In 1961, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby laid the foundation for what would be become the Marvel Universe, a unique setting where the world right outside your window collided with the weird and fantastic. Since the 1961 debut of "Fantastic Four," the Marvel Universe has expanded to become one of the most beloved shared universe settings in popular culture.
Changing with the times, the Marvel Universe has always tried to tackle and explore contemporary issues and problems -- but what might it look like on its 100th Anniversary? This July, Marvel hopes to shed a little light on the possible future in the five-issue weekly "100th Anniversary" mini-series. CBR News spoke with Marvel Senior Editor Nick Lowe about the project, announced during C2E2 2014, which is composed of five loosely-connected specials from both acclaimed and up-and-coming creators that give readers a glimpse at the potential Marvel Universe of 2061.
CBR News: Nick, how did the idea for the "100th Anniversary" specials come about and what inspired them? Is each issue sort of a #1 issue for the characters they feature, or are they more "What If...?" style milestone books?
Nick Lowe: All credit or blame for this can not be given to me. [Laughs] This is another brilliant project I inherited when Steve Wacker went out to L.A. It came about when we were planning a bunch of our 50th Anniversary issues and the Marvel 75th Anniversary. Steve pitched that it would be cool if we did books that imagined what the Marvel Universe would be like at its next big milestone anniversary.
That was really what started this whole thing off. We thought it was a great opportunity to mess with the characters and take them on a fun romp into the future. We wanted to show where these characters might be years of publishing later.
Each issue approaches things a little differently. Essentially we're imaging what an issue might be like 47 years of publishing from now. For example, the Spider-Man special is being done as if you pulled that issue out of a back issue bin from the future and it was the end of the story-arc. Each issue deals with that in a somewhat similar fashion. They push you into the deep end of the pool and you have to figure out what's going on. We've got cutting edge, amazing creators working on these -- a mix of rising stars and established veterans. It's a really cool group of people working on these books.
What can you tell us about the overall setting of the "100th Anniversary" books? Is this a future dystopia?
It's not a dystopia. We're trying to imagine what our real world will be like in 47 years of publishing and hopefully our real world won't be a dystopia by that point. One can't really tell. So it will be "the world outside of your window," like Marvel is now, but for 2061. To clarify, it's 47 years of publishing later and not 47 years in the lives of the characters.
Let's break down the books and the creative teams. What specials will be part of this series? And what creators are working on them?
The "Guardians of the Galaxy" special is written by Andy Lanning and Ron Marz and features Gustavo Duarte on art. Andy's been a huge part of the Guardians of the Galaxy for almost a decade. So this book would be like he's come back for a seminal run as a man of -- how old is Andy? He's really old. He'll probably be 150 in 2061. Andy grabbed industry veteran Ron Marz (whose credits are just too broad to list here). And Gustavo is a relative newcomer who Andy actually brought to the table.
Sean Ryan is writing the "Spider-Man" special and In-Hyuk Lee is doing the art. Sean is a former editor at Marvel and a former editor at DC who, for the last few years, has been working on a freelance writing career. He's terrific. He wrote a short story in "A+X" and some one-shots for me (See the "Uncanny X-Men," "Iron Man" and "Nova" specials starting in May!). He's got a true unique vision and is a real rising star in this business.
In-Hyuk has done some work for us before on covers and interiors. I believe he did some "Infinity" covers, too. He does these incredible digitally painted pages that will blow people away.
The "X-Men" special is written by Robin Furth and features interior art by Jason Masters. Robin, for those who don't know, has been a huge part of our "Dark Tower" books at Marvel for the last seven to eight years. She's terrific and she's really bringing an outside-the-box look at Marvel Comics and where they could be in that time. She has a really cool X-Men story. Jason Masters is someone Mike Marts brought to our attention from his time over at DC. [Mike] had him working on a bunch of Batman books over there. Jason is terrific and he's going to kick ass on this book.
James Stokoe of "Orc Stain" fame is writing and drawing the "Avengers" special! He's incredible. I was blown away when [Editor] Jon Moisan told me that he had convinced Mr. Stokoe to come over and play in this sand box. I love James work ever since I saw an incredible Galactus illustration he did years ago. He is bringing his huge imagination and incredible art to bear on this and people are going to be blown away.
Then Jen Van Meter is writing our "Fantastic Four" special, which features work by Joanna Estep. Jen is part of the Portland conclave of comic creators. A huge percentage of the best writers in the business all live in Portland. Jen has done some really great work for the Spidey office over the years. One of my favorite of her recent works is a really cool Spider-Man/Black Cat mini-series. She's been in the business a long time and this will show you why she's been so successful. She's got this incredibly cool Fantastic Four story and really embraced this idea almost more than anybody else. She's been trying to think about it in a way that the "Fantastic Four" was the book the Marvel bullpen was most present in back in Stan and Jack's days. She and her editor Emily Shaw have been thinking about this a lot. And I didn't know Joanna until Emily brought her forward on this project. Everything that she's shown me has been really impressive. I can't wait for more people to see it.
If readers respond to the "100th Anniversary" titles will there be room to come back and do more? Is this a way to test interest in a new 2099 style line?
There's always room, depending on if the characters live through these stories. We hope that people really dig this because it's been so much fun to work on these and we'd love to do more. What will really be interesting is when people start to see the characters in these specials pop up in non-future comics.
"100th Anniversary" launches in July.