The Marvel Universe is home to many colorful heroes, but it's also a place of vile villains and anti-heroes who walk the line between those paths. Writer Frank Tieri ("Wolverine," "Dark Reign: Lethal Legion) has made a reputation for himself by telling compelling stories which featured villainous and morally gray protagonists.
This month sees the release of two more similarly themed Tieri penned projects: "Web of Spider-Man" #4 features a story where Tieri puts the spotlight on the villainous Hammerhead; and the one-shot "Wolverine: Wendigo!" will examine the title characters' classic rivalry from a new perspective. CBR News spoke with Tieri who gave us the inside skinny on both projects.
CBR News: You're kicking off 2010 by entering Spider-Man's world in regular continuity after getting to play with him a bit in 2009 with an alternate reality in "What If? Spider-Man House of M." With the urban setting and Spider-Man's sense of humor, it seems you'd be right at home here - especially when it comes to members of his rogue's gallery, two of which (Hammerhead and Mister Negative) come into play in your story for 'Web of Spider-Man' #4. What was that like?
Frank Tieri: Awesome. Hey, let's call it like it is - when you're talking about superhero rogue's galleries in comics, Spider-Man's - along with Batman's - are the top of the food chain. Now, I got to work with Batman's when I did "Gotham Underground" (shameless plug alert #1) which was loads of fun, and while I've tackled the occasional Spidey villain in other projects (does the Kingpin still count as a Spider-Man villain? Christ, who even knows anymore...), this is the first time I've done something that affects Spidey continuity itself.
Plus, it's always fun to revisit my ol' pal Hammerhead...
Ol' pal Hammerhead, huh? The last time you tackled him, you put a bullet in his head! Are you treating him a bit better this time?
Heh. Well, to be honest, we never intended to kill him. Yes, I had him get shot in the head by an adamantium bullet in "Civil War: War Crimes" (shameless plug alert #2), but as I told Tom [Brevoort, the book's editor] at the time, it's easily explained away that his metal head slowed the bullet down enough so it wouldn't kill him.
And really, I love the guy - I actually think he's under-used and always has the potential to play a bigger role in Marvel's underworld. If you think about it, he's one of the only mob types who has the balls to take on the Kingpin (or whoever's in charge at the time), and we certainly need more guys like that, not less.
In terms of plot and theme, what is your Hammerhead story about? Whose perspective is the story told from?
It's essentially a good ol' fashioned underworld "sit down." Hammerhead on one side and an old school Russian mobster, the General, on the other. (Fans from my "Wolverine" run might remember the General as an inmate from my arc, "The Hunted." And yes, that was shameless plug alert #3) It seems the General's been making some noise since he got out of the coop and gathering some pretty dangerous characters back under his wing - all of which brings him to the attention of Mister Negative. Negative's obviously none too happy about any sort of perceived threat to his empire, so he sends in Hammerhead to have a little "talk" with the General, and that's where our story picks up from.
Thing is, there's more going on here than first meets the eye, and not to give too much away, but things don't necessarily play out exactly how Negative might've expected.
Eric Canete is providing the art for the tale - what was it like working with him? What do you feel he brought to the story?
I liked Eric's Hammerhead. He looked meaner than usual, somehow more of a threat than he usually does, ya know?
Plus, what I asked him to do in this story is not easy. There's a lot of talking heads here, which, in lesser hands, can become problematic. But Eric pulled it off nicely and every shot has the necessary weight to it. He gave me what I was looking for.
Are you done playing around in Spider-Man's world for the time being? Or can readers expect more Spidey related work in your future?
Nothing immediate, but we'll see what the future holds. As you've already said, Spider-Man's rogues gallery is a perfect playground for me, and I'd certainly love to revisit it soon. Be it the Sandman, Kraven, the Rhino, Venom...whoever. There isn't a villain Spidey has that I don't think I couldn't do something interesting with.
January also sees your "Wolverine: Wendigo!" one-shot being released. You've written quite a few Wolverine stories over the years. Is it tough coming up with new tense and dramatic situations for a character with a healing factor like Wolverine?
It can be challenging at times, but I've always been able to find my way around it. I think the issue with [Wolverine] is at times you have different creators writing his healing factor at different levels, and that sort of throws things off as far as consistency goes. But I've always written his healing factor a certain way - he's not invulnerable, he can be hurt and he can certainly die under the right circumstances, so I've never really had too much of a problem with it.
It sounds as though "Wolverine: Wendigo!" is a different type of story in that this isn't a tale where these two characters just duke it out for a certain number of pages, correct? Is this more a crime/mystery story or more of a tale of two unstoppable foes going at it? Or is it both?
