Born May 13, 1946 (Brooklyn, New York)
American author, editor
Comic book writer Marv Wolfman has built a distinguished career working in the industry mainstream. He has authored stories for established characters from Superman to Batman to Captain Marvel, revamped popular characters including Robin and Lex Luthor, and created his own characters, the best known of which is Blade, the Vampire Hunter.
"Comics are a synthesis of writing and art."
While expert at conjuring up cleverly devised, action-packed scenarios, Wolfman also creates characters that are more than one-dimensional superheroes or villains defined by their fighting skills. He is adept at spotlighting characterization, and his creations often must deal with inner demons and conflicts. In a Library Journal review of the 2003 release of The New Teen Titans: The Terror of Trigon, which includes reprints of five of his early New Teen Titans stories, Steve Raiteri observed, "Even in such an action-filled story, Wolfman keeps the characters' inner lives in the spotlight."
From reader to writer/artist
Marv Wolfman was born on May 13, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, he was an avid reader of comic books. Superman was a favorite, and he savored the work of Harvey Kurtzman, Julie Schwartz, John Broome, and particularly Stan Lee. He also devoured science fiction novels by Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Robert A. Heinlein, and horror-suspense stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Shirley Jackson. As he explained to Vincent Zurzolo in a 2005 interview on World Talk Radio, "I loved creating stories in my head. I would create endless ones (set in) in-depth-type universes, with all these different types of characters interrelating, (along with) complicated storylines."
Doomsday: The Fantastic Four (1979).
New Teen Titans 5 vols. (1991, 1999–2005).
Tomb of Dracula (1991).
Spider-Man 3 vols. (1995).
Crisis on Infinite Earths (1998).
Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying (1998).
Blade II (2002).
Gene Pool (2003).
Superman: The Man of Steel 3 vols. (2003–05).
Essential Tomb of Dracula (2004).
Blade: The Vampire Slayer, Black and White (2004).
Curse of Dracula (2005).
Essential Ghost Rider Volume 1 (2005).
Essential Spider-Woman Volume 1 (2005).
The Oz Encounter (2005).
Fantastic Four Visionaries (2006).
Wolfman is also the author of countless comic books, as individual issues and series, many of which are collected in the graphic novels listed above. He is also a prolific author of screenplays and treatments for television shows and movies.
By age ten, Wolfman had decided to pursue a career in the comics industry. In his early teens, he began writing and drawing in fanzines (amateur magazines produced by comics fans). They included Super Adventures, which featured superheroes; Stories of Suspense, a horror fanzine; and a comedy fanzine titled The Foob. "My intent was to be an artist," he told Zurzolo. "I was drawing stories as well as writing them, but everyone kept (telling me) that my writing was far better than my art. In point of fact, it was."
In 1968, Wolfman was hired as a writer by DC Comics. Meanwhile, he attended Queens College, where he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1971. That year, he put in a four-month stint as story editor at horror magazine publisher Warren Magazines, where he edited Creepy Eerie and Vampirella—magazines that usually featured several unrelated short narratives. Wolfman, however, conjured up the idea of linking the stories by populating them with the same characters or themes.
Also in 1971, Wolfman married. (He divorced his wife, Michele, in 1987, and has one daughter, Jessica.) The following year, he began working for DC's rival, Marvel Comics, where he became a highly successful writer and editor. While at Marvel, he wrote issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Fantastic Four, but his most significant credit was Tomb of Dracula, which was created in 1972 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan. The comic employed the essence of the Bram Stoker vampire novel in which the character originated, but presented Dracula in a modern-day setting.
Wolfman took over writing Tomb of Dracula with its seventh issue, at which point he transformed the comic into an eerily gothic horror series highlighting multifaceted storylines. "The difference between me and most of the other people who had written Dracula was that I had never seen a Dracula movie," he explained to Zurzolo. "My knowledge of the character came from the novel … for that reason, I was able to approach it from a character-driven (point of view)." Wolfman credits his work on Tomb of Dracula with allowing him to develop as a writer by discovering what he called "subtle writing tricks" relating to plot, dialogue, and story structure. He also was allowed complete artistic freedom. Working on what was the first continuing horror series, noted Wolfman, "There was no template, I was making it up. That allowed me to create (from) what was inside me."
One of Wolfman's more intriguing projects during the decade was his first novel: The Oz Encounter, which debuted in a 1977 edition of Weird Heroes: A New American Pulp. In The Oz Encounter, he merged Doctor Raymond Phoenix, a parapsychologist-hero created earlier in the decade by science fiction writer Ted White and L. Frank Baum's celebrated Oz stories. In the resulting narrative, Phoenix penetrates the mind of a comatose girl and discovers an Oz-inspired fantasy world.
