What will the Fantastic Four look like in the year 2061? You won’t have to grow old to find out. This Wednesday Marvel Entertainment releases 100th Anniversary Special – Fantastic Four #1, the first in a series of one-shots providing a glimpse at what Marvel’s top heroes will look like in the year 2061 – 100 years since the beginning of the “Marvel Age” marked by the debut of Fantastic Four #1 in 1961.
Written by Jen Van Meter and drawn by Joanna Estep, 100th Anniversary Special – Fantastic Four #1 looks to the future and sees a world where Reed and Johnny are departed and presumed dead, the FF are disgraced in the eyes of the public, and it’s up to the children of the FF (and their foes) to unite to prove to themselves and the world just what the Fantastic Four was and could be once more. Van Meter didn’t just jump forward 47 years and recreate a team; as Newsarama learned, Van Meter worked out all that would happen between now and 2061 to lead them to this point in 100th Anniversary Special – Fantastic Four #1. In addition to the issue itself, she’s namedropping fictional events of the future that builds towards this special issue ripped from the future.
Newsarama: Jen, how did you go about examining the modern Fantastic Four to begin to extrapolate how they’d be in the year 2061?
Jen Van Meter: I did it entirely backwards. When I first got the invitation to do this, I didn't think, "what's happening to the Fantastic Four in 47 years?" My first thoughts were about all the technological, editorial and creative changes that would necessarily occur over 47 years, and--along with that--all the line-wide events, massive overhauls, re-numberings, continuity shifts -- it was a fun game all its own just imagining all kinds of stuff that could happen between now and the 2061 date on the cover of this one issue of this one title. I invented imaginary editors who had mandated killing off all the characters we know now, events that had destroyed Earth, restored it again, marriages, invasions, wars, changing trends in popular story-telling and demographics--on and on. Our editor, Emily Shaw, will testify that I sent her way more crazy "background" material than could ever possibly fit into a single issue--when I realized there were absolutely no limits on this imaginary future continuity, I kind of went to town.
From there I thought, what do you do if you're writing the Fantastic Four in 46 years and you know you get to write the 100th Anniversary issue? My answer was, you try to build to something spectacular, something that's going to delight your readers, something that's going to honor a century's worth of this book. You're going to re-unite the original Fantastic Four! Which means they had to have been separated, so, how and why? What should that reunion feel like? If they haven't been together, but the book's been getting published all this time, who has the book been about?
In that sense, it was less about what the Four are like right now or recently, and more about trying to convey the core things that I think people have always valued about these characters and will continue to. That would be the job on such a momentous occasion, wouldn't it?
Nrama: Joana, let’s bring you in - how did you go about deciding what the FF of 2061 and their surroundings would look like?
Joanna Estep: Jen's script was a big help with my visuals. There were always a few key elements that she would include in her wording that would inform the rest of the design choices. Also… (moment of embarrassing honesty and now that I've told you I will have to kill you) I really struggle with maintaining symmetry when I'm drawing inorganic curvature. So when I was designing futuristic tech stuff I decided I was going to take a harshly geometric approach. Lots of straight lines! Beyond that, I was just searching for a look that would stand out, and I recalled the incredible way that Kyle Baker emphasized light sources in his book You Are Here by coloring on the line art. I really wanted to try for something like that.
Nrama: So what is the Fantastic Four like in 2061? Are there even four of them?
Van Meter: The teenagers wearing the 4 in 2061 are legacy characters, children descended from relationships, character introductions and events we've hypothesized could happen over the next thirty years. For imaginary 2061 readers, they'll have been the Fantastic Four for around the last fifteen years.
The four kids basically work as an investigation team for an intergalactic governing body that has strictly prohibited time travel and other disruptive hi-jinx. They are science-adventurers operating under the auspices of a pretty oppressive governing body. They don't love the Intergalactic Union, but they do their best to do good within the confines of existing law.
Newsarama: So with all those restrictions, what are they up to?
Van Meter: Their last couple issues have seen them stumbling across a lot of strange incidents of space-time disruption. They've been investigating and using chronometrode drones to repair damaged patches of timescape while facing the usual drama and distractions that come up when you're fifteen or sixteen. At the beginning of this issue, a whole lot of stuff happens quickly and they -- well, they go missing. Someone is going to have to find them.
Nrama: Joanna, what’s it like drawing the Fantastic Four – but a very different, very new Fantastic Four?
Estep: Sometimes I feel like the queen of drawing for franchises I know nothing about. I'm a big Marvel fan, but of all Marvel's big properties, I absolutely knew the least about the Fantastic Four, so I had to do some studying. I was initially tied up in staying true to the source material, but Jen and Emily encouraged me to loosen up and go a little crazy. Fantastic Four is such a venerable title that I think it was both exciting and terrifying to be designing all new characters and costumes. I could probably have made even wilder design choices, but for me it's always a balancing act between my ambitions and my creative comfort zone.
Nrama: This is the FF, but I don’t hear anything about Reed, Sue, Johnny, Ben, or even a She-Hulk or Alicia to be found. I know 2061 is a long way away, but where all they?
Van Meter: Man, Chris, you have a lot of back issues to read! The Dust to Dust event in 2035 destroyed Earth, remember? And the whole of the surviving Marvel Universe was living on other planets or on space stations for some eight years? So when Franklin Richards and the Grey Phoenix put a new, young Earth in the place of the old one and everyone started moving back, there was that whole storyline where Reed Richards had defied the Intergalactic Union and tried to blow up the moon. Franklin, Reed, Johnny and Victor von Doom were killed when intergalactic forces tried to arrest them. Gone. Kaput. Sue and Ben were arrested, and kind of disappeared out of continuity, really.
Nrama: With all that, how does the public now see the Fantastic Four in 2061?
Van Meter: Well, you know, the kids--Trin, Kirby, Vicky and Cam--do a lot of good, but in the grand Marvel tradition, the public is nonetheless pretty wary of them. They are direct descendants of some of the greatest traitors the population can remember, after all. They don't spend a lot of time on Earth, and when they do, they have to deal with that infamy sort of shadowing them--that's one of the reasons they love space adventuring.
Nrama: I know this is the FF of 2061, but could we see some of their villains or supporting cast in 2061 in some shape or form?
Van Meter: It is an anniversary issue. Important Things have to happen, right?
It's not a spoiler to dispel one rumor, though: the redemption story they gave Dr. Doom in 2039's "LatV Station Saga" is far too beloved by the fans to ever touch. As far as I'm concerned, he died a hero, and if it's ever retconned or undone it won't be me that does it.
Nrama: This is said to be a standalone story, but future versions of heroes have had some success. With this immense backstory you’ve developed, could you see yourself returning to do more with the FF of 2061?
Van Meter: I had so much fun with this -- with the idea of it, and working with Joanna Estep and Emily Shaw--every step of it was just a delight. I would dive back (forward?) into a related project in a minute if asked.
Estep: I would absolutely love to work with Marvel again. At the start I was very intimidated, but working with Jen and Emily was fun and relaxing, so I was able to let go of my anxieties and embrace the excitement of drawing my first superhero comic. I'm going to refrain from geeking out and detailing all the marvel titles I'd love to work on, and just say that I'd have a blast drawing Captain Marvel's awesome hair. Or, you know… any iteration of Loki, since I have made a disgusting amount of Loki fan art in recent years. Or thinking back to my sweaty pubescent fumblings, I recall drawing a lot of pictures of Rogue implausibly kissing Gambit… Shoot, I'd better stop there. Thanks for talking to me!