Surfs Up: Carey Talks "Ultimate Fantastic Four"

Marvel Comics' Silver Surfer AKA Norrin Rad is currently catching cosmic waves on the silver screen, but this Wednesday the heroes of Marvel's Ultimate Universe will meet the Sentinel of the Spaceways as "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #43 hits stores. CBR News spoke with "Ultimate Fantastic Four" writer Mike Carey about the series.

The FF team the Surfer encounters in the Ultimate Universe is different from their 616 and silver screen counterparts in two very big ways: their physical ages (they're teenagers) and emotional age. "I don't think they are entirely mature," Carey told CBR News. "I think they're sort of very much learning as they go. Reed in particular is a conundrum because obviously, intellectually he's a giant in the world. Yet, he still is a teenager. He's still making it up as he goes along. He's young. He's passionate. He makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes are very significant and he has to live with the consequences.

"I think in the case of Johnny and Ben, even in the regular FF, they've often been shown to be more impulsive, unpredictable, and emotional but with the regular FF they have Reed and to some extent Sue to pull them back in again don't they? The Ultimate FF isn't Reed's team in the way that 616 FF very much is. They're all more on equal footing."

Since he began his run, Carey has had the teenage Fantastic Four encounter a variety of new characters, some of them Ultimate versions of familiar 616 characters while some are analogues of other comic characters. "Most of the characters I brought in do have 616 equivalents," Carey said. "Those that don't, have equivalents in Jack Kirby's other works. I see 'Ultimate FF' as an extended love poem to Stan [Lee] and Jack. I grew up reading those early 'FF' issues. They shaped my mind and imagination to a large extent. What I love about writing 'Ultimate FF' is that you can go back to those stories and mine them for their incredible wealth of character and invention that are there and introduce them to a new generation."

Some of the new characters that Carey has introduced have been Ultimate versions of some of Marvel's classic villains like Diablo and Thanos, both of whom were interested in enlisting Reed Richards to assist them with their megalomaniacal schemes. "I guess that's been one of the recurring themes hasn't it?" Carey remarked. "The whole Thanos thing is still playing itself out. The Cosmic Cube is going to come back into the picture."

As readers saw at the end of the "God War" story arc, it looked like Thanos had developed some sort of hold or control over the teenage Mr. Fantastic. "It's not exactly mind control but a seed has been planted," Carey explained. "Reed has been introduced to this idea and it has now got a hold of him and won't let go and we're not quite sure why that is; whether it's just an irrational obsession he has developed by himself or whether there is some other agency at work. That's the question that's going to come to seem increasingly important three or four issues after this current arc."

As we mentioned before, the current arc of 'Ultimate Fantastic Four" is titled "The Silver Surfer" and marks the character's debut in the Ultimate Universe, but some Ultimate readers might be under the impression that there already is an Ultimate Silver Surfer. "Obviously we've seen a Surfer or a number of Surfers in Warren Ellis's 'Ultimate Galactus Trilogy.' This is the first time we've seen this Surfer though, Norrin Rad," Carey explained. "We do make a nod in passing to those other Surfers, and give a tentative explanation for how they came to be, but Norrin Rad is different and unique. We know nothing about his agenda, his allegiances, his motivation, or what's brought him to Earth beyond the accident of Reed's fishing expedition."

Like his 616 counterpart, the Ultimate Universe's Norrin Rad also serves a master, it's just not who readers might think it is. "We've kept his function but we've severed his link to Galactus because the Galactus story has already been told," Carey said. "We're linking him to somebody he was linked to in 616 but just doing it in a different way."

The character that Carey has linked the Ultimate Surfer to is a classic Fantastic Four villain who makes his Ultimate debut in the "Silver Surfer" story arc, the Psycho-Man. "If you go back to the 'Worlds Within Worlds' Story in 616 'FF,' which is around issue #76, a lot of what we're doing harkens back to that story," Carey explained. "That's the one where the Surfer tries to flee from Galactus into a microscopic universe. The FF encountered the Psycho-Man when they followed the Surfer. He was the king of a planet in this microscopic cosmos.

"Our Psycho-Man is cut from the same cloth as the original," Carey continued. "So we're talking about yet another megalomaniacal character in a way, but in this case it really is a character that has been the king of an entire world and has ruled over billions of people. He's somebody who's an intellect on par with Reed and arguably even greater. He has psionic powers; he's capable of manipulating emotions. He also has a wealth of incredible technologies at his beck and call. What he does to his planet's inhabitants pretty much has to be seen to be believed. It's something pretty out of the ordinary."

Readers will visit the Psycho-Man's planet in "Silver Surfer" and they just might be surprised by its name. "Zenn-La is the Psycho-Man's planet in this story," Carey stated. "It's not a tyrannical world. It's a paradise. It's a paradise with a snake in it but the people who live on the world are perfectly, blissfully happy."

After the "Silver Surfer" story Carey will pit the FF against another classic villain from their rogues' gallery making his Ultimate debut. "It's a three part story and introduces one of my all time favorite FF villains and the fact that the title of the arc is 'Ghosts' will give you a good indication who that is," Carey explained.

Following that arc, things will come to a boil with the Cosmic Cube. "Issue #50 is where the Cosmic Cube will hit big time," Carey said. "Things will be resolved. It's going to be a big story and a big issue."

As readers can see, the Ultimate Fantastic Four are in for some intense and exciting adventures but their exploits will also have some dire consequences. "Some profound changes are going to come to the Reed-Sue relationship; some profound and quite traumatic changes," Carey said. "Reed is going to go through some pretty dark moments. The tension between him and his father is coming to the fore again as a plot element and we'll be returning to that theme. We'll also be putting Ben through some uncomfortable emotional moments. Generally speaking a shit storm is about to hit."

He may be ready to make his protagonists' lives miserable but that just means Carey loves being the writer of "Ultimate Fantastic Four." "It's a huge amount of fun to do," he said. "It's so much fun that I almost feel guilty taking money for it."

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