Jonathan Hickman - Secret Warriors, the FF and More

Marvel Preview: Secret Warriors #1

Secret Warriors #1

Jonathan Hickman is one of the success stories of the last few years, starting with his acclaimed Image series The Nightly News and continuing through such works as A Red Mass for Mars, Transhuman and Pax Romana.

His work brought him to the attention of Marvel, which now has him on several high-profile books, including Dark Reign: Fantasic Four with Sean Chen, and the new ongoing Secret Warriors, co-written with superstar Brian Michael Bendis. We chatted with Hickman about what to expect in his upcoming work, how he’s handling Marvel’s First Family, and why some people misunderstand what Secret Warriors is really about.

Newsarama: Jonathan, you’ve had a busy year with your Image books and now the stuff at Marvel. It seems like things are going pretty well for you right now.

Jonathan Hickman: Thanks! Yeah, it’s been really nice.

NRAMA: You talk a bit in the back of The Nightly News TPB about what it took for you to realize your ambitions. Would you say at this point that you’re where you want to be?

JH: Certainly not! (laughs) I always want to try and get better, and to do better work. My Image stuff, up to this point, has been read by maybe four or five thousand people, and I know my Marvel work is reaching a much larger audience. I’ll be happy when I know that people are giving my work a shot, and that I’m happy with what I’ve written.

NRAMA: Are you still going to be doing some books through Image?

JH: I’m going to do a sort of self-anthology book, Plus, that’s going to be coming out through Image sometime this year. I’ve been busy with stuff at Marvel recently, and I’m not sure when it’ll come out, but it’ll definitely come out.

NRAMA: Let’s talk Dark Reign: Fantastic Four. It sounds like H.A.M.M.E.R. is going to be attaching the FF, and a lot of other weird things are going to get involved…

JH: Yeah. The thing about Fantastic Four is that I did not grow up as a fan. I’m really new to the FF, and I did a lot research…and what became clear to me is that no matter what you think of Millar or McDuffie or Straczynski’s runs, there’s some aspects of the team that haven’t been delved into recently.

At the conclusion of Civil War and through Secret Invasion, there hasn’t been a lot to address what happened in that period of time. What I’m doing is revisiting a lot of that, and pushing the book in a different direction. We’ll be tying up some loose ends, and all that’s happening while H.A.M.M.E.R.’s doing their bad-guy thing. Reed is trying to figure out why all this stuff that has gone wrong over the last few years – or months, or however it works in Marvel time – and that’s kind of the push of the book.

NRAMA: Reed was one of the guys with Tony Stark in coming up with the Initiative structure, and that hasn’t gone very well so far…

JH: Right, that’s part of the reason for this. And he was part of the Illuminati, and that’s why this Skrull stuff happened. Reed’s responsible for a lot of stuff – he’s always been the smartest guy in the room, he’s always had all these plans of how to make things work, and if you think about it, he’s been wrong a lot. (laughs)

And that’s not acceptable to Reed, so he’s going to spend some time and build a machine to help him figure all that out…and everything spirals out of control rapidly.

NRAMA: As a writer, how do you see the individual members of the Fantastic Four?

JH: Well, it’s tough. (laughs) I’ve only written one issue so far, so I still feel like I’m finding their voices. Having said that, when I’m writing them, I think of Reed Richard as the most important person in the Marvel Universe, Sue Richards as the reason why Reed works, Ben and Johnny are kind of Butch and Sundance characters, in my head they’re kind of turning into Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Newsarama Note: Readers, rent this movie if you haven’t already.

…they have a camaraderie that isn’t equal, but I think it works. And the kids are fascinating to me. I love what Millar’s doing with Val, and the history of Franklin Richards. Overall, I’m pretty happy with how things are going with the characters. I’m into it! I’m not completely there yet, but I think I’m getting there.

NRAMA: It sounds like you have a few antagonists with this one…H.A.M.M.E.R., the Deviants, a couple of Doombots…who’s the main antagonist?

