Off the Record...
Award winning Writer Paul Jenkins has been "hot"
lately. His top-selling mini-series, Wolverine: The
Origin, just finished and his on-going commitment to
Peter Parker: Spider-Man is his main focus again. We
spoke with Paul recently about how he drew on his experiences
as a child in England for writing Wolverine's origin,
how British writers think differently from American
writers, and why he sees himself as Peter Parker.
You always seem to have several projects
going on at the same time. Currently, you write Peter
Parker: Spider-Man, The Darkness and The Universe for
Top Cow and just finished up the hit mini-series Wolverine:
The Origin. How do you stay so busy?
Well, I feel that sometimes Im too busy. Last
year I may have taken on too many projects. My Spider-Man
editor, Axel Alonso, told me that I always sound harried
when he calls me, and that he feels I may have overextended
myself. So, Ive decided to rein myself in a little
So, this year, I plan to focus most of my attention
on Spider-Man. Im moving soon and getting married,
so Ill want some more personal time.
So, youre staying on Peter Parker for a while?
Yeah. We have a lot of stories planned. You know, weve
always been known as the "quite ones." Weve
been popular, but not as much as the other Spidey-books.
Im one of those writers that are quite popular,
but I never have any of those mega-popular blockbusters
(discounting Origin, of course).
Whose idea was it to finally reveal Wolverines
origin, and how did you get to be the lucky one to write
Well, when Joe [Quesada] was first editor-in-chief,
he asked me to attend one of his editor weekend retreats.
He liked the fact that I had been both a writer and
an editor and thought I might have some different perspective
to add. At some point, Bill Jemas spoke up and said,
"Lets do the origin of Wolverine."
Bill Jemas is a really smart dude. He might come across
as a "plank," but he says stuff and just smiles,
then retreats into the distance and lets everyone else
talk about it. A lot of the editors attending thought
we shouldnt do it, and I thought it was good idea.
My justification for it was this: Marvel been flogging
that same horse for 36-plus years. Why not reveal parts
of his origin? Dont reveal all of it, but more
of a character piece of where he came from.
There was a lot of hemming and hawing. Most writers
said they wouldnt touch it because they thought
it would become a complete mess. So they asked me to
"How long can you ride that horse? At
a certain point, youre beating it to death.
The character becomes an absolute cliché:
'Oh, I dont know where I came from!' Its
okay at first, but after 36 years, it becomes
a bit old, you know?"
You share plotting honors with Marvel
President Bill Jemas and Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada,
and then you scripted the story. How much freedom did
you have to really cut loose?
Nowhere near as much as I normally have. Bill and Joe
did a lot of the work. As I recall, the first three
issues were a lot more mine than the last three. And
I think shows in the way the issues read. Bill and Joe
got to do what they wanted, with the story ideas and
twist and turns, whereas I got to do more of what Im
known for with the characterizations. I think it worked
out well. It appears to have been quite popular.
Now that you mentioned it, the last two issues did
seem a little rushed.
I wouldnt say "rushed" as so much "crowded."
If we could have done a seventh issues, we would have,
but thats not how it was solicited. But I suppose
it also builds faster as a climax.
Whats your favorite revelation in Origin?
My favorite is the implication, or suggestion, that
the reason Wolverine has forgotten his past is not from
some "Evil Mastermind," but from the trauma.
Because he is mutant and has this healing ability, his
fractured minds way of healing is to forget everything.
It explains why he has forgotten his past for so long.
I think its a clever revelation.
Many fans have complained that Marvel sold out and
should have kept Wolverines past a mystery. How
do you react to that?
[Sighs.] How long can you ride that horse? At a certain
point, youre beating it to death. The character
becomes an absolute cliché: "Oh, I dont
know where I came from!" Its okay at first,
but after 36 years, it becomes a bit old, you know?
Ive always though of it this way: Were just
revealing portions of his origin, not all of it. So
you now know his first name, big deal. Weve brought
up more questions with this story like "Whos
the brother who died?"
Rather than doing what I think people were afraid of
and break down his whole history, I think we re-energized
the character. Hes more of the Wolverine with
the interesting and mysterious past now, than he was
two years ago.
"Spider-Man is the easiest character
I have ever written. Spider-Man is me. Ive
had to endure certain things, but Im not
that worried about them. And I see that in Peter
that stubborn optimism: 'Im not going
to let it beat me down.'"
