Christopher Hastings Talks 'Gwenpool', Mixing Humor With Drama, And The Intricacies Of 'Longshot Saves The Marvel Universe'

Critical Writ sits down with writer Christopher Hastings, to discuss the origin story of The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Longshot, and what's next in the wacky side of the Marvel Universe.

Critical Writ: Many of your comics straddle the line between comedy and drama. How do you properly keep the two balanced, depending on what you want to convey in the story?

Christopher Hastings: I wouldn't necessarily declare myself the master of this quite yet. That balance is something I'm very interested in, and strive for, but I think I'm squarely in the middle of my education on it. Right now, I find the best way to keep that balance, to "keep it real" is to treat the characters honestly, think about their drives and desires, and how they'll be affected by different situations. That can drive comedy, or it can drive drama. Things can get silly, but so long as it comes from an honest point of view, it surprisingly can get balanced with some real feelings too and not be jarring. But again, I feel like you're asking someone who's in the middle of working on their degree in this topic, and doesn't quite have it figured out yet, heh.

Critical Writ: Did you have any other concepts for Gwenpool before the final iteration of the character?

Christopher Hastings: Not really. The entirety of her character really stems out of that "normal girl from real world knows she's in a comic book" idea, and everything grew out of that. That idea came from trying to figure out a way to create an original character, but match what an audience's expectations would be from that costume, from that name. To me, that meant fighting with weapons instead of super powers, and breaking the fourth wall in a similar way to Deadpool, but for different reasons.

Critical Writ: Is there anything that you can say about how your ideas for the first Gwenpool story arc changed from the initial brainstorming to the completed project?

Christopher Hastings: Oh sure. It was initially going to be a lot darker, with her being forced to work for and train under Bullseye. But Bullseye was not available, so my editors suggested MODOK instead. It really shows how much rewriting on the fly, and working as a team with your collaborators and editors can affect a book. I think what it turned into was a lot of fun, and I'm not sure I would care for my original version of the story anymore.

One of my favorite panels from Irene Strychalski.
Critical Writ: Irene Strychalski and Gurihiru have been doing a fantastic job on the art. Were you always aware that their respective styles of art would work well with the series or was it a surprise? Now that the comic has six month's worth of issues, has your collaborative process changed in any particular way?

Christopher Hastings: I first worked with Gurihiru for the Gwenpool short in the Gwenpool Holiday Special, and that completely blew me away. And then once we got the series together, from that initial short, I had a pretty good idea what the book was going to be like. And I had seen samples from Irene, and I could see she would do an amazing job picking up those two issues off the tone that Gurihiru had already laid down, while of course making those two issues totally her own. She does some great character acting that I would have never thought of that really elevates scenes.

Working with Gurihiru for this long, I like to think I've adjusted my writing style to suit them better. They pretty much do everything amazingly, so I would honestly have no idea if I'm doing something they hate in the script, or doing a bad job that they are secretly spinning into gold. But I do see little comedic moments that they latch onto, or work in themselves, and I love them, and try to find more opportunities for them to get them in. Our upcoming issue has a fantasy sequence where they let loose in another style and it's pretty fabulous. (Editor's note: At the time of this interview, Gwenpool #8 had not yet been released.) Sometimes I'll lay out the basics of the scene and say that specifics on how it's executed are up to them. I completely trust them, and getting the artwork in is a highlight of every month. I could go on and on how much I love their work and why, but I imagine it could get kind of dull to read, instead of just looking at some of it.

Critical Writ: In the past few years, Marvel has been making a significant effort to showcase diverse legacy characters. So far, Gwenpool has interacted with Thor and teamed up with Miles Morales, two characters that jump-started the change. Is it possible that future issues could showcase some appearances from LGBT characters?

Christopher Hastings: I see no reason why not! I will say Thor and Miles showed up in Gwenpool simply because I really like their books myself. There was no push for that from the company. So if I have a good reason to stick say Iceman or Angela in there, I totally will. Actually as I'm writing this now, I'm already thinking of some fun stuff for Iceman, so that could be sooner than later!

Critical Writ: What was your approach going into the Longshot Saves The Marvel Universe miniseries? If possible, would you ever want to write for the character again?

Christopher Hastings: Longshot was pretty much just "have the craziest things possible happen due to over powered luck" and figure out ways to show that it was Longshot's luck doing it, and weird coincidences and connections, instead of it just being random. I think that unfortunately, a lot of readers missed those little connections.

