Newsarama's 9: Jonathan Hickman + Secret Warriors #1

Secret Warriors #1, written by Hickman

From unknown to indie sensation and now Marvel regular, Jonathan Hickman has definitely been a star on the rise in the world of comics. He's got several criticially acclaimed miniseries under his belt, and the fervor in ising about his first major Marvel work – co-writing Secret Warriors with Brian Michael Bendis. In addition to writing Nick Fury and his band of heroes, Hickman is also going to Marvel's first family in the forthcoming

March miniseries Dark Reign: Fantastic Four which we talked to him about earlier this month.

We recently named Hickman one of the 9 Comic Creators in Watch in '09, and we caught up with Hickman by phone to revel in the reward and find out more about the dynamic creator.

Newsarama: 2008 was a big year for you, with follow-ups to The Nightly News and the announcement of working with Brian Michael Bendis on Marvel's Secret Warriors. How did it all come together for you behind the scenes?

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Jonathan Hickman:Well, I had finished The Nightly News and it had gotten a little bit of praise and sold a few copies. Some of those landed in the right hands, as Brian was a big fan. so we started a dialogue back and forth. I Had looked at stuff like Fraction and Brubaker and how Brian worked with Reed, and I began to throw out ideas for us to do books together.

And one day I sent him an idea – this is right after Secret Invasion had been announced. I sent him an email because another editor had talked to be about doing a Skrull book. I was checking with Brian to make sure that ideas I had wouldn't be stepping on his toes. And he said, "Actually, I've got something better for you." Apparently, he and Breevort had been talking about him having too much planned to write and not enough time to do it. He had to give something up, and that was Secret Warriors. And then my name started being bandied around.

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NRAMA: From the talk going around about Secret Warriors., your involvement seems to be more than just writer. Are you doing any design or helping with the marketing ideas for the book?

JH:Well, I don't have anything to do with the marketing. Marvel has fantastic staff of guys doing that, and several have read Secret Warriors #1 and so that's probably one of the reasons you've seen as much as you have.

One of the things they wanted to do was a promotional website which became I volunteered to do the design for that – this was my first big gig for Marvel, and I wanted to do well so I was naturally enthusiastic. I did the design for that and they also let me do some cover design work with Jimmy Cheung's artwork. And in the first issue there's 24 pages of story and 12 pages of secret files – my hands are all over that in terms of how it's coming out visually.

NRAMA: Will you be continuing to do design work for the book?

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JH: I'm not sure. I've worked pretty closely with the guys on the book, and they work really close together – pretty much inseparable. Last night, I shot them a bunch of logos to use in the book. That's probably a cool thing for the colorist.

But for the future, I'm not sure. I've never worked on a book longer than six issues and I don't know how the book will evolve. I'm maintaining my enthusiasm and focusing on telling a story, and then letting the guys do the art. I recently had a long talk with Brevoort, and he told me "let's not waste time that you could be scripting doing design."

I'm looking forward to see where this goes. I've got a few other projects at Marvel, and I will definitely be continuing my independent stuff. I still love doing that stuff and I don't think I'll stop. But Marvel really does suck up your time. Back in October I told Tom Brevoort that I was going to have the first six issues of Secret Warriors done before the end of the year because things were meshing together really well. "Yeah, yeah" he said, "get ahead". He gave me a nice little pep talk, but sometime in the middle of December I just turned in issue 3 and I obviously wasn't going to get all six issues done before the end of the year. Tom said he thought it was cute. I guess it's something most all new writers go through.

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NRAMA: You've really skyrocketed into the forefront of comics, but not much is known about your career before comics. I know about you placing in one of the first Comic Book Idols at CBR but that's really the earliest I can find. What were you doing before that?

JH: I've been working for about fifteen years. Early on I did interactive design / CD-ROM/CDI's from Phillips. I spent a lot of time doing that – about 5 or 6 years. That type of work has now completely migrated to the web. Then I did some web development and turned into an art director at an ad agency. That sucked, because it was not high-quality work but more sales ad. And for about 3 years before The Nightly News, I worked as a political consultant – which makes the whorish life of an advertising person seem easy.

NRAMA: With the presidential election just finishing, many people have that on their mind. What kind of political campaigns did you consult on?

JH: Just state-wide stuff in South Carolina. It became increasing like watching people make sausage; getting to close to that sort of thing really burns you out.

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NRAMA: You're also working on Dark Reign: Fantastic Four, and I discovered that you're relatively new to Fantastic Four. Was it just the FF, or larger Marvel or even superhero comics you were out of the loop on?

JH: No, it's just a specific thing with the Fantastic Four. I read X-Men growing up, and I know the mutant universe. Spider-man's the same way; I never really read it. I just bought Spider-man a little bit when Todd McFarlane was the artist. Other than that, I really didn't have any exposure to those kinds of books. DC is the same way – I never read Superman or JLA but I did read Legion of Super-Heroes and Teen Titans.

NRAMA: Let's talk more about that – what were some of your favorite books from your younger days?

JH: Legion of Super-Heroes, but I probably didn't get in on that until during the Great Darkness saga at about 280 or 290. But I did go back and by issues all the way back to 200. I was a big Legion fan, and a big Teen Titans fan from the Marv Wolfman and George Perez era. And I was a huge fan of the X-Men up until I stopped in the 90s – probably about 1994.

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NRAMA: What led you to quit comics for a time period back then?

JH: I tried to get into comics initially after I graduated Clemson in 1994. I spent a year tying to get in, and I quit reading books because not getting in made me sad. I dropped comics until about three or four years ago.

NRAMA: As a bit of a indie star, did you read any independent books back then?

JH: I read Elfquest, and I remember reading Dreadstar pretty religiously.

NRAMA: Were you into the launch of Image comics back in the early 90s?

JH: I bought the Image books when they came out. They looked beautiful, and the quality of the books were pretty amazing at the time.

NRAMA: In a previous interview, you mentioned plans fro a self-anthology through Image called Plus!. Is that still on the table?

JH: Definitely. I plan on getting it out sometime this year. I haven't talked with Image anymore about it – I need to have a conversation with them. But I'm going to wait until I finish turning in the final files for all of my trades.

Plus! is really an experimental book to tell short stories and draw them in different ways. I just want a book that I can play around in and try different stuff. It's going to be in a landscape format, and the goal is to have it come out a couple times a year. I know what's going to be in it. Short stories about 16 pages each – three per book with various and sundry other stuff fitting in it. Some stories will last more than one volume, while others will be self-contained.

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NRAMA: Will you be drawing it or enlisting others to come in?

JH: It'll just be me doing all the drawing, unless Bill Sienkiewicz wants to jump in. [laughs]

NRAMA: Paging Mr. Sienkiewicz, Mr. Sienkiewicz to the Newsarama courtesy desk.

Wrapping up, do you have anything else planned for 2009?

JH: Well, I've got Secret Warriors, Fantastic Four: Dark Reign and two other projects at Marvel I can't really talk about. I'm also doing some stuff with Zak Penn, but we haven't announced the publisher yet.

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