so sorry wrote:IS Reed Richards gåy in this series?
minstrel wrote:TheButcher wrote:Fantastic Four #1 Colourist Draws Cover For FF #1
That looks absolutely horrible.
CBR Reviewer Ryan K. Lindsay gives "Fantastic Four" #588 a 4.5 stars review, calling the final issue of Marvel Comics' legendary series, "The best issue of [writer Jonathan] Hickman's run."
TheButcher wrote:Warren Ellis Challenges Fans to Redesign 'Fantastic Four' #1 [Art]
-This November is 50th anniversary of Fantastic Four and there are big plans, but cannot go into them yet. Many characters 50th anniversary will be celebrated but no news yet.
-Will FF become Fantastic Four again? Probably. Hickman however pitches his takes on things as “massive 60 issue epics, notes all crazy and detailed due to his design perspective”
While we're still waiting on issue #2 to arrive, Marvel has released the first sneak peek of F.F. #3, an issue that continues the crazy post-Johny Storm adventures of Marvel's First Family. With Valeria Richards working with Dr. Doom and a Council of Deadly Reed Richardses plotting the demise of the entire Marvel Universe, F.F. #3 is going to be utterly chaotic.
Jonathan Hickman answers your questions on FF, Shield, Secret Warriors and more! We discuss his upcoming creator-owned books, like The Red Wing, as well as some recent comic book news.
Hickman will be back with more in part 2 of this podcast, coming soon. In the meantime, you can see him on the iFanboy video, episode #205 from the latest Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.
David Uzumeri & Chris Eckert wrote:Yeah, I know we were annotating Hickman's Fantastic Four run from the beginning, but let's just jump ahead, catch up, and get right into the thick of things: Chris Eckert and I annotating comics. This is a big chunk, so get ready -- and features an exclusive question and answer from Jonathan Hickman himself that will continue with each set of annotations!
FF #1 came out this week, a reboot and continuation of the longstanding Marvel franchise by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Rick Magyar and Paul Mounts. With Johnny Storm deceased, Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), Susan Storm-Richards (the Invisible Woman) and Ben Grimm (the Thing) are moving on with their lives, inducting new members like Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, and a shocking new member who's been carefully set up for inclusion through Hickman's run so far.
SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY FOLLOW.
The next phase for Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting's plan for the survivors of the Fantastic Four comes in May as the Future Foundation faces a war between the lost cities of the world – with special guest artist Barry Kitson.
We're back with another installment in our series of annotations for Jonathan Hickman's FF run, this time taking a look at the second issue, "Doom Nation," as well as the second installment of our exclusive question/answer with Hickman after the release of each issue. Once again, Chris Eckert and I are taking lead, so if you read this issue and wondered about the previous relationships between Val and Doom, or who the hell this Kristoff guy is, or you missed out on the pre-FF segments of Hickman's run and need to be caught up -- that's what we're here for. SPOILERS FOLLOW.
Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/05/0 ... z1LovWOp4y
Hickman is back to finish the Q&A session we started earlier this month. There's more discussion of FF, Secret Warriors, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the new books Hickman has planned to start coming out from Image later this year, including The Red Wing in July.
Download The MP3 Here
Some of Marvel's biggest, baddest brains team up to combat the The malevolent Council Of Reeds. Here's a first look at FF #5.
Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Penciled by BARRY KITSON
Cover by MARK BAGLEY
I am Captain America Variant Cover by SKOTTIE YOUNG
FOC – 5/30/11, On Sale - 6/22/11
David Uzumeri & Chris Eckert wrote:Welcome back to our (admittedly delayed) annotations of Jonathan Hickman's hugely successful run on FF, formerly Fantastic Four! Chris Eckert of Funnybook Babylon and Savage Critics and I have been taking a look at every issue to provide annotations for readers that explore the book's connections with the rest of Hickman's work and the run's influences from all over the Marvel Universe. Today we're taking a look at FF #3 by Hickman and Steve Epting and FF #4 by Hickman and Barry Kitson, as well as another monthly FF question and answer with Jonathan Hickman himself!
SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY FOLLOW.
Jonathan Hickman is a Marvel Architect and a creator-owned star — his latest Image Comics title, The Red Wing, launched earlier this month — and he's getting his own Comic-Con International: San Diego panel Saturday afternoon. The official description is here:
5:45-6:45 Spotlight on Jonathan Hickman— Marvel Architect and Comic-Con special guest Jonathan Hickman has not only reinvigorated one of the company's oldest -- and most loved -- franchises (The Fantastic Four), but he is now poised to help remake an entire corner of the Marvel Universe in what's bound to be one of the biggest books of the fall: The Ultimates. Join Jonathan for this one-on-one interview and Q&A session with Word Balloon's John Siuntres. Room 6DE
Adam Balm wrote:This was probably posted elsewhere already, but I can't seem to find it:
Millar and Hitch are taking over the monthly Fantastic Four.Mark Millar wrote:The Fantastic Four was billed as â€œThe World's Greatest Comic Magazineâ€
From Newsarama 2007:
WW: CHICAGO - MILLAR & HITCH TALK FANTASTIC FOURIt may be the one of the most anticipated new projects from a creative grouping since the Police reunited for their new concert tour, or Ben & Jerry created Chocolate Chop Cookie Dough...
The comic book superstar pairing of writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch lives again, this time on Marvel's Fantastic Four..
No, not Ultimate Fantastic Four ... Not a large-scale FF limited series ... The monthly Marvel Universe Fantastic Four.
