C2E2: Hickman & Stegman Explore "Nu" Worlds in "Fantastic Four"

The title characters of Marvel Comics' "Fantastic Four" series are the premier explorers of the Marvel Universe. They seek out, visit, and explore new worlds. Sometimes they're able to help these worlds when they're in great peril, and other times they help them recover from devastating catastrophes.
That will be the case this August in "Fantastic Four" #609 when writer Jonathan Hickman kicks off a new tale that finds his protagonists dealing with the destruction of Nu-World, an artificial Earth-like world that was recently destroyed by Galactus. Marvel announced the story yesterday at their Amazing Spider-Man panel at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, and also also announced that up-and-coming artist Ryan Stegman ("Scarlet Spider") will take over art duties on "Fantastic Four" starting with #609. CBR News spoke with Hickman and Stegman about their plans for the book.

CBR News: Ryan, I believe you gained some experience drawing the Fantastic Four while working on the "Incredible Hulk," correct? How does it feel to be given the chance to draw their adventures with Jonathan? And what's it like moving from "Scarlet Spider" to "Fantastic Four?"

Ryan Stegman: Actually, I didn't get to draw the FF when I worked on that. I was doing backups in those issues of "Incredible Hulk." But I did get to draw the FF in an issue of "Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man" long ago. And to be honest, I wasn't very good. But, despite my artistic limitations at the time, I definitely knew that the team presented some really interesting artistic opportunities, most of them on the compositional side of things.

Working with Jonathan is definitely awesome. I've admired a lot of his work and he's a fantastic writer. I've loved everything he's done on the FF as well as his independent stuff. Jonathan's concepts are always way out there, and that should be a ton of fun to draw. It's definitely going to make me stretch as an artist.

I think the biggest difference between "Scarlet Spider" and "Fantastic Four" will be the number of characters. In "Scarlet Spider," most of the interactions are one on one. "Fantastic Four" will require a lot more "stage direction" as I try to tell the story. And also, on "Fantastic Four", I am drawing something that has over 600 issues of backstory. With "Scarlet Spider" I was creating a ton of characters and I made up the way that everyone looked. So it'll be different in that way. But I'm up to the challenge. I hope!

Jonathan, what do you feel Ryan brings to the book as an artist? Which of his artistic strengths do you want to play to in this story?

Jonathan Hickman: Well, Ryan's a pretty great artist, so it's perfectly fine if he just brings that. But I think this is one of those scenarios where Marvel sees a guy doing a great job on another book -- someone who's working hard and bettering themselves -- and it's determined that he deserves a bigger push. If so, I couldn't agree more, so I'm excited to see what he does. As for which of his strengths I'll be playing into, Ryan tells a good story, so we'll start there and extend outwards. But no webbing.

Before we get more into the story, let's chat a little bit about the characters. Who are the major protagonists in this tale? Is it just the classic FF, or are their extended family of Spider-Man and the kids involved as well?

Hickman: This will be the classic team mostly. Definitely no kids in this issue. They're at the pool or on spring break or something.

Ryan, what's your sense of these characters? Which of their qualities do you really want to emphasize in your art?

Stegman:I'm still working on how I want Reed to look. He's the only one that I'm having difficulty pinning down. Because sometimes he is drawn bulky and sometimes he is drawn more slender. It's a tough call. The rest are pretty straight forward. The Thing will be massive both in size and weight. I want to emphasize how heavy he is. And Sue, I want to make her attractive but strong. And Johnny -- I think I have a pretty good grasp on how I want him to look when he's in Torch form. That's always interesting, to see how different artists handle that and I hope to bring my own unique look to him.

The antagonist role in this story appears to be the villainous Hulk from another reality, the Maestro. What made you want to use the character in this tale? What makes him a good foe for the Fantastic Four?

Hickman:I disagree with him being villainous. This is actually Banner Jr. from Millar and Hitch's run. He's grown up to look like the Maestro -- so we call him that -- but he's a bit more "gray" than the traditional Peter David version. He might even turn out to not be the villain of the story.

Interesting. Let's talk a little more about the story. In terms of plot and themes what is this story about? Where does the bulk of the action take place?

Hickman: Since the Defenders from the Future (The Fantastic Force -- or whatever they are called) escaped the destruction of Nu-World with Reed Richards at the conclusion of "Three," they've been holed away on Earth working on a project for themselves. Essentially trying to answer the question: When you're stranded in another time, and stuck on a world that isn't really yours, where exactly is 'home' and how do you get there?

The issue starts on Earth and, well, goes off on a bit of a tangent.

Will the supporting cast for this story include a lot of the Nu-World characters?

Hickman: Right. People like Lord Lightwave, Maestro, Alysa Moy, etc.

Let's finish things up by talking about visuals. Ryan, how are you going to handle the art on this story? When I last spoke with Chris Yost about "Scarlet Spider" he was especially excited by how your style changed now that you're inking your own work. Will you be doing that here as well?

Stegman:I'm really hoping to ink it, but I need to make sure it will fit in time-wise. I think it will, but it's a bridge we haven't crossed yet. I think that my inks take my cartoony art and add an edge to it that is hard to achieve when somebody else inks it. And my favorite art is always the type that blends a soft cartooniness with a hard edged finish. I just think it works well in comics because comics in general range from zany silliness to dark and dramatic. So it's good to be able to achieve both extremes.

Mainly, I'm just looking forward to diving in, head first! Jonathan's done something legendary with his run on this book and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it. Not to mention being a part of a book with legendary runs by Jack Kirby and John Byrne etc. It's an absolute honor.

"Fantastic Four" #609 by Hickman and Stegman goes on sale in August.

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