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Novel Idea: An Interview With Duane Swierczynski

Posted by Luke Brown On June - 3 - 2008

Novelist Duane Swierczynski is one of MARVEL‘s hottest new writers. With a successful relaunch of CABLE under his belt, and upcoming runs on IMMORTAL IRON FIST and PUNISHER MAX, we had to stop and talk with him at Wizard World Philadelphia. Hit the jump to see just what Duane had to say about working in comics, and what we can expect from him this upcoming year.

When writing a novel versus writing a comic, what do you do differently in your approach?

The biggest difference for me was being more visual. In a novel you can cheat or skip over description. A lot of writers I admire, like Elmore Leonard, don’t do much description. It makes a more fast-paced read. In comics you can’t do that, you have to tell the artist what you want. For me, it’s been learning how to communicate to the artist of what I have in mind, but having the balance of not going to far where it’s ruining their fun because they have to have fun with their half of the story-telling. Some artists love more to go on and some just want one sentence of what’s going on in the panel.

It’s also more collaborative. For a novel, I go away for three to six months and write my book. At the end I show it to my editor, then we talk about whether he or she liked it or not. With comics, it’s ongoing. There are story meetings, back and forth with the editors all the time running things by them. Then there’s coordinating with other books. With CABLE, for a few issues it was on its own, but now you’ll start to see it more heavily integrated in the X-Men Universe. With novels you can be a loner, where in comics it’s like being on a staff. That’s the big two differences.

In the collaborative aspect, what is the difference in a script you would write for Ariel Olivetti (CABLE) versus one for Travel Foreman (IMMORTAL IRON FIST)?

It’s funny. Ariel likes something more straightforward. I tend to lapse into writer mode where I’m like, “And now Cable’s thinking this,” but he prefers, and rightly so, more straightforward stuff. Ariel’s more action oriented. He puts so much into the characters.

Now, Travel, he takes the ball and runs with it on his own a little. He’s more impressionistic. In the opening pages of IRON FIST, my description was pretty spare, but he went crazy with it showing K’un L’un as this incredible city. I don’t have to describe everything you want to see there, I just let Travel run with it.
It’s about learning what their strengths are, and giving them enough fun to have. That’s the key.

The August solicitations have come out, and it appears Cyclops may be second-guessing his decision to send the baby off to the future with Cable. How much of what’s happening in the present timeline in the X-Books do you plan to show the ramifications of in the future Cable transported to?

You’ll see big time. It starts with issue six, and then there’s the just announced KING SIZED CABLE one-shot. You’ll see where it goes. I can’t really say much about it, but it’s not what you expect. Since the book came out people have just been like, “Oh, it’s just Bishop and Cable jumping through time, duking it out,” but it really isn’t it. It’s going to change up radically. By the end of issue five you’ll get a hint of where it’s going. Issue six will fill you in a little more, and by seven it’s a whole new ballgame.

It’s not what people think, and you’ll see a lot of the X-Men. A lot of it is what happened after Cable teleported. It was an act of faith on Cyclops’ part. He believed giving this baby to his son, and having him jump to the future was the best move, but it was also a gut move in the heat of battle. Now Cyclops is wrestling with whether or not it was the right move. That plays out big time in the next arc.

If someone hadn’t read IMMORTAL IRON FIST before, and was looking for a good place to jump on, what can they expect you to bring to IRON FIST?

The first arc I’m doing is cued up by what happens in Matt’s final issue. If you’re hopping on, within the first couple of pages you’ll get what’s going on. There’s a lot of classic stuff in the first arc as well, like the flashbacks Ed and Matt did in their first arc. Your goal is to always make sure new readers can jump on. There’s the saying, “Every issue is some reader’s first issue,” so you have to make sure the book is understandable to some degree. I’m trying to keep the mythology and expand it, and not rewrite anything or ignore something.

I love the world they’ve created. There’s this rich tapestry behind characters that were ignored for so many years. The kind of people you meet as past Iron Fists tend to fit these archetypes. Take Orson Randall, he’s like this cool thirties pulp hero, and not a lot of readers know what that’s about. There’s a new Iron Fist introduced in the first arc. He’s this old West, gun-slinging Iron Fist, which is kinda cool.