The duo take over the reins of the series in early 2008 with plans to return the series to the top of the Diamond sales charts, and by the sounds of things, they don't plan on leaving for a while...
And oh yeah, and they plan on it being monthly!
We spoke with Hitch and Millar this week about why's and what’s of their latest partnership…
Newsarama: Okay fellas, it doesn’t take a very skilled interviewer to come up with this question, but considering your profiles, both individually and as a tandem, one can assume that you had a lot of options (perhaps limitless if you wanted to create something brand new), so why the Fantastic Four, and why now?
Mark Millar: What's interesting is how close this came to not happening. It really was a fortunate accident for us.
The plan had always been to follow The Ultimates with an X-Men relaunch where I would write the three main X-books and we were going to have Hitchy plus two other artists on these books for a year. I plotted my stories way back in 2004 so this is something we'd been planning for ages. We were very enthused, spoke about it on the phone almost every day and just kind of took it for granted this is what we were launching in January 2008. But last year someone casually mentioned that JMS was leaving Fantastic Four and they didn't have a new creative team in place. I tried to block it out of my head, but for the rest of the call I was just nodding and pretending to be listening, thinking how great it would be to write the real Fantastic Four book. This is like getting the keys to the family car as far as the Marvel Universe is concerned. Maybe even more than Spider-Man.
I couldn't stop thinking about it and phoned Hitchy, who surprised me by being equally excited. We spoke for about three hours, building each other into a frenzy and then called Marvel. We wanted to shelf the X-Men plans and do Fantastic Four instead. Mike Marts (former X-Men editor) was very good about it, understanding we had to follow our mojo. And so we called Tom Brevoort and everything clicked into place beautifully. I started writing the book before Christmas an Hitchy started drawing shortly after he finished Ultimates 2 in the New Year. He had a few weeks to build up his drawing muscles again, but he's been working very consistently since about February, I think and pretty much bang on schedule.
Bryan Hitch: The timing worked I guess. We'd planned to go over to rehoot (new technical term) the X-franchise and sort of had that in our diaries for a couple of years or so as Mark said but after the heavy lifting we'd both done on Ultimates and Mark had done on Civil War we both wanted to take the comic book equivalent of a beach holiday. I'd loved Mark's run on Ultimate FF, it seemed so full of life and a real counterpoint to the density and claustrophobia of Ultimates and I was really quite jealous that Greg Land got to draw it. The book seemed like it was in the same breathless, big scale, relentless mode of our separate runs at Authority and I really fancied something like that after Ultimates. Sort of a plate cleanser.
I remember us chatting in the summer last year and it came up in conversation that FF was maybe going to be available and we both seemed to hit on doing it and by the end of the call a tentative suggestion had become an enthusiastic urge. It really got me through the last two issues of Ultimates too as I couldn't wait to start it. That double-sized crazy last issue was the fastest I'd worked on the Ultimates in years and was maybe a sign that I'd been a bit down and burned out for a while; slogging rather than enjoying myself as I once had. A spring had returned to my artistic step! Of course once Ultimates was penciled by Christmas I still had six weeks of other non-comics stuff to clear off my desk but I can't wait to start drawing every day now; it's just the most fun stuff I've worked on in a long, long time.
NRAMA: Okay, so you’re both excited about the Marvel Universe Fantastic Four. But still, why the monthly series, as opposed to your own limited series of whatever length you chose, which again one has to imagine Marvel would have been amenable to?
MM: Well, there are probably three reasons for this. One is that when you do a special project you can't really roll your sleeves up and operate on the book. You're essentially just borrowing the characters from the current writer and promising not to interfere with his plans. And there were some very fundamental things we wanted to do with the direction of the book which meant the main book or nothing. But as people who grew up with an enormous love for the book, there's something (and this will sound weird) very satisfying about flipping through your run of FF comic-books and seeing your run alongside the Byrne and Kirby issues. It feels nice to be part of the lineage.
Also, the Fantastic Four was billed as “The World's Greatest Comic Magazine” and it's been a while since it really lived up there in the top ten. Again, there's that little fanboy part of us that wants to put the book right up there on the front-lines of the Marvel Universe. Other than a few spikes for events of promotions, it's only sold around an average 45-50K these past ten years and we wanted to just put it up there with the Avengers and Spider-Man books again. They told us the Avengers characters were dead and we shouldn't do Ultimates before we started, but we knew it would work and we feel the same charge here. When you love something it's contagious. We want this to be the book everyone is reading again.
NRAMA: Since you already mentioned Kirby, give us your take on the revered first 100 issues? Is this for you – as it is many creators – the Marvel Holy Grail? How does that legendary run, inform your plans (if at all)?
MM: Yeah, I think those first 100 issues tie with the first 100 Spider-Man comics as the greatest Marvel books ever. But the middle of that run from issue #35 to around issue #60 are just unbeatable in terms of creativity. What made FF work was that you had absolutely no idea what could happen next because it was constantly breaking the rules. Combine this with the endless new characters being introduced as villains and supporting characters and you have something akin to a universe by itself, something the book has been feeding off really for close to thirty years now.
So our plan is to honor those first 100 issues not by imitating the ‘Kirby dots’ or the drawing style or recycling the characters we've seen brought back again and again. We're going to honor them by doing what Stan and Jack did and that's being as new and creative as possible. Naturally, we're going to see familiar touchstones of the FF universe, but we're only doing it when we have something new to say about them. A brand new way of doing them. For the most part though it's going to be new concepts, ideas, and a new supporting cast.
