Wolverine #1: Writer's Commentary

I have a very exciting day ahead.  Tonight from 6pm I'll be signing Wolverine #1 for the general public at London's Forbidden Planet.  They've asked me to come in several hours early to sign a couple of thousand copies to be sold after the event, by mail order, etc.  So I had to get to my desk and get this blog sorted early.

One thing I would suggest, if you're planning on buying Wolverine today and own a smartphone: download the Marvel AR app.  (AR standing for Augmented Reality.)  We've prepared loads of extras (interviews with me, wallpapers, trailer for #2) that you can access by scanning the paper (or digital) copy.  It adds a lot to the experience.

The digital version will be out today around teatime.  I think it's 6pm.  You can pre-order it, or after that time just buy it, on Comixology, here.  That link is now behind the cover image on the right.

The comic's also going to have a letter's page, so check out the announcement about that in the first issue, and do send us your letters.  Some of my favourite comics over the years have had active and thoughtful lettercols, and we're aiming to continue that tradition.  I'll be answering the letters myself.  

There's a new interview with me about Wolverine for USA Today, which can be found here.

And also out today is the penultimate issue (#13) of this volume of Saucer Country.  We're really kicking it out of the park in this last arc, and at the end of this issue, the secret behind one of our biggest mysteries is revealed.  You can see a preview, with loads of lovely Ryan Kelly art here.

Okay, so now to the matter at hand.  This is my first go at something I'm planning to do for every issue of Wolverine: take those of you who've read it through the comic, page by page, talking about the options the team faced, and why we made certain decisions.  The first thing I should say, therefore, is:

SPOILERS.  UTTER SPOILERS FOR WOLVERINE #1.  ABSOLUTE SPOILERS.  WAIT UNTIL YOU'VE READ IT, OKAY?!  DO NOT PROCEED BEYOND THIS POINT UNLESS YOU HAVE OR YOU DON'T MIND BEING ENTIRELY SPOILED!

Which is why I did all the other business first.  Hmm, I may need to thin down that warning.  Okay, so here we go...

Page 1:

Logan's dialogue here sets the theme of the series: what is he, exactly?  I wanted to put him in just about the only situation I could think of where he'd call himself a 'super hero'.  In the earliest drafts he said 'I'm just a normal guy', but me and my excellent editor Jeanine Schaefer felt that would sound, to the boy he's talking to, like a lie.  It also was the wrong thought for Logan at this point in his journey.  We start in the middle of the action, to show how fast we're going to be going from here on in.  One thing I can always count on from artist Alan Davis is excellent character expression, and just look at the look on Logan's face here.

Page 2: 

It was also important for there to be someone there who Logan could say things like 'I heal real fast' to.  I'm hoping that some people who've never read a Wolverine title or a super hero comic before might pick this issue up, and I want to make sure they have all the information they need, without having to look elsewhere.  In Panel 4, the boy protested in that previous draft that Logan just said he was a normal guy, making him add 'and a super hero', which was really kind of awkward.

Page 3:

Right up until the lettering draft (where I'm sent the finished art with lettering, and Jeanine makes suggestions about we should change, and, and this is an occult art only understood by editors, where the balloons should be moved to), Logan's reply in the first panel was 'hey, maybe it's a side effect of that cool looking gun of yours'.  Isn't that awkward?  It's sort of sidelong and squirms out of the way of telling the reader what they need to know.  In the last panel, we originally had Logan making the sound, reacting to having his face rubbed in the dust, but having the father say it just got over the fact that Wolverine snapped his teeth at him so much better.

Page 4: 

Originally, this scene was all done on page 3, but I needed the extra space for the first two panels, which I shall hop swiftly past, because hopefully, when the aim of our first arc is revealed, you'll look back to them and realise what those expressions and words mean.

Page 5:

One of the general decisions I made for this series (along with things like there being no sound effects other than 'snikt'), was that each arc would have a poster-like title page to introduce it, and that we'd tell the readers how long the arcs were in advance.  I think readers felt that my arcs on Demon Knights were too long, so I wanted to go for short and punchy, and to let people know that.  Right now, though this could change, my long-term plan is for arcs of the following lengths, in order: 4; 2; 1; 3; 1; 3; 3.  Which is as far as I've planned up to.  They all add up to a larger picture, though.  The one-line pitch for what this first arc is about came from Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, during a phone conversation.  I'd flailed about with my initial plot ideas, trying to find a simple premise that could carry all my ideas for Wolverine, and he came up with something that let me sort it all out.  Thanks, Axel.