JH: Norman Osborn shows up around issue #3, he’s obviously a big part of it. Beyond that, though, a lot of it is Sue and Ben and Johnny trapped in this situation that Reed has created while he’s trying to figure everything out, and they’re facing versions of themselves in alternate, screwed-up realities, which makes it like the FF vs. the FF for a while.

NRAMA: Will Doom be showing up?

JH: Nope! No Doom in this one. And there’s a reason he’s not showing up, which I can’t get into right now.

NRAMA: Fair enough. What’s it like working with Sean Chen?

JH: I’m a big fan of Sean’s – when I found out we could get him for the book, I said, “Absolutely! Grab him immediately!” There’s a lot of complicated stuff in the book, machinery and robots and that sort of thing, and of course he’s great at drawing that. I’ve seen his work on the first issue, and it’s amazing. He is nailing it. I think it’s his best stuff, and I think this is going to be a big book for him.

NRAMA: We also want to talk about Secret Warriors – obviously, there’s been a bit of radio silence on this one due to Secret Invasion going on, but what can you tell us about the book at this time?

JH: Well, at the end of Secret Invasion, Fury and the kids kind of disappear, and there is a sentiment that Fury put the team together because they couldn’t trust anyone because of the Skrull invasion. But in reality, he put them together for not just that, but some other reasons…and at the end of the first issue, we find out who the real opposition for the Secret Warriors will be.

We won’t actually get into the Secret Warriors vs. H.A.M.M.E.R. stuff until the second arc. The first arc is more of a Hydra-thing than a H.A.M.M.E.R. thing.

NRAMA: Have you been involved with the viral “Agent of Nothing” site?

JH: I did! I did some design work for it, though the guys in the marketing department at Marvel put it together, and they’re doing a great job.

NRAMA: Marvel’s been more involved in viral promotions lately. Do you find your background with Image gives you an advantage for that type of work?

JH: Yeah, I did that stuff for a while, and know what works, and I have an idea of what works over the screen. But the guys Marvel has in-house have a great grasp of this stuff, and a great plan for it. It’s going to have some evolving content as the book launches, and some in-depth stuff that going to be very cool.

NRAMA: One question I’m sure you’re sick of being asked – what’s it like working with Brian Michael Bendis?

JH: It’s a good gig! Brian’s really smart, and he’s a very savvy player, and a great storyteller. He’s one of my favorite writers, so this is a win for me! I hope he’s enjoying it. (laughs) Someday, I’ll have to call him up and ask if he enjoyed this. But it’s great to know I can call him up and ask him questions about anything, and get his input, which is gold. (laughs)

NRAMA: Some people have noted some basic similarities between the Secret Warriors and the Young Avengers. Any chance those two groups will meet?

JH: I think the name “Secret Warriors” describes everyone in the book, good and bad – it’s not just the kids. They’re not a group with the name “The Secret Warriors.” A lot of people haven’t figured that out yet, but that’s the whole book – it’s about subterfuge and spy games.

The kids are a really important part of it, and so is Fury and so is Hydra, and so are all the ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. But as far as the Young Avengers stuff, I don’t have anything planned, and there hasn’t been any talk about it. I don’t even know what the Young Avengers are up to right now, actually. I think they’re waiting for Alan Heinberg to come back.

NRAMA: What other projects are you working on?

JH: I’ve got two other books lined up at Marvel – I can’t talk about them, but they’re cool gigs. I’m busy, I’ve got plenty of work – and I can’t complain.

And I want to plug Stefano Caseli on Secret Warriors -- I knew he was good, but I didn’t know how good. The art for the first issue is just amazing, and what Daniele Rudoni is doing on colors is just taking it to another level. Those guys are going to go big-time – you heard it here.

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1 comes out March 4th; Secret Warriors #1 hits stands February 9th.

Marvel's Dark Reign Coverage


Twitter activity