In his first few appearances in Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Ultimates, it wasn’t clear if the Ultimate Universe version of Thor was truly the Asgardian God of Thunder or simply a super-powered crackpot.
By the end of the second Ultimates volume, this version of the Marvel Comics hero was confirmed as indeed the real deity deal, something that will be explored even further in th November-starting four-issue miniseries Ultimate Thor. Written by Jonathan Hickman (Shield, Fantastic Four) and drawn by Carlos Pacheco (Arrowsmith, Ultimate Comics: Avengers), the title, announced at Comic-Con International: San Diego late last month, traces the character’s origins from the ancient days of Asgard to World War II, up to the present day of the Ultimate Universe.
Newsarama talked Ultimate Thor with Hickman via e-mail, finding out how the creator of The Nightly News plans to put an Ultimate Universe spin on ageless mythological characters.
Odin character design.
Newsarama: This is your Ultimate Universe debut. At first, the Ultimate Universe was meant to be a streamlined alternative to the MU, but 10 years in, it's very much taken on a life and complex history of its own. What do you think is the role of the Ultimate Universe in 2010?
Jonathan Hickman: Well, I think that, whether you liked the outcome or not, the reasons for doing Ultimatum were necessary. The Ultimate Universe had become too much like the regular Marvel Universe, and that was certainly not a good thing for the line.
Now, I feel that things are set up so that we can tell some truly original stories again. And that's the fun stuff, right?
Loki character design.
Nrama: This is coming out just a few months before the Marvel Studios Thor feature film. Given the history of the Ultimate line as being new reader-friendly and the fact that this series is depicting Thor's past, is it being written with the thought in mind, to whatever degree, as being an ideal pick for new readers interested in the movie?
Hickman: It's an origin story. If people can't easily follow along, I've certainly failed to do my job. I would also consider it a failure if I didn't give the readers that already “know” some of the story just a little bit more.
I think we do both. It's rich while being accessible as well.
Volstagg character design.
Nrama: Thor started out in Ultimates as being pretty noticeably different than the classic Marvel Universe version, than eventually took on characteristics bringing him closer to the original. Where does your Ultimate Thor fall in that continuum?
Hickman: More the former than the latter, but very, very mindful of what Jeph [Loeb] is doing as well. I've had the opportunity to read all of his scripts for the remainder of his Ultimates mini [Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates], and he does some very cool things with Thor that I think work very well.
Mark and Jeph left the cupboard full.
Hogun character design.
Nrama: Getting more specifically into this series, what's the timeline covered? Obviously there's a Ragnarok (which could happen at any time), and then World War II is mentioned in the information we've received. Does it delve into the present-day Ultimate U at all?
Hickman: It ends up there. The story starts eons ago in Asgard when Thor, Loki and Balder are younger men. We cover a great war in heaven, the fall of Asgard, the death and rebirth of Thor on Earth as a man.
We cover all the highs and lows.
Fandral character design.
Nrama: What are the other characters we can expect to see in the series besides Thor and Loki? Guessing Odin and the usual Asgard crew like the Warriors Three, but maybe someone like Captain America or Nick Fury, seeing as how the story involves WWII?
Hickman: Everyone we haven't seen yet in Asgard. All the Ultimates. I know the limited series is only four issues, but we cover a lot of territory.
I'm pretty sure Fury has a stake.
Heimdall character design.
Nrama: Ragnarok is, by its nature, an event that's been depicted in the past in many forms. How is your perspective on it unique — and distinctly a product of the Ultimately Universe?
Hickman: It's not mythological in its conclusion. The rules are different. The “point” of Ragnarok has changed. Some of the end-times catalyst remain the same, others are new.
Ultimate Ragnarok, right?
Nrama: Looks like the conflict between Thor and Loki is at the center of this series. How do you characterize their relationship, and is it challenging to try and add a new voice to something that's been explored for literally hundreds of years?
Hickman: It's always Loki and Thor, isn't it? I think the good stuff — where we can make it our own — is how they got to the point where they had to be adversaries.
Wrapping that around the thematic core of the story seems so be yielding something that is, if not unique, then at least new-like.
Nrama: Very exciting to see Carlos Pacheco on art for this. How has working with him been so far?
Hickman: Awesome. He's a master. And I am but a student.