For trying to change the world, the folks at Marvel sure like to play it awfully flirtatious.
At least changing the world seems to be the launch model for G.O.D.S., the “once-in-a-generation title” from Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti. For all the talk of “completely [redefining] the Marvel Comics cosmology,” there have been tiny previews and shreds of closely guarded info. (It’s worth noting that there have been 10 preview pages released in recent Marvel books, but there’s no saying if people read every single book.)
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Until now, that is.
During a conference call on Thursday afternoon, Hickman and Schiti, alongside Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski and executive editor Tom Brevoort, unleashed the largest cache of info on G.O.D.S. to date. We learned about some of the main characters, some cover art, and preview pages and were treated to more talk of this title’s grandiosity and importance. And while we’ve already gone over most of the info, there’s somehow still more to it all.
I was lucky enough to attend the call and later spoke briefly with Hickman one-on-one about the book. What follows are some tidbits and added context that do not greatly extend the book and its role in Marvel’s immediate (and perhaps long-term) future. If the event was the main course, consider this the after-dinner drinks (and perhaps a mint) to enjoy after you’ve gorged.
We may still not know everything, but one this is becoming increasingly clear: G.O.D.S. truly could be something for the ages.
G.O.D.S. #1 will debut October 4.
An Epic Like No Some Others Before
As much as G.O.D.S. represents something brand-new for Marvel, it’s also inspired by other, hugely beloved books. Even those outside the publisher’s universe.
“This really sits on the axis of Saga and Sandman,” said Brevoort. “There’s some certain stylistic similarities. It’s definitely a different flavor than what we do at Marvel.”
He also added that it’s similar to another massive Marvel event in Secret Wars in that this newer project is also “about unraveling secrets…about how all these worlds worked together.”
Madness, No More!
“G.O.D.S. takes the various disparate entities and creates a sense of order around them,” said Brevoort, eluding to characters concepts like Eternity and Infinity. “And that’s into something that’s a little easier to get their arms around.”
Readying The Eyeballs
“This book is a central part of the Marvel Universe,” said Brevoort. “So we wanted to prime the pump and set the expectation.”
The Marvel team was strategic in placing those aforementioned preview pages.
“We had to find places in each one and insert an additional page and scene,” said Brevoort. “It had to relate to what happened in that story and, in aggregate, build a prologue to the story.” He explained that the insert in Doctor Strange #6 was the best, adding that it was “so seamlessly integrated you wouldn’t know we came up with after script was done.”
Hickman added that these aren’t mere throwaways either, explaining that “each page has an Easter egg that pays off in the G.O.D.S. series. It makes them relevant to the main book.”
You’ll be able to read all ten pages for free starting next week (August 28) on Marvel.com.
So Much Story
The debut issue is an over-sized entry, clocking in at roughly 55 pages. However, Brevoort said they “cut it down originally from 72 [pages].” To which Hickman replied, “That makes me sound more indulgent.”
But, as Hickman added, there’s ultimately a reason for that added page count.
“The length is so everyone gets a full understanding of what the world was like, and I think we accomplished that,” he said. “Even if you hate writing, you’ll love the art.”
The Heart and Soul Of It All
There’s no denying this book is cosmic in its scope and intentions. However, Hickman also thinks there’s something deeply human about what they’re trying to do with this book.
“Most stories that deal with magic find their way in from a mundane world,” he said. “And we do it in Marvel way — by dressing it up in cool clothes. “[The characters] do have titles and monikers and superhero names, even if that’s not the right thing. They have names like Wolverine, but none of them are called Wolverine. The reason we call them by their first names is that the book’s really written on a personal level.”
That also means taking some of those aforementioned god-type characters and making them more accessible.
“One of the things we wanted to do is take abstracts and make a more street-level version of the character,” said Hickman. “There’s multiple aspects for Doctor Strange to run into In-Betweener in some mundane location. You can have a conversation between two normal-sized aspects, but they’re still the same uber-powerful deity in the body of a man or a woman or a cat. OK, we didn’t use a cat.”
Added Hickman, “Speaking in Marvel Universe terms, there’s the Peter Parker version, and now there’s the Spider-Man version. It’s an effective storytelling mechanism, and it makes them more usable to appear in other books. It’s a real value-add to Marvel continuity.”
And there’s a really vital reason as to why that “value-add” is so important.
“You’ll be seeing these incarnations in other places in the Marvel Universe,” said Brevoort.” They’ll integrate with Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Avengers, and whoever as we go on.”
Does that also mean they could appear in another Hickman project, the recently relaunched Ultimate Invasion?
“Sure,” said Hickman. “We reserve the right to make more books.”
Old Is New Again
G.O.D.S. does focus on five newer characters. (There have been four primarily discussed, and the fifth, according to the group, will be introduced a little later on.) But tons of long-time heroes do appear — even beyond Doctor Strange — including some who’ve undergone some rather noticeable changes.
Speaking on issue #3, which is called “Cassandra,” Brevoort said, “We can say showcases an existing Marvel character that has been completely redesigned,” adding that they’ll let the fans “decide who or what that might be.”
It’s not only Hickman who is throwing his whole back into this. Schiti also mentioned that, given the scope and size of this project, he’s tried to step up artistically.
