Endings are difficult things. Unless you rigorously prepare for them, chances are something is going to get unresolved or catch you off guard. What happens when an ending comes earlier than expected? Do you view it as destiny and sit back and embrace it? Or do you fight tooth and nail to take advantage of all the opportunities you have left?
These are the questions facing the titular character of Marvel Comics' "Daken: Dark Wolverine" series. Following Marvel's decision to cancel the series, writer Rob Williams must figure out how to properly end what was previously an ongoing series. Fans of the character know that if Wolverine's twisted, psychopathic son is going down he's going to make sure he leaves behind a legacy of blood, pain, and misery for those that survive him. "Daken: Dark Wolverine" #20 is on sale now and sets up Daken's endgame, but not before CBR News spoke with Williams about his plans for the series.
CBR News: Rob, let's start things off by tackling the unfortunate news, the cancellation of "Daken: Dark Wolverine." What does the cancellation mean for the remaining issues of the book? Were you able to wrap your plot threads up in an interesting way and prepare a big finish?
Rob Williams: I'll be completely honest. It's disappointing. It's ending before we would have liked it to end. The good thing is Marvel let me know the news in October. Also, they gave me plenty of time to prepare a final arc to tie this up. So it's not being twisted in too brutal or uncomfortable of a way.
So we have these final four issues, which gives us a good bit of room to tell an emotional and organic story. It's not what I would have done originally, but when you are cancelled it does give you the freedom to really tell the story you want to tell and not concern yourself with the reaction of anybody.
In a way though, "Daken" was that type of book already. We're telling a story about a sociopathic character and he's not an easy hero in the traditional sense. Basically, he's the bad guy and that was the point of the book. The moment I took over I wanted to explore the arc of someone who is becoming a villain. I think it's pretty clear that he's not even remotely an anti-hero. So it's never been your average Marvel super hero book. That's something we'll continue with the last arc.
You mentioned that cancellation brings with it a bit of creative freedom and we're curious how that works for you as a creator. Does that burst of creativity come right away to help you deal with the news of cancellation? Or do you need a bit to take in the news and reorient your plans?
It always takes a couple of days to sit and figure out where you're going, especially when you receive the news about cancellation. There's no two ways about it. It's a kick to the balls. You need a few days to get your head around it, but like I said there is a bit of an artistic freedom in that, which can lead you off in different directions.
This final arc certainly has a strong meta theme to it, which is the cancellation. I don't want to give too much away, but that will have a physical implication to Daken. He's got a finite amount of time left just like the book. It's the same with me writing it. I had long term plans for this book. Then suddenly you have to bring those long terms plans to a head right now. So that's exactly what Daken does. He's got to get to the heart of things in a hurry because he only has a few issues left. That's very cryptic isn't it? [Laughs]
A little bit, but don't worry, we'll delve deeper into the events of your final issues in a bit. Before we do that, let's talk about your protagonist and what he went through in the series' most recent arc, which saw Daken go toe to toe with Los Angeles actor-turned-drug lord and homicidal super villain, Marcus Roston. Daken had to adopt a number of different tactics to defeat Roston including not using his healing factor, but did he learn anything from this battle? Or did confronting Roston just reinforce all of Daken's perceptions and misconceptions about the world?
That is another interesting aspect of the character. I don't think he really learns things. He's like a shark. He does what he does. He's not wired the same as normal humans. He doesn't feel empathy. And as such you can't really end your story in a traditional way where you want your protagonist to think about what they learned from the events they just experienced. I guess we learned that Daken definitely doesn't see himself as insane, especially when compared to someone like Marcus Roston.
I think Daken has a very good sense of who he is. Roston was certainly a challenge to him. He took away his healing factor. He was physically way stronger and was able to manipulate Daken, who normally does the manipulating. Also, I think Daken went into Los Angeles with a very cocky attitude thinking, "I'll just take over the city. No problem." It didn't really work out that way. So that's an interesting thing to have him deal with.
Then amongst all that we've got Donna Kiel, someone who is his equal in a lot of ways and she rocks his world. Not in an AC/DC type of manner [Laughs], but he didn't expect to meet someone who could really sort of shake things for him. She's someone who he feels is his equal and has a huge connection with. It's not in a way that he necessarily understands though.
