The way writer Benjamin Percy tells it, he practically is Wolverine. Raised hunting and exploring in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, Percy says he's always identified with the X-Men's resident berserker - and now he's taking the reins on Logan's new "Dawn of X" solo series debuting this February..
Percy channeled his experiences in the fold of nature into a pair of Wolverine-centric audio dramas which paved the way for his upcoming run on the new volume of Wolverine alongside artists Adam Kubert and Viktor Bogdanovic. And while he plans to bring that same rough-and-tumble wilderness sensibility to this dream project, what's on his mind is anything but the same old business as usual for Logan.
Newsarama spoke with Percy in the wake of his announcement as writer of Wolverine to untangle Logan's complicated status quo, try and get a little dirt on what's up with those bedrooms at the Summer House, and find out exactly what it is that Wolverine is best at before the series launches in 2020.
Newsarama: Benjamin, when this title was announced, you said Wolverine is your favorite character – the one that you really connect with on a personal level. How did you come to this gig and what does it mean to you to be writing Wolverine?
Benjamin Percy: I grew up in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, and I live in the woods of the frozen north now. I’m a hairy, smelly, growly, square-shaped, whiskey-swilling loner.
When I was a kid, just about every weekend, my father would fill the back of the pickup with rifles, fishing rods, shovels, and pickaxes, and we would roar off to a mountainside or a dry canyon to hunt elk or hook trout or hike a trail or excavate fossils and gems and petrified wood.
The clash of civilization and wilderness, the wonder for and fear of nature, the notion of man in the wild and the wild in man—these elements have always been central to my understanding of myself and are a few of the many reasons I’ve loved the character since I was a dopey kid haunting the spinner racks and comic shops.
I’ve been writing the Wolverine audio drama - the two ten-episode seasons are available for free wherever you stream podcasts - for the past few years, and that’s been a career highlight for me. This led me to a comics adaptation of Wolverine: The Long Night and it also led me to getting to write X-Force as part of the new “Dawn of X”.
So I guess you could say I’ve been training in the Danger Room for some time now. Taking on the main series - especially joined by one of the most iconic artists to ever take on Wolverine, Adam Kubert - is truly a gift. I don’t take this assignment for granted and I promise you’re in for a hell of a ride.
Nrama: As a novelist, a lot of your prose seems to be focused on the idea of man vs. wilderness, or some confrontation with the savagery of nature. How does that inform your take on Wolverine both as a character and a title?
Percy: It does indeed. Of course that’s just one facet of a very complicated character. I’m also deeply interested in what it means to cheat death, to outlive lovers and friends, to survive the long, bloody course of history.
I’ll be writing about memory, too, the uncertainty of Wolverine’s brain, given the number of times he’s been mind-wiped and memory-planted. I’ll be exploring atonement - the contrition he seeks after spilling enough blood to fill a reservoir. And, and, and. There’s a deep dark well of material here.
But…you know…there’s also going to be plenty of high-octane fun.
Nrama: Wolverine’s been through a lot in the last few years – death, resurrection, hot claws, death and cloning on Krakoa. What’s Logan’s status quo when this series launches?
Percy: Here’s what I can say. You all know - from reading House of X and Powers of X -about the paradigm shift. The mutants have declared sovereignty. Krakoa is now not just a nation but a sanctuary. So Logan, like most of the mutants, has never been better, happier (and I know very well that happiness is not a word often associated with Wolverine).
He’s surrounded by family. I’m talking about Daken and X-23, and I’m talking about the Summers, and I’m talking about the father figure of Professor X - but I’m also talking about mutantkind more generally.
The question is…(cue the sinister music)…can this last?
Nrama: You mentioned Logan's family - and the Summers family in particular. This may be a somewhat sensitive topic, but there have been some clues in HoX/PoX and the recent X-Men #1 that Wolverine and Jean Grey may be in a relationship - with Cyclops’ knowledge and consent. As Wolverine’s writer, what insight can you offer into whether there’s any truth to the rumors?
Percy: I'm going to let Wolverine answer that question. Unfortunately he's in the middle of eating an elk steak, so his mouth is full, so he only has this to say, "Grrrurmfasnrsnarpcukff."
