Since 2008, Mike Perkins has been illustrating Marvel’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand. That series is currently between arcs, with No Man’s Land starting in January, giving an opportunity to the Union Jack and House of M: Avengers artist to step back into the Marvel Universe with the one-shot Thor: Wolves of the North.
This isn’t the present-day Thor from the Matt Fraction-written ongoing series — it’s Thor in the Dark Ages, fighting demon hordes unleashed on Earth by Hela. For the comic, Perkins is reunited with his friend and longtime collaborator Mike Carey, whom he previously worked with on titles from Marvel’s Spellbinders miniseries to 1997’s Dr. Faustus for Caliber.
Newsarama talked to Carey about Thor: Wolves of the North in an article published on Monday, and chatted with Pekins via e-mail about returning to the Marvel Universe, reuniting with Carey and making Hela "enticing yet terrifying."
Newsarama: Mike, Wolves of the North came during a break for you from stint on Marvel's adaptation of The Stand. Was it nice to be back working in the more "fantastic" world of the Marvel Universe, even for a one-shot?
Mike Perkins: Well, it wasn’t so much a break as a need for a breather. I love illustrating The Stand — it’s a dream project — but it’s nice to be able to step away for a few minutes and refresh your palette with something that’s a little bit different. I was looking for something bombastic with lots of action and Thor seemed to promise that to me.
Nrama: You've got a lengthy resume in comics with a variety of publishers, but unless I'm mistaken, this is your first work on Thor as the main character of a comic. Is he a character you had been hoping to get a chance to illustrate for a while?
Perkins: I remember a fair few years back when Warren Ellis was writing Thor and I put together a couple of pages of samples for Marvel with the character. I’ve always liked the visual aspect of Thor, the chance to play with something that’s outside of the usual sandbox. Anything that can push my abilities is always enticing to me as a creator so, yes, the God of Thunder is a character I’ve been hoping to tackle for a while.
Nrama: On that note, Wolves of the North isn't just Thor, it's Thor in full Dark Ages/Norse Viking mode. Is this era of Thor especially appealing to you? Maybe more than the present day Marvel Universe Thor?
Perkins: Visually speaking – YES! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy illustrating the everyday aspects of modern life — I do so every month in The Stand — but the striking visual aspects of that period in time are stunning. It’s a chance to explore textures in different ways – an opportunity to revel in the reference material referring to that era and a chance to use the imagination in representing the protagonists of the piece.
Nrama: Given that, is this take on Thor a bit more challenging (and perhaps also more fun) for you from an artist's perspective, since you're illustrating things completely from myth and imagination, rather than any degree of reflection on the "real world"? What inspires you along the way on a project like this?
Perkins: With Wolves of The North we’re pretty much dealing with a “real-world” setting — albeit one from many centuries ago….with demon hordes…so I’d say that there IS a degree of reflection on reality. Certain things are exaggerated a little but I’ve tried to keep this particular story grounded and it goes without saying that Mike Carey’s scripts always inspire me on my way!
Nrama: The antagonist in this story is Hela, a character with a long history in the Marvel Universe and adapted from myth — what was your approach to rendering her?
Perkins: The Vikings, for the most part, were fearless — even in the face of death. Their perception of death was Valhalla… a perception of carousing and fighting — in a way they were in love with death. Hela, as a personification of death, should be as equally enticing and yet slightly terrifying. To this end there’s, well, less costume… to put it mildly. That’s extra enticement right there.
Nrama: Other than Thor, are there any other familiar Asgardians might we expect to see in the issue?
Perkins: Unfortunately, Mike and I didn’t get the chance to play with the Asgardian settings in this tale — it’s firmly rooted on Midgard — maybe for a follow up one-shot we can get to play with the Kirby toys. I’m definitely up for that!
Nrama: Wolves of the North was also a reunion for you with writer Mike Carey, who you've worked with on multiple projects. How was re-teaming with Carey, and in what ways has your working rapport changed over the years?
Perkins: I’d asked for Mike specifically for this story. I had no idea that he would even be interested in writing any Thor story but I knew deep down that he’d be a perfect fit for it. For this particular tale I sent Mike a list of things and images I’d love to see in a story involving Thor and he, pretty much, crammed everything in there. I think, due to working on various projects with each other before, we’ve learned to trust each other’s sensibilities and abilities. I always know that Mike’s going to challenge me and I hope I bring that same sense of possibility when I approach him with these crazy ideas.
Nrama: The Asgardian setting must be loaded with visual potential — could you tease an especially striking image that readers have to look forward to when the comic hits stands this week?
Perkins: I’m particularly fond of my Hela, but from a visual smorgasbord I’d probably choose the demonic hordes and the demon king, in particular, as something for the readers to be eager to see.
Nrama: And with Wolves of the North out imminently, you're back to working on The Stand, with the next part of that starting in January. How's that going, and is there anything else you’re working on that folks should know about?
Perkins: The Stand is thundering along wonderfully. We’re into the last stretch now and the finale is picking up momentum. It’s a great project to be working on and will be a fantastic volume of work when it’s all completed. There’s also the inks that I’m wrapping up over George Perez on the Titans: Games graphic novel, the cover work on Hawkeye: Blindspot and Power Man and Iron Fist, the inking on a few pages of an upcoming issue of Fantastic Four and an ongoing column I’m writing in Comic Heroes magazine.
Intrigued by this one-shot?