Like, in the very beginning of the book, Longshot doesn't have money for tacos at a taco stand. He uses his luck, and suddenly there's an explosion that rains down money. That explosion is caused by burglars which he stops by activating his luck, causing their guns to jam. A few pages prior, there was a scene where a newspaper in the background mentioned the recall of a certain brand of faulty guns, which is what the criminals were using. Saving the people from those criminals caused Longshot to encounter the cosmic cube that messes up the universe, splitting the Inbetweener into Chaos and Order. Order is on a spree to stop magic, and is fought by a small group of remaining magic users, including Deadpool with a magic wand he found, a seemingly random addition to the party. Order manages to take control of this small group, including Deadpool. Everyone is hunting for where this cosmic cube is hiding, and Deadpool races Longshot for it when they find it's back at the house that had the explosion in the very beginning (due to other circumstances.) Longshot is not much of a threat to the fighting abilities of even a brain controlled Deadpool, and it looks bad until... they get to the house, where that taco truck is, and the lure of tacos breaks Deadpool out of his spell. Because it's Deadpool, and his beloved Mexican food. This leads to Longshot being able to get the cosmic cube and etc etc happy ending.

So reading it, it may seem that stuff was random, but it wasn't! That taco truck, Deadpool, Longshot, they were all connected, because of Longshot's luck, and it came back around in the very end. The book is full of stuff like that, and it was my main focus for the miniseries.

I would certainly enjoy writing Longshot again. I think I've matured as a writer since then, and I certainly learned a few things writing the book. I tried to cram way much into it, and as a result, many people found it confusing. I've learned a bit more about when you need to be more gentle with your reader, and where you can trust them to make the leaps themselves.

Critical Writ: If you had the freedom to do an original graphic novel similar to Ryan North and Erica Henderson's Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe, what characters would you want to write for? Would it be based on characters that you have written for in the past or would you want to go into an entirely new branch of the comics?

Christopher Hastings: Oh I would LOVE to write an OGN like that. (And SG Beats up the MU is amazing, everybody.) I really love writing Gwenpool right now, so she's probably be my initial choice. The exciting thing about doing an OGN is you don't have to worry about the reader's experience getting interrupted with a month long gap every 20 pages, so you can do some things with the storytelling you can't necessarily do when you're too busy making sure to reintroduce who your character is in every issue along with a cliffhanger at the end of every one.

Critical Writ: Finally, can you tease anything about your upcoming plans for The Unbelievable Gwenpool?

Christopher Hastings: This current arc gets into a little bit about how perspective might be all that separates a hero from a villain, if everybody has just cause and motivations. After that arc, we've got a few shorter stories that explore some different genres for the very genre savvy Gwen to riff on (horror, fantasy). And then after that... we finally reveal Gwen's origin, and things go utterly bananas, and I am just excited that my editors approved my pitch for how things go bananas.

And Deadpool's finally showing up. ;)

Critical Writ: I remember the December solicitations stating that Deadpool would appear in the second holiday special, Merry Mix It Up. I'm not sure of how much you're allowed to say about it, but does it function as a standalone story or a small bit of foreshadowing for the eventual appearance? On another note, how involved was the process of writing such an interconnected story for the first holiday special?

Christoper Hastings: I can tell you his appearance is part of the shorter stories that take part through the book, and is not related to his upcoming appearance in the main Gwenpool series.

I really like the interconnected story aspect of the previous holiday special! For someone who's origin has yet to be revealed, it's kind of funny that I've had to introduce Gwenpool to new audiences three times over the course of a year. Her appearance in that special was one of them. So we had 10 pages to show people what her deal was who didn't read the Howard the Duck backup stories she debuted in, and make it Christmas-y, and also get her to that party somehow. Thankfully Howard the Duck is a mutual friend of Gwen and She-Hulk's, so that was a good way to get her to the party. Also after I turned the script in, we discovered I accidentally made it 12 pages, and I had to condense it even further.

The new Gwenpool holiday special also has that interconnected story aspect to it! It's really cool to see what the other teams did on the book.

Massive thanks to Mr. Hastings for graciously agreeing to conduct an interview with the site. You can find him on his Twitter account and on his website. He currently writes The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Adventure Time, and Dr. McNinja.

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.