In 2006, the co-writing duo of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (Jonah Hex, 21 Down) paired with Dawn creator Joseph Michael Linsner for the Marvel Comics miniseries Claws, teaming up Wolverine and the Black Cat.
Five years later, they're getting ready to do it again, with the three-issue Wolverine & Black Cat: Claws 2 series starting in July. Arcade and The White Rabbit are back as villains; escaping from the Savage Land with an appropriate amount of chaos ensuing.
Newsarama caught up with both Palmiotti and Linsner via email to talk about reuniting for the project, what Linsner likes about doing work-for-hire comic books, Palmiotti's take on the book's antagonists, and the "flirtatious" relationship between the two title characters.
Newsarama: Jimmy, Joseph, what got the ball rolling on this sequel? Was it something you guys had wanted to do since finishing the first one, but were waiting the last couple of years for the timing to be right?
Jimmy Palmiotti: In this business, it's all about timing… when is the right time for a sequel, when is the artist available, when is the writer available… does the company need another one of these, and so on. For Justin and I, because Joe does his own creator-owned work with Dawn, its all about waiting for the right time… and, of course, having a project that someone of Joe's stature would be interested in.
After we are all on the same page, we have to approach Axel [Alonso, current Marvel editor-in-chief and original Claws editor], our editor and he has to see if the company is interested and then if he feels we have an interesting story to tell as well. All these factors came together nicely, and Axel was able to make it happen for us. We left the first Claws book in a nice place but always felt there was more stories to tell… and now we will finally have that chance.
Joseph Michael Linsner: On the last page of the first Claws trade, I comment that we'll have to get together and do it all again someday. Well, that day has come.  was Dawn's 20th anniversary, so that took up all of my time and energy. Working on Claws is all about collaborating, and getting something new that one person alone would not have come up with.
Nrama: For both of you — what's it been like re-teaming with each other, and also getting a chance to work on Wolverine and Black Cat again?
Palmiotti: Joe is a friend first… and working with friends is about the best time you can have in this business. Both Justin and I are also fans of Joe’s work, so it’s the best of both worlds. We admire the man and love his work and getting to work together again is a dream come true for us. Anyone that doesn’t know Joe, he is one of the kindest people in the business and a super talented storyteller. This is win/win for us all around. As well, getting to work with Axel again is the extra bonus… of all the marvel editors, he has always had an open door to my projects and for that I can never thank him enough.
Linsner: Wolverine and the Black Cat are such strong characters that you could drop them into any situation and the scene would write itself. Just imagine them waiting to get a table in a Chinese restaurant. I had a blast working with everyone on the first Claws series. That is a book I am very proud of. It represents some of the greatest fun I have ever had drawing comics. Working with great people forces me to rise to the occasion and do my best. I live for these kinds of challenges.
Nrama: Jimmy, from your standpoint as a writer, what makes the pairing of Wolverine and Black Cat an interesting one worth exploring in two different miniseries?
Palmiotti: They are both spectacular, over-the-top characters that live by primal instincts and are just a natural thing together. I love the flirtatious nature of the characters and they both have the capacity to just flip a switch and become aggressive heroes… something we explore in this series. When these characters are together, we see them as two people that react before they think at times… especially with Logan… and that’s where a lot of the fun in the story comes from. In a perfect world, these two would make a great couple… as long as they loved in the mountains away from other people.
Nrama: Given that, has the dynamic/relationship between Wolverine and Black Cat changed at all between the end of the last series and the start of this one?
Palmiotti: By the end of the first series, they put aside their differences and got to know each other a bit more intimately… but they wont have much time to get used to that because the second part of Claws puts them right back in harm's way, and they once again both want to take lead on the situation… and everyone knows that just leads to total chaos. Bottom line, they like each other and are attracted to each other… but both stubborn in their own way.
Nrama: Joseph, what kind of art style are you employing for this series? Similar to the last installment?
Linsner: In some ways similar, in some ways wildly different. By the time I had gotten to the last issue of the first series, I felt I had a really good handle on who Wolverine and Black Cat were. They have a certain body language, a certain way they move around each other, which I think illustrates their personalities well. I consider all of my art to be an ongoing work in progress, so I am always experimenting.
Claws was the longest story I had ever done working with another colorist. I was very happy with the way it came out, but I still have a ton of new things I want to try.
Nrama: Visually, in what way will your versions of Wolverine and Black Cat here differ than from the original series — costumes or otherwise?
Linsner: Both are characters that are able to withstand a lot of tweaks in imagery while retaining a distinctive look. I love that they are so iconic. That gives me a world of freedom when it comes to dressing them. Wolverine is so unique that I could draw him wearing a Batman suit and you would never mistake him for Batman. You would see it as Wolverine dressed up in a Batman suit. You couldn't do that with Clark Kent – if you put him in a Batman suit, he would look just like Batman.
The Black Cat is known for being a sexy chick in a black outfit, topped by a mess of white hair. She stands out in a crowd and can be taken in so many different directions. I loved that Marvel was cool with letting me play with her look in the first series. She will always go back to her classic theme, so why not have some fun with it? This series takes our heroes all over the place, so it should get pretty wild. Fans can expect a mix of the old and the new as far as Black Cat's costumes are concerned.
Nrama: Arcade and The White Rabbit are back as the villains for the sequel. What made you want to go back to them as antagonists for this series, and how has the nature of their threat changed?
Palmiotti: These two are getting along a little better in this series and growing as a couple… a couple of maniacs. We went right back with them because it made sense with the story and they are a blast to write. They are such different people, I swear, their dialogue just writes itself. This time though, they aren’t the entire threat in the story… things happen and they all are put in a situation that is bigger than them.
Nrama: Joseph, in your career, you're best known for working on your own creations. For you, what's appealing about illustrating Marvel characters on work-for-hire projects like Claws — twice now?
Linsner: I grew up with these characters. Incredible Hulk #181 is the very first back issue I ever hunted out. I think I paid 50 cents for it (twice the cover price!).
Last fall, I was at a con in Germany, and Claws had just been translated into German. The publisher told me it was very popular, so that had me walking on air. My own creations (Dawn, Dark Ivory, Sinful Suzi) will always be at the heart of my work. But I consider it an honor getting to add to the ongoing mythology of these great world famous symbols of adventure. I consider myself to be a very lucky man since I get to work in both arenas — the creator owned, and the big, international one.[Newsarama note: This interview was conducted in September 2010.] Visit Newsarama on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and tell us what you think!