The Origin of Blade
While at Warren Magazines, Wolfman conjured up the character who would become his most celebrated creation: Blade, the Vampire Hunter. "His origin, personality, and look actually came to me in a flash," Wolfman explained on his Web site. However, he left the company before committing a Blade story to paper. The character first appeared in Tomb of Dracula, debuting in the comic's tenth issue, dated July 1973.
"Blade was one of the earliest black comic book heroes, and the first Marvel hero not to wear the typical comic book spandex costume of the time," Wolfman added. "Since Tomb of Dracula took place in a semi 'real world,' I wanted Blade dressed in somewhat realistic clothes: leather bomber jacket, pants, boots and his special goggles which, because he had vampire blood running through his veins, would let him see in daylight. Yes, he wore a bandolier complete with wooden knives (the better to kill vampires with, my dear), but they were only a fashion accessory."
As a slayer of vampires, Blade predates the popular Buffy character (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame), who debuted onscreen in 1992 and graduated to her own TV series in 1997. And Blade was not Wolfman's lone Marvel concoction. Another of his characters—Hannibal King, a 1930s-1940s-style detective who also is a vampire—debuted in issue number 25 of Tomb of Dracula. In 1976, he and Bob Brown created the character Bullseye, a psychotic villain who mostly does battle with Daredevil, Stan Lee's and Bill Everett's superhero.
From Marvel to DC Comics
Before leaving Marvel in 1979, Wolfman moved up the ranks to become editor-in-chief, a position that allowed him to supervise the creation of all of Marvel's titles. In 1980, he returned to DC Comics as a writer-editor and immediately co-created (along with artist George Pérez and editor Len Wein) and wrote the New Teen Titans series. New Teen Titans was an updating of the Teen Titans comic books, which debuted in 1965. Both involve a band of teenaged superheroes who unite to battle evil. The New Teen Titans characters were a mixture of holdovers from the original series—Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, and Changeling (who originally was called Beast Boy)—and newly created superheroes Raven, Cyborg, and Starfire. New Teen Titans became the first genuinely successful DC Comics series in years, an achievement that allowed the company to challenge Marvel as the industry's leading comic book publisher. One of the keys to the success of New Teen Titans was its multidimensional characterizations. Writing in the New York Times in 2003, George Gene Gustines described the stories as "both epic and emotional."
Wolfman wrote New Teen Titans for sixteen years, through the mid-1990s, and he is justifiably proud of the series. "I've got a very bizarre attitude when it comes to the Titans, which a lot of fans don't understand," he noted in an interview with Daniel Robert Epstein on the UnderGround Online Web site. "I've never looked at an issue of the Titans once I got off it. I never was interested in seeing what other people had done. In many ways, they were my babies, and I knew no matter how good or poorly others did it, they wouldn't be the same, and they couldn't be. I had very specific speech patterns, viewpoints for every character."
New Teen Titans was not Wolfman's lone DC Comics project. In 1985, he and Pérez created Crisis on Infinite Earths, a milestone series in which the publisher's most celebrated characters—including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Green Lantern—unite to thwart the Anti-Monitor, a strange being who is determined to cause the demise of life on earth. As he conjured up Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wolfman reorganized and restructured the characters' pasts. He established that they lived concurrently, but on assorted earths. Writing in the Tampa Tribune in 2005, Jared Eaton observed, upon the release of a hardcover version celebrating the series' twenty-fifth anniversary, "Crisis on Infinite Earths was the pivotal comic book miniseries of the 1980s that ultimately redefined, as well as re-created, the DC Comics universe as fans knew it." And finally, in 1989, also for DC Comics, Wolfman conjured up the character of the "third Robin" (following Dick Grayson and Jason Todd): Timothy "Tim" Drake, who remains Batman's associate but is a superhero in his own right. "My take was that the previous Robins all wanted to be Batman," he explained to Zurzolo. "I wanted (a Robin) who thought being Robin was the coolest thing ever."
During this period, Wolfman occasionally penned and edited stories in other well-established DC Comics series, including Batman, The Adventures of Superman, Green Lantern, Avengers, and Captain Marvel. "One of my favorite ideas was coming up with the revised version of Superman's arch foe, Lex Luthor," he recalled on his Web site. "When I was growing up, Luthor was a mad genius who wore prison grays every time you saw him. The typical story began with him breaking out of jail, finding one of his old hideouts, and usually building a giant robot or something equally preposterous in order to fight Superman. I turned Luthor into a brilliant businessman who lived on top of the highest mountain in Metropolis, so its citizens would have to look up at him while he looked down on them." Wolfman's Luthor is brainier than Superman: He is a villain whom the world's strongest man must outwit, rather than out-punch.
