SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains spoilers for Marvel's "Secret Wars" #5, on sale now.
"Secret Wars" #1 destroyed the Marvel Universe, and with its end Doctor Doom lost out on the opportunity to rule it. But in the aftermath of one universe's destruction, Doom achieved so much more than he ever dreamed possible.
Victor Von Doom is now an omnipotent being who rules over Battleworld, holding together through sheer will the patchwork planet composed of the remnants of destroyed realities that formerly made up the Marvel Multiverse. But how did Doom go from ambitious supervillain to godlike ruler? Did he and Doctor Strange fashion Battleworld alone, or was there a third architect involved?
Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic answered these questions in the pages of Marvel's "Secret Wars" #5, revealing that a trio was responsible for the formation of Battleworld and that the third party has a very crucial role to play in the story ahead. Readers also witnessed the fallout from Doom's murder of Doctor Strange in "Secret Wars" #4 and the fates of several of the characters who survived the death of Marvel U.
CBR News spoke with Hickman about the jam-packed "Secret Wars" #5, how Doom views Doctor Strange's death and the way various "Secret Wars" titles connect to the larger story he's telling. The writer also provided an update on the status of the final issues of his "S.H.I.E.L.D." series for Marvel, a saga he and artist Dustin Weaver began back in 2010.
CBR News: Jonathan, let's start off by talking once about Esad's art on this book. He's proven how great he is at handling just about everything, but it feels like this issue was a real showcase for his character acting skills. I especially loved the way he used Doom's eyes to convey the character's emotional reaction to various elements.
Jonathan Hickman: Esad can do it all. It's really just a matter of real estate. When he's having to draw really, really big like most of the series has been, we haven't had the opportunity for him to do those kinds of things. With this one though, where the issue got very small and it was just two guys talking, you saw a bit more acting.
No surprise there. Again, Esad can do it all.
Later in the issue there's a scene where Valeria calls together a meeting of the Department of Science and it happens in a base that appears to be an homage to one of the bases from the original "Secret Wars." Was that something you asked for? Or was that something Esad depicted on his own?
[Laughs] No, that was a note in the script. I wanted to get Magneto's base from the first "Secret Wars" in here because I always thought it looked neat. I honestly don't know if Esad has even read the original "Secret Wars" where he would have pulled something like that out. You should ask him.
In execution, this was like everything else we've done though. I wanted to reference something classic and Esad made it look cooler than it has ever looked before. Which is always fun.
A lot of the up close reactions that Esad drew in "Secret Wars" #5 came during Doom's conversation with Owen Reece, the Molecule Man, who readers learned was just as important in assembling Battleworld as Doom and Doctor Strange were. What made you want to give the Molecule Man such a major role?
[Laughs] This kind of goes all the way back to "New Avengers" and "Avengers" stuff. We held off on introducing him in our story until we did the big time jump in "Avengers" and "New Avengers." We kind of dropped in that he was going to be part of this because we didn't want to give away exactly where we were headed. Like most of the players in this thing he's been part of the plan all along and he's got big stuff coming up.
The end game always was going to be "Secret Wars." It was just going to be a matter of the scale of it. It had to be approved of course. Now, it was far enough ahead that at some point I could have sucked bad enough that I got fired [Laughs], but since I only moderately sucked, I kept my job and we got to this.
Doom's talk with the Molecule Man features some flashbacks to when they, along with Doctor Strange, confronted and defeated the Beyonders and then put together Battleworld. In those flashbacks Owen Reece is described as the "conduit." Does Doom's omnipotence come from the Molecule Man channelling the remains of the Beyonders' power into him?
Yes, the Molecule Man enables Doom to be god. So while it is Doom who pulled everything together and is keeping it together, the power he is using to do that and all the miraculous god like things he's doing come from Owen.
Owen's dialogue in this issue suggests the man providing Doom with his god-like power is mentally unstable.
The difficult thing about this issue is that there's so much stuff cooked in here you didn't want to pull at every thread because then it would have just been 30 pages of me explaining how everything has worked; the mechanics of it all. You don't want to do that because it would be bad comics! This is bad enough. [Laughs]
So, real quick, there's one Owen Reece that exists in the Multiverse. A slice of that being is the whole of who he was in all these different universes. So as the Molecule Men were killed over time, their psyche became even more fractured, which explains why he's as unstable as he is, because over time little bits of who he is have been erased leaving this fractured person behind.
