BILL WILLINGHAM Explores Marvel Mythology in WARRIORS THREE

WILLINGHAM Explores Marvel Mythology

As the writer of the Eisner Award-winning series Fables, Bill Willingham has enchanted readers by weaving ancient mythology with modern tales.

Now the writer brings that talent to the mythology of the Marvel Universe in Warriors Three, the four-issue mini-series that begins this week.

In the first part of a lengthy interview with the writer, Newsarama talked with Willingham about the mini-series to find out more about his work for Marvel and what readers will learn in Warriors Three.

Newsarama: Bill, did you pitch the idea for this, because this seems really ideal for you. Or was this something Marvel came up with and offered to you?

Bill Willingham: Both. What happened is that Ken Levin, who's my agent, went to Marvel on some other business and mentioned to them that "Willingham's available," not for an ongoing, but any special projects they might have.

They said, "Well, we've got the Thor movie coming up, and we want to capitalize on that, so we have several Thor projects in mind. How about Bill takes his pick of whichever of these he wants to do?"

 

They had a list of about six different possibilities. One of them is already being done, which is Thor: Year One, a re-working of the very first year of Thor, of Don Blake finding the hammer and stuff. I didn't pick that, but they got Bryan Glass, who's the writer of The Mice Templar and is doing a wonderful job on that.

I would have loved to have done Thor: Year One, but I thought they were offering raw Norse legends, as in, way back when Vikings were still running around on long boats and invading England and stuff, and we'd have the very first year of Thor as a kid in history. Like maybe the first year he gets his hammer or something. I would have loved that. But no, no, they were doing the modern version where Don Blake discovers the hammer and gets himself out of a sticky situation. That's also cool, but wouldn't have been as fun as being able to do just the raw mythology.

But among the list, they had something to do with Warriors Three, since they show up in the Thor movie. It was open-ended, as long as it involved the Warriors Three and showed off their Asgardian take on the Three Musketeers. I leapt at the chance to do that. It seemed tailor made for me.

Nrama: Are you getting to go back to those early days in your story about the Warriors Three?

Willingham: Yes, I am! It has a pretty extended flashback to the early days, because there's a lot of the raw, original mythology that feeds into this and ties into the big, terrible incident that happens in modern times that our three heroes have to deal with.

 

Nrama: I was wondering if this took place in the modern Marvel Universe, because aren't the Warriors Three running a diner?

Willingham: Yeah, they were hanging out in the Oklahoma area. Volstagg pitched in as chef.

I don't ignore that. Asgard is still in Oklahoma. And it's now in pretty bad shape because of incidents that happened in Siege.

Nrama: The flashback is obviously set within Asgard, but does the story take place in Oklahoma?

Willingham: No, but it starts there. We're going to explore all sorts of places we've seen before in Marvel Comics, but now we're going to get a little more of the mythological significance of all these different places.

When we first see the Warriors Three, they're deeply involved in showing the type of characters they are in the Oklahoma area. Volstagg is at an all-you-can-eat place, Fandral is with one of his human mistresses, and Hogun is, of course, being grim and grumpy, because that's his thing.

 

And then the inciting incident happens that causes them to spring into action.

Nrama: What else might we see in the flashback scenes of Asgard?

Willingham: In the flashback, we get to see how they became fast friends for the first time. Right after Thor gets the hammer for the first time and becomes the pre-eminent giant-killer in Asgard, we see Volstagg, Fandral and Hogun meet for the first time. And by the way, Hogun is not Hogun the grim back then.

Of course, with these three, their first meeting has to be the result of a drunken bet, which leads to disaster and hilarity ensues.

Nrama: Did they all know Thor?

Willingham: Yes. Volstagg has known Thor and is allowed to hang out with him at the big seat in front of the hall already. Fandral is a young, over-confident guy who's perhaps a little jealous that he doesn't get to pal around with Thor.

Hogun, I don't want to give it away, but he's not that well known.

But yes, it's their first meeting -- the three of them. It's the Warrior Three series. Thor appears in it, but he's not a prominent player in the story.

Nrama: We've talked about how this is similar to your work on Fables. But how is this different from that series?

 

Willingham: It is very different from Fables. This is high-testosterone, manly man stuff. So yes, it's not going to be all talking heads or predominantly talking heads like Fables is.

It's lots of battles. Lots of warrior culture stuff. Boys being boys. And there is interaction between the three of them, of course, but it's like the interaction of the Three Musketeers. There's going to be some humor there, just based on the type of people they are.

