Ron Garney on Drawing Wolverine: Weapon X
Garney on Wolverine: Weapon X
Artist Ron Garney and writer Jason Aaron will get another crack at Wolverine as the new series launches just in time for the release of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie in May. The new Wolverine series launch echoes a similar move by Marvel this past summer when the launch of Invincible Iron Man was timed with the release of that character's movie.
Garney and Aaron worked together on Wolverine last year during the four-issue “Get Mystique” arc that began with Wolverine #62. But now, with an ongoing series, the creators will get a little more room to stretch as they work to create a new Wolverine title that will welcome new readers while entertaining the character's existing fans. Although these new stories "count" in regular Marvel continuity and will reference it from time to time, Aaron told Newsarama in December that the comic will also work to introduce new characters and concepts along with the old, establishing what Aaron calls its "own continuity, instead of mining Logan's past."
Newsarama talked to Ron Garney about why the artist wanted another chance to draw Wolverine, why he wanted to work on it with Jason Aaron in particular, and why he thinks Marvel has given this creative team their own Wolverine title.
Newsarama: You've already done a story arc on Wolverine with Jason Aaron. It's finished. You moved on to do something else, and you've got opportunities to do other things at Marvel. Why return to this character so soon?
Ron Garney: If you were to ask me if I was going to go back to another character like the Hulk or someone else, I probably would have said no, because you kind of get your fill of them after a while. I'm always impressed with guys like [Mark] Bagley who did 500 issues of Spider-Man or some crazy number like that. And I don't know if I could do that. I'd have to really love it.
But I can say that Wolverine is one of the characters that I had liked from the beginning and always wanted to draw as a regular character, and I never really was able to. So when Jason came along and they asked me to do that last arc, to my surprise, it was so much fun to read the script and I had a great time working on it. And I loved the character anyway. So going back to it was a no-brainer. I really didn't get the chance to do much in that arc anyway.
RG: Well, I just like his attitude. He's a tough dude, and I like the idea of him and what he represents being a human weapon with all these abilities. And I don't want to make this too much about my personality or anything, but I probably can identify .... OK, now I'm starting to sound corny [laughs]... but I can identify with his loner sort of mentality. I don't know. There's just something about it I gravitate toward. And usually when you gravitate toward a character, there's something you identify with. I'd probably have to sit for awhile and really think into what it is. But that's probably why he interests me.
NRAMA: OK, that's what you like about the character as a fan, but what do you like about him as an artist?
RG: I've just always liked the visual. I liked the Hulk for that reason when I was drawing him. It's a great visual -- a great big green monster. If you can't have fun drawing something, you shouldn't do it. If you just don't click with it right away. That's one thing I've learned now. If something instinctively tells you you're not going to be into it, then don't do it. You're not going to do it well.
NRAMA: And the reason you love drawing Wolverine?
RG: Well, he's sort of an animal. It cannot be a real refined aesthetic. He's animalistic, and some part of you has to tap into that. And as an artist, when you draw these characters, you have to act them to some degree. You have to kind of be an actor. You sit there and kind of get into their skin. And so it really makes the difference in the fun you have in drawing the character if that's a place you really want to visit. You have to be able to get into this character's skin. I know it sounds very "thespian" [laughs]. I don't mean to sound all lofty.
NRAMA: No, it's something I hear a lot from writers who work in both TV/movies and comic books. They talk about their scripts usually taking a hundred or more people to make them come alive, where with comics, it's just one person -- the artist -- who makes it come alive. So it makes sense that you fulfill that role of actor. You're the costume designer, set designer, visual effects editor, cinematographer and actor.
RG: Well, that's exactly right. But it just proves that it better be something you really want to do. But what I mean by acting is that I have to think, how does his eyes look if he's saying this line? I have to pull out the emotion in his face and his body language.
An artist could run into the trap where you start drawing everybody exactly the same, and the faces all look the same, because it's easier to act out all the individual characters and their personalities if you're just dealing with the same face. What tends to happen is artists draw similar faces on everybody, and the reader actually projects onto the character, because of the cues from the words, what the emotions are at that moment. It's kind of like the yellow smiley face from the '60s. You have a yellow circle with two dots and a curved line, and the reason everybody can identify with it is that you project yourself on it. The simpler the face, the more you project your own personality on it. In comic books, you can go down that road and just draw very simple faces on everybody and let the reader project the words onto the faces. Or you can choose to draw and really differentiate the faces and really create the person and the emotions.
