In April, one of the most influential superhero teams of the last decade is turning on its ear. “Ultimate Marvel NOW!” begins with the new series All-New Ultimates showing the Ultimate Universe’s Miles Morales – aka Spider-Man – leading a team of fellow teen heroes as the newest iteration of that universe’s flagship team, the Ultimates. Indie creator Michel Fiffe and artist Amilcar Pinna are leading the way here, taking this new team out into the streets of the world and fighting super-powered street gangs, sewer experiments gone wrong, white power organizations and more.
Announced last week, All-New Ultimates is the beginning of a new era for the Ultimate line. Fiffe might be considered a surprising choice to write All-New Ultimates considering he’s never worked for Marvel or DC, but Marvel’s de facto head writer Brian Michael Bendis reportedly hand-picked Fiffe based on his self-published series Copraspecifically for this book. Although Fiffe hasn’t worked in the Big Two before, his fanboy credentials are not in doubt. Newsarama spoke with Fiffe about writing literally the “Ultimate” teen team, what they’re up against, and the long legacy of teen superhero teams this series joins.
Newsarama: Michel, what can you tell us about this All-New Ultimates book?
Michel Fiffe: It's a team of teen superheroes trying to make a dent in the insane crime wave that has swept their city. They're disassociated youth, misfits and loners who have to work together while trying to prevent absolute mayhem in Hell's Kitchen.
Newsarama: Is this All-New Ultimates team connected to the main Ultimates team, or are they the main Ultimates team now?
Fiffe: They're pretty much connected by the name and by their general ideals but - spoiler alert, readers - that's about it. The old team has been decimated. There is a new system in check but the New Ultimates are now operating outside of it, not within it.
Nrama: Wow. The team is comprised of Spider-Man, Kitty Pryde, Cloak, Dagger, Black Widow (formerly Spider-Woman) and the reformed villain Bombshell. How does the dynamics inside the team work?
Fiffe: When Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Bombshell, Kitty Pryde, Cloak & Dagger get together, it's the same as when any group of teenagers get together except not at all. Meaning some will hold grudges or have crushes, some will take the lead and some will hug the wall... but they all have to show up and be super heroes. Bravery is their equalizer.
Nrama: Speaking of bravery, what are the All-New Ultimates up against?
Fiffe: They'll be up against the many super powered street gangs that have taken over West Manhattan, primarily the top crew, the Serpent Skulls. They've also got to deal with the gang war sparked by a gun toting lunatic who loves to pick off teens in costumes. Let's not forget the cybernetic hit squad, hormones, sewer experiments gone terribly wrong, more hormones, a white power organization, and yet more hormones.
Nrama: This all takes place in the aftermath of Cataclysm -- how does that event impact this series?
Fiffe: That event is crucial in that it forced them to work as a tight crew under duress. Being swept up in the aftermath kept them together long enough to make it official. So we wouldn't have a team if it wasn't for tragic mass destruction.
Nrama: Teen superhero teams are an interesting and popular dynamic in comics. Can you talk about the formula, and if you're looking at any inspiration for yours?
Fiffe: Yeah, well, it is a big tradition, isn't it? High tension, lust, revenge, responsibility, sexual identity, rage, confusion, super powers... what's a teen book without these things? All-New Ultimates aren't a family like Power Pack or an institution like the X-men, and they weren't brought together by a stranger's premonition ala Teen Titans. They're modern kids on their daily grind trying to survive, unsupervised, untamed. That can be fun but deadly and full of consequence. As for inspiration, Degrassi High all the way. I'm not talking about that Wheelchair Jimmy stuff either, I'm talking about old school Wheels going on the hunt for his deadbeat drummer dad. Teens played by real teens; you cannot beat that.
Nrama: What would you say is the big theme and the over goal you have for this series?
Fiffe: Unity in the face of death. This team is made up of wildly different people who may not associate with one another under normal circumstance. But nothing is normal here, y'know, they're bound by the darker side of corporate misconduct, unified by the desire to help those in need. And that's not the easiest thing to do. My goal is to have them reconcile their messy emotions with their undeniable responsibility to justice. But also to have them fight really cool villains. And make-out sometimes. Maybe with the villains.
Nrama: Working with you on this is Amilcar Pinna. I know it's still early on in the book, but what's it like having him illustrate your scripts?
Fiffe: It's as if God herself sent Amilcar a sublime bottle of ink in order for him to bring life to these characters. Actually, he may work digitally.