The preview pages do look awesome...topping Hitch's work on The Ultimates, if that's even possible. I can't wait to see what his Doom looks like!
[WWC] MILLAR AND ‘FANTASTIC FOUR’ GET HITCHED
Marvel announces the reunion of its all-star ‘Ultimates’ team for 2008
By Brian Warmoth
Posted August 11, 2007 1:30 PM
Even as Marvel reflected on its violent past year at the hands of Mark Millar in Civil War, the bombshell of Joe Quesada’s Civil War and Remembrance panel at Wizard World Chicago today was a look into Marvel’s future. The company’s editor-in-chief announced that Millar will succeed J. Michael Straczynski writing Fantastic Four in 2008, where he will be joined by his former Ultimates partner, artist Bryan Hitch.
“Mark and I are definitely doing 12 [issues] together,” Hitch explained from his home in the U.K. “It launches in January.”
Though the two A-list creators have been busily working ahead on their first arc, which is still several months from shipping, both said the plan to place them on FF unfolded quickly enough to catch even them off guard.
“Our plan was to have Ultimates in 2002 and have it finished by 2004, and then our next thing was going to be X-Men,” Millar said. “As far back as 2004 we’d been planning X-Men.”
The plan to move the pair to X-Men was firmly in place by the time Millar caught wind of other events at Marvel and began to wonder if there wasn’t a more fitting title waiting for them.
“It was weird,” the writer said. “I just assumed that [X-Men] was going to be the next project we were doing, and then I just heard a rumor that JMS was leaving FF, and I suddenly got in the zone and I just couldn’t stop thinking about FF. I just thought, ‘I’ve got to get this and I’ve got to get Bryan to draw it.’”
When Millar brought his proposition to Hitch, his longtime friend was already several steps ahead of the decision. “I wanted to do it but I didn’t think Mark would want to do it because he’d done Ultimate FF and didn’t want to repeat himself,” Hitch said.
“’It took him about 3 seconds,” Millar recalled. “He said, ‘That would be great,’ because it suddenly seemed incredibly exciting—something we hadn’t anticipated yet—so we just started talking about it every day, and we phoned up Marvel and extricated ourselves from X-Men, which they were cool about.”
THE NEW SOAP OPERA
As one of Marvel’s in-house writers with a keen eye for long-term storylines, Millar’s vision for their upcoming run was already percolating prior to their move, and FF historically was a model for the kind of scripting he wanted to do next. “What I noticed was the best runs, especially the first hundred issues or so, are one continuous soap opera,” the writer explained. “It never really ended. I liked that structure because nobody does that anymore,” he lamented. “The thing everyone does now is 6 issues, decompressed 3-act structure, you know?”
Millar wants his run with Hitch on FF to be the exception to that norm. “What really impressed me when I looked at it was that it’s kind of structured like an HBO show and each episode is very satisfying and self-contained, but it all forms one big picture and it’s made up of lots of arcs that interweave with one another, so you might have the Inhumans for a 3-parter, but then they would maybe be hanging around for a few pages and then somebody else’s story and the next one, so the story flows very organically,” he outlined.
Millar and Hitch both cite Stan Lee’s advice, describing the type of everyday cosmic drama and absurdity that permeate the Richards family’s lives. “They do all the same stuff that ordinarily you and I do, but they do it on a cosmic scale,” Hitch asserted. “They could be decorating their Christmas tree, but when you look closer it’s miniature planets with a sun on top and you could imagine interplanetary warfare breaking out over Reed Richards’ Christmas tree, and it’s perfectly normal for them.”
FOUR NEW SUITS
Hitch, who shocked and awed with his costume designs in Ultimates, steps up to the plate again, this time in the real Marvel Universe and redesigning original long-established characters. “What always struck me about looking at the stuff was that they’re obviously wearing costumes,” Hitch observed. “You can’t be drawing them with folds in their clothes, they’re environmental suits. So I took that as an idea and added a model version of an environmental suit—a wet suit, an extreme clothing thing.”
