SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for “Secret Wars” #1, on sale now.
In 1962, “Fantastic Four” co-creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced readers to Doctor Doom, a character who would go on to become one of comics and pop culture’s greatest villains. Ever since his introduction, Doom has been driven by two things; a feud with the Fantastic Four, and a desire to take over the world — not necessarily for selfish reasons, of course, but because he legitimately believes it would be in the best interest of the planet if he was in charge.
When Doom learned of a plot to destroy his world — and every other world in the Marvel Multiverse — he had no choice but to act. And while the debut issue of Marvel‘s “Secret Wars” showed the destruction of the Marvel and Ultimate Universes, that didn’t mean Doom was entirely unsuccessful in his quest.
In “Secret Wars” #2, writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic introduce readers to the sole remaining world in all of reality, Battleworld, a patchwork planet made up of remnants from destroyed universes and ruled over by its god and savior, Doctor Doom.
Hickman joins CBR for a wide-ranging discussion about the events of “Secret Wars” #2, sharing his vision for Battleworld, the inspiration for Doom’s hammer-wielding law enforcers, the Thors, Doom’s relationships with his various advisors and the contradictions that make him such a fascinating character.
CBR News: “Secret Wars” #2 is where you and Esad Ribic welcome readers to Battleworld for the first time. Is it too early to talk about your original plans for Battleworld and how they’ve changed in the lead up to “Secret Wars?”
Jonathan Hickman: No, it’s not too early. I don’t think much changed at all. Obviously it was an amorphous, undefined thing in regards to how specific it’s become, but we were always going to end up with this Battleworld. There were always going to be these cool slices of other worlds, or kingdoms. Now here we are.
To use “Game of Thrones” as a metaphor, Doom was always going to sit on, in this case, the wooden throne, and there would be barons governing their individual territories?
I don’t know that “Game of Thrones” is appropriate, as Doom tolerates no game. There will be no usurpers. [Laughs]
One possible comparison point, though, is the wall that divides the Northern and Southern halves of Battleworld.
Sure, Marvel has its Shield — so that’s what our wall is called. When we were figuring out how all these domains fit together, it became clear that you couldn’t have an area of zombies, and Annihilation drones, and Ultrons, and not have something in between them and the good and honorable people of “Renew Your Vows.” [Laughs]
Looking at the beautiful job Esad did introducing readers to Battleworld, it’s clear why you asked to collaborate with him. In this issue, we see him drawing stuff he’s worked on recently, like Thors, to a variety of other things, like Doom’s court, Bar Sinister, High Avalon, the Shield and some of the lands beyond it. Did you have any especially favorite Esad scenes, or is it hard for you to just pick one?
[Laughs] It’s hard to pick one — he’s just so good, and he nailed all of it.
I don’t know if we talked about this last time, but “Secret Wars” #2 was actually the first issue written of the series. All of the other creators that are doing the cool books coming out that take place on Battleworld needed to have a good grasp on what the world was, so Issue #2 is where Esad and I started, and it was just as wonderful as you might expect. Every day, or every couple of days, I’d get in a some pages of this phenomenal world building from Esad, and it was just the best thing ever. When you write, “God Doom sits on his throne — the World Tree — which is grows out of the top of Castle Doom,” you have a picture in your mind. [Laughs] But you don’t have an Esad picture in your mind, right? It was pretty glorious.
One of my favorite visuals was the Galactus Sentinel. What was it like seeing that?
Super cool, of course. You can’t ever have enough Galactus, herald of Franklin, I say. And it was all fantastic looking.
We actually haven’t talked about Ive Svorcina yet, who is basically painting the book. I’m sure Esad has a lot of input there, and some direction, since he’s such a phenomenal painter himself, but man! Atmospherically, what those two guys are bringing is top shelf whiskey.
The officers of the Thor Corps were tour guides for much of the issue. What inspired the idea of Doom’s police force being a corps of alternate universe versions of Thor?
I decided early on that since Battleworld was a combination of a whole bunch of worlds, and there was only one true god, Doom, that the “religion” would also be a mashup of sorts. which led to the World Tree being a throne. And if that was his throne, we’d need some people to enforce his kind of justice and law. So spinning off Thor as a bunch of cops made sense to me. I thought it was a cool idea.
I strongly object to this “Thor Corps” moniker, though. It’s just Thors, like Cops. Cops just walking a beat, beating some ass.
Jason Aaron will take a closer look at some of these hammer wielders for his “Thors” series, and he seems especially excited about the idea.