And along the way we'll find out why Fandral is a drunkard and a womanizer, we're going to find out why Hogun the Grim isn't Hogun the Jolly Fellow instead, and why we have the big, mighty Volstagg.

Nrama: What's it been like working with Neil Edwards on this story?

Willingham: Neil's artwork is so perfectly mirroring what's there that I can't think of enough nice things to say about it. Every time I get some artwork, it's like getting Christmas. You can write things down, like "these vast armies engage," but boy this poor bastard that has to draw that... he's not cheating by doing a close-up by the left nostril of one warrior as they attack. He's willing to draw any sinister or diabolical thing I'm prepared to put on the page.

Nrama: Most people aren't used to seeing you work at Marvel, although I looked up your bibliography, and apparently you worked on an X-Men Unlimited issue.

Willingham: I did one X-Men Unlimited story for Marvel before DC offered me the first six years of exclusivity. So even though I had talked with Marvel about continuing to do some writing for them, that of course got truncated. Now that I'm no longer exclusive, I started testing the water again.

 

I wanted to do one cool project with them before I disappear into some big projects that I've been wanting to work on for some years now.

Nrama: The Warriors Three, and the situations you're talking about writing in this mini-series, sound so similar to the type of things you explore in Fables. Are you just naturally drawn to these types of stories, that are based in a world of ancient mythology?

Willingham: Oh yeah. As a matter of fact, the Marvel editors had been getting a little nervous that it was taking me awhile to get them the first pages, but there was no way I was going to do an Asgard series without teaching myself the Norse language.

The one thing we learn about Thor and Odin and everyone is that everything they own has a name and history and purpose. Comic readers are familiar with Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. So we could not approach this without.... you know, Hogun has his mace and Fandral and Volstagg each have their swords, and of course, each one of those has its own name and history and purpose. I can't remember, off the top of my head, the Norse name of Fandral's blade, but it translates as "The Winter Ghost," because it's destined to feature prominently in the three-year winter that will precedes Ragnarok, so it's like the ghost at the end of times.

Every single thing in Norse legend — even things we're making up for Marvel Comics — has to have its own history and legend and purpose.

And that was the wonderful part of doing this, was getting to steep myself into Norse mythology.

It's just been a joy to work on, and it's exactly the sort of sandbox I need to be playing in.

By Vaneta Rogers

As the writer of the Eisner Award-winning series , Bill Willingham has enchanted readers by weaving ancient mythology with modern tales.

Now the writer brings that talent to the mythology of the Marvel Universe in Warriors Three, the four-issue mini-series that begins this week.

In the first part of a lengthy interview with the writer, Newsarama talked with Willingham about the mini-series to find out more about his work for Marvel and what readers will learn in Warriors Three.

Newsarama: Bill, did you pitch the idea for this, because this seems really ideal for you. Or was this something Marvel came up with and offered to you?

Bill Willingham: Both. What happened is that Ken Levin, who's my agent, went to Marvel on some other business and mentioned to them that "Willingham's available," not for an ongoing, but any special projects they might have.

They said, "Well, we've got the movie coming up, and we want to capitalize on that, so we have several Thor projects in mind. How about Bill takes his pick of whichever of these he wants to do?"

They had a list of about six different possibilities. One of them is already being done, which is Thor: Year One, a re-working of the very first year of Thor, of Don Blake finding the hammer and stuff. I didn't pick that, but they got Bryan Glass, who's the writer of and is doing a wonderful job on that.

I would have loved to have done Thor: Year One, but I thought they were offering raw Norse legends, as in, way back when Vikings were still running around on long boats and invading England and stuff, and we'd have the very first year of Thor as a kid in history. Like maybe the first year he gets his hammer or something. I would have loved that. But no, no, they were doing the modern version where Don Blake discovers the hammer and gets himself out of a sticky situation. That's also cool, but wouldn't have been as fun as being able to do just the raw mythology.

But among the list, they had something to do with Warriors Three, since they show up in the movie. It was open-ended, as long as it involved the Warriors Three and showed off their Asgardian take on the Three Musketeers. I leapt at the chance to do that. It seemed tailor made for me.

Nrama: Are you getting to go back to those early days in your story about the Warriors Three?

Willingham: Yes, I am! It has a pretty extended flashback to the early days, because there's a lot of the raw, original mythology that feeds into this and ties into the big, terrible incident that happens in modern times that our three heroes have to deal with.

