Most planets could hardly stand an attack by one giant purple space god, but the Ultimate Universe earth of Marvel Comics Ultimate Comics line is about to have its second one on its hands.
As a result of the end of the publisher's "Age of Ultron" event this week, the walls of reality between Marvel universes has broken down enough to let Galactus – the planet devouring threat created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – cross into the Ultimate Universe. This story will take place in "Hunger," a four-issue series by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Leonard Kirk which will have an impact across the Ultimate line including Fialkov's "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" and Brian Michael Bendis and company's "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man."
To help define the ideas behind the already announced but up until this point secret series, Marvel held their latest "Next Big Thing" call with members of the press today. Sales & Communications Manager James Viscardi welcomed Brian Michael Bendis, Joshua Hale Fialkov, executive editor Tom Brevoort and senior editor of the Ultimate line Mark Paniccia to the call to get things started.
Bendis started the ball rolling by speaking to the end of "Age of Ultron." "There's a lot of rumor that Angela is not Angle and that it's Jean Grey from the future," the writer laughed, defusing the rumor he felt started by people who think every redhead in the Marvel U is the long dead X-Man. "There's no other secret behind here. She's not going to pull off her clothes and reveal anything. She's not Jean Grey. She's not Miracleman. She's Angela."
The multiple teaser endings from the tenth and final issue of the event came up, and Bendis explained that the event grew into a story that invited twists from across the creative talent at Marvel. "For a lot of it, it was me and Tom planning alone for quite a long time," the writer said. "The second half opened all these cool opportunities, and we kind of put it out there to everyone at Marvel that we were doing this crazy time change story." Bendis said he always planned for the heroes to pay a price for the choices they made in the second half of the story, but the question sent out to other writers was "What's the craziest thing we can do at the end of this in the world of copyright...[to] make this an event where the conflict can continue, and we can drop something in that's really unexpected."
The writer enthused about working with Angela co-creator Neil Gaiman on one of his characters in a way that would make waves for the Marvel U, but he also wanted to make waves in his longtime home of the Ultimate Universe. Matt Fraction was the one who eventually suggested bringing Galactus over. "As crazy as this is to have a moment where time and space rip, you really want something special for the reader."
Fialkov talked about what fans can expect from "Hunger" when it lands in July. "I'm a huge, huge Jack Kirby nut. I love a lot of what he created, and I especially love Galactus. Galactus is all over my office," he said. "The Ultimate Universe has seen its fair share of crazy stuff...but everything they've seen have logical roots. Yes, there's been giant spaceships in the air, but seeing that after you see a man fly in an iron suit isn't that crazy." But the idea of a giant purple god shakes up the understanding of the universe most Ultimates cast members has. "What I hope comes across is the sense of wonder that's being brought into the Ultimate Universe...with the smart, modern tone Brian has established."
The character that Fialkov was drawn to in the Ultimate Universe was Ultimate Rick Jones. "Brian created a unique and interesting take on Rick Jones that's really smart and fun," he said. "He's like Spider-Man taken to the extreme...with great power comes great responsibility, but he just wants to have fun and be normal." Jones is the witness to Galactus' arrival on the earth, and it's his responsibility to take care of the universe no matter how much he wants to just be a regular teenager. "We have other cosmic Ultimate characters that will be showing up in issues #2 and 3. You're going to see Chitauri. You're going to see Kree."
Bendis explained that "This is a Galactus story you have not seen before on many levels." He compared "Hunger" to "Age of Ultron" in that the latter series fulfilled the promise of who Ultron is supposed to be while the former will "Fulfill the promise that Jack Kirby started many, many years ago." Fialkov said part of the fun of the series was watching Ultimate Reed Richards and Captain America deal with this discovery while Bendis said they'll cope with the idea that when they figure out where this threat comes from, they know they can't just send it back to the Marvel U.
Asked if the Ultimate "Gah Lak Tus" monster would have an impact on the book, Fialkov joked that he figured the plural of Galactus is Galacti. Then he said of the swarm called Gah Lak Tus, "It's essentially seeking out energy...whatever energy source it can find. And I don't know if you know this about classic Galactus, but he's a giant source of energy," laughed the writer of the conflict brewing between the two.
