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Assembling the Avengers

Assembling the New Avengers I

Jonathan Hickman runs through the roles of Black Panther and the other members of the reconstituted Illuminati!

New Avengers #1 cover by Steve Epting

By Paul Montgomery

They’re the men in the smoke-filled room. The deciders. Composed of the brightest minds in the Marvel Universe, the clandestine cabinet known as the Illuminati protects reality in secret.

In the fallout of the war between the Avengers and X-Men, they have lost Professor Charles Xavier, a founding member of the group. Soon, the Illuminati will invite new representatives into its fold—but they won’t be smiling as they’re sworn in.

We spoke at length to writer Jonathan Hickman about his plans for the Illuminati in the pages of NEW AVENGERS. Here’s part one.

It all starts in Africa.

Marvel.com: What’s the situation in Wakanda when NEW AVENGERS #1 picks up?

Jonathan Hickman: The reason that we start in Wakanda is because something happens there that is actually a catalyst for Black Panther to reassess his long held position on the Illuminati being a very very bad idea. If you remember the first Illuminati [story] that Brian [Michael Bendis] did a couple of years ago, Black Panther was the only one that walked away from the table and said, “I don’t want any part of this.” And something happens that is significant enough that causes him to rethink that.

Marvel.com: Do you find it easier to side with the Black Panther or with the other characters’ thinking when it comes to the ethics of the Illuminati? Do you think it’s a good idea?

Jonathan Hickman: No, I think it’s a terrible idea. And that’s kind of the beauty of it. I’m writing it in a necessary evil kind of way. I think some of the best gray morality tales take place in scenarios where decent people are forced to do indecent things for a greater cause. And so that’s what the book is kind of about, and that’s why the Black Panther is so important. In this group of guys, if there is a moral center to the group, it would be him. That’s kind of how that whole mechanism works.

Black Panther

Marvel.com: How would Black Panther put into words what he thinks the Illuminati represents? What is it that he doesn’t so much like?

Jonathan Hickman: I think he would probably say that this is the kind of thinking that is a very anachronistic way of looking at society. And by that, I’m saying that even though Black Panther is a king, he’s smart enough to understand that aristocracy is not the lynchpin of the future of the human race. This has all of the substructure of a bunch of aristocrats getting together and deciding what’s best for all of the people, and I think most people would argue that society now and society going forward has moved beyond that.

Marvel.com: Scale of one to ten, how great is the animosity between different members of Illuminati?

Jonathan Hickman: I would say that some of them are very cordial, so they start out at about a one or a two. I would say that some of them are starting off at ten. I think that Black Panther [and] Namor, as well as anyone that got caught up in all that AvX stuff, I think those guys are starting off on a bad foot to begin with. But they’re able to put that stuff aside at the beginning because of what is happening. But these are human beings, and of course all of that comes to the surface.

Marvel.com: Is there any kind of hierarchy as to how the Illuminati works?

Jonathan Hickman: The hierarchy is that each of them thinks they are in charge. It’s like when you go to a rock show, and you’re in the audience, and you’re really into it, and for a second there you think the show is about you [Laughs]. It’s like that. They just see things from their own perspective and their own experience that they’re going through. They just think that what they say is the smartest and cleverest thing that anybody has said that day, and they say it in a room of peers.

New Avengers #1 preview art by Steve Epting

Marvel.com: If you were to go through the list of Illuminati, would you be able to assign each of them a Cabinet title? What do they each represent?

Jonathan Hickman: I suppose Captain America would represent the President of the United States, which would be appropriate. He thinks he is the leader of the free world. Iron Man thinks he’s the guy that got the President of the United States elected. He’s the money. He’s the Chief of Staff and the primary investor and the real brains behind the operation. Doctor Strange doesn’t think he’s on the same governmental body as them.

Marvel.com: Why is that? 

Jonathan Hickman: He’s the magic guy. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a man of science, but he has access to answers and concepts that these guys aren’t familiar with. And in a lot of ways that’s like a guy watching people flounder around for answers to questions that he already has the answer to, which they fundamentally and structurally are unable to comprehend. In a lot of ways, he understands the world in a way that they are not capable of.

Doctor Strange is an arrogant, arrogant guy. He just has a really great mustache [Laughs].

Marvel.com: Black Bolt?

Jonathan Hickman: I know that you can say that Namor and Black Panther are kings as well, but of all the people in the room that are actually rulers of a people, I would say that Black Bolt thinks that he is the preeminent king in the room. He’s a king of destiny, if you will. He’s not just a ruler; his birth was a significant one in the overall scheme of everything that matters.

Marvel.com: And Namor?

Jonathan Hickman: He thinks he’s the most important guy in the room. He thinks he’s the king and the most significant guy.

Marvel.com: So a lot of egos so far. But as we get toward the end of the list, I imagine there’s maybe less of that, like with Mr. Fantastic...

Mr. Fantastic

Jonathan Hickman: I think he probably thinks that he is the most detached. He would be like the Secretary of Education or Minister of Science or whatever. But in the back of Reed’s mind, he knows that if everyone needs a problem solved, he is the guy that everyone is going to turn and look at it. It’s not false humility, because he really is the most genuinely nice person in that room beyond Captain America, but he’s taken the appearance of not having an ego to such an extent that it’s only something that someone with a really big ego could do.   

Marvel.com: Beast?

Jonathan Hickman: I think he feels a little out of place. He’s a guy that wasn’t supposed to be in the room, but at the right moment, [is] the guy that in many ways is way more capable of any of the other guys at solving the real problems, He’s probably the second most moral guy in the room behind Black Panther.

Marvel.com: And Black Panther? You said he’s royalty, but he also has really good intentions coming into it?

Jonathan Hickman: If there’s a character that embodies the hope that all of this is going to turn out ok, and that these guys are going to do to the right thing all the time, and that they are going to somehow overcome these circumstances and be the heroes that we all want them to be, that it’s somehow going to be facilitated through them, then that’s Black Panther.

Marvel.com: Is there something innate in Black Panther that makes him more hopeful than the others?

Jonathan Hickman: Yeah, he was wise enough to say no. He was wise enough at the beginning of this thing to say, oh, this was a bad idea. It’s not that he’s not arrogant; it’s not that he’s not royalty; it’s not that he’s not all those things that define men of power. But even being that, he was wise enough to see what a bad idea this was.

Tomorrow, Jonathan gives us the details on what it takes to be a member of the Illuminati in NEW AVENGERS!

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Why not just call the book Illuminati?


Fantastic interview..alot of insight on d xcters with an epic premise. Cant wait!


I am getting this..hell yeah..this peaked my interest like a hard on.


Very excited to see Black Panther in a prominent role