So that's what we've got; a broken, partial Owen Reece who is a giant battery for all of the combined powers of the destroyed Beyonders.â€¨It's a comic book! [Laughs]
[Laughs] So we essentially have a mentally unstable guy providing Doom with the power to hold Battleworld together.
Yeah, and I don't know if that's a solid foundation. [Laughs] But Doom did the best with what he had.
One of the things Doom talks about with Owen Reece and others in "Secret Wars" #5 is the death of Doctor Strange, whom he killed in issue #4 in a fit of rage. He doesn't seem to feel responsible for Strange's death, which led me to wonder -- does Doom blame himself when his emotions get the best of him or does he blame whoever provoked the emotional response?
I don't know that he thinks he does anything wrong. [Laughs] He is aware that he's made mistakes, but other people pointing out that he made mistakes is crossing the line. And in this instance Doom absolutely blames Stephen for forcing him to kill him. [Laughs] His behavior was just unacceptable.
So Doom misses his friend, but he feels no remorse for killing Strange?
He absolutely is upset about it. It's just not his fault. [Laughs]
Doom lies to Valeria Richards about his part in Strange's murder and tasks her with finding the life raft survivors Strange teleported across Battleworld before he died. It seems like Val senses there's more going on than what Doom is telling her though, correct?
She's a smart cookie and things don't quite add up. She's absolutely Doom's daughter as much as she's always been Reed's daughter in the 616 Universe. So she doesn't abide by rules and doesn't do a good job of always following orders. [Laughs] She's curious.
Val begins her task by assembling some great minds in the Department of Science. Two of those great minds are Tesla and Nostradamus from your "S.H.I.E.L.D." series with Dustin Weaver. Seeing them again is bound to have some fans of that series very excited and wondering what the status of it is. Can you comment on that at all?
Sure, we've been pretty open about it at this point. Dustin has drawn all of the issues. He's finished. We'll release them after "Secret Wars" is over.
We knew "Secret Wars" would be your last project written for Marvel for some time, but is the last project that will actually be released be the remaining issues of "S.H.I.E.L.D."?
Yeah, but I will dialogue those after I have written "Secret Wars" #8. I plotted them out and then Dustin drew them. Then I'm going to go back and dialogue them. So, for a bit, "S.H.I.E.L.D." will actually be the last thing I do for Marvel.
You also take some time in this issue to catch up with some of the life raft survivors from the Marvel Universe. We see Jane Foster hiding among Doom's Thors, which will give the story Jason Aaron and Chris Sprouse are telling in "Thors" an interesting twist. Will this Jane Foster Thor have a presence in "Thors" or is she mainly just a player in "Secret Wars?"
Jason and I have talked. He knows everything that's going on. He's read my scripts, and I know what he's doing. It all kind of comes together.
The point at which almost all of the other "Secret Wars" books take place is after issue #4 of "Secret Wars" where Strange scattered everyone. For the most part. So we're in it now and you'll start seeing a little more interconnectivity between some very specific books. So everybody knows what's going on.
You ended the issue by revealing Thanos had been transported beyond the Shield Wall. So now there are two Mad Titans out there; the survivor from the 616 and the one currently appearing in Gerry Duggan and Dustin Weaver's "Infinity Gauntlet" series.
Yeah, I believe there are a couple other Thanoses on Battleworld. A Thanos is pretty rare, but not as rare as Dooms and Reeds.â€¨What does the presence of multiple Thanoses beyond the Shield Wall mean for the larger story you're telling? Are some of the "Secret Wars" titles set in that area especially significant to the tale you you're telling?
"Infinity Gauntlet" is more of a self-contained series. Kieron Gillen and Filipe Andrade's "Siege" series is tied in pretty tightly. "Thors" ties in pretty tightly. There could be a few more, but right now I'm not 100 percent sure. That's more a question for [editor] Tom Brevoort, but I know for certain those two do.
Our next few issues of "Secret Wars" will be bigger. Issue #6 is a little bit bigger. Issue #7 is much, much bigger. Then of course issue #8 will spiral out of control in size as we try and wrap this thing up. [Laughs]
Should be fun.
"Secret Wars" #6 is scheduled for release September 9 from Marvel Comics.