What I loved about FF as a kid is that it was constantly evolving like a real family. People got married, people broke up with their girlfriends and found new ones, friends became enemies, enemies became friends, children were born, and so on. To a boy who had seen Clark Kent gulping and wishing wishing he could tell Lois Lane how he really felt for four decades this seemed incredibly radical and I want to apply that same radicalism to our run. Things are about to move on and the characters are going to find themselves in slightly different situations. It's the only way to keep the book fresh. I want it to feel as new as the book felt in 1965.
NRAMA: How about those first 100 issues for you Bryan? Of course from an artist’s standpoint, Kirby’s contributions both conceptually and from an artistic standpoint are at least equal to Lee’s contributions. Mark just said something to the effect of not coming in and doing “Kirby-dots”, so if not direct visual inspiration, how does that run inspire you as the artists?
BH: We've both said that sometimes it's better to remember the feelings the work inspired in you than it is to go back and look, slavishly follow and attempt to repeat. That's what we feel here. To take the example of "Kirby dots"; that was Jack's specific way of solving a problem, is way of delineating patterns of energy and all pre-computers. So many other avenues are open now that to specifically follow that technique, which may well have been ahead of it's time forty years ago, would date a modern comic.
It's much more important to follow the spirit and intent of the thing than it is to attempt to slavishly reproduce it. I'm not and never will be Jack Kirby or John Byrne (whose run is arguably the equal of Kirby's for fun and invention; more coherent too) but I do remember how it felt when I read that stuff and that's what I want to reproduce. Or try to anyway.
NRAMA: Okay, you’ve both now mentioned Byrne in addition to Lee/Kirby. So let’s just ask about any other stand-out creative eras and let you guys run with it?
MM: I know it's fashionable to knock him right now, but I think Byrne's run actually gives Kirby's a real run for its money. I didn't read it as a kid and stumbled on it a couple of years back, but it's one of the reasons I wanted to do this book. I ate up every page. The storytelling is just beautiful and the radicalism seemed to be back. Again, you just didn't know what was happening next and it felt like the Fantastic Four (something other runs didn't always quite achieve). It was that perfect mix of the everyday and the cosmic that Stan and Jack captured so magnificently. Because the FF was always as much about them trying to find a new nanny for Franklin as fighting the Mole-Man.
The secret to all the best stories is that they're rooted in the ordinary and supped-up to the fantastic. The Baxter Building is a dream version of the house we grew up in, the Fantasti-Car is a dream version of Dad's old Ford and so on. Even Doom is that weird Uncle your Mum and Dad don't speak to anymore. It's got to be rooted in the real world to work and Byrne was very good at this too. He and the original 100 issues are the two perfect runs, but there are others I love too like the Waid/Ringo issues and the ones immediately following Stan and Jack. The very first FF I ever had was a black and white British reprint where Magneto had captured Sue and Namor's bird, keeping them in little tanks and goading the FF and Namor. Calling them poofs or something on the cover. I think this was written by Roy Thomas and drawn by John Buscema. I never remember the American numbering because I read this stuff years later as a UK reprint, but that run was really definitive for me too. Likewise the Simonson issues. I only got these last week (I was too busy reading DC Comics in the 80s), but these look great.
NRAMA: Conversely Mark, as Bryan mentioned you had a run on Marvel’s newest take on the FF - Ultimate Fantastic Four. What did you take away from that, and how if at all, did that play a part in getting you here?
MM: I got great advice from Stan before I started and I've taken this onboard for the main book. He told me there was no idea too insane for Fantastic Four and that was actually very liberating. Some ideas are too crazy for the Hulk or Spidey or the X-Men, but the FF is where the crazy ideas live and breathe. You have to give them a hook a nine year old can understand, but they can be as wild as you like. This is what led to the Marvel Zombies (something that seemed so unlikely editorial actually laughed when I suggested it) and I've tried to bring that same head to this run too. I've been flying on it since I started and really having a good time. I sent Tom and Bryan the script for our ninth issue last week and I'll be working on ten on the plane home from Chicago.
NRAMA: Bryan, is your process different from Mark’s? Do you approach this from a purely artistic standpoint, envisioning imagery and layouts in your head?
BH: Well yeah, that's a natural sort of language for me but it's not so much the pictures as the pacing and story beats. The rhythms and tempo before the music's written. The actual notes and tune come when you sit down and start on solving the specific storytelling problems and indulging in the creative side of composition. Mark and I both wanted to write and draw our own comics but he ended up focusing on the writing and I focused on the drawing but it lends each of us a more full point of view.
Comics are a visual storytelling medium which means they aren't radio plays and they aren't poster books. Too many writers never allow room for the visual pacing and too many artists don't apply their incredible drawing skills solely to needs of the story. If you can combine the two, it makes a good read. Mark has a strong visual sense and I have a strong story sense so although we come from different directions we are both on the same journey. No shortcuts, no easy takes; it's the best we can offer, always.
It's almost a perfect creative partnership, which is why we have so much future stuff planned together no matter what else we do separately.
NRAMA: Bryan, let’s stick with you for a moment… You’re fairly well responsible for introducing the term “widescreen” to the comic book industry. You kind of topped yourself in that regard with your what six? Eight page spread (?) in Ultimates 2 #13. That was more like IMAX than widescreen…
BH: Yeah it was pretty wide but please God don't go upping the terms here; I'm not doing that every issue! It's funny but I don't go about trying to 'widescreen' everything I draw, these are terms others have used to describe or label an approach. I just draw stuff how I see it.
