Writers Charles Soule and Ray Fawkes sat down with Jonah Weiland in the CBR TV Tiki Room at New York Comic Con 2014 to talk about Marvel Comics’ “Death of Wolverine” and the new weekly “Wolverines” series that explores the repercussions of Logan’s death on those closest to him. Soule discusses why Wolverine’s death was told in a four-issue miniseries and how what happens next — in “Wolverines,” “The Logan Legacy,” “The Weapon X Program” and beyond — is where the story really gets interesting. Fawkes also offers his take on NBC’s “Constantine” and whether that meant altering his plans for the DC Comics series of the same name. Finally, the duo discuss the balancing act of writing licensed properties and creator-owned titles at the same time and their differing approaches to each.
Charles Soule: Do tweets count as hate mail? The tenor of it was more like, “Marvel, why are you killing this amazing guy?” Whatever. I honestly got more negativity about “Superman/Wonder Woman” than I did about “Death of Wolverine.” There are some very vocal Louis Lane fans who gave me a lot of grief for a long time. But “Death of Wolverine,” most of the negativity surrounding it was like, “Oh, he’s going to be back in two weeks,” which he is not going to be back in two weeks. Honestly the reaction has been phenomenal since it came out. I mean, it looks gorgeous. Steve McNiven and Justin Ponsor and Jay Leisten are killing it on the art. I’m really, really happy with the reception. It’s amazing.
On four issues being the proper length for “Death of Wolverine”
Soule: I think that I could have done more. But sometimes format dictates story a little bit. This was going to be a four-issue weekly, or close to weekly from the very beginning. So it was always going to be about the length that it is, which is around eighty, ninety pages. I tried to find something that was going to be really fast paced, but it was still going to have room for the big emotional beats to hit really hard. I think when the whole thing is done you’ll see how it works as a piece. Would I have loved to have done three issues with Sabretooth, and they work things out, and big fights? Maybe, but maybe not. I think it works very nicely to hit the touchstones of Wolverines existence, because, honestly, how many times have we seen him fight Sabretooth. We’ve seen him fight Sabretooth a lot. There’s a big splash in the second issue, in the middle of the Sabretooth fight where he basically goes into this dream state, or fugue, in which he is kind of remembering all of the other fights he’s had with Sabretooth, and that is designed to just — you’ve seen it. That’s how that would have worked then, this is how it works now. When you come back in he gets his eye slashed out because he doesn’t have his healing factor anymore. So it was a lot of working with things readers already knew about Wolverine, doing them in different ways, different ways not necessarily how they would have expected them to work out.
On the the “Death of Wolverine” follow-up series “The Weapon X Program” and “The Logan Legacy”:
Soule: There are two follow up projects to “Death of Wolverine.” One is called “The Weapon X Project,” which is basically the Runaways meets Frankenstein. You have some people who were experimented on in much the same way as Logan was in his earlier days, who are on the run across the United States trying to deal with that. Now “The Logan Legacy” is the one that I have been working on with Ray, and some other great writers. Which explores the effect of Logan’s death on some of his prominent cast including…
Fawkes: Daken. It’s kind of neat, in “The Logan Legacy” we get to hit some of those notes that perhaps didn’t get to fly into the “Death of Wolverine.” A lot of the stuff where I think there’s moments where you say “I could have done with more of this.” This is where we get to kind of explode some of those things. And so perhaps you would have a single panel in “Death of Wolverine,” or a couple of panels touching on something and then you have to move on, like you say format dictates story sometimes, and “The Logan Legacy” we get to emotionally follow some of those panels into where they lead, which I think is really cool.
On writing comics being a life-long aspiration:
Fawkes: Yeah, it was actually for me. Straight up. I wanted to be a writer. I knew that from when I was very young, but I also sort of followed perhaps a more rational track. Its kind of rough making your way as a writer sometimes. But even when I was halfway through engineering in school I knew I wasn’t going to work a single day as an engineer. And I didn’t actually. I graduated and just went into doing self-published comics and working up from there. I never do anything the easy way.
Soule: I was always a creative guy from very young. I did music for years and years and years, and so when I was in law school, and before in college I was doing a ton of music and kind of expecting that would be my career, up until when I got into law school basically. I like to hedge bets. I like to do things in ways that if one thing doesn’t work out, something else could work out. And that was kind of what law school was, but then the law school that I got into was very good and prominent, and it just seemed foolish to turn down that opportunity to have that degree. Then when I got out of law school the loans hit, and I realized that it would be very difficult to be a prosecuting attorney and the rock star that I assumed I would be. So I started writing, and flash-forward, here we are now. It was a way to be creative within the confines of a legal career.
On taking different paths and how important is it to be diverse:
Fawkes: You know I think it kind of just happens. And you know, I’m also addicted to telling stories, and, you know, when an editor comes to me and goes, “Have you ever considered working with X character?” Usually I am almost immediately like, “Well, X character has potential for amazing stories.” I think it’s less a strategic career thing than perhaps it should be strategic, but it’s less that and more I love to tell these stories, and when the opportunity comes up I take it.
On what it takes to balance company-owned and creator-owned projects:
Fawkes: Time management skills, and sacrifice sleep and hobbies.
Soule: All that stuff. One of the things that makes it particularly challenging is, [to Fawkes] I don’t know if you find this, I’d guess you do knowing your work, is that in some ways with creator-owned stuff you have to dig deep in a different way, because it’s all coming from you. Whereas if I am writing a “Death of Wolverine” I was able to use, as a backstop, sort of a short hand, which is the forty years of work that other creators have done before me. So if I have Sabretooth show up in a scene, everybody knows what that means already. So I don’t have to set it up or establish it in the same way.
Fawkes: It’s kind of semantic. Like Sabretooth has meaning packed into him. So you can speed things along because Sabretooth is a symbol so you just fire Sabretooth into the story — you don’t have to, like you say, dig as deep. Right, if I am doing a creator-owned work, and I wanted all the things that a character like Sabretooth means, I have to build that from the ground up and the heart out. Where as when we are working with the mainstream arc books, when I work with Batman or something like that, you can get some of these concepts across quite quickly because Batman has so much meaning, and sort of has 75 years of work behind him; 40 years of work with Wolverine.
Soule: An image of Batman standing on a gargoyle with the mist swirling around, it means something immediately. Whereas if you had Joe Shmoe — I think we made the point. Its just a different type of creative energy that’s required. They are both really rewarding. I don’t want to denigrate work for hire. Its just a different set of muscles. I think, clearly, we both like using all of the sets of muscles.
Fawkes: I guess that’s where the secret of balance comes out, is that you’re flexing different muscles, so it doesn’t feel like you’re — when you switch from one to the next, it doesn’t feel like, “Now I have to do another eight hours of the same.” It’s, “Now I am switching to the other thing.”
On NBC’s “Constantine” TV series and whether Fawkes had to change his approach to writing DC Comics’ “Constantine” ongoing series:
Fawkes: First off I was excited. I didn’t get any direction from DC to say, “Make this more new reader friendly,” but I did make an effort so that anyone who goes and picks up the current issue, the October issue, it does reintroduce John for those readers. And that’s because I assume, people who get excited about the TV show, they are going to want to check out the comic. I think that’s just smart business.
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