New to the Mansion - Part III

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New to the Mansion - Part I
New to the Mansion - Part II

BF: We’ll get back to final viewpoints on X-Men at the end; but I now want to move on to Ultimate Fantastic Four. Since you have some experience on the title, doing the short fill-in arc between Warren Ellis and Mark Millar, did that lead into what you’re doing now in that it allowed you to get into Ultimate FF easier?

MC: Yeah, I guess it did allow me to sort of get my feet under the table, though it was never seen as an audition for a longer run on the book.  But it sure didn’t harm that I had already worked on the characters twice, one in the short 2-parter and once on the crossover with Ultimate X-Men. It was more that those opportunities opened up and I was there to run with them.  That got me talking on a more daily basis with the Ultimate editors and raised my profile in the Ultimate office, which in turn left me on the short list when they needed someone to take over the ongoing.

BF: Do you think it’s easier for you to write in the Ultimate Universe as compared to the regular 616 Universe?

MC: I think it’s a different experience.  It offers different pleasures to a writer.  I’ve said before that I love the Ultimate Universe because there’s a certain “double vision effect” you get with those stories.  You’re sort of re-inventing those classic 1960s and 1970s stories and you’re partly doing it for a new audience that has never even heard of Lee and Kirby.  And then you are also doing it to offer a different kind of pleasure for long-term readers. So you’re playing games and raising expectations and then going off on different angles doing unpredictable things with those premises, those characters, and those narrative concepts.  I love doing that. 

Having said that, I also love the X-Universe.  I love the way the X-Men have always functioned as a parable, a sort of fable based on ideas of racism, persecution, the many, many situations in which society reduces itself to an “Us vs. Them” scenario. I’m just really excited about both projects, I wouldn’t want to say that one gives me more pleasure than the other.  I just feel like an incredibly lucky bastard.

BF: You certainly are! [Laughs] Is there anything in particular that you want to explore on Ultimate FF?

MC: Well, I’ve been loving the book and what Mark Millar has been doing over the last year during his run. It’s audacious, big concept stuff, it’s surprising, it’s constantly setting up stories where you think he’s going to go one way and then swerving off in a different direction.  It’s been a wild ride and I want to try and carry on that tradition.  Our first arc is very, very ambitious—it takes the book in a more cosmic direction in some ways.

It’s going to be the first Ultimate appearance of a very big Marvel villain, Thanos, as you can tell from the concept sketches that have already been released.  And we’re going to do something, very surprising with that character, and we’ve got a lot of new characters that Pasqual [Ferry] has designed.  Some are going to be long-term supporting cast members over the course of the story.  It’s a very big story that opens out in a lot of different ways and we’re having a wild time with it.

BF: Is this the Ultimate Infinity Gauntlet/War?

MC: [Laughs] It’s not, although there are certain elements of that that will show up.  It’s got characters from the Kree/Skrull War; it’s got characters from elsewhere.  It’s actually got some inspirations that come from outside Marvel altogether.  Fans of Larry Marder’s Beamworld, for example, will recognize one of the characters at some point.

BF: Tying our discussion back to the first question I asked you, is it easier to go from a fantasy/horror into the cosmic realm than to something like X-Men which is, I don’t want to say “real world,” but more grounded on earth?

MC: I guess that would depend what kind of fantasy/horror you were writing.  Lucifer has always been a comic with a sort of double vision in any case in that it has that sort of cosmic epic element to it.  You know, it’s the story of what happens after the war in heaven and it sort of builds to a conclusion in which you have not only a new heaven and new earth but also a new God and sort of the abolition of hell and so on.  But it always had a human focus as well.  In every story, we tried to make sure that the human dimension of things was not neglected. 
And then Hellblazer, which was my other fantasy/horror title, was very much grounded in reality.  In fact, when I wrote it, it had large chunks of autobiography in it because John Constantine is a guy from Liverpool in Northern England living in London and that’s also my background, so I used elements from my own past as a starting point to some of the stories and to seed authenticity to it. 

So, it’s not at all hard for me to handle the “real world” aspects of X Men, in fact it’s one of the things that particularly attracted me and fascinated me about the X-Men, that there are all these sort of social and political dimensions to the comic. I think that’s one of its strengths.  But yes at the same time I’m really comfortable with cosmic aspects that I’m doing in Ultimate FF. I think writing for Vertigo has been a really good apprenticeship in all sorts of ways for writing these Marvel books.

BF: Excellent. I’ll wrap up with two questions.  First, I asked you what it was like working with Chris Bachalo on X-Men, but how about Pasqual Ferry?  They showed some of his designs and Joe Quesada’s been raving about them everywhere.  How has that experience been for you?

MC: Pasqual worked with me on the Ultimate FF/X-Men crossover so we have a good working relationship already.  And we just have a lot of fun; we’re both comfortable with each other’s working style.  We’ve been batting ideas back and forth between the two of us and Ralph Macchio and the rest of the editorial team.  It’s a very natural, very spontaneous process and, again I’ve been incredibly lucky.  On both books the art team is the best I could possibly have asked for.

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BF: Earlier on, you said that Mike Marts had brought up the idea to work with Chris on X-Men…Since you are working with Pasqual again right now, was working with him on the ongoing Ultimate FF series in your mind all along?

MC: It was just a decision we were all very, very happy with.  We talked about a number of options and this is the one that everyone felt was the best one to go forward with.  We approached Pasqual and he was available and he was excited about the prospects and that was it, we never had to go to option #2.

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BF: Ok.  Now, is there anything you wanted to say specifically about the team themselves, relationships, things that you might want to explore?  For one, Mark Millar has started to really push that the Thing is just really unhappy—there was that line “do you think he could just kill me instead of curing me” which has caused the President Thor story arc we’re in now.  It seems like they’re really pushing that, but they’ve also included the playfulness between Johnny and Ben and the burgeoning relationship between Reed and Sue.

MC: … which are all things that I will continue to explore.  I can’t say too much about the Ben situation because there are going to be developments over the next couple of issues in Ben’s kind of crisis and there is going to be some sort of resolution to that crisis.  There are going to be significant changes and yeah, I think that it’s one of the things that make him fascinating as a character, that kind of tragic/comic aspect of him, he is funny but he’s somebody who’s been cut off from the life that he knew and was comfortable with and he’ll never get back to it.
So yeah, there is a tragic dimension to the character and I will return to that theme.  The Reed/Sue relationship is going to go through some interesting bumps over the next year and there are going to be other romantic things going on for different members of the 4…  I guess that’s all I can really say about them at this point.

BF: I guess that’s a good enough insight into what you’re going to do there.  Is there anything you wanted to add about either of the books Ultimate FF or X-Men to get people excited as a final tease?

MC: A final tease…hmmm.  Yes, for Adjectiveless X-Men, one of the things that we’re going to do in the first year is re-introduce a colossally significant character from the X Men’s distant past that hasn’t been seen for a while.  There will be some significant changes, and I think it comes up to issue #200 when we’re going to bring this old character in. And there’s going to be a new character that is kind of like a counterpart to the old character.  It’s going to raise eyebrows.

BF: Great!  Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

MC: My pleasure, Sam.

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