IMAX comics, sheesh thanks. Mind you, if there's on Marvel book that could work on that visual scale it's FF.
NRAMA: So not to put you on the spot, but should readers expect the signature layout/perspective style to carry over to FF?
BH: It's certainly going to be familiar enough for those who follow my work but it's a different book so the approach changes to suit what I'm doing. A director like Spielberg can do Schindler's List, E.T., and, say, Catch Me If You Can. Three very different films but all unquestionably his; you can't approach every job the same way, it would be too formulaic but you do bring everything you have to the table every time and hope to hit your marks as fully as possible. You never aim for second best, do you?
NRAMA: Okay then, do you have any new tricks in your bag for the FF?
BH: Oh, I hope so. It would be pretty darn boring if I didn't. You always hope to bring everything you have to the gig and then make it something else, find some new avenues to explore. It's one of the reasons I wanted the book; it's so different from Ultimates and I had to learn a new approach for that project, learn so much about how to draw, perspectives, real world stuff. This is broader, more fun, more grand and spacious; a little lighter perhaps. It still has everything I could want for in storytelling opportunities, design, ideas and great character acting. Breath of fresh air.
NRAMA: As no doubt frustrating as it likely is for you Bryan, we do have to ask about scheduling, since the FF is a series that has been monthly for Marvel’s entire history. From all indications it seems like you’ve been working on this for a while, how would you address reader’s concerns about the FF maintaining its monthly status when your’s and Mark’s run begins?
BH: I'm drawing it quicker. I've been working on it for about five months and am four issues and nine covers in. Mark is writing issue # 10 now so he's galloping nicely. It's actually getting quicker the more into it I get but it's important to note that Ultimates is the only thing I've done that went the way it did. Authority was three weeks an issue and that's what I expected to do on Ultimates; it came as a huge surprise to me that I couldn't do it. Then again there's about three times as much on the page in Ultimates.
Truth to tell, many of the problems with that book weren't with the physical side of drawing it, more the state I got myself into worrying about it. It's different on FF. I don't feel any pressure at all, in fact it's the most liberating work I've done in years.
For better or worse, Ultimates became a magnum opus of sorts and you can't follow it with another one. I can relax. So I'm just setting out to hit the schedule and get some big, bold fun comics out and remind myself that it doesn't have to be hand-wringing, sweating, cursing, worry and poverty to make a good comic. It can actually be good fun, very rewarding and, in the great scheme of world problems, a walk in the park. I'm doing what I love doing: telling stories. It's my goal to win back the reputation I had before I did Ultimates and have a good long, unbroken run at the "World's Greatest Comic Magazine". So far so good. Much, I think, to everyone's surprise.
NRAMA: As you touch on, part of the Ultimates issue was your closeness to the material, that fact that you created it and wanting to go back and continue to edit the art until the public saw it. Correct? Given the FF aren’t your creations, will that play a role in how you approach the pages? Is that why it’s been so liberating?
BH: I think my neurosis is still well intact but if I've learned anything from that whole debacle on Ultimates is that doing what you describe didn't achieve anything but make the book late and lose me an enormous amount of money. It's been like coming out of a tunnel on FF, all of that angst, fear and worry that drove me to suicidal amounts of tweaking and 'fixing' has vanished to a degree and I seem to be running free. I'm still tweaking and playing, redrawing and adding stuff to get it the best I can offer and I imagine I always will on any project but those that have seen what I've done so far don't see any drop in quality, quite the reverse so I'm confident about getting it out and it being all right.
I'm also going to stop reading the message boards too. No matter how much I labored Ultimates there was always somebody who said: "Is it just me or does Ultimates look rushed..?"
I have such huge and ambitious plans for the next couple of years at Marvel and see this as just the beginning. Get this in on or ahead of time, make it good and build on that work. You'll hopefully see what I mean as we move into next year. A lot of work to do but having established both a good and bad rep on Ultimates I have a strong need to build on the good and make the bad stuff a memory.
NRAMA: Fair enough, I’m sure there are readers who appreciate you again addressing it.
So Mark, switching gears a bit, would you say your plans are “traditional”? Or do they move the FF into new directions?
MM: It's a combination of both. After a period where it hasn't been the traditional FF, Reed, Ben Johnny and Sue absolutely take center-stage in the book for our entire run. So it feels very traditional in that sense.
But we didn't want to do the same old bag of tricks and just re-heat old stories. I mean, we both agreed that if Galactus didn't destroy the Earth the last 30 times he appeared then chances are he'd be thwarted again. The first time you saw the Hulk facing off against The Thing it meant something because they were Marvel's two most powerful heroes and you wondered who was strongest. But if we did that now it would feel stale, like a faded photocopy of an age-old idea. So we want to move everything forward with new threats and new concepts that have you as worried as I felt when I was reading “The Coming of Galactus” on the bus to Scout Camp when I was ten. We want people turning the pages, unable to guess what's coming next.
That also applies to the soap opera element of the book too. A superhero like Sue living with Reed before they got married was pretty shocking back in the days when black people had to give up their seats to whites. A superhero getting pregnant was just unheard of. So we want to play around with the soap opera stuff too and hopefully give something you've never really seen before. Everyone gets beefed up in our first issue and, closer to the time, we'll give details.
NRAMA: So you kind of already took the wind out of the sails of our next question, which was going to be can you name your Four and say a few words about your take on each?
