When it comes to comic book reference guides, you can’t do any better than what’s coming out of DK Publishing. The company has been responsible for stunningly detailed books on a long list of individual DC and Marvel characters, along with encyclopedia’s on both of those companies. The latest from Marvel and DK is Wolverine: Inside The World Of The Living Weapon, released a few weeks back in anticipation of the arrival of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in theaters. Written by Matthew K. Manning and featuring an introduction by legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont, the book is another stellar piece of publishing and features the most in-depth and accurate history of the character available. I recently had a chance to talk to Matthew K. Manning via email about his new work, the research process involved, his favourite Logan stories, and more.
ANDY B: First of all, kudos on doing a stellar job on Wolverine: Inside The World Of The Living Weapon. It’s a compelling and informative read. How did you wind up working on the project?
MATTHEW K. MANNING: I’m glad you like the book. Basically it all started when I heard that a Wolverine movie was in production. I sent an email to an editor I’d worked with on several other projects over at DK Publishing to see if he was planning to release a guide at about the same time. It turns out that they were, and a few months later, we got to work.
ANDY B: How much time did you have to spend researching Logan before you could begin the writing process?
MANNING: However long it takes to read about four hundred comics. I’ve read a lot of X-Men and Wolverine in the past, but I wanted to make sure the guide was as comprehensive as possible, so I used that as an excuse to fill in all the gaps in my collection.
ANDY B: The book reads like the ultimate biography of the character and does a great job of finding a linear narrative to the complex history of Wolverine. In many ways it reminded me of the Wolverine Saga from years ago, but with far more history and backstory to comb through. Was it difficult making heads or tails out of Logan’s sometime convoluted history?
MANNING: It was a bit tricky, especially with the release of the new Wolverine: Origins series. All the sudden, we know a lot more about Logan’s past than ever before, and it all had to be organized with the previous continuity. The timeline included in the book was my pet project as I did my research, and it really helped me keep some semblance of order to Wolverine’s life.
ANDY B: One of the great features in Wolverine: Inside the World Of the Living Weapon is the spotlight on Key Issues. How did you decide which issues would be focused on in the book, and were there any that didn’t make the cut?
MANNING:There were plenty of great issues that I’d have loved to spotlight, like the classic Barry Windsor-Smith issue of Uncanny X-Men # 205, or the recent Jason Aaron story from Wolverine # 56. But mostly we tried to include issues that focused on parts of Wolverine’s history that the other spreads didn’t really cover.
ANDY B: Wolverine: Inside the World Of The Living Weapon is as much a visual history of Wolverine as it is a written one. How involved were you in terms of the layout and design of the book?
MANNING: Since this book was a departure from the other books in DK’s guide series, and really a reinvention of the line itself, I had less say this time around than I’ve had for, say, the updates of the Ultimate Guides for Spider-Man and Hulk. The book was done on a bit of a time crunch, and so many designers were used. Basically, I came up with the outline, and offered issue information and such, and DK’s art staff took it from there. I think it gave the designers the freedom to be more artistic with their choices.
ANDY B: You’ve written or worked on a lot of the DK Marvel books, all of which are fantastic (Marvel Chronicles is a favourite). How involved were the folks at Marvel in putting together Wolverine: Inside The World Of The Living Weapon?
MANNING: We really don’t hear much from Marvel until we’ve finished up work on our end. They offer comments and critiques after the fact, but usually they like what we’re doing and the way we’re doing it. I’ve never had to do an extensive rewrite or anything, so I take that as a good sign.
ANDY B: What’s your favourite Wolverine story? Why?
MANNING: I guess if I had to choose, it would be Weapon X. I also really like what Daniel Way is doing over in Wolverine: Origins, and the old Claremont/Miller mini series has a warm spot in my heart as well. I find Logan’s past really interesting, and the hidden depth his character shows in all these series are what makes them personal favorites of mine.
ANDY B: What do you have coming up next in the comic book world?
MANNING: Well, in the immediate future, I’m talking alongside Chris Claremont at the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art here in Manhattan on Wednesday the 29th about this very book. Further down the line, I’ve written a book called The Batman Vault along with Bob Greenberger, and that should be coming out this fall. I’m also working on a series of Batman and Superman young reader books for Stone Arch Books, as well as a few other comic projects that I can’t talk about quite yet, and the next in the series of Marvel’s DK guides, which I also can’t really talk about yet. I’ll post all the details on my website at www.matthewkmanning.com when I can, so be sure to keep checking back.
Thanks to Matthew K. Manning for talking to Biff Bam Pop!