Last year at the South By Southwest Festival, Marvel Comics announced its intention to explore the storytelling opportunities of digital comics with several original stories that expanded the narrative of its “Avengers Vs. X-Men” storyline. These “Infinite Comics” were a success, so this summer Marvel will expand it's original digital offerings by publishing one Infinite Comic every week for a year, starting in July.
These weekly comics will be divided into four 13-part serials featuring different characters and creators, and will be available for purchase via the Marvel Comics App and the Marvel Comics Web Store. New chapters will be released every Tuesday and on July 9 writers Jason Latour and Jason Aaron, along with artist Paco Diaz, kick things off with their initial chapter of “Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted.” We spoke with Latour and Aaron about the project, which was announced at this year's South By Southwest festival, which is happening this weekend in Austin, Texas.
CBR News: So Jason and Jason, what made you want to take on an assignment like this? How is plotting and scripting a weekly digital comic different from writing a normal monthly print comic? What are some of the aspects you have to consider when setting up and devising scenes?
Jason Latour: Well, my first and greatest love is print comics. But as anyone that’s worked on them knows, some of the limitations that add an awful lot to our medium are also at times almost needlessly difficult to overcome. For instance, you’re really required to account for the fact that your reader can see the future. So there’s very much a contract with the format. It asks you not to cheat and look ahead, to ignore a lot of what’s in front of you. One of the biggest possible gains in an Infinite Comic is that the stories unfold in pure sequence, one image at a time. It seems to put the element of surprise and the illusion of time into play a bit more. That allows us to do some unique things that make the environment and pace. It goes a long way in making things feel fresh.
I also feel it’s a format that’s very accessible to new readers, as all it takes to learn how to read it is knowing where to tap to proceed to the next panel frame. That’s an experience much more in line with reading than it is watching TV or “motion comics.” It allows you to control the pace of consumption, which to me is huge. I see that as a big part of that tangible relationship that makes comics what they are.
As for the differences in the process, well, it’s been a lot more collaborative on this project. There are a lot of moving parts, so it requires, at this point, more eyes and hands. As writing goes, it’s a bit more fluid in some ways. It’s less about making many images work when presented as a whole and more like writing a screenplay -- one still beautifully and intimately tied to pictures and written words.
Jason Aaron: Yeah, more than anything I've ever done this is a team effort, and I'm a small part of that team. Jason Latour and I came up with the story idea together, but Jason is really the one fleshing the story out and writing the scripts.
So I got to be involved initially, and now I get to watch as everything gets put together. I offer whatever insights I have here and there, but this is really a team effort.
It's a big undertaking, too. It's a project that Marvel, and I don't believe anyone else, has done to this extent before. So it takes a lot of hands to put that together. And it's a very different experience. Just looking at the scripts and how they're written and how they translate to the digital experience is kind of amazing. I'm just having fun watching them come together along the way and knowing I've been a small part of it.
So in terms of division of labor, you guys came up with the plot of the story together and Jason L is scripting?
Aaron: Exactly. We talked a lot about the story ideas beforehand. Jason and I have worked together before, and we're friends outside of work. So we talk a lot, and it's been a really easy collaboration. I've never really co-plotted anything like this before. Given that I'm working with a guy I talk to a lot anyways about work and in a personal capacity, it's just been an easy thing to do.
This story marks your return to Wolverine's solo adventures. Now you moved from “Wolverine” to “Wolverine & the X-Men,” so you never really stopped writing the character, but how does it feel to return to a story that focuses primarily on Logan instead of an ensemble?
Aaron: In my mind I'm still writing the same Wolverine adventures I started back in I believe 2006. In my mind it's all been one long character arc. All the stuff I did in the “Wolverine” solo books over the years all led into “Wolverine & the X-Men.” So it doesn't feel like going back to an old girlfriend in any way. It feels like we've been together this whole time. This is just another part of the stuff that I've been doing.
This story also definitely carries on some of the elements from my last arc on the solo “Wolverine” book. That was the story that had Wolverine in Japan and introduced a brand new Silver Samurai, and set Sabretooth up as the head of the Tokyo branch of the Hand. So all of that stuff is a big part of this.
Jason L, what’s it like writing a Wolverine story with Jason A, who spent so much time with the character?
Latour: I really don’t think anyone has ever done a better job writing Logan. As a reader, I felt for a long time that Wolverine had been neutered or worse -- just presented as a scowling old fart sniffer who only likes to stab things. Jason really found a way to return him to his core, while layering in some startlingly ambitious development. Who would have ever thought it possible to accept Wolverine as tragic father or an elder mutant statesmen? It seems like a very personal story he’s writing, and that’s the most inspiring part.
What do you enjoy most about writing a character like Wolverine? Which aspects of his personality do you find especially intriguing?
Latour: To me what’s always made Logan is his refusal to just accept that he’s what the world has made him to be. He’s always trying to become a better person. It’s the classic story of a samurai who wants to be peaceful and put down his sword, yet sees so much injustice in the world that he feels forced to act. That need, no matter how he justifies it, might just be his fatal flaw. An unkillable man with weapons for hands. Yeah, that’s awesome.
What can you tell us about the plot of this story? And how new readerfriendly is it? From what Jason A said, it sounds like a sequel to his last arc on the “Wolverine” solo title, which had Wolverine in Japan and involved Sabretooth, the Hand and the new Silver Samurai.