MM: Obviously, it's Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny. I understand why other characters have filled in from time to time and I've really enjoyed what Dwayne [McDuffie] did recently (perfectly complimenting what we set up in Civil War). But it really has to be Ben, Johnny, Reed, and Sue. I like H.e.r.b.i.e. the Robot as much as anyone, but the Fantastic Four are the Fantastic Four.
My take? Well, Reed is not just the most brilliant brain on the planet, but he's also the leader of the team. A natural leader emerging from such a strong set of personalities means Reed has to be incredibly charismatic. They got this a little better in the second movie than the first, but Reed should be the guy who makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end when he walks into the room to solve a problem. He's the JFK of the group, Johnny being Robert Kennedy, Sue being Jackie O and Ben being the Peter Lawford with the street-fighting connections (if you want to get overly literal).
Ben and Reed seem off best friends, but they compliment each other brilliantly. Ben is smarter and more sensitive than everyone thinks and Reed is more physical than he's often portrayed. The first time they met in college (I have the panel clearly in my head) Reed is impressed because he recognizes Ben from the football field. He isn't an egg-head. He's as brave as he's smart and this is why he's Mister Fantastic.
Johnny, as we saw quite brilliantly in the movies, is the comic relief to some extent and often the reason they get tangled up on situations. He's outwardly flash and flamboyant, but again we're talking about a guy who loves his family so much that he's always hanging around and making sure everyone is okay.
Sue is the glue that holds it all together. She's the one with the strongest links to each of them in the sense that her brother and her husband are on this team and her kids are being groomed for the family business. She's the invisible hand behind everything they do and, like most marriages, the one who cleverly makes all the decisions.
NRAMA: Bryan, how about your take on the characters from a design standpoint? What do you immediately think of when you think of the four main characters? A certain physical trait? Do you see an actor or actress in your head?
BH: Always but less so now the treatment is working.
Thinking of someone familiar is a helpful physical starting point, especially when creating new characters but these guys are well established. I'd like to say that I labored over the way I ended up portraying them, honestly, it all came instantly and fully formed. I knew what I wanted to do, how to do it and what it would look like and I couldn't wait to get started. Somebody is going to have to pry this book out of my cold dead fingers. They used to have to do that with Ultimates but that was so they could publish an issue; in this case it's that I'm having such a great time I don't want it to stop. Every issue feels like I'm just at the start of something great and that enthusiasm continues to build and grow.
My wife has never known me not working on Ultimates and thinks I'm a different man; happier, easier to live with; less grumpy and much more relaxed. Her saying that makes me realize how bad I'd let things get on that book. I know we're all happy with the results and those nice hardcovers and omnibus editions will sit nicely on the shelves for years to come but it was a compulsion and not always a good or healthy one.
NRAMA: Okay fellas, so that all asked, any final, parting thoughts to leave readers with at this time?
MM: It's going to be really, really good. We promise you.
BH: It will be really really good, plenty of it, and on time...
Now that we all know what title Millar and Hitch will be going, Newsarama thought you might want another look at all the images from the series Marvel has released to us so far....
Sean Boyle wrote:Mark Millar: Tripping the Light Fantastic
Over the past several years, you could say that writer Mark Millar has made a name for himself. He made Superman a Soviet communist in Superman: Red Son, he created a world full of zombie Marvel heroes who hunt and kill all the humans on their earth in Ultimate Fantastic Four, and while paired with superstar artist Bryan Hitch he crafted one of the most critically acclaimed and best-selling Marvel series' in decades in The Ultimates. Oh, and he also scripted that little event called Civil War that actually lived up to its billing and turned the entire Marvel Universe upside down. Needless to say, wherever Mark Millar goes, big stories follow. So coming off of all those high-profile books, the world was his for the taking. Reteamed with his good friend Bryan Hitch, Millar took on…the Fantastic Four? I recently sat down with Mark to discuss his new project, and how to reinvigorate Marvel’s first family.
Sean Boyle (SB): It's safe to say that the release schedule for your last collaboration with artist Bryan Hitch, The Ultimates, was… irregular, but Fantastic Four is a book that fans expect to come out on a relative monthly schedule. One of the biggest questions on the minds of fans is: how is the schedule coming along?
Mark Millar (MM): What's funny about this project is that we started on it about a year ago. For various reasons we couldn't announce it until Wizard World: Chicago last August, but we had started on it long before that. I had been itching to tell people about Fantastic Four, and if you had fed me a few pints I would have told you about it all months before we announced it, but Bryan and I have been pumping this book out steadily over the last year.
I can tell you that right now we have nine issues that are done. In the books. And the first issue hasn't even come out yet!
The thing about Ultimates was that they would print and ship the book immediately after Bryan finished the last page of an issue. Once we got behind it was all over. Luckily we’ve built up enough lead time that I think we can work around any unforeseen bumps in the road. Bryan’s been pumping out this AMAZING artwork, stuff that I think is even BETTER than Ultimates. It would almost take Bryan contracting AIDS or some awful disease for us to not finish this on time.
SB: And luckily we've got Bono tackling that global issue, so we’re probably safe?
MM: [laughs] Yeah I'd say we're in the clear.
SB: Well fans are definitely going to be happy to hear that nine issues are in the can, and that things are progressing nicely. Let's go back to the beginning of this project, which you said began about a year ago. You and Bryan had the full realm of the Marvel Universe to choose from as a follow-up to The Ultimates. Why did you both choose to do Fantastic Four?
