SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for “Secret Wars” #1, on sale now.
The heroes that populate the Marvel Universe have faced seemingly insurmountable odds time and time again, but in 2012 they were confronted with a situation they could not overcome. The all-powerful race of beings known as the Beyonders set in motion a plot to destroy the Multiverse by slamming alternate realities into each other. This was chronicled across the recently concluded volumes of “Avengers” and “New Avengers” as writer Jonathan Hickman explored how Earth’s Mightiest Heroes dealt with the looming end of everything.
The end finally arrived in “Secret Wars” #1 by Hickman and artist Esad Ribic, launching Marvel’s latest linewide event and the epic final act to the multi-year saga Hickman began in 2012’s “Avengers” #1. To stay on top of all things “Secret Wars,” which replaces the Marvel Universe as readers know it with the patchwork planet known as Battleworld, CBR will be speaking with key members from the creative team to unpack each issue. Today we look at “Secret Wars” #1 with Hickman and Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, who join us for some insight into the final moments of both the Marvel and Ultimate Universes and teases for what’s ahead in issue #2.
CBR News: Let’s kick off by talking about an element that began to play a larger role in Jonathan’s story in the recent “Time Runs Out” arc and was a huge part of “Secret Wars” #1, the Ultimate Universe. Was the Ultimate Marvel Universe always going to factor heavily into “Secret Wars?”
Jonathan Hickman: I think it was one of those things that when it appeared the event was going to be as big and all-inclusive as it was, we were most likely going to include it and all of the Ultimate titles in what we were talking about. Is that right, Tom?
Tom Brevoort: I think so. We had been talking about it pretty much from the beginning.
So was “Secret Wars” being discussed back when you were doing your run on “Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates?”
Hickman: No, not in the sense that you’re probably talking about, but Tom and I have been talking about doing a book like this titled “Secret Wars” for quite a while. Way longer than most people would assume.
I’ve always had it in the back of my mind so I’ve always kind of incorporated placeholders, teasers, and events that were foreshadowing-ish in my Marvel books.
How did it feel to reunite with your “Ultimates” collaborator, artist Esad Ribic, on this series?
Hickman: Great! [Laughs] I think anybody that gets the chance to work with Esad is ecstatic to work with him. Plus, I’m such a big fan that ever since the musical chairs which kicked off the beginning of Marvel NOW! I think the only heavy request that I had was to have Esad when it came time for “Secret Wars.”
I dunno, Tom, have I thrown a bunch of fits other than that? I don’t think I have.
Brevoort: No, you have not. [Laughs] Even that wasn’t throwing a fit so much as making your request known. So it was a sad day to be Jason Aaron. [Laughs]
Hickman: Yeah, well he had it coming. That guy has had it too good for too long.
Looking at Esad’s work with Jason Aaron on “Thor: God of Thunder” and other places, it seems like Esad loves to draw big, crazy comic book moments as well as grounded emotion and humanity.
Hickman: Esad can draw anything he wants to. That’s kind of the beauty of the guy’s talent. There isn’t anything that he can’t do. If you’re talking about nice little character moments? Sure, of course he can do that. He can also do incredible staging and phenomenal world building. Marvel has a lot of really, really good artists, but I think if you were scoring comic art like an Olympic event Esad would do very well.
Much of what Esad drew in “Secret Wars” #1 involved a large part of the Ultimate Universe mobilizing and attacking the Marvel Universe. Tom, is this assault the backdrop for what Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley are doing in “Ultimate End?” Or is their series about more than just that?
Brevoort: Their series isn’t about this assault at all, actually. Their series comes out of stuff that happens next issue rather than this issue.
Since we’re on the topic of what Brian Bendis is doing, you guys teased the existence of Nation X back in the early issues of “Time Runs Out,” but I don’t believe we’ve really seen that yet or how Cyclops comes to be in command of the Sentinels he’s leading in “Secret Wars” #1. Am I correct that those are things we’ll see in the final issues of Brian’s X-Men books?
Brevoort: Maybe you will. Or maybe it’s stuff that happens that you know as much as you need to know. Certainly for our story you know as much as you need to know. It is entirely possible though that Brian will touch upon some of this stuff before his X-run is over. It’s also possible that he will not.
â€¨Hickman: Yeah, the general plan, so that I didn’t screw up anybody’s books in the lead up to “Secret Wars,” was jumping everything eight months forward because we could continue to tell the last days of the Marvel Universe in an accelerated and exciting fashion without everybody having to dump all the stories they were already doing in their books.
