As you've likely gathered from the deluge of promotion and announcements over the past six month, Marvel's massive May-debuting "Secret Wars" event is set to have major implications on the Marvel Universe -- all of Marvel's fictional universes, in fact.
But before things get to that point, the current "Time Runs Out" arcs in "Avengers" and "New Avengers" are set to reach their conclusion with issues #44 and #33 of the respective series, written by "Secret Wars" architect Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Stefano Caselli & Kev Walker ("Avengers") and Mike Deodato. ("New Avengers"). These issues aren't just the finales of "Time Runs Out," they're the last issues of each series -- at least during the course of "Secret Wars."
In the second part of CBR's conversation with Hickman, the writer reflects a bit on "Time Runs Out" thus far and his Avengers run as a whole, detailing story beats including Sunspot's role on the Avengers team, journeying to the Ultimate Universe and the path to "Secret Wars" -- which Hickman calls a "crazy investment" from Marvel and the creative teams who have crafted companion stories to his and Esad Ribic's eight-part main story.
If you haven't read the first part of our lengthy interview with Hickman, be sure to give it a read before coming back here for Part 2.
CBR News: In the "Time Runs Out" storyline you've been dealing with the older Steve Rogers and the unworthy Thor. Did you know you would be dealing with the changes those characters had undergone way back when you first laid out your outline for the Avengers books?
Jonathan Hickman: No, the stuff with Steve getting older came from Rick [Remender] later on. We figured out pretty quickly when he was pitching that stuff that all of it would hit during the "Eight Months later" gap. So it would reinforce what they were doing in the "Captain America" book if readers saw that eight months later Steve Rogers is still old. That's just part of working in the larger room and figuring all that stuff out.
In regards to Thor, he's still the Thor Odinson that we always loved. It isn't like he's not that character. This is just an awful thing that happened to him in the time gap. So when we see him later he's a broken guy.â€¨That ending you saw in "New Avengers" #32 with all of those guys that faced off against the Beyonders was always going to happen. So the fact that we had something to grind against that made it maybe a little more poignant, which was great.
â€¨With regards to him having the evil Thor hammer and all that other stuff as soon as I started hearing the story that Jason wanted to do I thought, "That will not only fit there, but it will make that even better."
So sometimes things works out. You just have to be open to what everybody is doing, respect the work, and do your best.
How much fun did you have writing Thor and Hyperion's final stand against the Beyonders in "New Avengers" #32?
I like both of those guys a lot. I think it's clear I've liked Thor a lot since I was writing "The Ultimates." I get that character, and Hyperion is easy.
[Laughs] I have to say that generally I don't write stuff that I don't enjoy. If there are some characters that I'm not interested in writing I'll just move them out of the way. I don't know if that's fair and unfair, but I'd rather have fun than not.
Another character you appear to be having a lot of fun with is former New Mutant Sunspot. He's really come into his own as the leader of and the guy who launched this third faction of the Avengers. What do you enjoy most about the arc that you've given Sunspot?
I have a fondness for all of the New Mutants characters. Those guys were supposed to be the next generation and never got to be it. It's one of the real drags of eternal continuity and the soap opera nature of what we're doing; nothing ever really changes. There are just illusions of change.
I think those characters are super interesting and I'll concede, I think it's pretty obvious, that I do like writing buddy stories; from Thor and Hyperion to Bobby and Sam and stuff like that. It's just fun banging those characters off of each other.
Earlier you mentioned the villainous Cabal, a faction featuring former Illuminati member Namor and characters like Thanos, who deal with the Incursions in their own ruthless way by wiping out other dimensions. In the Cabal's most recent appearance they made the acquaintance of the Ultimate Universe's Reed Richards, a character who figured prominently in your "Ultimates" run. What was it like returning to that Reed? When you left "Ultimates" did you know you were going to return to this character further down the road?
Contrary to what some people believe, the destruction of the Ultimate Universe and all of that kind of stuff was never baked into the cake from the get go. Obviously I'm telling a story where everything gets blown up. [Laughs] But the point of it was never, "Hey, let's kill the Ultimate line!"
â€¨So there's a lot of stuff up in the air and who knows what's going to happen when we pick back up with what Marvel is going to be publishing six-eight months from now? That's a roundabout way of me saying that if I had known I was going to use the Ultimate stuff as much as I'm going to use it I probably would have jumped all of that in a lot sooner, especially the Maker, evil Reed Richards, of it all because that guy is awesome.