Along with the costume touch-ups, Hitch wants to update Reed’s look to jibe with the eccentric energy that first launched him and his family into space. “I think there’s been a problem with Reed sometimes where he’s this stuffy old guy who smokes a pipe,” Hitch pointed out. “And he’s not a stuffy old guy who smokes a pipe. The guy’s about 40-45, so you want somebody who’s obviously good-looking and obviously charismatic and obviously attractive to a beautiful 28-year-old woman.”
The actor Hitch envisions for the role of Mr. Fantastic reflects not only those traits, but those of the artist whose visual bombast spread throughout the title’s cast early on. “You can begin with a character who would almost be played by someone like George Clooney, who’s an attractive, wealthy, successful, charismatic older man, but at the same time he does have this kind of hairstyle that looks like it belongs on Jack Kirby,” Hitch said.
“There were points when Reed started to look an awful lot like Jack Kirby,” Hitch said. “Reed looked like Jack, and Ben talked like Jack. These were aspects of Jack Kirby.” Hitch chuckled over the topic of the team’s lone female: “What part of Jack Sue represented, I’m not quite sure.”
“There’s the angry young man side of it, and reading interviews with Kirby you always got the impression that the emotional side of Jack was in Johnny—the pent-up anger and aggression and frustration,” the artist continued. “Using the George Clooney analogy, I wanted Reed to have at least a little bit more of a modern hairstyle. You can’t change the physical aspect of the character too much, but looking at it I thought the hairstyle that Reed had was always of the time he was created, but I wasn’t really [aiming for] a very modern thing.”
Of all the characters on the team, Reed’s haircut has remained one of the least tampered with. “Sue has always changed her hair, Johnny’s always changed his hair, so why don’t we give Reed a haircut? It’s a little thing, but it makes him a little more modern and a little better-looking,” Hitch assessed.
The threats Millar has up his sleeve for the FF in 2008 are also rooted in Millar’s amazement over Lee and Kirby’s work. “The idea of a guy coming to eat the world, there literally had never been anything like that in a comic before,” Millar said. “But if Galactus hasn’t eaten the world the last 35 times he’s appeared, you’re going to probably relax when you see him on the splash page at the end of an issue.”
Trying to re-create the spontaneity and fresh mystery of the stories FF is best known for provoked Millar to focus on inventing new threats for them to dominate his year on the series, which will also feature appearances by a handful of classic foes like Doctor Doom.
“I’ve avoided using a lot of the clichés, because I think people use them as crutches,” explained Millar. “We can exist on the exhaust fumes of [Lee and Kirby], but at the same time it wouldn’t be the FF if it didn’t have a familiar touch to it. So some of the classic characters will be kind of weaved in and out of it, but only in a way that we’ve never seen them before.”
THE JANUARY 2008 LAUNCH
This year still has plenty of weeks left before Millar and Hitch hit the racks with their new blue costumes, but the series is already well under way on paper. “I’m so far ahead on FF. I’m like teacher’s pet. [Laughs] I’m like Brian Bendis,” Millar joked. “I’ve written 10 issues already, and for me that’s unbelievable. I’ll probably finish the whole run before the first one comes out.”
And Millar’s artist is right behind him. “I started issue #1 Feb. 15,” Hitch said. “I remember that because I remember being with my wife on Valentine’s Day thinking, ‘Oh I have to work on Fantastic Four tomorrow, hurrah!’”
Listening to their plans for Fantastic Four, the energy and common wavelength Millar and Hitch share is evident. And while the cultural cache of Marvel’s first superhero family attracted them both, their personal bond cinched the deal.
“We’re almost exactly the same age, and we both grew up in Northern Britain,” Millar said. “He grew up about 90 miles from where I lived. We read exactly the same stuff growing up and there’s a weird collective between us. It’s really strange; I almost don’t have to put in panel descriptions for Bryan—Bryan just gets it.” And the ease and understanding fostered by that relationship may underline everything else behind their latest announcement.
“There’s an intuitive thing going on between us that neither of us feels with other creators or collaborators,” Millar said. “It feels great.”