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New York Comic Con, Day Three: Mike Carey takes over “Ultimate Fantastic Four”

by  in Comic News Comment
New York Comic Con, Day Three: Mike Carey takes over “Ultimate Fantastic Four”
[Mike Carey]
Mike Carey at CCI, 2002.

It’s becoming a very apparent theme in 2006: Mike Carey is going to take over the universe. From his in-depth interviews with CBR, where he revealed details on upcoming projects from Vertigo (DC Comics’ mature reader imprint), to his selection as new writer on Marvel Comics“X-Men” series, Carey is experiencing a great year. Today, fans at the New York Comic Con learned that Carey will continue to make big news…and it’s not even March yet! Coming later this year, Carey will take over the popular “Ultimate Fantastic Four” series and CBR news spoke to the writer about this big move. For more on Carey’s thoughts regarding the Fantastic Four, check out CBR’s In Depth interviews with Carey, in part one and part two.

CBR: So Mike, you’re taking over “Ultimate Fantastic Four,” which has got to be exciting. When do you take over?

Carey: Issue #33, after Mark Millar finishes up. We’ve got a plan for a very ambitious story arc to start things off with a bang. It has its seeds in the great Lee/Kirby stories, but it brings in a lot of new characters and it’s an expansion of the playing field. I can’t say too much about it, but it’s all very exciting. It’s a big and audacious story arc.

You’re also collaborating with some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Brian Bendis, Mark Millar and Warren Ellis. What’s it like to work with them?

It’s a helluva lot of fun, so far. These are guys who are fountainheads of ideas and I love being a part of this comics edifice they’re building. On the X-Men side, working with Brubaker, Kyle and Yost has similarly been a hugely enjoyable experience – bouncing ideas around and being part of that team really gets the creative juices flowing, if you’ll pardon the tacky metaphor. I think that what’s impressed me the most about the Ultimate universe, on the editorial side, is the cohesiveness of it all and how the editors work together, share ideas and move forward with projects. It reminds me of Vertigo in that respect. It’s very tight, self contained and has people who are really focused on what they’re doing. It’s hard to not catch that enthusiasm – and it raises your game, unquestionably..

You’ve mentioned before that working in the Ultimate universe, you kind of felt like the kid who used his fake I.D to sneak into the bar to play with the big kids. Still feel that way?

[laughs] I’m kind of getting over that, but yeah I felt like that at the beginning. I guess I take it for granted now [laughs].

So you’re not the poor man’s Mark Millar?

[laughs] Umm, you might say that, but I couldn’t possibly comment on that [laughs].

You’ve done some superhero work in the past, but now you’re the man behind two of Marvel’s biggest properties-The X-Men and The Fantastic Four, both of whom have very vocal fans. You ready for people to start not liking you?

[laughs] It’s not something that worries me, to be honest. I know you can’t please all the people all of the time. Even with the stuff I’ve done so far, I’ve gotten used to intensely polarised reactions. “Lucifer” has been a critical success, but I’ve never had a mass fan base: I’ve had a medium-sized, dedicated fanbase. It doesn’t worry me to be in that arena – at least, at the outset it doesn’t worry me. I’ve been warned not to spend too much time on message boards, though, because that way paranoia lies.

Cover To “Ultimate Fantastic Four” #30

In your mind, what are the main differences between the Ultimate Fantastic Four characters and their regular, Marvel Universe [sometimes called “616”] counterparts?

I guess, for me the big difference is the kind of layering effect you get in the Ultimate universe. You’re writing simultaneously for old time, dedicated fans and for the younger audience, who are discovering these stories for the first time. You can play all kinds of games with their expectations and have that double vision. You’re going back to the, really, the great classic stories that defined the FF – the stories that introduced Galactus, the Inhumans, the Kree and the Skrulls. You’re going back to those stories that defined the characters, the world and a lot of the architecture of the Marvel Universe along the way, but you’re playing some very specific games with them. You’re setting up expectations for longer term readers, which you can subvert and overturn in playful ways. At the same time, you’re writing to be accessible to a younger audience, who are not familiar with the stories, so what you weite has to work on a straightforward level too.

As for the difference between the Ultimate FF and their 616 counterparts, I think the key thing you’re dealing with is the age of the characters. The powers are the same, equally enormous, equally full of possibilities but in the Ultimate universe we see Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm come into their powers as teenagers. In the original version, they were mature adults when they got the powers, so you get this whole dimension of awe, with the kids being given the keys to the kingdom.

Fans have also enjoyed some times in the past where other members joined the team, such as Crystal and She-Hulk. Might we see roster changes?

Certainly not in the short term-it’ll be the canonical Four. But we’ll meet some very important and in some cases surprising new cast members. Some will be recognizable from the 616, while others will just be new.

So what kind of villains can we expect to see combating the Four? More Mad Thinker?

To begin with, we’ll see new villains, but we also have the first Ultimate appearance of a major Marvel villain, with new characters alongside him. Actually, in this first arc, there’s a really nice bait and switch. You meet a buy who’s such a huge, bad dude you assume he’s got to be running the show. And then we pull back and reveal… bigger, badder, bigger, badder… It’s like “just wait until I get my big brother onto you…” When we do get to meet the ultimate – pardon me – villain, it’s a hell of a reveal.

Pasqual Ferry, your partner in crime on “Ultimate FF/X-Men,” is your artist on the book. What’s it like to re-team with him?

We work really well together and we’re definitely on the same wavelength. I find working with Pasqual really exciting because I’ll throw him an idea only to have him come back with four or five of his own corollaries or variations. He’s a great character designer and in this new arc, with so many new faces, he’s just blowing me away. So, it’s great to embark on this project with someone I trust so much and can work with so effortlessly.

While we’ve joked before about this being “The Year of Mike Carey,” with your new duties on X-Men and FF, you’re riding pretty high. Which other Marvel characters would you like to tackle next?

Well, I’d expressed a desire to do a Doctor Strange story and I’d still love to do that. Pablo Raimondi and I have talked about doing one forever, but one way or another it hasn’t happened. We’d love to do it, in the Ultimate U or mainstream, but we know Strange is tied up at the moment. I’d also love to write the Avengers in one of their many incarnations; Spider-Man is a character I’d love to play with; but most of my ambitions have been met in the last three months, so I think I’ll take a sabbatical and run for president or something.

Last time we talked in depth, you had a secret project that turned out to be X-Men. Now you have the FF. How many secret projects do you have? And why doesn’t Rich Johnston know about them?

[laughs] Let me see… one… two… three… four… no, seriously, there is still one more announcement to be made, but not on this scale. All the big news is out now…almost. Except for the big news.

So there won’t be a “House Of Infinite Carey” crossover in the summer?

Maybe next year.

You want to build up to it properly with mini-series, right?

I don’t want to peak too early [laughs].

For the fan who hasn’t really read “Ultimate Fantastic Four” and is intimidated by coming in past issue #30, or for the fan who hasn’t kept up, why should they start reading Mike Carey’s “Ultimate Fantastic Four”?

Because, as the saying goes, in this version as in every other it’s the “World’s Greatest Comic Book.” We’ve got the best characters, the most exciting plotlines and the biggest widescreen action in the world. It’s a helluva ride. You should try it out..

Also, free sweets. Happy hours. Vouchers with a minimum ten dollar value…

And now you can discuss this story on the CBR Ultimate Marvel message board.

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