Today brings a special holiday treat — not only is “Origin II” #1 in stores on a Tuesday, but this week’s X-Position marks the triumphant return of X-Position favorite — Kieron Gillen, former scribe of “Uncanny X-Men,” “Generation Hope” and current writer of “Origin II.” Along with series editor Jeanine Schaefer, Gillen expands Wolverine’s origin story into the pre-World War I era, adding an older version of a familiar face: Mr. Sinister.
Gillen and Schaefer were on hand to answer all questions about “Origin II,” including the process of crafting a sequel to one of Marvel’s most memorable limited series of all time, the approach to designing a younger Mr. Sinister, Wolverine’s mental state at the start of the story and more.
CBR News: Kieron, “Origin II” hits stores today and is easily one of the more high-profile projects Marvel has released in recent memory. What was your approach to taking on the assignment?
Kieron Gillen: My usual approach to any new project, but moreso. As in, panic, paranoia and generally wallowing in a bit ol’ pit full of disease, fear and self-hatred (i.e. the traditional British comic book writer methodology).
Really, it’s been a delight. It’s clearly an enormous project, with a lot of eyes on it, but it’s just a great thing to do. For all its obvious scale, it’s also been intense. This isn’t a book that’s aligned with the clockwork machine of the ongoing Marvel Universe. This is a singular, beautiful stone to be placed in the Universe’s foundation. As such, all we do is worry about crafting it as perfectly as we can.
You had the opportunity during your “X-Men” run to explore quite a few of the X-Crew, but not Wolverine. How is writing Wolverine different than writing any of the other X-Men?
Gillen: Generally speaking, he’s both shorter and stabbier.
While I wrote him less than any other X-Men writer since before he was introduced, I did have a chance to take Logan out for a few spins. He was in “Quarantine” as a major player in that co-written arc with [Matt] Fraction. He was one of the team’s mentors in “Generation Hope.” And there was also having the joy of the Wolverine/Cyclops shouting match that was “AvX: Consequences.”
When I started writing him, I admit I was worried. There’s been so many stories featuring him. Could I really find something interesting to do with him? That literally disappeared in the first few panels I wrote of him, and I realized there’s a bloody good reason why there’s been so many stories about him. He’s enormously adaptable, for a start. Look at the range of tones that Jason [Aaron]’s been using Logan for across his time with the character, for example. From the grimmest noir to the most playful comedy, the character can support it all. He works in teams. He works as a solo character. He works as a guest star. He works as a cameo. He’s the best he is at what he does and, narratively speaking, that’s pretty much anything.
The question becomes “what’s this story about?” And being “Origin,” it goes right to the core of him. In which case, what I’m looking at is the real fundamentals. Who is Logan? The guy we left at the end of “Origin” isn’t a Logan we would recognize. The guy who turns up around 1910 with Silver Fox — is, at least to some degree. What happened between the two dates?
“Origin II” is what happened.
Jeanine, “Origin” was one of the most anticipated miniseries of all-time, revealing the bulk of Logan’s origin story. Why did Marvel feel like it was the right time to bring a sequel to the table?
Jeanine Schaefer: Honestly, it’s something that we’ve been batting around, wondering when the right time was. At the same time, we had been talking to Kieron about the possibility of doing something Wolverine-related and he had the kernel of an idea we loved. The kismet of Kieron’s pitch and Adam [Kubert]’s schedule opening up told us this was it. Sometimes the story just tells you when the right time is, this was one of those moments!
Moving on to the reader questions, Barney wants to know about the series’ version of Mister Sinister.â€¨â€¨Sinister is one of my favorite villains, and I especially enjoyed your portrayal of him in “X-Men.” How is he different in “Origin II” from his modern version?
Gillen: Thank you. You’re very kind. How is Sinister different? He’s 100 years younger, for a start. More importantly, the Sinister I had in my “Uncanny” run was a cloned, “perfected” version of himself, the product of all those decades of research. In a real way, that Sinister was who this Sinister idealized himself to be. While he’s blankly cold, there’s a playfulness to him.
The Sinister in “Origin” is much less playful. You have the wit, but it’s cold. The first two episodes are set out in the wilderness of Canada, and he is by far the coldest thing in that icy world. He’s also keeping his hand close to his chest. In terms of people coming to “Origin” straight, they’ll be unaware of Sinister’s history. They’ll be able to take him straight — as Nathaniel Essex, a clearly deeply unethical and monstrous scientist. Long-term readers will know the full story.
That’s important in this project — I want it to be meaningful to people who’ve never read a Wolverine story before, and people who’ve read every Wolverine story.
cora reef wants to know more about the challenge of making “Origin II” accessible.â€¨â€¨Dear Mr. Gillen and Ms. Schaefer, I really liked “Origin” as a standalone story, and I wanted to know about the challenge of making “Origin II” stand on its own in a similar manner. How were you able to accomplish this?
