This would be an important juncture to discuss the quandary that is Wolverine. Not only has he lost his healing factor, he is not getting it back. This is far from a spoiler because the Marvel Now is technically rebooting with this premise. We have seen the new Wolverine movie featuring this concept and it is hard to know what came first. At Thought Bubble I was extremely lucky to grab Paul Cornell for some time to discuss his comic Wolverine. His final issue of the Killable arc was released last week and it beckoned some refreshing dialogue. I begin with an interview with Mr Cornell and then I shall be reviewing Wolverine #13 followed by a further post on the first issue of the new arc.
As many of you know, Logan is a difficult character to write with originality and interest. Due to his popularity he has become widespread and overused, leading him to be inconsistent and rather dull. The mystery of the character has gone and almost every story has been told. I have often stated that the single shot solo stories are the best place for him, because that is where people can write independently and out of continuity. However the on going book has its limitations is a difficult challenge, one taken on by Paul Cornell.
From the beginning of the interview, I got to straight to the point. My opening question was how you even begin to consider an original take on a well-versed character.
“Well, it’s really tough because so many people have done stuff with him. In my case it’s just what I always do, which is to try and get down to the emotional core of the character. I really didn’t realise that because he is so stoic, his fans like him being stoic, honestly there was lots of emotional stuff that hadn’t really been explored very much.”
You can appreciate that as fans, there is a degree of expectation and it is often exceptionally difficult to go against because we really love what we love. He went on to expand;
“Quite often Wolverine in other people’s books, I mean to say in other character’s books, he is almost a background character. He stands around and cracks the occasional cool line. So he doesn’t really project a great deal of an emotional self there either. In fact I remember when the Wolverine title first started decades ago, being in a comic shop and going “How on earth are they going to make that work?” Because he was the classic cool guy at the edge of the team that says one thing every few panels. Putting him at the centre of a book really didn’t seem to make much sense. I think this is a problem that lots of people have found. So I’ve sort of broken down that wall and got to the heart of him a bit.”
For a long period of time Wolverine was always the character that had a set background and didn’t have an idea from where he came. He was just this killing machine but now he has been given an origin and all his memories have returned. This almost confines Wolverine even further, and so my next question to Paul was regarding the difficulties in enacting change to the character itself.
“What was interesting to me was, that now he got a lot of his memories back, I wanted to shift his speech patterns a bit as well. I can’t stand Bub. It’s just one of those things like, he just says it because Wolverine says it. I don’t know anybody in the real world, on screen, in media, anywhere except him that says it. I don’t know where it’s from; I don’t know what it is. It’s things like this I like in characters that strike me as real for the character. I wanted to give him back some of his childhood speech patterns, which we all hang on to. So I’ve given him just a little bit of Clint Eastwood Western lilt every now and then. I think maybe my first issue was a bit of a bad idea on my part, to change his speech patterns and have him interact with alien beings that spoke in a weird way, because it meant that some people thought this issue a dream. That is why it all felt so surreal. But it’s worked since I think”.
We went on to discuss how the limitations are imposed when a mainstream movie is released. I asked him how his editors handled his creative freedom and his thoughts regarding the loss of a healing factor.
“I was asked what I would do and I told them and they approved. Jeanine Shaefer is my wonderful editor. I was amazed when the Wolverine trailer came out and it showed him having lost his healing factor. I was also appalled because I thought for the rest of my life I’m going to have to keep telling people that was my thought independently. Losing Wolverine’s gives him all sorts of extra dimensions, but it has happened before and Larry Hama did it once to great effect. We’re playing it in a lot of different directions mainly because I don’t want to tread on those toes. But I think it’s a source of a lot of good stuff and so that’s where we’re going with it.”
Mr Cornell was quite an interesting gentleman and obviously excited about his work. He draws upon personal insights in defining his Wolverine and I found it enlightening to find someone who cared so much about a character that has fallen out of favour amongst many an avid comic reader. It was this level of passion that has made me excited to read more Wolverine. Hence my final question was whether he enjoyed writing the character.
“Oh yes, hugely. It’s sort of my midlife crisis played out through a superhero. I would never go this far because it sounds ridiculous, but I was thinking about him having prostate problems, because he’s got allergies, he’s got all of the awful small things that bedevil people. Almost every man before they are eighty will have some form of prostate trouble. I can’t think of anything more degrading and humiliating. The trouble is comic fans want their heroes to be invulnerable and strong, not have the weaknesses of flesh. So it’s kind of a fine line finding weaknesses of the flesh that don’t feel that heroic, don’t feel super heroic.”
The final sentence is seminal to the Wolverine character. There are many readers out there that adore the character and will read anything with him in. That is certainly what Marvel would want you to do, but as mentioned above, I am not one of those people. I genuinely appreciate the change in tack and losing the healing factor may be the catalyst to bring about a well-needed transition. Wolverine will face challenges like never before and he will no longer be the best at what he does, because he no longer has the best defence that served as a shield to all offence. People may or may not like it, but times are a changing and with that I wish Paul Cornell the best of luck, because it won’t be easy but I shall be reading with avid interest.