Though the cast of Marvel Comics' "FF" and "Fantastic Four" titles have been all over our world and countless others, they haven't lost sight of what's truly important: family. In 2009, writer Jonathan Hickman began his run on "Fantastic Four" and immediately began tested the familial bonds of Marvel's First Family by plunging them into an epic multiyear cosmic storyline.
Over the course of the subsequent three years, the family grew as it welcomed all sorts of new and young members into its Future Foundation and Reed Richards was reunited with his long lost father, Nathaniel. It also contracted when the Human Torch was lost in the Negative Zone where he was killed and resurrected multiple times. In the wake of the Torch's disappearance, Hickman launched a new title, "FF," which saw Spider-Man join the team in an attempt to fill the void left by his fallen friend. Recently, Johnny was reunited with his friends and family as the larger FF came together to confront a multitude of powerful cosmic threats.
Hickman's multiyear epic came to a close in "Fantastic Four" #604 and "FF" #15, in stores now, but the writer isn't quite finished with the family's adventures. CBR News spoke with Hickman about what he has coming up in both books from now through October, when he ends his run on both titles.
Since it was a tale that was unfolded over the course of three years Hickman's saga featured numerous plots and themes, but ultimately the writer feels his story was about family and how it affects you. "The spine of the whole thing was probably Nathaniel, Reed and Franklin; fathers and their children," Hickman told CBR News. "Even if you look at Bentley and the Wizard, who are the anti-Reed and Franklin, and Doom and Valeria who are the dark mirrors of Reed and Franklin. You look at those relationships, how your environment, DNA and individual choices all work together to shape the person you become. So, all that, with some Galactus punching space god Celestials stuck in for color."
It takes someone with a lot of power to fight and defeat Celestials, and in Hickman's story that person was Franklin Richards who was able to do this thanks to the writer restoring Franklin's ability to alter and manipulate reality. Of course, reactivating Franklin's immensely powerful mutant ability was just part of Hickman's overall plans for the character.
"The story of Franklin's ascendance isn't done yet. That little bit of business won't wrap up until my final issues of 'Fantastic Four' and 'FF.' That will be how everything kind of ends," Hickman said. "We aren't done addressing that. We'll see what happens to him now, and what does it mean to be this person?
"And sure, I understand logistically why people don't write characters as 'gods.' It's because it's difficult to find scenarios where there's real endangerment," Hickman continued with a laugh. "I think it's an interesting thought exercise, though, and I also thought all along -- since before I got on the book -- that Franklin is a character that can't be ignored. His history is just as rich as everybody else in the family. It's just that once it was established exactly how powerful he was, that's tough to back out of. Some people want to write a little kid, some people want to write a boy becoming older and some want to play with him as God. Franklin really has the potential to hit all those sweet spots of personal preference, and each writer that's been on the book has made their choice accordingly. I think my preferences are pretty obvious, though -- it's all there on the page."
Franklin's younger sister, Valeria, has also been an important part of Hickman's run. Despite her young age Val, is almost as intelligent as her brilliant father, Reed Richards, and that's something that causes her to make and get into no end of trouble.
"She's a child. It doesn't matter how smart she is, she's not wise," Hickman said with a smile. "Which is good, because she's a way more interesting character than if she just acted like a perfect little female version of Reed. Franklin has this wonderful innocence to him regardless of how powerful he is. Val is the other way. She's got this eternal precociousness. Speaking as a parent, if you have more than a single kid, there will certainly be at least one in your brood that just likes to stir things up, and that's Val. Regardless of whether her motivations are pure or not, if there's a button on the wall that says, 'Don't push it,' she's going to be the one to push it."
That attitude also applies to some of Valeria's relationships. Much to her family's chagrin, Val has formed a close bond with the FF's arch-enemy, Doctor Doom, who she refers to as, Uncle.
"There have been various takes on Doom over the years; some are much more sinister and some are much nobler. If you look at your big time villains in the Marvel Universe; your Dooms, your Magnetos and even Galactus, someone will always write a redemptive story for that character. Someone will always write the story where the guy goes over the cliff and kills an entire town," Hickman said. "It just depends on what your take on the character is. My take is that Doom is incredibly egocentric and an inherently flawed megalomaniac, but there's a bit of nobility there and for some reason he cares for certain things a whole lot. Like his people, his nation and Val."
The end of Hickman's massive story left Doom in charge of a group of alternate reality versions of himself. The "Parliament of Dooms" storyline will be followed up on eventually, but Hickman's final plans for "Fantastic Four" and "FF" involve revisiting some other ideas.
