Crime Novelist MAXes Out WOLVERINE in Mature Readers Series

Since the inception of Marvel's mature readers-only MAX line in 2001, fans have suggested that Wolverine could benefit from the looser content restrictions. After all, he's the best there is at what he does, and what he does best isn't very nice and involves razor-sharp claws.

It's a reality starting in October 2012, with the debut of new ongoing series Wolverine: MAX from writer Jason Starr and artist Connor Willumsen. Like many MAX series before it, the book takes place outside of mainstream Marvel continuity and in a world closer to our own — yet one still with a Wolverine, who retains his healing factor and his claws.

Newsarama talked with Starr — an author of novels like Tough Luck and comics like Vetigo Crime's The Chill — about presenting a new take on Wolverine, pushing the violence envelope and introducing new takes on familiar characters like Sabretooth.

Wolverine: MAX #1


Newsarama: Jason, given that Wolverine: MAX is separate from mainstream Marvel continuity, how is your approach to Wolverine different than what readers are used to? Are we going to see sides of Wolverine we don't normally get to see?

Jason Starr: The exciting thing about it is that I get to start from scratch, and sort of reinvent Wolverine. Of course, it's still going to be the same character, but I don't have to stick to the same backstory, necessarily. There's going to be a big surprise about his claws. There will be similar relationships, but I'm not going to stick to the exact history of those relationships, either. To me, it's just a great chance to completely reinvent an iconic character, which doesn't come along very often.

Nrama: MAX books also tend to take place in a much more realistic setting — will Wolverine still have a healing factor and an adamantium skeleton?

Starr: The healing factor will be there. No comment about the adamantium. [Laughs.] The healing factor is going to be a big deal. His memory issues are going to be a very big deal. I definitely wanted to take some aspects of Wolverine that I found to be most fascinating about him, and really focus on them intensely, at least in the first arc of the series. I think there will be some big surprises with some of his abilities — I'm going to play with them, and hopefully find cool ways of doing things differently.

I kind of want to write the version of Wolverine the fans have always wanted. I always want to see Wolverine kick ass, but I don't necessarily want to stick to the same constraints.

Nrama: So given that you're starting from scratch, are far are you able to deviate from the familiar trappings of the character?

Starr: I'm not going to stick to the origin story at all. This is going to be sort of a more timeless version of Wolverine. He himself doesn't really know how long he's been alive, because he's had so many memory issues and his brain has healed so many times. So it's going to be this kind of noir version of Wolverine, where while he's trying to solve mysteries and crimes in the present, his mind is a constant mystery to himself. So he'll be making discoveries in the real world, and also learning new things about himself as the series goes on.

Nrama: And since it's a mature readers book, how much are you able to push the envelope in terms of violence? How much has that played into what you've written so far?

Starr: I was just trying to figure out the body count in the first issue. I lost count in my head. [Laughs.] I'm very excited about the opportunity here. The way I set this story up, he's very aware of his relentless violence, and this is kind of an internal struggle that he has — how is he going to overcome this.

As far as being graphic with the violence, I want to push the envelope. I believe the MAX books function best when they are very realistic, very real worldly. I don't want to go too far with making it unrealistic. To me, the best violence in comics is when you can be really realistic, and show what kind of a wound claws really make on someone when he's tearing them apart, and be really realistic where you don't have to cut away from the violence where you kind of have to do it with the PG-13 version.

If you're going to have violence, there's no point in having watered-down violence. Violence is violence, pretty much. Show it, or otherwise just not have it. 


MAX #2 cover.

Nrama: You noted in an interview with IGN that Wolverine is your favorite comic book character. As a professional writer who has long admired Wolverine, have you always had some ideas from the character in the back in your head, some vague ideas of what you might want to do if ever given the chance?

Starr: Definitely. I never thought that I'd be able to reinvent him so much, but I definitely had some ideas; storylines in my head. When anyone reads something, any comic or any book, I think you always think about things that you might have done differently, and you're kind of aware of what the writer's doing. There's always times when I'm asking myself "What if?" questions when reading Wolverine, and filing them in the back of my head. So when I got involved in this, I immediately had some broad ideas for it, but I was really excited about how far I could go, and how far I could really push the envelope and go beyond the boundaries of Wolverine as we know him.

Nrama: You're primarily known as a novelist, but over the past couple of years you've been doing more and more comics. Has that always been something you were hoping to give a shot?

Starr: Definitely when I was a kid — my friend and I made comic books, I was like 10 years old. It's always been a dream of mine, and it's just been a very roundabout way of getting there; writing novels, and crime novels, and then finding my way into comics. But it's definitely been a dream for me. The first time I had my name on the front of a comic was definitely a big buzz. That's something you grow up fantasizing about.

Nrama: The main story is set in modern-day Japan. What drew you to that locale? Obviously Wolverine has strong connection to the country.

Starr: It's set partly in modern-day Japan, and partly in Japan at the end of the samurai era. The samurai era actually ended before the origins of Wolveirne as we know him, so that just gives you an idea of the opportunity in this series of going back farther at times, to different points in the past that you couldn't really do with other incarnations of Wolverine.

The idea of putting him in the samurai era, with all of the violent opportunities for that, and when things were really chaotic at the end of the samurai era, was very appealing to me. To create a story that's also going to affect what's going on in the present was just a cool idea, and I think people will like it.

Nrama: And not only is Wolverine away from familiar situations, it looks like he's going to be removed from familiar characters, too — except for Sabretooth/Victor Creed.

Starr: He is going to appear in it. He's definitely going to have a big role in the first arc. As with Logan, I got to put a very different spin on Creed. Creed's origins will be different than they've ever been before, particularly his relationship with Logan is something I really wanted to focus on — the twisted psychology between them, mind games, control issues, how they're same yet different.

I definitely wanted Creed to be a part of the series. I wanted to have familiar side characters, but we'll present them in a different way, just like I'm doing with Wolverine. There also will be a different origin for how Creed and Wolverine first met.

Nrama: So since the series is slated as an ongoing, it's possible that you'll be bringing in more familiar characters reinvented in new ways?

Starr: Definitely leaving open a lot of possibilities for what can happen in the future.

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