Today, Marvel Comics held a press conference to talk about the big changes that'll be revealed in "Ultimate X-Men" #75, including the debut of the Ultimate Universe version of Cable. In on the call were series writer Robert Kirkman and editor John Barber.
Robert Kirkman: Well, we're bringing in the Ultimate version of Cable. It's going to lead to a lot of big shake-ups in the line-up and it's going to lead to at least one death. Big changes are in store. We're just going to be shaking things up in general. It should be pretty exciting.
Is this Scott Summers son?
RK: No. He's a completely different guy. We're trying to go in a different direction with the Ultimate Universe and kind of make sure things are vastly different and hopefully it's at least as entertaining if not more entertaining. We're going a different way with this and I'm hoping people will be a big shock.
John Barber: Liefeld thinks your insane for what you're doing with that?
RK: Isn't that the mark of success? [laughs] Rob and I are pals, I can make jokes like that! Yeah, it is pretty crazy, though.
Does this Ultimate version of Cable have the same powers as the one in the mainstream universe?
RK: His powers are completely different than the mainstream version and saying anything more than that will give away the ending to issue #75.
The first time Cable showed up in the Marvel Universe, he created his own team. Do you have any plans along those lines or will he bring some questionable characters along with him?
RK: He has some people that he's working with, but as far as bringing in an entirely new team that will then stay in the book and be main characters, that's not going to happen. But, in the sense that Cable was a very important catalyst that brought about a lot of change in the X-Universe when he was introduced, we're kind of doing the same thing here. He'll be a very important character that kind of wipes the slate clean and opens doors for a lot of new things. It should be very exciting.
Why this character now since there are still many other characters yet to introduce. What made you want to work with Cable?
RK: I think the time is right for Cable. It works well with the story I have planned and you know you can't bring in everybody. You have to hold back some of the big guns to introduce later on. I know a lot of people are wondering where Ultimate Banshee is and some of the other big supporting characters in the X-Men Universe. We definitely have plans for them, but right now it's Cable's time. We are bringing in Ultimate Bishop as part of the story as well.
With your run on the title, where do you think the title is now from where it began and what direction would you like to see it go in?
RK: Well, I think it's a very different book now from where it began because Mark Millar got to start with a clean slate and had the Ultimate mandate of restarting everything and making it hip and modern. I came on with issue #66 and there's definitely history involved here. I think I'm trying to reflect that history and touch on stuff that's happened throughout the run and keep everything king of congruent. I'm also trying to get back to that spirit of changing things and shaking things up that I think the early Mark Millar issues had that kind of took to a back burner as the series went on. I think to a certain extent some of the characters that were introduced later on in "Ultimate X-Men" were a little too similar to the regular universe versions. I'm just trying to bring things in that are different and change characters up to make them more original. I dunno, I like my issues! [laughs]
You do have issues!
JB: I think one of the things you brought back to the series is that sense of danger that was there in the earlier issues. Things are a little darker and a little less familiar compared to the regular X-Men stuff.
JB: Is that something you were trying to bring back?
RK: Yeah, definitely. In the Ultimate annual that just came out I do some drastic things to Nightcrawler there. I've tried to set the tone that nothing's safe and there are big changes in store. There's a lot of drastic things that will happen to the characters as the months go on.
The tag line for X-Men has always been "in a world that hates and fears them." Do you think the Ultimate Universe has that same sort of feel?
RK: I think so. There's tons of hatred for the mutants out there. It's not something I guess has been touched on that much in my issues as of yet. We did have a Friends of Humanity appearance and there was some anti-Mutant sentiment in those issues. It's definitely something I want to get back to and I think it's an important part of the story.
Can you talk a little bit more about how Bishop will fit into the story and will we also get to see this future timeline at all?
RK: We're kind of playing the future stuff close to the vest. I don't want to immediately have the X-Men running around in the future fighting robots and doing all kinds of sci-fi stuff. One of the ideas behind the Ultimate line is it's a little bit more grounded in reality, so Cable and Bishop both come from the future and they both come from the same future, but it's a future that will be discussed and talked about … there's a lot of story stuff here I'm trying not to give away because I'm really bad about knowing what I can and can't talk about in a story without giving things away, so I end up kind of saying not much at all, which is bad for these kinds of calls. [laughs]
You should just make it up as you go along.
RK: I should just lie! Yeah, Bishop's going to be a rabbit and it'll sort of fall out from there. [laughs] But seriously, we're not going to see the future, at least initially. I can't say more without giving something away.
Which member of the book are you finding the most fun to play with right now?
RK: I really enjoy writing Charles Xavier. I think he's a great character and a lot of the time he gets side-lined in X-Men because people focus on Wolverine and the action of the team. I really enjoy doing things with Charles. I also like Jean Grey. She's a great character and I have a lot of twists and turns in store for her. I like 'em all. Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler.
