Jonah Weiland welcomed writer and North Hollywood local Joshua Hale Fialkov to the CBR Speakeasy for a wide ranging discussion about his massive comic book collection, working at a stand up desk and his fast rise at Marvel Comics. They discuss Fialkov’s work on Marvel’s “Ultimate Comics Ultimates,” what he’s learned from working with “Cataclysm” and the fate of the Ultimate U — and where Galactus finds a large enough fork and knife to devour planets.
They finished off with a discussion of “The Bunker,” Fialkov’s new digital-first creator-owned series with Joe Infurnari, why they chose to do it without a publisher, how comiXology has changed the digital landscape since “Tumor” debuted on the Amazon Kindle and why comics readers are smarter than most publishers give them credit for.
On why the last six months have been possibly the happiest of his entire life: The past six months have been probably the happiest six months of my life. It’s really been — I’m working on stuff that I love on my own terms. Working at Marvel has been like a dream come true. I get to work on stuff that I never thought I’d get to do, and I get to do stuff that, you know, I thought maybe one day I’d be lucky enough to do like one of the thirty things they’ve let me know. And then knowing what we have coming up in the next six to eight months is just — everyday I just laugh, it’s so funny what I’m doing.
On his departure from DC Comics and his rapid rise at Marvel: I think I had already been hired on “Ultimates” before everything at DC happened, and as far as I know that wasn’t the corollary of why everything happened, but who knows. Marvel saw me and saw me as an opportunity, I think. … When everything happened at DC, rebounding into writing the Ultimates knowing that we’re going into this giant event, knowing that I was going to get to write the 616 Galactus eating [Laughs] eating the Ultimate Universe. And that they were so open to — “Hunger, as a book, it’s not about Spider-Man or Captain America or Thor, it’s a book about Rick Jones. [Laughs] It’s a book about Rick Jones and the Silver Surfer and, um… I can’t say who else, because the book hasn’t come out yet. It comes out in like three weeks. But getting to tell stories with these sort of obscure characters and having this weird combination of giant, high-profile project with just so much creative freedom — you know I look at that book and that’s where a lot of the joy comes from. I look it and I’m like, “Oh, that’s me. That’s what I can do.”
On what readers need to know heading into “Cataclysm,” the upcoming Marvel Ultimate event: I think the important thing to understand is that not just — Brian [Michael Bendis] has an invested interest in this universe. This is something he has worked on almost from the beginning of his career. He spent twelve years developing this world and developing this universe, and he’s been a shepherd for that universe. And I’ve been put in a very fortunate and lucky position to be like the “co-shepherd.” We both understand that responsibility, and we both understand how important these characters are to the fans. I’ll guarantee you they mean more to us. We love these characters. When you talk to Brian about Miles Morales — or even Peter Parker — the passion and the love he has for this version of the characters is so thick and real. That’s where we come from with everything we do is, how do we tell stories that touch people in the same way that the Mile Morales story has. That, to me, is the hallmark of what we’re looking for, and I think “Cataclysm” is a step in getting the whole universe in that direction. And if they cancel it I’m out of a job and that would suck!
On one publisher calling “The Bunker” “too smart” for readers: We were doing the book strictly as a project of love. I had a publisher, when it was in pitch form, I pitched it to a major publisher whose response back was, “It’s too smart. If this is too smart, people won’t get what you’re doing.” And it really pissed me off. [Laughs] It bothers me because that’s what’s wrong. Like, that’s what we do wrong, is we constantly underestimate what people are capable of — not enjoying, but understanding. Our audience is the smartest… Comic readers are some of the smartest people in the world. Just by the basic fact that they’re reading puts them ahead of the pack. … And again, what we’ve seen, just the one-to-one reaction from people who reader the book has been so positive and so strong. Joe [Infurnari] and I have these long, almost weepy conversations about like, “You can do this. You can actually make stuff, and people will enjoy it. You don’t have to worry about all the other crap that gets in the way.