SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for “Secret Wars” #4, on sale now.
The tale of Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom is one that dates back to the earliest days of the Marvel Universe. Their rivalry began in July 1961’s “Fantastic Four” #5, and over the more than 50 years since they first butted heads the Doom-Richards rivalry has taken a number of shocking twists and turns including the characters switching bodies, appearing to die and, in rare instances, even working together.
Doom and Richards’ relationship took another sharp twist in the first two issues of Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic’s “Secret Wars” event series as the Marvel Multiverse was destroyed and pieced back together by a now omnipotent Doom. All that remains now is Battleworld, a new world composed of remnants of various alternate Marvel worlds and timelines — all overseen by Doom.
Tom Brevoort about their storied rivalry, the vital role Doom and his ally Doctor Strange play in maintaining the fragile balance of Battleworld, and the roles characters like Thanos and the Ultimate Universe incarnation of Reed Richards will play as “Secret Wars” rockets forward.
CBR News: Jonathan and Tom, “Secret Wars” #4 was another fantastic looking issue by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina. Were they doing something different with the shading in issue #4? It looks like some of the shadows in the book have a cool, almost charcoal effect to them.
Tom Brevoort: For all of the pages and issues they’ve been working on, not just this one, Esad has been doing fully rendered pages with gray tone. So in this issue it may just be that you’re looking at some pages where more of that tone is visible through the color by Ive, but Esad has done this on every page going right back to the start of issue #1 and probably on all the stuff he had done before that.
â€¨So they’re not necessarily doing anything different here. It may just be on these pages because of the palette that got chosen, the subject matter, or whatever you’re able to see that paper tone a little bit more underneath the color.
Perhaps it is the color palette. Because very often Ive does cool colors like light blue and in this issue there’s a lot of warmer colors like white and yellow.
Jonathan Hickman: Some of that is the story. They’re looking at little holograms of the battle and it needed to look different. All of those decisions come down to artists. They made a choice and that’s what we got. I like it. I’m always happy to get cool surprises.
One of the great things about getting those cool surprises is that they’re coming at a time when Esad and Ive are super busy. We’ve talked in the past about how work intensive event books can be.
Brevoort: Obviously this is not an easy book to draw. In the first issue we only asked them to wipe out two whole universes! [Laughs] So like any event book there’s absolutely a ton of work involved. Esad and Ive have to work hard and work diligently to get it all done and make it all look good. And up to this point they have. So it’s been okay.
Hickman: Yeah, this is probably the most demanding one of these we’ve done in quite awhile. Tearing everything down in issue #1. Creating an entire new universe, the look and feel of it, in issue #2. Then we have the ridiculousness that ‘s coming in the back half of the story. So it’s a lot. It’s really, really hard work and fortunately for both Marvel and myself we’ve got one of the best art teams in the business working on it.
Let’s move from art to Strange’s words about Battleworld in the opening of “Secret Wars” #4. He says, “This new world is unstable, and survival is its first and highest purpose.” Can you elaborate more on what he’s getting at here? Is this his way of explaining to his friends why he and Doom reign over a planet where many people suffer in its different domains?
Brevoort: Battleworld isn’t an absolutely pleasant place. There’s plenty of strife and plenty of agita that just comes from slamming one pocket of culture up against another. It isn’t a complete shambles or dystopia either though. People are able to live and function. There is some sense of order, society, and law. All of that is laid down by Doom and sort of carried out by Strange.
â€¨So I think more than anything that’s what he’s saying. In a larger sense Battleworld was pulled together and continues to exist in the void because Doom wills it so. Without the constant pressure of Doom’s will maintaining that sphere it would all fly apart and disintegrate into the void. So Doom is very much like Atlas in a sense. He holds the world up through his efforts and this is the best that could be done with what they had to work with.
That’s something that didn’t even occur to me. So even though we may not see it on the page, is a lot of Doom’s power and will going toward holding the patchwork Battleworld together?
Hickman: Yes, Doom is literally the unifying force that remains in the universe. All of creation singularly exists through his will. So it takes up much of his time, his mental capacity, and really everything.
It’s one of the reasons why Doctor Strange is so important and the reason why their partnership works. This absolutely was them pulling everything that was left and making something where there was nothing. Doom relies on Strange intimately to handle the day to day running of the world. You could argue they desperately need each other.
Looks like we’ll see how much Doom needed Strange in future issues because this issue ended with the Sorcerer Supreme’s death.
Hickman: Yeah, things might just fall apart again. While Doom is powerful enough to be a god, he’s still a man, and he has all the same shortcomings that Doom has always had. Strange pushed one of his buttons and things spun off their axis.
Let’s talk a little more about Strange’s final stand there. I got a sense that he had been putting up with some of the things he didn’t like about Doom because he thought Doom was the only way this world could survive. Then the return of his friends ignited his heroism.
Hickman: I don’t think any of that went anywhere. I think this was the best possible solution for a horrible situation. Not only was it the best possible solution, it also happened to be a very noble and self-sacrificing one. Doctor Strange certainly had no problem supporting what Doom was doing because it saved a bunch of people. It saved everything that was left.
What changed that dynamic was the arrival of his old friends on a world where he really only had one person that he knew in a real sense. He also knew both sides of that equation well enough. He knew Doom, he knew the heroes, and he knew that it was an intractable position. He knew, just like all of us, what was going to happen when Doom delivered ultimatums to the sort-of-heroes and sort-of-villains.
