CCI: Matt Wagner and 25 Years of Grendel

Grendel celebrates his 25 th anniversary this year, and on Thursday afternoon at this Comic-Con International in San Diego, "creator Matt Wagner and longtime "Grendel" editor Diana Schultz talked to assembled fans about all things "Grendel," and CBR News was on the scene.

The panel kicked off with a discussion of some upcoming "Grendel" releases. First up was a reprint of "Devil by the Deed," re-colored in the black, white and red milieu that fans of the Hunter Rose stories know and love. And for the first time since it was printed 25 years ago, Dark Horse is releasing the "Grendel Archives," reprinting the original black and white "Grendel" stories, which Schultz said Wagner had previously sworn would never be reprinted. Wagner was quick to refute that statement, saying it had nothing to do with embarrassment about his early work. "Creativity is a life journey," Wagner said. "You have to start somewhere." His reluctance to reprint the original Grendel story had more to do with the fact that the story stopped midstream. It was the milestone of Grendel's 25 th anniversary that turned Wagner around. "God knows I don't know if I'll make it to 50," the author said. "Grendel Archives" will retail for $15, and features a new introduction by Wagner.

Wagner and Schultz moved on to talk about the new "Grendel" series, "Behold the Devil." Issue #0 is available at the Dark Horse booth on the Convention floor, and features, among other things, the first part of a massive interview with Newsarama's Matt Brady, which Wagner touted as "the definitive 'Grendel' interview." The remainder of the interview will appear on Newsarama in the coming months and will ultimately be collected into a book.

Schultz teaches a college level comics course, and every year Wagner appears as a guest lecturer and the two grab dinner afterwards. It was at the most recent dinner that the seeds of "Behold the Devil" were planted. Schultz had reasoned that for a 25 th anniversary "Grendel" series, Wagner had to not only write it but draw it, too. And if he was drawing it, it seemed only natural that it should feature the original Grendel, Hunter Rose. And, finally, that it had to be important, not just a caper. It took a little doing, but Wagner eventually hit upon writing a story that represented a section of Hunter's private journal that had been torn from the book. Wagner promised the story will re-introduce the characters and situations for new readers who aren't familiar with Hunter Rose, but also "fill in some cool stuff for people who already know him." Wagner went on to say that, "'Behold the Devil' has something to do with Hunter's perception of himself."

Next up was the "Art of Grendel," which is due out in September (though 100 advance copies will be available at Wizard World Chicago). Wagner characterized putting the book together as a "laborious process," because it was difficult to decide what to leave out. Most of the other Dark Horse "Art of" books focus on a single character by a single artist, but "Grendel" has features many characters and dozens of artists over the past 25 years.

Next year, "God and the Devil" and "Devil's Rain" will be reprinted. And later this year, the entire "Batman/Grendel" will be collected for this first time, as both a standard trade paperback and a high-quality limited edition hardcover.

The panelists then opened up the floor to questions from the audience. Asked when fans could expect to see the next chapter of "Mage," Wagner answered with a noncommittal "Eventually. 'Mage' decides when I'm going to work on 'Mage,'" Wagner said.

Another fan asked about how the plans for the "Grendel" movie were progressing. Wagner said that "Grendel" is currently optioned at Warner Bros. with John Welles Productions. It was originally slated to focus on the Christine Spar character, but after films like "Aeon Flux," Ultraviolet" and "Catwoman" tanked, a leather-clad female action heroine became less of a draw, so the "Grendel" film is now being developed as a Hunter Rose story. When asked about his choice for lead actor, Wagner said he's leaning towards an unknown.

One fan asked about another series of Wagner's that stopped midstream, "The Aerialist." This was a series that Wagner started while "Grendel" and "Mage" were tied up in litigation, but when he regained access to those books, "The Aerialist" went by the wayside. Wagner confirmed that that story would probably never be finished, but it was originally conceived of as a trilogy, and he is currently developing what was to be the third part of "Aerialist" as a new project with Scott Morse.

Wagner was asked what kind of influence the various artists have had on "Grendel" over the years, and the writer acknowledged that they'd influenced quite a bit. Wagner almost never writes full-script, so not only is he pleasantly surprised when he gets pages back from artists, but he often discovers things about the characters he never would have come up with on his own. "I don't just want [the artists] to be a pair of hands for me," Wagner said.

The panel concluded with Wagner briefly discussing some other upcoming projects. Wagner is writing and providing covers for Dynamite's "Zorro" series. Wagner said he almost never calls up a company and asks to work on a project, but his fondness for this particular character inspired the writer to tell Dynamite, "I love me some Zorro." Dynamite has the rights to Isabel Allende's 2005 "Zorro" novel, so Wagner will be cherry picking bits from that novel, though the series will not be a direct adaptation.

Lastly, Wagner let some news slip that wasn't supposed to drop until the next day's Vertigo panel: the writer is revamping an obscure DC character called Madame Xanadu at Vertigo, with art by Tokyopop's Amy Hadley.

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