On Saturday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, rising star and Marvel Architect Jonathan Hickman welcomed a packed house to his spotlight panel, moderated by Word Balloon’s John Siuntres, to discuss the creator’s past, present and future in comics.
John Siuntres began the panel by asking Jonathan Hickman how he got started in comic books. Hickman graduated college with an architecture degree and tried to get into the comics business, but as he put it, “failed miserably.” He took a job he ended up hating, and after a few years he quit and tried his hand at comics again. After being a finalist in Comic Book Resources’ Comic Book Idol contest and several submissions to Image Comics, he officially entered the field with the publication of his hit miniseries “The Nightly News.”
Siuntres described Hickman’s comics being full of story and something you can’t just read in ten minutes, especially with all the extra material provided in the back of most of his comic series. Hickman explained this started with “Nightly News,” as he wasn’t sure if he’d get another chance, so he packed as much as he could into the six-issue series. It was only by the second issue that Marvel Comics called about possible writing opportunities.
From there, Hickman shared that the easiest way to get into Marvel Comics is to self-publish, especially since junior editors are always reading smaller independent titles in hopes of finding the next hot comic writer, and thus earn a promotion in the process.
In discussing “Secret Warriors,” Hickman said he filled it with so much extra material because again, he wasn’t sure if he would get another chance. He thought about the original idea, and decided his best chances to continue his career was not to do another generic teen group of heroes, but do a really solid Nick Fury book. “Only one issue left!” Hickman said of the series, which just reached its penultimate issue. The writer also praised his artists, Stefano Caselli and Allessandro Vitti, describing them as “really talented dudes.” Sadly, Stefano left the book to work on his dream job, “Amazing Spider-Man.”
Hickman’s work on “Fantastic Four” and its relaunched iteration, “FF,” has made the book a top ten title again. “Things matter now… The goal of every writer should be to make their book the most important,” Hickman said. The 50th Anniversary issue will be released soon and feature 96 pages of original content all written by Hickman, no reprints or filler. “What came before was not bad, but what’s coming is better,” Hickman said of the title’s future.
A funny side note was then revealed, as Hickman joked that Joe Quesada calls him the Unabomber because of his highly detailed notebooks he provides for each of his series.
“S.H.I.E.L.D.” has five or six more issues to go before its conclusion, and Hickman called series artist Dustin Weaver “amazing.” The success of the series taught Marvel a big lesson about what properties can be hits. He added there would be no more historical characters introduced in the last few issues of “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” since Hickman doesn’t “want to be a dick,” and wants to actually tell the story and wrap it up.
A fan asked about Hickman’s writing process, wondering if he always has an ending in mind when he works. “Generally, I know the ending to my stories,” Hickman said, noting that a strong third act can save a mediocre beginning. “It’s just how my head works… I only write books I want to read.”
Asked if he would ever do art for Marvel, specifically referencing his highly stylized work on “Pax Romana,” Hickman said, “No, Marvel hired me as a writer.”
Hickman went on to discuss “The Manhattan Projects” with artist Nicky Pitarra, announced earlier at CCI. Since the assembled crowd mainly consisted of Marvel readers, Hickman described the series as “the Thunderbolts of science.” The premise is the original Manhattan Project was really just cover for all the crazy experiments that a drunken Albert Einstein and others were creating for the government.
A fan asked, knowing that “Secret Warriors” was originally planned as a sixty-issue series, if readers would ever get to see the unused storylines. “I ended up cutting a lot of fluff out,” Hickman said, noting that he didn’t think the series would last that long, especially as he took on more and more work. Some unused plots included visiting all the secret bases mentioned, a special S.H.I.E.L.D. black ops team and more development on the other squads that Nick Fury maintained. He promised that if there is ever an omnibus edition of the series he would include all the notes and ideas he had for unused plots in the back.
Asked if he writes with a set number issues in mind for each series, Hickman explained that in most cases he does, but that he fell in love with “FF,” and while he does have a plan, he just enjoys writing it and there isn’t yet an end date.
The writer described the premise of his upcoming “Ultimate Comics: Ultimates” as political, and involves Nick Fury dealing with everything falling apart. There is no Captain America, and the “Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye” series follows the first four issues of his run on the team book.
Surprisingly, Hickman is “completely jacked!” for DC’s “New 52” in September, and said he plans to buy all 52 issues and rate them in order of greatness. “It’s kinda joke at Marvel, [but] I grew up on DC, I hope they’re all fucking awesome!”
In regards to one fan question, the writer said he has no future work for the original 616 version of Nick Fury, but that the character is set to appear in three titles soon. He also doesn’t know what will happen to “Daisy and the kids.”
Asked what his favorite books or writers are, Hickman revealed he is a big Grant Morrison fan, and that he also got to read an early copy of Matt Fraction’s upcoming “Casanova” Vol. 3 #1, describing it as, “The best book of Matt’s I ever read.” He also mentioned that Ed Brubaker has a book coming next year he is really excited for. As far as books, he admitted he always loved the “Legion of Super Heroes,” and would like to do an adult Legion book.