First off: WOLVERINE NOIR #3, by me and CP Smith, comes out next Wednesday, June 24th. Here's a small taste:
Which makes it particularly good timing that C. Fitzpatrick just posted a question to me, in the comments section of a previous entry in this blog. He starts off by saying nice things about NOIR (thanks very much) and continues:
I do however, have a question I hope you can take a little time to answer, despite it not really being related to NOIR. I want it to be known I’m not some frothing at the mouth fan boy but I was just a little pissed when I recently learned you were editor of Garth Ennis' PUNISHER during Wolverine's infamous guest appearance.
I'm just trying to understand why you allowed (if I’m wrong about your responsibilities or role as editor on PUNISHER, please correct me!) Garth to present an intentionally bad and a really vicious parody of Wolverine? Surely this could only be harmful to the character.
C. is referring to the second volume of the Marvel Knights PUNISHER series, issues #16-17 (2002), which featured such images as this:
Okay -- first off, yes, I was the editor who approved the above images (smirking all the way).
Second, I obviously like Wolverine quite a lot. I'm actually surprised that, considering how many stories the character appears in every month, I can always find something else to do with him. I've got a one-shot coming up featuring the regular, in-continuity version, and I'm very proud of that. More on it soon.
But I've always been a big-tent kind of guy. The PUNISHER book of that period had a very different flavor from the later MAX version: It was often satirical, mixing violence with dark humor. Every time a "normal" super hero wandered into Frank Castle's world, he wound up out of his depth and humiliated. Daredevil and Spider-Man fared only slightly better than Wolverine.
Garth Ennis's view of super heroes can be seen pretty clearly in the excellent BOYS and HEROGASM, which have a lot of fun at the costumed characters' expense. But the Marvel Knights Punisher wasn't just about Garth's worldview; it was about Frank Castle's. The Punisher has no more respect for Spider-Man or Wolverine than he would for an ordinary guy who strutted into the South Bronx in a white suit, looking for trouble. That's been a pretty consistent part of the character since his inception.
So this portrayal of Wolverine was somewhat filtered through the Punisher's own prejudices. But aside from that: I've always believed there's room for different versions of a major company's signature characters. Another title I edited for Knights was Sam Kieth's WOLVERINE/HULK miniseries. It wasn't quite so, uh, dismissive of Logan, but it was definitely odd:
Sam's version of Wolverine was exaggerated, comedic, and touching. Garth's Logan fit into the PUNISHER title, and it made us laugh. Would either version have been appropriate for a long run on a comic book called WOLVERINE? Probably not. But as separate projects, I don't think they diminished the character. They just provided more options for readers.
By the way: I'd forgotten that those two PUNISHER issues were drawn by Darick Robertson. Darick now collaborates with Garth on THE BOYS, but shortly after PUNISHER, he drew a well-remembered run on WOLVERINE with Greg Rucka. Darick likes to poke fun at heroes -- but I can assure you that he's at least as big a WOLVERINE fan as any of us.
I appreciate the question, C., and the friendly spirit it was asked in. You may not agree with my answer, but I hope it clarifies my view of things -- which, I should stress, is not necessarily that of the other creators mentioned, or of Marvel Comics' management past or present.
And once again, thanks for the chance to plug WOLVERINE NOIR #3: