Barry Lyga on Wolverine: Worst Day Ever

Lyga on Wolverine: Worst Day Ever

Wolverine: Worst Day Ever

After years of working at Diamond Comic Distributors, Barry Lyga made a name for himself as a young-adult author with The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, an award-winning novel about a comics fan that features a prominent cameo from Brian Michael Bendis. Two more novels (Boy Toy and Hero-Type) later, Lyga has gotten a chance to play with Marvel’s characters with Wolverine: Worst Day Ever, a young readers novel coming out in April. We called up Lyga to get the scoop on what it’s like bringing Wolverine to prose.

Newsarama: Barry, tell us a little about Wolverine: Worst Day Ever.

Barry Lyga: I don't want to talk too much about specifics, because there are some nice little turns and surprises, I think. But basically, the idea of the book is to look at Wolverine through someone else's eyes.

So, I created a new mutant (no pun intended) and he's a thirteen-year-old kid whose mutant power has just recently developed. He's a brand-new student at Xavier's School, and he doesn't like it there. Before his power kicked in, he was pretty happy with his life, and now things are out of his control.

Marvel really wanted a different look at Wolverine, a new perspective, and I thought that instead of using a pre-existing character with a pre-existing relationship, it would be interesting to see Logan through completely new eyes.

Anyway, this new kid has the world's suckiest mutant power AND he's the new kid at the school, so he's very much a loner. He very much sits back and observes, so you get these observations on the X-Men and Wolverine from a sort of snarky, but also very sad and lonely perspective.

NRAMA: Now, is this prose or sequential, and is it in the Marvel Universe proper or out-of-continuity?

BL: It's a prose story, intercut with pieces of artwork. The idea is that the book collects the narrator (his name is Eric, I guess I should point that out) -- collects Eric's blog entries. He's not supposed to blog from the school, but he does anyway. And the book collects his blog entries. Some of the entries have pieces of art with them, some of them don't. So it's sort of an illustrated novel as opposed to a traditional graphic novel.

As far as continuity goes, that's not really for me to say. I tried to be loose enough in the telling of the story that if you're a movie fan, you could make it fit in the movie continuity. A comics fan, you could make it fit in the comics. And so on. I looked at thirty years of the character and just said, "You know, I'm going to use the elements that are most consistent and most frequent." I tried not to write anything that would blatantly contradict any point of any of the various continuities. But there's definitely a variety of the Marvel Universe in this book -- there are some side references to the FF and the Avengers, for example.

NRAMA: How did the book come about?

BL: Marvel asked! (laughs) Honestly, it was as simple as that. Marvel got in touch with me and said, basically, "Hey, we want to do this Wolverine novel for all ages and we'd like you to write it."

At first, I was surprised. If you read my novels, I'm not known for a lot of action -- I'm a character guy. But they told me that they wanted a real character piece, and once I came up with Eric and his mutant power, the rest of the book just fell into place. (I will say, though, that there is action in the book!)

NRAMA: What’s the biggest difference between doing your own novels and a book for Marvel?

BL: Well, you know, when I write my own novels, I am in total control. I create the universe. I make the rules. I invent the histories. Here, I had characters and a milieu going back decades, where a lot of other people had stirred the soup before I ever got to the kitchen.

And even though I knew this had to stand apart in many ways, I didn't want to do anything violently opposed to traditional continuity. So I spent some time reading a bunch of Wolverine comics – old and new – and really thought about what elements made sense to use in a book like this.

Every time I did something sort of snarky, I thought, "I've gone too far. Marvel will hate that." But they were pretty much totally hands off. They said, "We got you because we wanted YOU to write this." So other than having to tweak a couple of cosmetic things at their request, I had a lot of control.

NRAMA: What did you learn from working on this book?

