Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT! And–hold up!
You smell that, bub? Smells like… one of them new X-Writers…
AIPT: OK, that’s enough talking like Logan, let’s talk Logan! Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Benjamin! So tell me, what is it about Wolverine as a character that appeals to you as a writer and a fan?
Benjamin: I’ve said before–and I’ll say again–that as a grumpy, smelly, hairy, muscley, whiskey-swilling, denim-and-flannel-clad loner from the frozen north, I feel like I might have a few things in common with the guy.
But I love, as a reader and writer, his history of violence and his want for atonement, his shaken jigsaw puzzle of a memory, his primal urges and hunger for the extreme, the tough guy shell that hides a big heart, and the way his invulnerability has made him especially protective of the vulnerable.
AIPT: Do you have a favorite Wolverine story of all time?
Benjamin: That’s a tough one, because I treasure so many. “The Man in the Pit” by Jason Aaron and Howard Chaykin is up there; it’s a brutal piece of poetry. And Weapon X by Barry-Windsor Smith is perfection. I could read Claremont and Miller’s Wolverine a thousand times and not tire of it. I could go on, but I’ve already given you more than you asked for.
AIPT: More is always good! Now, through the decades, Wolverine has appeared in countless comics series, films and TV shows. What is something new you hope to bring to the character in this series?
Benjamin: Wolverine is going to stop drinking whiskey and become a Kombucha enthusiast. He will start a hot yoga studio on Krakoa and shave his mutton chops and replace them with a soul patch. Most of the issues will consist of 12-panel grids of him staring off at the ocean.
(Because this is the Internet, some people actually read this as sincere.)
In all seriousness, here’s what you need to know. I am deeply respectful of and influenced by Wolverine’s legacy–but I’m also not interested in being a cover band. This isn’t a Greatest Hits album. Dawn of X is all about taking the mutants in a new direction. Where is Wolverine right now? Home. He’s lived all over the world, but this is the first zip code that actually belonged fully to him and mutantkind. He’s surrounded by his family (not just Laura and Daken and Gabby, but the Summers and Xavier, his father figure). And he has purpose, as a defender of this nation, and a sense of cautious optimism. Is it possible that Wolverine is… happy?
And if so… can it last?
AIPT: When we spoke at NYCC, you mentioned Michael Mann’s Heat and procedural TV dramas were partial inspirations for the feel of X-Force. What comics, films or TV shows would you say reflect the vibe of your Wolverine series?
Benjamin: The cool thing about this first issue–which offers two stories, each one 30-pages long–is that we’re able to flex different storytelling muscles. The Flower Cartel storyline is influenced principally by No Country for Old Men and Memento–but Heat remains a central inspiration (you’ll see that in the conflicts and alliances between the Flower Cartel, CIA and mutants).
Then there’s the Omega Red storyline (titled “Catacombs”), which is more of a horror mystery, partly inspired by The Silence of the Lambs (imagine Omega Red as Hannibal Lector… and then you’ll just have to wait and see who Buffalo Bill is…).
AIPT: Since you mentioned it, what can you tell me about Wolverine’s new adversary the Flower Cartel?
Benjamin: Issue 1 kicks off story of the Flower Cartel, a crime saga and murder mystery. I don’t want to say too much about the story–for fear of ruining the surprises to come–but let’s just say that Logan has a lot of twists and turns ahead of him as he tries to get to the bottom of who this group is and what their motivations might be. By issue 3, readers will come to understand that this is the beginning of a much larger conspiracy against the mutants.
Also: beware the Pale Girl.
AIPT: Logan’s lived a long time and has a unique perspective on the world. We’ve seen him both skeptical of welcoming the X-Men’s enemies to Krakoa and we’ve also seen him bring Gorgon a beer. Will you be exploring the complex relationships Logan has with former enemies he now shares an island with and how they’ve evolved?
Benjamin: Absolutely. I’m thinking right now of some pages Viktor just inked. Enemies are allies. The person you were trying to kill–or the person who was trying to kill you–is now a neighbor. Everything’s shifting. And so is the island (which changes shape constantly). So Logan is treating the geography of this place–and his relationship with its citizens–like one big Danger Room. The Omega Red storyline really gets into the meat of this idea.
AIPT: I’ve loved the brief peeks inside the Summer House we’ve seen so far. Is it safe to assume we’ll see more of Logan’s domestic life on the Moon since he lives with the Summers clan?
Benjamin: Quiet moments are just as essential as the loud ones. You’ll see Logan with the Summers–and you’ll also see Logan with other friends, old and new. Because I don’t want this to simply be a skull-cracking, claw-popping, motorcycle-snarling, whiskey-pounding 100-mph ride (though there will be plenty of that). We need moments of repose to flesh out the man and show that he’s got a complicated heart hidden underneath all that hair and muscle and Adamantium.
AIPT: You touched on them a bit earlier, but Laura and Gabby kept the Wolverine legacy alive and well while Logan was “dead.” Can we expect to see Logan finally get some quality time with his extended family (and Daken too) in this series?
Benjamin: Stay tuned. To Wolverine. And to X-Force.
AIPT: You’ve mentioned you and Joshua Cassara are basically brothers, constantly in touch about X-Force. How has it been collaborating with Adam Kubert and Viktor Bogdanovic?
Benjamin: I’m really damn lucky to be working with these guys. Not only because they’re wonderfully talented, but because they’re generous and smart and funny. Adam is a legend–everybody already knows that–and every page he draws feels like a holy sacrament.
And Viktor–he’s young and hungry and wildly awesome and on his way to becoming a legend. Because his art is gritty and kinetic and shadowy and packed with personality. We’re all in touch virtually every day. Sometimes we go helicopter skiing and rob banks and do the slip ‘n’ slide in our Wolverine-print thongs.
AIPT: Well, on a similar note (the hanging out, not the Wolverine-print thongs), my final question: You have a chance to spend a day hanging out with Logan. What’s on your itinerary?
Benjamin: We spend the entire day running naked through the snowy woods, leaping over logs, chasing down elk, pausing occasionally to down bottles of bourbon and punch each other in the face.
AIPT: Damn, Logan truly is in good hands. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, Benjamin! And remember, X-Fans, the eXtra-sized Wolverine #1 goes on sale February 19!
A quick X-Men Monday programming note–Did you notice that we’ve reached #45? X-Fans… the march to X-Men Monday #50 IS ON!
Also, stay tuned… we’re cooking up something eXtra special for February over here at AIPT. Be on the lookout for that announcement soon! Until next time…