In Layman's Terms: Layman talks "Fantastic Four: House of M" and the end of "Gambit"

Mon, June 13th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

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"Fantastic Four: House of M" #1,
Pages 2 & 3
Victor Von Doom has always been trying to prove that he is superior to Reed Richards. Von Doom will get his big chance to prove his superiority when he replaces Richards as leader of the Fantastic Four. Doom is the leader of a dark twisted reflection of Marvel's first family starring in "Fantastic Four: House of M," a three issue mini series beginning this July by writer John Layman and artist Scott Eaton. While one Layman penned series begins in July, another series written by him, "Gambit," ends this Wednesday. Layman spoke to CBR News via e-mail about both projects.

"Fantastic Four: House of M" was born out of a discussion between Layman and one of his editors on "Gambit," Stephanie Moore. "Steph told me a bit of what was going on with 'House of M,' and we batted various ideas around," Layman told CBR News. "Of course, the real challenge was coming up with a House of M version of the Fantastic Four when the Fantastic Four of standard continuity aren't available-- or alive. So I focused on one of my favorite characters in Fantastic Four who is not in the Fantastic Four and imagined, in a world run by the super villain Magneto, what that FF would be. The answer is, an FF run by Doctor Doom."

Doom's team is both similar and drastically different than the Fantastic Four that existed before the House of M reality was created. "These are not the same members by a long shot, though the team has the same dynamic. A stretchy guy. A chick with force powers. A flame dude and a rocky guy that kicks much ass. Doom is the leader of the team, and of course this mini will show how this team came to be, and how Doom got the inspiration for the team," Layman said. "This team-- the Fearsome Four-- ruthlessly serve both the political interests of Latveria and, to a lesser extent Latveria's ally, the House of M.

"Fantastic Four: House of M" #1, Page 4
Since this team is run by Doom, it's not particularly interested in exploration for exploration's sake, more for conquest and exploitation. The biggest similarity is that this team, like the regular Fantastic Four we all know and love, is a family. This family just happens to be a lot more dysfunctional than the regular FF family."

The Fearsome Four is composed of some of Doom's close family members. "His wife is Valeria, who FF readers will recognize is the lost love of his youth. He has a young ward, Kristoff, who is the team's firebug. And then there is a grossly misshapen and mistreated rocky monster on the team, almost the family pet, albeit one that is very vicious, and who Doom takes great delight in abusing.

"The story is ultimately about Doom, and will say a lot about Doom's character... there are some aspects to Doom's personality that will simply not change, no matter how much the world around him changes," Layman said. "In this reality, Doom has pretty much everything he's ever wanted. No more Reed Richards. He's got the love of his life; he's got his mother. He's got more power than just about any human on the face of the planet. The problem is, this planet is run by mutants."

The adversaries Doom's team encounters in the series include many mutants and two enemies familiar to "Fantastic Four" readers. "Well, as always, Doom is his own worst enemy. Though in this case he is gunning for Magneto and the entire House of M mutant royal family," Layman explained. "Oh, and Mole Man will make a pretty cool cameo appearance."

"Fantastic Four: House of M" #1, Pages 5 & 6
"Fantastic Four: House of M" is set primarily in two familiar Marvel locales, Doom's home country of Latveria and the country of Genosha.

The series has a dark tone. "It's certainly darker than my previous Marvel work, 'Gambit' and 'Marvel Age Fantastic Four'. I mean, I am dealing with Doctor Doom, so how can it not be darker," Layman said. "I'm a reasonably evil person, though, so this all came pretty naturally."

Readers of "Fantastic Four: House of M" do not need to read any other books to understand or enjoy the series. "I think it will help to be a 'Fantastic Four' fan, and certainly fans of Doctor Doom are gonna eat this up. But I think anybody who is remotely familiar with the FF might find some enjoyment in this," Layman admitted. "It's a dark, twisted mirror, really, against the FF everyone is used to."

Layman has enjoyed writing the series and also greatly enjoyed writing "Gambit" which concludes this week with issue 12. "Well, the gratifying thing was pretty much everybody who read 'Gambit' enjoyed it, particularly once the book sort of found its rhythm," Layman said.

"Gambit" #12 "Gambit" #12, Page 15
"I'm not sure what people think of when they think of Gambit, but I know a lot of people either love him or hate him, with very little in-between. It was nice when Gambit fans liked the book, but it was much more gratifying when Gambit haters grudgingly came out and admitted that the book was an undeniable good time-- which is exactly what it was intended to be. No earth shattering stories, no hero moping around because of his girlfriend. Just a charming scoundrel getting in one jam after another and getting out of them in entertaining and audacious ways."

Layman said the last two issues of "Gambit" examine the character's past, something of a gift to longtime Gambit fans who've been hoping to see his past explored further. "Past Gambit books have delved pretty heavily into Gambit's connections with the New Orleans Thieves Guild and Assassins Guilds, so it was a time for them to return. But even though this is horribly complex and convoluted continuity, I'd say I did a pretty good job at keeping the last two issues simple and straight forward for people who do not know Gambit's history chapter and verse."

Layman looks back on his time on "Gambit" fondly, but is sad the book ended before he could tell all the stories he had planned. "I like writing books with an element of humor, so Gambit and I were a good fit. I think it was pretty apparent to readers that I was having a good time writing it. And I was really surprised at how fun the book ended up being, especially the last half, when I was able to bring in zombies and Brother Voodoo and a sex tape and even an old Gambit rip-off character from the New Warriors," Layman said. "Had it continued, I would have liked to have kept Brother Voodoo around as a supporting cast member. I also wanted to take Gambit out of New Orleans for a while-- 12 issues were enough. And eventually I would have liked to have brought in Sinister. I can't complain though; I'm very happy for the 12 issues that I got."

"Gambit" #12, Page 18 "Gambit" #12, Page 22
Gambit ends this week and "Fantastic Four: House of M" runs till September, but Layman's fans don't need to worry. He has many more projects just released and in the works. "My 'Thundercats: Enemy's Pride' miniseries got collected, as did my own creator-owned book 'Puffed,' which was collected through IDW as 'The Unauthorized Puffed Movie Adaptation.' I also wrote an 'Idiot's Guide,' the 'Complete Idiot's Guide to Drawing Manga, Illustrated,' which also recently hit store shelves," Layman confirmed.

"At the moment I have a couple pitches in circulation, and Oni just approved an OGN that should be coming in the fall. It's a spy comedy, and it may or may not be called 'F-Bomb' (I'm going back and forth with Oni on alternate titles, 'cause we don't want it to be confused with Oni's recent 'F-Stop' book.) And, with all this other stuff going on, I've been writing video games. Worked on two for Activision, and another for a Nintendo, but I'm not sure I'm allowed to talk about any of them until we are deeper into development and closer to the games' release."

 
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