Trade Secrets: Wolfer talks Wolfskin Annual #1

In 2006, Warren Ellis created a unique blend of Conan-style fantasy and historical myth in the pages of Avatar’s “Wolfskin.” Next month, the titular character returns in the 40-page “Wolfskin Annual” #1, co-written by Ellis with his “Gravel” collaborator Mike Wolfer, who CBR news caught up with to get all the details on the new book.

Wolfskin is a wandering warrior who takes his name from that of his tribe. “Where he is going, and why is unknown, but we do know that because of his blood-lust in battle and an uncontrollable fury that took the lives of innocents, he has been outcast by his people and is now on a quest to find his destiny,” Mike Wolfer told CBR News. “I suppose you could call his the voice of conscience during a pivotal time in ancient history, the cusp between barbarism and civilization.”

Wolfskin’s prowess as a warrior is legendary, and his abilities verge on superhuman. “It could be that he has truly been gifted by the gods, but it is just as possible that as his exploits have been passed down through generations, his tale has become larger-than-life,” Wolfer said.

But Wolfskin is much more than just a bloodthirsty barbarian; he’s actually quite spiritual, and ceaselessly devoted to his god, Wrod. “Wrod is a blood-thirsty deity who demands the blood of the vanquished,” Wolfer explained. “The beliefs of Wolfskin and his people are similar to the paganish, Germanic beliefs that were still strongly prevalent in Northern

Europe as Christianity was beginning to flourish, so the concept of a pantheon of gods will be familiar to some readers.”

Wolfskin, apparently, has the ability to commune with his god face to face, but only after eating blackcap mushrooms. “This presents an interesting scenario that readers can ponder for themselves about the nature of religion and of gods: Are higher powers at work in our universe, or are they merely hallucinatory manifestations of our own inner fears, strengths and desires?”

And what is Wolfskin getting up to in “Wolfskin Annual?” “After a violent encounter with a pack of wild beasts and a young lady we like to refer to as 'Feral Girl,’ Wolfskin arrives in an idyllic, seaport village, but the veneer of a town built on thriving commerce is a thin one that hides a much darker secret,” Wolfer said. “Immediately upon his arrival in the seaport, Wolfskin is targeted by a pair of brutal warriors called 'Algizmen.’ The 'Algizmen’ are former countrymen of Wolfskin, savage, mercenary outcasts who are literally branded as criminals. The inverted Algiz symbols tattooed on their backs mark them as being disowned by the gods themselves. Through intimidation and fear, however, the two warriors have been able to organize a successful business in a bustling seaport. Wolfskin is a threat to their livelihood, the selling and trading of wooden casks that hide a hideous cargo.” As far as the Algizmen are concernced, Wolfskin cannot be allowed to leave their village alive.

Like Ellis’ original story, parts of this new Wolfskin tale are rooted in actual fact. “To say too much now would reveal the twist at the Annual’s climax, but many of the events we will see are factual, things that have occurred throughout history, but not necessarily directly referencing a single, noteworthy historic event,” Wolfer said.

When asked how he arrived at the modern speech patterns for the denizens of the ancient world that Wolfskin inhabits, Wolfer said he took a cue from Ellis’ original miniseries. “Wolfskin's tale is an ancient one which we are translating for contemporary audiences, so we're not employing Medieval English as a conversational template and I think that is what gave the first mini such a feeling of freshness,” Wolfer said. “The actions, emotions and motivations of the series' characters should not be overshadowed by obsolete grammatical structure which can result in an arduous read. Besides, whether it's in Wolfskin's native tongue or modern English, 'I'm going to fuck you up,’ still means the same thing.”

Illustrating “Wolfskin Annual” #1 is Gianluca Pagliarani, and Wolfer couldn’t be happier about it. “There is such a simple clarity to Gianluca’s art, a very precise simplicity to his line work, yet he also possess a keen eye for detail that is astounding,” Wolfer said. Wolfer likened Pagliarani’s style to that of Juan Jose Ryp, who provided art for Ellis and Avatars “Black Summer.” “Although there is an enormous amount of background detail in his work, the action is extremely easy to follow as the main characters are never lost in the lush world that Gianluca illustrates around them. It's beautiful, beautiful work. And his 'Feral Girl’ is extremely hot.”

The Annual paves the way for a new six-issue “Wolfskin” series by the same creative team, schedule for release this summer. The full color, 40-page “Wolfskin Annual” hits stands this June.

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