"Wrapping things up isn't the right way to describe what I'm doing with my last issues, because I think it would be perfectly fine to end things as is. If I decided to walk away from 'Fantastic Four' tomorrow and the last page I wrote was Doom sitting on a throne saying, 'Here I can build' and then turning the page for 'The Parliament of Dooms,' I don't think there's anything wrong with that. So wrapping things up isn't quite the right term for what I'm doing. Right now I'm certainly open to revisiting a bunch of the stuff I wrote about, and I think I will.
"These stories are evolving and changing as I'm writing them," Hickman continued, "but we're locked into doing a Spider-Man-Johnny Storm roommates story. Plus, we'll be doing field trips to Wakanda and the Negative Zone. I'm doing a two-part Black Panther story in the main 'Fantastic Four' book."
Longtime fans of the character may recall that the Black Panther and his home country of Wakanda first made their debut back in 1966's "Fantastic Four" #52, and Hickman is enjoying welcoming the character back to the comic where he first appeared. "He's a pretty great character. Even though he's not on the throne currently, he's basically a king of a secret science city, which is right up my alley. So far he's been really easy to write," Hickman said. "There are a lot of reasons why we're telling this story, and I can't talk about a lot of them. The few things I can mention are that we've got some 'Avengers Vs. X-Men' stuff that needs to be sorted out a bit before we can get into 'AvX'-proper. So I'm going to do a little bit of that. There's also some mythology we want to revisit. And then there are the other things, which will have to wait.
"T'Challa, his sister Shuri, the current Black Panther, and his wife Storm are all in this story," Hickman continued. "The whole thing takes place in Wakanda in the time between David Liss' last issue and 'AvX.' I actually just reread a bunch of Black Panther stuff; the Priest issues, the Hudlin stuff, Jason Aaron's 'Secret Invasion' arc, the Liss run and 'DoomWar,' all of which was a lot of fun. Honestly, what's not fun about reading comics for research? Anyway, very cool stuff coming up for T'Challa and crowd."
Hickman's final "Fantastic Four" and "FF" issues will feature otherworldly and extra dimensional characters as well. "I'm going to do some more stuff with the Inhumans, including a one-off with Crystal and Ronan. I'm also going to do a Light Brigade issue, because there's nothing wrong with a dude with a horse head and a giant sword. And then we have some other things. So I think we've got a pretty good idea of what the last 12 issues of both books are supposed to be, the combined 12 issues, but, of course, I reserve the right to mess around with this schedule if a lightbulb goes off," Hickman explained. "There won't be any more arcs. They're all really short stories; two issues or less across both books. They're really just fun adventure stories, discovery stories, and character pieces."
Fans of Hickman's "Fantastic Four" and "FF" run still have seven months of stories left to enjoy before the acclaimed writer says farewell in October. "I think I've told all the stories I wanted to tell. It just feels like the right time to go," Hickman said. "I certainly would not have minded staying on the book. I've grown to love the characters and I could have jumped right back in and done the 'Parliament of Doom' story for a year or so. But we're doing 'AvX,' and there's a lot of cool stuff that's going to happen as a result of that. So editorial, management and myself all thought it would be a good idea for me to wrap things up."
Hickman still has plenty of stories left to tell with the first family of the Marvel Universe so he hasn't had much time to look back on his run on "FF" and "Fantastic Four." When he is able to reflect on things, though, he's filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
"This has been a really special gig. I still remember when (Editor) Tom Brevoort asked me to pitch the book and I turned in an outline a day or so before I got on a plane to a comic convention in Dublin. I spent a whole lot of time at that show hitting refresh and waiting to see what he sent back about my proposal. Honestly, it was a really big honor to be asked to be on the book. Looking back, I feel like myself and all the artists that worked on it really put our hearts into doing the best job we could," the writer remarked. "I say this a lot, because I mean it; these are all very rich books with rich histories of creators of incredible pedigree having told amazing stories. So when you get a chance to write something like the Fantastic Four, I think you should attempt to write the Fantastic Four as good as you possibly can, as hard as you possibly can and with as much creativity as you can muster.
"I feel like we did that," Hickman continued. "I think we put a lot into it and the readers got a lot out of it. And while I'm glad Marvel made some money on it, which is always awesome, I think the most important things we did was leave the franchise in better shape than when we started. Adding to that, the story mattering to a bunch of different readers, both young and old, I think I'm okay with how we're leaving. I'm really not sure what else I could have asked for -- maybe a Lamborghini or something!"