There’s a scene inside the sixth episode of Marvel and Stitcher’s radio drama podcast Wolverine: The Long Night where special agent Tad Marshall is interviewing a boy whose home was attacked by… something. The agent is in search of Logan, aka the mutant hero Wolverine, who the agent thinks could be behind the attack. But the boy swears it wasn’t men; it had been a beast — as well as a huge one as well. This is the very first time Marshall believes Logan is probably not the cause of all of the murders from the town of Burns, Alaska, though he’s still not wholly convinced.
Meanwhile, the crowd isn’t sure what things to believe. This account notwithstanding, the research points uncomfortably to Logan. But he’s the nice guy, right? And the special agents has to be the bad guys because they’re hunting him. Except… imagine if it’s the opposite way round?
This purposeful ambiguity would be the slow, unraveling mystery essentially of Wolverine: The Long Night, an account nearly two years from the making, and yes it might alter the landscape of scripted radio dramas from the endless expanse of podcasts.
In April 2017, Marvel’s New Media division asked comics writer Benjamin Percy to pitch a perception for a new scripted podcast series with Stitcher. He was handed only two vague guidelines: the podcast needed to feature Wolverine, plus it had to be an investigative show within the mold of Serial or S-Town. Marvel was probably expecting a 1 hour or two-page summary. They got something much, considerably longer. “It had character bios, themes, my accept Wolverine’s history in comics and film, influences I would provide for the podcast, in conjunction with detailed breakdowns of each episode,” Percy says. “I put the full amount of work with it because I wanted to restore impossible to allow them to say no.”
“At the finish of that pitch was an asterisk which has a note that basically said, ‘Give this if you ask me, normally,’” he admits that.
As as it happens, the not-so-veiled (and not-so-serious) threat wasn’t necessary. Percy’s pitch was what exactly Marvel wanted, and the 30-page bible had become the foundation for the first season of Marvel and Stitcher’s Wolverine: The Long Night, which concluded its 10-episode run noisy . May.
“The audio medium is certainly one that, for decades, Marvel was intrigued by,” says Dan Fink, executive director of development for Marvel New Media and The Long Night’s producer. “It intrigued me to find out how a Marvel superhero story is correct in this medium. We weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, we desired to do what worked.”
What worked, based on Fink, were investigative shows like Serial or S-Town, high was a narrator or investigator to help listeners from the experience. This is why Wolverine isn’t necessarily the show’s lead character, although his name is inside title. Listeners instead spend probably the most time with special agents Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall because they search for Logan inside remote city of Burns, Alaska, uncovering the town’s darkest secrets in the process.
“As a team, we reference Jaws a great deal,” Fink says. “In the movie, you don’t see him that much, but everyone’s dealing with the shark. There’s pretty much everything fear and mystery. Your imagination starts playing video games. After Jaws, citizens were scared to go inside water, when you couldn’t start to see the shark. And so by creating this elusiveness [about] who Wolverine truly is just as a comic book character, i was like, ‘Let’s bring this back, and slowly make sure he can come back outside of his shell.’ That’s what season 1 is all about. It’s Wolverine coming over to terms with who he could be, and accepting the mistakes he’s made.”
Scripted podcasts are normal today, but The Long Night is the first-time a company like Marvel has centered a narrative podcast with a major flagship character. Fink says Marvel searched across for writers for The Long Night, both within Marvel’s creative and editorial departments and outside. In a bout of serendipity, Percy’s agent had a workplace next to Stitcher’s, when he caught word from the project, he threw his client’s hat inside the ring. Though Percy, during this point, had only caused DC Comics, writing titles like Detective Comics, Green Arrow, and Teen Titans, Marvel was accustomed to his work.
As Marvel was recruiting Percy to write down their first narrative podcast, these people were also recruiting Brendan Baker, producer of Love + Radio, to direct it. While he didn’t write the full 30-page pitch script like Percy, he did submit a therapy discussing elements he wished to experiment with in audio fiction, like telling a tale in two different timelines and dealing with unreliable narrators.
Both these elements are very important to the storytelling from the series. Nearly every episode carries a flashback of some sort or other, whether prompted with a witness testimony or perhaps a conversation inside a bar. Those testimonies aren’t always truthful, and neither will be the special agents.