WW Chicago: Hickman & Bendis on "Secret Warriors"

When Nick Fury discovered the treacherous Skrulls we're planning a "Secret Invasion" of Earth, the Marvel U's premier super spy went underground and began looking for the best way to combat the alien shapeshifters' plans. Fury found the answer in his Caterpillar Files, top secret dossiers on the grand children and children of super powered people. The Caterpillars' genetic structures had been altered by their parents giving them super powers of their own.

In Marvel Comics' "New Avengers" #13, Fury used these files to begin assembling a team of operatives, a band of "Secret Warriors" he could unleash upon the Skrull invaders, and the final page of "Secret Invasion" #3 saw Fury leading his new team into battle. In December, the Skrull invasion will come to a conclusion but that doesn't mean the war is over for Fury and his team, because early next year the "Secret Warriors" will get their own ongoing series from acclaimed writer Jonathan Hickman ("The Nightly News") and creator Brian Michael Bendis with art by a yet to be determined penciller. CBR News spoke with Hickman and Bendis about the series.

Nick Fury and his "Secret Warriors" current campaign against the Skrull invaders makes them heroes to the people of earth but that may change once "Secret Invasion" wraps. "The Marvel Universe is going to be seismically different post-'Secret Invasion,'" Brian Bendis told CBR News. "I know you hear that all the time, but it's true. Nick Fury's place in it and what he'll be doing in it is that he's almost going to be an agent of nobody. He won't be working for S.H.I.E.L.D. He'll be working for himself and what he thinks is right, which on one level makes him kind of a David Koresh style terrorist but on another level makes him maybe the most exciting vigilante in decades."

Jonathan Hickman added, "I think the world revolves around Nick Fury. I don't think he reacts to people, people react to him. He's a planner, somebody who moves all the pieces around. I don't think he gets moved very much at all. For all the characters - good guys and bad guys - he's the focal point, and as such, the world has to spin around him. So we're not going to be doing a whole lot of internal monologues with him."

Hickman feels the nature of the Secret Warriors and the war they're fighting gives them a very unique role to play in the Marvel Universe. "They're a team without a country and without a lot of the reservations that a lot of superhero groups would have. We'll be getting into a lot of grey stuff but they're good guys not bad guys," he explained. "Brian and I are approaching this as, yes there's going to be a superhero cover for everything, but underneath it's really going to be a complex spy book. We're looking at Nick Fury and his cohorts as moving in that arena. It's more of an underground book than a bright neon colored superhero book."

The stories in "Secret Warriors" will be diverse, complex, and build upon on what's come before. "I want to do very dramatic stuff. I want to have big moments of huge action and consequence, but I really want it to be about the small moments between the characters and the intrigues, the clues, the hidden agendas, and secret desires of all these guys," Hickman said. "It's a spy book so it should unfold. We're not going to be tricking the reader. For people that pay close attention there's going to be a whole lot of extra stuff in there. We won't tell a story and than fifteen issues later say, 'That's not what happened!' There will be more of an unfolding of the story than a bunch of big reveals."

Tone wise, "Secret Warriors" will reflect the dire and precarious situations Nick Fury and his soldiers find themselves in. "It's going to be a serious book," Hickman remarked. "I'm sure some people are going to have dark moments and I'm sure there will be funny stuff because we like to write that as well."

The dangerous world Fury's team inhabits means there's little room for friction between teammates. "I think you saw from the gathering of heroes story that Brian did in 'Mighty Avengers' that these are people who don't know each other and that are going to have to get to know each other," Hickman stated. "Some of them may last. Some of them may not even make it through 'Secret Invasion' to the beginning of the book, but the ones that do are certainly going to have to learn to live with each other. That's the beautiful character stuff that we get to do as well."

Hickman and Bendis couldn't reveal which of the current Secret Warriors survive and make it to the ongoing series, but they could confirm that some new characters would be introduced into the mix once the series begins. "I believe Jonathan already has plans for a couple of new, unique characters," Bendis said. "Just because these were the Caterpillar Files Fury pulled for the Skrulls doesn't mean these are all the ones he has."