So it’s kind of an extension of everything we had done in “New Avengers” up to that moment and it boiled things down to one single decision for Doctor Strange. He made it and he paid the price.
He made that decision because the Doom-Reed Richards rivalry reignited when Doom discovered Reed was still alive. When that happened Doom mentions that there are no other Reeds on Battleworld. Was that a coincidence?
Hickman: This doesn’t have anything to do with “Secret Wars,” but we’ve joked before about how “Secret Wars” is like issue #145 through whatever of an ongoing story that I’ve been telling. [Laughs] So there’s a reason why there aren’t any other Reeds around. You can buy those back issues at comiXology or Marvel Unlimited!
Brevoort: We wiped out a lot of Reeds years ago!
[Laughs] Right, in the early issues of Jonathan’s “Fantastic Four” run. I forgot about that. Jonathan, how does Doom feel after he finds out about Reed surviving? Is he suddenly consumed by hatred? Or was he willing to give Reed the benefit of the doubt if he kneeled before him?
Hickman: I think they have a more complex relationship than just, “I hate you!” I always have. I know sometimes it gets boiled down to that because they just can’t get it right between the two of them and they’re diametrically opposed in so many different ways. They don’t share ideologies at all, even though there are a lot of things about them that are kind of similar.
It’s been awhile since I read issue #4, but I believe the first thing Reed did was congratulate him on saving everything. So it’s not lost on Reed what Doom has done even though he’s only been on this new world for a few hours. Because of who he is he immediately understands the enormity of what Doom and Strange have been able to do.
So I think there’s a lot of stuff cooking there. It’s not going to be lost on Reed that Doom has kind of set himself up as the Reed of this world. He’s replaced him in his family. So there’s a lot at work here. An abundance of things when it really doesn’t take much for those guys to tick each other off.
Is the relationship between these two characters one of the things that “Secret Wars” is ultimately about?
Brevoort: I’m tempted to say that if you read everything Jonathan has written for Marvel that it’s all ultimately about the relationship between these two characters. [Laughs]
Hickman: I think that’s in there. There’s a lot of that in at least half the books I’ve written. [Laughs]
While Doom and Reed are talking the Reed from the Ultimate Universe, who is affiliated with the Cabal, notices (along with the reader) that Doom apparently is not interested in him. Do you think Doom’s issues and feelings toward Reed Richards are just about the 616 Reed? Or do those feelings extend to his otherworld counterparts as well?
Hickman: People will have to wait and see how it all turns out. I think there’s an obvious opportunity there to play with how the Maker (Ultimate Reed) is more like Doom than he is like Reed.
I love those scenes with Doom and Reed, but one of the things I particularly enjoyed about them was the fact that Cabal member Thanos wouldn’t let those scenes be just about the two of them.
Hickman: Yeah, he’s Thanos. He takes a back seat to no one. Thanos has got some cool stuff coming up. He’s got some great scenes as we get toward the end of the story.
Tom, refresh my memory, have Doom and Thanos ever met face to face? I want to say they did in Jim Starlin’s ’90s trilogy of “Infinity” titles, but it’s been awhile since I read those books.
Brevoort: They’ve certainly been in stories together. How much interaction they’ve had is another question. Doom was in the “Infinity” books though. I think he was one of the only villainous players in some of those series apart from characters like Thanos himself, Mephisto and Nebula.
â€¨So they’ve certainly come into contact with one another, but I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a scene between Thanos and Doom exclusively. They tend to be in rooms with 20 other characters when stuff is going down.
The conversation between Reed and Doom is also interrupted by the Phoenix-possessed Cyclops who attacks Doom and is ultimately killed by him. Doctor Strange uses the distraction of their fight to teleport the heroes and villains from the life rafts away. I imagine we’ll see some, if not all, of these characters in future issues of “Secret Wars,” but is this also a way of setting up those characters’ appearances in other “Secret Wars” titles like Star-Lord in Sam Humphries and Alti Firmansyah’s “Star-Lord & Kitty Pryde” series and Miles Morales in Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley’s “Ultimate End”?
Brevoort: It allows for those appearances, certainly yes. If you like you can follow them over to those titles. It’s almost as if we planned it!
With “Secret Wars” #4 we’re at the half way point now. Events are just going to accelerate from here on out. We’ve set the scene. We’ve laid out the world. You kind of understand the stakes and the playing field, and yet it’s still a fairly hopeless situation because even assuming that you chose to unseat Doom, and even if you were actually able to carry through with that and do it without destroying Battleworld itself, which only he is keeping together, that still doesn’t get you much more than this chaotic hodge-podge planet. So there’s still a lot of work for any of these characters to do before they even begin to have a plan.
I imagine what the heroes are going to have to accomplish is going to be even more complex and dangerous since the cliffhanger of this issue of a scowling Doom, which to me suggests there will be no more Mr. Nice God in “Secret Wars” #5.
Hickman: Next issue you kind of find out what happened between Doom and the Beyonders, and what happened to the Molecule Man, and all that kind of stuff. So it’s an issue about the mechanics of how everything works, and then what happened to all of the life raft characters. So there’s a lot going on.
“Secret Wars” #4 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.
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