“I loved Mark Millar’s first two volumes of ‘The Ultimates,’ and the character I loved more than any of the others, and I thought had the freshest take, was Thor. I thought it would be a complete and utter ripoff, though, just to ignore the stuff that had come after with the character, so I used my ‘Ultimate Thor’ miniseries to set up where I wanted to go,” Hickman explained. “I knew I was going to write ‘The Ultimates’ afterwards, and the project allowed me to set the table to do all this. I think that was the right decision. I think it’s good that the characters are different from their mainstream, 616 Marvel counterparts. I think that can only help differentiate the product in what is a crowded Avengers marketplace.”
Hickman also plans maintaining the distinct tone of “The Ultimates” by populating the team with characters whose traditional Marvel Universe counterparts don’t always play central roles in “Avengers” storylines. In “The Ultimates” #5, for example, he brought back the Ultimate Universe’s version of the Falcon.
“Ultimate Falcon and 616 Falcon have similar costumes and some similar abilities, but beyond those pretty superficial things, they’re not really that much alike. I’m a pretty big Warren Ellis fan and I thought he had a pretty cool take on the character,” Hickman remarked. “So when I was going down the roster of characters I wanted in the book, he was an obvious choice. I think we’re bringing him back in a very interesting way. In issue #6, we’ll get another big chunk of his story, and he’ll play a pretty prominent role in issue #7. Then he’s part of the regular cast going forward.”
Another hero joining the ranks of the Ultimates is Jamie Braddock, the new Ultimate incarnation of Captain Britain, who took over the role from his brother, Brian Braddock, when Hickman began his run on the book. “I always planned on taking Captain Britain in a different direction,” Hickman said. “We haven’t shown this in the book yet, but the British have pretty much been decimated. That’s where the remnants of the EU’s Super Soldier program made a stand against the Children of Tomorrow, so much of the country’s infrastructure has pretty much been cratered.
“Jamie is basically a guy without a home, and he finds one in the Ultimates. He’ll be a regular member of the team and he’s a lot of fun to write,” Hickman continued. “I think what you’re going to see, going forward, is that the scale and the arena ‘The Ultimates’ is taking place in doesn’t just involve Europe and the U.S. It’s much larger than that. It’s global, it’s epic and Jamie plays a prominent role in it.”
If Nick Fury has his way, Captain Britain won’t be the only Captain on the Ultimates. In the first four issues of the series, Hickman showed what the team is missing now that Steve Rogers has given up the Captain America identity. And in issue #5 Fury set out to attempt to convince Rogers to pick up his shield again.
“I think you could make the argument for Captain America’s importance as being that of a tactician, but I think overall, his importance is symbolic. That’s his prime role,” Hickman said. “We’re talking about a team with Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain Britain and some other characters that will be revealed. It’s not like he adds a lot of raw power compared to these other guys. And, of course, Fury is a tactical genius in his own right.”
Fury believes the Ultimates need their symbol back, but persuading Steve Rogers to resume his position on the team will be no easy matter. “The way Brian Bendis and I wrote things is, Steve quit because he felt incredibly guilty and responsible for the death of Peter Parker. Relatively speaking, not much time has passed since Steve quit, but I think you can interpret him staying away from the team as him not being ‘onboard’ with where things are headed,” Hickman said. “Maybe he’ll be back at a later date? Or perhaps he’ll come to stand for something symbolically different from what everybody else does? He’s a real touchstone for the changes in the book; what is coming and where everything is headed. The thing to remember is, our mandate is to not be like the regular Marvel Universe. So if you expect Cap to pick up the shield and save the day, that would be unwise.”
With or without Captain America, however, the Ultimates still have to find a way to stop Reed Richards and the Children of Tomorrow. In “Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates” #5, Hickman kicked off “The World,” his second story arc on the title, with an issue that saw the Falcon devise a way to spy on the Children. In upcoming issues, the team will attempt to act upon the intelligence Falcon obtains.
“Issue #6 ends with what could be called a working plan that Hawkeye and Nick Fury devise,” Hickman said. “Issues #7 marks the beginning of that plan. It will work in some ways, and it won’t in others. I can promise that the world is going to get more dangerous before it gets more stable.”
In upcoming issues, the chaotic and dangerous world of “The Ultimates” will be brought to life by two different artists. Issues #5 and issue#6 feature work by guest artist Brandon Peterson with five page sequences by regular series artist Esad Ribic.
“Esad drew the pages involving the Falcon,” Hickman said. “The plan right now is Esad draws all of issues #7-9. I think we can assume his art is going to continue to be absolutely brilliant and probably more important than any of the writing I do in regard to creating the world and making it feel real and quite unique. It’s clear that he’s insanely talented and a fantastic world builder. I think he and Dean White have kind of hit the sweet spot of how his work should be colored. It’s just almost perfect. I couldn’t be happier with how the book looks. Esad and Dean are both fantastic. Obviously, it’s going to be the writing that’s going to be the death of this book,” Hickman said, laughing.
Hickman is known for plotting long, intricate master plans for the books he works on, and while he couldn’t divulge much of the future of the Ultimates for fear of spoilers, he was able to provide some hints and teases which suggest that 2012 is going to be an interesting and exciting year for fans of “Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates.”
“We will see the world getting bigger and we’ll see the Ultimates being less significant, but therefore more important, or ‘valuable.’ We’ll see a really different external look at the United States – not some kind of predictable ‘fall of the empire’ thing. It’s a fresh look at a place where the United States hasn’t found itself in a really long time,” The writer said. “We’ll get further inside each of the characters’ heads. The stuff with Thor is going to be really fascinating. The stuff with Iron Man is very, very interesting as he becomes more important because of his association with the other tastemakers and influence-peddlers in the Kratos Club. The Fury stuff is pretty interesting and Hawkeye continues to be pivotal. Plus, I think people will really get a kick out of our Hulk stuff.”