Gillen: I think that’s the big question, and the big aim. While it is a sequel, part of the appeal of “Origin” is how it stands alone. I wanted “Origin II” to have a similar quality. Hell, I wanted people who didn’t even know anything about the Marvel Universe to pick it up, and have this atmospheric, dark and beautiful story set in the early 19th Century. I’ve talked about how the book is a little like a period novel in the Marvel Universe — kind of a Jack London piece. It’s very pure. We present everything you need to know in the volume, while allowing people who are embedded in the wider MU to know the wider implications of the statements.
Did we accomplish this? I hope so, but that’s for you guys to judge.
Rose was probably my favorite part of “Origin,” and it was really upsetting when she died. How much will her death affect Logan throughout the progress of “Origin II.”
Gillen: Enormously. It’s why he disappeared into the wilderness to live with wolves. It’s the shadow over Logan. It’s the pain he still hasn’t healed from. It’s the irony of Logan — he can heal from everything, except what’s in his chest.
JimTheTroll is up next with a question about the approach to writing “Origin II.”â€¨â€¨Kieron, I’m a big fan of your “Young Avengers” run. How has your approach to “Origin II” changed as a result of your time working on “Young Avengers?”
Gillen: Thank you. While tonally they’re worlds apart, there’s certain methodologies that have transferred across. I’m writing the book in the same Marvel Method/Full script hybrid method. So when I’m doing a combat sequence, I loosen up the script and give more explicit room for Adam to go to town. When you’ve got a storyteller like Adam he’ll reinvent the page, and I wanted to give him as much room as possible. Much like “YA,” it’s also a book with a lot of back and forth. Not as much as Jamie [McKelvie] — we’re basically Bert and Ernie — but Adam’s come in with big storytelling ideas, and I’ve applauded them. After “Young Avengers,” it’s probably the most explicitly collaborative comic I’ve done for Marvel, even.
Grant hopes to glean some understanding about the setting of “Origin II.”â€¨â€¨I’ve read that “Origin II” takes place pre-World War I. What fascinates you about that time period and why did you think it was a good place to pick up with Logan?
Gillen: There’s one obvious reason — it’s the empty hole in Logan’s chronology. The gap between the end of “Origin” and the start of the main Wolverine chronology. That’s purely practical. That’s where a story would have to be to explore the sort of material we wanted to do. And one specific part of the story could only have happened in these years.
But I like the period. The period is interesting. The 20th Century has just started. The modern world id being given born to. World War I looms apocalyptically on horizon, and the civilized world is preparing itself to show how uncivilized it can be. There’s lots of interesting things you can do with Logan in such a world.
When I read interviews, it seemed like this could also have been a good “Savage Wolverine” story. Do you have any desire to pick up with Wolverine in a similar manner, but later in life for a story like that?
Gillen: I think when people read it, they’ll see it’s something that really has to be its own thing. That said, there is another Wolverine story that’d I’d like to do which feels very Savage Wolverine. Jeanine, Nick and I have talked about it, but never found the right time or place. Maybe one day.
Schaefer: I’m holding you to that!
Finally, mr_infinite wraps up this Christmas Eve X-Position asking about Kieron’s experience with secret origins.â€¨â€¨For Mr. Gillen: This is the second “Secret Origin” you’ve had the opportunity to do for Marvel. How would you compare building the secret origin of Tony Stark to that of Wolverine?
Gillen: There’s a strange synchrony between the two stories, isn’t there? Getting deep into the viscera of two of the universe’s icons at the same time is a rare one. In a real way, they’re enormously different. “Secret Origin” vs “Origin” leads to a fundamentally different sort of story. The production of the two were worlds apart as well. “Secret Origin” was an oft-double-shipping monthly book, done at the exciting pace of Marvel release. This is a big, slowly constructed, pop event comic. I’ve just had more time, and it changes the nature of the thing.
I think people will like it a lot. I’ve joked even if they hate what I write, Adam and Frank [Martin] has created such wonderful images that people will probably like it anyway. It’s a visual tour de force, and unlike anything else out there right now.
For Ms. Schaefer: As commander of all things Wolverine, what stands out about Mr. Gillen’s story compared to the many other Wolverine stories currently going on?
Schaefer: This is really a universe all its own; it feels almost like a fable, and has a tone and a look completely different from anything else we’re doing. Kieron is amazing at fitting together all these disparate puzzle pieces (Essex, the science of the time, the dramatic irony given what we know about present day Wolverine) in a way that feels less like he’s creating the connective tissue and more like he’s discovering it as he goes. It’s wonderful to see it all unspooling as we talk through plots and outlines.
Thanks to Kieron Gillen and Jeanine Schaefer for answering this week’s “Origin II” questions!
Next week, it’s our year-end wrap-up X-Position, where we post your responses to our New Years survey! Stick around and be sure to check out what you loved most in 2013!