Bendis, Fialkov & Fiffe Talk Marvel's New Ultimate Lineup

Three new Ultimate Universe series are set to debut in the very near future: "All-New Ultimates" and "Ultimate FF" in April, and "Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man" in May. The writers of all three series -- Michel Fiffe, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Brian Michael Bendis, respectively -- are on board to discuss the new Ultimate lineup in Marvel's latest "Next Big Thing" press conference Thursday afternoon.

CBR is on the line, so keep refreshing for the latest live updates.

"Every question I got for the last four months was an attempt at getting me to spill the beans [on the fate of the Ultimate Universe]," Bendis said at the top of the call, referring to the speculation surrounding the "Cataclysm" event. Bendis said an unusually high amount of questions involved Miles Morales' roommate, Judge.

"I've been reading the Ultimate Universe as a fan since the minute it started," Fialkov said, noting that the line helped inspire him to become a comic book writer. "To get to build something with Brian and Michel has been an honor and privilege. I'm really excited for it."

"What the Ultimate Universe means to me, and to a lot of people who have read it over the years, is that while anything could happen, I'm so proud for Marvel keeping it a tight line, and not watering it down," Bendis added. "This next evolution is a reminder of that to me in many ways." Bendis continued, saying the new #1s are an easy access point for new readers and a "huge new chapter for these characters."

Describing the premise of "Ultimate FF," Fialkov said, "It's five of my favorite characters -- we have a secret extra character -- getting to team up as literally the walls start to come down on the Ultimate Universe." Also, it's "full of sludge monsters."

"My book is sort of a counterpart to that," Fiffe said -- his cast is younger, and less experienced. "It's a lot grittier. It's street level. And a lot less sludge monsters."

Continuing, Fiffe said the world of "All-New Ultimates" is not "grim or dark," but it's "a lot more dangerous than the kids are used to." Differentiating it from the original "Ultimates," Fiffe said, "These are just kids," rather than powerful superheroes.

Fiffe said he wanted to use villains that he liked, naming the Serpent Society and Crossbones, but "wanted to update them a little bit, or make them fit into this Ultimate Universe a little better." Fiffe mentioned "Akira" and Afrika Bambaataa as visual inspirations; a "street punk aesthetic."

Looking into the future of "Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man," Bendis said, "We have Miles at a very interesting time in his superhero career, because he's kind of figured out what it really means to be Spider-Man," calling "Cataclysm" his baptism by fire/bar mitzvah. He's now free to "live the legacy of Miles Morales," but at the same time, there are elements of Peter Parker's legacy that need to be dealt with, the writer said. The first issue will contain both reimagined villains from the '60s Spidey cartoon and a "gigantic villain" -- probably the biggest villain Miles has focused, Bendis said -- along with a "whopper" of a last page.

"It's an 'unplug my computer and go outside that day' whopper," Bendis said.

The series will see Morales making a new family from friends like Ganke, along with turning to people from Peter Parker's past like Mary Jane. "Ultimate Spider-Man" #200 will see Peter's friends and families gather to commemorate the anniversary of Ultimate Peter Parker's death.

"I felt good writing it," Bendis said of "Ultimate Spider-Man" #200. "I wanted [Peter Parker's supporting cast] to reunite for this bittersweet event more than anybody. This anniversary gave us the perfect reason. Obviously, very relieved that we got to issue #200 -- or #209, whatever it is legitimately -- and I wanted to celebrate it with all the people who helped make the book so special." Bendis credited the work of artists David Marquez and Justin Ponsor as contributing to the emotional quality of the issue. Original Miles Morales artist Sara Pichelli (Miles' "biological mother," Bendis said) is also contributing to the story.

Contrasting "Ultimate FF" to the relatively grounded "All-New Ultimates" and "Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man," Fialkov said, "You're going to see a lot of the bigger characters. You're going to get to see new characters. You're going to get to see parallel universes that I'm literally giddy to show you." Yet within all of the "big sci-fi ideas," "it's really about a bunch of characters who feel guilty," Fialkov said -- specifically Sue Storm. The premise of the Future Foundation, Fialkov described, is to "make up for lost time."

The mystery fifth character will be someone with a lot of bad blood with the rest of the team, but a key figure in saving the universe -- Fialkov said it represents the team moving past their differences, and learning to work together. "If you had told me that I'd ever get to do these things, there's no way I'd possibly believe you," the writer added. "If people read 'Hunger," that's a glimpse of the style of this book."

Fialkov reveals that fifth member: The goat-legged Ultimate Doctor Doom.

Discussing the dynamic of the "Ultimate FF" team, Fialkov said there's a mutual respect among the group, but they have very different opinions. Machine Man serves as an outsider; with a combination of a common man outlook and cosmic awareness. Sam Wilson is "incredibly driven" and on a "personal mission." Sue Storm looks at this as her chance to make up for things. "And Tony is Tony. Writing Tony Stark is one of the great pleasures in all of comics. He has great responsibility, but he also has a great desire to take care of himself. He has a great desire to enjoy life. And I think that's something you don't see a lot in superhero characters."