Bendis then spoke to Angela's appearance in "Guardians of the Galaxy" saying he used the unique publishing situation for character motivation. "She's a very angry – and rightly so – fish out of water," he said. "She's headed right towards earth...and the Guardians job is to protect earth." He said the team will not be prepared for the godlike power Angela has as she heads to the planet. "And how she will acclimate to the Marvel Universe and this elaborate back story that Joe [Quesada] and everyone has put together for her...will slowly reveal itself as it reveals itself to Angela." Bendis said he felt the move of bringing a character from another publisher into the universe of Marvel is truly unique.
Bendis then said the time breaking plot point of "Age of Ultron" #10 will have slow building but wide ranging impact on characters in the Marvel U including Beast's story in "All-New X-Men" as well as a lot of time displaced characters whose status quo has been seemingly set for years.
As for the connection between "Hunger" and Fialkov's work on "Ultimates," the writer said he's working to make the two stories play off each other. Bendis jumped in to praise the writer as one of the new voices of the Ultimate U who are coming in to shake up things the same way he and Mark Millar once went hog wild with the Marvel catalogue in the original Ultimate books over ten years ago. "He's expressing himself as fully as he can just as I was allowed to...and this 'Hunger' gig is the perfect example."
The writer also spoke to Miles Morales role in the story as he's one of the few faces in the Ultimate U who has interacted with both that universe and the traditional Universe. "He becomes a very important lynchpin in the future of the Ultimate Universe," Bendis said, promising that there would be massive payoffs long term from this story. The call in general worked to express that big shake ups were heading to the Ultimate line in the wake of "Hunger." "The issue of Ultimate Spider-Man that came out yesterday with the introduction of Cloak and Dagger shows that we've got a lot of characters to introduce yet."
Fialkov revealed that beyond protagonist Rick Jones, "Hunger" will introduce the Emperor of the Chitauri as well as "an Accuser from the other side" as well as "this naked guy on a surf board who's been exploring who may be interested in this." He also promised one surprise character he wanted to hold back for now. Overall, he said he looked at past Ultimate events to see how he could do an Ultimate Cosmic story that couldn't be done in the Marvel U. "Rick is a character who's always represented something in the Marvel Universe. He was us staring in," said the writer, adding that giving the identifying character cosmic powers makes for a solid character story.
The plot threads of "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" came up in terms of their potential to introduce even more characters into the world. "What has happened with the Roxxon corporation is that the creation of the new Spider-Man and the death of the original Spider-Man has created this quiet arms race," he said. Now everyone is trying to make technology to unleash the best version inside any person. It could be weaponized or used to create monsters as Roxxon has been. But new heroes will be introduced as a result of those experiments. Bendis said there will be a lot of new "Ultimitized" characters as part of that story who will have a purpose to recreate the Ultimate U into something new. "I get three subjects on Tumblr I get asked most about: Nightcrawler, Pixie and Roxxon Corporation...and one of those makes me excited because we've got a lot going on. As for the other two, I didn't kill Nightcrawler, and for the person asking me about Pixie, I look forward to seeing you in San Diego, hopefully in a Pixie costume."
Bendis went on to say that the "Spider-Men" crossover helped open the door for crossovers between the Marvel U and the Ultimate U, but from now on "It's up to us as writers and editors to come up with the most unique stories to do...remember those old DC/Marvel crossovers that would make you go 'Whoa!' And then after a while, there were a couple that made you go 'Aaaand?' We're trying to avoid those."
The creators agreed that crossovers should be done sparingly as Fialkov said, "Galactus is something we haven't seen before, but there's so much that's alive in the Ultimate Universe that we don't need to keep going back to that well" and Brevoort added that the Ultimate writers have been overlooked often as Marvel has put its promotional muscle behind things like Marvel NOW! The crossovers happening now, in his opinion, are largely a way to put a spotlight on how vital and important the Ultimate line is to Marvel as a whole. He compared the publisher's future plans for the Ultimate line to the recent revitalization of the cosmic books under Bendis and company's stewardship.
Bendis then spoke to the fallout from "Age of Ultron" for characters like Sue Storm and Wolverine, particularly noting that the latter will be taking the trauma of killing himself into the Bendis-written X-Books while Sue's follow up will be more slow developing as Matt Fraction has plans for her outside of the event's beats in the immediate future.
The call ended with some confusion as to what tie-ins would exist for "Hunger." Eventually, the call agreed that there would be no labeled tie-ins as the main series largely takes place in space, but it will have an immediate impact on the regular Ultimate titles. "The fallout from 'Hunger' is HUUUUGE."
"Hunger" #1 arrives in July from Marvel Comics.