The Marvel Comics multiverse is a vast territory that covers not only the main Marvel Universe, where most of its well-known characters reside, but numerous other dimensions as well — like the Ultimate Universe. Soon, though, it will be much, much smaller thanks to the mysterious “Incursion” phenomenon that has been smashing these myriad realities into each other and destroying them in the pages of “New Avengers.” This May, the final Incursion will occur and all that will be left of the Multiverse will be one single patchwork style planet composed of Marvel’s strangest territories.
That planet will be known as the “Battleworld” and it will be the site of Marvel’s “Secret Wars” event, which will run through an eight issue mini-series by “Avengers” writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic as well as numerous tie-ins. We spoke with Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort about the stories that make up the event, their accessibility to a variety of readers and the nature of the mysterious Battleworld.
CBR News: In any form of entertainment, people try to grasp what new stories are about the instant they are announced. This is often done by comparing the new stories to familiar ones. It seems like the major story readers are comparing “Secret Wars” to is 1985’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” from DC Comics. Is that a fair comparison?
I suppose it’s as fair as anything else. It’s not like the story that we’re doing is specifically “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” but it is definitely of that same vintage in that the original “Secret Wars” was coming out at the same time as well. As you said, people like to pigeonhole things to try and get a handle on them. So I can certainly understand why that would be what they would be thinking of in connection with the new “Secret Wars.”
What can you tell us about the editorial origins for “Secret Wars”? Do they predate Jonathan Hickman’s time on “Avengers” and “New Avengers,” which is where he introduced the Incursion phenomenon?
They do in that Jonathan’s original idea for “Secret Wars” was something that he pitched to me and that we talked about before he was ever on “Avengers.” It’s far enough back that I can’t quite remember if he was on “Fantastic Four” yet, or if he was going to be taking over “Fantastic Four,” or if he was just working on “Secret Warriors.” When he first pitched this idea of a “Secret Wars” book, it was back then. Then in the aftermath of “Avengers vs. X-Men,” the Avengers books were open and we talked about doing “Avengers.” That’s where he said, “Okay, why don’t we do the ‘Secret Wars’ idea here?” And that’s the direction we’ve been headed towards ever since.
So as an actual on the books, in comics idea, it goes back at least as far as the #1 issue of this current volume of “Avengers,” but as a concept it goes back further. In fact, there are little seeds sprinkled through things that Jonathan did earlier that are relevant.
So this doesn’t predate Jonathan’s time at Marvel then?
No, it does not.
Let’s delve a little more into the details and nature of “Secret Wars,” starting with the setting for the event: the Battleworld. This setting appears to be a patchwork planet made up of a variety of territories. Is “nations” a good way to describe the territories that make up the Battleworld?
Domains is what we’ve been calling them.
Are these domains the remainders of alternate universes, or are they places pulled from the actual history of the 616 Marvel Earth?
I don’t want to get into that too in-depth yet. These are pieces and fragments of what is left. I think anyone who tries to classify everything as one thing is going to run into some difficulty because we were not so limited in conceptualizing this. This is all the detritus, all the stuff that is left after we wipe out the Marvel Universe, the Ultimate Universe and every other universe that we have — plus a few we don’t even have that we wipe out! [Laughs]
It appears that most of the Battleworld domains are inspired by the Marvel event stories of recent years and fan favorite ones from years past. Can you talk about the criteria you used to build the domains of Battleworld? Or is too early to talk about something like that?
Yeah, it’s probably best to not say much. Over the next couple of weeks, details about individual projects are going to start coming out. That will give you better information about any one or other of the individual domains and the thought process behind them than me talking broadly.
The broadest criteria was somebody had a story that fit within the context of the “Secret Wars” set up. That’s a very broad and unsatisfying answer to that question, though, so I think people should wait until we’re talking about specific stories and can get into the hows and whys of those. I don’t think there’s a really “one size fits all” kind of an answer.
Let’s move into the types of stories we’ll see in “Secret Wars,” starting with what Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic are doing in the main “Secret Wars” limited series. What can you tell us about the story featured in that book? How big of a cast will it have? And can readers just read the main “Secret Wars” book and experience a full tale, or are some of the other titles required reading?
Assuming it all goes as planned, the core “Secret Wars” title will be readable by itself. There will be touch points, connection points to everything else, but what Jon and Esad are doing is a story with a beginning, middle and end that will all be in the issues of “Secret Wars.” In terms of what that story will entail, I think it’s still way too early to get into too many details here.
And in terms of the size of the cast? We’ve wiped out most people. [Laughs] So it won’t be that big, but it will still be a fairly massive cast. You’ve seen just from the Alex Ross covers that we’ve put out and the one Esad cover a variety of different characters. None of the covers have been a single figure shot yet. So that sort of implies that we’ve got a lot of pieces to play with in this story. All of those pieces will show up over the course of the main “Secret Wars” series. Although, as tends to be the case in these things, there will be a handful of characters most central to the tale that’s being told.
In addition to the main “Secret Wars” limited series, the event will feature three tie-in umbrellas under which many Marvel series will fall. The first one, “Last Days,” appears to be about the exploits of heroes and villains during the last days of the Marvel Universe. Is that a fair description?
I think that’s a fair description, although “days” is somewhat of an exaggeration in that once you hit the final Incursion event, there’s only eight hours to play with. So it’s less than a day, but “Last Days” sounds better as an umbrella than “Last Day.”