MM: Well it's funny because, after coming off Civil War, The Ultimates, Ultimate Fantastic Four, and Wolverine, and a whole bunch of really big books, the next step up was the X-Men franchise. Revamping the entire X-Men franchise is something Bryan and I had been talking about since about 2004. I wanted to do this big storyline that massively revamps the entire franchise, putting X-Men back at issue #1. The franchise has kind of languished away from the top spot in comics since the 1990s. It used to sell almost 100,000 copies above everything else on the stands.
But coming off of the Ultimates and Civil War we both thought "God, we're absolutely exhausted." Both Bryan and I thought it would be pretty nice to do something that was just plain fun. X-Men would have been a long run, somewhere around 36 issues. I even went back and read all of the X-Men stories from several generations of stories. I've kind of become an expert on the X-Men, and yet it's utterly useless now [laughs].
At the time we were looking at doing all this, we didn't even know Fantastic Four was going to be available. JMS was just leaving the book, I guess a little sooner than everybody thought. We both knew that it wouldn’t make us as much money as an X-Men relaunch, but the inner fanboy in me just started calling out to do Fantastic Four. When I asked Bryan about it, he was surprisingly very excited to do it, and then we called Marvel and they were really cool about it all.
SB: Well you said you researched a bunch of X-Men tales for your proposed project. Did you have to do the same for FF?
MM: Fantastic Four was actually a lot easier for me because I was already very familiar with the FF. I grew up with the first hundred and forty issues or so as a kid. I grew up in the 1980s, but what happened in Scotland was that we got the black and white reprints of the books you guys got during the 60's. For me growing up, John Byrne didn't happen. When everybody was reading John Byrne, I was reading Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It was really weird. So I'm very familiar with the early stuff. It gave me a very good grounding with all the characters. I've since gone back and read all the really good runs like John Byrne's, Walt Simonson's, and the Waid and Ringo run. And to be honest, it was a lot more fun to go back and read all the early FF stuff, because, on a consistent basis, the Fantastic Four title has been far better than the X-Men books over the years. There have been so many bad X-Men issues over the years, yet FF has been very good for long periods of time.
SB: Well Fantastic Four have always been one of the cornerstones of the Marvel Universe, along with Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers. However, in recent years the FF have somewhat taken a backseat to the other three franchises in both sales and popularity. Why do you think that is?
MM: It's fascinating that you say that, because that was one of the main things I wanted to address right away. I really thought long and hard about it when writing this book. I went and got the sales figures and got all the charts to figure out when it happened. For a long time, the Fantastic Four was Marvel's premiere book through the Stan and Jack years. FF and Spider-Man were the two big ones. But since about 1972, FF has been in the middle of the charts. Other than the occasional spike, it's stayed in the middle of the charts. You think: why's that? It's kind of shocking because, when you look back, it genuinely had four or five of the very best writers who worked on it at some point in time. Pretty much all of the artists have been GREAT, from Kirby, to Buscema, to Byrne, to Perez, to 'Ringo. It has been a creative superstar book.
However, I have my own theory of what happened. Fantastic Four was very popular during its beginning years when there was a lot of change and growth in the family. The characters worked like a real family, where people grew up and they got married, and they were constantly changing for the better. Alongside that were all these great villains showing up. But around '72, I think creators looked back in awe of those early stories, and I think there was a consensus among editorial and creators alike that if it worked, why mess with it? I believe the Marvel stuff that tends to do well are the books that have the courage to change. Take Spider-Man for example. He moved from high school to the university, then from the university to working for the paper, and then he got married and such. There was an evolution with the character. Fantastic Four, in a lot of ways as a family, has been frozen. And if a family is frozen, it dies. Sure there have been some great stories, but they've kind of been in the same status and the same characters for the past thirty years. If you look at the first decade of the FF, they were changing enormously. Sue and Reed dated, then got married, then had children. Johnny and Ben changed a lot, and then all of that stopped. That's when I think the fans lost some interest.
SB: That makes a lot of sense to me. Along the lines of trying to recapture that classic excitement, I recently read an interview with Bryan where he said you both were approaching this title like a horror/monster comic with a superhero inflection. Is that an accurate description? How are you guys working this?
MM: Yeah, I think that’s a great description. Stan and Jack's run came out of the monster comics that dominated the industry before Marvel, you know, the ol' EC comics and such. A lot of the names of the villains the FF faced were all monster names and creations. Even The Thing himself looks like he would be the star of a monster or science-fiction story. I'm a huge fan of the 50s era, and that's what birthed Fantastic Four. So as well as being a superhero book, we wanted to make FF kind of creepy.
To me, the most inspirational thing about the first hundred issues is that, here was a comic that was unlike anything you had ever seen before. There was a real sense of danger there. A lot of unpredictability.
SB: You mentioned the idea of significant change, and how that keeps a comic fresh, how it captivates the reader. As the writer of Civil War, you had the perfect chance to break-up Sue and Reed, and given the recent trend in break-ups, it might not have been as shocking as, say, ten years ago. Instead, their marriage remained intact through that monumental event. Why did you decide to keep them together?
MM: When you do a crossover, it's slightly different because you're essentially borrowing other people's characters. Every single detail about Civil War had to be checked out by the various writers and editors. Sometimes the changes were right, sometimes what I proposed was wrong, and sometimes we had to compromise. With Sue and Reed, however, I really like the idea of them being together. I think they work very well as a team. It would have been sad to break them up. I can kind of get what's going on with Spider-Man and Mary Jane, but Reed and Sue are the couple. They're a family, and Fantastic Four is a family book. To have the family fractured, it wouldn't feel like the FF to me.
