The name Doctor Doom is synonymous with villainy in the classic Marvel Universe, but in Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Universe, Doom’s villainous record has been eclipsed by none other than Reed Richards. The Ultimate Doctor Doom, AKA Victor Van Damme, appeared to die in the chaos of 2008’s “Ultimatum” event, and in its aftermath his archenemy Reed Richards began his march toward evil.
In “Ultimate FF” #1, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Mario Guevara gave Van Damme a reprieve by revealing that Ultimate Doom was in fact alive, and that the Doom who perished was merely an impostor. While readers may be wondering if Ultimate Doom will resume his villainous ways or if fighting alongside the members of the Ultimate FF can lead him down a different and more heroic path, those questions may not be fully answered any time soon. Last week, CBR confirmed with Marvel that the series would end in August with “Ultimate FF” #6, written by Stuart Moore instead of Fialkov, whose recent illness forced him to bow out of the finale.
While the future is short for “Ultimate FF,” CBR News spoke to Fialkov prior to the book’s cancellation about the role he envisioned for Doom as a member of the team, plans for expanding the book’s cast even further, exploring the mysteries surrounding Doom and closely linking the series to previous Ultimate stories.
CBR News: Josh, the big news is that Reed Richards is not part of the Ultimate FF after all. Victor Van Damme, AKA the Ultimate Universe’s Doctor Doom, is the surprise new team member. What made you want to add Victor to the book? What do you feel he brings to the series?
â€¨Joshua Hale Fialkov: So the thing about Doom is he’s the greatest Marvel Universe character ever created. [Laughs] That’s #1! I think Doctor Doom and Ben Grimm are the two characters that Stan and Jack created that have so much to them. And it always kind of bothered me how Doom got shuffled off the stage in the Ultimate Universe. That wasn’t right. There was clearly something else going on there.
I don’t know for a fact that anybody had planned it or wanted it that way, but I remember reading what happened to the Ultimate Doctor Doom and thinking it wasn’t right, but I also saw a pathway to bring him back. In fact, the original pitch for this book was to do a title about Reed Richards having to watch his family with their new step dad. That was sort of the original pitch, “Imagine getting a divorce and then you have to watch your wife and kids live with this guy you hate who is way better at it than you are.” [Laughs]
â€¨That was the genesis of the book, and as things changed and evolved based on what everyone else was doing in their books this was what got to. So having Doom be the last cast member to be revealed was always the plan. It was what drew me to the book. I’ll take any opportunity to write Doctor Doom.
One thing about the Ultimate Doom I had forgotten about until his return in “Ultimate FF” #1 is the fact that he has goat legs. It appears you and artist Mario Guevara wanted to bring that look back. Am I correct in assuming that reviving that look also adds some fun and mystery to the character?
Yeah, that’s part of it. Also, I think the goat legs are awesome. I have had a number of calls with Brian Bendis where I was like, “Can you explain the goat legs? What was the plan with the goat legs?” I’m a little bit obsessed with how weird the goat legs are. It’s such a strange touch and it does exactly what the Ultimate Universe is supposed to do, which is take an iconic character and make them different and make them something special.
The return of the goat-legged Doom raises a lot of questions: Where has he been all this time? Who was the Doom that died during “Ultimatum?” And since “Ultimate FF” deals with dimensional rifts, is it possible that the Doom in your book is a Doom from another universe?
You’ll find out the answers to all of that stuff in issue #4, which is artist Andre Araujo’s first issue. We spend a little time seeing where Doom has been and how he got back; all that stuff. The question of who exactly did Ben Grimm kill is sort of a central question of the series.
Do you have plans to use Ben Grimm in this series?
He also shows up in issue #4. Issue #4 catches up on the entirety of the Ultimate Universe. We get to see a lot of characters. In issue #4 Andre is coming in and just cleaning house. He’s doing a crazy spread that’s like an army of the Ultimate Universe; every character that you ever wanted to see all lined up in a row. It’s really fun.
