He's a man of mystery. Friend to those in need. Hero for all that is just. And he's the best at what he does. Who are we talking about? If you answered Jeph Loeb, one of the most popular television and comic book writers, you're almost right. If you answered Michael Turner, one of the most popular artists of the modern comic book era, you're doing good. If you answered Wolverine, Marvel Comics' hugely popular mutant hero, you're close. Put the three together and you've got the complete answer, along with a new question: how cool would it be to see Loeb write the tales of Wolverine? Sure, he's done it before (notably in the "Wolverine/Gambit" mini-series years back) and he'll be doing it again (in the "Wolverine" ongoing series), but if that's not enough for you, we've got two words:
Put some quotation marks around those words, "Ultimate Wolverine," and you've got the newest series from Marvel Comics' Ultimate line of comics, where classic Marvel characters are reinterpreted in a modern context. Announced today at Wizard World Chicago, Loeb will be writing a six issue "Ultimate Wolverine" story, with superstar artist Michael Turner providing the art. CBR News caught up with Loeb and Turner, who were happy to dish about this story, which may or may not spawn an ongoing series.
"There are few sure things in this life, but boy working with Mike is one of them," said Loeb of his creative partner. "Mike is a dear friend, on top of which we've had a tremendous amount of success together bringing Supergirl back into the DC Universe."
Most comics fans know that the Loeb/Turner pairing is an obvious one, given each creator's popularity and combined success on "Superman/Batman," and Marvel Comics is just as aware of the duo's combined abilities, explained Loeb. "Marvel wanted to be in business with Michael Turner," he said. "Mike knew I was at Marvel. There were some preliminary conversations about Mike maybe working with somebody else - I had all those people killed and got some compromising pictures of some of the editorial staff at Marvel and basically made it so there was only one choice - which Mike gladly made after I gave him back his bank account," joked the writer. "Anyway, it really was one of those situations where we wanted to work together again. I think once you've done Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl over in the DCU with Mike, we needed a new playground and got it. Then it really was just a question of what character we wanted to do together.
"While all this was happening, really just by coincidence, Wizard ran this sketchbook of Mike's called 'Mike Turner Looks at the X-Men.' I looked through this and was blown away because I wouldn't have thought of Mike as an X-Men artist. So, we started talking about that and what there was to do. Of course, the problem with working in the X-Men group is that stuff is so coordinated ahead of time that you need to be ready for something two years in advance and how it affects this book and that book and all that stuff. So, we needed our own little playground and that's part of the reason why I'm drawn to the Ultimate Universe because it's not so continuity based and you can do what Mark is doing in 'The Ultimates' where there's a full scale invasion, war, all kinds of things going on. Over in Spidey, he's worried about Mary Jane. And you can get away with it. So, the trick was where do we tell the story and how do we tell the story.
"We started looking at the Ultimate Universe and it was Joe Quesada who said we haven't done James' [Ultimate Wolverine] Ultimate origin. We were all out to dinner together in Los Angeles and started throwing ideas back and forth. The truth is nobody really knows that much about James and there are so many fundamental differences between him and the 616 Wolverine. As near as anybody can tell, James is somebody who's been around for 40 or 50 years, as opposed to the several hundred years that Logan's been around. Also, despite the fact that it was a tremendous commercial and critical success - and I think it's beautifully produced - I really felt like 'Origin' was more of a novel - I tease Joe saying it's like a Dicken's Novel and I'm reading "David Copperfield" more than the guy who goes snikt - and what I wanted to do was get back to a more violent, more visceral upbringing that would explain James' life. Closer to the 'Weapon X' world that Barry Windsor-Smith did than the world that Paul and Andy came up with."
That dinner was quite successful for all involved parties, and Turner says that it's those very meetings that get his creative juices going. "You know, Jeph and I, we'll get together for ten minutes and we'll come up with an entire six-issue arc," Turner told CBR News earlier this week. "It's funny because we just start bouncing. Same thing with Geoff Johns. You find collaborations like that and you just want to keep doing them, that's why I love working with those guys. It's so easy and so much fun. Also, I'll come up with an idea and I'll throw it at Jeph and I don't have to be nervous that he'll say, 'No, no, this is my script.' Rather it's, 'Damn, that's cool dude! Let's do it.' That happened this morning, actually. I called him with an idea and he said, 'Done. I already see it. It's written.' It's really sweet."
With his reputation for success, at both the creative and commercial level, Michael Turner is one of the few artists in the industry who could name his own project. The decision to do "Ultimate Wolverine" wasn't motivated by avarice or the bottom line: it's a result of love for not only the character of Wolverine, but the unique creative opportunity afforded to those working in the Ultimate universe. "I wanted to do a story that had impact and something that's different, that hasn't been done before," said Turner. "I'd go in and ask if I could do this and that and in the Ultimate Universe the answers were always yes, but with the Marvel Universe I got a lot of 'No, you're not allowed to that.' So I wanted to do something different. You wouldn't believe the shit I tried to get away with in "Superman/Batman!" I wanted to blow up planets and go crazy! I wanted to blow up Apokolips - and I almost got it! I was going to blow up the planet! - but they wouldn't let me do it.
"Plus, when Jeph and I talk it's a very collaborative kind of thing," continued Turner. "We sit down and start spit balling ideas. So, if it's not been done before and it impacts the character, it interests me. And, by the end of the story, I want to know the character will be changed and impacted by the story. Wolverine will be changed by the end of this story. I can't wait for you all to see these first seven pages!
