The Big Deal: Mark Paniccia on Ultimatum

Mark Paniccia on Ultimatum

Today it begins, and nothing will ever be the same.

It’s a phrase that’s been used time and again in comics, and this week, Marvel Comics is promising it with Ultimatum, the five issue miniseries by Jeph Loeb and David Finch. Set in the Ultimate Universe (the next-door, less continuity-heavy neighbor of the “regular” Marvel Universe), the story of Ultimatum features Magneto looking for a little revenge thanks to revelations in the recently-concluded Ultimate Origins.

In Origins, writer Brian Bendis revealed the close ties between virtually all of the major players of the Ultimate Universe, including the fact that mutants in the Ultimate Universe were purposely created by man…not God as Magneto has always believed. Also, in the final issue of Origins, the Watcher appeared, and indicated that it had materialized on earth due to the coming devastation.

Among fans, rumors have been circulating that the event will result in a realignment of the Ultimate Universe’s titles and characters, while Mark Millar has already confirmed that he will be writing a new series set in the Ultimate Universe next year.

For an overview of where things are, and some possible hints of where things may go in the Ultimate Universe, we spoke with Ultimatum editor Mark Paniccia.

Newsarama: Mark, with Ultimate Origins wrapped and Ultimatum starting, Marvel's Ultimate Universe is getting a lot of serious attention with an eye on rejuvenating the imprint...and the "things will never be the same" card is being played. You're relatively new to the line, having come in after Bill Rosemann moved to other titles, so, as objectively as you can be, what was/is up with the Ultimate Universe that it needs this attention in this manner?

Mark Paniccia: For years now, the regular Marvel Universe has been hitting new highs and it keeps on topping the charts. So, while the Ultimate line made history by introducing Marvel concepts through a different lens and injecting much needed excitement in the industry, it raised the bar for the rest of the company. Marvel Proper ended up as the line’s biggest competitor.

Ultimatum is an event that will change the status quo of the line and reaffirm that the Ultimate U is a place where anything can happen.

NRAMA: One of the original charms or…appealing features of the Ultimate Universe is that it was supposed to be as free from the shackles of continuity as it could be, that is, without the 30 years of stories and histories that the regular Marvel Universe has. Has that accessibility held up in your opinion, and where does Ultimatum fit in with that original conceit/approach?

MP: With around eight years of product, it’s safe to say that the Ultimate line has a pretty rich history and continuity. Ultimatum won’t erase any of that. What it will do is change the landscape of the UU in such a drastic way it will redefine the differences between it and its older brother, Marvel Proper.

NRAMA: In your view, how "different" should the Ultimate Universe be from the regular Marvel U? Obviously, you're not going to destroy Pittsburgh or anything like that, but still...should it be a more modern mirror of the main Marvel Universe?

MP: I always thought of the Ultimate U as a reinterpretation of the Marvel Universe. While it started as a modernized version that is closer to movie continuity than the original universe, the Ultimate U really is a place where even the core concepts of the characters are subject to reinvention.

Here we can take advantage of the fact that familiar ideas and characters can be turned on their ear or given a twist you’d never see coming. We don’t want it to be a mirror of 616 and it shouldn’t be.

NRAMA: Brian Bendis, one of the architects of the Ultimate Universe, is famous for pointing out that the seeds and elements of Ultimate Origins had been in place since the earliest days of the Ultimate U. In that vein, where did the seeds of Ultimatum come from? Does this have as long a lineage as Origins?

MP: Ultimatum was the brainchild of the creative teams involved along with Dan Buckley and Joe Quesada. They were looking for something huge, something that would have major repercussions in the Ultimate U and mix things up in a way we haven’t seen since the beginning of the line.

The event’s been in the works for a while now and my predecessor, Senior Editor Ralph Macchio, and his crack editorial team (Bill Rosemann and Lauren Sankovitch) get major kudos for the coordination and planning that went into launching it.

NRAMA: Magneto's clearly been shown to be the one of the, if not the main antagonist in this story. For those who haven't been following the Ultimate U all that closely, what's his deal here? He's always had a mad on for humans, but what's got him so torqued off here?

MP: He’s had it with the homo sapiens! Not only is he thirsting for revenge, but he looks at humans as a species that’s failed time after time. Now he’s going to do one of the most unimaginable and selfish things a character with his power could do…he’s going to play God. That’s where things get really hairy. This is where lives get lost, characters shed familiar skins and readers get a veritable tsunami of jaw-dropping moments.

NRAMA: Given that this is the Ultimate Universe, do Jeph, Mark, and Brian have more leeway in the realm of "nothing will ever be the same?"

MP: When you’re dealing with top tier talent like Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis and the incomparable Mark Millar—and they’re not restricted by the same kind of limitations a core universe might have—you’re pretty much guaranteed cover-to-cover shock and awesome! This isn’t about the illusion of change, this is all about change.

NRAMA: Fair enough then, broad strokes - what does Ultimatum do for the Ultimate Universe?

MP: Ultimatum is going to make it clear to readers that nothing is safe in Ultimate Universe. Not the most popular characters, not the characters you think we’d never mess with…not the world as a whole. The impact and repercussions of the event will be far reaching and permanent. New Ultimates, new teams and new alliances are on the horizon. As a reader, you’ll be experiencing one of the biggest status quo shifts in recent comic history.

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