Wolverine is the best there is at what he does – and now seemingly in the twilight of his career, he’s working on expanding that past just killing – and into some bonding time. In August’s Wolverine Annual #1, the famed loner-turned-schoolmaster is looking to have some family time with the person he sees as a daughter, Jubilee, along with her newly adopted son Shogo. The plan? A camping trip. Now, Logan is no stranger to living out in the wild – readers of the recent Origin II series can attest to that – but doing it with Jubilee and the infant Shogo in tow? That’s another story.
To write this unique standalone story, Marvel turned to the head writer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Elliott Kalan. Kalan’s work on TDS and his various podcasts might seem him more fit for the comedy genre than superheroes, but Kalan – like Wolverine – is looking to do new things and bring in more of his interests. Newsarama talked with Kalan about this feature-length story he’s doing with artist Jonathan Marks, and we talk about the comedy (or lack thereof) in a story like this, as well as his broader views of Logan and comparing him to a cult-favorite character from HBO’s The Wire.
Newsarama: Elliott, what’s going on in Wolverine Annual #1?
Elliott Kalan: This story is about Wolverine, a previously invincible beast man-turned-respected school administrator, and his relationship with Jubilee, his surrogate daughter who used to be able to shoot fireworks out of her hands but is now a vampire single mom. In the wake of losing his healing factor, Wolverine is worried about the people he might leave behind if something should happen to him. So he takes Jubilee camping in the woods for some survival training. They almost don’t survive.
Nrama: We’ve seen Wolverine & Jubilee team up, and Jubilee & Shogo – but never all three at once. How would you describe this trio trying to take a vacation?
Kalan: As a family who loves each other but also really gets on each other’s nerves. Wolverine didn’t want Jubilee to bring the baby, Jubilee thinks Wolverine is being overdramatic, and Shogo is a baby so he always needs a diaper change. But just when things threaten to get too sitcom-y, that’s when the wolves show up.
Nrama: You’re best known as a comedic writer, and there seems to be plenty of it with the idea of Wolverine and baby Shogo. Is that too obvious? What kind of humor can people expect with this?
Kalan: I did my best not to make this a sort of “Two Mutants and a Baby” story about Wolverine not knowing how to take care of a child. People can expect a few jokes here and there in the dialogue, and the image of Wolverine holding a baby is, I think, a hilarious one, but once the story gets rolling it isn’t a humorous one. It’s a different kind of story than I’ve written for Marvel before, and if anyone buys it thinking it’s going to be an out-and-out comedy and is disappointed than I want to say, “It’s too late! We already got your money! Bwa ha ha ha!”
What readers can expect is a story about what it means to feel a responsibility for another person, and how the people we know and love change over time based on their experiences. I think even comedy fans should give it a try, because they just might be moved in the end.
Nrama: This annual is coming out on the cusp of Logan’s pronounced death. Any of that in here, or is this a more evergreen story?
Kalan: This is very much a story about a healing factor-less Wolverine feeling his mortality for the first real time in his life. Wolverine can’t see the future, but he can’t take it for granted he can just shrug off any injury anymore, and this has really shaken him. This is a story that will hold up for future readings long after the current storyline is over, but it’s rooted in the vulnerable spot Logan finds himself in now.
Nrama: In general superhero stories, there’s a hero and a villain – is there one here? And if so, who?
Kalan: One of the things I liked about writing this story is that there isn’t a real villain. Wolverine, Jubilee, and Shogo don’t stumble on a hidden Mr. Sinister lab or get targeted by the Hellfire Club (although those both sound like awesome stories). They have a run-in with a married couple dealing with their own personal vulnerabilities, there’s a big misunderstanding, and Shogo gets caught in the middle, with possibly deadly consequences. Also: wolves!
Nrama: You’ve done a series of comics for Marvel in the past, but you’re best known as a comedy writer – of The Daily Show, podcasts, and as a stand-up comic. What draws you to comics?
Kalan: I just love comics. I want to write in a number of different forms eventually, but for decades I’ve loved comics as a medium and the way it forces you to choose an exact moment in time to portray, and then string those moments together in such a way that the reader supplies the connective tissue in their minds. Writing comics has been a constant dream of mine since I was a kid. And beyond that, the Marvel Universe holds a deeply special place in my heart. Every story I’ve written for Marvel has been exciting because I get to take on the voices of characters I’ve been reading so long that they feel like a part of me. To write for Wolverine and pretend to be him through the writing process and add a tiny piece to his history is an amazing thrill.
Nrama: And what about Wolverine in particular peaks your interest as a storyteller?
Kalan: I don’t want to give Jubilee short shrift, because I’m a big Jubilee fan and really enjoyed writing for her, too. But Wolverine is an especially rich character. He has such a simple basic concept – he can heal fast, he has claws, he’s a good guy but a loner – and over the years he’s matured and changed into this really nuanced and layered human personality. I’ve seen him go from the troublemaking rebel who won’t follow any rules to the old hand authority figure who’s not comfortable being respected but cherishes having the kinds of human relationships he never thought he could control the rage inside himself long enough to build. There’s so much emotional depth there, and it was great to swim around in it.
And plus, he’s just the coolest dude in the world. I was once talking about The Wire with my friend and podcast co-host Stuart Wellington and mentioned I liked the character Omar and Stuart replied, “Everyone likes Omar. He’s the show’s Wolverine.” It’s maybe the most accurate metaphor I’ve ever heard, because everyone loves Wolverine. And of course I’m no exception.