The title "Secret Warriors" refers to more than just Nick Fury and his Caterpillars. "I think that's a title which is applicable to the good guys, the bad guys and third party people who are involved in the book," Hickman explained. "The title is thematic for all of the people involved."

"Secret Warriors" was originally slated to be a Nick Fury solo book. "Me and Howard Chaykin were going to do Nick Fury together and that was something I was very excited about," Bendis related. "Then as time rolled on and Secret Invasion came about I was doing all these other things that didn't match where we we're going. I had invented all these characters in Nick Fury's secret files, little Caterpillars that he was keeping an eye on for a rainy day and here comes that rainy day. So it became clear that the Nick Fury book me and Chaykin were talking about doing was not the Nick Fury book I was heading towards."

Editor Tom Brevoort came up with the name "Secret Warriors" and Bendis began developing his planned Nick Fury series as a team book starring Fury and his charges. As things began to move forward though, it became clear that Bendis's commitments to his other books meant he wouldn't be able to write "Secret Warriors." "Which really bummed me out because obviously I have a lot invested," he said. "These are some new babies and I love putting out new babies but I just wasn't going to be able to write the book and I was cringing about who would take it over and what my role in it would be.

"Now, if you've been to my message board you know I've often touted the work of Jonathan Hickman, who I think is an outstanding writer," Bendis continued. "I'm constantly on the look out for new and exciting voices and talent for my own personal desire and because I selfishly want them to come to Marvel and kick some ass. So when Jonathan literally had like two comics out and I was telling Marvel they should hire him like they had done with me when I was an indie guy. They we're like, 'He's only done two comics!' but I was like, 'You'll see.' Finally when this came about they we're like, 'What about Jonathan Hickman writing 'Secret Warriors'?' and I thought, 'Oh man, I would love to see that!'"

"This whole time though, I didn't know if Jonathan even wanted to do mainstream comics," Bendis said. "But I found out yes, he was looking to break in, which I was thrilled about. I think like Matt Fraction, or me, or Ed Brubaker he'll have something to say. He'll take his indie voice and apply it directly with that same passion."

Hickman was delighted to hear from Bendis. "I think writing is writing and Brian is one of the best writers in comics," he said. "'Powers' is definitely one of my favorite books and I think obviously beyond the volume that he does, the quality of his work at Marvel is very good. He's big time and for him to ask me to work on a project with him is quite an honor."

Once Hickman accepted, Bendis called him and laid the project out for him on the phone. "I said, 'I've got all these ideas and I'll give them to you. You can take the ones you think you want,'" Bendis said. "Which was not far off from what my relationship with Bill Jemas was on the first 'Ultimate Spider-Man' arc. I did all the heavy lifting but Bill had tons of ideas and it would be remiss of me to pretend that he didn't."

"So it's a similar situation here. I'm a verbal co-plotter throwing out the ideas I would love to see in the book and basically letting him go nuts," Bendis continued. "I'm honestly a huge fan of his and I'm more interested in reading what Jonathan is going to do than reading what I was going to do."

Fans of Hickman's work on "The Nightly News" know that in addition to his writing skills he's also an accomplished artist and designer. And while, "Secret Warriors" doesn't yet have an interior artist Hickman has submitted some design ideas for the book. "I put some stuff in the pitch bible about logo design and title treatment and stuff like that," Hickman said.

Bendis added, "He's already, and I'm not joking, shown me about 15 different versions of the cover design that he thinks the book should have."

"Secret Warriors" isn't the only Marvel book currently keeping Hickman busy. "I've got a couple of issues of 'Marvel Comics Presents' that I've written most of and I'm doing a one-shot book for another line which hasn't been announced yet," the writer said. "And I'm sure I'll do some other stuff. They've been very cool. They seem to like my stuff.

"I'm just ecstatic that I'm getting the opportunities that I'm getting," Hickman continued. "I think that it's very cool that Marvel thought of me for 'Secret Warriors' and wanted me to work on it. I think it's going to be a phenomenal book."

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