Before becoming one of Marvel Comics’ “Architects,” writing books like “Secret Warriors,” “Fantastic Four” and “FF,” Jonathan Hickman kicked off his career at Image Comics with “The Nightly News,” a series he wrote and illustrated to much critical acclaim. He soon followed that 2006 release with “Pax Romana” and “Transhuman” before making the full-time leap over to the House of Ideas, but, Hickman still has creator-owned stories in his bag of tricks and has recently made a return to Image to tell them. In addition to “The Red Wing,” PLUS!, a series of four 40-page graphic novellas written and drawn by Hickman, will kick off in late October with the release of “Feel Better Now.” CBR News spoke with Hickman about the unique plot of his first installment, his return to Image and why PLUS! is the best value out there for comics fans.
“‘Feel Better Now’ is the story of a bunch of psychiatrists who, out of boredom, decide to begin tinkering with their patients, and what starts as immature pranks and harmless fun very quickly turns into some pretty hard-core, bleak — but hilarious — deviant behavior,” Hickman told CBR. “In fact, their conduct becomes codified to the point where they develop ‘rules of the game’ for scorekeeping and deciding who wins and who loses.”
It takes a specific kind of person to start messing around with your patients’ mental well-being, but Hickman explained that the psychiatrists are just part of a large L.A.-based group the PLUS! novellas will explore.
“These psychiatrists are operating as a subdivision within the greater community of apathetic Los Angeles professionals — they all have banded together to, kind of, collectively pass judgment on the society that they are part of,” Hickman said. “For example: Defense attorneys who compete to see who can get their criminal clients the longest and most severe sentences, plastic surgeons who use water for botox — you get the idea.”
As a creator, Hickman is enjoying his return to Image Comics, noting that that’s truly where it all began for him as a professional creator.
“It’s great,” Hickman said. “There isn’t a single book that I’ve done over the past four years that Image isn’t directly or indirectly responsible for — they were the first company to publish my work, and I remain unbelievably grateful and appreciative of that. I’m ecstatic to be at Image right now. Lot of good books with the big ‘i’ on them lately!”
Hickman also enjoyed getting back to the drawing board, noting that while “Feel Better Now” won’t look exactly like his past works, it will include a few of his artistic trademarks.
“I think ‘Nightly News’ looks a lot different than ‘Pax Romana,’ and I think ‘Feel Better Now’ will look much different than either one of those other works,” Hickman said. “Of course, I have my sacred cows so, you know, I’ll use the color blue a lot. There could be some circles.”
In addition to drawing his own material again, Hickman explained the ways in which working on a book for Image differs from his Marvel projects.
“They’re completely different,” Hickman exclaimed. “One, I’m not trying to please anyone but myself, which is both good and bad. It’s good in that it makes things easier, it’s bad in that they’re not filtered through solid editors. Finally, I’m writing for myself, so I would never put something in the script that I can’t, or don’t like to, draw.”
When designing the format of the stories he intends to tell in the PLUS! series of books, Hickman made the decision to keep them to the point, hence the one-shots.
“I didn’t really see the point of dragging out something when the only reason for doing so would be trying to milk the thing for more money,” Hickman explained of his decision. “You know, why be an asshole, right? Sometimes, short stories are just that, and I think it’s okay for me to the publish [PLUS!] that way. It’s also worth noting that this won’t be collected until I finish the fourth one of these. And, as busy as I find myself, I doubt that will be for a couple of years. So, if you want one, get it while it’s hot, I guess.”
Fans of both Hickman’s early Image work and his current Marvel writing are encouraged to check out “Feel Better Now” when it drops in October, with the writer highlighting the fact that the comic will be one of the best values on the stand as additional incentive.
“‘Feel Better Now’ will be 40 pages of content for $3.99,” Hickman emphasized. “That’s about as good a price-to-page ratio that you’re going to find in this business right now. And, certainly, if you’re a fan of my other work, or have even been waiting to give some of my stuff a try, this offers not only a good slice of what I’m about as creator, but also is a ‘done-in-one,’ pain-free format. Hopefully everyone will give it a try, as I’m certainly proud of how it’s coming together.”
“Feel Better Now” hits stores in October