“I’m trying to be more detailed and changing my style,” he said. “I’m using half-tones and using something very different than I did before. This is a new story and a new style and a new me.”
He thanks that extra imaginative approach to a brand-new collaborator.
“I have a 1-year-old son, and so I have a lot of time at night to think about what I have to do the next day,” he said. “My days are way longer than they used to be.”
Below is a 10-minute Q&A with Hickman. While it’s short on time, we discuss his approach to big-time events, Doctor Strange’s role, adding to the Marvel Universe, and other plans, among other topics and tidbits.
AIPT: You mentioned during the call that this was a huge event that’s still deeply personal. How do you balance that or make it happen?
Jonathan Hickman: Well, you want it to be a spectacle. It’s really hard to do a small personal story and also do a giant Marvel Universe book about gods and be able to give both the bandwidth that they need in the 20 pages or so. And so we chose to make it longer. We toyed with the idea of cutting the first issue in half, but Tom said, “I doesn’t work. It’s just the small stuff if you cut it out and then the big stuff in the other half.” You have to jam a lot on the pages. It’s really asking a lot of Valerio, but he’s crushed it. So we’re managing. We’re through four issues, and he’s been knocking it out of the park. The first arc ends on issue #8. I think it’s going to be longer. We might be in trouble there, but we’ll see.”
AIPT: You’re obviously coming off some big X-Men-centric stuff. Do these events share any DNA? Or, more likely, are there lessons you carried over?
JH: Well, I think whenever possible, you would like to avoid a pandemic in the middle of things. They are completely different projects in the way that they’re executed and the style and the scope, and even in the terms of the volume of books that we’re putting out, there’s no team here. It’s just the group of creators working on the book. It’s much more like Fantastic Four was than like X-Men.
AIPT: Doctor Strange seems involved to some degree or another. Beyond the magical connection, why is he someone worth including and a lens for all of this?
JH: I love writing Doctor Strange because he’s a fascinating dichotomy. Is he a good guy who does bad things, or is he a bad guy that does good things? I think that serves a role in what I’m trying to do thematically. In the same way that I try to have thematic stuff that people can hook into everything that I do. I try not to make it be preachy or anything like that — or heavy-handed. I always want it to come organically through the characters. Strange is a fantastic vessel for what kind of world are you living in, right? And that’s really the question at hand here. Are you an individual who is at the whims of mighty forces beyond your control, or do you have some say in it? He is in the first four issues pretty heavily just because of the conceit of the way the story starts — he’s not one of the main characters in the normal sense that we’re really invested in what is going on with him. He’s much more Robin than Batman, I would say.
AIPT: If you can’t be Batman, then be Robin.
JH: He’s much more Nightwing than he is Batman. How about that?
When doing big books like this, is there ever anything that’s taboo or off-limits? Things that are too sacred to touch or change?
JH: Well, I don’t think you should f–k s–t up just to f–k s–t up. I have a real aversion to that. But in regards to what I feel like my role is when I come on a book, I feel like I’m supposed to swing for the fence. I feel like Marvel wants me to swing for the fence. But I don’t ever want to screw up anybody else’s book. And so when you look at Avengers, it’s not me writing Spider-Man as Spider-Man and Captain America as my Captain America that I envisioned at the beginning of the story. It’s OK to write “Old Man Captain America” in your book. It’s OK to write “Superior Spider-Man” because all of that actually reinforces the weight of it happening in Marvel continuity. I guess it’s kind of karmic. I want people to respect the stuff that I do, and so I think I should be respectful of what everybody else is doing. But I definitely am going to try and swing as hard as I can and be respectful of what’s going on and what’s come before. But obviously also try to do something new and exciting and make people jacked up to read a book.
AIPT: You also said you wrote the bible for this book fairly early on. Is that a living organism that changes, or does it stay stagnant to help give you structure and guidance?
JH: It absolutely is. I think it has to change, and it certainly did change. I was telling somebody else I think maybe 30% of it remained unchanged. It’s not like it wasn’t strong — it’s just that the world changed, and my ideas changed. I think if you’re doing this the right way when you add something, it travels back through time to the beginning of what you started, and it might have ripples that make you want to rethink the beginning. And so I tend to get the ends of my stories at the same time that I get the beginnings. It’s this feedback loop of creation and destruction, and I just want to end on the side of being additive and not subtractive.
AIPT: Last question for you: You’ve written a ton of big books and big event books. Is your next thing going to be some quiet, two-issue miniseries or do you want to keep going big?
JH: I know I’m known as being a guy who has a plan or something like that, but I don’t want to be slavish to it, and I want to be excited when I’m working. And so if something becomes stale…burn it down and build something better. So, I don’t want to say that I’m not interested in ever writing an event again or only writing smaller stuff.
I’m sure that if I hear something in a Marvel retreat that blows my hair back, and I have a great idea for a six-issue thing, then we’ll probably end up doing the six-issue thing, you know? But right now, I know what I’m doing. I’m working on this, and they’re going to announce some of my other books at New York Comic Con, I think. But my schedule’s pretty full right now.
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A smorgasbord of info has dropped on the universe-altering ‘G.O.D.S.’ masterminded by Jonathan Hickman. Read More