This week Marvel shot off the first salvo in a two-part comic arc inside Savage Wolverine #21 showing the enigmatic mutant in the trenches fighting against the Germans in World War I. Dubbed “the Great War,” this arc sees the B.P.R.D. writer John Arcudi join with the slick artistic style of Joe Quinones, fresh off of DC’s Black Canary & Zatanna: Bloodspell, to delve into the nature of war, especially during the early 1900s, and well – lots of fighting.
Arcudi tells Newsarama that his interest in war stories can be chalked up to “family history,” but it’s his work with another family – the Mignola-verse family – that’s seen him write tales from the World Wars in both B.P.R.D. and the two recent Sledgehammer 44 series. For Quinones’ part, his style might not seem conducive to the all-too-human battles of World War I, but the Pennsylvania artist jumped at the opportunity to do something different and and accurate for the period – even down to Logan’s haircut.
Newsarama: John, what is this Savage Wolverine arc about?
John Arcudi: It’s a WWI story that pits Logan against a small German outpost protecting a bridge, but everything is complicated by the presence of another mutant.
Nrama: What is Wolverine up against here?
Arcudi: Central Powers soldiers, and that mutant I mentioned, in a weird way. That, and he confronts some elements about the nature of war and peace and all that big theme stuff.
Nrama: Logan’s time during World War I and II has been documented briefly, but where exactly is he at in this story?
Arcudi: He’s in northern France in October 1918 trying to break through the Central Power lines. The point is to try to hasten the war’s end.
Nrama: Joe, what attracted you to this 2-part Savage Wolverine story by John?
Joe Quinones: Well, John mostly. My then-editor Tom Brennan approached me with two notions; 1.) a Wolverine story set during the First World War, and 2.) A chance to collaborate with Mr. John Arcudi, who was on writing details. I’d been itching to work on something featuring Wolverine, and have long been a fan of John’s work, so this was a no brainer.
Nrama: Joe, this isn’t your first time drawing him but it’s a very young Logan – how do you see him and what are you trying to get across when you draw him for this story?
Quinones: It’s not? When else have I draw him…? I’m racking my brain now. I drew his son in an Ultimates issue…
Nrama: I remember you submitting a redesign of him for Project: Rooftop way back when.
Quinones: Yes! Anyway, I kind of see Logan as a pessimist hoping someone will prove him wrong. He can be impatient and harsh, perhaps even severe, but at his core is an emotional, empathetic human being. He’s just built an adamantium cage around himself. (Yes, I understand he doesn’t yet have his adamantium skeleton at this point. It’s a metaphor.)
Nrama: For many people, WW1 is overshadowed by WW2 and the Germans as Nazis. In writing the Germans here, how’d you go about being historically accurate without hitting people over the head?
Arcudi: Well, I just followed history. They weren’t, of course Nazis, so that helps. I just try to write all my characters as people, and the history is just context. Let’s put it this way; I wasn’t so concerned about painting the simplistic Black/White, Good/Evil kind of story, and yes, that’s a lot easier without Nazis.
Quinones: Research! John has been extraordinary in this regard, sending my loads of photo reference from minute one. But I’ve also done a lot of scouring on the internet, trying to figure out what kind of shoes a Canadian soldier wore in 1918. What kind of jacket? What sort of helmet did the Germans wear at the time? As John emphatically told me time and again, ‘not the Kaiser helmets! Those were ceremonial and would not have been worn in the field!’ I watched through a few documentaries while I worked to just get into the right mindset. First Ken Burns ‘The War’ (which deals with WW2, but whatever) and a BBC documentary on World War 1. I even tried to design Logan’s haircut based around the popular military cut of the time. He’s still got his mutton chops though.
Nrama: John, I realized while researching for this interview that this isn’t your first time at Marvel doing a title with the adjective “Savage” in it; early in your career you did stories for Savage Tales and Savage Sword of Conan. Is there any specialness from those gigs you’re carrying over here, with the books or in terms of a “Savage” Marvel book if that means anything?
Arcudi: Aside from nostalgia, not really. I mean, I don’t make-up the titles, after all. Still, it does bring back some very fond memories.
Nrama: That being said, your work on Marvel’s superhero books are few and far between: an underappreciated Thunderbolts run, and some work on Warlock & The Infinity Watch and some one-off issues. With all the work you’ve done in comics in the past 28 years, why do you think you haven’t done more Marvel superhero work like this Savage Wolverine run?
Arcudi: I’m not the best fit for superheroes, and I know that — especially in a continuity driven industry. I can’t just come in and write with impunity. There are histories to be respected. That’s why this story was attractive. I just had to be true to the character and not worry about disappointing readers who know so much more about these books than I do. Well, I still worry, I still want to entertain, but you know what i mean… I hope.
Nrama: That being said, for the past decade you’ve become known as a purveyor of great war stories, from your work on B.P.R.D. and elsewhere. This Savage Wolverine arc takes place in World War I, what is it that draws you to war stories? And have you always been fascinated by it, going back to childhood?
Arcudi: Family history, really.
Nrama: Working with you on this arc is Joe Quinones. Joe has a relatively slick style, so what do you think of how he’s handled this WW1-era story?
Arcudi: He nailed it! Who better to get all the costumes right, all the guns, and the trenches? Yeah, nobody’s gonna feel this is an episode of That 70’s Show with 21st Century haircuts. It feels real.
Nrama: Joe, forgive me if this comes out wrong, but I know you for having a very slick style – something far different from how people typically see a World War I story. What were your thoughts on doing a more gritty, bloody Wolverine story like this?
Quinones: I can understand that. Much of my work is a bit lighter in tone - high flying adventure, with a little humor thrown in here and there. It's where I'm most at home, but that's not to say I’m averse to drawing more violent, gritty, darker tales. Not in the slightest, so long it is in service to the story, and not just there for gratuity’s sake. John provided a violent and bloody, yet nuanced story here, essentially dealing with Logan’s existential fight against his inner ‘Wolverine’. It was something new for me to tackle here, and I was excited to do it.
Arcudi: Well, we worked with Joe to get the feel right; that dirty quality of early 20th Century war — not an easy thing to grasp for any 21st Century artist -- and Joe did grasp it, really delivered, especially in colors! I’ve known Joe for a couple of years and have loved his work even longer, so when he came on board, I was super-excited because I knew he could do anything required, but mostly because I could see him really pulling off some of the subtler things about this story — the things that make it a story — and, of course, he did. He nailed those!
Nrama: After this arc is over, could you see yourself doing more work for Marvel? And are there any specific titles, characters or story that interest you most?
Arcudi: Barring those continuity issues, I don’t see why not. I started at Marvel, after all.
Quinones: Of course! I've been working for Marvel in some capacity since 2009 and they’ve been a real joy to work with. The majority of my work with them to date has been on covers, but I’m looking to change that moving forward. As for titles, characters and specifics? I’d love to do an X-Men book at some point. Always been a huge fan of the X-books, and still am. It’d be great to return to Spider-man as well. As for characters? I dunno? Kitty Pryde is pretty great. I love Dr. Strange too. Team up?