BL: I learned that it was a lot of fun. Really. I have to be totally honest and confess that at first I thought, "What am I getting into?" I'm something of a control freak, and I had this nightmarish vision of being micromanaged down to the last comma. But once I loosened up and got into Eric's head, the book just flew by. I like having control over what I create, so I never thought I could have so much fun playing with someone else's toys, but man! It was a blast.

Oh, and I also learned that Wolverine doesn't smoke cigars any more. I had no idea.

NRAMA: Darn it – he has a healing factor!

BL: That was always the explanation I had been told, back in the day. But I understand that Marvel has an official anti-smoking policy of some sort, which is probably a good thing for the age group I was targeting anyway.

NRAMA: What was the most fun part of working on this book?

BL: It's so much fun to be able to write a story where people throw each other around the room and beat each other up! Wolverine starts with the Brotherhood attacking the school, so I just plunged right in.

I think for me the most gratifying part of the experience was being able to have fun and play with those crazy super-hero elements, while never losing the voice and the characterization I've become known for. I was worried that by go whole-hog with the fantasy stuff, I might lose something, might end up with some shallower. But it all dove-tailed quite nicely and worked out so well. I'm usually my harshest critic, but I'm just enormously pleased with this book.

NRAMA: Will you be doing anything else for Marvel in the near future?

BL: Not unless they call me. This one came completely out of the blue. I had always been interested in doing something in comics, but I've been so busy that I really back-burnered it. So when this happened, it was just a great opportunity. If this one does well, maybe there will be more down the line.

NRAMA: Now, you’re going to be revisiting Fanboy and Goth Girl in Goth Girl Rising. How’s that book coming along?

BL: Ah, Goth Girl Rising... It's going really well. It's in the production phase right now, so at some point soon I'll get my final pass at the pages before it goes to press. It really came out so different from what I'd originally envisaged, but I'm incredibly happy with it. I never thought I would write a sequel to my first book, but Kyra just wouldn't shut up.

For people who liked the first book, I think the second one will really blow them away. And, of course, for the comic book fans out there, there is once again a metric ton of comic book references.

It'll be out this fall, and I can't wait.

NRAMA: How’s the film version of Fanboy and Goth Girl moving along?

BL: It's moving along with Hollywood's usual rapidity. Which is to say, slowly. I saw a draft of the screenplay, which is a very strange experience because there were huge chunks lifted straight from the book, then -- suddenly -- a whole scene I'd had nothing to do with. But it was really funny and it might even be geekier than the book, which I didn't think was possible.

NRAMA: What else are you working on?

BL: I've got a three-book series that will start next year, but it's too early to talk about it in detail. I think comic book fans will really get into it, though -- it has a lot of comic book elements to it.

I'm also working on a fantasy series to shop around, and then I'll be working on my next young adult novel.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I have a short story coming out in this summer in an anthology titled Geektastic. I'm keeping busy!

NRAMA: How did you fit your Wolverine book into your busy schedule?

BL: It was sort of serendipitous for me, actually. I was just getting into the fantasy series and thinking about details for the next year's series. Both of these series are more plot-driven and definitely have more action and fantastic elements. So when Wolverine came along, I was already in that mode, and I was able just to jump in.

NRAMA: Finally – there are a lot of novelists doing comics these days. What do you feel that a prose novelist can bring to a sequential story, and vice-versa?

BL: That's a tough one, because I'm answering from the outside. (The only comic book work I've done recently is a short story in the book Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?) But from my perspective, I would say that I think the novel format lends itself to introspection, to a degree.

A novel is all about demolishing the distance between the character and the reader -- reading is a very intimate experience because it all happens in your imagination. Novelists, I think, generally bring a deep understanding of character to comics as a result. The trick is how to apply those lessons without overwhelming the artwork or making your letterer want to kill himself. Some are good at that particular balancing act and some aren't.

Every kind of writing is superficially similar, but every kind of writing is also different once you scratch the surface. So there are lessons to be learned when commuting from one discipline to another.

Wolverine: Worst Day Ever claws its ways into bookstores and comic shops this April.

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