Winter’s not yet over (not by a long shot), but for school students they’re already looking forward to summertime – and for fans of mutant school depicted in Wolverine & The X-Men they have an early release when the book relaunches in March. That’s when Jason Latour and Mahmud Asrar launch a new volume of Wolverine & The X-Men, chronicling the summer session of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning where a select number of the student body stay behind. And for both student and teacher it’s promising to be an eventful summer.
Last month Newsarama spoke with series writer Jason Latour about the upcoming Wolverine & The X-Men relaunch , and now we turn to Mahmud Asrar to talk about his enrollment as the school and the series’ regular artist. Asrar, who made a name for himself recently with work on Supergirl and Ultimate X-Men, talks about what drew him to this series and what he’s already learned from his early work on the book, as well as his attention to detail both with ancillary characters and the costume choices of the staff and students. We also take time to talk about the recent announcement that Asrar has signed an exclusive agreement with Marvel, which has become a rarity in modern comics compared to a few years back.
Newsarama: Mahmud, what can you say to all the fans who are wondering what to expect when you and Jason relaunch Wolverine & The X-Men in March?
Mahmud Asrar: When it comes to superhero books what I want to do always is have some genuine fun and deep character moments so the reader feels a connection to the characters while being entertained. I can safely say we're bringing that to this book. Jason is as good with the keyboard as he is with his pencil so I can safely say there'll be a lot of fun.
We have some huge players in our team in the form of Quentin and Evan. So we'll see some important things relating to them. Also Wolverine is not going through the best time in his life which means there's even more pressure on him than you can imagine. Maybe more than he can bear, which in turn affects the role of Storm and the other school staff.
We're also bringing into play a new villain which I simply can't wait to draw. Not to mention the other antagonists we have lined up.
Nrama: You’re well known for balancing big casts in team books like Dynamo 5 and Ultimate X-Men and even and doing solo books with ensemble casts like Indestructible Hulk and Supergirl, but Wolverine & The X-Men seems to really stretch the limits between the students and the teachers – how are you coming into handling such a large cast and making them all count?
Asrar: I'm always up for a challenge so this was a welcome change after Supergirl and Indestructible Hulk which were basically single character books. However, honestly I don't think I knew what I was getting into with this one with the sheer amount of characters in the school. It is working out nicely though. The more I work on the book the more I get used to the cast. One thing I found out with my time in comics is that people care about even the most obscure character. So I try to pay attention and not be lazy on any of them. This does mean that it takes much longer to draw a page than normal.
Nrama: At IGNyou mentioned that most of the cast’s wardrobe will remain the same but they might get some new school clothes when it comes to combat gear. Can you talk about that?
Asrar: Jason came up with the thought that it would make sense that when the kids are on a mission or off the school grounds for some shenanigans, it would be logical for them to wear something other than their school uniforms. I couldn't agree more. You don't go swimming with your casual daily wear - You put on some swimwear. So that's what we intend to do. It'll be a type of X-Men uniform for the kids that are more suitable for field duty.
Nrama: Are there any personal favorite mutants you hope to be able to bring into the book at some point, even if just a cameo?
Asrar: I have so many, I can't count. To be specific, I'd be happy to have the Uncanny X-Men cast show up. It would be fun to draw their new looks.
Nrama: When you were initially approached for Wolverine & The X-Men, what was it about it that pulled you in to do it?
Asrar: Wolverine! When we were talking about my exclusive agreement with Marvel, the guys asked me what I wanted to work on. I said, Wolverine... and some others. When I was working on Indestructible Hulk, C.B. Cebulski asked me if I wanted to do a Wolverine book. Didn't give it much thought, didn't ask many questions. Just jumped at the opportunity. The way it turned out, this book was the project I was looking for without knowing it.
Nrama: You’re working with Jason Latour, who in addition to writing also draws. I don’t know if he’s doing full script or conveying any ideas to you with art, but what’s it like working with someone who’s been in your shoes, drawing monthly book? Maybe less big crowd scenes?
Asrar: The worst part is just how talented an artist Jason is. I just can't help feel pressure to push my skills further. In all seriousness though, he makes me feel quite comfortable. I get full scripts from him. We have great communication which makes things much easier for me. We're trying to find a middle road where we'll both enjoy what we're doing so that it brings out the best in us. Also, Jason comes up with designs for new costumes or characters which are tremendously helpful to me as he can convey what he has on mind directly. We talk over them and make it work for both of us.
Nrama: Moving on, I also wanted to talk about your new exclusive deal with Marvel. Exclusives aren’t as prevalent as they were in the early to mid-2000s, so how did it come about for you?
Mahmud Asrar: Last year I was kind of pushing my limits on my work output. While I was doing Supergirl, I took on doing Ultimate X-Men for several issues. Not to mention the time I took to do commissions, personal work and raising a baby. During this time I had some health issues which caused some hitches on my schedule. Both DC and Marvel were great and they made the best out of the situation while I tried my best to keep up with the work.
That's when C.B. Cebulski mentioned an exclusive as a thing to think about in terms of relieving work pressure. An exclusive, obviously is first and foremost a form of job security in our field. In that sense it does ease the mind in certain ways. Besides, it was something I was silently seeking myself so it all worked out.
Nrama: Well, congratulations for getting that. Although you’d done Marvel work in the past, you were best known as a DC guy given your great run on Supergirl. So what was the impetus to stop doing work for Marvel and DC simultaneously and do an exclusive with one?
Asrar: An exclusive was something I was thinking about for a while. I felt it would be beneficial to my career but it just didn't work out with DC. Even though I had great communication with them, as far as I know, they're shying away from making new contracts, or even renewing them right now. When C.B. asked me, however, he mentioned something even more important to me and that was the opportunity to work on higher profile books. In short, everything said that this was the right decision for me. The job security aside, the chance to do something that would further my career was the real draw. I have to say that, as much as I enjoyed working on Supergirl, I felt it was a good time to do something else too.
Nrama: You mentioned when you signed with Marvel you told C.B. you were looking to work on a Wolverine book, but were there any other specific characters of creators you want to work with at Marvel?
Asrar: I've been lucky to have done work on Hulk which is one of my favorite characters and now I'm doing a Wolverine book. This means, I'm pretty much covered character-wise. As for creators, I'm pretty content with doing this book with Jason Latour but I wouldn't mind doing more with Brian Michael Bendis. Last time was pretty brief. Jason Aaron is also a writer whose work I admire. So I'm sure I'd enjoy doing something with him.