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Tuesday Q&A: Cataclysm

Brian Michael Bendis and Joshua Hale Fialkov got ready for the Ultimates' last stand!

Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand #1 cover by Mark Bagley

By Jim Beard

While the Marvel Universe recovers from the Age of Ultron and moves on to infinite challenges, the Ultimate Universe feels the heat from the event’s aftermath.

Galactus has found a new feast to sate his never-ending hunger and the Ultimate Universe’s days seem to be numbered.

Four limited series beginning this November tell the massive tale: CATACLYSM: THE ULTIMATES LAST STAND and CATACLYSM: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN by Brian Michael Bendis, and CATACLYSM: ULTIMATES and CATACLYSM: ULTIMATE X-MEN by Joshua Hale Fialkov. We shot a few questions about the event to both the writers and they returned fire with a volley of answers.

Marvel.com: Brian, let’s start with you: what does it mean for you to use such an iconic blockbuster character like Galactus?

Brian Michael Bendis: Taking the iconic characters from Marvel's past and finding their place in the Ultimate Universe has always been the greatest creative challenge. Love it.   Putting the actual old-school, purple hat Galactus right into a universe he knows nothing about, having this level of villain really come right at the Ultimate Universe is quite excited.  

We also have the added pressure of the amazing Warren Ellis Ultimate Galactus trilogy to contend with, which is one of the high points of the entire Ultimate Universe publishing line.

Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand #1 preview inks by Mark Bagley

Marvel.com: Well, how do you handle the classic Galactus as opposed to Warren’s version?

Brian Michael Bendis: I decided to approach Galactus the way the Ultimate Universe would see him, which is as an entity, a force of nature. He doesn't even speak for the first two issues [of CATACLYSM: THE ULTIMATES LAST STAND]. He is this giant destructive force and they don't even know where he came from or what he wants. And they soon discover that nothing they can do will stop him. The heroes are going to have to make a very bold set of choices if this is to stop.

Marvel.com: In what ways do you maintain a presence in the story of the street-level characters in tandem with the big guns?

Brian Michael Bendis: Well, on this level of cosmic destruction, you can consider all of the heroes street-level. Because they are all street-level in comparison to the cosmic level that they are being faced with. But what's happening on the street is chaos. Civilization is literally coming to an end and the heroes will try to do the best they can to keep the peace even as this cosmic force is destroying the very fabric of their existence.

Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand #1 preview inks by Mark Bagley

Marvel.com: Has Galactus evolved in his philosophy of handling resistance on a planet since he first encountered the Fantastic Four?

Brian Michael Bendis: We look at him as just your average cosmic force fish out of water and probably as hungry as he has ever been. Galactus may be at his lowest ebb and has no time to mess around with passive aggressive humans. The dude needs to eat. He gets terrible low blood sugar.

Marvel.com: Is there a part of you that hesitates at bringing so much destruction to characters and landscapes you've heavily invested in for many years now?

Brian Michael Bendis: Yes and no. Of course, you look at all the characters like they are your babies and you want to protect your babies, but as one of the architects of this Ultimate line of books, we have always prided ourselves on taking things into a place that no other comic book has dared to go. So if Galactus is here it's our obligation to tell a story that takes things further than any Galactus story has gone before—and that is promising a lot, I know.

Marvel.com: You’re reuniting with artist Mark Bagley on CATACLYSM: THE ULTIMATES LAST STAND; how's it feel?

Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand #1 variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu

Brian Michael Bendis: The greatest joy is watching Mark blow the roof off the place. It's nice when you try to give someone like Mark something you think he would really like to draw and it be exactly the kind of thing he really wants to draw at that time. I tweeted the other day that Mark is about to school some younger creators. Because CATACLYSM: THE ULTIMATES LAST STAND #1 is a perfect Marvel comic. Just perfect.

The downside is—he draws faster than I can write and I write pretty fast. Sometimes you feel like you're being chased.

But truly, when you see this you will say to yourself that this is the actual universe in real danger. Mark is one of the true architects of this line and when you see him drawing this destruction it feels like the real deal on every conceivable level.

Marvel.com: What do you look to your co-destructor Josh Fialkov to bring to the event? How’s the back-and-forth been between the two of you?

