Hickman Sets the Stage for "Secret Wars'" Finale

SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains spoilers for "Secret Wars" #8, on sale now.

The Marvel Universe is full of those who can bend reality to their will, but all it takes to undo the works of these all-powerful beings is cunning and determination. The latest divine figure to learn this lesson the hard way is Victor Von Doom, who ascended to godhood at the beginning of Marvel's "Secret Wars" event and forged the remnants of the destroyed Marvel Multiverse into the patchwork planet known as Battleworld -- a planet he ruled with an iron fist.

What Doom didn't take into account was that a number of heroes and villains survived the destruction of the Multiverse, many of which are just as cunning and implacable as him. Those survivors began putting several different schemes in motion to destabilize Doom's hold on Battleworld and in Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic's "Secret Wars" #8, a number of those schemes came to fruition.

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Hickman joined CBR News for a discussion about the issue's biggest events, and what they mean for Doom's hold on Battleworld. The writer explains why the scene involving the transformation of the World Tree is one of his favorite of the series, god Doom's parenting style, and the status of "Secret Wars" #9, the series' final issue, which is scheduled to arrive in early January.

CBR News: When we last spoke, you said "Secret Wars" #8 had what was everybody's favorite scene when you would talk about the project with other creators. If they had the same reaction I did, I'm guessing the scene in question was when Groot became the World Tree?

Jonathan Hickman: [Laughs] Yeah, that was my favorite bit from the big battle at the end. We had Star-Lord carrying this little shard of wood, this little toothpick, around for seven issues. We were hoping people wouldn't guess what it was, as he doesn't normally do that.

What inspired this scene when you were coming up with the story? Did you have the idea for the visual right away?

I always knew Doom's throne was going to be the World Tree, but then, we started going back and forth with the editors and the other creators about who some of the extra people in the raft we're going to be at the "Secret Wars" retreat. The "Guardians" movie had just come out, and we had all seen it, and I knew I wanted to write Star-Lord because Chris Pratt was so good as Peter Quill.

I started thinking about who else I might be interested in from the Guardians, and then I remembered Doom and the World Tree, and just thought it would be cool if at a big moment, the World Tree was brought to life for Groot to become one of the big combatants in the final battle. [Laughs] I just thought it would be fun.

And Esad hit that scene out of the park!

Yeah, yeah. Esad can draw a little bit. [Laughs] He has a way of taking the most insane stuff that you put on the page and making it even cooler.

It seems like you had a great time writing Star-Lord's scenes throughout the series. What did you enjoy most about the character?

I like that he's fun and whimsical when super-serious stuff is going on. I like that he postures, and he's basically just a dumber Han Solo. [Laughs] I really dig the character. He seems like a really fun guy to get to write every month, so I imagine both Sam [Humphries] and Brian [Bendis] have a really good time writing him as well.

Another thing we talked about last time was the work that went into breaking up the original size of Issue #7 into two issues. Were there any scenes that had to be cut because of length when you were transforming it into Issues #7-8?

We didn't cut anything. The problem was, it was too long. The reality is, if we had kept #7 the way it was, it would have still come out the same day this issue did. So we just took the opportunity to chop it in half so people didn't have to wait almost two and half months for #7.

What changed was not things that got cut, but the ordering of pages. There was a little bit of dialogue tweaking, too, and like I said last time, I will definitely switch that back when the story is collected.

So there are no real "deleted scenes" or anything like that?

[Laughs] There's a lot of stuff that I wish made it into the final scripts, but nothing Esad was planning on drawing got thrown away.

We've discussed how Valeria being raised on Battleworld by Doom didn't change her much from her 616 counterpart. In this issue, we get a look at how being raised by Doom impacted her brother, as Franklin Von Doom tangled with Ben Grimm. It felt like this Franklin was very different from the one we're familiar with in the previous Marvel Universe.

