NYCC '09 - More on the Ultimate Avengers with Mark Millar

Captain America leaves a building in his own, unique style

Last September, we brought you details of Mark Millar’s return to the Ultimate Universe with a new series, Ultimate Avengers. At the time, Ultimatum and its status quo changing ways were just beginning to be realized, so Millar’s new project didn’t seem quite like a natural fit for the Ultimate Universe as it was.

Oh how a world-shaking miniseries like Ultimatum will change things.

With the shockwaves of Ultimatum starting to really be felt, and the endgame coming in to focus, we caught up with Millar again to talk about Ultimate Avengers, his new title under Marvel’s new Ultimate Comics imprint.

Newsarama: Mark, let’s start broad scope – what is the new “Ultimate Comics’ in your eyes, and why is it still relevant to Marvel and today’s marketplace.

Mark Millar: The idea remains the same, and I still believe in it utterly. If you pick up a Marvel or a DC book, generally speaking, you’re going to be kind of confused. If you’re somebody who really enjoys one of the movies, and you pick up a standard comic book, generally, those aren’t new reader friendly, but the Ultimate line just has that advantage – it’s just a few years old. As much as it has its own little continuity now, it’s still nothing compared to the 70 year continuity of Marvel Comics, so it’s not as daunting to pick up.

Plus, there’s something just lovely about it being set at such a small number of titles – it doesn’t feel that extensive – you can read all the Ultimate line with your pocket money of you’re a kid, and that must have been what it felt like when the Marvel Universe started, and there was just a handful of titles. I think it’s just a brilliant jumping on point for readers. The thing that was the problem was that the Ultimate line wasn’t very good for quite a while – it was good when it started, and it really went off the boil after a while. There were maybe a couple of good books, and then in the end, maybe one good book, and the whole idea is just to make it all good books again. That’s why it was the most powerful imprint in comics this decade – if you picked up an Ultimate book, there was a certain standard that you were guaranteed, when there were four titles. You probably like at least three of them. That’s what they want to get back to – big name writers and big name artists on these big name characters.

NRAMA: You spoke to us last September about Ultimate Avengers, and at that time you described it as an “ongoing event” with a rolling cast. Can you go into a little more detail on that, not only with what it means, but how you write something like that?

MM: If I was doing an event like Civil War or something in the Marvel Universe, that’s really what Ultimate Avengers is – every six issues it’s a different new “event.” If it was happening in the Ultimate Universe, Civil War would be the first six issues, and then the next six issues would be Secret Invasion. It’s a huge event featuring as many of the Ultimate characters as I want every six issues. So each one’s a little self-contained book, but there will be things running through all of the storylines that keep things linked, but ultimately, they really are like summer event books, happening twice a year.

So, it’s the only place that you’re going to see the surviving Ultimate characters together in one book. Primarily, the first storyline will focus on the Ultimates – they’re the characters that I feel closest too and have spent the most time with, so the Ultimates storyline centers around Captain America and the remaining Ultimates – the ones that survive Ultimatum, that is.

NRAMA: Speaking of Ultimatum, how will Ultimate Avengers work with Jeph Loeb’s New Ultimates?

MM: In the same way that Amazing Spider-Man worked when Secret Invasion was happening – I get to borrow everyone’s characters and put them in my story. This gets to be the daddy book of the Ultimate Universe. I helped to bring a lot or most of those characters in for the Ultimate line, so I’m very familiar with them. So any character that I want, I can shove in there, and do an event with.

I think that’s probably the thing that they’ve done best at Marvel – this reinvention of the characters for the Ultimate side of things – I just want to do a bit more of that with some more characters, and get my hands on Ultimate Blade and Ultimate Punisher and Ultimate Ghost Rider and put my spin on them. I want to expand the Ultimate Universe in this book as well, so along with Ultimate Cap and the Ultimates, we’re also going to have a lot of the characters we haven’t seen ‘Ultimaized.’ And I have to add that seeing Leinel Francis Yu drawing ultimate Ghost Rider is just a blast.

NRAMA: So in a way, it’s almost a challenge to make a whole bunch of more B list character cool?

MM: You have to remember though – I pitched Ultimates back in 2001, and Marvel said, “Please don’t do it – do Ultimate Wolverine instead” because Ultimate X-Men was really popular and we’d like another r X-Men book, and nobody cared about the Avengers. They were kind of right in terms of sales, but I just loved Kurt Busiek’s run and Roy Thomas’ run, and I just had this real love for those characters. I said, “Just trust me on this one – I can do this really cool, and if you can get me Bryan Hitch, it will work out really well.” And the book sold 100,000 copies every month.

In the same way, I think I can do it with characters like Blade and the Punisher, and make all of these guys A-list. They won’t be in the first storyline though – they’ll be in the second. But I guarantee you that these characters will be massive by the end of it. I’ve written most of that storyline already, and I’m really, really happy with it.

NRAMA: Fair enough, wrapping things up Mark – any tease you can give us in regards to what gets the ball rolling in issue #1?

MM: I’ll just give one teaser on this, then – when Captain America went off to fight in World War 2 – he left his girlfriend, who we saw in Ultimates 1 and Ultimates 2 – he left her behind…and pregnant. That’s the beginning of the story – it’s Cap’s son. He’d been injected with the Super-Soldier Serum when he’d gotten this girl pregnant, so his son is pretty interesting. That’s what kicks things off…

More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage:

NYCC '09 Video Page

NYCC '09 Mini-Site

Twitter activity