Marvel held a press conference call Monday afternoon to reveal details of "Ultimate Comics: Ultimates," which follows the events of the "Death of Spider-Man" arc happening right now in "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates" and the weekly July series "Ultimate Fallout." Marvel Junior Sales Administrator James Viscardi moderates the discussion, with Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic on hand to talk about "Ultimate Comics: Ultimates" #1, a new ongoing series. Editors Sana Amanat and Mark Paniccia are also on hand for the call.
The series will be part of the "Ultimate Comics Universe Reborn" banner, and other creators and series will be revealed in other calls.
Hickman began by saying that the Ultimates reflects the fact that the American military is stretched thin. The team will feature Nick Fury, Thor, Spider-Woman, Hulk and "other heroes" to be named, but no Captain America. The first arc is titled "The Republic is Burning."
"We're building a cohesive universe in that all the Ultimate books will be tied in pretty tightly, and we'll be playing off each other," Hickman said, noting that he and the other creators -- who will be revealed throughout this week -- look forward to working together.
"I've been a part of the Ultimate universe," Ribic said, though his experience of seven years ago "doesn't really count" as far as what's happening now. "These books need to have really big scale, like big budget Hollywood extravaganza," he said.
Hickman said he's always wanted to work in the Ultimate universe, and that his work on "Ultimate Thor" was an enticement to work on the full Ultimates team. "I think the 'Ultimates' should be one of the better and bigger books in the Marvel universe," he said, citing the example of predecessors Mark Millar and Jeph Loeb.
"What's different this time around is we've got a really tight, cohesive universe," Paniccia said. He said that Millar and Loeb put together massive stories, but schedules did not permit for a unified field. "Here you get a monthly book, or more."
Asked how the new "Ultimates" series follows on from "Fallout," Hickman explained that "Fallout" serves as a "bridge" to the books that will be announced this week. "We're all writing it together, I've read a bunch of the scripts. and I'm really proud of the work we've done on that series."
"This is the characters reacting to the death of Spider-Man, there's a lot of introspection but there's also a lot of set-ups," Paniccia said. "This is a miniseries you're not going to want to miss."
Hickman said part of the appeal of the Ultimate universe was that he'll only be working with a few other creators, and that he can "build stories with hydrogen" because they're not weighed down by excessive continuity. In this way, he said, it's similar to what he's done on "S.H.I.E.L.D."
Hickman continued, saying that the Ultimate universe has shifted away from being "a low-entry barrier" for Marvel comics, but "we're trying to get back to that here." Hickman added that Ultimates "should not be a direct reflection of the Marvel Universe." "With that understanding, we're going to go forward pretty aggressively."
Amanat said the other books will be influenced by Hickman's title, but "if somebody just wants to read the 'Ultimates,' they don't have to read the other books." She added, however, "I think the experience will be a lot more fun" if readers can see the connectivity between the series.
Hickman was asked whether he had a "master plan" for the ongoing, and said he did not have an end point in the way that he did for "Fantastic Four" and "Secret Warriors." "I know where I'm going to be for the next year, certainly," he said, adding that the first year would likely feature more than 12 issues. "I can tell you what the first five arcs are, beat for beat."
Ribic said that he did not want to change the costumes much. "I think design-wise most of the stuff works," he said, adding he would adapt it to his style and make the technology a bit more futuristic. The challenge, he repeated, "is to bring enough scale to it."
Asked if the series would be political, Hickman said "Ultimates" is "a super hero book," but noted its initial acclaim was based on its being a reflection of the real world. He said "The Republic is Burning" is about "the decline and fall of the United States of America," which he added "should not be taken to mean I feel one way or the other about it." "God knows, situations like that demand heroes," Hickman said.
Hickman said there will be Ultimate-version debuts, as well as "Ultimate universe-only characters." "We're changing the world; it's going to be a really interesting book."
Asked which Hulk (or which version of Ultimate Hulk) would appear, Hickman said, "Bruce Banner, man, Bruce Banner."
"Ultimate Comics: Ultimates" #1 ships in August.