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Marvel’s Next Big Thing: Sam Humphries to Take Over Ultimates

Comic Booked Guest Writer 02/16/2012 Reviews

On Thursday, Marvel held the third of this week’s  “Mystery Liveblogs” in its Next Big Thing series, this time spotlighting the Ultimates with writers Jonathan Hickman and Sam Humphries. The big news is that popular Ultimates writer Jonathan Hickman will leave the book and that new writer Sam Humphries will be taking over starting with May’s Issue #10. Hickman is quick to point out, however, that this is not a sudden hand-off, but a transition. Associate editor Ben Morse, the moderator of the chat, offered this clarification:

“Jonathan [is] using the process Brian Bendis used with him on Secret Warriors in turning the book over to Sam. Sam will be doing the first pass on most scripts then Jonathan will oversee.”

Sam Humphries, writer of indie books like Our Love is Real  and Sacrifice, is clearly thrilled to be given this opportunity:

 “It’s exciting to be able to come into Marvel on a book like this. You’ve got Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and all the heavy hitters, but with the leeway to throw them around in ways you can’t in the Marvel Universe… To use a football metaphor, Ultimates is in the red zone all the time; the biggest players making the big plays.”

It was an offhand reference to Our Love is Real that provided some of the most humorous commentary in the chat when Ultimates 10Humphries proclaimed:

“I may have published and distributed a pretentious comic about having sex with vegetables, but I grew up with super hero comics like everybody else, loving them and being inspired by them. There are a lot of lessons that I love. I’d love to able to work on Ultimates for a long time.”

Humphries also has a great respect for Hickman’s work on Ultimates, telling us:

“”When Hickman hits a book, he comes in with big plans. He’s a big picture thinker. At the end of issue #9, everything gets thrown off a cliff–figuratively. Something happens that nobody in the Ultimate Universe can walk away from. Everything changes for all the characters and how they relate to each other. S.H.I.E.L.D., the City of Tomorrow and other major institutions get shaken up.”

Jonathan Hickman is just as clearly a fan of Humphries:

 “I wanted to work with somebody who has a fresh voice and who is clearly talented. I’m ecstatic to be working with Sam, he’s got some real game.”

Luke Ross will be providing the art, and both Humphries and Hickman were highly complimentary of his work. Humphries complimented Ross’s work on:

“Characters, faces and emotions. That all really comes into play with our plans for the book.”

While Hickman believes that:

“Luke is perfect for the thematic shift coming to the book. He’s also very good, which is a nice bonus.”

Participants were treated to a sneak peek at the cover for Issue #10. Comments that it was an oddly adorned Ghost Rider gracing the cover were quickly dispelled when it was revealed that the figure was Ultimate Xorn. Humphries wouldn’t give too much away about the story, but he did indicate that:

“The floating cities, and the Xorn/Zorn brothers, and their super-powered nation presents a crisis for the entire world and when a crisis threatens the world, the Ultimates have to respond. How they go about that is gonna have to be a secret for now!”

Rather than start from scratch, Humphries made it clear that he intends to follow through with the larger story started by Hickman:

“I read Jonathan’s Ultimates and Ultimate Hawkeye really as one book about this world affected by super heroes messing around with world politics. It’s a situation where America has gone from the number one super power from maybe three or four. The situation in the SEAR is one Hawkeye, Nick Fury and the Ultimates can’t ignore, not just to neutralize a threat but to find out who is your friend and who is your enemy.”

Editor Ben Morse elaborated that:

“Jonathan gave his long outline to Sam, so he’ll be carrying on (with his own twists of course).”

This was another point that was made clear. While Humphries will be working from Hickman’s outlines, the story will be uniquely his as well. Humphries was quick to point out that:

“Jonathan has been very generous with his ideas. From our very first conversations he’s been encouraging me to write what I want to write and focus on what I want to focus on. We’re very much moving in the same direction.”

For all involved, the transition appears to be seamless, the ease of which may be attributed to a similar philosophy on how to approach the Ultimates. Hickman believes that:

“Ultimates is really a perfect playground for big super hero comics, and to not use it that way I think would be a mistake.”  Humphries would echo this attitude later in the chat: “It’s intimidating to take on a book as big as Ultimates, but I’m loving the ability to have all these larger than life characters together. My first instinct is to lock them in an impossible situation and see how they bounce off each other. The more friction between them, the more I think we get out of them.”

The reason why Hickman is leaving a well received run on a book he clearly loves remains a mystery. All he would offer is:

“I never planned on leaving Ultimates. I took the Ultimate Thor gig with the understanding I’d be getting Ultimates. When I came to Marvel, Ultimates was the book I wanted more than any other. But…I got a job offer I couldn’t refuse, so I’m taking it.”

Though others in the chat comically speculated he had taken a job at TGI Friday’s, Hickman himself would offer no insight into the nature of this dream job.

Humphries then fielded questions from participants on a range of subjects. He even reached out and asked which characters people would like to see Ultimate versions of. When someone suggested The Power Pack, Humphries quickly replied:
“I love the original Simonson/Brigman run,” and he considered it, “highly underrated.”
When asked whether the new Spider-Man would ever appear in Ultimates, Humphries emphatically stated:
“I LOVE MILES MORALES, I think he’s one of the greatest new comic book characters of the past decade. I will arm wrestle Bendis for the chance to write Miles, even for a panel!”
Other participants asked about the possible return of Captain America. His response here was more cryptic, offering:
“Lips are sealed on Cap… but the Ultimates do really need their Captain back … but you can’t always get what you want.. especially in the Ultimate comics universe.”
He followed that with this cryptic message:
“If Magneto is still alive that would change everything wouldn’t it?”
 After a debate regarding the fate of Namor (it was settled that Namor is still alive but trapped in a cage beneath Doom’s castle), one participant asked about the Hulk:
“Hulk will smash in a way never experienced before – epic. Some of these characters are about to go so hard on each other.”
And about the Vision:
“I will say that the Vision, in either universe, is such a strong concept…i mean, he can’t stay away forever, can he??”
 Sam Humphries brings a great deal of enthusiasm and a tremendous energy to the already stellar work of Jonathan Hickman. While many fans will clearly be devastated at the loss of Hickman, all involved have made it clear that the book will continue on the path that Hickman has charted.
What say you, Comic Booked readers? Are you sad at the loss of Hickman? Encouraged by the addition of Humphries? How awesome is that cover?

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  1. Ed A. 02/17/2012 at 5:36 am

    I'm a big fan of Humphries (I'm possibly the only person in the UK with non-digital copies of Sacrifice) and Hickman, so this can only bode well. Looks like Humphries could be the next darling of Marvel after Jason Aaron.

    I don't read Ultimate comics so purely out of selfish motivations I hope this leaves Hickman more time to finish Feel Better Now, SHIELD and also to keep his work on the Manhattan Projects on schedule.

    I am mighty curious about that offer he couldn't refuse though…

  2. Brien Gorham 02/17/2012 at 7:34 am

    I've only now started looking at Humphries' work and I'm really impressed. I like Hickman's work on Ultimates – it's just really epic stuff. But, yes – I too am anxious to know what pulled Hickman away from Ultimates. He gave up nothing yesterday.

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