Interview: Marc Sumerak on ‘Weapon X: First Class’
Coming November 5 will be the first issue of a three issue miniseries, Weapon X: First Class, which will explore the Weapon X program and how it turned Logan into Wolverine. Writing this fresh take on the story will be Marc Sumerak, former assistant editor and currently one of Marvel’s fresh new voices.
CMix: Hey, Marc, nice to catch up with you. Just how did you manage to transition from staff to fulltime freelance?
Marc Sumerak: I spent four exciting years on Marvel’s editorial team as Tom Brevoort’s Assistant Editor, working on some of my all-time favorite titles (including Avengers, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor and more). But, as they say, all good things must come to an end… and for a number of reasons, I found myself leaving NYC and heading back to my hometown of Cleveland, OH.
At that point, I figured my career in the comic biz was pretty much over… but not long after the move, I was contacted by Marvel and asked to pitch a few ideas that I had been starting to develop right before I left staff. One of those ideas became my first series at Marvel: Guardians. That came out in July, 2004…and somehow I’ve managed to continue working in comics steadily ever since! Only now, I’m not the one enforcing the deadlines…I’m scrambling to meet them instead!
CMix: You seem to have concentrated on the lighter, brighter sections of the Marvel Universe such as the Power Pack miniseries. What’s the appeal?
MS: I think it’s important to have a wide variety of titles available that appeal to different segments of our readership. My editors have seemed to think that I have a good grasp on "all-ages" material, so that’s been the overall focus of my body of work to date… and I definitely can’t complain about that. Working on Power Pack, Franklin Richards and the Marvel Adventures line has been a blast!
Like many of our readers, I discovered the joy of comics at a young age… and if something I’m writing brings that same feeling of wonder and excitement to one of today’s young readers, then it’s one of the greatest rewards I can imagine.
Without new readers coming in the door, the industry will eventually cease to be. So being able to provide material that a new generation can enjoy — and that parents can feel comfortable about giving their children — is an essential step towards strengthening our industry’s future. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that effort.
CMix: The First Class line of titles seems to be retelling the older stories or situations with modern sensibilities. Are we to take these are the canonical version of events or do these stories take place to the side of the core continuity?
MS: When we started building this project, my editor Mark Paniccia told me that the First Class titles "dance between the raindrops of continuity." I honestly think that it’s a perfect way to describe it. These books feature stories set within the core Marvel Universe and take place during a time period that many readers are very familiar with. While some pieces of our stories may seem familiar to longtime readers, the majority of the events has never been seen before — or is being viewed from a different perspective than the original story provided. Often, that gives us a look at what happened between the panels of our favorite adventures.
When revisiting the past of any well-known character, the ultimate goal is to provide a fresh take on the classic mythology without contradicting continuity. Personally, I leave it up to the reader to decide whether or not something is "canon"… but a lot of research was done to make sure that the story being told on our pages fits cleanly into the intricately woven tapestry of Marvel history.
In the end, we’re looking to respectfully expand upon Wolverine’s storied past… not completely rewrite it.
CMix: Weapon X was a highly regarded serial from Barry Windsor-Smith and was one of Marvel’s first hardcover bestsellers. Are you revisiting that same set up?
MS: The original Weapon X saga was definitely the foundation for our new series. We wanted to take a look back at what turned the man named Logan into the weapon called Wolverine, and to tell that story in a way that a whole new generation of readers could join Wolvie on his quest to rediscover his past.
As a fan of the original Weapon X story, I felt it was important to be as true as possible to the source material. After all, there’s a reason it’s one of Marvel’s most memorable tales! So longtime readers will find quite a few familiar moments sprinkled throughout or new series, but many of them will be viewed from a totally new angle.
For new readers who have never read the classic Barry Windsor-Smith story, all of the essential information is provided within this new series. But for fans of the original Weapon X, this book works as a companion piece that provides an expanded look at the legendary tale.
CMix: What exactly can we expect from your Weapon X story?
MS: Our first issue introduces Wolverine not too long after he joined the X-Men. He’s finally at a place where he belongs… but he still feels an itch in the back of his brain that won’t let him find peace. He knows he has to discover the truth about his clouded memories, and he knows there’s only one man who can help him: Professor Charles Xavier. From there, it’s an epic quest for the truth as only Marvel’s greatest mutants can possibly provide!
Also, each issue will feature a ten-page back-up story that focuses on another popular X-character and their ties to Wolverine’s past in the Weapon X program. The characters being showcased are Sabretooth, Deadpool and Gambit… and each of their stories provides some previously unknown information about them as well.
CMix: Given Wolverine: First Class is really about Wolverine and Kitty Pryde, will Kitty turn up here?
MS: This series is set in the same timeframe as Wolverine: First Class. That means Kitty will definitely be making an appearance… but this particular story is more about Wolverine and Professor Xavier.
CMix: What about your art team – Mark Robinson and Tim Seeley? Did you spend much time planning for this with them?
MS: Mark and Tim have been absolutely amazing from day one. Since this project is so deeply entrenched in Marvel lore, the amount of reference material was pretty insane. Some of my scripts contained dozens of flashback images from over thirty years of Marvel Comics featuring Wolvie… so the fact that these fellas were able to get through an issue without physically hurting me is a testament to their patience and professionalism! But beyond that, they’re both so talented it’s scary! They’ve been the perfect fit for the series and have each brought a unique energy to the project. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew to bring my words to life.
CMix: Do you work Marvel style, that is plot first, or full script?
MS: I tend to write full script… but usually, I’ll send a page-by-page plot breakdown to my editors first, just to make sure we’re all agreed on the basic beats of the story. Once I get the thumbs up from them, I dive in and write the plot and dialogue at the same time.
CMix: What surprised you about the finished pages as they started coming in?
MS: More than anything, I’m always amazed to see how an artist interprets my panel descriptions. Although I’m not an artist myself — at least not a very good one — my time in editorial trained me to "see" a page in my head before it is drawn. So for me, it’s always exciting to find out how the final drawn page differs from what I had originally envisioned.
In the case of Weapon X: First Class, all of the differences were extremely positive ones. Mark Robinson managed to take what I wrote in the lead stories and really bump it to the next level in terms of action and drama. I asked a lot of him, and he somehow gave me much more than I could have hoped for.
As for the back-up stories, I am pretty sure there were moments where Tim Seeley was actually reading my mind. Especially in the Deadpool story in issue #2. Every single page was exactly how I pictured it when I wrote it. It was a little freaky… but in a very good way!
CMix: Will you revisit the First Class universe?
MS: I think it’s a great line of titles and I would love the chance to play in this sandbox a bit more if Marvel wanted me to. Guess we’ll have to see how this series goes and take it from there…
CMix: What’s next for you?
MS: I’ve got a bunch of new releases on the immediate horizon. In November, I’ve got a new Franklin Richards one-shot, the first issue of the Wolverine & Power Pack limited series, and, of course, the launch of Weapon X: First Class.
In December, I’ll be writing one of this year’s What If? one-shots — What If?: Fallen Son. It asks the burning question, "What if Iron Man had died instead of Captain America?" Early next year, I’ll be making a return to Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man… and I’m also working on a few other things that are far too early in development to discuss!
So yeah… I’m keeping busy!
CMix: Thanks for your time, Marc.
MS: Thanks for chatting about this project! I truly hope you enjoy it when the first issue hits stands on November 5.