In 2001, Marvel peeled back the curtain to real the true story of Wolverine in the limited series Origin. And now in 2013, they’re tearing the curtain off completely.
Debuting on Christmas Eve December 24th, Origin II sees Marvel revisiting the early days of the man who would become Wolverine and charting for the first time his teenage years: feral, rebellious and alone. The young man formerly known as Jamie Howlett has taken up with a pack of wolves, but this isn’t The Jungle Book; instead, it’s more akin to the desolate survivalist dramas of Jack London, Call of the Wild and White Fang. Like those stories, Origin II is set in the wild white countryside of Canada but in this case the animal and the human aren’t two separate individuals but one mutant man.
Origin II is coming to comic shelves via writer Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert. Newsarama interviewed Gillen back in July about his plans for the series, and now we track down Kubert. Kubert is following in the footsteps of his younger brother Andy whom illustrated the first Origin volume, but isn’t trying to become his brother. Adam, the older Kubert brother, comes to Origin II with much more of a history with Wolverin than his brother – he did runs on the hero’s series both with Larry Hama back in the 1990s as well as Jason Aaron on several occasions, as well as drawing him extensively on various X-Men titles. Newsarama spoke with Kubert by phone from one of the classrooms at the Kubert School he runs with his brother, talking about Wolverine, drawing him like he’s never done before, and the allowances and creative freedom Marvel gave to tell the best story possible.
Newsarama: Let’s start with an easy one, Adam: what are you working on today?
Adam Kubert: I’m working on the second half of Origin II #2.
Nrama: Have you found your groove for drawing this miniseries, or are you still having things come up in the script that surprises you?
Kubert: I can’t say much without spoiling anything, but there are always things that come up. Whenever I read a script, it scares the crap out of me because there's always stuff I have to draw that I'm not familiar with. In Origin II it took some time to figure out what a younger version of Wolverine should look like. I had to research carnivals from the early 1900's... clothing... etc.
One thing I've really enjoyed is how flexible Marvel has been on Origin II. Kieron wrote a 20 page script for the first issue, and Nick Lowe said if I wanted to that I could push it to 30. I asked him “Are you sure you want me to do it?” And when Nick said yes I was like “Wow!” So I extended it to 26 pages... it didn’t feel right to take it any further. Those six extra pages allowed me to expand on some key moments.
This isn’t just me patting myself on the back; but when people read Origin II I think they will really like it. This is an eye-opening and completely different series.
Everyone involved is super excited for the series and are bringing their A game.... starting with Kieron. The guy's a genius. The first issue is so simple and so complex at the same time. I'm telling you... you're going to care about these characters! Editors Nick Lowe and Jeanine Schaefer are great great people to work with as well. Frank Martin is doing the coloring and is giving the book a very painterly look. Together we're trying something a little different while still respecting the look of the source material. I’m giving Frank pencils and inks – the figures are rendered in ink while the backgrounds remain in pencil. And Frank’s doing a fantastic job. If I were giving this guy an eBay rating, it would be an A++++. [laughs]
Nrama: Before we go deeper, I wanted to ask you about coming onto this project. I know you’re offered a variety of things, but what made this something you wanted to do?
Kubert: It’s an awesome character, an awesome story and an awesome opportunity. It also keys off of what my brother Andy did with the first Origin, and when this new series came about Marvel thought it good to keep it in the family.
Nrama: When I talked with Kieron Gillen about this, he noted some strong literary ties to this going back to the Jack London novels. You said in an interviewfor MTV Geek that you went out to the Museum of Natural History in New York to do some live drawings of wolves and bears, so what all are you pulling from to get your feet under you on this?
Kubert: Kieron is a research hound and he suggested a couple of places I could look towards for inspiration. He mentioned the London books, so I rented the film version of White Fang –
Nrama: The one with Ethan Hawke?
Kubert: Yes. That gave me a lot of insight into what he was thinking. And as you said, I went to the Museum of Natural History to draw animals because the first issue of Origin II centers around a wolf pack and polar bears, which is ultra cool.
I pulled from all sorts of places to gear up for Origin II. I read through Andy’s Origin to re-familiarize myself with the content, watched White Fang and as far as actually drawing is concerned there’s nothing better than Google Images for anything and everything. I type in wolf, and we’re off; it takes some time to get accustomed to drawing wolves to make sure they don’t look like german shepherds or anything else. So I took some time to gear up, and then jumped into the pages and picked up the rest as I went.
Nrama: Adam, you’ve done several runs on the Wolverine series and also drawn him extensively in your X-Men work. But drawing him here – a very young Wolverine – how did you pull back the layers to show him younger?
Kubert: That’s a really good question. After I finished the first issue, I went back and realized I drew Wolverine the way I always draw Wolverine --- which is too old here. So I went back redrew all the faces in the first issue to make him look younger.
I wanted to make him a bit more handsome, think Hugh Jackman as a teenager, to give the readers a good looking younger Wolverine.
Nrama: I’m talking to you today while you’re at the Kubert School. For drawing comics, do you have a drawing station at both home and school?
Kubert: I have a set-up at home and school. At home I tool around on pages on nights and weekends, but I’m at the school five days a week.
Nrama: What’s it like living and breathing, teaching and drawing, in a school built for comics?
Kubert: This place has garnered a tremendous amount of respect in the comics community since it opened and my focus is to continue to live up to that level of respect. Most people in comics have heard of the Kubert School and see it as sort of a boot camp for comics work. It's a very difficult school with a grueling program... and Andy and I plan to keep it that way.
Nrama: The long list of notable alumni from Adam Warren to Rick Veitch to Amanda Conner says a lot about what the students, but what do you get out of being around these budding artists and experienced artists/teachers?
Kubert: I think I get as much out of being here as they do. Not only energy-wise, but I look at these guys paying thousands of dollars to learn what I already know and it’s heartening. If ever I take what I do for granted, all I have to do is think of the students here... their drive, motivation, commitment..... It’s infectious. We all have something in common here... we love to draw!
As far as my process goes, I’ve actually learned to draw faster by working with my students. And that’s helped me out tremendously.
For teaching, one thing I tell my students is that I’m not a professional teacher. It’s as much their responsibility to sponge what they can from me as it is for me to disseminate what I know to them. It’s a two way street. There’s a healthy give and take relationship in the classroom that I think is very beneficial to the students.
Nrama: Creating comics seems like a pretty solitary job working from home, so just the idea of living in the same town, being in school five days a week with a group of people who want to do the same thing you do must be pretty invigorating for everyone.
Kubert: Definitely. Attending the Kubert School is all about being around like-minded people. For me I can compare it to going to Comic-Con International: San Diego. I love conventions for the energy they have. I like interacting with the fans and pros because we all love the same thing. So for me coming to the school is energizing.... and I really like that.