Going Inside Wolverine: Saudade

Jean-David Morvan on Wolverine: Saudade

This week sees the release of the US edition of Wolverine: Saudade, a special project originally created for the European market in 2006 via a joint partnership between Marvel and Panini under the “Marvel Transatlantique” label.

Newsarama.com contacted celebrated French writer Jean-David Morvan, who teamed up with his Wake collaborator Philippe Buchet on the special one-shot, to discuss about his Marvel projects and pitches.

Newsarama Note: This interview was originally conducted via a series of emails in both English and French and completed prior to Comic-Con International in San Diego

Newsarama: JD, I understand that you'd recently made a business trip to Japan, right? Anything that you could share about the whole trip?

Jean-David Morvan: I often go to Japan. I went there for the first time in 1989, where I discovered manga in books. There was no manga books in France before.

The second time that I went there was in 2002. I had gone there with my editors from Dagaud Benelux (Belgium). Since then, I’d made 20 trips to Japan.

I go there for pleasure but also for work (if one can call "comics" work). I work with some Japanese draughtsmen (such as [Jiro] Taniguchi), to produce comics in France. Can we make them work for USA? Why not? I know that CB Cebulski wants this as well. It is surely what joins together us.

I’ve also started doing a manga for a Japanese magazine with Kamui Fujiwara, who made Raika or Kerberos Panzer Cop, for example, in the monthly magazine, Comic Ryu.

In fact, my activities are varied, and exciting.

But I also go to China for the same thing, and soon to Korea.

NRAMA: Manga is huge in France and other parts of Europe as well. But how are European works regarded in the Land of the Rising Sun?

JDM: They are not that well known.

But the draughtsmen whom I’d met told me that they’d always had the desire for work on an European comic project, although they’d not publicly expressed their feelings.

They are in general illustrators for limp of charts or video plays. And they adore the idea to be able to make 46 pages of colored hardcover per year. That gives them time to polish up on their drawings. I am sure if they’d been given the opportunity, they will join us in Europe.

NRAMA: How did you break into the whole comic book industry? What made you decide to create Bande Dessinée in the first place?

JDM: I always liked comics and I decided that I will make it my profession since age 11 when I first discovered French comics (or BD/Bande Dessinée) because I am French. Then American comics translated into French in reviews such as Strange (there was Frank Miller’s Daredevil) and Special Strange (X-Men by Chris Claremont and John Byrne).

NRAMA: So, you’re a fan of US comics growing up?

JDM: Yes, of course. I never stopped. And God only knows the amount that I’d spent on them in France… I must have 5000 comics at home.

NRAMA: What're some of your favorite super-heroes in comics?

JDM: I would say Wolverine and The Authority. I had invented a history for the latter, moreover…

NRAMA: What’re some of your influences?

JDM: My influences, naturally, were a mix between comics and BDs. Then, it was the manga invasion in the early 1990s and these influenced my work. I would say the structure of the BDs, the narration of the manga and judicious off the wonder of the comics…

I started out writing BDs, it is as I said before, because I am French. And that it is logical to start in its country of origin. It is not so simple to break into the US market when one is French. It's the same for the Japanese market. It is a large job. But what is exciting it is I have to discover and learn many things. I'm not well known in these markets. It's quite bored to always do the same thing.

NRAMA: Back then, which creators did you look to for inspiration?

JDM: My inspirations are various because I am always admiring others. Some of them include: Pierre Christin, [Katsuhiro] Otomo, [Chris] Claremont, Kishiro Yukito, [Frank] Miller, [John] Byrne, [Mark] Millar, [Alejandro] Jodorowsky, Juillard, Ellis, [Bryan] Hitch, Golden, [Neal] Adams, Go Nagaï, [Igor] Kordey, [Kazuo] Koike, Millar, [Grant] Morrison, [Joe] Quesada, Bezian, etc. and comics artists of the whole world, because I like the BD of everywhere.

NRAMA: With the announcement of Soleil’s partnership with Marvel Comics to bring their titles to the English-speaking countries, I was wondering how you're doing with your Marvel/Panini projects, namely Spider-Man with Bengal, Daredevil with Thomas Labourot, Fantastic Four with Jab Jab Whamo, Iron Man with Gérald Parel, Venom with Nerme, and Wolverine with Steven Lejeune?

JDM: In actual fact, my dear Benjamin, all those “preview” pages that you saw were some test pages sent to Marvel. They were pitches created with my editor friend Olivier Jalabert, who now works now at Marvel. We had assembled these files with the artists you mentioned. I came up with a script for each one in order to showcase their capabilities and to pass them on to Marvel editors.

We were all hoping to achieve that “American dream” while also working on graphic albums in France, manga in Japan and comics in USA.

It’s becoming a reality.

I am now developing a Spider-Man comic project with Marvel’s super-editor CB Cebulski and Bengal attached as the artist.

NRAMA: And there was Wolverine: Saudade which you did with your Sillage (or Wake as it’s known in the US) artist Phillipe Bouchet. The English version is now solicited for release in September…

JDM: Panini was responsible for this project and Olivier Jalabert was the one overseeing it then. That was our first project together. Since then, he became the legal witness of my marriage so I must say we’ve become good friends.

This story was a blast to write. I believe I have written my Wolverine story. I would certainly love to write the character more.

NRAMA: How did Wolverine: Saudade come about? When were you approached to do the project? Or did you pitch it to Panini and Marvel?

JDM: If I’m not mistaken, Panini came to us in 2004. We then imagined and came up with the story and did the first sketches. It got off to a slow start as Phillipe and I were busy creating Wake. Things only got moving again when Olivier came on board as editor.

NRAMA: For those who missed out on Wolverine: Saudade when it came out in France, can you provide a summary of what it's about?

JDM: It starts in the early 90s when our hero went to Brazil for a vacation. He discovers that there are also mutants over there, including a very malicious one who absorbs the powers of others. Logan wants to send the young man to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Will he be able to do so? Go read it when it comes out in September.

NRAMA: Moving on, what do you have in mind for the Spider-Man project? What kind of stories can we look forward to eventually?

JDM: It will be an emotional story with loads of action. Think of it as a story from the good old Jim Lee and Chris Claremont days…

NRAMA: Will any of Spidey's rogues make an appearance? Or are you planning to introduce a new (and maybe French) villain?

JDM: No. The story is set in New York City. The rest shall remain P&C for now.

NRAMA: What does an artist like Bengal bring to the project?

JDM: Everything! I want to say that each series must be written for a particular artist in mind to showcase his strengths as well as to sharpen his skills. Bengal is very flexible and excellent with colors!

NRAMA: What else are you working on?

JDM: [Laughs] Good question. Many things. As a scriptwriter and as director of collection “ex libris” at Delcourt. The purpose of ex libris is to adapt great novels in very good BD. I seek authors from all over the world to do it. It is one of my passions.

I am finishing the eleventh volume of Wake, and this serial is, of course, my priority. With Philippe Buchet, we want to always make new and exciting adventures of Nävis, and make her famous in the whole world.

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