Page 6:

This was originally a silent page, but, as Jeanine pointed out, it sounded weirdly silent, so just for once, we added some words.  I bet you now think it could have worked silently, but that before reading this, you didn't notice anything odd.  The father's dialogue was originally at the end of the next page, but I think it works better here.

Page 7:

I tend to say 'absolutely black panel' for unconsciousness, and Alan, being wise in these matters, has a couple of times now made them much more subtle.  Just look at how those lines, and their repetition in the next panel, suggest waking up.  Why do they do that?  I have no idea, but they do.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the skill of the comics artist.

Page 8:

And while I'm talking about Alan's skills, just look at the emotional progression of Logan's face in the last three panels here.  It's all in the script (I tend to go heavy on what character emotions are in specific panels, to the point, in a dialogue-heavy title like Saucer Country, where I give the equally brilliant Ryan Kelly a couple of layers of, say, what people are feeling and what they want to project, for instance), but it's always a delight to be working with an artist who can convey exactly what's needed.  And this is why we have to keep the 'snikt', even though we're placing all other sound effects in the mind of the reader.  It's kind of like a character rather than an effect.

Page 9:

One of the great things about writing for an artist whose work you know well is that one has in one's head in advance an idea of what things will look like.  In this case, I knew how great Alan's weird weapons and the beams they fire look.

Page 10:

In case you're wondering, the kid, Alex, isn't going to be in the title beyond #2.  I do wonder if it looks like this is going to be a sort of 1970s 'Logan and the kid' TV show, and that's not what we're after at all.  The plot expands wildly from a small start, and the kid is just the beginning.  I specified the shadows for the killing, and I think that makes it all the more horrifying, because it engages the reader's imagination.

Page 11:

One of the reasons the first panel is so big, apart from the fact that Alan wanted to give us a close up on that lovely expression of Logan's, is that I kept trying to nail down exactly why Logan had to kill rather than just wound or disarm the father.  I got it down to 'if I could be sure I'd get to him'... before he melted me again and was thus free to kill you, being the unsaid part, but we all felt in the end that it distracted from the emotional core of the scene.  We should trust that Logan wouldn't kill unless he had to.  Points like this are sometimes what get comics fans saying 'but that didn't make sense' when actually it's how television works, trying hard not to tell the audience stuff which really could be taken on trust.  I generally err on the side of telling in my comics work, but, now I'm on a mainstream title, I've decided to try and let the drama speak for itself a bit more.  'Normal people' says a lot about how Logan is willing to portray himself in order to try and help a child get through something.  The last panel will, hopefully, resonate with those already following Wolverine, in that he's recently killed two of his own children, while not getting in the way for those new to the character.  It's one of those points where we're trying to say 'this isn't a reboot, everything still happened', while not alienating new readers.

Page 12:

'He was never like that before, it was like he changed in a second', was the dialogue that persisted as the first line for Alex right up until the lettering draft.  Me over-explaining again, and, as I'm finishing the second draft of #6 today, I've decided that since we snipped it, I can tweak a bit of my plot and make it now untrue!  I think 'get me some damned pants' sounds and looks very like Hugh Jackman at those moments when he channels Clint Eastwood (older Clint being an influence on the tweaks I'm making to Logan's voice patterns).  One of the very last things we did, in emails before the issues went out, was add lines to suggest a prior connection between Logan and Chieko, so that we weren't taken aback by just how brazen she was in her desire to see what would otherwise be a random member of the public naked.

Page 13:

Here we start with what might be some over-explaining that stayed in.  You be the judge.  I imagined that people might wonder what Logan was doing in this mall in the first place.  I like the sound of 'the Wolverine', and intend to use it as standard.  'Oh, take a guess' was added late in order to make the joke land properly. This scene got restructured a lot, in ways which would be dull to relate, in order to make up for the extra page added earlier on.  Now I think we have a balance, where it tells you what you need to know in the space available.  I like that I can indicate to Alan that Logan and Chieko are mildly flirtatious with each other, and that he'll do it with some very subtle expressions.