Yeah, I'd say there's definitely much more mystery involved than your usual Wendigo/Wolvie dust up. Considering we've all seen Wolvie and Wendigo slug it out for page after page countless times (I even did it myself back during my Wolvie run - shameless plug #4, if you're still counting at home), I really wanted to do something different with this story this time around.
In fact, one of the things I play with is the idea whether or not most people in the Marvel U actually believe there even is a Wendigo at all. Now, what I'm saying is that, yes, we all know that Marvel's general population have been exposed to many astonishing things and probably have accepted a lot of it by now, such as the existence of aliens or something like the Hulk. But I think we just take it for granted sometimes that they'd just readily accept everything. I mean, do we accept everything in our world? The Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, what really happened on 9/11 - there's conspiracy theories for all this stuff. So maybe it's not that far of a stretch to think that maybe some people in the Marvel U just might draw the line at the concept of a 10 foot tall, man-eating sasquatch-wannabe who owes its existence to some kooky curse in the Canadian woods...
From the solicits it sounds like you're telling a "Rashomon" style story involving multiple perspectives? Is that correct?
Correct. In this case, the perspectives come from a couple of leftovers from my "Hercules: the New Labors" miniseries (shameless plug - ah, whatever. I've lost count) from a few years back - TV host Gordon Allsworth and Jimmy the cameraman. Apparently, they were in the woods of Quebec filming a Wendigo-centric episode of their "Unsolved Mysteries"/ "In Search Of"- type show "Marvels, Monsters and Myths" (which also appeared in my "Galactus: the Untold Story" - shameless plugs live on!) when something attacked their camp and massacred the rest of their crew. Now they find themselves in a small town police station trying to explain what the hell happened.
Was it a Wendigo? Was it something else? What about that crazy guy with the claws who ended up saving them? How do you explain something like that without sounding nuts? Especially when there's conflicting stories amongst themselves?
The solicits mention Paul Gulacy as the illustrator for this tale. What was it like working with Paul?
Paul was great. I mean, this also wasn't the easiest story for an artist to draw, ya know? For one thing, this story has a lot of black humor in it, as well as some disturbing scenes, and Paul did a good job of switching back and forth between those two different modes.
Also, as I said earlier, there's a bit of mystery as to what actually happened, so we take steps in the art to maintain that mystery - show some grainy video shots, show a Wendigo arm here, a Wolverine claw there, etc. Let me tell you something - that's not something that every artist in this business can pull off effectively, and Paul really did a wonderful job with it.
In addition to the main tale, readers of "Wolverine: Wendigo!" also get a collected version of your online "Wolverine vs. Thor" story with Paco Diaz. (with part 3 out on Marvel.com now) What can readers who may have missed this story's digital debut expect from it? How are you wrapping this up?
For starters, I think it's a very cool idea for Marvel to be packaging the two projects together. I was pleasantly surprised about that, and if nothing else, I think it's a great opportunity to expose fans to the great work Marvel.com's doing with their digital comics if they haven't been checking it out already.
As for the story itself, let's get everybody up to date, shall we? In part 1, we saw Wolvie go nutso in a bar in Oklahoma, believing he was being attacked by some of his greatest enemies. It's at that point, Thor shows up, and in part 2 the big guy's forced to hunt our delusional Canuckle head down, which leads to a big dukeroo, which leads to Wolvie only snapping out of it after Thor goes a little elemental on him and hits him with some lightning. Now, Thor's already determined that this smells like Loki's handiwork, and in part 3, we have our two heroes teaming to confront Loki - and then all hell breaks loose, as readers will see.
You've done your fair share of shameless plugging here today, and it seems as though in 2010 you'll have plenty of Marvel work to keep you busy. Any other Marvel projects you have lined up that you can hint or tease at?
Well, fans can expect another Wolvie thing from me, and while I can't announce what it is yet, I can say it's a 4-issue mini that's a lot of crazy fun, over the top stuff involving Wolvie and - eh, I can't say that either, yet. Let's just say it's another hero I'm very familiar with - and one you might not expect Logan necessarily to be teaming up with.
I've also got some more Deadpool in my future. There's a story I have with him in the upcoming "Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way," and I'm doing an issue of "Deadpool Team Up," which has Wade going up against a character a lot of fans have been itching to see me square him off against, Mr. X.
In addition to all that, I've got some stuff lined up that, while comic book related, is not comic books. Can't say much more than that as I'm really sworn to super secrecy about this stuff, but I will say I think fans will get very excited when they finally see what I'm talking about. Stay tuned...