After the much bally-hooed team of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch departs, how do you follow that run?
The recent announcement that Jonathan Hickman (The Nightly News, Secret Warriors) was taking over the writing chores got me very excited. As a precursor, his Dark Reign: Fantastic Four series has been a perfect indicator of how he will approach Marvel’s first family. The addition of former JSA artist Dale Eaglesham is a major bonus and will bring back a kind of dynamic approach to the series that was sacrificed in order to meet the ‘wide screen’ cinematic approach that Hitch brought. I have nothing against Hitch as a designer and artist, but his FF run has mainly lacked a certain level of humanity that I associate with this title.
The new creative team will debut next month, and previews of the new series are starting to pop up in the back of select Marvel titles. The creators met with ComicBookResources.com to talk about what readers can expect when they take over the reigns of ‘the world’s comic book magazine.’
An admitted newcomer to the FF, Hickman has already shown that he has a handle on what makes the team tick in his Dark Reign mini-series. A talented writer from the independent market, Marvel is very lucky to have him on board. I’m still very surprised that he is even interested in this series and look forward to what he will bring to the title.
“To me, ‘Fantastic Four’ is obviously about the family structure, but more importantly it’s about wild, chaotic, fantastic ideas, as opposed to how things work in a functional world,” Hickman continued. “The physics of something isn’t the heart of the book. That’s not what I think we need to get back too.”
“And what you ought to expect out of me when it comes to ‘Fantastic Four’ stories is the old stuff with a new twist on it,” Hickman continued. “Not a reimagining, because that’s a terrible word for this, but kind of a distilling of everything down to it’s essence and then a spinning of it off into a new direction. In that new direction we’re still going to have a semblance of all things that you’re familiar with but we’re going to be doing it in a totally different way. It’s a from the ground up kind of rebirth, at least that’s the way I envision it.”
Dale Eaglesham’s approach to the series artistically sounds very much in keeping with how former Marvel Bullpenner John Buscema tackled the series. The preview images are less glossy and stylized as the team has appeared over the past year and look more like a superheroic team. I understand that this is a matter of taste, but the FF is one of the easiest titlers to get wrong as far as tone and style go. Even the best artist can mis-step and force the characters into a look that just doesn’t fit. Eaglesham seems to ‘get’ this idea and has streamlined yet modernized the team. As a side-note this could be the first time in ages that Sue Storm does not look like some kind of FHM cover girl. Eaglesham has returned a kind of dignity to her beauty that has been absent for a very long time.
“I feel Reed is going to become more intimidating and forceful and less the nerdy professor. I want villains to be afraid of him physically as well as of his mind,” Eaglesham continued. “That is not to say I want to wash the humor or any goofiness out of Reed or his relationships, far from it. I want to maintain that, but add to it the imposing presence of a brilliant scientist and powerful superhero.”
As one might have guessed from the above description, when it comes to drawing, Reed Richards is Eaglesham’s favorite member of the Fantastic Four, with The Thing being a close second. “My focus is on Reed and I am really looking forward to sculpting his personality, his intellectual intensity and his warm role of doting father. His powers are not ray blasts, but are very physical (and thus visually spectacular) displays,” the artist remarked. “I am going to enjoy adding a heroic stature to this almost comical power of his. This combination will be a lot of fun to explore.”
Eaglesham also has a clear vision on which qualities he’d like to capture and bring forward in the other “Fantastic Four” characters. “Johnny, the man of action, the adventurer, the risk taker and absolute warrior — he likes to have fun, but don’t be fooled by that; he is a real Sir Lancelot. Ben, the lovable curmudgeon, is the kind of character I love to work with. Honest and direct, he gets to say what everyone else is only thinking, and he does it without any malice (unless you happen to be Dr. Doom or a zombie from the Negative Zone). He should be in politics — imagine the fireworks!” Eaglesham said. “I intend to put a bit of steel into Reed and Sue and make them formidable superheroes, but it won’t affect their warmth as people. Valeria is a strange little creature. A toddling two-year-old, but possessing incredible intelligence, the possibilities for visual incongruity are endless. I see Franklin as a quiet kid, not quite brooding, but with a shadow of inquisitive seriousness about the brow.”
It’s not just the classic characters that make “Fantastic Four” such an appealing assignment for Eaglesham. The artist also loves the fact the FF’s primary role in the Marvel U is exploration. “That they can go anywhere opens up the book to science fantasy, science fiction and adventure, and I am a big proponent of that in comics,” Eaglesham stated. “Not only do I thoroughly enjoy transporting readers to new and incredible realities, but I live for that kind of material.”
As many readers of my blog may recall the Fantastic Four is one of my all-time favorite monthly titles. A combination of all the great concepts that make comics so exciting and unique along with that quintissential touch of the origins of Marvel Comics makes the series so important to me.
The new team debuts with issue 570 due out in August.