Duane Swierczynski: Martial Arts, Mutants, Werewolves...Oh My!

Catching Up With Duane Swierczynski

Some say that variety if the spice of life; it’s that true, then Duane Swierczynski is living life to the fullest at Marvel Comics. Currently, Swierczynski’s work covers a wide spectrum of Marvel’s popular characters—he’s the writer of monthly projects like Cable and The Immortal Iron Fist; he’s in a rotating pool of talented crime fiction writers on Punisher: Frank Castle; and he’s got upcoming projects galore in the form of Werewolf By Night and a new X-Men mini focusing on the life of hero-turned-villain Lucas Bishop.

Newsarama sat down with Swierczynski to catch up with him on the myriad of projects he’s working on—in (and a couple out of) the comic industry.

Newsarama: First off, Duane, let's talk Iron Fist post "Mortal Iron Fist"--issue #21 takes readers into the far flung future in the depths of space. Care to elaborate on the story some more?

Duane Swierczynski: If you things are kinda messed up in the present, take a leap 1,000 years in the future. Things are so bad on Earth, even China’s given up and transported much of its population to a distant planet. But things aren’t much better light years away, and the few free citizens of the People’s Republic of the future have only one hope: the Immortal Iron Fist. Too bad he’s pretty much dead and circling around the planet in perpetual orbit.

So yeah, we open this issue on a real upbeat note.

NRAMA: What does 2009 have in store for Danny Rand as the Iron Fist? Hopefully, he makes it past his 33rd birthday...

DS: The tales of the various Iron Fists never unfold in quite the way you expect. Usually, they’re soaked in tragedy, peppered with irony, and served up with a swift kick to the buttocks.

Danny’s no different. And knowing what the next story arc has in store for him… well, he’s going to wish he just stayed in bed.

NRAMA: In the initial pages of the story you briefly introduce the son of Misty Knight and Danny Rand--could readers see more of this character in the future?

DS: Misty? Definitely. As for the kid… well, you’ll see more of him in #20.

NRAMA: Do you watch a lot of old and new Kung Fu films for inspiration when it comes to writing Iron Fist? In that vein, are you a fan of the Shaw Brothers flicks from the late '70s?

DS: Does Kung Fu Panda count?

I watched a ton of Kung Fu flicks growing up in the 1970s. But at that age, I can’t say I was following directors or actors or even titles, for that matter. It was like one big never-ending fight to the death.

My inspiration for Iron Fist comes from very un-Kung Fu sources these days, everything from those Chinese history tomes to 1980s horror flicks to the novels of Tom Wolfe and Bret Easton Ellis. Seriously. The fun of the series is that it slams through so many different worlds.

NRAMA: Changing gears, let's talk about your upcoming Punisher arc--in the newly retiled Punisher: Frank Castle book. You're working with Michel Lacombe (I'm a big fan of his work...) on this story. What can you tell us about it so far?

DS: Michel’s the first comic artist I ever worked with; and, damn it, the bastard spoiled me rotten. I’m so glad we’re doing this arc together.

In “Six Hours to Kill,” Frank’s been injected with a toxin that will turn him into 200-pound corpse by dawn. He’ll get the antidote only if he agrees to kill a Philadelphia lawyer. Frank, being Frank, tells his captors to go eff themselves and decides to use his remaining time on Earth to take out as many scumbags as possible. Chaos, as they say, ensues.

I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been to set Frank loose in my hometown. (Though Michel keeps grumbling that any future Punisher arcs will have to be set in Montreal.)

NRAMA: Do you have more Punisher projects coming after this storyline concludes?

DS: I’m wrapping up the end of “Six Hours to Kill” right now, but I’m sure I’ll be pestering Axel with more ideas soon. Probably something set in Montreal.

NRAMA: Are there any artists who you would like to work with on a Punisher story?

DS: I’d love the chance to work with Laurence Campbell or Tomm Coker on a Punisher story… or anything else for that matter. I went nuts for the grimy, crime-y stuff they did on Punisher and Moon Knight, respectively.

NRAMA: Currently in Cable you're in the midst of the "Waiting for the End of the World" storyline--what revelations will the upcoming 12th issue yield as a new storyline starts with the start of 2009? Will there be revelations as to who or what this "Messiah" character is going to become?

DS: The 12th issue? Hell, there are some cool revelations in Cable #11 and in #13 as well.

NRAMA: Bishop has turned into a downright nasty character. Will he still figure into this series after the current storyline?

DS: Bishop’s not giving up. In fact, he’s muscling his way into his own three issue mini-series, which was just announced: X-Men: The Times and Life of Lucas Bishop. The first installment appears in February. If you’ve been dying to hear the “Messiah Complex” story from Bishop’s side, this is the mini-series for you.

NRAMA: Should readers keep their eyes open for any other surprise characters showing up in Cable in the months to come?

DS: Oh God, yeah. Use toothpicks to prop your eyes open and prepare for some fun shocks in the spring of 2009. You haven’t seen the last of X-Force in Cable

NRAMA: How much can you tell us about Werewolf By Night at this point in time? How did you pitch this project to Marvel or did they approach you?

Cable #11, pages 6-7

DS: Werewolf By Night was the first Marvel comic I ever read, and it was one of the first things I pitched Marvel. Most of my novels are crime thrillers, but I’ve been itching to do a balls-out horror story and this is pretty much it. I tried to think about Jack Russell and his little lycanthropy problem in real-world terms. If I were I werewolf, what would I do to keep myself from slaughtering innocent people once a month (or so)? The story grew out of that seed.

NRAMA: What sort of tones can we expect in this book? You've got quite a broad spectrum of work going on with Marvel—between martial arts, mutants, and vigilantes—how do you plan to diverge even further from those with this book?

DS: Grim. Dark. Gory. A nightmare wrapped in wet, bloody fur.

Funny you mention the spectrum, Steve—I love that I’m able to play with so many different types of characters. It’s never, ever dull. Every morning I wake up and ask myself, “Okay, who can I play with today?”

NRAMA: Any other upcoming projects you care to mention? Do you have another novel coming soon?

DS: I’m working on the next novel, and with any luck, it’ll be in stores next fall. I never like to talk about them before they’re finished. (I’m a superstitious guy.) But I will say it’s closer to my first novel, Secret Dead Men, than anything else I’ve written.

NRAMA: What's the word with Severance Package?

DS: The novel was optioned by Lionsgate, and I was hired (along with director Brett Simon) to adapt the novel. Funny aside: my very first meeting at Lionsgate, back in the early summer, I was hanging out in the lobby. And playing on the flat screen TVs was the very first trailer for Punisher War Zone—and I don’t think anything had leaked onto the interwebs at that point. I felt like such a nerd. There I was, ready to talk about turning one of my books into a movie, but there I was geeking out over brief glimpses of Frank Castle. (laughs)

NRAMA: For young writers, how important is it to be disciplined enough to write every day? When you're working on a longer project like a novel—do you have a daily word count goal? Or do you just go and see how far you can get?

DS: Writing goals are important. I think you writers need something to shoot for every day. Sometimes you nail it, sometimes you miss… whatever. As long as there’s a target in front of you. For me, it’s five comic script pages, and 1,000 words of fiction. If it hit both, I’m a happy boy.

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