Issue #20 is the culmination of their relationship subplot. It asks questions like, how can two people who are basically psychopaths fall in love? Should they fall in love? And is that connection between them enough? So all of these things go into issue #20, which is a self contained, dark, messed up love story and that's not something you expect to see in your average super hero book. That's part of the fun and challenge of this title.
You mention FBI agent Donna Kiel and that has us thinking back to a panel in last month's "Daken" #19. In that panel Daken watches as Donna tumbles out of the sky. The look on his face suggests he cares for her in some capacity, but does Daken truly understand what it means to care for another person?
No, and that's part of what we talk about in issue #20. It's her effectively saying to him, "You can't do this. You can't fall in love with someone in the traditional sense. You don't understand what it means."
Basically they feel a huge connection to each other. Whether or not that can actually work is a big question. I think with any relationship people have to meet in the middle and I don't think Daken is particularly capable of that. So in issue #20 we'll see him invite Donna to come over to his world, but is she willing to do that? Because at the end of the day, he's a remorseless killer and she's an FBI agent. Plus, as you'll see in issue #20, she's someone who's effectively a psychopath too. She's sort of kept control of it over the years, by channeling that into becoming an FBI profiler. She's someone who chases psychopaths.
So Donna has taken her personality disorder and tried to make it functional by putting it in the service of law and order?
Yes. She basically locked herself away in this incredibly cold life and exterior. All she does is catch psychopaths. The reason she's very good at that is because she thinks like one and that's because she is one, really. So for her, Daken is a horror show in a lot of personal ways. He says to her, "You can be free just like me. All you have to do is admit it." Whether or not she's willing to come out and admit that and what that implies are two big questions. So issue #20 is not your average, 'Let's go on a date' relationship story [Laughs].
In recent issues of "Moon Knight" the villainous Count Nefaria was revealed to be the crime kingpin of Los Angeles, and we understand that he plays a role in issue #20 as well?
When we took Daken to Los Angeles it seemed a good move because there's not a lot of Marvel continuity there, we had sort of a free reign. If we had set the book in New York anything we wanted to do would have to have been run past various offices at Marvel. For instance, if we wanted him to go after Wilson Fisk to become the Kingpin of New York, that would have huge implications.
We took him to Los Angeles for freedom and then roughly around the same time we found out that Bendis was launching "Moon Knight" and that series would be set in Los Angeles [Laughs]. It set up Count Nefaria as the Kingpin of L.A. When we began our L.A story we couldn't confront this issue directly, but in issue #20 Daken finally goes after Count Nefaria.
So issue #20 is the culmination of our Los Angeles story. At one point he's got this giant Bill Sienkiewicz-style sniper rifle, you can see it in the preview images, and he's got Count Nefaria in his sights. So he's got everything he wants right in front of him. It's there and it's tantalizing, but whether or not he'll get it is another matter.
Does "Daken: Dark Wolverine" #20 also set up the series' final three-issue arc?
Yes. After that we have issues #21-23. Those final three issues are a big super hero extravaganza where a lot of chickens come home to roost. It's time for Daken's final reckoning with a lot of people. That includes Logan, the Fantastic Four, and a few other major super heroes as well. It's effectively Daken's last stand. He wants to make some points to people and he of course does that in a very messed up way. So he's a bitter old boy with a lot of scores to settle.
Is he looking to settle scores because he's dying? The solicit information for the issues seem to suggest that he has a terminal disease?
[Laughs] I was trying to be cryptic earlier with the whole thing about cancellation, but yeah, basically at the start of issue #21 he goes to see Reed Richards and Reed basically tells him that the Heat drug, which was made from the blood of the Pride and which Daken became addicted to in the previous arc, burned out his healing factor. That's starting to come back, but it's been completely messed up by his Heat addiction. So it's starting to attack his healthy blood cells and Reed basically tells Daken that he's got weeks left to live.
So he's only got a little time left and decides that it's finally time to settle some scores. He can't afford to play a long game anymore. He's got to be direct and brutal. Which, again, is pretty meta with the cancellation of the book. This is not a trick. Daken is dying.
