In his early days with the X-Men there seemed to be only one injury Wolverine couldn’t recover from -- the damage done to his memory. All he could remember about his past was a collection of confusing and often violent images. Announced today at Fan Expo in Toronto, this November, Marvel Comics’ three issue “Weapon X: First Class” mini-series by writer Marc Sumerak and artists Mark Robinson and Tim Seeley flashes back to one of the first times Wolverine and Professor Xavier attempted to make sense of the adamantium enhanced mutant’s enigmatic and brutal past. CBR News spoke with Sumerak and Seeley about the series.
“Weapon X: First Class” takes place around the same time as the ongoing “Wolverine: First Class” series. “To give you some historical context, Logan has been with the X-Men for a while now and has transitioned from being one of the ‘new guys’ to being a core member of the team,” Sumerak told CBR News. “He's even become an unsuspecting role model for new student Kitty Pryde. There's a certain amount of calm and peace in Logan's life (when he's not out fighting evil mutants), but somewhere inside he still feels the demons of his past trying to devour him whole -- and he knows it's finally time that he did something about that.
“When the story begins, Wolverine is still desperately trying to make sense of the jumbled fragments of memory buried within his mind,” Sumerak continued. “Professor Xavier is at his wit's end, having unsuccessfully tried every method at his disposal to piece those memories together again. The two heroes realize that their going to have to work together in a very unique way if they ever hope to discover the truth about Wolverine's past.”
Wolverine and Xavier working together also allows Sumerak to explore the interesting dynamic between the two characters. “Charles and Logan have always had a wonderful relationship. Charles is the ultimate authority at the school and we all know how Logan feels about authority! Since their methods and mindsets are so fundamentally different, the two often end up butting heads, but they are still doing their best to work towards the same goal. They've been working together long enough to have a mutual respect for each other, even if they both think their way of doing things is the right one! It all makes for a tension-filled team-up that could only happen with these two characters.”
Investigating his past means Wolverine and Xavier will explore some remote locales; fortunately, though, they won’t have to travel far to reach their destinations. “The story takes place all over the world -- without ever leaving Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. With Charles Xavier as your guide, anything is possible!” Sumerak remarked. “Other than Xavier's Westchester estate, we'll definitely be seeing a lot of Canada throughout the series -- and, in particular, a certain top-secret government facility deep in the Canadian wilderness.”
“Weapon X: First Class” is a series about exploring Wolverine’s past, so like the current “Wolverine: Origins” series, the mini will involve both scenes in the present and from Wolverine’s past. “We'll obviously be spending a good chunk of time exploring past events, but we've managed to find a very exciting way to mix the flashback elements with a continuous real-time story and have them both take place concurrently,” Sumerak explained.
Given the title of the series, many of the flashback and real time sequences in Sumerak’s story will revolve around Wolverine’s history with the Weapon X program. “That chapter of his life is our foundation, and there will definitely be some new revelations about many of the characters involved as well as the events that took place within the facility,” Sumerak explained. “But not all revelations will come from our journey into the past. We may even learn something new about the relationship between Logan and Charles Xavier along the way.”
Wolverine and Xavier’s investigation isn’t without consequences or danger. “Over the course of the journey, both Wolvie and Professor X will find themselves in peril from a number of threats, both past and present,” Sumerak said. “But Wolverine will quickly discover that his greatest enemy of all is actually deep inside himself.”
Sumerak has also assembled an eclectic cast of supporting characters for his tale. “Three of our most important supporting cast members appeared in the original ‘Weapon X’ story -- Professor Thorton, Dr. Cornelius and Ms. Hines. They were the people in charge of the experiment that bonded unbreakable adamantium to Wolverine's bones. This story examines these characters through Wolverine's eyes and gives a bit more insight into the kind of people they were between the panels of the original tale,” Sumerak stated. “In the lead stories, you'll also see appearances by all of the X-Men of that time period (Storm, Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde) and Logan's arch-nemesis, Sabretooth.”
Tone wise “Weapon X: First Class” is quite a bit darker than Sumerak’s other all ages books for Marvel, like “Power Pack” or “Franklin Richards,” but the series is still suitable for all readers. “It's not so grim and gritty that you would feel uncomfortable sharing it with a young reader interested in learning about Wolverine's past,” Sumerak explained. “The series isn't simply an angst-filled journey through Wolverine's darkest memories. There's also plenty of super hero action -- and even a bit of humor -- along the way.”
In addition to Wolverine and Xavier’s investigation of the past, readers of each issue of “Weapon X: First Class” will also get a 10 page back up story written by Sumerak. “Each short story will feature a different character from Wolverine's past and will give us a bit more insight as to how the Weapon X program and/or Wolverine himself had an impact on their lives,” Sumerak said. “These are brand new stories featuring some Marvel favorites -- including Sabretooth, Deadpool and Gambit.”
