Wednesday Interview (Wolverine Week Edition): Steve McNiven

Wolverine Week continues here at Living Between Wednesdays, and our Wednesday Interview segment finds us chatting with Steve McNiven, currently hard at work on the Old Man Logan arc in the pages of Wolverine. The Halifax, Nova Scotia based artist first found fame drawing Meridian for CrossGen Comics, the company that launched the careers of other future Marvel superstars like Jimmy Cheung, Steve Epting, and Greg Land. Snapped up by Marvel, McNiven kicked off a new title, Marvel Knights 4, with writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, followed up by the Ultimate Secret miniseries with Warren Ellis and a run on New Avengers with Brian Michael Bendis. In 2006, Steve and writer Mark Millar turned the Marvel Universe’s greatest heroes against each other in the Civil War miniseries, a landmark event that included the public unmasking of Spider-Man and led to the death of Captain America. Steve followed this up by collaborating with writer Dan Slott on the inaugural Brand New Day arc of Amazing Spider-Man, (which relaunched the title as a thrice-monthly series), and now he and Millar are collaborating again on Old Man Logan. This dark, frightening, storyline, set years into a possible future, sees a broken-down Logan who has vowed never to pop his claws again on a journey across a nightmarish America that has been conquered by the worst of the supervillains. Logan and his companion, a sightless Hawkeye, travel the country in the old Spider-Mobile, eluding the Mole Man’s Moloids, an all-new new Kingpin of Crime, and, oh yeah, a Dino-Venom.

Holy $#!% is right! Steve was able to tear himself away from the drawing table long enough to answer a few of our questions about his influences, his collaborators, and what it’s like to draw a world where the bad guys have won.

1. You’ve worked with fan fave Mark Millar twice now, on Civil War and the current Old Man Logan arc on Wolverine. What is it about this particular collaboration that works so well for you? Do you guys have plans for a third project together in the future?

I was talking to my Wolverine editor John Barber about this just the other day. I think Mark writes just the kind of script that makes it fun and challenging for me to draw. He tends to be a very visual writer and has a great flow from panel to panel so I don't find myself having to 'fix' anything to make the story work, and that means that I can concentrate on the fun stuff. But it's more than that, something I couldn't adequately define, a sensibility perhaps that we both share that allows us to work well together. I dunno, but I'm glad it's there because I have so much fun working on his stuff, maybe more than I should as I tend to savor the pages a bit too much and  get way behind on the schedule. He's also a real pro, and I've never had to wait for script from Mark, ever, and I count my blessings as it happens to so many other artist's that I've talked to. All in all I'm a pretty lucky guy.

2. Between the present-day crossover action of Civil War, the dark future Marvel Universe we’re currently seeing in Old Man Logan, and your runs on Marvel Knights 4 and Amazing Spider-Man, you’ve gotten to draw pretty much the entire Marvel Universe. Are there any other characters, or genres, even, that you’ve been dying to get your hands on?

 Yeah, I have drawn a bunch of the Marvel characters, but most not in any real depth, so there still are many characters out there to have some fun with. Really though I don't tend to chase characters. I chase the writers . A great writer can make almost any character compelling enough for me to want to work on. A terrible writer can ruin your enthusiasm , sap your strength and it shows on the page. But if I were to just look at the Marvel characters that I'd like to draw more of then I'd probably could have some fun with the X-Men, maybe the Hulk and definitely Spidey again because he's such a huge challenge to capture artistically and I don't think I've really got a good feel for him yet. Genre wise I'd love to do some Sci fi and Fantasy based stuff as I'm an avid book reader. If you haven't read anything by Alastair Reynolds, or Matthew Stover, do yourself a favor and go check them out.

3. Old Man Logan takes place in a dystopian future where the supervillains have conquered America and killed most of the good guys—pretty grim stuff. Additionally, it’s probably one of the most violent comics to come out of mainstream Marvel in quite a while. Do you ever find it tough to have to make some of the images in this series come to life?

Sometimes, yeah, it can be a bit challenging, but it's always a good thing to push yourself artistically, going places that may be uncomfortable or unsettling. Sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle but it's worth it if the final work helps to convey the story. You know, It's still a head scratcher as to why North Americans find graphic violence so palatable but overt sexuality is still off the menu so to speak. The grim and gritty is a hell of a lot of fun fun to draw for me. Post apocalyptic stuff has always held an appeal for me, from Blade Runner to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, there is a great chance in there to show some exciting visuals.

4. Who are some of the comic book artists who inspired you to start drawing in the first place, and which current artists are you following these days?

Well, all the artists  that I worked with down in Florida during the CrossGen years really set me along the path and I still count myself lucky to get that face to face training ( even if the place was insane). From there it was a wide variety of artists, from  Charest to Hitch, Moebius to Otomo and more and more than I have the time to list. And of course there is an even wider field of art out there, not wrapped up in the commercial needs of comics that is always a huge inspiration. It's always interesting to see art that is divorced from commerce content wise, because it's so full of experiment and accident, and those things are essential to artistic growth.

5. Old Man Logan is wrapping up over the next few months. Can you tell us anything about what you’re doing next, or have you even thought that far ahead yet?

 Mark Millar and I are kicking around a few things, but it's too early to really get into any specifics, sorry. I am looking forward to pushing my art around in different ways and I am starting to make a more conscious effort to play around with different looks lest folks ( and myself!)  start to get bored of the same old thing from me.