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The Future of the Future


You create Mage, you create Grendel — two highly renown and respected independent comic books. And then, after 20 years in the comics business, you finally go to work for mainstream publisher Marvel Comics. This is the life of writer/artist Matt Wagner. PopMatters spoke with Wagner about this intriguing turn of events, what it is like to play with some of Marvel’s preeminent icons, and the future of his own, heroic characters.



PopMatters:

Why go with the new “Ultimate” Marvel, rather than the traditional Marvel Comics universe?



Matt Wagner:

I’ve always said that one of the things holding me back from working with either Marvel or DC in a more significant manner has been the enormous backlog of ponderous continuity that needs to be considered. One of the most attractive aspects of Marvel’s Ultimate universe is the fact that its a fresh slate — a virgin field wherein we creators basically get to pick and chose the aspects of existing continuity that add up to the most solid whole. I find it very similar to the situation Bruce Timm and his animators faced when re-defining Batman and his many adventures for a new, television audience. This is a prime opportunity to turn a whole new generation of readers onto comics by enabling them to feel like they’re part of the scene from its very beginning.



PM:

But, why now, after almost 20 years in the business?



MW:

There many factors involved in this decision. Partly, it was the lingering developments in the production of the Mage movie. Partly, a desire to work with such a hot talent as Brian Michael Bendis. Partly the perception of a more creator-friendly atmosphere over at Marvel since the inception of Joe Quesada as Editor-In-Chief. In the long run, I guess it was just the right project at the right time. When Brian first contacted me to say that he was involved in reviving Marvel Team-Up in the new matrix of the Ultimate universe, I was immediately interested. I asked to kick off the series with, arguably, their two flagship characters. And the answer on all fronts was, “yes”. Again, the right answer at the right time.



PM:

Did you have any input on the story?



MW:

Not really, and that too was part of what I found attractive about the project. I was not in my “writer” mode at the time and was looking for an opportunity to draw something cool and fun. A single double-sized issue of the first meeting between the Ultimate Spider-Man and Wolverine meant that this gig fit the bill just great.



PM:

Did you enjoy drawing these characters?



MW:

Loved it.



PM:

Who interested you more, Spidey or Wolvie, and why?



MW:

Well, in my initial sketches, I was more drawn to Wolverine. Spider-Man is actually one of the most traditional super-heroes I’ve ever drawn, but I really grew to love him. What I found most pleasing was what a unique character he is. More so than almost any other comics character, there’s very little room for interpretation. Unlike Batman, who can be depicted in so very many styles and manners, Spider-Man always looks like Spider-Man…or else he’s wrong. At first, I found the odd patterns of his costume to be a bit daunting, but, once I had them down, I found them comforting and familiar instead.



PM:

Did you have to use the X-Men movie for reference for Wolverine and Sabretooth?



MW:

Only in a general sense. I knew that part of the purpose of the Ultimate universe is to capitalize on the success of the X-Men movie and to prep the reading audience for what I’m sure will be a similar approach on Spider-Man [in his movie]. So, I didn’t have the movie on in the background or anything, but I did rent the tape and watch it with my kids again.



PM:

What’s next?



MW:

More Green Arrow covers for the Kevin Smith-penned run currently on the stands from DC. I’m slated for at least a year and possibly more after that. And, we’re also producing another Grendel: Black, White & Red series over at Dark Horse Comics (although this one’s called Red, White & Black) which will follow the same format as the first run: 20 different artists rendering all-new, untold tales of Hunter Rose, all written by me with all-new painted covers by me as well. The ultimate plan is one day release these two collections as a limited, leather-bound, slip-cased edition.



PM:

Will you do more Marvel work?



MW:

At this point, I’m suspecting…yes.

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