Talk about the development of Cable a bit. Obviously you spent some time looking at the mainstream character and examined what makes him tick. What essences did you feel were important to bring from the mainstream Cable and into the Ultimate version? And what did you end up adding to the character?
RK: I really like the look of Cable. I know over the years the '90s characters kind of get made fun of, but I like that para-military, covered-in-so-much-gear I can barely walk and I've-got-a-bunch-of-stuff-to-do kind of guy. So, when we brought him into the Ultimate Universe I thought it was really important to have a lot of junk hanging off of him. Appearance wise I thought that was cool and I made it a goal of mine to have him actually use every piece of equipment he's got hanging off of him. There's some pretty crazy fight stuff in issue #75 and #76 and he's always reaching into his pocket, pulling out a stick of gum, stuff like that. [laughs]
He was a big man of mystery initially. I think when they started explaining stuff and coming up with different things for Cable to have in his past, you kind of lost the coolness of the character. So, I'm trying to bring back that man of mystery, with all sorts of questions and that kind of stuff.
JB: Will he pull anything out of his pocket other than a stick of gum?
RK: I'm joking about the stick of gum, of course. It's all bombs and guns and knives…
No educational material from the future?
RK: There's a couple of pamphlets, basically some stuff about Scientology. [laughs] He also has a spoon and a bowl of cereal that he pulls out and eats at one point. There's some sort of future technology that keeps the milk inside the bowl inside the pocket. I was kind of impressed with myself for coming up with that. [laughs]
Once you started writing "Ultimate X-Men," was there anything that surprised you about the process?
RK: It was pretty hard! That's one thing. It's a lot of pressure. I don't know if Bendis coined this term, but he always tells me, "X-Men is the brass ring!" It's pretty intimidating to sit down and be in charge of Wolverine for a month, or at least one of the 20 guys in charge of Wolverine for a month. It's pretty intimidating and team books are always hard just because you have to juggle so many characters and have them at least do something interesting every few issues. It was really exciting for me because I'm a big fan of the Ultimate line in general and have been reading the books since they started. Mostly I've just been enjoying it a lot.
You've spent basically 10 issues on this so far. Is there anything you wanted to do in those 10 issues that you didn't get to do where [Editor Ralph Macchio] told you you couldn't and will you try to sneak that back in?
RK: I was hired on for the initial nine issues. I knew I'd be there for nine issues, so I sat down and I came up with the stuff I could do for those nine issues that would be self-contained and fun. That's what I set out to do. Towards the end of my run I was brought on longer and told I'd have the book for a while, so I started making long range plans.
Obviously you're a big fan of what happened with the X-Men in the '90s. Are there any storylines from that period, maybe ones that have been mostly reviled by fans, that you'd like to bring into "Ultimate X-Men" and put your spin on like Bendis is doing with "Ultimate Spider-Man" and the Clone Saga?
RK: I know Ralph Macchio and I have talked briefly about doing some stuff with the "Age of Apocalypse" and I think that could be kind of neat. But we don't have anything slated anytime soon yet. That would be one that would be kind of cool to update, change and fool around with. As far as specific X-Men arcs, I know we're doing a lot of talking about Apocalypse and what we can do with him, but no specific arc we'll be tweaking.
So, there'll be no Stryfe or Mutant Liberation front?
RK: Right. I'm trying to take all the cool things about Cable and boiling them down into this slightly changed, slightly new character. No plans for the Mutant Liberation Front.
Will you keep his background a heavy weight mystery for a while?
RK: There will be a pretty big revelation at the end of issue #75 that'll tell you a lot about Cable's past, but there's going to be 1,000 holes to fill in terms of what he's been doing. A lot of it will be a mystery, but certain things will be known at the end of issue #75.
RK: He's actually a clone of Peter Parker, but I don't know if we can say that. [laughs]
One of the other projects in the Ultimate line is the "Ultimate Wolverine" series that Loeb and Turner are working on. Have you talked about how that series will tie-in to the regular "Ultimate X-Men" book at all?
JB: They are separate entities. "Ultimate Wolverine" will delve more into his origin and his past and will show what's really different fundamentally with Ultimate Wolverine versus the Marvel U Wolverine. So, obviously it'll have a lot of impact on the character, but in terms of the two stories overlapping there will be some follow-ups, but there won't be a direct cross-over.
Is Ultimate Domino going to be here?
RK: Actually, yes. I can say that.
JB: Before we go, I'd like to add we've also got a back-up story in "Ultimate X-Men" #75 that Sean McKeever wrote with art by Mark Brooks that all takes place in the Emma Frost Academy of Tomorrow. There's a lot about Doug Ramsey and the other character there.