I don’t mean to say it would never happen. It might make a great story sometime down the line, but not now.
SB: A lot of team books make reference to being a metaphorical family, but the FF literally is a family. How does that dynamic change the way you approach writing them, compared to writing, say, the X-Men or the Avengers?
MM: It changes the dynamic a great deal. For starters, a couple of them are married and exclusively sleeping together. That alone is different than most books. On top of that, they're all kind of related. It's people who would absolutely die for each other. Some superhero books work off that theme, but these four unconditionally and absolutely love each other. They spend every Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and birthday together.
They operate in a way that the Justice League or the Avengers wouldn't. The other teams, at the end of the day, go back to their respective homes and families. Clark Kent goes home to Lois, he doesn't live with Batman. The FF is always together, and that creates a warm environment. That's one thing a lot of people who have written the book comment on. As much as this book is frightening or dramatic, there is a warmth that these characters bring to the book. There's just something about them that makes the FF different from other superheroes. I remember reading the early issues as a kid and thinking this was the family I wanted to be a part of.
SB: On a personal note, have you ever found it odd that Sue is married yet still lives in the same house as her brother and her husband's best friend?
MM: Yeah a little, but I actually understand now why they do it. The Baxter Building is the ultimate defense against attacks. It's got hi-tech security and everyone's all together, so if the Fearsome Four come to attack, the Fantastic Four is there waiting for them; whereas if Johnny or Ben live in a brownstone somewhere, they're endangering everyone that lives around them. I wanted to exploit that a little bit. You wouldn't want Ben Grimm as your neighbor. They're kind of forced to live together through necessity. That's what makes them so interesting to me. Because their identities are public, they can't go home at night to retire as Clark Kent, or Bruce Wayne in a mansion. They just go home to their bedrooms in the Baxter Building. I think that creates a really interesting dynamic.
SB: Bryan [Hitch] had an interview after Wizard World: Chicago that is on the Marvel website, in which he constantly said how much fun he was personally having with this project. What has been the most exciting thing for you in writing the Fantastic Four?
MM: I think it's the advice that Stan Lee gave me before taking over FF. He said any idea can be used in the Fantastic Four. There is nothing too silly to be in the Fantastic Four, which is not the same in most comics. If you read Batman or Spider-Man, for example, if they go to another dimension or to space, it doesn't really fit the character. However, with the FF that's just what they do before breakfast. You can honestly write the craziest things you can think of. It's called "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine," so as the writer I just have to make sure every issue is spectacular.
SB: You have already had a previous run on the Ultimate Fantastic Four. What is more of a challenge to you, reinventing the FF for the Ultimate Universe, or building off of 40-plus years of comic history in the regular FF series?
MM: Definitely regular Fantastic Four. Ultimate was kind of just a blank page for us. With regular FF, I have to check everything. I don't start writing until I check with Tom Breevort. And I swear, Tom is like a maniac or something. He's read everything, from the great runs to the very worst annual or bad mini-series. He's read everything. I don't even think he's human.
SB: He might not be human. Tom's got an incredible beard for which even I, with my Irish heritage, can't attain.
MM: [laughs] He's got like six people hiding under there. And they’ve all got Google.
SB: [laughs] Tom's beard aside, we have your first issue of Fantastic Four set to arrive here in the states on February 13th. The solicitation makes mention of a "Mrs. Fantastic." Obviously, the literal Mrs. Fantastic is Sue, but this mysterious character is someone else. I know you can't get into specific details, but what can you tell us about this new "Mrs. Fantastic"?
MM: One of the things I started thinking about when I began researching the book was that Reed looks about forty, and Sue looks about thirty years old. Reed's the world's smartest man. Sue is very smart herself, but she's much more of a normal person. When you think about it, they're kind of a weird couple. They're an odd mix. And then I started thinking about how Reed is a bit older than Sue. For example, when Reed was studying in Vienna at twenty years old, Sue was only ten years old. He clearly wasn't going out with her back then.
So I asked: who was he going out with at that point? More and more, to me, Sue seemed like somebody Reed possibly picked up on the rebound. I looked at her as somebody who isn't as smart as Reed is, and somebody he might not have spent as much time with before they got together.
So I came up with someone who was as smart as Reed at the university. Somebody he's known since he was eighteen, who was a super-rich, suave girl that Reed was on the verge of marrying back in his early twenties. She eventually left his life, and this is her re-entering it almost two decades later. The nickname everyone came up for her was "Mrs. Fantastic." She's the female Reed. Just like how Reed has created this amazing life, she has been doing equally amazing things with her life. And now she's coming to Reed with a problem that she needs help with.
On a very simple level, she's the girl your dad dated before you were born. You always think of your dad as being with your mom. So the family has to come to terms with this girl showing up, and she's got something very deadly they have to deal with.
SB: Well, along with the arrival of Mrs. Fantastic, the solicitation for your second issue reads: "THE EARTH IS DOOMED! Buy this issue for a first-look at mankind's new home. Also, the Torch gets nekkid with a super-villain." The most honest question from that is: Johnny really likes the bad girls, doesn't he?
MM: [laughs] Well that's the thing, right? He's got a terrible taste in women! Whether he's shagging that Skrull lass or whatever else comes by. The scene really struck me as a "Johnny moment." There's a bank robbery, and a beautiful villainess is taking off with the stuff, Johnny confronts and fights her for a few pages, and all of a sudden they just start kissing each other. I love the idea of Johnny getting into these bad situations. He likes this girl, but on one hand she robs banks, and on the other hand she's just so good in bed. [laughs] He's left with this classic Johnny dilemma of: does he bust her or does he continue a relationship with her?
