REFLECTIONS #221: Paul Jenkins, Part 2

Sun, September 9th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Robert Taylor, Staff Writer

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If you haven't read Part 1 of this interview, follow the link and dive in.

Though Jenkins is known for a plethora of fine comic crafting accomplishments, there are two that are most notable. The first is a little miniseries called "Wolverine: Origin," the comic that many feel sparked the current uphill movement in comic sales (at the time it was the biggest-selling comic in 10 years).

He was also known for the creation of The Sentry, an amazingly amazing character with the power of a god who is fortunately named Robert, but unfortunately more that a little batty.

This week Paul talks about those legendary tales and what is ahead for both, and then his burgeoning movie career (all those who can't wait to see his movie TATUA raise your hands!).

That said, let's get cracking.

Story continues below

"Origin"

Robert Taylor: So what is up with the third volume of your Wolverine saga? Are we ever going to see it?

Paul Jenkins: Yes.

RT: Okay, any subtle hints about when or who or what is going on?

PJ: Uh, no. [laughs] We know are doing it. We know what we want to do. It fits into a correct publishing plan and fits into a specific timeframe, and when it is ready to come out, it will come out.

Everybody will be ready for it.

I'm really glad we didn't just do it two years after we did number one. By the time we come out with it, it will be a massive endeavor that people will have wanted for some time.

RT: How refreshing. You guys are waiting to produce a quality book instead of rushing to put out a mediocre book.

PJ: I'm glad you recognize that. We are trying to provide something that they want. You can't please all the people, and I think the way we are doing it is just right.

RT: Look at what happened with the "1602" universe. They rushed out two or three sequels, and they weren't that bad, but they bombed because people were tired of it.

PJ: The Wolverine origin is a pretty good event, but it is an event because it has meaning. It shouldn't be an event for the sake of existing. It has to be something that people want.

When we came out with "Wolverine: Origin," it was a very interesting time because when it came out it had the biggest sales of any book in ten years. The sales had been crap in the past ten years, so it wasn't as massive a seller as you would think, but the fact that it was the biggest selling book in the past ten years was a major deal to people. People realized it was an opportunity to help with the upswing of comics.

"Wolverine: The End"
Cross-country, you couldn't walk into a comic shop on Thursday and find a copy of the book. It was gone everywhere. Within a couple of weeks, you found it on sale for something like $260. I think that is a good thing. Sales on the trade have been phenomenal.

RT: I ask all DC-exclusive writers how they like "World War Hulk" and all Marvel exclusive writers how they liked "52" and "Countdown." So how do you like 'em?

PJ: I don't know that much about "Countdown" because I haven't seen it much. I saw "52" and I will say this: more power to those guys, because putting out 52 books in a year must have been so hard, and God knows what the editors had to put up with. And I admire it.

Every time I looked at it, I thought it really held together. There were occasionally pieces that didn't quite fit together or work, but what can you do? The idea behind it was really solid. They did something big that will span a long period of time, and they did it well.

It's something we can all aspire to.

RT: Tell me about "Penance."

PJ: It's something that I very strongly wanted to do. It builds up to a point, and when it hits that point, people will flip out.

RT: Is it going to be something like that last issue of "Revelations" where your stomach just sinks when you figure out what the heck has been going on?

PJ: That would be my hope. When you realize what the numbers all mean and what his compulsion is and what he has planned...I hope people go "Oh shit!!!" and realize that is what we were aiming for.

"Penance: Relentless" #1
I don't mind spending three years to make a story happen as long as people understand what I was going for at the end.

RT: I've always admired that about your writing. You may take your time to get to your point, but when you make your point, it certainly creates an impact, and that is much more memorable than most comics' faux-danger cliffhangers and non-payoffs.

PJ: Thank you. You cited a book that I am very fond of in that regard, and that was "Revelations." It took six issues to be told, and there were times I could see it as the story it is, and all the issues had their ups and downs and each issue was hopefully enjoyable, but when you found out the truth at the end, you didn't see that coming.

Hopefully people will stay with us long enough to get that payoff.

RT: And it makes you feel like your money was well spent because it immediately wants you to go back to the first issue and start over again. Look at your last "Sentry" miniseries with John Romita, Jr. Some people hated that ending, but you went for something different and it made me want to look back over the entire miniseries again in a new light.

PJ: "The Sentry," for me, is a trilogy. When you see number one, number two and when I get to number three, I hope readers will see all these pieces that were planted in number two and things that were seeded, even in number one. That's a ten-year endeavor to telling this trilogy of the Sentry.

RT: And is Bendis going to be making a cameo in the third part of the trilogy?

PJ: Absolutely! And I'm going to make him faint as well. Into a custard pie. [laughs]

RT: Who would your dream artist for the third part?

