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INTERVIEWS

Off the Record...

Eisner 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 I’m 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, I’ve decided to rein myself in a little bit.

So, this year, I plan to focus most of my attention on Spider-Man. I’m moving soon and getting married, so I’ll want some more personal time.

So, you’re staying on Peter Parker for a while?

Yeah. We have a lot of stories planned. You know, we’ve always been known as the "quite ones." We’ve been popular, but not as much as the other Spidey-books. I’m 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 Wolverine’s origin, and how did you get to be the lucky one to write it?

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, "Let’s 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 shouldn’t 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? Don’t 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 wouldn’t touch it because they thought it would become a complete mess. So they asked me to do it.


"How long can you ride that horse? At a certain point, you’re beating it to death. The character becomes an absolute cliché: 'Oh, I don’t know where I came from!' It’s 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 I’m 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 wouldn’t say "rushed" as so much "crowded." If we could have done a seventh issues, we would have, but that’s not how it was solicited. But I suppose it also builds faster as a climax.

What’s 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 mind’s way of healing is to forget everything. It explains why he has forgotten his past for so long. I think it’s a clever revelation.

Many fans have complained that Marvel sold out and should have kept Wolverine’s past a mystery. How do you react to that?

[Sighs.] How long can you ride that horse? At a certain point, you’re beating it to death. The character becomes an absolute cliché: "Oh, I don’t know where I came from!" It’s okay at first, but after 36 years, it becomes a bit old, you know?

I’ve always though of it this way: We’re just revealing portions of his origin, not all of it. So you now know his first name, big deal. We’ve brought up more questions with this story like "Who’s 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. He’s 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. I’ve had to endure certain things, but I’m not that worried about them. And I see that in Peter – that stubborn optimism: 'I’m 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 don’t 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 doesn’t 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?"

Me? Ummmm… [Laughs.] I don’t 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 didn’t 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 doesn’t 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 don’t have the punching or leaping ability, but I’ve always been a relatively optimistic person. I’ve had to endure certain things, but I’m not that worried about them. And I see that in Peter – that stubborn fucking optimism: "I’m not going to let it beat me down."

You mention that I’m known more for a darker type of writer and that’s true to a point. But, actually, after Peter Parker #50, I’m going to move away from the "grittier" types of stories. But that doesn’t 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.

We’re 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, we’ll bring those elements in. It’s 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 doesn’t make him a hero; it make him Jesus. And there is a big difference to me."

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. He’s a Jeffrey Dahmer. He’s Ted Bundy. He’s an absolute sociopath. He has no understanding of anything that hurts … unless it hurts him.

We have so many characters that are like that. Take Venom, for instance. He’s a metaphor for an addiction. Now, I don’t want to write a grim story about addiction, but it’s an interesting way to look at the character, I think.

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 haven’t 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.

We’ll have goofy, fun stuff like that and serious stuff, like the little child story. Plus, we’ll have arcs that bring in old characters and explain them for what they represent.

Like, Electro, for example. Isn’t he, in a way, a metaphor for power? Peter’s motto is "With great power comes great responsibility," but this guy doesn’t believe that. He thinks power is to be used however and wherever he wants. So we’ll 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 didn’t 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, I’ll get you!" kind of story. Fucking Mary Jane gets abducted 3 times! I just think they dumbed it down so badly. Kids don’t need it to be dumbed down. But, that’s just my one opinion.

I’m really pleased in almost everything. I just would have made some changes.



"The tragedy of 9-11 doesn’t 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 summer’s Hulk) have been turned into live-action films or television series. Who’s next? The Broadway musical of Hellblazer?

Let’s see if they make The Sentry. I’ve heard rumors about it getting produced. It’s a simple story with a cool twist. I think it would make a great movie.

When would a "Spidey-sense" come in handy for you?

[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 you’ve accomplished that or still have aways to go?

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 couldn’t 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 couldn’t 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 doesn’t want me to hate anybody. It wants me want fix it.

The story I’m writing right now, oddly enough, deals with those emotions. It’s about the Green Goblin trying to bring hatred into Peter’s 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 we’re all in this together. You don’t really want to hurt anybody.

Maybe I’m a pacifist, I don’t know. I always feel like, when I’m writing, I have a chance to get up on my soapbox and write what’s 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 it’s something different?

"I’m lucky, because I’m somewhat under the radar. I’m popular enough, but with the exception of Origin, I’m not really well known. I’m not seen like a Straczynski or even Bendis, which is okay with me. Because, once someone perceives something you’ve written as crap, you’re on your way down. "

Because it’s something different. British writers aren’t necessarily better – that doesn’t make sense. I happen to think British writers grow up thinking the United States as some big Metropolis. You’ve 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 characters.

For example, I had a disagreement with the guys at Marvel recently. You have to understand, with the success of the Spider-Man movie, they’ve 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 doesn’t make him a hero; it make him Jesus. And there is a big difference to me.

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 don’t think I’m 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.

That’s why I enjoy having these scenes where nothing happens. If you don’t show the person acting as a person, how can we believe in them later on? If you don’t 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 he’s 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 in Europe?

Yeah, that’s 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. I’ve been popular with the fans, but never that popular.

[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 "who’s hot and who’s 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, there’s 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 he’s 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.'"

I’m lucky, because I’m somewhat under the radar. I’m popular enough, but with the exception of Origin, I’m not really well known. I’m not seen like a Straczynski or even Bendis, which is okay with me. Because, once someone perceives something you’ve written as crap, you’re on your way down.

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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 had.

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?

We’re 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. It’s basically an "either/or" type of response, but you can answer whatever first pops into your head.

[Laughs] All right… sounds good!

Ongoing or mini-series: Ongoing

Smart or Dumb Hulk: Dumb

Late-night or early day: Late-night

Better-looking women – America or England: America

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: Easier

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: Eisner Award

Squeeze in the middle or at the end: At the end

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 Michelle Geller!

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
Witchblade
Incredible Hulk
The Sentry
The Inhumans 1-12
Hellblazer (4 year run)



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