Sumerak is thrilled at the work his artistic collaborators have been doing for “Weapon X: First Class.” “The series features covers by the ultra-talented Michael Ryan,” Sumerak said. “And Mark Robinson is drawing the lead stories in all three issues. His art for the first issue has absolutely blown me away. Mark has a real respect for the old-school X-Men tales, and it shows in every single panel. At the same time, he manages to breathe a fresh, modern feel into each of these characters that gives them an abundance of life and energy. It's a hybrid of classic and current that truly is the best of both worlds.
“As for Tim Seeley, well, I just can't say enough good things about this guy. He's drawing the back-up stories in each issue, which is no easy task. Each of the stories features a completely different cast of characters and a totally unique tone. Yet Tim managed to make them all work perfectly and adapted his style as necessary to make each one special. His take on our Deadpool story made me laugh 'til I hurt. People are going to love his work on this series!”
To his fans, Tim Seeley is best known as the writer of “Hack/Slash,” his creator owned series from Devil’s Due Publishing but he’s also an accomplished artist as well, having worked on everything from DDP’s first ongoing “G.I. Joe” series, their comic adaptations of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden fantasy novels, and most recently “Halloween: Nightdance,” an original series inspired by the legendary horror film franchise. “I decided a few years ago I'd send writing stuff to Marvel. I figured I had enough art stuff to fill the plate, so no point in trying to get a mighty Marvel editor. But, yeah, so logically, it's just so much easier to get writing work, especially when your credits are mostly a naughty slasher comic. Sigh. I am dumb,” Seeley said. “But a friend of mine at Tokyopop was a friend of Mark Paniccia. Since his office was doing the kind of stuff I'd wanna do anyway, I sent writing samples over. I sent stuff to Paniccia for, well, let's just say ‘awhile.’ But, he did like some of my art stuff a little, and since his associate editor, Jordan White, was one of my few ‘Hack/Slash’ readers it all worked out!”
The first “Weapon X: First Class” back up stars Sabretooth, a character Seeley could really sink his artistic teeth into. “Sabretooth is a character fairly well geared towards a guy like me who just likes to draw scary, hairy guys like myself,” the artist remarked. “I loved that the story was set in the past and it allowed me to draw the original Sabretooth costume, as well as his pre-Lee/Texiera bulking up. In this story, he's more of a lithe, gritty kitty than a furry tank.”
“Weapon X: First Class” reunites Seeley with friend and frequent collaborator Katie DeSousa, “So, this will be all pretty and digitally painted,” the artist said. “I tried to use a new style on these, one which is mostly based on me having lots more time to make them full of all kinds of detail and little lines. It's more of a ‘Seeley Unleashed’ kind of style, rather than one based on economy of time. So, if ya ever liked my stuff, you'll like this better, and if ya hated my stuff -- you'll like this better!”
Seeley found collaborating with Marc Sumerak to be a highly enjoyable experience. “His scripts are tights -- lots of description and staging, so all I have to worry about is making stuff look cool,” the artist explained. “It helps that he worked as a Marvel editor, I think, as he has an eye for detail, and caught my goof ups as early as the thumbnails. His stuff's also often pretty funny and clever, which has an obvious appeal to me.
“It was a far more pleasurable experience to draw for Marvel than I ever expected,” Seeley continued. “I'm one of those old cranky indie guys who thinks he's too punk for the big two. But, the truth is, as soon as they offered, I squealed like a scared monkey and dived right in. And I'm glad I did!”
Sumerak is also glad that he accepted the “Weapon X: First Class” assignment. “I had to take the events of one of Marvel's most classic -- and most violent -- tales and rework them into a story that would be acceptable within the all-ages guidelines of Marvel's current ‘First Class’ books while still completely respecting mainstream continuity. Not an easy task, but I'm always ready and eager for a challenge!” Sumerak remarked. “As a huge fan of Barry Windsor-Smith's original ‘Weapon X’ story, I couldn’t have been more honored to be tapped for the gig. It's truly one those truly legendary stories in our industry -- so to be able to build upon its foundation and further explore its characters and scenarios was a dream come true.
“And remember, the title is ‘Weapon X: First Class -- so there's bound to be a lot more than just Wolverine in these pages,” Sumerak added. “Sure, Logan may have been the most successful member of the Weapon X program, but that doesn't mean he was the only one! So for all you rabid X-Men continuity fans, I've got one word: Sluggo. 'Nuff said.”