You were announced as the second writer taking over PUNISHER MAX after Garth Ennis leaves. It was hinted at you’d be bringing Frank to someplace very familiar. Is Frank coming to Philadelphia?

Frank will be coming to Philly. It’s been a long time dream of mine. In fact, I took some reference shots outside this building [Philadelphia Convention Center] for the artist, Michel Lacombe, who was the artist on the Force of Nature one-shot I did. He’s great. I love his stuff, but he’s in Canada. I’m dying to bring him down to Philadelphia to show him around.

The set-up is Frank is abducted, poisoned and told he has to kill somebody or else he’s going to die in six hours. Frank being Frank, of course, breaks the guy’s neck and walks away. Then he realizes he has about six hours left to do his mission, and kill as many people as possible, and he’s in Philly when it happens. So watch out Philadelphia.

He’s not infected with the same virus from your novel, The Blonde, is he?

No, it’s a very different virus. I’m a big fan of viruses and injections. Maybe it’s my phobia.

Your new book, Severance Package, is out now. For someone who hasn’t read your comic work before, this book seems like an easy transition since it’s so action oriented. Was that something you were conscious of when working on it?

Actually, the book was written before I’d written anything for comics. It was delayed when the publisher decided to go straight to paperback instead of going with a traditional hardcover release. So this was written over the summer and fall of 2006. My first contact with MARVEL was in February of 2007. I just think it was part of my evolution. Every book I try to do something different. I try to be a little more fast-paced and lean to see where it goes until I explode.

It’s funny. I’m learning some tricks from comics I’ve done in the past year I want to use in my next novel. Just some different ways to tell a story. Axel Alonso, who’s my editor on CABLE and my PUNISHER arc, is a genius. I’ve learned more from him than I have from anybody how to pace and tell a story. That’s his greatest strength, and that’s been cool to take those skills and apply them to novels.

I noticed on your blog you’re writing an interactive murder mystery. What’s that all about?

It’s an old school interactive mystery. It’s a book with pullout clues like newspaper pages or invitations. One is out already [The Crimes of Doctor Watson: An Interactive Sherlock Holmes Mystery] from Quirk Books, a Philadelphia publisher. The next one, DC actually contacted Quirk about doing a Batman version to coincide with the movie this year. It’s due in July and is called Murder at Wayne Manor. A dead body pops up at Wayne Manor and Bruce has to use his detective skills to figure it out. It was fun to do, but it was very weird for me because I don’t really write whodunits. It was fun to do an old school mystery where you have these clues to pull out.

One thing I always want to know from creators is which book of theirs they want to be someone’s first. You don’t have a long comic history, but I’m still curious which book of yours you’d want to be someone’s first.

Their first comic ever? Geez, that’s tough. I was very fond of the Punisher one-shot and the Moon Knight one-shot [Date Night]. They’re two crime stories where the main character doesn’t show up all that much, especially in the Moon Knight book. He’s important to the story, but it’s mostly about three women. My wife, who’s not a comics reader, she liked the book a lot. Granted, she sleeps with me, but she thought it was easy to access as a story.

Duane’s CABLE comes out monthly from MARVEL. Issue four should be on stands this week. He and Travel Foreman begin their run on IMMORTAL IRON FIST this August with #18. Michel Lacombe joins Duane on the PUNISHER early next year. If you’re so inclined, you can find more information on Duane and his novels on his blog, TheQuarterbin recommends you start with Wheelman.

2 Responses so far
  1. Ariel Kill Him » Blog Archive » Novel Idea: An Interview With Duane Swierczynski Said,

    [...] Novel Idea: An Interview With Duane Swierczynski He’s great. I love his stuff, but he’s in Canada. I’m dying to bring him down to Philadelphia to show him around. The set-up is Frank is abducted, poisoned and told he has to kill somebody or else he’s going to die in six hours. … [...]

    Posted on June 23rd, 2008 at 11:32 AM

  2. » Blog Archive » Happy One Year Anniversary To Us. Said,

    [...] World Philly is also where we got to meet one of our favorite local boys who hit the big time, Duane Swierczynski. Aside from being one of our favorite modern crime novelists, his turns on Iron Fist and Cable have [...]

    Posted on March 29th, 2009 at 7:47 PM

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