The only consideration we were asking for was for creators to put a period, an exclamation point, or even a question mark at the end of their run. Then at the end of their books there would be a little teaser with like four or eight months later and everyone looking up and seeing another giant Earth, the Ultimate Earth, hanging low in the sky above New York City.
â€¨Some people did that. Some people took it a little bit further. The point of it was always to be accommodating, not to put backend plot points in everybody’s book. I don’t think that would have been fair and I never expected anybody to do that.
â€¨Brian is telling a story that he should be telling. Then later, after that’s all over, we’re having “Secret Wars.”
Cyclops and his allies were a big part of the ground war with the Ultimate Universe forces, but “Secret Wars” #1 also gave us some scenes of heroes trying to save people or carry out final bits of business. Will the Ultimate Universe’s invasion be a big part of the “Secret Wars” titles that fall under the “Last Days” banner?
Brevoort: I think each of the “Last Days” stories are their own stories. So the invasion will be a factor in some of them. I think you see a little bit more of it in the “Magneto” story for example. In others you’ll see less. It all depends on which “Last Days” book you’re reading, who the character is, and what sort of final story or final business those characters would have to carry out in their last hours.
My favorite of the sort of last hours scene that we saw in “Secret Wars” #1 was the scene in the bar with the villains and the Punisher. Jonathan, what inspired that scene? How did that come about?
Brevoort: Jonathan has always wanted to shoot up a bar. [Laughs]
Hickman: I can’t think of any more poignant thing than shooting up a bar at the end of the world. “Why not?” I said.
Hickman: I just thought we needed a cool Punisher moment and it seemed perfect. It was one of things where I was like, “Tom, should I cut this? Is it a ridiculous flourish? Am I just goofing around?” And Tom was like, “It’s worth keeping.” So we kept it.
â€¨Brevoort: Yep, it’s a fun moment.
The Reed Richards of the Marvel and Ultimate Universes were key in the final but futile attempts to save their respective realities. Jonathan, what was it like returning to these guys for the final moments of the Marvel multiverse?
Hickman: [Laughs] I say, if you can, you turn any book into a Fantastic Four book, whether people are asking for it or not. [Laughs]
Brevoort: Those characters have both been parts of “Avengers” and “New Avengers,” so it’s not like Jonathan is returning to them. It’s more that he’s just continuing to do what he has been doing.
Hickman: Exactly. Refusing to let it go. [Laughs] It’s good though. I love writing those characters. So I really enjoyed writing them here, and maybe I’ll enjoy writing them in the future — who knows?
We know both Reeds ultimately failed in their bids to preserve their universes, but it felt like something very important happened on the final few pages when characters like Star-Lord, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Thor, and Phoenix Cyclops were teleported into the 616 Reed’s life raft. I know you can’t say much ahead of issue #2, but are these characters to watch during “Secret Wars?”
Hickman: I think that’s more of an issue #2 question. We’ll see.
Brevoort: It’s going to be easy to keep an eye on them because there are no other characters left. We’ve killed all of the other characters! [Laughs] So they’re going to be easy to find. They’ll stand out in a crowd because they will be the crowd.
So these characters are sole survivors of the Marvel Universe?
Brevoort: Maybe not, but they are at least the last people standing here.
Hickman: “Secret Wars” is just really seven more issues of them hanging out on the space ship.
Brevoort: [Laughs] Yep.
Hickman: We really stretched this one out.
[Laughs] I know it’s been a few weeks since you guys put “Secret Wars” #1 to bed, but what were your feelings when you saw the tombstone in this issue for the Marvel and Ultimate Universes?
Brevoort: Jonathan made the page with tombstone, both figuratively and literally.
Hickman: It was weird because I felt nothing. [Laughs]
Hickman: No, I think Tom and I were both so happy that I was done with Avengers. That there was no more Jonathan to worry about on Avengers. [Laughs]
â€¨We’ve done a lot of books and I think the coolest thing out of the entire “Avengers” and “New Avengers” run was that we tried to be crazy ambitious with those two books and I’m incredibly appreciative of what Marvel let me try and do. Sometimes we succeeded as well as we hoped we would. We did some phenomenal books. Other times it wasn’t as good, but it was certainly ambitious and I think that’s cool that Marvel is interested in doing books like that.
I think “Secret Wars” #1 is a really cool and beautiful book. I think people that pick it up will absolutely need to pick up issue #2. Issue #2 is probably my favorite thing I’ve done at Marvel in quite some time. If you think Esad was good in this issue just wait.
Brevoort: Yes, issue #1 was good, but #2 looks even better.
“Secret Wars” #2 goes on sale May 13 from Marvel Comics.
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