Big developments are just around the bend for Marvel Comics' Ultimate line. Current titles like "Ultimates 3" and "Ultimate Origins" are quietly setting the stage for "Ultimatum," a mini-series that promises to redefine the Ultimate Universe. Then, in 2009, in the aftermath of "Ultimatum," writer Mark Millar returns to the line he helped launch with a brand new series. CBR News spoke with Millar about some of his plans.
Millar couldn't reveal the cast or even the title of his new series, but promised it would be populated by both familiar Ultimate faces and other Marvel characters making their Ultimate Universe debut. "This is going to feel like a real event," Millar told CBR News. "There's going to be a lot of characters you love in here and characters you don't know you love yet."
The United States will serve as the primary setting for Millar's new Ultimate title. "I think anything set outside of America everybody always hates [Laughs]," the writer said. "And I say this as someone from outside of America. Even I feel slightly depressed when I see something set in Europe. So it's going to be very America centric. Like most adventure stories it will move around the world at times but I like the top ten list too much to set something outside of America."
America may be the primary setting of his new title ,but Millar plans to use the series to expand the Ultimate Universe by introducing many new characters and concepts. "Part of the fun is building up our own Marvel Universe, because if you think about it, Marvel has had almost 50 years to create a world. But if you add up all the 'Ultimate' comics, like Spider-Man and Fantastic Four and the various mini-series, you don't have 300 issues. So, there is an untapped world and I think that's a lot of fun to play with. Like in 'The Ultimates,' I created a European team and you've been given glimpses of what's going on in Russia. There's still a lot we haven't tapped into, like China. So I'd never focus an entire story on that type of thing but it's fun to bring that stuff into it."
Millar couldn't give any plot details about the book but hinted that it should appeal to a wide audience. "I think the mission of the book right now is to make Marvel's publisher, Dan Buckley, a happy man," Millar stated. "When I told him what the idea was, he was like, 'It's almost obscene how commercial that is. I'm so pleased.'"
Fans of Millar's work know the writer isn't fond of long stints on books. He usually likes to tell his best stories and move onto something else, and that will continue to be the case with his new Ultimate title as well. "I've got 24 issues worked out and I've written four of them already," Millar said.
Two different artists have been tasked with bringing to life Millar's new Ultimate book. They'll rotate art chores every story arc. "I've lined up who I'd say are probably two of the biggest artist in the industry in terms of the following that they get and critical acclaim," Millar stated. "They really cover both bases."
Millar's new Ultimate book originally wasn't going to happen. It came to him at a time when he thought he was wasn't going to renew his exclusive deal with Marvel and was instead planning to go off and do some work on his own. "It was funny. Dan Buckley said to me, 'Are you coming back?' and I said, 'I don't think so.' and he said, 'Well you should think about it. We've had a few great years at Marvel and everything has worked out really well. It would be great to still work with you.' And I said, 'I love you guys I just can't think of anything I'm particularly excited about doing. I'd rather just go off and create my own stuff,'" Millar explained. "Than I was literally on a train going to meet my friends for a drink and this came to me. So I sat in the train station and started scribbling down loads and loads of notes. I phoned Dan Buckley up the next day and said "Dan I'm coming back.' And he said, 'I knew it! You can't stay away.'"
Part of the reason why Millar's ideas for his new title came to him so quickly and easily was because the writer finds the Ultimate Universe titles especially liberating as a creator. "I actually prefer them to the Marvel Universe," the writer said. "I think the thing that I like about them is that they feel more modern to me. Even in someone like Wolverine, you've still got almost 35 years worth of back story, and with a character like Spider-Man you're approaching almost 45 years worth of stories. So there's something that hinders you when you're doing those kinds of stories and that's the question, 'Has this been done before?' And usually the answer is yes. On top of that, you've got to be aware of all the continuity and back story going back all those years, or your story isn't going to make much sense.
"But the Ultimate stuff feels very fresh," Millar continued. "I would say the most enjoyable experience I had as a writer is probably doing 'The Ultimates' and 'Ultimate Fantastic Four.' On those issues of 'Ultimate Fantastic Four' I did with Greg Land, it was great to just really cut loose and do anything you want. You don't have to go back and check through back issues.
"Another thing is that there are really only four corner books of the whole Ultimate line. So it's sort of exciting to move beyond that and to explore the wider Ultimate Universe," Millar said. "And this new book I've come up with is sort of the big one. This is the one that can touch on any corner of the Ultimate Universe."
Millar has particularly enjoyed the work that writer Jeph Loeb and artist Joe Madureira have been doing in his old corner of the Ultimate Universe on "Ultimates 3." "I like it," he said. "I know it's so incredibly unlike ours [Millar worked on "Ultimates" and "Ultimates 2" with his current "Fantastic Four" collaborator Brian Hitch]. It's probably as unlike ours as you can get, but I kind of admire the ballsiness of it; because I couldn't think of anything more depressing than people trying to copy us. So I like the fact that they just came in and said, 'We can do something the polar opposite of what you guys have been doing and it's still going to sell as much.' I like the cockiness of it."
Millar is also very pleased with developments in other current Ultimate titles like "Ultimate Origins." "For a couple years all the attention was on the Ultimate books. All four were in the top ten for about two to three years, but for the last two years I would say attention has absolutely shifted off the Ultimate Universe and back on to the Marvel Universe. Now I can smell it going back the other way," Millar said. "I can feel everything that I liked about the Ultimate Universe and everything that got me excited about it starting to come back. I think 'Ultimate Origins' is kind of the beginning of that. I think 'Ultimatum' is going to be big, and I think this new book is going to be the biggest of the lot.
"This book is what I did instead of going off and completely whoring myself to Hollywood [Laughs]," Millar continued. "This book is what pulled me back. It was because once I started talking and thinking about it I got so excited."
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