I found it interesting that you introduced
the whole "Shogun" concept when Smitty tossed
him that book.
Yeah! Just a couple of little bits like that. Does Wolverine
go into the Navy and follow the footsteps of the man
he idolized so much? What does he do? We dont
know. Rather than answering all of the questions, I
think we answered three and raised six more. And that
was the point, not to explain the character, but to
re-energize the character. Will Wolverine ever learn
about what happened to his mother? Is his brother alive?
What happened to "Dog?"
I tend to wonder if Dog becomes Sabretooth.
Who knows? In my mind, Dog is not intended to be Sabretooth,
but he could be. It doesnt matter. As long as
the next writer respects the character and writes a
simple story, anything could happen.
What makes you want to go in a "Bezerker Rage?"
[Laughs.] I dont get that angry
about much. I play a lot of sports, so I have a lot
of outlets. Sorry! No rage here.
One of your ongoing projects is writing Peter Parker:
Spider-Man. Were you a big fan of Spidey when you were
a kid growing up in England?
Yeah, I was actually. As a little boy, I lived out in
the country. My mother was a single parent raising me
and my brother, and we were extremely poor. My mother
was a housekeeper for a farmer, and we lived in a cottage
and sat looking up at the farm everyday, while the kids
played with all of their toys.
Sounds like a scene out of Wolverine: The Origin!
It really is! You know that scene of the hill in issue
one? That is absolutely what my brother and I grew up
with. We didnt have the drunken father, but we
grew up in that situation. It was really interesting
to write it.
When I was a kid, my grandmother would send us comics.
Among them, occasionally, we would get a Spider-Man
comic. And, like all kids, I just loved Spider-Man.
Spider-Man doesnt seem to be the type of character
fans are used to seeing you write. Usually, you are
more known for a darker type of character. What made
you want to take on The Wall-Crawler?
Spider-Man is the easiest character I have ever written.
Spider-Man is me. I dont have the punching or
leaping ability, but Ive always been a relatively
optimistic person. Ive had to endure certain things,
but Im not that worried about them. And I see
that in Peter that stubborn fucking optimism:
"Im not going to let it beat me down."
You mention that Im known more for a darker type
of writer and thats true to a point. But, actually,
after Peter Parker #50, Im going to move away
from the "grittier" types of stories. But
that doesnt mean to say that we are going to get
quiet or anything.
Like, the issue we did about the little boy who thought
he was Spider-Man. I remember getting the final page
back from (regular artist) Buckigham and getting a tear
in my eye, despite knowing how the story was going to
end. When I was a little kid, I was just like the little
black kid I thought I was Spider-Man, too.
Were not going to do just quiet stories, though.
I want to bring back the humor to the stories. And humor
only works when you juxtapose it against tragedy. And
tragedy only works when you juxtapose it against comedy.
So, well bring those elements in. Its going
to be a little more aimed at those who loved the old
Spider-Man and villains.
"My thought is that [Spider-Man] must
be able to exhibit the ability for hatred, so
he can choose not to hate. I f he is incapable
of hatred, that doesnt make him a hero;
it make him Jesus. And there is a big difference
I think in each of the old villains there is a metaphor
waiting to be explained. Look at Doctor Octopus. Fans
were bent out of shape because in the earlier issues
of that story arc, we had Doc Oc as a goofier character
that fed his pet octopus and so forth. But then we revealed
it was all an act. Hes a Jeffrey Dahmer. Hes
Ted Bundy. Hes an absolute sociopath. He has no
understanding of anything that hurts
We have so many characters that are like that. Take
Venom, for instance. Hes a metaphor for an addiction.
Now, I dont want to write a grim story about addiction,
but its an interesting way to look at the character,
What can the fans expect for Spidey in the near future
in the pages Peter Parker?
I just sent Marvel a 24-issue breakdown, so they have
my ideas for the next two years. Certainly, some old
characters will be coming back ones that fans
want, some that havent appeared in forever.
One in particular will appeal to the old die-hard fans.
He was more of a "joke character." Do you
remember the Hypno-Husstler? He was this dude who was
disco dancer in the late 70s. He would hypnotize
people with his back-up dancers! So, we have a story
about the Hypno-Husstler being all pissed off because
all of his music is being used in Rave shows, and he
wants rights to it.