Branches out to new line of work
In 1980, as he was settling in at DC Comics, Wolfman made his first foray into television production when he co-scripted Yami no Teio Kyuketsuki Dracula, produced by Japan's Toei Animation Company and based on Tomb of Dracula. Through the decade, he penned episodes of a range of animated series, including Transformers (broadcast from 1984–87), G.I. Joe (1985–86), Jem! (1985–88), and Superman (1988). He continued into the 1990s and beyond with Batman: The Animated Series (1992–95); Monster Force (a 13-episode series from 1994, which pitted teenagers doing battle against Dracula, Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Frankenstein monster); Spider-Man (1994–98, with his Blade character appearing in several episodes that aired in 1996 and 1997); Beast Wars: Transformers (1996–99); Shadow Raiders, also known as War Planets (1998–99); Godzilla: The Series (1998–2000); and The Legend of Tarzan (2001–03). His live-action credits include Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future (1987), a science fiction series that incorporated computer-generated special effects.
Additionally, Wolfman was executive script consultant for The Transformers; served as story editor of Superman and Monster Force; produced Pocket Dragon Adventures, a 1998 animated series; and developed the animated TV series Beast Machines: The Transformers (1999–2001). He branched out into feature filmmaking, co-scripting, and executive producing Elfquest (2002), based on Wendy and Richard Pini 's (see entry) comic book.
Even more significantly, several of Wolfman's creations were popularized on the big and small screens. His Blade character first came to the movies in Blade (1998), a New Line Cinema production with Wesley Snipes cast in the title role. "I was lucky enough to visit the set (during the film's production)," Wolfman recalled on his Web site. "It really is a thrill to watch your creations come alive." The box office success of Blade resulted in a pair of sequels, Blade II (2002) and Blade: Trinity (2004). Seeing Blade on the big screen was not a completely fulfilling experience. In 1998, Wolfman sued Marvel and Time-Warner, New Line's parent company, for $35 million, claiming that he owned the character's copyright and trademark. He asserted that, when he created Blade, he was an independent contractor, rather than a Marvel employee. After a three-year legal battle, Wolfman's suit was dismissed.
Wolfman's Hannibal King character (played by Ryan Reynolds) also appears in Blade: Trinity. Another of his creations, Catherine "Cat" Grant, a reporter/police officer/press secretary who first appeared in The Adventures of Superman in 1987, was an ongoing character on the Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman television series (1993–97). Bullseye (played by Colin Farrell) menaced the title character on the big screen in Daredevil (2003). Also in 2003, Wolfman's Teen Titans became a hit animated TV series, produced by Warner Bros. Animation and the Cartoon Network.
"I started writing because of my love for comics, so it's great fun to realize that so many of my characters have been turned into movies, TV, toys, and animation," Wolfman explained on his Web site. "Fact is, I've been told that I've created more characters that have been adapted into movies, TV, and animation than any other comics writer with the exception of Stan Lee." Not all of Wolfman's projects have been successfully transferred to the big and small screens, however. In 2002, he and Len Wein created Gene Pool, spotlighting a group of unwilling superheroes who link up when their survival is jeopardized. It originally was written as a screenplay, but ended up as a graphic novel published the following year.
Maintains a prolific output
Even as Wolfman was immersing himself in television and motion picture production, he still found time to create new comic books. With Shawn McManus, he created The Man Called A-X, first published by Malibu Comics in 1994. The title character was a strong, silent hero who arrives in the city of Bedlam and takes on the criminal clans that rule the metropolis.
In the mid-2000s, as he was approaching his sixtieth birthday, Wolfman continued to conjure up new superheroes for emerging generations of comic fans. In Defex (2006), he created a group of heroes who start out as college biology students recruited by their professor to work in a state-of-the-art laboratory. Unbeknownst to them, they are being used as guinea pigs—and emerge with superpowers. Defex also is a typical Wolfman creation in that each of the heroes has personal issues with which he or she must deal.
For More Information
Eaton, Jared. "Silver Age Hero Flashes Back to Dawn of Time and Re-Creation of 1 Earth." Tampa Tribune (May 22, 2005).
Gustines, George Gene. "Adventures of Robin and His Merry Band of Mega-Friends." New York Times (July 20, 2003).
Raiteri, Steve. "The New Teen Titans: The Terror of Trigon." Library Journal (November 1, 2003).
Epstein, Daniel Robert. "Teen Titans: Marv Wolfman." UnderGround Online.http://www.ugo.com/channels/freestyle/features/teentitans/ (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Marv Wolfman.http://www.marvwolfman.com/ (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Zurzolo, Vincent. "Marv Wolfman Interview." World Talk Radio. September 27, 2005. http://www.worldtalkradio.com/archive.asp?aid=5105 (accessed on May 3, 2006).