This week on Multiversity Comics Presents we have a very exciting interview. This week we’re featuring Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors series writer Jonathan Hickman. Hickman started his career on creator owned works for Image, but was recognized by Marvel as a burgeoning talent and given two top titles. He’s quickly established himself as one of the absolute best in the industry and is one of the most well liked writers here at Multiversity.
Enjoy this interview, and leave a comment if you’re enjoying this weekly feature.
How exactly did you get started with Marvel?
Jonathan Hickman: I was fortunate enough that I had an advocate in Brian Michael Bendis – he had dug my stuff at Image. And he, along with editor Tom Brevoort, gave me a chance on Secret Warriors… all the rest is history.
I’m a pretty fortunate guy.
In your creator-owned work you had full control of every aspect of the craft, all the way down to lettering and coloring. Is it hard giving up that much control for your Marvel projects? Also I know you used color to portray different things (like in Nightly News, where the different colors represented different time periods). Do you try to integrate things like that into your Marvel work as well?
JH: Well, Marvel has been very accommodating – and tolerant – when it comes to my opinion regarding these things. I try to stay out of the art because the people that are doing that are much talented than I am, but when it comes to covers and designing the trade, I’m pretty involved. I also occasionally contribute back matter like what has appeared in several Secret Warriors issues.
You started on creator owned projects like The Nightly News and Pax Romana, but since have moved over to working heavily with Marvel. Do you foresee a return to more creator-owned work, perhaps with Marvel’s Icon?
JH: Icon is completely up to Marvel’s discretion – so who knows – but I will never stop doing creator owned work. I actually have PLUS! coming out in late December or the first of January… so look for that!
I read way back that Pax Romana was going to follow the Hellboy model, as in there was going to be several mini-series that told a greater story. Is this still the plan, or is the first series the end of the story? Would you allow someone else to draw it?
JH: Yes, this is still the plan, and, yes, of course I would let someone else draw it. I’m not sure when I will get back to PAX, but it will happen at some point because it’s an important book to me.
I know the Core lost Pilot Season, but is it possible we’ll see any more issues of that?
JH: That’s a Top Cow question, so it’s up to them. I will say I’m not really interested in doing it if Kenneth is not on board.
After your start with creator owned projects and then moving into a less certain mainstream project like Secret Warriors, what was it like jump on board one of Marvel’s flagship titles like Fantastic Four? How did it feel to follow a high profile team like Millar and Hitch?
JH: It was a great honor to be asked to do the Fantastic Four, especially since my editor Tom Brevoort is both a big fan of the FF, and hand-picked me to be the next guy to write it. As far as who was working on the book previously, you cant really think about those kind of things, you have to just try to do the best book you can.
A lot of writers who work on Fantastic Four seem to be awfully uncertain on what to do with these characters and ultimately seem to have them only interact with each other and Dr. Doom and never really expand on the ideas that defined their Lee and Kirby origins. Yet, in just two issues you’ve reestablished them as Marvel’s resident explorers of the unknown. Why do you think you’ve been able to capture what so few other writers have been able to?Continued below
JH: I think it helps that I didn’t grow up a Fantastic Four reader. When I started doing research there were two things that, I think, really helped me, one, I started with Jack and Stan, and two, I was able to really see what works and what doesn’t because I read all the books at one time.
No nostalgia, no love of certain creators… just what I liked and what I didn’t.
With Dark Reign ending and a lot of Nick Fury and the Secret Warriors mission statement wrapping up with Siege (Save the World — kind of check. Punch Osborn in the face — check. Have a beer — definitely check.), where exactly will the future take that title?
JH: It is a mistake to think that Nick Fury’s mission ends with Siege. He has his own plan, his own agenda… it doesn’t have anything to do with all the big tent things that are happening outside of Secret Warriors.
A big hit with the fans of your Secret Warriors title is the charts that you provide for character connections and the like. While they are cryptic to us you have stated that they are the outlines for your stories. Where did you first use this concept and how did you come up with the idea?
JH: That’s just how I plot everything. I work both very visually and asymmetrically – it’s been that way my entire life… just how my head works.
With Reed Richards attempting to fix everything and Nick Fury attempting to save the world, successfully completing those character arcs in their respective titles basically means the end game for the Marvel Universe. I mean come on, who wants to read Marvel if it’s a utopia? What does the future hold for Marvel, and what is your role in defining that as the writer for two highly influential titles?
JH: HA! I would encourage you to read the books to their conclusion before making any assumptions on how they end… there may just be some plot twist in there.
As a writer who also is a very talented artist, how much direction do you give your Stefano Caselli and Dale Eaglesham in your scripts? Secret Warriors not only reads like a spy story, but frequently looks like the sequential art version of an old Bond flick, and I often wonder if that stems from your sense of visuals or from Stefano.
JH: My general rule is I like to give specific information that is related to the plot. I try very hard not to be overly descriptive, as I want the process to be organic for the artist, and God knows those guys need to be having fun to, right?
What’s your deal with Roy Lichtenstein?
JH: He’s a fraud and doesn’t deserve the respect he receives. I’m sure he’s guns blazing at a dinner party though.
To a lot of writers and artists out there, given your origins on Comic Book Resources’ Comic Idol and moving from creator-owned work to incredible projects for one of the big two, you’re an inspiration. What advice would you give to aspiring comic creators of tomorrow looking to make a break into the industry?
JH: Never compromise your vision, work harder than everyone else, and only create stories that you want to read yourself – not what you think will sell. Beyond that, cultivating your talent helps.
Who’s the better writer, Jonathan Hickman the comic writer or Jonathan Hickman, the attorney from Georgia who writes the tales of Timothy Blanchard, the “super-sized, super-talented food security specialist for the FBI.” Spies are cool and all, but I have to admit, I love fiction about obese foodies who solve crimes.
JH: Clearly, it’s the other guy.
If you enjoyed this interview, make sure to check out Hickman’s work on Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors, and Plus when it comes out in the coming months.