SB: Is that the classicism that you're trying to bring back to the team? To be honest, it's been a couple years since I seriously read a Fantastic Four comic, but it seems as though that aspect of Johnny has been lacking in recent times. People have sort of cleaned him up as he grew up, so to speak. I've always had the memory of the Human Torch being the anti-Spider-Man. Whereas Peter is the nice, fun-loving, responsible guy, Johnny is the bad kid that skips school and chases the bad women.
MM: Absolutely!! That's definitely something I've wanted to bring back. The idea that "with great power comes great responsibility" is the opposite of what Johnny believes in. He's a world famous superhero, and sure he's saving lives, but he's going to use his fame as much as he can. He's kind of the Marvel Universe Paris Hilton, where he's fantastic and everyone wants to hang out with him, because he's where the party is. He's a big rock star. He's an asshole, but a very likable asshole. [laughs]
SB: So you have this big threat to earth. Mankind is doomed and we all have to relocate, etc. However, the planet is threatened in every superhero comic, every single issue. It's kind of the norm for the Fantastic Four. What makes this threat different from all the rest?
MM: I don't think this will give too much away, but the big threat the FF is facing is the crisis we're currently facing in reality. Our planet is dying. We're fucked. It's not Galactus or Annihilus, it's actually just an environmental catastrophe that's coming. We've been told about it, but it's coming a lot sooner than we all think. We all have to get off-world. That's the beginning of this story. It's how things kick off. Other problems will arise and other threats come throughout the story, but our environmental crisis is what begins the story.
SB: And just to be clear, by saying our planet is fucked, you're referring to global warming, not Hilary Clinton becoming President of the United States, right?
MM: [laughs] I bet a lot of the super-villains are rubbing their hands together wishing they had a vote right now. [laughs]
SB: Doctor Doom always tends to pop up every now and then, and he played a significant role in your Ultimate FF run. Would it be safe to say that he'll be popping up somewhere in your current run?
MM: Oh absolutely! To me Doctor Doom is as much of a part of the FF as Mr. Fantastic in a way. That said, we're trying not to rely too much on the old villains. We're trying to create as many new villains and new concepts as possible. Otherwise you're just putting a remix on what's come before. But I think you would feel cheated if Doom didn't show up. I think the fans would especially feel cheated if they couldn't see Bryan draw Doom. He's not the major villain of the story, but he's definitely an important part of the story.
SB: So we'll get you out of here on this: would you be willing to come back about six issues into your run to discuss what's happened and where your run goes from there?
MM: I would love to! There will be a very significant change in issue six that will get a lot of people talking. I can't wait for you guys to read it!
While Mr. Fantastic is off in space, Ant-Man leads a brand-new Fantastic Four in a relaunched Marvel comic.
"I feel that one of the best Fantastic Four stories was The Incredibles, and I want to take that back. It's so arrogant to say but it should have been us. We should have done that," Fraction says, laughing.
"If this could be the Pixar version of the Fantastic Four, something that everyone can enjoy, not just our medium 30-year-old white-dude reader, I'd be happy."
Graeme McMillan wrote:Daniel Best creates an oral history of the creation of the Fantastic Four:In one corner are those who firmly believe that Stan Lee had a strong hand in the writing and editing of the book. This would also mean that Lee had the controlling say over the direction of the title and Lee also took more than an active hand in the creation of the characters. In the other corner are those who equally believe that Jack Kirby did it all. This means that Kirby wrote, or, at the very least, plotted every issue, suggested dialogue, created all of the characters alone and controlled the direction of the title. While it’s true that there are strong arguments to be had for both sides of the fence, such as the fact that Stan Lee never created characters as strong away from Kirby as he did with him, and Jack Kirby’s dialogue left a bit to be desired without Lee’s editing, the absolute truth may never be known as Kirby and Lee were certainly at odds when it came to giving the other man credit for their efforts, although Lee has been more charitable with it comes to giving Kirby his due than Kirby did for Lee.
It’s an interesting mix of archival material creating this complex, conflicting story. Worth taking a look.
Chris Arrant wrote: The Fantastic Four aren’t just a superhero team, they’re a family first – and in February relaunched Fantastic Four series writer James Robinson is bringing Marvel’s first family back to basics and exploring new heights by sending them to their deepest depths. Robinson is joined by artist Leonard Kirk, and together they have big plans than involve putting the space-faring team squarely back in Manhattan and fighting against long odds – against both friend and foe.
After being leaked at New York Comic Con earlier this year, Marvel formally announced Robinson and Kirk’s new Fantastic Four seriesin an article with USAToday.com. Robinson, who’s well known for his interest and success writing classic comic characters such as Justice Society of America, is aiming to make family first for Marvel’s first family – steeped in the rich legacy of creators who have worked on the group from Jack Kirby and Stan Lee to Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, Jonathan Hickman and others. Kirk, who’s worked in the industry for 20 plus years and worked on a string of cult-favorite superhero series like Agents of Atlas and Captain Britain & The M.I.-13, is trading up to take on one of Marvel’s – and comics – most popular series.
This new Fantastic Four series will join a burgeoning number of new series launching as part of All-New Marvel NOW!, and Newsarama spoke with both Robinson and Kirk about this bold new series, mixing history with adventure, finding out what makes a hero and what makes a family.
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