Well have goofy, fun stuff like that and serious
stuff, like the little child story. Plus, well
have arcs that bring in old characters and explain them
for what they represent.
Like, Electro, for example. Isnt he, in a way,
a metaphor for power? Peters motto is "With
great power comes great responsibility," but this
guy doesnt believe that. He thinks power is to
be used however and wherever he wants. So well
explore characters like that, too.
What did you think of the movie?
Mixed feelings. I thought Tobey Maquire was brilliant.
Mary Jane was good. Aunt May was good. The effects were
good. The bits I didnt like was that they tried
to make a comic book out of this movie, rather than
just make it a movie. At some point, it became a "Ha
ha ha, Ill get you!" kind of story. Fucking
Mary Jane gets abducted 3 times! I just think they dumbed
it down so badly. Kids dont need it to be dumbed
down. But, thats just my one opinion.
Im really pleased in almost everything. I just
would have made some changes.
"The tragedy of 9-11 doesnt want me
to hate anybody. It wants me want fix it. "
It seems many of the titles you have worked on (Spider-Man,
Witchblade, next summers Hulk) have been turned
into live-action films or television series. Whos
next? The Broadway musical of Hellblazer?
Lets see if they make The Sentry. Ive heard
rumors about it getting produced. Its a simple
story with a cool twist. I think it would make a great
When would a "Spidey-sense" come in handy
[Laughs hard.] Every time I go to Los Angeles and am
about to get ripped-off by Hollywood producers. A Spidey-sense
would be perfect for that!
About a year ago, Image billed your current series,
"The Universe," as the central book that will
tie together all the mainline Top Cow entities, primarily
The Witchblade, The Darkness and The Angelus. Do you
feel youve accomplished that or still have aways
A lot of ways to go. The idea was really sound, but
the problem with Universe is the other new books that
were supposed to come out in tandem with Universe were
extremely late. So, when I was to explore that character
in Universe, I couldnt because it would have been
before the other books came out.
Unfortunately, a lot of this was due to a falling-out
with one of their distributors, so Top Cow couldnt
get publish the books they wanted to. They ended up
concentrating on the core characters, and Universe ended
up changing which is okay, since I always had
another story to tell anyway.
But there are some things that have helped tie together
the Top Cow Universe, such as when everyone dies, they
go to Hell. That God has gone missing. That none of
the angels and demons have never actually met God, so
they are in the dark as much as we are.
How did the tragedy of 9-11 affect the way you write?
That was really hard. I arrived in Spain for a convention
the day it happened. It was hard to really understand
what was going on. Afterwards, I learned that the one
thing I wanted to do was go find the nearest Muslim
and shake his hand. The tragedy of 9-11 doesnt
want me to hate anybody. It wants me want fix it.
The story Im writing right now, oddly enough,
deals with those emotions. Its about the Green
Goblin trying to bring hatred into Peters life.
He feels if he can fill Peter with enough hatred, he
will be his son. And, like many Americans right now,
you want to hate those bastards, right? You want to
pay them back. And then, when your sense kicks in, you
realize that were all in this together. You dont
really want to hurt anybody.
Maybe Im a pacifist, I dont know. I always
feel like, when Im writing, I have a chance to
get up on my soapbox and write whats important
to me. The way 9-11 has affected me is that I have an
outlet to raise these types of questions.
Alan Moore. Warren Ellis. Grant Morrison. Are British
writers actually better or are fans just responding
because its something different?
"Im lucky, because Im somewhat
under the radar. Im popular enough, but
with the exception of Origin, Im not really
well known. Im not seen like a Straczynski
or even Bendis, which is okay with me. Because,
once someone perceives something youve written
as crap, youre on your way down. "
Because its something different. British writers
arent necessarily better that doesnt
make sense. I happen to think British writers grow up
thinking the United States as some big Metropolis. Youve
got Disney World and 150,000 TV stations the
whole country is like an amusement park. Americans get
hit with this amusement park every day of your life.
We are not afraid of breaking down and exposing classic
For example, I had a disagreement with the guys at
Marvel recently. You have to understand, with the success
of the Spider-Man movie, theyve been very protective.
I was talking about the nature of hatred and Spider-Man.