You've set these characters on their paths, given us big battles and stunning revelations, and now the stage is set for your final issue, "Avengers" #44 drawn by Stefano Caselli and Kev Walker, and your last issue of "New Avengers, issue #33, which features art by Mike Deodato. How does it feel to wrap up both titles?
I'm relieved. I'm happy I'm done. We did a lot of books in a short period of time. I'm very happy with some of them and with some of them I'm not. I will say, though, that the people I got to work with, all of those artists were amazing.
â€¨The guys there at the end -- Leinil [Yu], Deo [Mike Deodato], Kev Walker, Stefano Caselli, and Valerio Schiti -- really saved my ass in a lot of ways. We were working out of order and under the gun and they just did a great job.
â€¨People read these books and are interested in the stories and the characters, but a lot of the stuff we do to makes these books involves working with other people. You come to depend on them. That becomes appreciation and respect, and often times that's the best part. It's certainly true here.
Your Avengers run built the way toward the looming "Secret Wars" event, but I also understand these books weren't the only places where you planted seeds for what became "Secret Wars." Should curious fans of your work comb back over "Fantastic Four" and "Secret Warriors" for clues?
I'm terrible. So whatever book I write is kind of like, "Jonathan Hickman's Whatever." [Laughs] There's certainly a version of this where you can start with the first things that I wrote and read everything and there's bits of it in all of it.
I do that for a couple of reasons. One, if you pick all of it up you are in the club and you're well-loved, and, for you, there are fun little Easter Eggs in everything. More than that though, I kind of believe in a super continuity within your own work whenever you're doing something like Marvel Comics, where you don't own the stuff. So any authorship you have is just kind of in the flourish that you put on it.
Let's start to wrap up by chatting about "Secret Wars. It really feels like from all the titles that have been announced that you and your collaborators designed the "Secret Wars" event as a way to allow the creators of the other "Secret Wars" book to go crazy and do what ever they want. Was that your intention?
There was never any guarantee that Marvel was going to completely buy into this. Nobody pitches a story that ends with, "And then at the end, three years from now, everybody is going to be writing some version of my book." [Laughs] That's silly.
â€¨We did always know though that it could be a big thing and editorial, publishing, and marketing all realized pretty early on that we could do this big, and right, and do to the idealized version of it. Then as we got further and further along, one, everybody got on board, which they didn't have to do and I sincerely appreciate. Then two, we got so pregnant with it we had to have a baby.
The conceit of it was always, "Let's do something like 'Age of Apocalypse' line wide, but based around the 'Secret Wars' concept." And everybody bought in.
Because it's so much stuff, I don't think we've done a good job of explaining how this all works on a book-by-book basis. People see there's a "Civil War" book and they're like, "They're just going to do 'Civil War' again?" Or when they saw Kieron Gillen's book that got announced the other day, "Oh they're doing another 'Siege' book?" The point of it is though to take all of those big concepts and spin them out in a really new way just like how we're doing with "Secret Wars."
It's a crazy investment from Marvel. It's a crazy investment from the creative teams and I'm sure retailers are pulling their hair out right now trying to figure out how they're going to invest in it, but it's good fun! It's the kind of fun comics that we should be doing! Not these depressing end of the world comics that some assholes do! [Laughs]
Anyway, I know orders on "Secret Wars" are pretty strong and I know some of the other books are as well, but I'm guessing that some of these are going to be flying under the radar and they're brilliant books. Don't worry though, I'm sure Marvel will print enough if people want them. That's not going to be a problem. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Finally, readers know story basics about a lot of the tales they're getting in the other "Secret Wars" books, but not a whole lot about the tale you're telling in the main title with artist Esad Ribic beyond the introductory event of the final Incursion. What can you tell us about your plans for the main "Secret Wars" series? What can you tell readers to get them excited about what you and Esad are planning?
I don't want them to know anything. If I had my druthers we would have never even announced this stuff. The books would just show up the next month and would have replaced all the normal books. You've got to concede that would have been the coolest thing ever. It would have been confusing and it would have been total chaos, but we would've had fun.
We can't do it that way of course though. So I'll say this for what people can expect: Issue #1 is basically a cold open on the end of the world, and issue #2 is what really kicks off everything. We've done a really smart thing where issue #1 ships one week and issue #2 ships the week after. So there's no delay, no waiting around, or anything like that. Then I think when people see what Esad has done in issues #1 and #2, they will figure out really quickly just how big and exciting this is and how cool the story we're going to tell is.
The incursion begins May 6 in "Secret Wars" #1 from Marvel Comics.