PJ: That's a tough one. No, I don't. There are too many people...well actually there is someone, but it would be a strange fit. If I could get Bill Sienkiewicz to do what I think he is brilliant at doing, and if Bill wanted to do it, I would say Bill.

RT: That would work. Meanwhile I was thinking Steve McNiven, who would pretty much be the antithesis of that.

"Sentry"
PJ: I could think of Steve McNiven for other things, but not for that story. We are talking about a story about a god. It's about the Sentry questioning his reality in the universe, and asking about his existence because he is so transcendent of the rest of creation.

RT: What else is coming up with you for Marvel?

PJ: Right now I am talking with Marvel and have two, if not three, massive projects planned. And they are really big projects that I like. It's going to be incredible.

RT: Consider my tongue whetted.

Shall we talk about your films?

PJ: My business partner Rob and I are flying out to L.A. tomorrow, and our principle shoot date is January 14. It's a major motion picture with a studio-worthy budget.

It's a cool time for me right now; my life is changing in a major way. I'm now a filmmaker, and it's pretty cool. Rob and I are having the time of our lives.

It's called "TATUA" and it's going to be great. We've got some really good people coming in for it.

RT: What has been the biggest surprise for you about the whole process?

PJ: The amount of Hollywood clichs that are so fucking true. There are the clichs of the hangers-on and the people who couldn't justify their existence in a job, and the people that steal from you. All of the crap and stupidity surrounding making movies is true. It's unbelievable.

While people are busy finishing deciding all these little decisions on a $5 million film, I've created a $12 million video game, and I'm so busy making this stuff, while you are positioning to get involved in the stuff...you can cite "The Darkness" video game as a perfect example, because they fought really hard with me to put the Jenkins program in. As I understand it right now, they are around 600,000 in sales right now. They have 9,000 backorders right now and this thing will probably sell 1.2 million.

Why? Because we made it happen.

Then you take a million sales of a video game, where my input into those extra sales of the video game, I feel, was worth a few million dollars. In a sense, our collected creative abilities are worth millions of collars to these people.

You do 704 successes, and the last success made somebody $18 million, and then you come to them and say you want to make a $2 million picture, and they say they don't think so.

"Sentry: Reborn"
We have these people called Cinemedia, and they are brilliant because they are independent financiers who put the money together independently outside of the studio and then sell it to the studio. It's pretty amazing. We love them because they are really smart and can make stuff happen.

RT: It seems like it would be frustrating to no end. Do you ever feel like your creative voice is just getting completely lost?

PJ: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I'm amazed by it.

Have you ever heard of www.boxofficemojo.com ?

RT: I'm there every Sunday to check the weekend take.

PJ: It talks about films and shows you budgets and grosses and stuff like that. Go look at "Grindhouse." I've never liked Tarantino's movies. It had a $70 million budget, and it grossed something like $20 million back. That's just the gross, now take off the distributor part and you'll see they didn't just lose $50 million, they probably lost $80 million on the film.

RT: And don't forget about the marketing, that was probably $25 million.

PJ: The next time Tarantino says he wants to make his next movie, they will flock to his door to do it. It's the same thing with Terry Gilliam. If you look at the way his movies perform verses how much they cost to make, you have to wonder how he keeps making movies.

RT: His last movie, "Tideland," made less than a million dollars at the box office.

PJ: Absolutely. Or when there was an "A" movie that was released in one movie theater.

I look at this and think, "You fucking assholes. You are the same people that sit there and pontificate on everybody, and sit there with your lips pressed together and your fingers resting on them going 'can't let you do it.'" And then they backtrack when they throw $68 million of studio money away.

We are mystified by how dysfunctional it all is.

RT: Lightning round!

Let's say you are writing a weekly comic book series for a year and you need three other writers to co-write the book with you. Who would they be?

"The Darkness" video game
PJ: Brubaker. Bendis. They can produce a tremendous amount of material well. And Joss Whedon, he doesn't produce a lot of material, but has really good ideas.

RT: What do you think your biggest strength as a writer is?

PJ: Single-issue stories and characterization.

RT: Biggest weakness?

PJ: Providing the requisite bells and whistles that people really want in their monthly comic reading. I want to provide the fans with what they want more, and I sometimes wonder whether I am out of touch with them a little bit.

RT: I want to see if this has changed since the last time we spoke: If you could only write one book for the rest of your career, what would it be?

PJ: I probably would do "Sidekick." It's really funny and I enjoy it. I should point out that we played pool at [Wizard World] Chicago against a bunch of people for charity, and one of the people was Mike Turner. The trade off was that he was supposed to do a piece of art for me of my choice, and I thought it would be so funny to have Mike Turner do a cover for "Sidekick."

RT: If you could only be remembered for one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

PJ: I'm proud to say that I think that I don't consider myself above speaking to fans as an equal. I've always been respective to them and friendly with them.

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