Nrama: On the other hand, what’s Wolverine up against? Can we expect to see any X-villains appear?
Percy: Of course. (And though you didn’t hear me say this…there might be some horrifyingly awesome stories about Omega Red coming down the pipeline.) But the new “Dawn of X” has a maxim: we’re not recycling. We’re not dragging out the same old tired stories. We’re honoring legacy but making our own unique mark on the X-Men.
If you look to HoX and PoX, remember that the stories we’re all telling - in X-Force, in Excalibur, in Mauraders, in Fallen Angels, in New Mutants - rise out of this same... garden.
That wasn’t simply a prelude - it was a stage that we still occupy and a forecast of a troubled future. Sometimes old villains are new allies. And sometimes old villains are, in a way, new villains due to the paradigm shift in the X universe.
Nrama: What is Wolverine’s place in a society like Krakoa? How does he fit into the plan?
Wolverine is a number of contradictory things. He’s an honorary member of the Summers family - and he’s a member of X-Force and the X-Men - and yet he’s a loner by nature.
He’s on the one hand a valuable teacher, and on the other hand a terrible example. He can be immensely cruel and quietly kind. He’s a living weapon, who can play offense or defense on behalf of Krakoa, and though he’s prone to violence, he’s often haunted by and regretful of what he’s done. He trusts the professor, but he doesn’t totally trust the vision of the island.
When we were talking about the Quiet Council - and who might be on it - Logan’s name came up. And was almost immediately dismissed - because this is not a guy who will sit on a committee and listen to divergent opinions and offer compromise.
In other words, he does - and does not - fit into the plan.
Nrama: You brought up the Wolverine audio dramas that you wrote. How did that experience compare to writing this comic series? What takeaways are you bringing from that experience to the core Marvel Universe Wolverine?
Percy: The audio series is out of continuity, an evergreen story. And it follows Logan during a dark, dark time in his life. We considered Unforgiven a canonical cousin, because The Long Night (season one) was about someone trying to escape a history of violence…and getting drawn back into the fray.
Writing for audio is incredibly challenging, because you’re stripping away our primary sense: vision. And comics are a visual medium. How do you write a fight scene? How do you write moments of spectacle? How do you write Wolverine, who isn’t a talker, into a story we’re listening to and still make him a vivid presence? It was a brain-breaking exercise, and I’m really proud of it.
But as I said before, Logan - at the opening of my arc - is in a different sort of mind-space than we’ve ever really seen him before.
But as for what happens next….you’ll just have to pick up the comics and find out for yourself, bub.
Nrama: The first of the rotating artists on this series is Adam Kubert, who, as you mentioned, is no stranger to Wolverine and the X-Men. What’s it like working with someone like that on a book like this? What’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for Wolverine so far?
Percy: Adam Kubert is the ultimate badass. A true legend. And you know what’s weird? He’s also a really sweet, generous guy. I’m so glad we’re building this story together.
I would share with you my favorite thing that’s he’s drawn for Wolverine so far, but it would be an enormously spoiler. Know that it’s framed and hanging above my desk, so come on over some time for a whiskey and I might let you take a peek.
Nrama: You’ve also got Viktor Bogdanovic as the other series artist. What makes him the perfect fit to rotate with Adam?
Percy: Man, Viktor is my kind of artist. Kinetic, both fluid and rough, shadow-soaked. He reminds me a little of Greg Capullo even though he’s very much doing his own thing. I wrote him a twisty, action-packed, horror-driven story that I think is perfectly suited for his style.
Nrama: Wolverine has often functioned as a bit of a swiss army knife in the Marvel Universe, able to be anyone from a savage berserker, to a schoolmaster, to a James Bond style superspy. What do you see as the core of who he is?
Percy: He’s a man who carries around his scars on the inside. And though there’s a lot of hair and muscle and adamantium in the way, he’s got a big, troubled heart caged deep inside him.
Nrama: Bottom line, what can fans expect from this return of the original Wolverine to his own ongoing series?
Percy: My claws are popped. And I ain’t fooling around. I’ve been waiting to write this series my whole life.