WRITER MARC GUGGENHEIM has a resume so mighty you might imagine that he has some of the superpowers he writes about.
When he’s not working on “Eli Stone,” the new ABC drama he co-created, his words can be found each month in “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Young X-Men” and “Marvel Comics Presents.” He also has a new title coming up from Virgin Comics with Hugh Jackman, he’s writing the script for the video game tie-in for the upcoming Wolverine flick and he’s co-writing the script for the Green Lantern movie. That’s a lot of stuff.
And if you’re asking how he is able to get all this done, you’re not alone.
“I don’t have a good answer for it because I kind of don’t know how I do it all,” he said. “Somehow, by some miracle, it all gets done.”
And just in case you thought he might be slacking off, he’s got more.
Guggenheim, a lawyer turned writer who got his start on “The Practice,” “Law & Order” and other shows, recently launched his first creator-owned comic, “Resurrection” from Oni Press. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth after an alien race attempts to conquer the planet.
The genesis of this story came from a question that Guggenheim’s been asking himself for years.
“I love science fiction and I love alien invasion stories and at the end of all of them I had a question, ‘What next?'” he said. “And I kind of kept waiting for someone to do it.”
That someone, it turns out, is Guggenheim. The story, while planted firmly in the sci-fi realm, pits realistic human characters against some difficult situations and they explore the world, trying to pick up the pieces of civilization. The art by David Dumeer provides gravitas to the book with clear storytelling and moody, atmospheric shadows.
While Guggenheim has an end in mind for the comic and knows the answers to the all the big questions, he believes that the nature of the concept provides countless opportunities for stories.
“What’s interesting about the concept to me is that the concept itself begins with an end,” he said. “Even though I have an end in mind, the nature of this concept is endings and beginnings, so even my end could serve as a platform for a whole other series. Within that larger narrative are a lot of smaller arcs.”
Because “Resurrection” is a creator-owned comic that’s published by an indie, Guggenheim was afforded more freedom in his writing, which led to a misstep: “Resurrection” has a potty mouth. There are curses everywhere. And he admits it is a problem.
“I actually realized I made a mistake,” Guggenheim said. “Keep in mind, I also make my living in television. I felt so free I went overboard, and I already told Oni when we collect it in the trade I want to sanitize the dialogue.”
It’s reminiscent of when television personalities would go on Dennis Miller‘s HBO talk show and the first thing they’d do is drop some choice vulgarity — because they could. And that’s what happened to Guggenheim.
“It’s not really serving any purpose besides me exercising a muscle I never get to exercise professionally,” he said.
But it does present an interesting conundrum about the benefits of dropping a nice, powerful curse.
“I haven’t been true to that rule that you should use profanity when it is a necessary tool to tell the story you’re trying to tell,” he said. “I wrote the video game script for ‘Call of Duty 3‘ and obviously you can’t curse in that. But soldiers curse all the time — their language is really, really foul. ”
So while the vulgar language might be a little overdone in parts of “Resurrection,” Guggenheim is quick to point out that “people do not look at an alien body and go, ‘Oh, gee!'”
Don’t expect to see this language problem arise in his other work. “Eli Stone,” his new show starring Jonny Lee Miller, centers on a man with an inoperable brain aneurysm that causes him to have hallucinations — many starring George Michael — that are integral to the plot of the episode.
“We’ve always talked about Eli being a modern day superhero,” Guggenheim said. “He has these special abilities and these special abilities come with a price. Usually his personal life.”
It certainly seems there is no escaping the comic book connection in Guggenheim’s life. The prolific writer has made what seems to be the more and more common leap from Hollywood into comics. And, strangely enough, he finds that it just might be easier to break into Hollywood than into comics.
Now that he’s immersed in the four-color world, Guggenheim’s made a splash on books like “The Flash” and “Wolverine.” His current workload for Marvel Comics pairs him with some of the biggest characters in the history of comics.
He’s one of the rotating writers of “Amazing Spider-Man,” which he describes as a dream come true. Guggenheim was a long-time reader of “Spider-Man,” though he admits he was really a DC Comics guy. He jokes that he “was sort of married to DC and would cheat on DC with ‘Spider-Man.'”
When it came time to take on the web-slinger, the writer did have some doubts.
“I have to say, when I started I was a little intimidated because he is so iconic and it’s a little weird to write a character that you grew up with,” Guggenheim said. “Now I feel I found the groove. Every time I finish [a script], I am like, ‘I can see myself doing this for the rest of my career if someone let me.'”
And if working on one of his childhood heroes wasn’t enough, he’s also behind the wheel of a new book in the “X-Men” family — and yes, that’s another dream come true for him.
Guggenheim is launching a new series, “Young X-Men,” that spins out of “Messiah Complex,” a crossover that spanned all of the “X” titles.
“‘X-Men’ is this incredibly seminal book for me,” he said. “‘X-Men’ is too big for me to work on at this stage in my career.”
“Young X-Men” gives Guggenheim the opportunity to write some mutants without the pressure of handling the high holy “Uncanny” title. This book is more akin to the first “X-Men” spin-off, “New Mutants.”
“One of the things that looms very large in my personal history is when Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod decided to do ‘New Mutants,'” he said. “Unlike those books where the kids were cadet ‘X-Men,’ these are the ‘X-Men.’ Here the kids are already in the big leagues and they’ve already been thrown into the deep end of the pool. It’s just got a different vibe to it. ”
Different vibes, it seems, are something Guggenheim excels at. Whether he’s writing your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, “Eli Stone” or the survivors of an alien invasion, one thing’s for sure, Guggenheim knows how to tell provocative stories with realistic characters, no matter the venue.
Just don’t ask him how he does it.
Images courtesy Oni Press