And yes, the “Last Days” tie-ins and stories will all focus on characters primarily from the Marvel Universe, but there might be some featuring characters from other universes as well, dealing with the end of the world, the end of the universe and what they will do with their final hours.
So we might see some Ultimate Universe books fall under that umbrella too?
It’s possible that you could see all sorts of books fall under that umbrella. It’s a big umbrella. [Laughs] I wouldn’t limit your thinking there to just Marvel or Ultimate Universe books. Anything is possible.
“Battleworld” is the second “Secret Wars” tie-in umbrella. Are these books sort of political in that they examine the nature of the Battleworld domains and how they interact?
Political is not quite accurate, because it’s not one book, it’s an umbrella. So there’s a variety of titles and all of them are different. All of them, though, in some way, shape or form deal with the overall status quo of Battleworld itself; all of these domains on this planet having been put together in this patchwork style. Who safeguards it? Who maintains it? Who runs it? Who rules it? How does it work? How did it get this way? How do the people within it deal with being in it and deal with being next to other domains that are different than their own? All of those sorts of issues come up in books that are Battleworld related. They are literally, in one way or another, reflective of the canvas of this new planet.
The final “Secret Wars” umbrella is “Warzones”. It sounds like where “Battleworld” takes a sort of macro approach to the domains, these titles take a micro approach.
Yes, in that each of the “Warzones” projects will concern themselves with only a single or maybe one or two adjacent domains. They’ll focus in on the events, characters and goings on within that specific area.
Is it possible for one book or tie-in to fall under a number of different umbrellas? For instance, could we see a tie-in start of as a “Last Days” book and then become a “Battleworld” or “Warzones?” title?
I think each project that gets announced for whatever tie-in there’s going to be will be the thing that it is. That having been said, there’s nothing that says that any given project will run the entire duration of “Secret Wars,” let alone beyond “Secret Wars.” We’re going to be starting new things of ongoing and limited duration. We’re going to be doing one-shots. The whole landscape is going to be different, much as if we had destroyed the Marvel Universe and all the other ones too.
So there will be a lot of all new books being launched as “Battleworld” and “Warzones” books, but will some ongoing titles continue under those umbrellas?
That’s certainly not out of the question. Although there aren’t any particular domains that I can think of that are named after an individual character or characters. I wouldn’t rule that out completely though, I suppose. I’m sure as soon as I say there are none it will come out that there are two that I’ve forgotten about.
Will all Marvel titles immediately fall under the three different “Secret Wars” banners during the months of the event or will some books continue to tell tales in the Marvel Universe?
The entirety of the line will not immediately become “Secret Wars” books. Eventually, through the course of these months, everything will encounter “Secret Wars” and everything will meet the end of its existence in one way or another. It won’t all happen on a dime in May though.
It seems like there will be a lot of series that are just starting or establishing new status quos around that time.
Yes, we’ve taken that into account. We’re not making everybody immediately stop what they’re doing because the world ended. [Laughs] We’re going at a nice, leisurely pace as we destroy the universe.
I assume creators who have been laying down long terms plans on their books — like say Rick Remender on “All-New Captain America” and Jason Aaron on “Thor” — have known about this for awhile and have found ways to adapt and roll their plans into “Secret Wars”?
They know and they have known about “Secret Wars” for a very long time, particularly guys like Jason and Rick who have both been at our retreats going back as far as “AvX.” So they’ve been around for all of this. They’ve known more or less when it was coming, so they’ve made what adjustments, accommodations and planning that they need to do in order to carry on with the stories that they’ve been telling and take into account that this thing is happening.
That doesn’t mean that they’ll be untouched by it. It just means that they’ve known this was coming and they’ve planned for it. Pretty much everybody has, but Rick and Jason have very much been in the thick of things since the days of “AvX” when Jonathan first came on and this was all first being discussed, so we’ve talked about this on and off for a couple of years now and they’ve been present for all of those conversations.
Finally, “Secret Wars” is a must read book for fans of the larger Marvel Universe, but there are readers who just follow one or two characters that inhabit their own corner of the Marvel Universe. What kind of reading experience will “Secret Wars” be for fans of, off the top of my head, characters like Ms. Marvel or the Punisher?
Hopefully we’ve done our planning well in terms of accommodating those sorts of things. I’m sure that not every single reader will be happy with everything, but we’ve tried to build and structure our planning of the event — not just when it kicks off, but how books roll in and out of it — in such a way so as to allow the creators who are doing a very specific sort of a thing or flavor to continue to do their thing. Hopefully we won’t disrupt that service too much even though it’s kind of a necessity that everybody deals with the fallout of this in one way, shape, or form. So we recognize that different books require different things and hopefully we’ve figured all of that out. I guess we’ll know more as the books begin to come out and people read them.
For Free Comic Book Day this year, we are doing “Secret Wars” #0, which is a brand new prologue that Jonathan is doing with Paul Renaud. So if people haven’t been following and reading “Avengers” and “New Avengers” and didn’t take advantage of all the times we’ve been talking about this to get caught up, they can still pick up the Free Comic Book Day issue and at least get their feet wet and get a sense of the landscape before they go into “Secret Wars” #1 — and it’s free!
“Secret Wars” kicks off in May.
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