Last week, Rob Williams (Cla$$war, Shadowland: Ghost Rider) was announced as the new writer of Daken: Dark Wolverine as of late April's Daken: Dark Wolverine #9.1, taking over from the previous team of Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu.Daken is a relatively new character in the Marvel Universe, having been introduced by Way in the pages of Wolverine Origins #10 back in the faraway year of 2007, but as the sexually ambiguous psycho killer son of Wolverine, there's clearly a lot to explore. Though we don't know yet what artist will be joining Williams come April, Newsarama talked with the writer via e-mail about what he likes about Daken, getting his first ongoing series at Marvel, the title character's move to Los Angeles and the tendency for bad guys to go good when they star in their own comic. Newsarama: Rob, if I'm not mistaken, this is your first ongoing series assignment at Marvel Comics. How meaningful is that for you in your writing career?
Rob Williams: Very, as you can imagine. I've written ongoings for Dark Horse and Dynamite in the past (Star Wars: Rebellion and Robocop), but this is the first time for me at Marvel. There's a certain amount of career profile that goes with that. You're getting your work in front of that many more readers, which is a nice thing for a writer. But it's not just about a step up. I've loved Marvel comics since I was little, it's a treat to play in the shared Marvel universe and, as with writing any of these icons, if you'd told me years previously I'd be detailing the ongoing path of Wolverine's son, I'd have needed a sit down and a deep breath. If you're writing for Marvel you probably have a long association with their world. So this is thrilling for me on several levels.
Nrama: And Daken is definitely a unique book — starring someone that's only been around for a couple of years, but one who shares history with one of Marvel's most iconic characters, not to mention that the main character is most decidedly not a hero. What attracted you to the book?
Williams: The fact that Daken's a relatively young Marvel character coupled with him being a sociopathic killer gives you a load of freedom to tell stories that maybe you can't tell with a lot of Marvel characters. The landscape is darker, certainly, and there's less a feeling of status quo. Also, the stakes are immediately very high. Any time Daken walks into a room you don't know if the other people in this scene are getting out alive. Daken's a character that lends itself to noir, which is a genre I really enjoy. We want to make this a hard-boiled crime fiction book within the Marvel Universe.
Nrama: From what we know so far about your run, Daken is going to be headed to Los Angeles. Between this comic and the upcoming Moon Knight series, it looks like a lot of Marvel books are straying from the traditional setting of New York City and heading west. What makes LA the right place for Daken right now — and as a British writer, how much experience have you had with the unique culture of Los Angeles?
Williams: LA suits Daken because, again, in Marvel terms, it's a pretty young and fresh setting. We all know the amount of Marvel action that takes place in New York. So if we wanted to set Daken up as an ambitious up-and-coming crime boss in New York we suddenly have Wilson Fisk and Shadowland and Spider-Man and Daredevil, etc., to deal with. From a logistical standpoint too, that would involve us checking our stories and interworking them with 14 different editorial teams at Marvel.
We wanted to give Daken a fresh start, both personally and aesthetically, and it's amazing to me how little Marvel action seems to take place on the west coast. OK, there's been West Coast Avengers, The Champions, Runaways, but it's largely ignored. Daken wants to become a star, and you go to Hollywood for that. Plus, Daken's smart. He knows his power base isn't strong enough yet to take on the Kingpins of this world. He has to build. And Los Angeles seems relatively unprotected and there for the taking.
As for my personal experience of LA, I flew into LAX once and took the train down to San Diego for Comic-Con. So plainly I've lived these storylines first hand. Luckily, writers can get away with research via novels, books and TV. [Laughs.] I like the setting in a lot of ways. Not least that it's the City of Angels. That's a great place to take the battle for someone's soul.
Nrama: Also, for the Point One issue at least, the Avengers will be showing up. Are we talking the Avengers proper (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, etc.), and how important of a role do they play?
Williams: Well, Daken makes a decision to cut himself off from Logan for a while. He wants to grow up, define his own identity and not constantly be following in the footsteps of his father. But he's such a Machiavellian character that he can't just go without saying goodbye. And he has to make a heavy point to Logan in doing so. That involves getting to Wolverine when he's on Avengers duty at Avengers Tower. Getting past the Earth's Mightiest Heroes. If he can do that — John McLane from Die Hard-style - then he can get to Wolverine anywhere. And yes, this is the Avengers proper. Daken's hardly short of confidence.
Nrama: One of the most talked about elements of Daken's character is his sexuality, and how he uses it to get what he wants. Can readers expect to see you continuing to explore that element?
Williams: That's something that Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu have done an excellent job of portraying and, certainly, readers can expect this side of Daken to continue. It's an established part of him. I'm not going to come in and just ignore it. He's a nuanced, complex character. Exciting and dangerous. We want to retain the elements that attract people to him. He's like Jim Morrison in his pomp crossed with Wolverine. Sex and violence are two things that Daken does very well.
Nrama: There's definitely a tendency, I think, when a villainous character stars in an ongoing series for a while, to start trying to soften them up and make them more heroic or "likeable." Is Daken in any danger of that kind of treatment?
Williams: That kind of treatment usually makes me recoil a little and think of Arnie Terminator in T2 ("now I know why you cry.") An ugly old business, that, the thumb up while he went into the steel (brrrrr). Having said that though, there's no drama without a struggle. If Daken's just unremittingly evil then no one's going to give a crap. Everyone's got a soul, even if they have killed more people than smallpox. It's not enough with these stories to put character's lives on the line, you have to put their souls on the line too. You have to find what speaks to them and offer them temptation. I think there's something in all of us that wants to see a character redeemed. Logan definitely wants to see Daken's redeemed. There's a tension to be gained from teasing the readers with that. Which way will he go? And with Daken, unlike a lot of the Marvel status quo, you genuinely don't know.
Whether Daken can actually be redeemed is another thing. His actions would seem to suggest not. We'll find out. But I'm a sucker for a tragedy myself. [Laughs.]