Writer Jonathan Hickman has changed the Fantastic Four forever. Not only is one of their members – The Human Torch – dead as a… Dead… Thing… But the group has expanded their roster to include Spider-Man, a group of kids, and even arch-enemy Doctor Doom, as part of the rebranded Future Foundation. Hickman – and artist Steve Epting – were on hand at HeroesCon 2011 to talk about their take on one of Marvel’s most storied franchises.
Shockingly, despite most of the panel being an open Q&A, there were no questions about the Human Torch dying! So weird!
Just kidding, pretty much everybody wanted to talk about that. But first we were treated to a light, relaxed, and very funny conversation between two pros and the audience. I’m going to separate it into some notes below, for easy readin' times:
- In terms of how close Hickman is to his original proposal: the Human Torch was always going to die; but Spider-Man joining the team was new.
- Spider-Man was always going to show up in the book, which you could see even back in Hickman’s third issue. When they started, though, there were three times a month books and multiple teams for Spidey, so there was no way he could have been on the team. Once Dan Slott became the sole writer, it became easier to sit down with one guy, and plan out where things were going. Hickman and Slott both know where they’re going to be about a year out. Spider-Man isn’t going anywhere, and Hickman hopes the FF will keep showing up in Spider-Man’s books.
- Things are on track with the original outline, up until the Anniversary issue, when it will renumber.
- It was easy coming on board for Steve Epting, because other artists had already done most of the design work. Though it was strange for the artist to jump into the middle of the storyline, having to check with Hickman as to what’s going on, as it’s a complex story.
- Asked about coordination, since FF member The Thing is all over the place, Hickman talks to Matt Fraction about Fear Itself, Bendis about Avengers… They all coordinate. “The reality is, we have a shared Universe,” said Hickman. “I think one of the more interesting thing we’re doing is that people are on non-traditional teams.”
- On the FF's redesigned costumes, Epting likes the new costumes, but he clarified that he didn’t design them – though people keep asking. It was Hickman’s idea to make the costumes black and white, as, “we’re entering a really delineated time in the Fantastic Four. The only thing we might not have liked is, we like Ben in his bikini shorts.”
- On a related note, Epting was most looking forward to drawing The Thing when he got onto the book… And then he turned back into Ben Grimm for Epting's first four issues.
- A fan asked if Hickman would be interested in writing a Future Foundation movie, Hickman quipped, “Yeah, I’d take the check.” Hickman thought the first two movies were mediocre, though Human Torch was great. He added he believes in the reboot, they should put the kids in the movies, to sell the idea of family.
- Asked whether Dragon Man will go on a mission, Hickman said, “Absolutely, I’d love that. Wouldn’t you like that? They have a Fantastic Four Encyclopedia. And I was reading it as part of my research, I kept track of what I liked, and what I did not like. And everything I liked will show up in the book. Dragon Man is cool! As a writer, though, if you want to make these things memorable, you want to find your own spin on it.”
- Val gets grounded in issue four, and someone breaks her out of her room, “…Inspired by my children,” joked Hickman. Probably joked, I mean.
- After joking that Epting was most looking forward to drawing fan favorite character Wyatt Wingfoot, Hickman more seriously said, “Wyatt Wingfoot will be back. There’s a reason he wasn’t at Johnny’s funeral. There are plans.”
- On the topic of whether there will be an upcoming FF focused event, Epting said, “I know you all don’t know what’s coming up, but the book itself is a huge event. It just happens in the regular, monthly FF title.”
- Doom has a massive part to play coming up. “All Hope Lies in Doom,” said Hickman. “The only question is, how much is it going to cost? It’s Doom, right? So wait and see.”
- Hickman was going to quit when Steve and his run was done, when his original outline was over. But he fell in love with the title enough that he’ll stay on until he feels done, or Marvel fires him. He’s planned out for two years from today. There’s going to be announcements coming up, including the Anniversary issue, which Hickman is really looking forward to.
- Finally, on the subject of Johnny Storm dying, and whether he’ll come back, killing Johnny was part of the original plans for the book… Fantastic Four is Tom Brevoort’s favorite book, and he wouldn’t have let Hickman do that if they didn’t have a great story to tell. In his mind, he didn’t know there would be any marketing, he wanted it to be a big surprise, but looking at how much fuss there was about killing Captain America, the marketing department knew they could sell more books if the word got out there about FF.
“Regardless of the circumstances, unless something radical happens, the school isn’t going anywhere,” said Hickman. “Even if Johnny Storm came back, the Future Foundation would continue. If I get fired tomorrow from Marvel, the next guy that comes on the book… Steve, who’s your favorite writer who’s not me or Brubaker.”
“…Stan Lee,” said Epting.
Hickman laughed, and continued, “Let’s say they decide to hire Stan Lee to write Fantastic Four… For some reason… Somewhere down the line, he’ll be asked to bring Johnny Storm back, because he’s IP. If I don’t do it, yeah some dude down the line will do it. Nightcrawler will be back. These are things Marvel owns. We may get radical, and reboot everybody [laughs from the audience]… But yes, I’m sure he’ll be back.”