And I'm one of those guys who really enjoys doing that. I tend to get in there and try to act out each character and draw those emotions on their face. And to do that, you have to act it out. It's a much more complex thing than a lot of people understand.
NRAMA: And with Wolverine, it's probably more of a challenge because his reactions aren't varied, are they? I mean, you don't see him with a big smile on his face very often.
RG: Yeah, good point. I can't think of any time I've seen him laughing hysterically about something. I should talk to Jason about that. We should go down that road at some point, to just see what that would be like. [laughs] Take a risk and explore that territory.
RG: Well, let's face it. Comics in general don't have a whole lot of range in emotions. Most of the guys are grim and there's always fighting. There's always conflict, for the most part. Heroes are always fighting for us and kicking ass to protect everybody else, so they're fairly grim a lot. Unless you're Peter Parker, which I think is what makes him fairly interesting. He's always running his mouth off and cracking jokes while he's doing it, and he's fairly light-hearted even in the worst situations. Not light-hearted -- I shouldn't say that -- but he keeps his cool by keeping his levity. So he's sort of interesting in that regard, while other guys just keep their cool by being cool. They know how to let out their aggression, and it works to their advantage. But yeah, I suppose Wolverine could be more of a challenge because of that. And maybe that's why I enjoy it so much, because of that challenge of getting into his head and finding those little nuances that bring out his personality.
NRAMA: Now that we know why you enjoy the character enough to return to Wolverine, why work with Jason Aaron again? Why was working with this writer something you wanted to do out of all your options at Marvel?
RG: Well, Jason and I had talked about working together again. Our Mystique run was only, what? Four issues? And it was fun. There are just certain guys you click with. I don't think I've clicked with a guy quite as well just in terms of working with his scripts. I clicked well with Mark Waid that way. I mean, I've worked with lots of guys and enjoyed it. But there are just certain guys you work really well with. It's not a personality thing. It's just that their scripts are tailored in a way that works well with your sensibilities as an artist. With Mark Waid, it was different because he wrote plots back then. So I was able to break down the stories in my own way, which was honed by a number of years in the business working from plots. So I had developed my own particular musical sense of arranging the panels and timing and things like that.
Now I don't really have the luxury of that because it's not full script. Scripts in general haven't been as much fun for me because part of the fun was creating that timing and doing that kind of storytelling. So, I don't know, something about Jason's scripts work for me in that regard, in that I'm able to flex a little bit of that muscle that I had developed all those years ago. And it's rare that you get to work with a guy like that, whose style works for your style.
It was a success too. Doing the Mystique run seemed to be pretty successful, and it was a lot of fun. I think that's what made it successful was that it was fun to read, and it was fun to draw. So who wouldn't want to go back to that?
And Jason's a great guy. I actually had breakfast with him in New York, and it was the first time we'd met in person. It was very relaxed and we just had a good time joking around and talking about Wolverine. We seemed to be on the same page.
NRAMA: Let's talk about the fact that this is a second Wolverine series. You've seen the first script from Jason. Is this series going to offer something different from the regular Wolverine ongoing? Or is it just another chance to get Wolverine out there in another book by another creative team in time for the movie?
RG: No, I think that would be a very gratuitous mistake to make for Marvel to do that and say, "Oh, let's just throw another Wolverine book out there." And I don't think they're only thinking in terms of that.
I think when you get a writer like Jason Aaron, who's getting so much buzz right now, you don't want to waste that talent, especially with someone who's writing the way he's writing right now. He's always wanted to write Wolverine. And so far, the stories he's written are good stories. It's a good track record. He hasn't written one yet that's been poorly written.
I think with this particular book, after having worked on the first script and getting ready to start on the second one, what's different about it is the sense of adventure. We've had how many years now of his origins and the whole Weapon X thing? Now it's like, well, now let's see some of the missions he's been on and focus on the stories. Focus on the adventure. We all know this guy. We know where he came from. The mystery's solved. So now let's just tell some really cool stories about him. And that's what makes this different, along with the fact that it's a really good writer. You can't really go wrong with that combination.