Going Back To The Wells: Zeb Wells talks "Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan"

Wed, October 5th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer

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"Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan" #1
If giant radioactive monsters were real, where in the world would you expect to find them?

New York? Nope. That's the King's pad (King Kong, that is…).

Chernobyl? You're getting warmer, but I don't think borscht would agree with their digestive systems.

People with any kind of appreciation for cinematic history know full well that Tokyo is the destination of choice for large monsters who want to make an impression. Godzilla, Mothra, and Gamera are just three of many giant creatures who have forced badly-dubbed Japanese citizens to flee in horror on the silver screen. In stories today, fans of the genre will get to experience all the monster-madness they can handle courtesy of Marvel's "Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big In Japan." The four-issue limited series is written by Zeb Wells ("New Warriors," "Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One") with art by Seth Fisher ("Green Lantern: Willworld," "Flash: Time Flies"). CBR News spoke with Wells to find out more about the book and how this cool combination of heroes and monsters occurred.

"Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan" #1
"I got a call from Cory Sedlmeier at Marvel saying that they wanted to get a Fantastic Four/Iron Man story together for Seth to draw," Wells explained. "Cory works in Axel Alonso's office, so I think it was another case of my comic book father giving his son a shot. I thought about it and didn't really have any ideas, then I saw Seth's artwork and I got inspired. I ended up tossing and turning in bed for three hours coming up with the outline in my head. I mapped out the four issues in outline form, then sent the pitch to Cory. From phone call to my completed pitch was probably a month, so it percolated for awhile."

As for the results of this percolation, the writer described the story as follows: "The Fantastic Four are in Japan for the opening of the first Giant Monster Museum and Expo Hall. Remember, most of Marvel's books were giant monster books before the Fantastic Four rolled around. Many in Japan feel that the emergence of superheroes, especially the Fantastic Four, led to the cessation of giant monster attacks-- something the island of Japan is quite sensitive to. So they are the guests of honor at a museum that basically commemorates the days of Japan's past, and an expo hall that displays the genetic advances Japanese scientists have made with their ample supply of giant monster DNA. Tony Stark, a true businessman, is there to see the cutting edge of biotechnology and possibly find a merger opportunity or two."

Hold on a sec-- a Giant Monster Museum located in a town that was continually destroyed by giant monsters throughout its history? So does this mean the Japanese are happy or sad that these large critters are gone? CBR News asked Wells for some clarification, which he happily provided.

"That was one of the most interesting things to think about when I was writing this story: how the giant monsters affected Japanese culture," explained Wells. "I decided that the overwhelming majority of Japanese society would be glad to see the monsters gone. And since the Marvel Age of heroes pretty much led to the end of their reign (something that happened in the real world due to comic sales…), I thought there would be a certain amount of affection towards the Fantastic Four. That said, these creatures are also a mysterious, awesome force of nature, and as with any force of nature, there will always be a section of humanity that reveres them."

"Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan" #3 Issue #1, Page 1
As the first issue of "Fantastic Four" featured the team fighting a giant monster on its cover, the images from this series may spark a feeling of dj vu in more than one reader. As a matter of fact, Jack Kirby (one of the creators of the Fantastic Four) was well-known for the giant monster creations which appeared in many of the books he drew. Therefore, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Wells admitted to Kirby's works as being a source of inspiration for this tale (in addition to the previously-mentioned Japanese monster movies).

"I researched both, and I think that the monster movies influenced the first two issues more, and Kirby's monster-gods influenced the last two," said Wells. "It was fun to watch all those monster movies as 'research.' I have to say that anyone with even a cursory interest in giant monsters must watch the third film in the modern Gamera trilogy, 'Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris.' It will blow your balls over your shoulder. There are some that say 'Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah-- Giant Monsters All-Out Attack' is better, but they are insane. I still need to see 'Godzilla: Final Wars' though."

On top of all the monster fun this book will offer, it is also a chance for readers to witness two of Marvel Universe's greatest minds-- Reed Richards and Tony Stark-- join forces. When asked about his method of gathering the scientific facts needed to tell a story such as this, Wells responded, "I like to read books when I need to know something technical-- you get a better understanding of a subject and you usually get story ideas as well. But for this story, we're keeping the science nice and audacious, so I didn't do much research. You're just going to have to trust that Reed and I know what a 'Dimensional Seismograph' is."

The writer is currently finishing up his "New Warriors" miniseries, while this miniseries is getting started. Both books feature sizable casts with well-known characters. Some writers like writing team books such as these, while others find it a nightmare. Wells seems to find it a challenge, but one he enjoys. "If there's a trick (to writing team books) I haven't figured it out," admitted Wells. "It's weird, because on one level it's easier-- there's always a character to pop in and move the story along. But then making sure every character gets some face time can be challenging. It always seems like twenty-two pages aren't enough."

Issue #1, Page 2 Issue #1, Page 16
Regarding the "New Warriors" miniseries, he added, "I'm not sure how it's selling, but I've really enjoyed working with (artist) Skottie Young and (editor) MacKenzie Cadenhead, and I think we're doing good work. I'd love to do another six issues and I think the reality show angle could survive that long, at least."

Comic fans may recall that Wells got his "break" into the comic-writing business after winning Wizard Magazine's Fan Film contest. So CBR News asked the writer what the future has in store for him-- more comics or more films? It turns out that the answer is a bit of both.

"More (comic) pitches, and I'm doing a four issue run of Marvel Adventures 'Spider-Man' after my man Sean McKeever finishes up his run. I also just made a short film with the usual suspects this summer. We did it just for fun, which sounds odd to me now because my children's children will probably still be paying for it. I haven't seen the footage yet but I think it turned out well. Aside from that, I spend my days having ideas. It's fun."

For more of "Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan," check out CBR's six-page, lettered preview of the book.

 
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