Serval (Wolverine)


Premier ouvrage de l'éditeur Semic vendu par souscription, reprenant la mini-série Wolverine, 4 numéros publiés entre septembre et décembre 1982. La mini-série avait déjà été traduites en février 1984 par Lug dans la collection « Un récit complet Marvel ».

#01, p.19

Introduction de Chris Claremont (1987)


The San Diego Comic Convention had just ended, and Frank Miller and I were driving north up I-5. And in desperation, as people will do on the road with miles and hours yet to go, when they verge on the terminally bored with little substantive relief in sight, we resorted to conversation.

So who’s this Frank, you wonder, and wherefore did he pencil this book you’re about to read?

Frank Miller is a ridiculously talented artist...

..who’s also one of the best writers in the comics industry.

Usually, when writers are just starting out, it takes a while for them to gain their feet; they make their usual number of mistakes, they learn their trade by doing. Not Frank. Oh, he learned. The thing is, his first script was as good as most people’s best. It didn’t read like a first script and all of us wondered if he’d been doing this for years under a pseudonym or had some snarling fairy godmother sprinkling Dashiell Hammett pixie dust onto his typewriter keys. And then, he had the nerve — the unmitigated gall to get better. As for his art, I’ll let it speak — most eloquently — for itself.

But I digress...

So, there we are, plodding up the California coast in our Hertz Mobile, talking about Wolverine. Now, in the character’s original incarnation — as established in the Incredible Hulk #181 and later in Giant-Size X-Men #1 — he was a pint-sized hellraiser with a hair-trigger temper. Sort of like synthesizing the entire destructive capability of the New York Giants’ defensive squad — plus Mark Bavaro and Phil McConkey — in a package about two-thirds the size of Joe Morris. Someone you don’t want to mess with, any which way, ever. From the start, he’s been one of the most popular characters in X-Men and the suggestion had been made that we star him in his own limited series. And I, ever on the prod of artists, figured Frank would love to draw it. Frank wasn’t so sure. For the most part, you see, Wolvie had been portrayed as a terminal psychotic, akin to human nitroglycerin, ready to explode into a berserker fury without warning, as likely to attack his friends and teammates as his foes. An okay character description, if you’re heavily into the uni-dimensional people. The problem is, it doesn’t leave you — asa writer — many places to go.

Now Frank, he said flat out that he wasn’t much interested in drawing the adventures of a berserker psycho-killer. Which was fine with me, because neither was I in writing them. And then, I told him the idea that had been swirling about in my skull for some time —

that the essence of Wolvie’s character was a “failed samurai.” To samurai, duty is all, selfless service the path to their ultimate ambition, death with grace. Every facet, every moment of their lives, is absolutely under control. Wolverine, however, is almost a primal life force, totally beyond control, as graceless as can be. The one might be considered the ultimate expression of humanity — wherein the will, the intellect, totally overmaster all other aspects of existence — while the other is the total animal.

All through that six-hour drive, we talked Wolvie’s character — and that became one of the elements that made this story experience so refreshingly delightful. You see, in comics, most stories are constructed from plot outward. The writer comes up with a sequence of events, or acritical moment (from which others are derived, or to which those others build), into which the various characters are thrown, their characterizations derived from their interaction with those events. Plot ends up defining character. Nothing wrong with that, per se, unless that becomes the only way things are done.

In this case, though, Frank and I began by discussing the central character. Who was Wolverine? What made him tick? The only story parameter we acknowledged at that time was that we wanted to utterly, ruthlessly and seemingly irrevocably destroy him. And then, maybe, make him better. But even that was open to change, depending on how our discussions of his character went. And through the discussion, a mutual image of Wolverine emerged. One we both liked. One we both could relate to and deal with.

And deal with him we did, very nastily. And he hasn’t been the same ever since.

A lot of people — readers and fellow comic professionals — have complained that Wolvie’s lost a crucial edge, that he isn’t the wild man psycho butcher he used to be; he’s gotten too rational, too normal, he’s lost the part of him that made him special and unique. It may be that they have a point, I don’t know. It seems to me that a character cannot remain static, even in an ongoing, open-ended publishing format like comics. If you freeze a character into a certain set of parameters, usually for convenience — of other writers, of readers, of merchandisers, whatever — then before long that character runs the risk of becoming sterile. Writers — and ultimately readers — may stop thinking of the character as a vital, real, three-dimensional being and instead come to perceive him (or her) as an agglomeration of stock elements — plug ’emin, wind “em up, turn him/her/them loose and put ’em through their stock paces. Nothing changes, nothing grows. Stories may still be technically exciting, but they’ve lost all heart: There’s no passion, nothing to excite the readers and hold them interested. And how long then before the writer becomes bored, and the artist, and then ultimately the reader?

So Frank and | took the character and from him built the story, using Wolverine himself to define the conflict, and then the structure of the story. And it was a whole lot of fun! One of the best I’ve written and, I’m happy to maintain with pardonable pride, one of the best I’ve seen Frank draw. This became what all of us in comics strive for — that special moment where writer’s vision merges with penciler’s, the two counter- balancing the weakness, to create a whole which is much, much greater than the sum of the parts. We put Wolvie through the wringer, and loved it! As, we hope, did our readers.

And that, in the final analysis, is what this crazy industry is all about.

(Now, if there was only some way of persuading Frank to do it again...?)