Canuck convinces comics legend to bring him back

photo courtesy of Greg Preston


Writer/artist Matt Wagner

Comic book icon Matt Wagner is returning to his signature character, thanks in large part to a very smart woman.

Ahead of this year's 25 anniversary of the first printing of Grendel, Wagner's cult-favourite series, the writer/artist said he was inspired to revisit the character by his editor, and sister-in-law, Canadian-born Diana Schutz.

“She said 'Look if it's going to be something big for the anniversary, if it's going to be a Grendel project, you have to draw it, not just write it - you really have to make it something special and put your mark on it' and I said 'yeah, absolutely,'” Wagner said in a telephone interview this week from his home outside Portland, Ore.

“And she said 'and if it's you drawing it, it should be Hunter Rose' because that's the one I'm associated with most artwork-wise and I said 'yeah, you're right.'”

“And she said 'and if it's going to be a Hunter Rose story, it's got to be something important, it can't just be a caper' and I said 'oh, shit, I already told all his important stuff.'”

Then the wheels started turning, Wagner said.

“I found a narrative loophole and kernel of an idea and before too long it was a full-blown story.”

If you're not yet familiar with Grendel - a generations-spanning epic containing multiple protagonists all taking on the same name in the pursuit of things like money, power and revenge - Dark Horse Comics is hoping you soon will be.

In addition to this new miniseries, Grendel: Behold The Devil, the publisher recently released a 25th anniversary hardcover edition of Grendel: Devil By The Deed, Wagner's first complete Grendel tale, and is soon to deliver Grendel Archives, the first-ever reprinting of Wagner's first four Grendel stories from 1982 and the deluxe Art Of Grendel hardcover, featuring work by dozens of renowned creators.

What's made Grendel last so long is how eclectic it has been, Wagner said.

“The key to Grendel's success has been my willingness to continually reinvent it, to never think it was all done, to never think I've said all there was to be said,” he said.

“I had no original plans to keep it rolling on. I had no inkling that there were going to be other versions of Grendel, but once I started down that road I realized what a wide-open path that it was and never looked back.”

While it has been a long time since he's written stories featuring Hunter Rose, Wagner said it took no time to get back into the groove.

“It's incredibly natural,” he said. “There's just something about coming back to Grendel that's like speaking a language I was born to.”

Wagner coming to Toronto

  • Matt Wagner will make his first appearance in Toronto in 17 years as one of the guests of honour at this weekend's Paradise Toronto Comicon at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, along with Michael Golden (The Nam), Terry Moore (Strangers In Paradise) and Marv Wolfman (Crisis On Infinite Earths).

  • Canadian guests at this weekend's event include: Adrian Alphona (Runaways), Kaare Andrews (Spider-Man: Reign), Scott Chantler (Northwest Passage), Darwyn Cooke (The Spirit), Niko Henrichon (Pride Of Baghdad), Stuart Immonen (Nextwave), Karl Kerschl (Teen Titans: Year One), Francis Manapul (Witchblade), Cary Nord (Conan), Dave Sim (Cerebus), Cameron Stewart (The Other Side) and J. Torres (Degrassi: The Next Generation).

  • Other guests include: Talent Caldwell (Gen 13), Georges Jeanty (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Joe Linsner (Dawn), Michael Avon Oeming (Powers), David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Nicola Scott (Birds Of Prey), Gail Simone (The All New Atom).

  • For more details, check out