Marvel Comics' Ultimate Universe has many secrets and they're going to come out; once those secrets are out things will change in the Ultimate Universe in a big way. Writer Jeph Loeb will help implement some of these changes with his work on "Ultimates 3" and the six part "Ultimatum" story. CBR News spoke with Loeb about both projects.
The Ultimate Universe altering story is something that Loeb, "Ultimate Spider-Man" writer Brian Michael Bendis, and Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Joe Quesada have discussed for a long time.
"When I pitched it at the last creative retreat to all the editors I thought for sure they were going to say, 'Are you kidding? You can't do that!'" Loeb told CBR News. "But the cool part about being in the Ultimate Universe and the reason it gained popularity so quickly was because it was born out of the idea that these are stories that you never thought you could do.
"It wasn't that long ago, only five years, that the story broke that Spider-Man was going to be a teenager again. ... His stories were going to take place in high school and Gwen Stacy was still alive! People got out of their homes, they lit torches and grabbed pitchforks and went running towards Marvel. They were going to burn the place to the ground because this was heresy! In fact, 'Ultimate Spider-Man' is a great book that we all stay in awe of because it's both wonderfully told and on time, two great tastes that go great together!
"There's been a lot of terrific stuff from the Ultimate titles but we were starting to get the sense that if we continue down this path that there's a chance we're going to feel like we've already seen a particular story, it's just got the Ultimate salad dressing on it. ... So what we wanted to do is bring some of the excitement back."
The excitement that Loeb and Bendis are planning begins in August.
"People should start by picking up 'Ultimate Power' #7-9" -- "Ultimate Power" #7 is in stores August 29th -- "which I'm writing after Mr. Straczynski and Mr. Bendis. ... There will be some stuff there.
"A lot of retailers have been saying it's okay if you do this big, huge story, which is what 'Ultimatum' is, but just tell us where the bread crumbs are. ... So it's sort of similar to 'New Avengers' #31, which marked the beginning of this huge story about the Skrulls."
Fans looking for early clues to 'Ultimatum' might also want to start hunting back issue bins for a copy of "Ultimate Team Up" #3, where Spider-Man encountered the Hulk.
"That's a very critical moment in the Ultimate Universe. ... Hopefully, smart readers will be picking up that book because it's going to be going for a billion. You heard it here first on CBR."
After "Ultimate Power," the next chapter in the development of "Ultimatum" starts in November, with writer Brian Bendis and artist Butch Guice's "Ultimate Origin" mini-series.
"What 'Ultimate Origin' is going to do is sort of tell us how it all began. ... The Ultimate Universe isn't very old, so this isn't a cosmic story. You're not going to see the birth of a planet. What you'll see is how the superhero community was introduced into the human population. So you'll learn the importance of things like the Super Soldier program, which has been hinted at in 'Ultimate Spider-Man' and 'Ultimates' 1 and 2. Now, Brian is going to connect the dots.
"The way to think about it is that 'Ultimate Origin' needs to be told so everyone can understand how it all began. ... We need to understand how it all began, so that in 'Ultimatum' you can understand why it all has to end. There are a lot of rumors that we're going to blow up the Ultimate Universe, but all I'm going to say is that 'Ultimatum' is one of those stories that will change the Ultimate Universe forever. What we set out to do is to look really hard at something that happened, which will be revealed in 'Ultimate Origin,' and is sort of a tragic flaw in the plan. 'Origin' has so many surprises and so many twists that everybody is going to go, 'What was Loeb talking about?' It's not going to be obvious at first but when you get into 'Ultimatum' you'll go 'Oh! That's why we read that story.'
Around the same time "Ultimate Origin" is unfolding another chapter in the story leading to "Ultimatum" begins.
"'Utimates 3' will launch in December and that first arc is five issues long. It's called 'Sex, Lies and DVD,'" Loeb said. "That will all build to a conclusion which will make everybody understand who issues the ultimatum, why they issue the ultimatum and ultimately, no pun intended, why this horrible thing is going to happen. That's all drawn by Joe Madureira, and it's beautiful.
"By the time people read this, the two gatefold covers for the first issue will have been revealed," Loeb continued. One is just heroes and one is just villains. That's a lot of the cast of what is to come. I'm not saying that is the cast. I'm just saying it's a lot of the cast."
At last year's Wizard World Chicago convention, attendees of the Ultimate Panel were given a sneak peek of some of the heroes and villains that play a role in the first story of "Ultimates 3," when an image was shown of the Ultimate Black Panther fighting Venom.
"That is part of the first five pages of the first story," Loeb said. "Actually if you look very carefully you'll see that the Wasp is in there and another character as well."
Some fans are wondering if "Ultimates 3" will be continuing with the 12 and 13 issue formats of the two preceding series.
"My stories don't have to be 12 or 13 issues. Frank Miller told stories in 'Sin City' that were five issues long, six issues long and seven issues long. That's sort of what we're going to be doing," Loeb explained. "I got very comfortable with what we did on 'Superman/Batman,' where we would tell a complete story in five or six issues, and then change artists. That would certainly be my dream of what to do with this series. We'll see how it goes."
Once "Ultimate Origins" and the first arc in 'Ultimates 3" wraps up, the big story begins.
"David Finch and I will be hijacking 'Ultimate Fantastic Four' and 'Ultimate X-Men' to tell a six-part story called 'Ultimatum,'" Loeb stated. "It will hopscotch back and forth between the two books and conclude what I would like to say is the first chapter of the Ultimate Universe. What that means and how that's explored is the basis of our story and we're not letting any cats out of the bag."
"Ultimatum" is tentatively scheduled to begin in May 2008.
"One of the things that is important to us is that this story has to come out on time," Loeb said. "The Ultimate Universe is just as famous for its terrific storytelling as it is for not being on time. So we're going to try and do something that's spectacular and at the same time really well produced."
"Ultimate Fantastic Four" and "Ultimate X-men" is where "Ultimatum" is being told but "Ultimate Spider-Man" is not being left out of the epic story.
"It will tie in but in a very different way," Loeb explained. "I can't go more into it than that."
"Ultimatum" will involve many of the familiar faces in The Ultimate Universe and some new ones as well. Is it safe to say that some characters debut and some will die?
"I think that's very safe to say," he laughed. "We haven't begun to talk publicly about what happens afterwards. I think everything that leads up to this is incredibly exciting and fun and the aftermath is certainly going to be something that people are going to be talking about."
One Ultimate book that people might be talking about and wondering if it's still in the works is the "Ultimate Wolverine" mini-series from Loeb and artist Michael Turner, which was announced at Wizard World Chicago last year.
"I can tell you that Turner will be involved. That's all I can say about what's going to happen to that character and what me and Mike have in mind," Loeb said. "It's huge and exciting and it may be that book or it may be bigger than that. We'll see what happens."
It's the goal of Loeb and his fellow Ultimate creators to make their books into distinct and different titles where people can't wait to see what happens in them.
"I think Brian, Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley and I all shared a concern that it was a very slippery slope towards just telling stories that you could tell over in the Marvel Universe," Loeb stated. "If that's the case, what's the point of having an Ultimate Universe? So we're going to pour some gasoline on it and see what happens," he laughed. "I'm really looking forward to it."