My thought is that he must be able to exhibit the ability
for hatred, so he can choose not to hate. I f he is
incapable of hatred, that doesnt make him a hero;
it make him Jesus. And there is a big difference to
But, despite their protectiveness and worry, Marvel
was cool enough to let me go with my idea. I can see
their worry about me "busting down" their
perception of Spider-Man. I dont think Im
busting him down, but building him up more as a hero.
There, I suppose, is the difference. Brits are not as
afraid of these characters. Sometimes I think American
writers revere these characters a little too much.
Thats why I enjoy having these scenes where
nothing happens. If you dont show the person acting
as a person, how can we believe in them later on? If
you dont care about the people in a conflict,
how can you care about the conflict?
So, to sit Spider-Man down in a coffee house for four
pages to explain he has gas today, and hes not
sure if he has enough money to pay rent, and Aunt May
is pissing him off, is very, very important. American
writers tend to want to "get on with it."
Do you feel comic professionals are perceived differently
Yeah, thats obvious when you go over that. I think
the general population, not necessarily the fans, respect
it more. Here, they laugh at you.
What was it like winning an Eisner Award for your
work on The Inhumans?
I wish I attended that year! [Laughs.] I was shocked
by it. Ive been popular with the fans, but never
[Brian Michael] Bendis and I have become very good friends
over the years. When we both became overnight sensations
three years ago, we were already in the industry for
seven years or more. We were talking about the recent
Wizard poll of "whos hot and whos not."
Bendis laughed at me and said I needed to start worrying.
I asked, "why?" He said that he and I were
both listed as "hot." Of course, theres
only one way to go, right?
"...to sit Spider-Man down in a coffee house
for four pages to explain he has gas today, and
hes not sure if he has enough money to pay
rent, and Aunt May is pissing him off, is very,
very important. American writers tend to want
to 'get on with it.'"
Im lucky, because Im somewhat under the
radar. Im popular enough, but with the exception
of Origin, Im not really well known. Im
not seen like a Straczynski or even Bendis, which is
okay with me. Because, once someone perceives something
youve written as crap, youre on your way
For those that have never heard this story, what
was your role in launching the Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles with your friends, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird?
Well, I didnt help launch it; those guys were
already working on it. At that time, I was trying to
make my way as a musician. I broke my leg and couldnt
really get around anymore. I knew Peter and Kevin since
they did our album cover. I asked them for a job, and
they needed someone at the time because of all the licensing
that was going on. I was the third employee they ever
They had about 12 comics out at that time, but they
just made a deal for the movie. So I spent a lot of
time on the phone handling licensing issues. After a
while, I started to hate it. The money from the movie
was pouring in, but so was the bullshit that surrounds
money. So I took less money to work at Tundra and worked
there for a while.
Then, I broke into writing with my first gig in Hellblazer.
And the rest, as they say, "is history."
Yeah, I went on to work with the Inhumans and The Sentry,
took over the Hulk for a little bit. Then came Spider-Man.
What can fans expect from Paul Jenkins in the future?
Were currently working on a Rapture one-shot that
should tie up everything we are doing with The Universe.
That should be out soon.
Okay, now is the time for "2099" portion
of our interview. This is where I ask you 20 questions
in 99 seconds. Its basically an "either/or"
type of response, but you can answer whatever first
pops into your head.
[Laughs] All right
Ongoing or mini-series: Ongoing
Smart or Dumb Hulk: Dumb
Late-night or early day: Late-night
Better-looking women America or England:
Super Heroes or Super Natural: Super Heroes
Big-screen or rent: Big-screen
Play with toy or keep in box: Play with it!
Life with computers - easier or more stressed:
Fly or drive: Drive
Spidey Sense or Healing Factor: Spidey Sense
First Print or TPB: First Print
South Park or Simpsons: Simpsons
Cell phone or E-mail: Phone
Sleep in or make deadline: [Laughs] Sleep in!
Eisner Award or Commission check off Origin:
Squeeze in the middle or at the end: At the
Script or Plot: Script
American Football or Rugby: American football!
Lou Ferigno or Adam West: Adam West. Lou Ferigno
is a @#$!
Sara Pezzini or Sarah Michelle Geller: Sarah
Thanks, Paul, we appreciate your time.
That was fun, thanks!
WRITING CREDITS (Not official)
Peter Parker: Spider-Man - current
Wolverine: The Origin 1-6
The Universe 1- current
The Agency 1-6
Spider-Man Web Spinners #10-12
The Inhumans 1-12
Hellblazer (4 year run)