One comic that wasn’t announced at this weekend’s New York Comic Con was Mark Millar’s upcoming “Ultimate Avengers.” However, while fans have known for a while that the Scottish scribe would return to the universe he helped launch with he and Bryan Hitch’s “Ultimates,” what remained unknown until now were the facts that the series would take part in the re-christened Ultimate Comics line in the wake of the “Ultimatum” event, and that the first two arcs of the new series would be drawn by superstars Carlos Pacheco and Lenil Francis Yu. With all the pieces of the puzzle finally brought to light, CBR spoke with Millar about how the changes affect his book, what characters he’ll be playing with for the first time and how he’ll try and live up to his promise that “Ultimate Avengers” will be “the event book.”
CBR: Mark, the whole Ultimate line is changing because of “Ultimatum,” but since you’ve had this “Ultimate Avengers” idea for a while, how did the line relaunch change your plans for the series if at all?
Mark Millar: We all sat there at a meeting talking this stuff through so there’s no surprises for anyone. What Jeph really did with “Ultimatum” was come in and draw this dividing line between the first decade of the Ultimate Universe and the second decade. Because it almost is ten years old, if you can believe it. I think it’s nine years this summer, so it did kind of feel like a new beginning. And these books are going to be set a few months after ‘Ultimatum’ too. So this feels like a nice, fresh start, but we’ve been talking about this for 12 months now.
Is it good to have a clean break from “Ultimates” with this new series, since the first book was such a huge piece of your and Hitch’s careers?
MM: Kind of. It’s probably the best book for me, because it changes twice a year. I’ve dubbed it “the event book” or “the big daddy book” of the Ultimate Universe because I can pick and choose the other Marvel characters that I want to play with. So if I want Spider-Man in it or some X-Men in it or Captain America, I can put them all in this book. It’s one where I can pick and choose from the other titles. For me, it’s hugely exciting because I can’t possibly get bored.
The first story arc is called “The Next Generation” and it’s all about Captain America’s illegitimate son from World War II, and it’s the big secret that’s been lurking in the background that Cap doesn’t know about, but Nick Fury and Hawkeye and a couple of other people knew about. But this is the worst thing that could ever happen to Cap, because he’s not a good guy.
Has Carlos been doing some redesigns and other subtle changes going on to match the new series?
There’s subtle changes, but they’ve got to be logical changes. I hate the idea of just going in and doing a crass redesign. The Ultimate Universe feels very real, and Bryan Hitch in particular spent a lot of time making it look real and making everything work in it. So there are going to be subtle changes to the costume, subtle changes to the headquarters and so on, but only in the same way your house get redecorated every ten years or the clothes you wear are slightly different than the clothes you wore ten years ago…except for me. I wear exactly the same clothes I wore ten years ago.
One thing to keep in mind is the idea that Fury is gone from the Ultimate Universe. Is his absence felt in a big way?
Oh yes. That’s what “Ultimatum” is all about. “Ultimatum” sets everything up for us. Jeph and I talked, and it’s all going to be sorted out.
As you go along, will Bendis and Loeb continue to bounce ideas off of each other and you so things can play in and out of this event-style book?
There will be elements of that, but you start looking like DC Comics, if you do that too much – all the books are tied together and you have to buy everything to understand it. What will happen is they’ll build on some slight stuff that’s been happening in my book, but you won’t have to read my book to understand theirs or vice versa. Big things happen at the end of ‘Ultimatum’ which I pick up on immediately on the first page of “Ultimate Avengers” #1. Huge things happen. We’ll do it like that, but we’re not going to ram it down people’s throats every month.
But it also seems like Cap will be a big part of both of the first two arcs. Is it fair to say there will be some threads that will run through the entire series?
There’s got to be a connection, otherwise the book will just feel like a bunch of mini-series. So there are little things that will weave in and out of each story. And the characters float in and out. Like, Captain America is a big deal in the first one, less of a big deal in the second one as The Punisher becomes a bigger deal. The third arc is mainly Wolverine, but you will get a little bit of Iron Man and Thor in there as well as Reed Richards. They all weave in and out of each others stories. They’re going to feel related to each other in the same way that ‘Secret Invasion’ feels related to “Civil War.” They’re absolutely all in the same universe, but it’s just one big event after the other.
And in the regular Marvel U, these big stories seem to focus on different people at different times: Iron Man being big here and Hawkeye being big there or what have you. With the Ultimate line being more focused, you don’t really have to follow some of these guys out into their own books, do you?
That’s right. And I think keeping things relatively small in terms of cast is the way you handle that best. You’re never going to get one of those double-page spreads with 60 characters on it. I’m going to try to keep everything under ten characters in these events. So, Captain America will be the focus in the first story line, and I’m going to bring in the characters that are most friendly with Captain America so it’s not just like a cheap gimmick with all the big-selling characters standing there helping him. I tried to make the book very logical. And that’s also great fun for me as well because we change artists every six issues. I’m staying on it for two years, 24 issues, and every one of the artists is just a mega star. Carlos is on the first arc, Leinil Yu for the second arc, and we’ve got huge guys already agreed for arcs three and four as well. So getting to see them drawing particular characters was real fun for me too. I’m making sure the guys are getting to draw the characters they’ve always wanted to draw. To see Leinil draw Ghost Rider is just awesome.