Being a teenage superhero means taking responsibility in a fantastic and a dangerous world, whether it’s in our reality or in Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Universe — though the latter may be a bit more dangerous. Over the past several years, a number of the Ultimate U’s heroes and villains have been killed in a variety of superpowered crises, including monstrous tidal waves, clashes between rival super teams, the rise of superpowered nation states, a second United States Civil War, and most recently, the planet devouring being known as Galactus’ attempt to consume Earth.
In the aftermath of the interstellar attack, the people of the Ultimate Universe are rebuilding, but that doesn’t mean life has gotten any easier. In fact, the streets of New York City have actually become more violent and vicious, as the teen title characters of writer Michel Fiffe and artist Amilcar Pinna’s “All-New Ultimates” are discovering. The introductory arc of the series pits the team against a dangerous street gang known as the Serpent Skulls, and the vigilante serial killer that’s preying on the gang, the Ultimate Universe incarnation of the Scourge of the Underworld, has just made his presence known. We spoke with Fiffe about what all of this means for his young team in the months ahead.
CBR News: We’re now two issues into “All-New Ultimates,” and the book has taken shape as a street level title dealing with superpowered crime. Will that continue to be the feel of the series moving forward?
Michel Fiffe: That’s just the starting point. The feel of the book will still be down-to-earth and gritty, but there’s going to be a wide range of formidable opponents, weirdoes with several power levels higher than the team. The team has to work up to such things, though, so I’m keeping it street level for as long as it fits.
What I always keep in mind is that the Ultimates are rookie super teens figuring out their place in the world but mostly figuring out how to not have their asses handed to them. They’re over the “beginner’s luck” phase of their shelf life. They have to work at being a team and work harder at not getting killed. So the first arc is them taking a few bumps but committing to their heroic ideal no matter how painful and tragic it can get. The big climax will come in the form of issues #5 and 6. That will be a turning point for them.
We have a fill in artist on issues 7 and 8 by “Old City Blues” creator Giannis Milonogiannis and I’m very excited to see his spin on a slew of new villains I have lined up.
In the first two issues, we’ve seen your teen cast dealing with some of their individual problems and what it means to come together as a team. One character who seems to be wrestling with both is Jessica Drew, who abandoned her Spider-Woman identity to become the new Black Widow. Can you talk about what’s going on here with her without tipping your hand as to what’s coming?
Jessica is navigating through her identity — as it’s a pretty complex place to begin with — and that naturally makes her want to shed her Spider persona — but not entirely. It’s a paradox: She wants to claim independence by no longer being Spider-something, and yet she still reappropriates someone else’s name. So yeah, she’s on her way to landing on something she’s comfortable with, not only in terms of a code name, but in her private life as well. Being a girl cloned from a boy can do that to a person.
At the end of the second issue, Kitty joins the group and Bombshell quits. Earlier, on the rooftop, Bombshell said she was ready to kill, but she didn’t. Is she worried about becoming her mother? And how would you describe Kitty’s head space going into issue #3? Does she blame herself at all for what happened to Jessica in issue #2?
Kitty and Lana are both in weird head spaces right now, which lends to the chaotic nature of a raw teen group, green at the gills. Kitty is wrestling with her own newfound fame on top of seeing her friends and peers being crushed. She’s also a revolutionary in hiding. Lana is on her own level of neurotic angst: she’s angry, she’s confused, she’s still developing her own code of ethics — it’s a mess. But it’s a compelling, believable mess, which makes her a personal favorite of mine.
Spider-Man and Cloak & Dagger have their own problems, and I imagine you’ll get more into that as the series goes along. You have experience writing teams from your work on books like “Copra,” but what’s it like tackling a team like this, where one of the cast members has his own title?
As long as I don’t create something that contradicts the characters’ core and universe, I’m good with writing “shared” characters. The thing about group books — whether it be the “Ultimates” or “Copra” in my case — is making sure everyone gets a chance to shine. You have to be very democratic — which is Team Book 101 — but it’s trickier than one might think.
You mentioned in a past CBR interview that you’re a pretty big Cloak & Dagger fan, and it showed in these first two issues with the inclusion of the Ultimate version of Detective Brigid O’Reilly, who, of course, became Mayhem in the Marvel Universe. How similar and how different is this version of Brigid to the Marvel Universe incarnation? Will she and her fellow police officers continue to play supporting roles in “All-New Ultimates” moving forward?
I’m a huge Detective O’Reilly fan from back in the day, sure, and I always wished that she remained human a bit longer. I find her more interesting that way! So I’d like to keep her and her crew around as long as possible. I will admit, I won’t be going into “Mayhem” territory — I’ve got enough maimed cops already.
The street gang known as Serpent Skulls appear to be an Ultimate U take on the Serpent Society, and then there’s the Ultimate Universe version of Scourge. With a Warriors-like gang and a gun wielding vigilante/serial killer, it feels like this first story is drawing some inspiration from ’70s era crime movies. Was that your intention? Or as a fan of those films, am I just seeing parallels there?
Those influences — yeah, they’ve been on my sleeve, I’ve been blunt about it. It’s no secret at all. I’ve also tried to beat the “Akira” drum, which Amilcar is into. All this stuff simply helps me envision the environment and the tone of the book. I’m glad you noticed!
Amilcar Pinna did some great design work for the characters of Scourge and the Serpent Skulls. Did you give him specific notes on their looks and personalities?
Amilcar is doing a great job at taking the Herculean task of designing several gangs from scratch and making them stand apart from one another. I basically just mentioned to him all the sources we cited before, Dave – a tidal wave of reference was sent Amilcar’s way — and he totally ran with it.
As we mentioned, “All New Ultimates” is not the only super team book you’re working on. You also write, draw and self-publish “Copra.” Readers who are discovering your work for the first time via “All-New Ultimates” might be curious about “Copra,” so what would you like them to know about it?
“Copra” is my one man show, my other team comic with misfit mercenaries and a higher fatality rate and off-the-books insanity. I’m still putting out monthly issues, and since the first 12 issues have been out of print, Bergen Street Comics will be releasing a collection of the first 6 issues this September as “COPRA Round One”. But if you can’t wait, check out the first “Copra” issue for free. I think readers will like this peek into the 24 pages that started it all.