Hester Explores Kirkman's "Invincible Universe"

[SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers follow for "Invincible" #100, on sale now.]

Running a universe is no easy feat. When it comes to comics, entire companies make their bones by keeping a fairly consistent group of heroes, villains and everything in between on the rails. Others, however, are run by just a few individuals. Writer Robert Kirkman has developed several of his own universes over the years, spending a good deal of time building up what's been dubbed the Kirkmanverse, a place populated by Invincible, the Global Guardians, the Astounding Wolf-Man, Brit and his other creations at Image Comics via his Skybound imprint.

With a variety of projects on his plate including writing the all-ages "Super Dinosaur", overseeing "Thief of Thieves" and, of course, penning "The Walking Dead" comic book as well as working on the TV show, it stands to reason that Kirkman can't give every character the spotlight. To remedy this, last year Kirkman enlisted writer Phil Hester ("Firebreather," "The Bionic Man") to pick up the ball that is the Kirkmanverse and run with it in "Guarding the Globe" alongside artist Todd Nauck ("Young Justice"). The duo will get another shot at expanding that world on April 3 in the pages of the new "Invincible Universe" ongoing series.

After the events of this week's "Invincible" #100, though, Hester will be dealing with a much different world. As readers of the centennial issue know, Dinosaurus flooded parts of the world and caused mass destruction and death. After faking Invincible's death, the villain explained to the book's longtime protagonist Mark Grayson that now the two of them could work together on fixing the world. Mark showed Dinosaurus the error of his ways and appears to have killed the devil dino as punishment. Now, Mark is back to work for Cecil Steadman and the Global Defense Agency like he did in his earliest days as a hero. With everything that's happened in the title, there are plenty of other heroes and villains in the Kirkmanverse trying to figure out what to do with their lives in the wake of this gigantic tragedy.

CBR News spoke with Hester about the launch of "Invincible Universe," how it ties into the main book, who will star and what its presence on shelves means for "Guarding the Globe."

CBR News: Will "Invincible Universe" replace "Guarding the Globe" for the time being? If so, why the name change?

Phil Hester: "Invincible Universe" will indeed replace "Guarding the Globe." There are a bunch of reasons for the name change. First, the original title was always a kind of compromise as I understand it. Some other publisher complained they had an established book or group called "Guardians of the Globe" or "Global Guardians," so Robert and company arrived at "Guarding the Globe," even though that's not what the actual team is called.

Second, "Invincible Universe" better describes the scope of what's going on in the title. Yes, we still feature the Guardians prominently, but there are a bunch of cool characters floating around the Kirkmanverse without a permanent title who deserve the spotlight from time to time. Lastly, the title makes it clear to loyal "Invincible" readers that this book is a clear and indispensable companion to the parent title. Hopefully that will make us more visible, especially to retailers as they peruse the catalogue.

Which characters will be taking center stage in "Invincible Universe?" "Invincible" #100 hints at a larger roster for the Guardians of the Globe -- can you say who some of those new members might be?

I think we'll always have that familiar core group of Guardians, but we'd like to be able to bring in those loosely affiliated heroes from time to time. I know in the first few issues we'll see Tech Jacket, The Actioneers, Capes, Inc., Immortal and Wolf-Man. I have a lot in mind for Wolf-Man and would love to put the focus on Mecha-Maid again. I also have plans to spotlight some villains here and there.

Does the book have a kind of anthology feel to it moving from character to character or team to team?

There will be a bit more focus on individual characters from time to time -- call them spotlight issues -- but there will always be a thread of continuity running through the book. In fact, we're continuing story lines that started in the ["Guarding the Globe"] mini series. That said, both El Chupacabra and Best Tiger get the solo treatment in the first six issues, which should fire up those Best Tiger fans.

"The Death of Everyone" was a pretty intense story with previously unseen body counts, how have those events changed some of the stars of "Invincible Universe?"

If you've read it, you know the biggest change is to Mark himself, but it certainly makes Cecil Steadman, director of the Global Defense Agency, a major player. The GDA sort of becomes the clearing house for authorized super hero activity on Earth. There's still plenty of unauthorized activity, but most of the big efforts are directed by Cecil and staff at the GDA. There's a major change in the status of Immortal, and a pretty amazing one for Kid Thor that spins directly out of "Guarding the Globe" #6.

The world is clearly pretty messed up after the events of "Invincible" #100 -- does that shift the focus of the heroes from fighting bad guys to helping with recovery?

Most definitely. There's a massive, massive project overseen by Robot to counteract the actions of Dinosaurus. In "Invincible Universe" #1 we not only see heroes around the globe reacting to the crisis, but exactly how taxing it's been on them throughout. Of course, bad guys don't take time off when there's a major disaster, so our heroes are back to kicking ass by the end of the first issue.

A big theme in "Invincible# #100 was the conflict between Dinosaurus' idea that people need to be changed while Invincible argued that they will adapt when a challenge arises. Does that come into play in "Invincible Universe?"

In as much as true heroes see each individual's right to make those sort of changes as sacrosanct. When you protect someone's safety or freedom, you're protecting their right to grow and change as they see fit. In upcoming issues of "Invincible Universe" we'll see the heroes grapple with just how much say they should have over the way humanity is developing. Cecil, of course, does his best to steer the course of human events, but just how on-board with those manipulations the other heroes are remains to be seen.

Will Mark's new status quo of working for Cecil again play into "Invincible Universe" at all?

Check out "Invincible Universe" #2 for a pretty clear answer.

How has your working relationship with Todd Nauck evolved since you began working together?

I've gone from appreciative fan to awed collaborator. I always knew he was good, but when I see the layouts he sends back in response to my scripts I am floored. I've given him some fairly impossible shots to portray and he belts them out with astounding ease. It's galling, to tell the truth. As an artist, I look on a lot of what he does with simple jealousy. Hell, I bet we could sell this book with all the word balloons whited out. This is the kind of book Todd was born to draw. Of course, then [colorist] John [Rauch] and [letterer] Russ [Wooton] jump on and make it even better, all under [editor] Sean [Mackiewicz]' gentle, guiding hand. I'm totally spoiled.

"Invincible Universe" from writer Phil Hester and artist Todd Nauck debuts from Skybound and Image Comics on April 3.

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