I’m not sure if people know the full premise of Jason’s book yet. I don’t know what we’ve said in previews and stuff like that, but his take on all of it, as with his take on most everything, is pretty fantastic. People are going to love what he’s got coming up. It’s very, very cool.
We also got a good look at some of Doom’s most trusted advisors — Valeria, Sue Richards and Doctor Strange. Considering her past relationship with Doom, Valeria being there is no surprise, but it’s interesting that Doom has welcomed both Strange and Sue into his court. Can you talk at all about his choice to include them? What’s it like bouncing these characters off of Doom?
I don’t want to talk too much about that, because it’s so much of Issue #3. I will say this, though — Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom were there at the end of everything, and this is the regular Marvel Universe’s Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange. So for people who had been reading “New Avengers” and “Avengers” leading up, they know that Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom have kind of had this alliance to try and figure this stuff out and prevent it from happening. They were unable to do that, and then something happened. To be continued.
Anyway, of course Doctor Strange is one of his most trusted advisors. It’s also fair to say he’s his oldest friend in the universe right now.
And it’s too early to talk about Susan and company yet.
Sounds like you’re a fan of the Roger Stern and Mike Mignola’s Doom and Strange graphic novel, “Triumph and Torment.”
Who isn’t, right?
We see a lot of the Future Foundation working as his advisors — did Doom really enjoy his time being part of that, in the pre-“Secret Wars” reality?
Of course he did! Those were some very well written comics. [Laughs] I’m just kidding. Doom has a very special place in his heart for Val. and that’s all I can say about that right now.
Obviously, Doom is a character who’s known for having a gigantic ego. How do you balance that with him genuinely being interested in his advisors’ counsel?
I think you could make an argument that this is probably the most ambitious Doom plan ever. [Laughs] And in his history he’s had no shortage of ambitious things that he’s done. I would argue that many of them, while Machiavellian, or not for good, have either had some type of internal logic or tempered by his innate nobility.
Doom feels responsible for the world that he’s made because he actually saved all of this stuff from total oblivion, so of course he’s acting in the best interest of all of those people. Even if he’s set himself up as god above all others! [Laughs]
What do you call the guy who saves everyone? Some people call that person God. Some people call him Doom. Tomato. Tomahto.
Great drama is all about contradictions, and with Doom you have the contradictions of ego versus nobility.
Yes. There’s a reason why I think Doom is Marvel’s best bad guy. It’s because of all of his internal demons — his guts spin against the axis of his soul. He’s a great character. Great job Stan and Jack!
At the end of Issue #2, the life raft carrying the Cabal opens up, and they slaughter the Older Thor that was quarantining the vehicle, suggesting to me that “Secret Wars” is primarily two things. One, a look at the exploits the Cabal and the heroes on the other life raft will have on Battleworld, while the other is the mystery of what Battleworld is and how it came to be.
Among other things. There’s a whole lot more going on that people will find out when we want them to. The good news is there’s only eight issues, so they must be coming soon.
Finally, what can you tell us about “Secret Wars” #3,or further down the line? The end of this issue seemed to set things up for a Thanos versus Doom confrontation I’m sure many readers will be excited to see.
I can promise lots of confrontations! [Laughs]
I don’t want to say much else except that Issue #2 is really where the story starts. Issue #1 was like the biggest cold open that we’ve ever done. That issue came with a whole bunch of its own questions. Some were answered. and some stuff is left dangling out there, but the whole point of it was to get us to this, which is Issue #2, Battleworld, the new status quo for “Secret Wars” and the interesting and fascinating world where all of our best creators get to play in a manner that they don’t normally get to play.
I’m having a blast, and most everybody else is too, I think — at least the creators and editors that I’ve talked to. I would say, buckle up: it’s going to get bigger and crazier.
I also should say something about our schedule. We did this thing that was hyper-accelerated, where we put out the last couple issues of “Avengers” and “New Avengers.” Then that weekend, we had “Secret Wars” #0 on Free Comic Book Day. We then had “Secret Wars” #1 the next week, and “Secret Wars” #2 this week. That’s a lot of comics. It’s basically a trade-sized volume of stuff. I can’t remember exactly, but it’s almost 120 pages or something like that.
Next month, Issue #3 comes out at the beginning of the month, then Issue #4 comes out towards the end of the month. Then the schedule is a little bit slower. There’s a really good reason for that, and I don’t want to spoil it because of stuff that happens inside of the “Secret Wars” book, but around that time, the middle of the series is when everything kind of ties together and the superstructure of the new world, and how all the different books synch up, all becomes clear.
After that, we just rocket to the end of this thing. Doom save us all.