You mention Daken goes to see the Fantastic Four. Will he meet up with Johnny Storm, who recently came back from the dead?
Yep. There's a line I really like in issue #21, where he comes face to face with Johnny who expects a big hug. Of course Daken has just been diagnosed with a terminal disease. So Daken says to him, "You standing here is an insult." Daken who is actually dying considers Johnny's presence among the living an insult. It's another meta point of the arc that involves Daken's taste for super heroes in general. You get to make some fun, snarky comments about super hero tropes because that's the type of character Daken is. He allows you to do that. Daken's a bit of a bitch.
So yeah. The Fantastic Four play a big part in the final three issues. The Jean Grey school as well. We're going to have some fun with some major super hero types.
It sounds like these last few issues of "Daken: Dark Wolverine" are going to be full of characters and action. Who will be drawing them? What do you feel they bring to the book as artists?
Alessandro Vitti, of "Secret Warriors" fame, is doing issue #20 and he did a killer job on it. Issue #20 looks really stylish. He's very good with the noir, but it also feels young and still has the sense of a super hero book. But it also feels like it has got one foot outside of that world, which is a really nice balance for a book like "Daken."
Then on our final three issues we've got Matteo Buffagni who's been part of the book since I came on board. I know people always say this type of thing, but he is getting better and better. His pages on issue #21 are definitely his best work since becoming part of this book. I wouldn't be surprised if he's a big name in a couple of years.
I believe you'll see him sharing some pages with other artists in those issues as well. I think Andrea Mutti, who contributed to the book in the past, is doing a couple of pages for issue #21. And "Green Wake's" Riley Rossmo is returning for a sequence too. That's fun as Riley was a big part of the whole "Heat" storyline, so it feels right he's here at the book's close.
Let's wrap things up with some final thoughts about your protagonist. Now that "Daken" is coming to an end will you miss writing the character?
Yes, I genuinely will. It's weird I was asked to pitch for the book and at that point I honestly didn't really have an affinity for the character. Then you start writing and some characters you just click with and some you don't. Sometimes it's quite unpredictable. You might think that you'd be great at writing a certain character and then when you start writing him it just doesn't quite feel like you're nailing it. With Daken, though, I just felt like I got his voice and where he's coming from. Which is a strange thing when you think about how he's a bisexual psychopath with a mohawk, and I'm not any of those three things. [Laughs] I'm bald. I aspire to a Mohawk.
So it was really kind of odd in a way. Even though he was such a horror of a character I got him. Also he's so freeing because he's a psychopath and because he's very intelligent, cultured and snarky. That gives you a lot of freedom to take the piss out of some of the characters he comes across. That's great. That's a lot of fun to write and the book allowed me to explore some of the darker areas of the Marvel Universe. I really, really enjoyed doing it.
Plus, our editorial team was immensely supportive throughout. When Jody LeHeup hired me he said, "It's your job to take things as far as they can go. We'll tell you if you're going too far." They encouraged me. There was never a sense that I had to watch what I was doing with this character; err towards the conservative. So in terms of his sexuality and things like that Marvel was very supportive. There was a huge amount of freedom there. So I will really miss writing this book. It was a lot of fun.
Both "Daken" and your other ongoing Marvel series "Ghost Rider" are coming to an end. So what's next for you? What projects do you have in the works?
At the moment I'm still finishing up "Daken" and I only just finished up my work on "Ghost Rider." Plus I've got a couple of new stories coming from 2000 A.D. The next one is a new series of "Low Life." I'm working with D'Israeli again on that, which I always love doing. He's one of my favorite artists in the world. I'm also doing a second series of a supernatural western that I've been doing for 2000 A.D. called "The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead Left in his Wake)." I was all about long titles at the time [Laughs]. I've also got an eight-page western called "Evangelyne" in an Image anthology, "Outlaw Territory 3," which is coming soon. It looks beautiful. I'm excited about that. Plus I've got a few other things in the works, which I can't talk about at the moment. So I'll be finishing "Daken" in the next couple of weeks and then it's on to the next thing.
"Daken" #20 is on sale now.