The only thing deadlier than a silver bullet for billionaire-turned-werewolf Gary Hampton is his very own creator, as writer Robert Kirkman has announced that "The Astounding Wolf-Man" will end with issue #25 in 2010. While fans might be upset about the Image Comics title's conclusion, Kirkman promises more than a few silver linings that Wolf-Man himself would approve of.
Co-created by Kirkman and series illustrator Jason Howard, the title has boasted plenty of twists, turns and curveballs during it's run, but the final arc – titled "Legacy" – promises to resolve every question posed since "Wolf-Man's" first issue. Additionally, Kirkman revealed to CBR News that the end of "The Astounding Wolf-Man" doesn't necessarily mean we've seen the last of the book's characters. In fact, he's already planning to bring at least one of Wolf-Man's allies into the "Invincible" universe, if not more.
Kirkman spoke with CBR about the book's finale, what it's like to organically end a series and what fans can expect from the remaining issues of "Wolf-Man."
For a healthy chunk of "The Astounding Wolf-Man," Gary has been a fugitive on the run for the alleged murder of his own wife – though as readers are well aware, it was actually his one-time friend turned horrid betrayer, Zechariah the vampire, that killed Rebecca. Several issues and a jailbreak later, Gary might have experienced a turn of the tides following his heroic takedown of a massive villain in issue #19. Finally, it appears as though the public might be on his side again - something that Zechariah, currently imprisoned by the United States government, isn't going to be happy about.
"Wolf-Man ate [Zechariah's] hand, and that kind of set his plans [for vampire dominion] back quite a bit, so if Wolf-Man is to be redeemed in issue #19 and becomes a vastly popular character from that point on, that's going to ruffle Zechariah's feathers a bit," Kirkman told CBR. "That's kind of going to derail his plans in order to finally bring down Wolf-Man, which is a big part of our final story arc."
But Zechariah isn't the only "Wolf-Man" cast member that has a bone to pick with Gary Hampton in the series' final issues. "Legacy" sees the return of Wolf-Man's maker, the Elder Brood, whose interest in Gary has yet to be explained. "The final arc focuses on the Elder in a big way," Kirkman revealed. "A few times in the book, we've questioned why he chose Gary Hampton – the Elder werewolf doesn't create very many werewolves in the mythology of 'The Astounding Wolf-Man,' so, basically, most of the werewolves running around are descendents of the Elder, but a few generations removed. They're not as powerful as werewolves created directly by the Elder. So the Elder has specifically chosen Gary for reasons that are yet to be revealed. We're going to explore exactly why he chose Gary and what his plans for him actually are, and I think that will surprise some readers."
Beyond these two immediate threats is something else Gary has to deal with - his daughter, Chloe, who recently trained under Zechariah so that she could kill her father and avenge her mother's death. "Issue #20 kind of deals with his relationship with Chloe, who also believed that he'd killed his wife, so they had a rough patch," the writer said. "It's kind of about them reconciling."
Between reconnecting with his daughter, discovering why the Elder Brood turned him into a werewolf, finishing off Zechariah once and for all, and finally clearing his name in the public eye, Gary Hampton has a lot to accomplish before his story ends in "The Astounding Wolf-Man" #25. But according to Kirkman, all of these points and more will be addressed by the time the last page is turned. "The last issues are going to kick ass," he said. "A lot of shocks, a lot of big moments. Every character that you've grown to love over the last three years or so will get a moment to shine, and all the loose ends will be tied up, with no questions left unanswered. I'm excited for the ending, and hopefully readers will be, too!"
For Kirkman, ending "The Astounding Wolf-Man" wasn't necessarily an easy decision, but it was a natural choice given the direction of the story. "I've been trying to plot 'Wolf-Man' and stay ahead of the game, making sure that I have a long plan ahead of me," he said. "I started to realize that every single thing that I'd been setting up in the book from issue #1 on was all coming to a head with the things I planned for #25. There was an organic way to wrap up every single thing that I'd set up in the book."
Additionally, the ending of "Wolf-Man" doesn't mean that we've seen the last of the book's characters. "To be honest, I'm not going to kill every single character in the series," said Kirkman. "Wolf-Man exists in a shared universe with Invincible, so we'll be seeing a lot of these guys again. I'm not going to say whether or not Wolf-Man himself survives the series, because I'd like to keep readers guessing as much as I can, but were he to survive, he'd probably begin showing up on a semi-regular basis in 'Invincible.' So it's not like I'm going to abandon every aspect of the series."
Although he wouldn't reveal Gary's ultimate fate, Kirkman did confirm that at least one of his "Wolf-Man" characters would cross over into "Invincible" in due time. "Fans are pretty partial to Mecha-Maid, and I can't foresee not writing that character," he said. "I really like her, too. We've done a lot of things with her in the series and I'd like to continue doing things with her. Also, she's a robot character, and for whatever reason I really like all the robot characters I've introduced into the 'Invincible' universe, so I'm not going to stop writing one of my robots!"
Not only will Kirkman continue to explore the future adventures of Mecha-Maid and other characters, he also plans to work on a new project with Jason Howard, which factored into the decision to end "Wolf-Man" at issue #25. "Jason and I both have young children, and I had done my manifesto - I hate calling it that, but whatever - talking about how one of the things that was glossed over was we need to do more comics for kids," the writer said. "Not necessarily just for kids, but comics that are appropriate to everyone. Jason and I talked about that, and he felt the same way. It's kind of unfortunate that we do these books that we have to keep out of our children's hands, because 'Wolf-Man' has very violent scenes. For me, I've got 'Invincible' and 'Walking Dead,' which I largely can't show my kids either. So we started developing a side project that we're really excited about and have been working on for a while."
That's not to say that Kirkman doesn't understand the fan disappointment regarding the conclusion of "The Astounding Wolf-Man." "I've read comics and it sucks when they decide to wrap up," he sympathized. "But knowing what Jason and I are moving onto next - it's going to be an all-ages book, but I think it'll appeal to readers of any age. I'm pretty excited about it, so I think it will be cool enough for people when they finally know what that is. It'll be a pretty cool consolation prize. At the very least, they should like what comes next."
And, at the very least, "Wolf-Man" readers should have an exciting conclusion to read come issue #25. "I haven't really had a chance to wrap up a series in an organic way," Kirkman said. "I'm not ending it because of sales, so I can really take my time to do whatever I want. I've got my issue #25 stopping point and my big plan and everything. It's all coming together. I think when all is said and done, it'll be a cool little series."
"The Astounding Wolf-Man" ends with issue #25 in 2010.