Marvel Comics is keeping things lively with with a series of Next Big Thing press conference calls, announcing new series and storylines and teasing out details of its biggest upcoming events. The action began last week with Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, and Tom Brevoort discussing “Avengers Assemble” and continued into Monday with Kieron Gillen and Andy Lanning talking “Exiled,” a crossover between “Journey Into Mystery” and “New Mutants. The House of Ideas took Tuesday off for Valentine’s Day, but returned Wednesday with news of Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon’s upcoming “Incredible Hulk” story arc, “Stay Angry.”
Thursday, CBR was on hand to get the latest details from Jonathan Hickman, Sam Humphries, and editors Mark Paniccia and Sana Amanat on “Ultimate Comics: Ultimates.” Humphries joins as co-writer with issue #10. The discussion was moderated by Marvel’s Sales & Communications Coordinator James Viscardi.
“It’s been overwhelming, but intimidating,” Humphries said of the writing in the Ultimate universe. “It’s an invitation to write in the red zone, to use a football metaphor.”
“This book is going to be dope,” he added.
Hickman said he and the editors “threw around some names” for co-writer, but there was a clear consensus behind Humphries.
Humphries said that Hickman’s big ideas approach meant it was difficult to talk about issue #10 without spoiling earlier issues. “In number 9, he throws everything off a cliff,” Humphries said.
The artist for #10 will be Luke Ross, whom Humphries said “brings a great sense of realism to the book,” adding that “he can clearly do the action sequences, the great designs, but the widescreen scope that people love in the Ultimate books, but I love his character work.”
As to whether there will be new additions to the cast, Hickman hesitated before saying, “I’ve made it a conscious effort to make the book about the world.” “There’s always a possibility to make the cast more interesting and more diverse, I don’t see any reason to trend away from that direction.”
Humphries, becoming ubiquitous on CBR, is currently writing several self-published and creator owned projects, in addition to “John Carter” for Marvel. “There’s no way I could ever pass up the Ultimates,” Humphries said, describing it as a book with “a strong identity, separate from the Marvel universe.” He added, though, that working with Hickman was also a draw-“I’d write Devil Dinosaur with Jonathan.” He also said that each of his projects-self-published, creator-owned, and with Marvel-allow him to stretch his creative muscles in different ways.
Asked whether readers would be able to see which ideas came from which writer, neither Hickman nor Humphries was eager to answer. “I think in each issue we’re going to see a ten-page monologue where Tony delivers a lecture on Adobe filters, and everyone will be clear that came from Jonathan,” Humphries joked. He said, though, that they’re being given room to explore ideas they like, and they’re heading in the same direction.
“I’m much more interested in where he wants to go than where I planned to go,” Hickman said. “Saying that, I told Sam everything I was planning to do, and he can use what he likes.” From here on, Humphries will be doing “first passes” on scripts, Hickman said, with Humphries ultimately taking over and “going where he likes.”
Asked about details from their run, Humphries said, “Gosh, my first press call and you’re trying to trap me already!” He said he’s looking forward to “taking these characters that are familiar from the Ultimates, and pulling the rug out from under them.” Humphries added that “it won’t be one rug,” but each hero will face challenges based on his or her own convictions and beliefs.
On Marvel’s “apprenticeship” co-writer system, Humphries said, “I love it.” “Having someone like Jonathan watching over to make sure I don’t blow myself up with fireworks … allows me to ignore the pressure and focus on making a great comic book,” he said. “I’m looking forward to eating his brain and stealing all his secrets.”
Hickman added that the takeaway was, to break into comics, “make really, really good indie comics that other creators enjoy.”
Humphries was asked, given his background, whether superhero comics were something he always wanted to do. “Sure. I may have been a self-publisher, I may have published a really pretentious comic about having sex with vegetables, but I came up in comics,” he said. “I would love, for the entirety of my career, to be able to do more of these,” he added, “but also continue to do indie books that make it really hard for people to sum up what they’re about.”
Speaking again on jumping into the superhero arena, Humphries said, “It’s intimidating to come onto a book as big in the Marvel firmament as ‘Ultimates,’ but I’m loving the opportunity to work with all these amazing characters.” He added that he wants the heroes to accomplish “impossible things.” He praised Hickman for setting up situations “with no clear answers.”
Hickman said he never planned on leaving “Ultimates,” and he took “Ultimate Thor” with “the understanding that I would get ‘Ultimates.'” But now, he said, “I got a job offer that I couldn’t refuse, so I’m taking it.”
“When I hopped on the book, I read ‘Ultimates’ and ‘Ultimate Hawkeye’ as one book,” Humphries said, noting that Hickman was building out a world across the two series. The Xorn brothers cannot help but play into that, he said.
With that, the call wrapped up. Join CBR tomorrow at 3 EST for another mystery call with Marvel creators!
“Ultimate Comics: Ultimates” #10 is on sale in May.