Timestorm: 2009-2099Here’s a little future-history for you: In the winter of 1992, Marvel Comics took two big steps into the 21st Century; actually, to the end of the 21st Century to be more precise. From November of 1992 until February of 1993, Marvel unveiled versions of its characters in he year 2099: Spider-Man, Punisher, Dr. Doom, and Ravager. These characters were the basis for what would become an expanding line of futuristic Marvel comics during the mid ‘90s, and their world was dystopian—a cyberpunk future ruled by power-mongering corporations, and the heroes were “rage against the machine” types with nothing to lose. The future, at least through 1996 (while the 2099 imprint lasted) was not very promising.
Flash forward, nearly 18 years to April 2009: the Marvel Universe, under the guidance of Ms. Marvel writer Brian Reed and artist Eric Battle, finds itself in a paradox of sorts—one that has the mainstream Marvel Universe on a collision course with a futuristic (albeit slightly re-imagined) 2099 universe in a new mini-series, Timestorm 2009-2099.
Newsarama hopped in a time machine to get the scoop from Timestorm 2009-2099 writer Brian Reed on what’s brewing in the stormy times ahead.
Newsarama: First things first, Brian were you a fan of the original 2099 projects from Marvel in the early 90s?
Brian Reed: I read a fair bit of Spider-Man 2099 when it first hit, but I was just moving out on my own for the first time in those days, and money was beyond tight, so I missed out on a few things I've had to read years after the fact. In the time since though, especially while researching this series, I've found myself really falling in love with a lot of what was done back then.
NRAMA: How did you get involved with Timestorm 2009-2099?
BR: Marvel Editor Bill Rosemann called me just before Christmas and said, “I might have a Christmas present for you!” Then he told me of the desire to bring 2099 back to life, and asked if I'd be interested. It sounded like a fun challenge, and I loved working with Bill back when he was the editor on Ms. Marvel, so I said I'd love to take a crack at it and dove into a couple weeks worth of reading and research.
NRAMA: What can you tell us about the premise of the story?
BR: I told Bill that what I'd really like to do is “newuniversal the 2099 setting.” And what I meant by that was I wanted to update the setting, and the characters for a new readership, as well as bring back those readers from 16 years ago who would like to see these futuristic ideas in motion again.
I was a huge fan of the New Universe books when I was a teenager, but I can admit that just relaunching DP7 or Starbrand might not work so well with today's audience. So I'm taking a lot of lessons learned from both newuniversal and from the Ultimate books and applying them here.
NRAMA: Will there be any familiar faces from the original 2099 books returning? Obviously Spider-Man 2099 is on the cover—but is he going to be different?
BR: You can bank on Miguel O’Hara, aka Spidey 2099, but it’s going to be a younger Miguel than we saw before. Also on tap are Cerebra, Ghost Rider, a brand new Human Torch, and a few surprises (What? Who said "Hulks?" Did I really mean more than one?).
There's even a few ideas I threw on the table and expected to be told no, but instead got encouraged to go crazy.
NRAMA: The original 2099 future was extremely…futuristic. Do you think humans as a species will be as advanced or will the 2099 you have in mind be a lot different?
BR: While the year on everyone's calendars is 2099, there's some debate amongst scholars of the age as to if it is 2099, or 2199, or even 2599. We know this much for certain: in our very near future (as in, while everyone we know and love in the Marvel Universe is still alive and kicking) something very bad happens and the world as we know it collapses. An era called the Dark Ages begins, and when our society pulls itself out of that mess, we've reached the era of the 2099 stories.
I'm trying to really root the technology so it feels as if it has evolved from our modern day Marvel, where holograms and repulsors are already a going concern.
I'm also trying to spin in things we know full well are coming our way in the real world. Things like targeted advertising, or government-issued identity cards that could be used to track our every move and erase our private lives.
A big part of the story is also how the heroes of today are perceived in the world of tomorrow. We all see the heroes as these icons that will protect us from any evil. But in the future their identities have been appropriated by the corporations, and used to oppress the citizens of 2099.
NRAMA: Were you inspired by any outside sources? If so, what are some that come to mind?
BR: I was of course inspired by the 2099 books, and like them I was also inspired by the sci-fi (both literary and cinema) of the 1980's. Let's all be honest here—you take Blade Runner and William Gibson's first three novels off the table and I'm not sure there was ever a 2099 to begin with.
That said, time is damn cruel to science-fiction of all makes and models.
There's a lot of dated sci-fi ideas in the 2099 universe that just haven't aged well and would feel tired and maybe even silly if we just brought them back out of storage now and propped them up exactly as they were.
The first thing you realize as a creator when you put your feet down in 2099 is that the 2099 corner of the Marvel Universe is in need of some redesign, a refurbish, and a good paint job before we let characters and readers start romping around in there again.
NRAMA: How important is a futuristic setting in a story about the alteration of time? Can mutability of a setting prove to be a challenge?
BR: I don't know that you need to travel to the future to make a time travel story work. The first Back to the Future seemed to do just fine without it. But since we wanted to have Spidey 2009 play with Spidey 2099, the future became a going concern for us.
As for mutability caused by time travel? Oy vey! You have to be careful how far you push any of that because the whole story can fall apart around you if you're not careful.
NRAMA: How does the aspect of time figure into the story you're telling readers? Are there any paradoxical moments occurring?
BR: There's a Timestorm occurring! Now, as to what a ‘Timestorm’ is, how it starts, and how it plays out...you'll have to read the books.
NRAMA: How involved were you with Eric Battle's work on the project? Do you work closely with the artist when you're scripting or do you just let them do their thing?
BR: Been there every step of the way. As we've been re-designing some of the characters (EVERYONE CALM DOWN -- NOBODY'S TOUCHING A SINGLE WEB ON SPIDER-MAN 2099'S COSTUME) I've explained the new ideas I've had, and Eric's brought some of his own. His take on the new Human Torch made me giddy. And his new model for Cerebra...Wow! His art has inspired more ideas in my writing, and that's one of the greatest gifts you can ask for from an artist.
NRAMA: Which of the 2099 characters has been your favorite so far?
BR: Spider-Man is fun whenever and wherever he is. It takes a special person to put on that costume and adopt that name. In our future the heroes are seen as a tool of oppression, so when Miguel O'Hara puts on a costume and calls himself Spider-Man...there's a lot of "f-you, corporate a-holes" in that action. He's turning the oppressor's greatest weapon against them, and really upsetting the balance of the world in the process.
NRAMA: Will any of these 2099 characters become part of the regular Marvel Universe by the end of this project?
BR: That would be spoiling the ending! But I will tell you this: Bill and I both have the belief that when you're telling stories in a shared universe, you should always leave something behind so the next writer in line (if they're at the keyboard tomorrow, or next decade) has new toys to play with.
NRAMA: Wrapping things up, what gets things rolling in issue #1?
BR: It all starts when Spider-Man encounters a man dressed in an updated Punisher uniform. It's Punisher 2099 and he's here in the present day, trying to kill Spidey. Why? Because the voice of Thor (Remember 2099’s Church of Thor, kids?) has told him to!
And that's just the first four pages.