What's interesting about Val as a character is, she's an adult, intellectually. Emotionally, she's not, of course, but intellectually, she's an adult. She has a lot of pure knowledge, and that often translates into something that presents as wisdom. Because of who she is and what her abilities are, she's going to roughly be her, regardless of the environment. She's got this ability to kind of pull the curtain back on everything.

Franklin, however, is an all-powerful character that's basically just a kid. Added to that, children are hyper-impressionable, and Franklin grew up on Battleworld. So this version of Franklin is a shade less nurtured.

Yeah, this is the Victor Von Doom-raised Franklin. It seems like he's a little less afraid of his powers.

When your dad is a god who created a world out of fractured pieces of broken universes, you kinda have an example at home of, "It's okay to play God." [Laughs] Right? So, of course.

In this issue, we finally get a confrontation between god Doom and Thanos, who leads the armies of the Annihilation Wave. It's a quick one, too. What went wrong with Thanos' plan? Was he undone by his vanity?

I think Thanos is going to be Thanos, no matter what. and in this instance, that didn't serve him very well.

He saw Doom as beneath him, and didn't really prepare.

Of course he prepared. He went to the Shield, recruited an old enemy of Doom, and unleashed horror on Doom's kingdoms. I think Thanos executed his plan about as flawlessly as he could. It's just, in the end, he saw himself and Doom as equals. He was wrong. [Laughs]

After Thanos' death, Doom gets another surprise in the arrival of the zombie hordes from south of the SHIELD wall, and their leader, the Infinity Gauntlet-wielding Black Panther. In this scene, Esad beautifully conveyed that the arrival of this group surprised and perhaps even caused Doom to feel some fear. What's going on in his mind? What fearful realization is he coming to?

I think what Doom realizes is, he's worked really, really hard to build something that would endure in the face of horrific stuff, and it's over. I don't think at any point in this is Doom worried about winning. That's not the struggle here. What's going on is, he made a world. He was that world's very competent god, and, unfortunately for him, it might not have been enough

So this is the point where he realizes Battleworld is unravelling.

I think this is the point where he realizes what he built isn't going to remain unchanged and static. One you turn the zombies from the other side loose, you're going to lose some people. [Laughs] If the all the zombie shows on TV have taught us one thing, it's that tragedy follows snack time.

"Secret Wars" #8 is the penultimate installment to a massive storyline that you've been building to for several years. How does it feel to have the story almost complete and in fans' hands? Have you had time to enjoy the fact that your 100 issue-plus epic storyline is pretty much complete?

[Laughs] I'm happy I'm finished. Like all things creative, you're happy that you're done. And hopefully, if everything clicked, you'll like a bit of it, because unfortunately, there absolutely will be some of it you don't. That's it. Then you move on to make the next thing.

I don't mean to sound unsentimental, but like most creators, I'm more excited about the things I'm currently working on than the things I'm already finished with.

I do appreciate the fact that "Secret Wars" sold incredibly well. I do appreciate Marvel being happy, and hope that fans enjoyed the story as well. What can I say? I've written bad books, mediocre books and good books. In the end, I'm sure this was one of those three.

Finally, it was recently announced that readers will have to wait a little longer for the final issue of "Secret Wars." What can you tell us about the final issue being moved into January, and then moving from January 6 to January 13?

Tom Brevoort: Like what had been Issue #7, the final issue -- now #9 -- also got larger by a number of pages. So the final issue is also even larger than originally intended, and that's what's taken the extra week to complete. But at this point, Esad is done with all of his pages, and Ive has colored most of the issue, so by the time people are reading this interview, the final issue should be off to the printer -- that January 13 date should hold this time.

What sort of tease can you leave us with about the grand finale?

Hickman: I think it's pretty obvious that in Issue #9, we get to all of the conflicts that we've been building to. One of the cool things about this story, and it's something we're pretty proud of, is that the end of the book has not been spoiled by any of the stuff that's come out. I know some people were concerned about that, and I'm really happy with the conclusion. Also, as always, I'm super happy that everybody is getting a chance to see more of Esad's amazing art. It's a beautiful issue.

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