Marvel is aiming to create the next ‘Serial,’ starring Wolverine, his own podcast.
Wolverine has explored plenty of territory in his 43-year history at Marvel — from comics to computer games, big screen to small — but come 2018, he’ll venture into a whole new frontier: his own podcast.
WE exclusively reveal that the beloved X-Men character will headline Marvel’s first-ever scripted podcast, Wolverine: The Long Night, a 10-episode serialized story that will debut exclusively on podcast network Stitcher Premium in Spring 2018 as part of a partnership between Marvel and Stitcher, before rolling out across all other podcast platforms in the fall.
“Podcasting is an incredible, intimate medium that’s perfect for telling stories, and I can’t think of a better partner with whom to push the boundaries of scripted podcasts than Marvel,” says Erik Diehn, CEO of Midroll Media, Stitcher’s parent company, in a statement. “They make every translation of their rich universe of characters into new media fresh and interesting while still retaining the feel and spirit of the original comics, and, as a Marvel fan, I’m proud that we’ve helped them do it again in podcasting. The arrival of Wolverine and his many fans to podcasts and Stitcher is truly a signal that this medium is a major part of the American media landscape.”
The Hobbit and Hannibal star Richard Armitage will lend his voice to Logan for the podcast, which writer Ben Percy says will blend the mystery aspects of true crime podcasts like Serial and S-Town with the narrative tricks of True Detective — plus a dash of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.
“If you look at the success of Serial and S-Town, it has everything to do I think with their investigative formats, the way the listeners become complicit in the narrative,” Percy tells Mashable. “They’re co-authors, they’re literary detectives, because they’re piecing together the clues alongside the reporters, and I wanted to take a similar approach to that.”
The story begins with two agents, Sally Pierce (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Tad Marshall (Ato Essandoh), who arrive in the fictional town of Burns, Alaska, to investigate a series of murders. The duo team up with deputy Bobby Reid (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) to investigate their main suspect, Logan (Armitage), but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“There are all these broken pieces that are being fitted together, and a shifting set of suspects, and every episode, you learn more and at the same time, recognize that you’ve been mistaken all along. It functions like a turnstile of mysteries,” Percy hints.
The cast also includes Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Bob Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom), Brian Stokes Mitchell and a cameo from Chris Gethard, host of the popular Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People podcast.
This iteration of Logan is purposefully seeking the isolation that Alaska provides, according to Percy: “Because he’s been mind-wiped again and again, he doesn’t know the whole terrible truth about his life. Part of the series is him recovering those memories and despite his attempts to separate himself from society, getting drawn into a situation where frontier justice is called for.”
The Long Night will also weave in heightened elements that comic book fans would expect from Marvel, in part because Alaska is such an extreme environment.
“It’s very easy to turn up the volume on reality there. In addition to the crime investigation into the serial killer on the loose, there are also elements of the fantastic. And some of them have to do with Wolverine as his legend grows in this area, as people observe him bounding through the mists with packs of wolves; as they witness him save and end lives,” Percy previews. “I’m also drawing from the Native legends in the area and from cultish mythology. There is a compound set up outside of the town of Burns, Alaska, where the Aurora cult is located. And it’s unclear at first whether they are implicated in the murders that are occurring here and whether they might have powers, as they purport to — a connection to and a control over the fabric of light that plays over the winter skies.”
The specific appeal of a podcast versus more visual platforms is its intimacy, notes Dan Silver, vice president, head of platforms & content for Marvel New Media: “Being in this space where we can really touch and interact with our fans in a more 24/7 basis is one of our priorities. The beauty of this medium is you can listen to it as a show when it’s first released and voraciously consume it from a habitual standpoint, or, like I do and many people do with podcasts, you can listen to it very leisurely.”
That sense of intimacy will also give fans a new understanding of Wolverine as a character, Silver says. “What I love about him for this specific space is he’s one of our most complex characters, just in the way that he’s been depicted and evolved in many different iterations in the books. But this space allows us to explore him as a person. When you strip away the visuals of the claws and the chops and the hair and all of that stuff and you really get a chance to explore the mind and the actions through words, he’s a really interesting type of character. And I think this is a Wolverine that our fans haven’t necessarily ‘seen.’ And it’s very exciting for us to explore all the different nuances of him.”
Silver also praises the “naturalism” of the production process — which will record outdoor scenes in real locations like forests, while the cast will perform together in an “ambisonic” studio that enables them to interact and move around the space, which Silver likens to watching a play.
“We’re attempting to provide an audio experience that feels very much like if you just turned off your television screen, but left the sound on,” he says. “It’s very dynamic, it’s very real, it’s very raw, and it’s made for what people would expect from Marvel.”
In addition to its comics, Marvel has already achieved film and TV dominance with its sprawling Cinematic Universe, but Percy hints that Wolverine: The Long Night could be the first step towards a similarly interconnected world in this new medium.
“We have a fun opportunity here, and that’s to create our own continuity. A continuity that will grow more and more expansive as the Marvel Podcast Universe expands,” Percy teases. “There are glimmers that people will recognize, references to Weapon X and wartime Logan, Japan and past relationships that he’s had. But he himself is not able to really work through his moth-eaten memory until the conclusion of this first season.”
Not wanting to put the cart before the horse, Silver is a little more circumspect about predicting a “Marvel Podcast Universe” just yet, but admits that if The Long Night proves successful, “that would be incredibly exciting … Marvel is known as world-builders and universe-builders; that is what we do across all of our mediums. It’s hard to say, but it would be super cool.”
The same is true of a potential second season for The Long Night or other serialized Marvel podcasts, Silver says. “Being able to reach the hardcore Marvel fan and maybe extend it into the casual fans and pull them in is exactly what we want to do… So yeah, if the audience is there and the demand is there and we feel like we can tell compelling, rich stories in this space, it would be fantastic.”
While the creative team behind Wolverine: The Long Night — director Brendan Baker, sound designer Chloe Prasinos and producers Daniel Fink of Marvel and Jenny Radelet of Stitcher — is currently working on perfecting the iconic snikt of Wolverine’s claws in podcast form, the most vital piece of the puzzle is already in place: Armitage as Logan.
“You think about when you read the comics as a kid: what was the voice that you heard in your head? And it was a lot of fun to sit in a room and have those conversations about, ‘Is it gruff enough? Is it playful enough? Does it just sound like Hugh Jackman?'” Silver says of the casting process. “And then, all of a sudden Richard’s name came up and everybody closed their eyes and it was like that moment when you all picture everybody hearing it in their head, and you went, ‘Oh, yeah, of course. That would be amazing.’ And yeah, he is — he’s perfect.”
Percy agrees, “When I heard that Richard was a possibility for the role, I knew he was the one. He’s a perfect match for Logan and brings so much soul and savagery to the project.”
Wolverine: The Long Night will debut on Stitcher Premium in Spring 2018.