Latour: It’s tied to what Jason’s done in that we directly spin out of Sabretooth’s vicious takeover of The Hand. This has left the ninja ranks thin, and cleared away many of the leaders and statesmen that were the backbone of the clan. It’s left their hold on the modern world in dire straits as well. But where other folks might see lemons, Sabretooth sees this as an opportunity to drag the ninja into the 21st century kicking and screaming. So he enlists the help and technology of the new Silver Samurai to do just that.
Of course, Logan’s disgrace is key to the success of those plans, and very quickly you’ll see Wolverine on the run, hunted by the country he loves. We've got a damn metric ton of Ninja stabbin’ action as Logan fights to clear his name and stop this deadly new Iron Hand before it starts.
All that said, it’s very new reader friendly. All of this is revealed over the course of the story and your only requirement for entry is a desire to read about WOLVERINE VS. THE FUTURE NINJAS. If you’re still reading this, I doubt we’ve lost you there.
Aaron: One thing that I wanted to do with this story, and I got to do a little bit of it in that last “Wolverine” arc, was update the Hand and the traditional "Wolverine in Japan" story. We've seen those stories a lot going back to the classic Chris Claremont-Frank Miller mini-series. We've seen those scenes many times of Wolverine fighting a big pack of ninjas.
The idea here is that there will be some of that, but we want to take this traditional Wolverine and the Hand style story, and take it somewhere it hasn't been before. We want to try and update the Hand beyond just being guys in black pajamas jumping through windows with samurai swords. We want to update their methodology and really give them more of a face and a personality than I think they've had for awhile.
Jason A, how does it feel to return to the new Silver Samurai, a character you co-created? Can you talk about what the character has been up to since we last saw him?
Aaron: We've seen him a little bit in the pages of “Wolverine & the X-Men.” He's a troubled, rambunctious kid that fell under the sway of Sabretooth because of the lure of power and money. So at heart maybe he's not such a bad kid, but he's certainly at a crossroads. We're about to see which way he's going to go down. How bad does he want to be?
I think he's a very interesting character. He's still young and he's still finding out who he's going to be. Plus he has the legacy of his father to live up to, who was a big-time super villain and a powerful man in the Japanese underworld.
He's very different from his father as well, just in terms of his costume and his methodology. He's more high tech and sleek than his father. The old Silver Samurai costume was cool for its time, but always kind of seemed big, clunky and cumbersome. So with this guy we wanted something that was sleek, modern and just more fluid. That's who he is and that's what he's trying to do to the Hand. He's trying to bring them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Jason L, what are your thoughts on the new Silver Samurai? What do you find most interesting about the character?
Latour: I dig him. In some ways he’s a bit like Logan, except his sword is his mind. He’s blessed and in some ways saddled with this amazing gift of intelligence, yet there are some very core parts of him as a human being that are missing. His need to prove himself, to be a success, to show he’s more than his father has driven him down a road he might not be able to turn back from. In this
story we’ll see just exactly what the cost of that ambition is.
Jason A, you're doing another plot line with Sabretooth in “Wolverine & the X-Men,” and as you mentioned the new Silver Samurai has appeared in that title as well. So will the events of “Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted” be tied to or have an impact on what you're doing in “Wolverine & the X-Men?”
Aaron: Not tied in the sense that you have to read any of that stuff. “Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted” is an Infinite Comic that you can jump right into, having no idea who the new Silver Samurai is or what Sabretooth is doing in Japan. The story fills you in on all that stuff as it moves along
Obviously I'm still using Sabretooth in the pages of “Wolverine & the X-Men” and Silver Samurai as well. So this will all tie together in the long run.
I imagine accessibility was an important factor for “Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted” given that it's going to start around the same time as this year's new “Wolverine” feature film, which also finds the title character in Japan. Will this be a good jumping on point for filmgoers who saw that movie and want to try some of Wolverine's comic adventures?
Aaron: Sure, that was one of the factors. I haven't seen the movie and don't know more about it than anyone else who's been reading about it online does, but it seems that they're using some of the same elements of the Wolverine in Japan stories like ninjas and the Silver Samurai. So if you've seen the movie and you check out this digital comic, there will be elements that you recognize, but this is not us trying to do a watered down version of the movie. This is us trying to jump beyond what we've seen with these types of stories before and do something different and new. So this is an in-continuity story with something to offer both new readers and established fans.
What do you feel Paco Diaz brings to “Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted” as an artist?
Latour: Paco brings a real exciting and slick approach to the work. It very much
makes this book feel at home next to any of the top-tier Marvel titles. That’s huge given that it’s such a new endeavor, to communicate that no one is half-assing this thing. This is a very real Wolverine comic. Having he and Yves “Balak” Bigerel, who is a founding father of the Infinite medium and our layout artist, on board proves that.
Aaron: These Infinite Comics look amazing, and again, this is a big team effort. We've got a couple artists, a couple writers and several editors. So the finished project is just wild.
I've read all the previous Infinite Comics that Marvel has done, and they were great. The more of these we do the more excited I get. We're seeing more and more opportunities along the way as to how to explore the full extent of the toolbox that digital comics offers you. So these are really fun to read.
Latour: I find the whole thing really exciting. I grew up loving stories about Wolverine in Japan, and I’d always sort of hoped to get a crack at one. I think we’ve got a new and unique angle on those, that classic element of the mythos, that will hopefully feel as fresh as the format we’re delivering it in. I really hope folks will give it a shot.