History in the Making: Bendis Talks "Ultimate Origins"

Marvel Comics' Ultimate Universe may be home to characters with familiar names like Captain America, Wolverine, and the Hulk, but these heroes have their own qualities unique make them distinctive from their traditional Marvel Universe counterparts. Beginning this June, Ultimate fans will find out just how different these characters truly are with the release of the long-delayed "Ultimate Origins," a five-issue miniseries by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Butch Guice. CBR News spoke with Bendis about the miniseries, which reveals past events that shaped many of the Ultimate heroes into the characters they are today.

The seeds for "Ultimate Origins" were planted way back when newly hired "Ultimate Spider-Man" scribe Bendis met with then-Marvel Publisher Bill Jemas, Editor in Chief Joe Quesada and the also recently hired "Ultimate X-Men" writer Mark Millar to discuss the nature of what would become the Ultimate Universe. "The Marvel Universe was born out of nuclear paranoia," Brian Bendis told CBR News. "Clearly, that's not what they were thinking when they created it, but if you look at the origins you see all that irradiation and fear of mutations. And that's not really the world we live in now. We don't live with a Cold War but there are certain things about our society which would indicate a genetic paranoia would be in line with what's going on now. People are scared of cloning and chemicals. So we thought, 'Okay let's make it about that.'

"From there it becomes a lot about the Super Soldier and war, with people chasing the super soldier idea," Bendis continued. "We wrote a lot of our ideas down but they were mainly just for us to know. We could hint at things and Mark did it a lot. I also did a lot of hinting in the 'Ultimate Marvel Team-Up' series, especially with the Hulk issues. So there's a thread that connects these characters in a big way. It's been hinted at but never fully expressed dramatically."

For years, Bendis and his fellow Ultimate creators wondered when they should reveal the secret history of the Ultimate Universe and the extent of the connections between the characters. "Finally, it was agreed that now was a good time to tell this story because Jeph Loeb is setting up to do the 'Ultimatum' storyline and 'Ultimatum' really blows up the Ultimate Universe," Bendis explained. "So before it all gets blown up, we'd thought it be a perfect time to pull back the curtain and show you everything that's going on. I presented it as this big, epic miniseries that bounces back and forth from modern times, to World War II and all throughout the century."

The story will also bounce back and forth between the present day and moments in the '50s, '60s, and '80s. "You tend to match up big moments in a story like this to what you know was a big moment in the history of the medium as well," Bendis remarked. "The late '60s was not only a great time in our culture but it was a great time in comics. So were the mid '80s, which is one of the reasons why Mark [Millar] is doing '1985.'"

The present day sequences will be just as important as the flashbacks to the various character origins. "There's a larger story which will bounce back and forth," Bendis said. "All the pieces will connect. It's really one of those cool stories where the reader gets to connect the story more than the characters do."

In the Marvel Universe, there are mutants who are thousands of years old, like Selene and Apocalypse, but "Origins," which only flashes back about 70 years, will show that in the Ultimate Universe, mutants are still a relatively young species and have developed quite rapidly. "We find out who the first mutant was and it's not who you think," Bendis said. "Mutants have spread almost like a plague or a disease instead of a genetic Homo Sapien versus Homo Superior type deal."

Comics like Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's "The Ultimates" have shown that alien cultures have had a hand in the development of the Ultimate Universe, but "Origins" is more of a chronicle of human actions and consequences than a tale of alien encounters. "I'm a little Skrulled out right now, so we're not dipping into that well too hard," Bendis stated. "It's already been expressed very clearly in 'The Ultimates' that if not for Chitauri, Captain America may not have been created and we show exactly what was going on there. So there is a little alien involvement but not to the level of what's going in something like 'Secret Invasion.'"

"Origins" is as much about the characters of the Ultimate Universe as it is about the big picture. "You get a lot of stuff; in the first three issues, you'll get Wolverine's origin, Nick Fury's origin, Cap's origin, the origins of Xavier, Magneto and The Brotherhood along with Miss Marvel and the Watcher," Bendis confirmed.

The actual origin sequences in "Origins" aren't solely about how a character got his special abilities and came to be who he is today. Many of the sequences will contain revelations about a character's past that even they're not aware of. "It's not like 'Wolverine: Origins' where the connections are very strong and obvious," Bendis explained. "I don't think they're aware of all these connections. And I think that's a big part of what the modern day story is going to be about.

"Wolverine and Nick Fury are the two origins I'm most excited about," Bendis continued. "I'm also excited to show people who all was in the room when Bruce Banner shot himself up and became the Hulk."

There is one man who knows about many of the revelations that will be revealed in "Origins," but he's not talking. His name is Nick Fury, and he has his reasons for staying silent. "It's very complicated," Bendis remarked. "There is stuff he's hiding but he's not hiding it out of shame. "It's a very strong character arc. Sometimes the hero's job is to keep things in his pocket. Sometimes the hardest job is to bear the secret."

"Ultimate Origins" may showcase the beginnings of the Ultimate Universe, but the miniseries also sets up the end of it, as the conclusion leads directly into Jeph Loeb's "Ultimatum" storyline, thus explaining the "Origins'" delay. "'Ultimatum' was supposed to follow shortly after us but that couldn't happen so we bumped it," Bendis confirmed. "I had to bump it a couple more months since we didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle with 'Secret Invasion' coming out. So 'Origins' is coming out a few months later but the cool thing is it's already drawn and it's a beautiful book. I've wanted to work with Butch Guice since I was like ten years old so this has really been a thrill."

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