Brian Michael Bendis: It's been rather lovely. I do feel that we threw him into the deep end of the pool, but from day one he has delivered exactly what I was hoping for, what we were all hoping for—nothing but his pure imagination and skill. Josh has quite a few more accomplishments under his belt than I did when I was first hired to work in the Ultimate office, but I looked at him in the same way I think [Marvel CCO and former Editor-in-Chief] Joe [Quesada looked] to Mark Millar and myself. It's obvious to anyone who reads his work that Josh is going to blow the roof off of comics and wouldn’t it be nice if he did it here

Cataclysm: Ultimates #1 cover by Mukesh Singh

Marvel.com: On that note, we segue over to the man himself; Josh, how might this Galactus event be different to Ultimate Nick Fury than other similar events?

Joshua Hale Fialkov: Well part of the fun is that Nick is on a very different mission when Galactus appears. One of the big ideas that Brian prostheltized to me was that we're taking the event from a grounded, realistic approach. This is not a universe that's familiar with hundred-story-tall giants from outer space showing up all the time like in the traditional [Marvel Universe], and, Nick, for all of his experiences, is about to get over his head for the first time in decades.  

Marvel.com: Will there be a moment in CATACLYSM: ULTIMATES when Fury will feel inadequate in fighting such a huge menace?

Joshua Hale Fialkov: Well, that's a big part of it; following what's happened in ULTIMATES, it's become clear that the Ultimates and S.H.I.E.L.D. are far from a practical solution to the world's problems, and Nick is still dealing with being shunted off to the side of the spotlight because of that. And, he's doing it with a whole new team of Ultimates to boot. 

Cataclysm: Ultimate X-Men #1 cover by Marius Siergiejew

Marvel.com: Over in CATACLYSM: ULTIMATE X-MEN, how will the X-Men view Galactus' coming on the tail-end of a war of their own?

Joshua Hale Fialkov: There are two sides to that story. A lot of it is seen in Brian's series, CATACLYSM: THE ULTIMATES LAST STAND. Some of the key X-Men are main focal points for the broader story. As for the X-Men book, we're going to see the ramifications of that war, and the shell-shock it's caused. And, y'know, what better way to deal with shell-shock then with a primordial elder god from a parallel universe. We're going to see the return of some old friends we haven't heard of in a little while, too.  

Marvel.com: What about this secret weapon we hear tell of? Who sets it up and what is its potential?

Joshua Hale Fialkov: Well, I think the optimal answer is "The weapon is not a what, but a who." 

Marvel.com: What's it like working with Brian on this event? How would you describe the collaboration between not only you and him, but also with Mark Paniccia as editor?

Joshua Hale Fialkov: Once I got past the beatings, humiliation, and vulgarity, Paniccia turned out to be pretty okay [Laughs].

Y'know, the past six months that I've been working at Marvel have been a dream come true. The freedom and creative energy is just so vibrant and alive, and a lot of that is due to Brian. His energy, spirit, and work ethic are inspiring in every way. He's brought an attitude of adventure that you see in every editor at Marvel, and especially in Mark. Mark's devotion to the Ultimate Universe is staggering, and the amount of care and attention he lavishes on it, especially when he's got such a massive workload on other books is really commendable.

Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man #1 cover by David Marquez

I'd like to point out that neither of their mothers paid me to say any of this. 

Marvel.com: We will check into that. Now, how would you describe the approaches of your artists, Carmine Di Giandomenico on CATACLYSM: ULTIMATES and Alvaro Martinez on CATACLYSM: ULTIMATE X-MEN?

Joshua Hale Fialkov: With Carmine, I think we've really hit our stride after our ULTIMATES issues together. He's got such a great sense of scale and scope plus the crazy amount of energy in every panel. I just struggle to keep up with the big ideas pouring out of his head.  

Alvaro manages to really bring the classic [John] Byrne-era X-Men feel to the book. Everything feels iconic, despite still being so thoroughly modern. And, best of all, his characters look and feel their age. These are kids thrust into an adult world, against their will for the most part, and that's bleeds from every page.

Cataclysm kicks off in October with CATACLYSM: THE ULTIMATES LAST STAND!

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