Nrama: I was wondering if this took place in the modern Marvel Universe, because aren't the Warriors Three running a diner?

Willingham: Yeah, they were hanging out in the Oklahoma area. Volstagg pitched in as chef.

I don't ignore that. Asgard is still in Oklahoma. And it's now in pretty bad shape because of incidents that happened in .

Nrama: The flashback is obviously set within Asgard, but does the story take place in Oklahoma?

Willingham: No, but it starts there. We're going to explore all sorts of places we've seen before in Marvel Comics, but now we're going to get a little more of the mythological significance of all these different places.

When we first see the Warriors Three, they're deeply involved in showing the type of characters they are in the Oklahoma area. Volstagg is at an all-you-can-eat place, Fandral is with one of his human mistresses, and Hogun is, of course, being grim and grumpy, because that's his thing.

And then the inciting incident happens that causes them to spring into action.

Nrama: What else might we see in the flashback scenes of Asgard?

Willingham: In the flashback, we get to see how they became fast friends for the first time. Right after Thor gets the hammer for the first time and becomes the pre-eminent giant-killer in Asgard, we see Volstagg, Fandral and Hogun meet for the first time. And by the way, Hogun is Hogun the grim back then.

Of course, with these three, their first meeting has to be the result of a drunken bet, which leads to disaster and hilarity ensues.

Nrama: Did they all know Thor?

Willingham: Yes. Volstagg has known Thor and is allowed to hang out with him at the big seat in front of the hall already. Fandral is a young, over-confident guy who's perhaps a little jealous that he doesn't get to pal around with Thor.

Hogun, I don't want to give it away, but he's not that well known.

But yes, it's their first meeting -- the three of them. It's the Warrior Three series. Thor appears in it, but he's not a prominent player in the story.

Newsarama: We've talked about how this is similar to your work on . But how is this different from that series?

Bill Willingham: It is very different from . This is high-testosterone, manly man stuff. So yes, it's not going to be all talking heads or predominantly talking heads like is.

It's lots of battles. Lots of warrior culture stuff. Boys being boys. And there interaction between the three of them, of course, but it's like the interaction of the Three Musketeers. There's going to be some humor there, just based on the type of people they are.

And along the way we'll find out why Fandral is a drunkard and a womanizer, we're going to find out why Hogun the Grim isn't Hogun the Jolly Fellow instead, and why we have the big, mighty Volstagg.

Nrama: What's it been like working with Neil Edwards on this story?

Willingham: Neil's artwork is so perfectly mirroring what's there that I can't think of enough nice things to say about it. Every time I get some artwork, it's like getting Christmas. You can write things down, like "these vast armies engage," but boy this poor bastard that has to draw that... he's not cheating by doing a close-up by the left nostril of one warrior as they attack. He's willing to draw any sinister or diabolical thing I'm prepared to put on the page.

Newsarama: Most people aren't used to seeing you work at Marvel, although I looked up your bibliography, and apparently you worked on an X-Men Unlimited issue.

Willingham: I did one X-Men Unlimited story for Marvel before DC offered me the first six years of exclusivity. So even though I had talked with Marvel about continuing to do some writing for them, that of course got truncated. Now that I'm no longer exclusive, I started testing the water again.

I wanted to do one cool project with them before I disappear into some big projects that I've been wanting to work on for some years now.

Nrama: The Warriors Three, and the situations you're talking about writing in this mini-series, sound so similar to the type of things you explore in . Are you just naturally drawn to these types of stories, that are based in a world of ancient mythology?

Willingham: Oh yeah. As a matter of fact, the Marvel editors had been getting a little nervous that it was taking me awhile to get them the first pages, but there was no way I was going to do an Asgard series without teaching myself the Norse language.

The one thing we learn about Thor and Odin and everyone is that everything they own has a name and history and purpose. Comic readers are familiar with Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. So we could not approach this without.... you know, Hogun has his mace and Fandral and Volstagg each have their swords, and of course, each one of those has its own name and history and purpose. I can't remember, off the top of my head, the Norse name of Fandral's blade, but it translates as "The Winter Ghost," because it's destined to feature prominently in the three-year winter that will precedes Ragnarok, so it's like the ghost at the end of times.

Every single thing in Norse legend — even things we're making up for Marvel Comics — has to have its own history and legend and purpose.

And that was the wonderful part of doing this, was getting to steep myself into Norse mythology.

It's just been a joy to work on, and it's exactly the sort of sandbox I need to be playing in.

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