Thursday, September 27, 2007

First Look: Millar and Hitch's Fantastic Four

It's coming! It's coming! What's coming that's making so excited, you ask? Well, anything new in the Ultimate universe, for one. I just can't wait to read the first issue of Jeph Loeb and Joe Madureira's The Ultimates Season 3 when it's released in December.

I love seeing old Ultimate-universe teams being reunited too. Former The Ultimates collaborators, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, are making the jump to the normal Marvel Universe when they take on Marvel's first family, the Fantastic Four, next year.

Wizard Universe has some previews!

Check out Bryan Hitch's brand-new art as he takes over Marvel's first family with Mark Millar

By Ben Morse

Posted September 26, 2007 9:00 AM

Why Fantastic Four?

After five years and 26 issues of bloody fights, politics, sex and other mature themes in Ultimates, why would writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch choose the one Marvel title that screams “family friendly” more than any other for their next collaboration?

“The honest reason is that it was my favorite Marvel book as a kid,” admits Millar. “Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s first 100 issues were just perfect. Every Fantastic Four story since has been a retread. The idea of trying to add to that brilliant legacy is a poisoned chalice in a lot of ways because the book has never touched those heights again.”

Hitch, like his partner, relishes the challenge of returning the one-time “World’s Greatest Comic Book” to its early peak.

“High concept and characterization is something Mark is excellent at, and the big-scale science fiction and quiet character moments are things you can happily throw at me,” expresses the artist.

With the Millar/Hitch regime set to kick off with January’s Fantastic Four #554, both men have been working overtime to put things in place for the grand opening. Over the next few pages, enjoy the fruits of the duo’s labors thus far.


MILLAR: “An ex-girlfriend of Reed’s shows up and brings basically the worst news possible for the FF at the end of our first issue. She needs Reed’s help, and Reed will have to leave the team and go off with her. To me, the FF was always at its best when it took stuff that happens to real families to that fantastic level, and here it’s an old love threatening the family.”

HITCH: “The most fun character for me has been Ben’s new girlfriend, Debbie, a schoolteacher and essentially the replacement in the family for Alicia Masters. She provides that completely human voice and perspective to these bizarre lives the FF lead but which they think are perfectly ordinary.”


MILLAR: “Johnny’s dating a supervillain. There’s a scene where he’s fighting this girl who is robbing a place, but she’s hot so he starts kissing her and can’t help himself. He figures she didn’t kill anybody. [Laughs] There’s also a guy named Cap who I won’t get into details about, but he’s the villain of the first four issues.”


MILLAR: “It’s the classic FF better than you’ve ever seen them drawn. Bryan is taking it to a new 21st century level.”

HITCH: “Everything I did on Ultimates I had to learn from scratch because I didn’t feel a natural affinity for drawing real-world stuff. I learned to draw off the weird, silly stuff. Fantastic Four works very nicely because I have all the elements of big-scale stuff and then intimate character stuff at my disposal. It’s more fun, it’s more fluid and it’s faster because it’s nowhere near as dense or saturated as Ultimates.”


MILLAR: “You always think of the FF as a family structure, and to me Doctor Doom is the weird uncle. He’s the one who shows up drunk at Christmas. We’re going to bring him back, but the plan is to use him in a way that has never been utilized before.”

HITCH: “Doom really is the first member of Reed’s family, his evil half-brother. Right now, apart from several covers he’s featured on, I haven’t really gotten to delve into Doom as a character yet. We’ll absolutely be keeping the classic armor; it’s the only way to go. It’s great for what it is. I could put in more detail or make it more form fitting, but it’s Doctor Doom.”


MILLAR: “Reed is really Marvel’s George Clooney. He’s clearly the world’s smartest man, but he’s also fantastically handsome and an amazing adventurer. I really want it to be like all the girls are reading the National Enquirer and being like, ‘Oh my God, Reed and Sue’s marriage is on the rocks—wouldn’t it be great to f--- Mr. Fantastic?’”

HITCH: “Indiana Jones is an archaeologist, and on paper that sounds dull, but look what they did with him. I’m equating Reed with guys like Harrison Ford or Pierce Brosnan.”


MILLAR: “What would it take to capture the heart of the world’s smartest man? It can’t just be that she’s beautiful. She isn’t a scientist and can’t talk with Reed about a lot of what he’s interested in, so there must be something wonderfully charismatic about her. To me, they’ve got the most interesting relationship in comics.”

HITCH: “I thought there was no reason the suit couldn’t be a little sexier to show a bit of skin, but not too much. When she’s not in costume, I like to have her with her hair down and no shoes on because she’s very happy and comfortable in the Baxter Building.”


MILLAR: “He’s probably the most fun character to write. He’s a male Paris Hilton. He would totally be in a club with friends one night and say, ‘Dude, we should make an album,’ spend six months as a rock star, have his record bomb, then move on to something else. He’s got a good heart, but he’s also incredibly superficial.”

HITCH: “The guy doesn’t feel cold, so I gave him short sleeves and a costume that’s more like extreme sports wear. The fire effect will be rendered several different ways by [colorist] Paul Mounts, and we’ll be doing things like using the flame as a light source.”


MILLAR: “In the ’60s, pre-Wolverine, he was the Marvel badass. The guy you didn’t want angry at you was Ben Grimm. But also, he’s the heart of the Fantastic Four, the guy that grounds them.”

HITCH: “I was determined to make [Ben] more socially expressive and human under there. He’s almost like a burn victim physically, but the eyes are still human, not cartoon circles. In the [‘Fantastic Four’] movies, you can’t see any of Michael Chiklis [the actor who plays the Thing] under that makeup, so he had to act with his eyes.”

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