By Tim O’Shea
In approaching his upcoming run on SAVAGE WOLVERINE, Richard Isanove found a unique time in history to serve as a setting: late 1933, a point in the Great Depression on the eve of the Dust Bowl era when Prohibition had almost come to an end.
Starting this January in SAVAGE WOLVERINE #14, Isanove injects his love of John Steinbeck’s fiction into Logan’s life. One imagines that making the future X-Man a bootlegger running booze from Canada to the United States would be enough fuel for a great story.
But, as Isanove explains to us, when one of these runs goes wrong, that’s when things start to get interesting.
Marvel.com: How did this project come about?
Richard Isanove: Last year, during [New York Comic-Con], as I was starting the final arc of THE DARK TOWER, [Marvel Senior Editor] Nick Lowe mentioned this new series Marvel was planning called SAVAGE WOLVERINE. I thought that would be an ideal project for me. I’ve been a little out of the Marvel mainstream universe and Wolverine gave me my first big break with ORIGIN. Beyond my fan boy affection for the character, I just love drawing him. I like that you don’t have to make him pretty. So, last spring, I started nagging Nick about it and we ended up where we are.
Marvel.com: Which idea came to you first, setting the story in the 1930’s Dust Bowl era or having Logan be a bootlegger?
Richard Isanove: I first set out to do a Depression era story, and my friend Dean White suggested the prohibition aspect. The problem was that the Dust Bowl was in 1935 and Prohibition ended in December 1933. So I wrote the story in 1931. I thought there were already plenty of bad things to work with, without adding on the biggest man-made disaster so far. I did put in a snowstorm during a key scene for good measure.
My editor, Jeanine [Schaefer] couldn’t let go, though. She thought that it was too bad that we didn’t use the great visuals of a dust storm. So I did some further research—thank you Wikipedia—and found out that the first great dust storm was in South Dakota in November 1933, the very same state where my snowstorm scene took place. And with one month of Prohibition to go! So we switched the date around, turned snow to dust, and voila!
|Savage Wolverine by Richard Isanove|
Marvel.com: What excited you most about getting to use the Great Depression era as a backdrop to the story?
Richard Isanove: My dad was a big Steinbeck fan and transmitted that love to me. Last year, I read my all-time favorite, “Of Mice and Men,” to my daughter and she was in tears at the end. Not a tiny teardrop: unstoppable sobbing.
SAVAGE WOLVERINE is supposed to explore different facets of Wolverine’s character. I wanted to see him deal with a situation where things kept going from bad to worse, so why not in the most desperate of times. I figured I might as well get my inspiration from one of the greatest storytellers, one that can still make children cry 80 years later. That said my storyline is more reminiscent of “Grapes of Wrath.” The protagonists even drive the same Hudson Super-Six, the vehicle that the Joad family used in “Grapes of Wrath.”
Marvel.com: I was excited to learn for this particular arc you have created an all-new villain for Logan to face, anything you can share about this new foil for Wolverine?
Richard Isanove: It was a bit of a challenge because Marvel would rather not have too many mutants running around pre-X-Men. I had to come up with a villain worthy of Wolvie that didn’t have any super powers.
The story is mostly character driven: I spend as much time developing the bad guys as the good ones. It features an ensemble cast of all new characters, but it’s also self-contained. It was great to be able to go off without having to worry about strict continuity.
Marvel.com: With Logan as a bootlegger does that allow you to work in some unique spectacular action scenes?
Richard Isanove: There’s definitely a good dose of jumping around, snikting and slashing.
After my time with Stephen King, it was actually kind of hard to tone things down. I’ve worked on about 1500 pages of THE DARK TOWER, and you can count on one hand the pages without blood splatters. My wife said I went over the line when I wrote a scene in [SAVAGE WOLVERINE] where a little girl is forced to chew off a guy’s fingers. Don’t worry I’m all good now.
Marvel.com: What kind of characters does Logan have for customers?
Richard Isanove: He mostly transports booze across the Canadian border for the owner of an illegal bar in a logging town in Northern Minnesota. That’s the beginning and the engine of the story but it’s mostly a road trip gone horribly wrong.
Marvel.com: From your perspective as a writer, what is it about Logan’s moral code that forces him to often override his desire to be left alone and instead choose to defend the innocent?
Richard Isanove: I always loved Isaac Asimov’s storytelling approach: you set up the basic principles and then you find ways for things to go wrong within these parameters.
Wolverine wants to stay on the outside so you find ways to mess it up for him. In this case, he tries to do the minimum but every step he takes ends up making things worse and drawing him in deeper. It’s the curse of the lone hero. In the tradition of the great Westerns: “Shane”, “Blondie”, “Doc Holliday”—no matter how much they try to not get involved, they always end up caring for someone else.
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