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Assembling the Avengers

Assembling the New Avengers II

What does it take to be a member of the Illuminati? Jonathan Hickman explains!

New Avengers #1 preview art by Steve Epting

By Paul Montgomery

What does it take to be a member of the Illuminati, the clandestine group of heroes that meets to decide the fate of the Marvel Universe?

Extreme intelligence, for one; if not in the sciences, like Iron Man or Beast, than certainly in the arcane like Doctor Strange, or in the art of war like Black Bolt, Captain America or Black Panther. It takes experience. It takes courage.

Humility? Not a pre-requisite, per se.

Even upcoming NEW AVENGERS writer Jonathan Hickman concedes that a group like this represents a dangerous concept, “a necessary evil.” What could be worth all that risk?

We spoke to Hickman about what it means to be a member of the Illuminati and why even some of the best heroes will never be a part of that fellowship.

Marvel.com: Looking at the Illuminati and the updated roster, there are a few notable people that are not on that list. This is a hazardous job though, potentially high rate of turnover. So, if I could run down a list of names…

Jonathan Hickman: [Silence]

Marvel.com: Bruce Banner. Would he be a good candidate to be on the Illuminati? Why or why not?

Jonathan Hickman: I think he meets the baseline criteria for getting in the room, but they would never invite the Hulk into what they’re doing. That’s a hammer, not a scalpel.

Marvel.com: Would it be the same answer for Thor then?

The original Illuminati

Jonathan Hickman: Yeah, but I think the answer to all of why anyone else isn’t on the team is because they weren’t on the team in the beginning. This is a direct extension of their origin that Brian [Michael Bendis] came up with. The only reason that Captain America is on the team is that he joined the team on Brian’s previous run on AVENGERS. It’s not like a team. It’s guys that have gotten together throughout the history of the Marvel Universe to do clandestine stuff.

I don’t think any of them see it as a team at all. It’s not a team, it’s a group of competent people with very specific power levels and power sets and a certain level of intelligence and influence that get together to not run the world in secret, but to make decisions for the world in secret. So someone like Thor would never get invited because that’s a dull instrument in their minds. They respect Thor, he’s an honorable guy, but if the sun’s going to blow up, Thor’s response is to hit it with a hammer and maybe it will start burning again. He doesn’t have the ability to solve the problem on the scale of problems that they are dealing with. Does that make sense?

Marvel.com: Yeah, it does. But let’s ignore that for a moment. Would they ever invite anyone like Nick Fury or someone involved with S.H.I.E.L.D. on a kind of adjunct basis?

Jonathan Hickman: I don’t think that they trust those guys. Not that they trust each other, but I don’t think that they would invite them. I personally believe that most of the people on the Avengers, they cooperate with S.H.I.E.L.D and co-habitate with S.H.I.E.L.D, but I don’t think there’s an innate sense of trust in what S.H.E.L.D is doing and what the heroes are doing, I don’t think they have the same agenda. I would not see Nick Fury invited. But it would not have been out of place, I would [not] think, if Nick Fury was in that first meeting in Brian’s original Illuminati. But he wasn’t, and so it’s kind of a moot point

New Avengers #1 cover by Jock

Marvel.com: Do you think S.H.I.E.L.D has any idea what’s going on with the Illuminati? Just given how deep that goes? And you’ve written about the whole mythology of S.H.I.E.L.D, so do you think that that’s something that would fall under their radar?

Jonathan Hickman: Maybe. Maybe not.

Marvel.com: We’ve been talking about all the egos involved, and all the men of power, so let’s talk about the influence. How great an impact do the Illuminati have? Is it felt in the world, or is it hypothetical and for their sanctimonious sense of righteousness? How much of it is ego versus practical effects on the real world?

Jonathan Hickman: NEW AVENGERS will be the most important book in the Marvel Universe for the next couple of years. It won’t be obvious at the beginning, and I’m talking about in regards to the Avengers corner of the Marvel Universe. But we are going somewhere, and this is the primary driver of where we are headed.

A lot of stuff happening in AVENGERS is happening in broad daylight, and all of these big stories and big stuff and big moments are happening. But underneath it all is all the stuff that is happening in NEW AVENGERS, and it just slowly bubbles to the top. It’s kind of impossible to explain at this point because it’s a really abstract construct, but give it a little bit of time and it’ll become clear.  

Marvel.com: So how much of this is planned out in your mind? Is there potential for you as a writer to be surprised and make discoveries as you go along? How tight is the outline?

Jonathan Hickman: Well I always leave myself room to play, but I’m telling a story and I know what the end of it is. I’m a big believer in knowing your ending. In between where we start and where we get to, is there a lot of play? Absolutely. Will it grow and will it inform the ending? Yes. But will the ending change? No. That’s thematically where the story needs to end up, otherwise what good would the theme be?

New Avengers #1 variant cover by J. Scot Campbell

Marvel.com: What are your ambitions in this series? What themes do you hope to explore?

Jonathan Hickman: This is easily my favorite thing I’ve done at Marvel. All of this came out of a book that I talked to [editor] Tom [Brevoort] about, about what I could do best in the Marvel Universe. And this book has all of those elements, and on top of that, when it became obvious that I was going to get to do the Avengers book, and Brian Bendis didn’t have an end point for the Illuminati beyond the stories that he had told, when I found out that he didn’t close the book on that, then I knew that that was the vehicle to tell this kind of story. Obviously, I want it to be relevant and very good, but beyond that I think we can really do a mainstream Marvel Universe book that is a commercial success that isn’t a bunch of white hats all the time. Does that make sense?

Marvel.com: It does. Do you plan to close the story in a way that Bendis didn’t? With a period instead of ellipses?

Jonathan Hickman: Probably not in the way that you mean. Like they all put their infinity gems down and walk away. Like the end of the first “Ocean’s Eleven” movie where they all walk away from the fountain [Laughs] or something like that. But yes, this has a logical conclusion that I’m building toward.

Next week, Jonathan returns to talk more Illuminati and NEW AVENGERS!

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Cap shud nvr hv bn on dis team....hopefully u get rid of him sooner rather dan l8r.

Thoulk member

I dont see how Thor is any different to Namor for example and even Black Bolt in many respects. Thor is a prince of asgard quite a bit above atlantis and the inhumans and has been the king of asgard in the past. He is more intelligent than is given credit for. As Blake (which when written by Stan Lee was Thor in mortal form) he achieved a medical degree and was an eminent surgeon so scientifically wise he is up there with Dr Strange. The argument for Namor and Black Bolt is their skills in the art of war. Thor has spent centuries leading armies and is trained as a prince of asgard in war stratagy.You could say Thor is a bit of a hot head but then Namor is as well. The arguments for Thor not being included make no sense if looking at Thors history. However when Thor is in a team book he is always written as dumb muscle only. I suppose if you wrote him with his power skills intelligence battle stratagy etc then you woulnt need the rest of the avangers.


I think it would be better if captain america wasnt on the team


It could use a woman of some sort to many men on one team. Captain Marvel (Carol not the real one)


Honestly, the best 2 character to add would be Vision and Jack of Hearts. Both have computer like brains, and are not based for combat, but instead would have a lot of contribution to all dialog and could tie anything into space relations. Also if that were the case, I would buy anything you produced.