This man is one the greatest writers working in comics today. He started by making The Nightly News for Image comics and then wrote Transhuman and A Red Mass for Mars for them as well. This has led to him running wild in the Marvel Universe by killing Johnny Storm, establishing the origin of S.H.E.I.L.D, and bringing back Nick Fury with a ragtag group of new heroes. Recently he’s come back to Image by launching two new ongoing series, The Manhattan Projects and Secret. He was featured in one of my very first Pick of the Week columns back when it was just a thing I was doing on facebook. If you don’t know who he is then you deserve an elbow drop from the top rope.
Adam: You’re in the process of transitioning The Ultimates over to Sam Humphries. What is that like creatively?
Jonathan: Well, I needed to come off the book because of some other stuff that’s going on. We started looking for someone who could really come on and hit the ground running. Also we wanted someone who had a unique voice, and Sam was obviously that guy. Basically all that happened was that various people were considered, Sam was the best. Once they decided that Sam was the guy, I told him what all was going to happen. I was a big advocate for Sam when they asked me what I thought. I told him “I’m way more interested in what you’re going to do. You’re going to be the guy taking over the book. So, it’s very important that you do your own thing and tell the story you want to tell. Not being the facilitator for what I would have done. That would have sucked.” This means he’s going to take what he likes, use it, and discard what he doesn’t like. Hopefully it’ll make a really good story.
Adam: I was under the impression that you guys were co-writing a stretch of story?
Jonathan: Well, we did three issues together. Together means that Sam is starting his process and that he wrote the issues. We’ve talked about them, come up with the outline, and then I looked at the issues to suggest changes or polishes. I didn’t re-write Sam out of my personal preferences. For all intents and purposes Sam is the main writer, and I’m just making sure the transition is smooth.
Adam: Your exit from The Ultimates is also an exit from the Ultimate Universe. Do you have a favorite moment out from your work with Ultimate Thor, Ultimate Hawkeye, and The Ultimates?
Jonathan: Yeah, probably the stuff with Thor. Where he realizes that everyone isn’t dead, and they all live in him. I’d been getting to that through my Thor mini-series and I always knew that was going to happen. That was my best moment, but the coolest shit throughout the whole thing has easily been the stuff with Reed Richards. That’s all me taking the stuff I couldn’t do in Fantstic Four, taking what Brian [Bendis] did by making Reed a bad guy and jacking it up to the Nth level.
Adam: Moving onto your Image stuff, you’re doing Feel Better Now. What’s the arrival looking like on that right now?
Jonathan: We don’t know. I personally don’t know because it got too big. It got too big to the extent that for us to have published the way that it was would not have been what was solicited. Therefore…you can’t do that. You literally can’t give someone a book that costs more and is a different thing than what they’d asked for. You can’t tell someone you’re shipping a floppy and send them a graphic novel that costs three times as much money. I’m not sure right now. I don’t have time to finish it right this second. I feel like its something that deserves to be bigger. I’m not going to put it out until it’s that finished thing that I want. I know people want to see it because we did that promo art that was as cool as shit! I’m very proud of it and I miss drawing. A lot of love is in that project! At the end of the day if you half ass it then you don’t deliver. That breaks the rule of the contract that the readers and I have which is always producing my best work. Regardless of who it’s for, I always try and give a good story. This would be some other thing if I just threw it out there.
Adam: You have Manhattan Projects and Secret starting up. What is Secret about?
Jonathan: Secret is a spy book about corporate espionage, how it wraps up into government espionage, and the companies that facilitate that. When you say “security companies” people think Blackwater, and shit like that. They think private military contractors but there is a ton of coprorate intelligence that is done by private security companies. Its about one of these companies that take on the wrong client.
Adam: What can we expect out its artist, Ryan Boddenheim and will it be anything like he was in A Red Mass for Mars?
Jonathan: Ryan is drawing very well right now. It’s very clean. It’s very mono-chromatic and dual tone. It fits the tone of the book, and we’re very happy right now. In fact, as happy as we are about the response to Manhattan Projects and Nick Pitarra, Secret is probably a better book that will blow people’s hair back.
Adam: In a fight between two comic artists -
Jonathan: Ryan is a physically more impressive person than Nick Pitarra. I think that he would beat Nick up. BUT! I don’t know that Nick would play fair. Nick is a lover. He would probably try and make peace. He’s very convincing and a very good kisser.
Adam: Moving back to Marvel. They have a MAX line that has about two books out at any given time. Is there anything in that vein you’d like to explore.
Jonathan: Sure! There is an X-Men MAX book that I would like to do, but Marvel will never do that. The danger to the property at large if someone does a great MAX book is something that they don’t want to do. I’m also too busy. I don’t have any time to do anything else at Marvel. My Marvel plate is jammed packed full.
Adam: Between FF and Fantastic Four, you’ve had a pretty epic run. Will you be writing that title until they kick you off?
Jonathan: Actually I’ll be done with FF and Fantastic Four in October or November. I feel great about how it all went, though.
Adam: Since you’re leaving Ultimates and the Fantastic Four realm, do you find yourself moving more into the creator owned arena?
Jonathan: Clearly, I’m doing more creator owned books. That’s simply because I’m better at managing my schedule. We spent all of last year preparing for this stuff. I’m still going to be at Marvel. I’m very happy at Marvel, and it’s a great company to work for. Marvel has been very good to me. I’m very proud of the work I did there. I feel just as good when someone says they enjoyed my Fantastic Four stuff as when they say they enjoyed my independent work. I try and put an honest effort into all of that stuff. It’s different. They’re two very different exercises. One of them I own, and one of them I do not. At the end of the day there is more value in that. I get up in the morning and I work hard. It doesn’t matter which one I’m working on.
Thanks to Jonathan Hickman for taking time out of his schedule to chat with me. It was quite a blast. You can follow him on Twitter, @JHickman, or find him at his wesbite, pronea.com. You can also tell Jonathan you love him by picking up Manhattan Projects, Secret, Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D, and by keeping an eye out for his future projects. Our very next column welcomes in Image phenomenon, and Peter Panzerfaust writer, Kurtis J. Wiebe.