"And Doom is the greatest man who ever lived, as far as he's concerned," Fialkov added. "Many of the things he's being blamed for, he has no idea what they're talking about. We get to see where he's been, and a new origin that's changed him from who he was when we last saw him and the man he is today." It's a redemption story for both Doom and Sue Storm, Fialkov said.

Addressing potential new readers who may be interested in the Ultimate line, Bendis said, "It's three titles, three #1s, all very, very reader friendly, all very profound in their statement of being individual titles as well. You get a shared universe, but not so much so that it's hard to pick and choose what part you want to share along with." Bendis also mentioned "Ultimate Spider-Man" #200 and the "Survive" one-shot as preludes to where things are heading.

Fialkov stressed that the Ultimate line is "attainable," since there isn't as much material. Fiffe said the Ultimate books have the advantage of being able to tell riskier stories.

First press question, from CBR: As someone who has been involved with the Ultimate line since the beginning, what has Bendis currently excited about the line? "These two guys," Bendis answered, referring to Fialkov and Fiffe. "When we were talking about this relaunch, I said I would like to find creators that feel to us the way Mark [Millar] and I felt to Joe [Quesada] when we started. I was on a book that sold less than 2,000 copies, and he went, 'I think he could do it.' That's how I felt about these two guys. You can hear it in their voice how well it's working out with them personally. I just want them to have at bare minimum that good experience I've had, and continue to have. I'm excited to be a tiny part of introducing their work to a larger audience, and paying it forward -- but at the same time, I'm refusing to leave my book."

Next press question, from Newsarama, asked about the cover to "Ultimate Spider-Man" #200 and how Peter Parker's past relates to Miles Morales' present. Bendis said he didn't want to spoil anything, but noted that the issue wasn't a retrospective.

A question from Word Balloon concerned Fiffe adapting to the Marvle schedule. "I'm used to deadlines," Fiffe answered. "Before this, I was self-publishing a monthly comic called 'Copra.'"

Another question from CBR asked how Bendis balances making the new "Miles Morales" series new reader friendly, while also using elements from Peter Parker's past. "Compared to being the writer of two large X-Men titles, it is a breeze. Making old readers happy and new readers happy? X-Men is the Mount Everest of trying to do that," Bendis siad. "For me, it's all about Miles Morales' perspective," adding that some readers know more about Peter Parker's history than Miles Morales himself, who is still making discoveries.

"It's kind of the perfect balance for me," Bendis continued. "I have a character asking all the right questions that he legitimately doesn't know, and the audience has different feelings about the questions."

Next question from Newsarama concerned the "Ultimate FF" #3 cover of Namor and Doom fighting. Fialkov said that Namor will guest star in both issues #2 and #3, and it's an example of him doing things he wanted to do in case he doesn't get another shot to do, and added that most of the story arcs are single issues, two issues at most.

Word Balloon asked about the balance between the old and the new in these Ultimate titles, and the length of "All-New Ultimates" story arcs. "I've planned this story out for 12 issues," Fiffe said of the first arc, with a beginning, middle and end. "It's a tight, complete coming of age story for these characters."

Fiffe continued that he's inspired "aesthetically" by both the previous "Ultimates" titles and the Ultimate line in general.

Fialkov stated "Our entire mission statement is to blow up the iconic," and that "it's an eternal fight that we all struggle with" to balance recognizable elements while doing something new. "I want people who come in off the street and just know about the Fantastic Four, look at the book and have a cursory understanding -- while at the same time, completely reinventing who they are and how they're used. It's something we don't take lightly.

The rest of the classic Fantastic Four will show up in "Ultimate FF," Fialkov said. "They're all part of the equation. Doom has done terrible things to each of them."

The call ended with each writer teasing upcoming story arcs.

"'Miles Morales' #1 is the story of Miles Morales, now fully owning the fact that he is Spider-Man, and learning all the lessons that he needs to learn, and finding his way as a young man in the world without his parents to rely on," Bendis said. "He will be faced with villains new and old. And let's not forget the whopper of a last page."

"First, we have a gang war, we have a bloodthirsty vigilante, sexual identity, junkies running around, tons of villains, we have teenage hormones -- violence, but teen drama mixed in the most new reader friendly way as possible," Fiffe said of "All-New Ultimates."

"We've got a teen of geniuses who have been run ragged trying to keep these portals to other dimensions closed, and they finally find the portal that's too much for them to handle," Fialkov said of "Ultimate FF." "But luckily, they have an ace up their sleeves -- [with] goat legs." Fialkov expressed his affection for Ultimate Doom's goat legs, and Bendis pointed out that it was a Warren Ellis invention.

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