — and I think everything we do here very much does.
As for real life figures, there’s the aforementioned Capone, obviously. I didn’t want them being on the same side though, mainly because history tells us Capone ends up the winner here, and I found it more interesting if Logan had backed the losers. Besides, it’s a little known fact that the other real life figure that makes an appearance here, Bugs Moran, was part French Canadian so it just made sense Logan would go Canuck over Capone.
Now, not to give too much away, but there’s also a character very familiar to Wolverine lore that makes a significant appearance here and greatly affects the events of the story. So, just in case you were wondering — yeah, this story very much plays into and affects Wolvie’s mythology.
Artist Felix Ruiz has worked previously on the “Wolverine MAX” series, which I’m sure fits your tastes well, but what does this specific story do that plays into his take on Logan or switch things up thanks to the period trappings?
Felix Ruiz and colorist Dan Brown are very much on their game here. I’m not just saying this but the book looks fabulous, and I’d write another Wolverine story with these guys any day of the week. You know my style. I’m very much a “grim and gritty” type of storyteller. These guys match that style to a T, and the whole period aspect to it –Â gangsters in suits, machine guns, 1920s styles — plays very well here. Loved the way this book looked.
In a completely different corner of the Marvel U, you’re writing a new Black Knight story for the “Original Sins” anthology. I’ve always felt like that’s a character perpetually on the bubble of being a Marvel mainstay — recognizable but often overlooked. What’s your draw to him?
I kind of agree with you there as far as the bubble thing goes. (I’d put Hercules in that category, too. Good characters that for whatever reason, never made it beyond their B-list status.) With Dane Whitman though, I guess yeah, it’s partly the history angle again. The ebony blade is a legacy weapon, and one of the things I established in “New Excalibur” is that the Black Knight is a legacy character with a lot more Black Knights having come before him than we once thought. So yeah, it’s definitely fun to play with all that.
Also, he’s a dude with a sword carved from a meteor and a flying horse. You have to go a long way not to be cool after all that, ya know? [Laughs]
Seriously though, I’d love to do a project with BK where we explore some of those other ebony blade wielders and get more into the history of the blade, so who knows? Hopefully this story springs enough interest that Marvel is crazy enough to let me do it.
And as you said, of course you worked with him during your run on “New Excalibur” digging a bit into the history of the ebony blade. Since “Original Sins” deals with hidden pieces of each hero’s past, is this story in some ways a follow up to that one?
In some ways, yes. This story mainly involves a Black Knight historian who has learned about Dane’s “original sin” and confronts him about it. Which means we touch on some of the things I played with during my “New Excalibur” run like the previous Black Knights and how the ebony blade corrupted them.
And the big question here is this: Has the blade now finally corrupted Dane as well?
People have already seen the cover to issue #2 featuring the Knight and a medieval-looking foe. What can you say about this character and how it helps change how we’ll view Dane in the Marvel U?
The character is Savage Steel. Not medieval, necessarily, but another guy in armor. That was [editor] Tom Brevoort’s idea. He just liked the idea of Dane going up against another armored opponent and I agree — it makes for a nice visual.
But as for your question about if he’ll change how we view Dane in the Marvel U? After their encounter, I’d give that a definite “yeah,” and I’ll leave it at that.
Raffaele Ienco is drawing the Black Knight story. He’s done period-based genre stuff before as well as full-on superhero stories. What do you expect his work here will do on both those fronts?
Raff did a great job here — and believe me this is not an easy story for an artist. Just the nature of it has a lot of talking heads at points but Raff manages to keep it interesting with some of the artistic choices he made. He really rose to the occasion here.
Overall, you’ve always been a writer who both digs deep into the history of the Marvel U and finds some of the darker corners to play in. How do each of your new stories match up to that classic Tieri mold?
These are two stories that actually scratch both those itches and fit quite nicely in the classic Tieri mold, as you put it. Both of them deal with the histories and mythologies of these characters while at the same time, it’s the darker, grittier aspects of those histories we’re exploring,
I think it’s safe to say after reading both stories, while both involve secrets — one won’t be who wrote ’em.
Both “Savage Wolverine” #20 and “Original Sins” #2 arrive in June from Marvel Comics.