Page 14: 

The single biggest page of back and forth notes and rewrites, as we tried to sort out the correct tone of voice for Alex, what everyone here is after, the geography of the scene and what info gets conveyed to the reader. What remained constant throughout was the need to place the right emotional beats for Alan's lovely two panels of Logan's expressions in two and three.  I also think he nails 'sudden kid scariness' at the end.

Page 15:

Now is the moment for Logan to say he's just a normal guy, in reaction to Alex saying he's not.  One of the brilliant things about working with an editor who cares about the details as much as Jeanine does is that we had a conversation about differing US and UK uses of the word 'look', which was a suggested opening for Logan's speech balloon here.  I thought it made it sound too forceful.  And, huge confession time, I managed to forget to script Alex taking the weapon.  Alan saved us, as he has on so many occasions concerning storytelling, by asking us if he could add the last panel here to the script.

Page 16:

It was pointed out to me, late in the day, that it looks like Chieko's going to open fire on a little kid who she so far only has a confusing and hardly damning amount of info about.  So I added a couple of lines to indicate she wasn't going to fire until Logan grabbed the gun.  (I should have sorted that out before we got to the art stage, I think.  I prioritised having Logan put his hand in the way of a bullet.)

Page 17:

I love Alan's way with action here.  It was going to be a completely silent page until Jeanine noted that a little bit of dialogue would make us feel the last panel more, and I think she's right.

Page 18:

Again, this was all going to be silent.  I try to go for silent pages as much as possible, but for some reason it doesn't seem to suit Alan's art.  This is something we'll be working through, in actually a rather fun way, as the series progresses.  I'm determined to write in the way which most suits his art.

Page 19:

But silence this time largely works.  The mysteries of comics, eh?  One of my earliest versions of this arc had the little boy shooting up the town for several issues, but actually such property damage for the hell of it gets dull.  (I had in my head some Mark Millar-style extremity, but we quickly discovered we had bigger things to deal with and wanted to get to them more quickly.)

Page 20:

The Guernica bar becomes important in this series.  We go there in #3.  It's where most of Logan's new supporting cast will hang out.  In panel two, Logan originally announced a plot point that we now leave until next issue, because here it's more important to get the emotion out there.  The ending I think sets up the emotional arc for Logan, some fine ideals which rather get derailed later on.  And I wanted the next issue caption to indicate something which, by the time I got to put cherries on top of this issue, had become a big feature of the book, the new young Nick Fury's status as regular buddy movie guest star.

And there we go.  I think it looks cool.  Next issue is especially strong, featuring as it does a last page game-changing reveal of a character from an entirely unexpected corner of the Marvel Universe.  I wanted to start with a limited, new-reader-friendly situation, and have it grow bigger and bigger, and involve more and more of the wider Marvel world.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.   Cheerio!

7 Response to "Wolverine #1: Writer's Commentary"

  • Paul Weimer Says:

    Happy Release Day!

    Between launching a new series (still not out here in the States ;) ), and writing for Wolverine, this is a big year for you!


  • peteranghelides Says:

    A couple of thousand? That's like a school punishment!


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    It is indeed, Paul, thanks very much. April 15th for London Falling in the US. And it was a bit like that, Peter.


  • Claude Says:

    Since I initially missed so much of Saucer Country, I purchased the trade paperback. I'm hoping that the remaining issues will be collected as well. Sometimes I feel like writers aren't appreciated in the comics business.


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    The remaining issues will be collected. Indeed, if you search for volume 2 you'll find a release date later this year. Thanks for reading it.


  • Teresa Says:

    Just read Wolverine #1 this weekend. You and your "making superhero titles emotional and stuff." Sheesh. And using a cute little boy, too.

    That's just LOW. :)

    Looking forward to the rest of this story! It's been a while since I've read any X-Men. Actually, I think the last time I read any X-Men was Dark X-Men...

    I guess you just have that effect on women. You make us read X-Men. ;)


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thank you! Mission accomplished!