"You know, Jeph and I just talked about a kick ass first scene this morning, which I can't tell you about, but it's gonna be awesome dude! It's going to be dark! It's going to be gritty! It's going to have it all! Wolverine was the first Marvel character I ever drew, funnily enough. I did a 'Witchblade/Wolverine' cross-over book a long time ago back when he had his claws ripped out. That was just a lot of fun."
One thing Turner was certain of when approaching his new Marvel project was that he wanted to do a book focusing on a single character. "I've done enough of these 'JLA' and 'Identity Crisis' covers to know that I do not want to do a team book, so we started to talk about different things and ['Ultimate Wolverine'] seemed very natural," said Turner. "I didn't want to do another book with a female lead as it's the thing I've done 100 times and I want to do something different. Since I've never done Wolverine before, I think he's the perfect character to mix it up with and the storyline we have is definitely going to be playing to both our strengths."
With Turner tackling Wolverine in sequential art for the first time, you can definitely expect a unique aesthetic sense on display in "Ultimate Wolverine," and you'll also see Loeb bring something special to the script. He sees a fundamental difference between the Marvel Universe Wolverine and his Ultimate counterpart. "The major difference is that James is somebody who is much more socialized," contends the author. "He didn't have the same kind of life in peril that Logan has. Also, when you're dealing with Logan you're dealing with a guy that's been around for hundreds of years, so the levels of damage he's gone through are so much greater. The Ultimate Wolverine, well, I have a pretty good sense of who he is. I found that pretty early on. I think in that regard, they're very different. Now, the one thing that's true for both of them is - their love lives suck!
"I can't get all that specific because that will give away a bunch of stuff, but we will be looking at moments in James' life and specifically the relationships that he's had. The loves and lives of Ultimate Wolverine, if you will," explained Loeb.
The contemporary approach espoused by Loeb will not only be evident in the art, it will be informing Turner's approach to the art as well. The penciller wants to really give fans a fresh look at the character and show he can do more than just pretty pictures of pretty ladies. "I want to spread my wings and do some different stuff and I'm just loving it," said Turner. "The thing I was thinking about as I worked on some sketches of the character was I wanted to make Wolverine more approachable and to see all sides of him," he explained. "A lot of people draw him as this short little hobbit dude. I don't necessarily want to do a 'GQ' looking Wolverine, but I wanted to do something different because we're working with a love story here. I wanted to draw the kind of Wolverine you want to look at, that's accessible, with still a gritty side, lots of facial hair and stuff like that."
Creating "Ultimate Wolverine" has been a collaborative effort between Turner, Loeb, Quesada and editor Ralph Machio, as well as Brian Bendis and Mark Millar, who helped to create the Ultimate universe. While Loeb and Turner certainly will bring their own unique flair to the story, don't be surprised if you see the Ultimate Universe's trademark cinematic action sequences show up every so often. "The story will dictate that, but anybody who's read my stuff knows we try to blend both things," explained Loeb of how the action will mix with the character story. "A really good comic, in my world, is a fight where a soap opera breaks out, as opposed to a soap opera where a fight breaks out. Again, I think one of the things that 'Origin' did so successfully was it gave you a lot of character stuff, but I think what I missed in it was what we call 'balls-to-the-wall' action. James has a lot more visceral aspects to his character. I mean, this guy was an assassin and more in the world of espionage. There's a lot of stuff that goes on there that while there may have been things that Logan did in his life, they don't really define him. These are much more recent things for James - now when I say that I don't necessarily mean last week, it could be twenty years ago.
"Whenever you do a flashback with Logan, eventually you're going to get to a distant time - and I'm finding this with Simone - for instance, when Sabretooth killed Silverfox, they were in Deadwood. It's not like it happened 10 years ago. 'Ultimate Wolverine' is going to be a much more contemporary story."
CBR News conducted this phone via telephone and one thing was apparent in talking to both creators: they're really excited about this project! " It's going to be awesome!" exclaimed Turner. "James has this kick ass chopper of a bike, I went full on Orange County Choppers with it. Not too space agey - he wouldn't like that - but something that's real and very cool. So I've designed this really cool bike for him that he'll be riding that will probably be completely destroyed by the end of the series.
"This is a 'kitchen sink' type story, which Jeph likes doing as seen on stories like 'Hush' and 'Superman/Batman' where everybody shows up at some point. You're going to see a Wolverine who goes through all the different emotions you may not have seen from him before."
On a more personal note, Michael Turner has struggled with cancer over the last few years, and his recent frail appearance at Comic-Con International in San Diego caused quite an outpour of concern from fans. Turner is touched by the caring of the comic book community and says that he's doing much better. "I'm feeling good, man. I'm one month out of a really major spine surgery and I'm sitting here outside Best Buy ready to buy some movies for the plane ride to Chicago. I'm out and about and probably overdoing it a lot - my girlfriend is trying to rein me back in and she's successful some of the time! She'll be watching me like a watchdog in Chicago. She will bonk me on the head and drag me out of there because she's tough like that. But I'm feeling good, my energy levels are coming back, very slowly, but it's kind of like watching your hair grow. Two weeks ago I couldn't walk, but now I'm doing great."
CBR would also be remiss if we didn't remind you of the most important comic book charity event of the year, happening this afternoon at Wizard World Chicago, to honor the memory or Sam Loeb. We've got an interview with Jeph Loeb here, which explains what the charity is all about, and frankly, if you're reading this article, you can take five more minutes to peruse the exciting gallery of art at the official site and make a bid to honor the memory of a very special young man. After all, you don't need super powers to be a hero, now do you?
CBR Staff Writer Arune Singh contributed to this story.