Wizard World Chicago 2007

Wizard World Chicago 2007: Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch on Fantastic Four

Mark Millar and Hitch redefined widescreen action comics with THE ULTIMATES. Now they're getting set to put their stamp on Marvel's First Family. Get a first look at their run, a trailer and some big thoughts from Hitch, right here.

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By Ryan Penagos

Bryan Hitch Fantastic
Four art

When your last projects include ULTIMATES, ULTIMATES 2 and CIVIL WAR, finding the right follow-up project can't be easy. If you go for another gigantic event, you may run the risk of drawing too many comparisons to your recent books. Tackle a low-level character or book and people might be left scratching their heads. The smart choice: Work your magic on A-list characters who've been in and out of the spotlight over the last year, doing so in a way that redefines them for a new age, expands the mythos and shakes their world up, yet doesn't destroy all that's been established. Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch? They're clever guys. They're opting for the smart choice, taking over FANTASTIC FOUR in 2008. "It's actually the most fun I've had in a very long time drawing comics," says Hitch from his home in the U.K. "It's so much more outrageous [and] on a broader scope than ULTIMATES allowed. ULTIMATES is deliberately claustrophobic, intense hyper-detailed. Dense, you know? And that made the mark for a great deal of work on my part. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy it. I was actually very relieved when it was finished, but it felt like it could be something a little bit out there and that's what I wanted to do. It's not that FANTASTIC FOUR is a comedy by any stretch, but it is a more fun book. At least no idea is too outrageous for the FANTASTIC FOUR because that's the kind of world they inhabit. If it's not too silly, it's not too outrageous.

Bryan Hitch Fantastic
Four art

"Now that I've gotten into the idea of it not being that urban-claustrophobia that ULTIMATES specialized in—no matter how big it got—I feel I get a bit more outrageous with [FANTASTIC FOUR]," says Hitch, who's already several issues into the run. "I can still do a bit of detail, and I still adore doing the smaller character moments, the character interactions, the facial expressions and the family dynamic of Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny. It's a treasure trove of stuff to play with from the character's point of view. The most satisfying thing to cross all of this has been those character moments, just as in ULTIMATES. The nice thing about working with a guy like Mark is he understands the spread of character dynamic and visual bombast; it's not always Michael Bay, it's Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg. Or David Mamet and Michael Bay, possibly." Fans worrying that this bigger, broader approach to their comics will slow Millar and Hitch down need not fret. The dynamic duo have already completed several issues for their run, many months before the 2008 launch. Just how many they're on for is still up in the air, actually. already "The current 12 issues—that could stretch ad nauseam depending on how much fun we have—is essentially one large story, more character story if you like, filled with a few smaller arcs, plot, action, villainy and all that stuff. Things that you might think were completed in issues one to four actually set up to the second four, which is even bigger, has some great character play and a villain you'll just never expect."

Bryan Hitch Fantastic
Four art

While the villains remain veiled at the moment, each of the founding members of the FF take center stage—in the book itself and in the heart of artist Bryan Hitch. "They're all very different, same as the Ultimates; I could never pick a favorite," he says. "The favorite is whoever I'm drawing at any given minute. They're all such good fun. I'm surprised, actually, at how much I'm enjoying drawing Reed Richards and that was what I thought I would have the most problems with. I thought he'd be quite stuffy and he wouldn't have much scope for visual [flair], especially in the face. But he's actually turned out to be great fun to draw. I also gave him a haircut. I gave him one of those George Clooney salt and pepper cuts."
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Hitch's visual tweaks give the book the ultra-modern look he's known for, yet definitely don't forsake the past. "Mark and I are very keen to go back to the original stuff like the Kirby stuff and have a look. Not have a strong read and try and be influenced by it, though. I think sometimes if you try to go back and look at things that have influenced you, often you find you're expected to remember how it felt to read them, not how it actually looked when you read them and try and work from those emotional states rather than from the actual product itself. To remember how good you felt when you read them, how excited you were and try and recapture that feeling, not recapture the images that spawned the feelings.

Bryan Hitch Fantastic
Four art

"The key things that occurred to us about both the characters and the book," he continues, "and Mark was very clever about this, when you peg the Fantastic Four, it's not a science fiction book. Everybody normally treats it like science fiction and superheroes, and it really isn't. It's the way Ridley Scott made 'Alien.' He actually made a haunted house movie, but it was just in science fiction clothing on a space ship. Mark pegged that the genesis of FANTASTIC FOUR really came out of monster and horror comics, not out of superhero comics. Ben was a monster, [there's] the Mole Man stuff and obviously the Human Torch. [And] the idea that Kirby, before [FF], was just drawing monster comics. So there was a lot of cross-pollination if you like. "So Mark suggested that we try and light it or treat it a bit more like a horror comic even though the material's going to be more superhero and science fiction. We give it a bit more of an edge. This is something he played with in ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR when he did the zombie stuff and that turned out to be extremely popular. So that blending of horror and superheroes in a science fiction guise is a very, very clever thing and I think that's why it was popular. It got to the core of what FANTASTIC FOUR really was, or the genesis of it anyway. Not necessarily what it became."

Bryan Hitch Fantastic
Four art

Whether it's the tone, the style or the characters, Millar and Hitch are putting the screws to everything. "I thought, 'take the original stuff and make it modern because comics, no matter what people say, are not timeless,'" says Hitch. "They are always of the time they are made. When they're at their best, they're plugging into zeitgeist and pop culture. So it had to be a modern-feeling comic even though it was rooted in something much earlier. Figuring out how this stuff works even though much of it may never make it into a story or a script or a drawing, it's important for us to know at least where it's coming from because it forms the foundations of your understanding of the characters you're working with." We'll have much more on Millar and Hitch's FANTASTIC FOUR in the coming months, but Hitch sums it up quite nicely. "We're telling some fun stories and the characters are great fun. It's not going to be Earth-shattering, it's not going to change the world, it's not going to reinvent comics—it's going to be fun Fantastic Four stories and that's what you want."

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