Let’s talk about some of your other cast members. It looks like Falcon, Sue Storm, Iron Man, and Doom are the FF’s field team, while Coulson and Machine Man are the support staff. Is that correct?
Yeah, but it changes as we go. Namor will kind of join up and start working with them. So the idea is as they’re going to different places and finding themselves in certain situations they’re going to be picking up team members. In pretty much every issue they add a new team member.
Coulson is a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but in “Ultimate FF” he’s officially employed by Tony Stark, correct? Does this team have any sort of governmental authority?
The dismantling of S.H.I.E.L.D. is something that was planned and how we fit into it was left up to long term planning. So you’re going to see more of the ramifications of what happened to S.H.I.E.L.D. and what the FF’s relationship is to the rest of the universe. That also happens in issue #4! Issue #4 has a lot going on.
It certainly sounds like it. Machine Man appears to be pretty powerful but he hasn’t taken the field yet. Is he more valuable in a support role? Or are they more worried that some of his Gah Lak Tus Swarm programming is still present?
Yeah, I think the fact that he’s made up of a cosmically evil alien force is a problem; an insurmountable one even. So he’s very useful to them, but at the same time are you going to trust he’s not going to revert back to the Gah Lak Tus Swarm and start eating everything?
So they keep Machine Man on a very short leash then?
Exactly. And the consequences of him being made up of the Gah Lak Tus Swarm are going to come back to visit us very soon.
Let’s move the ongoing dimensional rift story line that your characters are dealing with in “Ultimate FF.” What inspired it? Is this a way of doing some of the exploring that the Marvel Universe FF is famous for?
That’s part of it, and it’s also us building on the events of “Cataclysm,” but doing it in a way where you don’t need to have read “Cataclysm.” It’s a pretty easy concept to grasp. And we’re planting these seeds in the Ultimate Universe that start banging up against all these other universes which means the walls are going to start to come down.
Yeah, but it’s more at a universe-level than a cosmic-level. I think cosmic implies something slightly different.
The solicits for this arc and the next few issues suggest that your cast will explore some of the more fantastic locales of the Ultimate Universe. There’s Lemuria in the current arc, and it sounds like the next arc will take the “Ultimate FF” into space.
It’s so hard to talk about because the last page of every issue is a spoiler. So if I tell you about who the character is that shows up in issue #4 it spoils their reveal in issue #3.
We are going to see the fallout from the “Hunger” miniseries I wrote. We’ll also see some of the consequences of the “Ultimate X-Men” miniseries that I wrote during “Cataclysm.”
â€¨So it’s been fun. I’m getting to have some closure for stories I started. We’ll start to get a glimpse of where Kang, from my “Ultimates Disassembled” story line, came from. You’ll get pieces from all of my stories coming together.
So there’s payoff coming for fans of your previous Ultimate Universe work?
Yes, there are bread crumbs that are hopefully leading to a big feast.
You touched upon the work that Andre Araujo will do on upcoming issues. I understand artist Mario Guevara finishes out his run with issue #3?
Yes, and Andre did some of the bridge pages that lead us from the first story line to the second. So you’ll get a little preview of what Andre is doing in the third issue.
Finally, we know from “Age of Ultron” that the time-space continuum in the larger Marvel Universe has shattered and over in the Avengers books writer Jonathan Hickman has been dealing with a story about multiple Earths occupying the same space. Are the problems the “Ultimate FF” are dealing with in their book connected to the larger multiverse problems of the Marvel Universe?
You might think that, but I could not possibly comment.
Since we’re talking about other dimensions, I believe it’s also been recently revealed that there’s just one Negative Zone in the Marvel Multiverse and it brushes up against all the other universes. Am I understanding that correctly? Does that have implications for your book?
You are, and Galactus and Ultimate Thor are currently stuck in the Negative Zone. That’s definitely something we’ll follow up on down the road.
I love writing these characters and I care about the Ultimate Universe. Having the chance to make some impact on it has been an amazing ride.
“Ultimate FF” #4 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Araujo goes on sale July 16.