X-23.While the female clone of Wolverine has been building a relationship as part of the ultra-secret X-Force black ops squad, there are plenty of standalone stories to be told about the girl named Laura -- tales that will be told in a new ongoing series beginning in September. And perhaps the best writer to do it? The one who brought X-23 to comics: Marjorie Liu. And with Wolverine taken over by an unseen assailant, Laura has a lot to cope with -- can she be the best there is at what we do? We caught up with Liu to talk about who Laura is, what her appeal is for her own series, and exactly what's in a name when it comes to that most mysterious of X-Men.
Newsarama: Marjorie, it's interesting that you're working on this book as well as Dark Wolverine -- in a lot of ways, two sides of the same coin. How did you end up scoring this claw-heavy arrangement?
Marjorie Liu: Almost two years ago my editor, John Barber, asked me to write a one-shot for X-23 -- partially to promote NYX, which I was working on at the time. That project fell to the wayside, but returned to life in late 2009 under my current editor, Jeanine Schaefer. I'm not certain how long the X-Office had been mulling the X-23 ongoing, but after I turned in the one-shot, I was invited to write the continuing series.
Nrama: Now, when you joined up on Dark Wolverine, you helped take a character that wasn't very well known -- in this case, Daken -- and made him into a character that many have seen as one of the breakout villains of 2009. In his case as well as the case of X-23, what do you feel is the most important thing to have as a writer in terms of making their stories successful and resonant with readers?
Liu: On a general level -- treating this as a broad question about the craft of writing -- I think one key to telling a good story is retaining a particular empathy for your characters. You have to get in their heads -- or rather, get into your own head, and place yourself inside lives that don't belong to you. Doesn't matter if those characters are lab-made weapons or psychopaths with mohawks -- you find that common human element (pride, loneliness, desire) and run with it.
Nrama: X-23 has had a decent run as a supporting character in the X-Force series, but as a single character, she hasn't been quite as defined as a three-dimensional human being. For you, what's the appeal of a character like her?
Liu: I don't even know where to start. She's so damaged, and yet, despite all the terrible things that have happened to her, she's retained a particular compassion and dignity that is truly remarkable. She's ruthless, don't get me wrong -- but she has a primal sense of right and wrong that comes straight from the gut. I've heard some describe her as a robot, but I think the opposite is true: Laura feels too much, more than she can process or understand, and so she stuffs those emotions down. I think she's scared of feeling anything, because what she's endured is so tragic and awful...it's safer not to feel, to be still and quiet on the inside.
Problem is, you can't hide your heart forever. Something has gotta give.
Nrama: Something else that is particularly interesting is the darkness behind X-23's origin, much of which you helped introduce with NYX -- namely, the elements of control and dehumanization, whether that's her past as being abusively groomed into a living weapon or even living on the streets as a prostitute. First and foremost -- will you be returning to any of these themes in this book? And as a writer, how do you approach that sort of subject matter, in terms of walking that fine line between making it powerful and compelling and not making it something trivialized?
Liu: It's a very fine line. I hammered the issue home in the one-shot, as I considered that to be a character study -- and Laura's past is very much a part of what shaped her character. There's a risk, though, of going too far. The key to approaching that kind of subject matter, I believe, is to do so only when appropriate and necessary -- and then, delicately. I don't want to turn Laura into a victim, because she's not. She's tough, a survivor, unbroken -- capable of compassion and helping others, despite (or because of) what happened to her. That's to be admired, and one of the things I love about her character.
So yes, I'll be returning to those darker themes, but not in a heavy-handed manner. Only enough to show where Laura has been, where she is, and where she's going.
Nrama: With the newly-formed "Wolverine hub" of the Marvel Universe, it seems like a lot of stories will be revolving around what's happening to Wolverine -- namely, his soul being in Hell and his body being controlled for nefarious means. It says here in the solicits that X-23 is going to have to "step up to fill his shoes" -- what does that mean? Is she hunting down her predecessor? Or is she taking his place in the X-Men as the best there is at what she does?
Liu: Laura isn't taking Logan's place on the X-Men team. If she's filling his shoes in any way, it's to follow his example of heroism against incredible odds, in the service of friends. She's going to try and help Wolverine. No matter the cost.
Nrama: So much about stories that tie into teams is the idea of relationships and character dynamics. How much of the other X-Men will we be seeing here? What do people on Utopia think of this quiet girl with the Adamantium claws? How about Wolverine himself? Will you be working out a new niche in the relationship between the original Canucklehead and his female clone?
Liu: The first arc will certainly involve Wolverine, though I haven't hammered out the specifics. Certainly, I'll be fleshing out their relationship -- in this arc, and in future ones -- although I should emphasize that it won't be the main focus of the ongoing. Instead, Laura will often be on her own, journeying on her own, learning how to live on her own -- with a small supporting cast of regulars who pop in and out. Former X-Men, mostly, who are drawn to her despite a (perhaps wise) desire to keep their distance. As for what the people on Utopia think of her? No doubt they consider her to be quiet, a little strange, and very dangerous. But I'm not too worried about what they think. Laura won't be hanging around Utopia.
Nrama: Touching upon that -- any X-cameos or supporting characters in the mix? Are there any mutants that you've been particularly excited to write, outside of your lead?
Liu: Oh, yes. There are several who will act as mentors to Laura, but none I want to name at this point.
Nrama: That said, there's that adage that a hero is only as strong as her villains -- so in that regard, are there any names you can give us of people X-23 might be taking on in the pages of her ongoing series? Are you planning on using more traditional X-villains, or will you be bringing on a whole new stable of villains for our hero to take on?
Liu: I won't be inventing anyone new for her to tackle -- there are enough bad guys already in the Marvel universe! And some of the good guys aren't all that great, either. Laura will have her hands full right off the bat.
Nrama: Y'know, the most popular heroes out there end up getting nicknames -- you think Wolverine, you have "the Ol' Canucklehead" and "Weapon X," you've got Deadpool as "the Merc with a Mouth," Spider-Man as "Wallcrawler," "Webhead," and "Your Friendly Neighborhood Webslinger"... as someone who could easily be called one of X-23's "parents" for the comic book world, you want to save some future writers some hyphenates and give a whirl at what sort of nickname she should end up going by as her series rolls on?
Liu: She's Laura, plain and simple. Maybe "X" to some, and "X-23" to others. But to me, she's always been a girl named Laura, and that's what is going to stick inside my head as I write her story