As Marvel's "Heroic Age" influences comics throughout the publisher's line, Fantastic Four will experience the hopefulness of heroes by re-examining its role in society.
It begins with Fantastic Four #579, an issue writer Jonathan Hickman is calling an "important issue" and a "manifesto" for what the Fantastic Four should be about.
The issue, which features fill-in artist Neil Edwards on pencils, tells the story of how Reed Richards is so struck by the events of Siege that he takes the future of discovery into his own hands by forming a new organization called the "Future Foundation."
Newsarama spoke with Hickman about the story, and although he could only describe it in abstract terms, the writer opened up about why this issue is relevant in not only the Marvel Universe, but our current society as well.
Newsarama: How does "Heroic Age" impact Fantastic Four?
Jonathan Hickman: Our first "Heroic Age" bannered book will be Fantastic Four #579. We're pretty excited about it. The Heroic Age is really more of a new trend in how we're trying to tell stories at Marvel, but I think, since I came on Fantastic Four on Issue #570, we've actually been trying to tell stories that way the entire time.
It's got kind of a sense of better days. And that's not to say we're nostalgic, but there's this feeling of better days ahead instead of just better days gone by.
But we're going to be part of the "Heroic Age" banner because it's very timely, and it's good for the Fantastic Four because it's the type of environment where a family superhero book can be prominent and can seem a lot more relevant.
Nrama: What can you tell us about this first "Heroic Age" issue in May?
Hickman: Well, one of the things we're trying to do in Fantastic Four is not do a lot of long stories, where it takes five or six issues to tell one chunk of a story. And Fantastic Four #579 is a done-in-one story. And it's kind of a manifesto for what I think the Fantastic Four should be about. Maybe I shouldn't have taken 10 issues to get there, but there it is. I think it's an important issue.
It's about Reed's place in Marvel's scientific community and what he thinks of that community at large, and what it means for society. And what the Fantastic Four's place is going forward in the Marvel Universe. And what he thinks is important. I know that's a little abstract, but the concept's a little abstract.
Nrama: Is Reed confronted by the changes that happen at end of Siege?
Hickman: Yeah, it's one of those things where you wake up one day and realize there's been a paradigm shift. It's kind of how the United States is after a re-election or after some traumatic or amazingly heroic event. You know, the day after the moon landing or something like that. It's just a moment in time.
The end of Siege and embarking on this new age is that kind of thing. And that's how it affects Reed and the Fantastic Four.
Nrama: How does Reed respond?
Hickman: He responds with something called the Future Foundation. It's a new organization that he founds. The issue is kind of a "getting the band together" issue where he forms this Foundation. It's like the first 30 minutes of Oceans Eleven or something like that. But it's a lot of fun.
Nrama: I know you can't give too much away, but what is the Future Foundation?
Hickman: The Future Foundation is an outreach of the Fantastic Four. It's kind of a side project of his that has to do with his kids, and his responsibility to them, ensuring that there's a better world for them to grow up in.
Nrama: So Siege is kind of a wake-up call to him, where he wants to focus on the future?
Hickman: Yeah. I mean, I just think that there's this thing where a scientist can only handle one scientific revolution in their career, because once they experience that revolution, it changes everything, and they spend the rest of their life defending it. I think that's what happens when you get old. You try to squeeze every drop out of life instead of remembering that as human beings, we do bold, fearless things to push the race forward, and that's not a sport for old men. Like I said earlier, I think we're just kind of at a place where, not to be agist or anything like that, but I think a generation is coming to an end of their usefulness, and we're at a place where it's time for something new. We don't need people who are afraid of tomorrow running things. It's dangerous, and it's not good.
Nrama: I know it's hard to say too much about a one-issue story, but you said it has to do with his kids, and the word "future" certainly implies he's thinking about the next generation. Is this something that not only occurs to him because of Siege, but also because he's a father?
Hickman: Yes. That's completely accurate. That's where he is as a character. And I think that's where we are as a society. We're in one of those funny mid-generational phases, where we're looking at the calamity of our fathers, and we're faced with the needs of our kids. And how are we going to address those? Is it pay now or pay later? Is it sacrifice? Is it ingenuity? Is it doing things in an entirely different way? I think Reed's approach, and what he's thinking about, is very timely.
I know it sounds very abstract and all that, but as a comic, it works.
Nrama: And Neil is doing this issue? He's done a few past issues, right?
Hickman: Yeah, Neil drew issues #573 and #574, in between Dale's two arcs that he's done. And he's back for this issue. And we're very excited. Neil's new to comics, kind of like I am, so he's really enthusiastic and he gets so much better with every page he turns in. And I'm excited about where he's headed. And I'm excited to see what he's going to do with this. I certainly believe in him as a talent, that he's going to be able to tell this story. I'm excited for him.
Nrama: Just to clarify, since you call it a done-in-one, does this issue influence future Fantastic Four stories, since you called it an important issue?
Hickman: It does. What I mean by done-in-one is that you've gotten a whole story when you close the book. There's no cliffhanger. But I don't really do pieces that get thrown away. My plan for Fantastic Four started with #570 and it takes us through #600. So this is really a 31-issue story. And this issue is part of it. I don't waste beats, for the most part. Everything I throw out there, especially a whole issue worth of stuff, yeah, we'll revisit this in a major, major way. It's going to have pretty big implications.More on the HEROIC AGE: