Some guys have all the luck. And talent. That’s the case with Stoker Award-Winning novelist Jonathan Maberry. I’ve been following his career since the publication of his first novel Ghost Road Blues back in 2006 and have been amazed at not only how good a writer the guy is, but that he’s constantly getting better and better. Maberry’s recent bio-terror novel Patient Zero hit store shelves earlier this year and is his best work yet. Meanwhile, this past Wednesday saw the publication of Maberry’s first comic story, a Wolverine tale entitled Ghosts that can be found as back-up to Wolverine: The Anniversary. Jonathan was kind enough to answer some questions for Biff Bam Pop! via email about Wolverine, the writing process, and what he’s got coming up next in the Marvel Universe.
ANDY B: Congrats on your first comic story, Wolverine: Ghosts. Writing a Marvel comic – did you ever think you’d be doing something like that?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Man, I’ve wished for it since I was a kid, but I’m not sure I ever believed I’d be doing it. I grew up with Marvel. I still have the first comic I ever bought –Fantastic Four #68—and I’ve always loved the Marvel universe. Now I’m actually writing in that universe. It’s somewhat surreal.
ANDY B: How did you wind up with the opportunity to write a Wolverine story in the first place?
MABERRY: It’s because of my new novel, Patient Zero. My editor at St. Martins Griffin, Michael Homler, sent an advanced reading copy of the book to Executive Editor Axel Alonso and bang! Axel called me after he’d read the book and asked if I would be interested in possibly writing for Marvel. I almost laughed at him. I mean…who wouldn’t want to write for Marvel?
From there we got to know each other, I went up to Marvel and met Axel and his assistant, Sebastian Girner –both very cool guys. We talked comics, talked books, talked pop culture. Turns out we’re all professional pop culture geeks. I love my job, man.
ANDY B: How was the specific story of Ghosts developed – was it something you came up with on your own, or was it an idea that Marvel had and asked you to write?
MABERRY: Axel told me he needed an 8-page story as a back-up for a special they were putting together as part of the big roll up to the release of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, the new Hugh Jackman flick. He asked me to pitch a few ideas, and he liked one of them and gave me the green light. I was happy because it was the idea I liked best.
The story is set during Wolverine’s annual pilgrimage to Japan to pay his respects to his dead wife, Mariko. The lead story by William Harms is a terrific actioner. I wanted to do action, but I wanted to tap into a different vein. Ghosts is a surreal tale in which reality and the dreamworld overlap. The art by Tomm Coker captures it perfectly.
ANDY B: “It’s what I am – a ghostmaker”. A great line from the story. How difficult was it for you to find the voice of Wolverine?
MABERRY: Wolverine is one of the characters I’ve always related to. He’s been played variously as a thug, a mad killer, a world-weary soldier, but at his heart he’s a philosophic warrior. Like a Samurai or one of the Scottish warrior poets. He understands killing with such depth and clarity that he can view it as an abstract concept, as a philosophical puzzle. It’s this subtle intellectual side that makes the character so effective, because you get the muscle and the mind. Wolverine is the whole package. I can readily understand why Jackman likes playing him…you can build layer upon layer of subtext with him and yet when it comes to a smackdown you know he’s the guy you want at your back not in your face.
ANDY B: Ghosts is a short tale – 8 pages long. Seeing as how you’re a novelist, was it at all difficult writing something with minimal length and dialogue?
MABERRY: It was difficult before I started writing it because I didn’t know how the story would flow. Then I sat down and drafted it out in one sitting. I got into his head and the story came out as a meditation on death and life. I’ve also experienced trauma and great personal loss in my own life, and I’ve also had to fight for my life. So…I was able to tap into that mindset pretty quickly. I’ve got some other projects in the works at Marvel where I’ll get a chance to write Wolverine stories of different kinds.
ANDY B: How much interaction, if any, did you have with artist Tomm Coker?
MABERRY: We swapped a bunch of emails. He’s very easy to work with and he brings an incredible visual storytelling talent to the table. Every question about the artistic interpretation of my script was not only easily resolved, it advanced the story. That’s the beauty of this comic process. It’s more like moviemaking than novel writing –it’s truly a collaborative process, and you’re working with a whole team. Writer, penciler, editor, inker, colorist and letterer. The trick for the writer is to check his ego at the door and grasp that by letting everyone else do their part without micromanagement then the story will be the best it can be. Everybody wins.
ANDY B: When did you first see the finished story? What was your reaction?
MABERRY: I saw the pages at various stages and then I got a pdf of the finished story a couple of months ago. But I saw it in print the same day as everyone else: when it hit the comic stores on April 22. I walked into my favorite shop, Cyborg One (in Doylestown, Pennsylvania) and there was a whole stack of the comics. It was a wonderful experience. They had me sign every copy in the store…and those are the first comics I’ve ever signed. It was a very, very cool moment. One I’ll never forget.
ANDY: What’s your favourite Wolverine story?
MABERRY: You mean other that Ghosts? Just kidding. There are so many great Wolverine stories that I think I have to go with a three way split on my favorite. Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan, Jason Aaron’s Manifest Destiny and Barry Windsor Smith’s Weapon X. But really…there are a lot of damn good Wolverine tales.
MABERRY: Next up is Punisher: Naked Kill, a 32-page uber-violent story for the adults-only Marvel MAX line that comes out June 3. It deals with the Punisher going primal on a group of bad guys making snuff films. The twist is that the films are being made in an ultra secure facility, so the Punisher can’t bring in any weapons. He goes under cover as a janitor and has to rely on what mayhem he can inflict with cleaning products.
After that there are a whole bunch of projects in development that I can’t talk about right now. I will be taking over the regular writing of a monthly comic as well as doing specials and limited series, but we’ll all have to wait for Marvel to make their formal announcements.
I can promise…things are going to get really wild!
Thanks to Jonathan Maberry for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop! You can catch him online at www.jonathanmaberry.com.