Steve McNiven drew a new third act for Wolverine with "Old Man Logan," then illustrated his death in Death of Wolverine, and now he pencils how he returned.
On September 19, McNiven and writer Charles Soule reunite to usher Logan back into the Marvel Universe with Return of Wolverine #1. Picking up years after their Death of Wolverine series which left Logan encased in unbreakable adamantium and presumed dead, he's back with new powers, new foes, and some old grudges.
Although McNiven originally planned to draw all five issues himself, Marvel has tagged in Declan Shalvey to draw issues #2 through #4. McNiven intends to return to draw #5 - similiar to how he drew the opening and final stories of Marvel's Secret Empire.
McNiven spoke with Newsarama about his 10-year-run with Wolverine, becoming the character's defacto modern artist, and how he and Logan have changed over the years. Along with this Marvel has provided uncolored excerpts from Return of Wolverine #1 by McNiven and inker Jay Leisten.
Newsarama: Steve, in many ways you are the definitive Wolverine artist for modern times - if not for “Old Man Logan” and Death of Wolverine, you drawing Return of Wolverine now seals it. Does that mean anything to you?
Steve McNiven: That’s very kind of you to say, though I feel that the definitive artists are those folks who have done a long run with the character. So, I’d give that title to those who have earned it. I’ve gotten very lucky to have drawn some great Wolverine stories and having another chance to do so again with his return to the Marvel universe is pretty special to me.
Nrama: Of course you've grown and evolved much since “Old Man Logan” – that’s been ten years ago. How has your thoughts on Wolverine changed?
McNiven: I’m always trying to stay true to the core of what makes Logan a great character, regardless of his age or circumstances. Any changes you might see me make from one Wolverine iteration to another are mostly cosmetic or have to do with artistic interests that I’m following through within the storytelling process. My thoughts on the character have remained mostly the same. He’s a fantastic character to work with and I’m thrilled to be helping bring him back into the fold.
Nrama: For Return of Wolverine, you're once again working with Charles Soule – from Death of Wolverine, but you also did some Inhumans work with. After Mark Millar, I believe you've worked with Charles more than anyone. How would you describe your collaboration?
McNiven: I have had some of the best times in my comic career both in working on comics and just hanging out talking comics with Charles! We have a great relationship both personally and professionally. He understands collaboration, which is actually quite rare in this industry. I’ve worked with writers that have literally given me zero feedback. That’s not how Charles works and when you combine that with a real talent for writing like Charles has (and then some!) you have a guy I’ll always want to work with.
Nrama: We're dancing around it but let’s get into it - Wolverine has survived being incased in molten adamantium. Did you know that when you drew that back in Death of Wolverine - or did you have in your mind ways he could have survived that?
McNiven: Of course, at the time I was drawing the Death of Wolverine I felt that at some point Marvel would want to bring him back from the dead. He is just too great of a character to retire. As to the specific way he would come back, I didn’t have any particular thing in mind. There are, I would imagine, literally hundreds of ways for him to return! I’m sure most folks who are reading this have had an idea or two of how they would bring him back! Now whether or not Charles had this Return story in mind when he crafted the Death story I don’t know. That’s something you would have to ask him.
Nrama: Look for that later this month. [Laughs]
Steve, why is Wolverine special to you? And how does it feel to be the person who helped 'kill' him but also bring him back?
McNiven: For me, outside of a fantastic visual design, I’m drawn to those characters that can take a beating and get back up. I love to draw those torn up costumes and the various visual consequences of a super powered battle! Wolverine is always in the thick of things so he’s a favorite of mine to draw!
Characters like Logan who have a wide range of emotional responses are also a huge draw for me. I find the stoic, show no emotion kind of characters pretty boring to work with. Getting the chance to bring him back just seemed to me like a great way to complete the circle that Charles and I started with the Death of Wolverine.
Nrama: For Return of Wolverine #1, you've also been enlisted to draw Logan in almost everyone one of his major costumes over the years for various variants. What's that experience been like? Do you have a favorite?
McNiven: I loved drawing all of those costumes, although the process was difficult. Jay Leisten, my inker extraordinaire, bore the brunt of that effort as he replicated the backgrounds by hand for each and every costume variant. We could have done it digitally, but we are suckers for punishment. Jay did a brilliant job! Laura Martin, our colorist, also did a fantastic job with all of those covers. There was, as you can imagine, a lot of referencing for her to do with each iteration! My favorite Wolverine costume is hands down the brown and tan! I’d love to do an entire issue with him in that costume. Some day…
Nrama: And it's been announced Declan Shalvey has designed a new red-and-black costume. What are your early thoughts on that?
McNiven: Well, that’s not really a Wolverine costume, but more of an in-story uniform that he uses out of necessity. I’m not sure who it is inside of the marvel universe that actually tailors Wolverine’s costumes but someone must put those brown and tan or blue and yellow outfits together for him to wear, right? This uniform that Declan designed was not made by that tailor. It was not created in the story with Wolverine in mind. It works within the continuity of the Return storyline. And in that sense, it works just fine.
Nrama: Declan doing that is in part due to him drawing issues #2 through #4. Schedules change all the time - can you give us your perspective on what happened?
McNiven: As with Secret Empire, I’m doing the bookends. The first and last chapter of the series and Declan is doing the meat of the story. I’m envious because he has some amazing stuff to draw as Charles has the whole thing all written out in full script. It’s fantastic and I’m glad to be a part of the Return team.
But I don’t think it comes as a great surprise that I’m not the fastest comic artist around, not by a long shot, and the show must go on. Both Marvel and I felt this was the best way to bring the story to the readers in as timely a manner as possible and at the same time keeping the quality of the book up to readers expectations. That’s where Declan comes in. His artwork is amazing. I can’t wait for readers to get their hands on these books!
Nrama: But you're back - do you have any big goals with this one?
McNiven: My goals are the same here as with any project I pick up; to do the absolute best work I can do. Ultimately that means that I try to tell the story that Charles has crafted as clearly and with as much excitement as I can deliver on the page!