Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Jonathan Hickman

The new head of S.H.I.E.L.D. leads a journey through the secret history of the Marvel Universe's most well-known espionage ag

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By Kevin Mahadeo

Writer Jonathan Hickman raises his S.H.I.E.L.D. this week with a new series of the same name exploring the secret history of the Marvel Universe's most covert organization.

"We start in Ancient Egypt at about 2000 BC, maybe even earlier than that," teases Hickman. "It starts there and moves forward at a brisk pace."

With art by Dustin Weaver, S.H.I.E.L.D. spans across years of history in terms of both Marvel continuity and actual historical events. The book follows the character of Leonid, the eyes and ears of the reader, who joins the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the mid-1950's. However, the title also features real-life figures from throughout time and their involvement in the aptly-named organization.

Hickman took some time away from wielding the S.H.I.E.L.D. to talk about his new project, why fiction allows for certain fun liberties and his thoughts on the greatest invention in the history of man.

 

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 cover by Gerard Parel
Marvel.com: Now, contrary to what people may assume, this book doesn't focus on Nick Fury, who almost always springs to mind when you hear S.H.I.E.L.D. mentioned.

Jonathan Hickman: Yeah. We have some of that in there. It's probably five to ten percent of the book. The rest of it is as solicited: the titans of science throughout the history of the Marvel Universe.

Marvel.com: These titans of science of mention include people like Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo. Can you expand on who we'll we seeing and what part they'll be playing in the title?

Jonathan Hickman: Some of it. Obviously, I don't want to give away some of our surprises and all that. But we'll see a lot of Leonardo da Vinci. We'll see a lot of Isaac Newton. We'll see a decent amount of Galileo. We'll see a decent amount of Michelangelo. We'll see some older guys: Imhotep. Al Habian. And that's it for now. A lot of really cool guys.

Marvel.com: How did this idea of exploring the history of S.H.I.E.L.D. and that it traces much further back than people assume originally come about?

Jonathan Hickman: Well, I've been working on an out-of-time science guy pitch for quite some time; writing it in my head and just figuring it out. I got asked by Nick Lowe to pitch S.W.O.R.D. and they were looking to do something with [somebody] like da Vinci inside of that. So, it was serendipitous and perfecting timing. So, I put all of my thoughts together, as well as some thoughts that other Marvel guys had, and then delivered a pitch. Everybody liked it and wanted to take it out of S.W.O.R.D. and into its own book.

Marvel.com: This book obviously contains references to a number of historical figures and events. Is history something that you've always been interested in or is it more about these characters, these "masters of science" as you call them, and what they've contributed to humanity?

Jonathan Hickman: Well, I like the idea of continued human evolution. I think that's thematic in a lot of my work at Marvel. But as far as history and the characters, I kind of care, but a lot of it is that I care about the story and so I keep the history if it works, I discard it if it doesn't. I keep the characterization that works, and I discard it if it doesn't. [Laughs] That's the beauty of fiction. We may have a patina of historical accuracy and truth, but we're sticking it in the Marvel Universe. I think anybody can look at it and know that it's a work of fiction. So I don't feel beholden to any of that stuff, if that makes sense.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 variant cover by Dustin Weaver
Marvel.com: Totally.

Jonathan Hickman: Yeah. It's something that some writers do and something that some creators do. Some people dig it. If it works, and we feel like it does here, people think it's clever and they applaud your efforts. If it doesn't work, then they make fun of you. [Laughs]

Marvel.com: This is an ongoing title, but you do have a complete story already in mind. That said, do you have the story entirely detailed out at this point or is it that you know where it begins and where you want it to end?

Jonathan Hickman: Well, limited series at Marvel means [a certain number of] issues, and this is not that. There are arcs of limited series, but I didn't want to do that. So, ongoing is the most appropriate term for something where you're not quite sure when it ends, but it ends pretty soon. It's just kind of how it fell. Yes, it's ongoing. But it's ongoing to a point, and then it ends. I think we've done a pretty job with being forthright with that. We've been pretty honest and I think people now have an idea what the deal is.

Marvel.com: Along with this new title, you also write both FANTASTIC FOUR and SECRET WARRIORS. Both those titles share in the idea of science and secrecy that will be found in S.H.I.E.L.D. Will there be not necessarily crossover, but shared themes and tie-ins between titles?

Jonathan Hickman: Absolutely. If you read everything that I do at Marvel, then you're going to have a couple of wonderful not-out-of-character, not-out-of-place moments where the books touch each other. You don't need to read the other ones to get it, but if you do, there's a lot of surprises and Easter eggs. Moments where something that seems cool but maybe superfluous in one book maybe means a lot more in another one. So, yeah. If you're following all my stuff, you should get a kick out of this.

Marvel.com: The first issue hits this week. What can you tease about what it contains?

Jonathan Hickman: It's full of beautiful Dustin Weaver art that is worth buying even if the story is crap. I certainly believe that. Good lord. Have you seen some of the art? Dustin is killing it. But first issues are always

S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 cover by Gerard Parel
about discovery and getting to know the characters and taking the first step into a new world, and we do that in spades.

Marvel.com: You mentioned artist Dustin Weaver. What are your thoughts on his style of art and how it compliments the book?

Jonathan Hickman: Dustin's the perfect collaborator. He's the definitely the co-storyteller on this. I'll give him a page and he not only gets in the microscopic, he definitely nails the beats and the flow of the page, but he gets the bigger story in the macroscopic. He never loses sight of the goal of the book and what's coming up. He's always dropping in little design things and little hints of what's coming or who is related to [whom]. It's really a master class of storytelling. He's a true artist doing his thing. And we should certainly say that Christina Strain has taken what is a difficult, difficult job in coloring Dustin's art and really elevated her game to a different level.

Marvel.com: As a final question, considering the amount of contributors to human advancement on display in this title, what is your personal favorite invention that has propelled humanity forward?

Jonathan Hickman: Outside of the field of medicine, where that stuff is almost all paramount, how can you not say the personal computer, right? It's changed all of our lives. Desktop publishing did not exist 15 years ago for the most part. When I went to college, graphic design, one of the things I'm kind of known for in comics, didn't exist as a huge omnipresent thing that it is now. Obviously, it's always been around as long as we'd had letterpress. But, yeah, got to say personal computer. That's kind of the wonderful thing about living in the time that we do. Everything is evolving so rapidly. Society is changing so much every day. We live in interesting times. It's good to be alive.

 

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