SDCC 2013: Kieron Gillen And Adam Kubert Talk ‘Wolverine: Origin II’ [INTERVIEW]

At San Diego Comic-Con, during Marvel Comics Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada’s “Cup O’ Joe” panel, it was announced that Marvel will be publishing the long-awaited sequel to 2001’s “Wolverine: Origin” series.  The limited series will launch in November, and we got the chance to talk to creative team Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert about their work on this title, and how they’re going about delving into more of James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine’s early years.

MTV Geek: It’s been a decade more than a decade since the first ’Origin’ was released, and in the time since, it’s been one of the cornerstones of the Marvel Universe.  Why is the sequel happening now?  Did it just take this long for someone to crack the story?

Kieron Gillen: Basically, yes. Marvel have always said they’d do an ORIGIN II if they had a story, and now they do. I think that’s the buy-in on a project like this. They don’t just do them every year.

Geek: So Kieron, why is it you on this book?  Did you just have the right concept?  Did you pitch this story, or were you approached with the gig?  You’ve been acclaimed for your work with youthful characters in Young Avengers, Generation: Hope, Journey Into Mystery, et cetera – was that a factor in your being chosen to tell the next chapter of young James’ story?

Gillen: Good question. You’ll have to ask Marvel. Whenever I get a job, I just presume everyone is drunk in the office and confused me with the actor from Doctor Who.

In terms of the job, I was approached. I presume it’s very little to do with my teen character work, because in all the stories we played with, Logan was in “Young Man” rather than “Boy” mode.

Geek: Marvel CCO Joe Quesada was one of the team writing the original ’Origin’ series – did he have any sort of conceptual hand in this?

Gillen: Yes, though it’s circled around in various interesting ways. We were playing with a very different idea in a different period, and then Joe came in with this incredible idea for the first issue – which is something I would have never pitched, in the proverbial million years. That was my gateway into the whole Jack-London-ness of the story, and I went and explored the possibilities of this world in a new century on the verge of WW2. And then, when that was there and constructed, Joe actually gave me a note which added enormously to what we’re doing.

Geek: Adam, your brother Andy drew the first ’Origin’ series, twelve years ago – how do you feel about putting your own stamp on the early years of Wolverine?

Adam Kubert: Y’know Patrick…  Every job I take on has it’s own particular set of challenges.  Drawing a new character is one.  Working with a new writer is another.  Deadlines are another.  And following a star artist is another.  So whether it’s Silvestri on Wolverine… Coipel on AvX… Keown on Hulk… or Andy on Origin…  I try not to stress on the huge talents that came before me.  I instead concentrate on the story at hand and figure out the best way to tell it.

So for me it’s not about putting my stamp on Origin.  It’s instead about taking a really cool character who’s put into a REALLY cool story, forgetting (not ignoring) everything that’s gone on before, and doing the best work I can.

Geek: How closely is this tied to Origin 1?  Is it a direct continuation, or a separate story with callbacks to the first series?

Gillen: It’s a novel, entirely able to be read by itself. It follows directly from where ORIGIN left off, but if you’ve never read a single comic in the whole Marvel Universe, you should enjoy this. It’s designed so those who know the MU’s larger context will be able to read the meanings and implications, while those who don’t will just enter this period setting and take from it what we present.

Geek: Are you doing a lot of research for this series?  This isn’t just a story following up a highly-regarded earlier series, in a continuity-laden Marvel Universe – it’s also a period piece.  Is it daunting juggling all those concerns?

Gillen: It’s daunting, but it’s the kind of daunting I seem to like. With the exception of Young Avengers, all the comics that are coming out are period pieces of one kind of another. My earliest outlines for the series were even more of a period novel than we ended up – we had everything from Italian Futurists to Sigmund Freud in the mix. In terms of the themes, you may be able to see the ghosts of that in the finished story.
It’s fun, really. It really is tonally grounded. A period novel set in the Marvel Universe is a fascinating thing to write.

Kubert: Daunting for me translates into challenge….  Which I enjoy.  For example Kieron made a couple of story references in the first issue.   Both were Jack London novels revolving around wolves: White Fang and Call of The Wild.   I didn’t have time to re-read these so instead I watched White Fang with Ethan Hawke.  I also went to The Museum of Natural History in NYC and drew wolves and bears.

Geek: When and where does this story take place?  Is it focused on a single defining event in young James’ life, or does it happen over the course of weeks, months, or years?

Gillen: It starts with James living in the woods as a surrogate member of a wolf pack, and follows his progression back into civilization. The majority of the story happens within a year or so, though I’m being deliberately vague with that.

Geek: Kieron, what can you tell us about the characters in this series, beyond James/Wolverine?  Will Sabretooth be appearing, are there other familiar faces?  The initial announcement hints at “someone Sinister” as a major player in this story…

Gillen: Sabretooth? Well, we’ve said that we’re talking about the core of Logan’s relationship with his greatest enemy. You could take it as a tease for Sabretooth. It’d certainly be the right period to tell that story…

I’ll go as far to say that “Something Sinister” is a nod towards Nathaniel Essex. I stress, I say “Nathaniel Essex” as, in keeping with the grounded tone of the story, he’s never referred to as Mister Sinister in our story. He’s a world away from the flamboyant villain I wrote in Uncanny X-men. This is a man 100 years earlier, and several dozen reinventions away, and we have a disgraced, entirely unethical scientist. This is about his initial dancing with mutankind. One of my working titles was ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES, which perhaps speaks to Sinister’s involvement.

Nathaniel’s a good example of what I was talking about earlier, in terms of different meanings depending on your knowledge of the MU. This entirely fits into Sinister’s timeline, but unless you know about Sinister, you won’t know of his superheroic history. He plays his cards closer to his chest, in the manner a shapechanger can. He looks and acts in society as a scientist.

Geek: How are you approaching the collaborative process on this book?  Are you writing the story full-script, doing it ’Marvel-style’, or something in between?

Gillen: I’m writing it in a Hybrid style, similar to Young Avengers. Full-script for more sedentary sequences, opening up into Marvel Method for the action set-pieces. I wanted to give Adam as much room as possible to interpret it as he wishes.

Kubert: I love Kieron’s hybrid style of writing.  He allows me wiggle room on the fight scenes while writing full script for the more pedestrian scenes.  In addition Marvel is also giving us a lot of room to experiment which is really what comics are all about.

Geek: Are you approaching this as a self-contained tale, or as a ’next step’ for James’ character?  Are you tying things up in a neat bow at the end, or opening up the stage for more stories set in the earlier years of Wolverine’s life?

Gillen: I don’t see why I can have to choose. This is an elegant and self-contained story that has enormous “AHHHH!” value for devotees of the larger story of Logan’s life. If it’s the only Wolverine story you ever read, I hope you’ll love it. If you’ve read every Wolverine story ever, I hope you’ll love it. I think it’ll be rewarding to all those sets of people.

I’ll say this though – I don’t think there’s much room for close-set sequels to this. Between the end of this and the famous Silver Fox stories, I don’t think there’s room for much I can think of. This isn’t the set up for a Portrait of the Artist as A Young Logan: A CONTINUING SERIES.