By Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
We live in an expanding universe. So do the Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four – until May, that is, when that will change.
In a Jan. 20 press conference at Midtown Comics in New York City, Marvel Comics Senior VP -- Executive Editor Tom Brevoort and Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso decreed the end of not only the Marvel Comics universe, which has been building on itself in a more-or-less linear fashion since the early 1960s, but also of the “Ultimate Universe,” an alternate dimension Marvel has been exploring since 2000 in books like Ultimate Spider-Man (currently starring a black/Hispanic kid named Miles Morales) and The Ultimates (a warped mirror version of the Avengers).
The plan, Alonso said, is that the two universes will “slap together” in a book called Secret Wars. No, not the Secret Wars of 1984 or the Secret Wars II of 1985, which were born of a toy line (although there are some superficial similarities). Nor is it the Secret War of 2004, which is a different animal altogether.
This Secret Wars, according to Alonso, is the “endcap” of the Marvel Universe launched by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby 54 years ago in Fantastic Four #1. And whatever comes after … will be different.
The mechanism for doing this has been an ongoing storyline in the flagship Avengers titles for the last year or so. Here’s the plot:
Somewhere in the multiverse, the Avengers learned in 2013, something had gone awry in the barriers between dimensions. So now an infinite number of universes are plowing into ours, one by one, always with the Earths of each universe the breach point. So the Avengers have been struggling for a way to stop these “incursions,” as they are called. But all they’ve managed to do so far is survive – by destroying each invading Earth. That’s not very heroic, but it does reset the clock for the next incursion, by which time, the heroes hope, they will find a way to change the rules.
It turns out, according to Brevoort, “They won’t.” In Secret Wars #1 in May, the Ultimate Universe is the one invading, and the heroes of both worlds fail to stop the collision. At which point, most Marvel titles will be canceled, because Marvel Earth will be no more. Instead, what we have left is something called “Battleworld.”
“Battleword, essentially, is the detritius that’s left over after the destruction of the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe,” Brevoort said. “And it is the little melting pot in which the new Marvel Universe will be created, will be fermented. All the little bits and pieces and dribs and drabs, all the little sections of Earths that were within those incursion zones, all those little areas where it’s intersected, all those little areas have remained and will be fused into a single, gigantic organism, which is Battleworld. In which various characters will live their lives and contend with this new situation and will set up all of the building blocks and all of the bedrock of what the new Marvel Univese will be from that point going forward.”
To create this new Earth, Marvel has mined its rich history, and used famous storylines from its past for its foundation.
For example, a 1992 Hulk story called “Future Imperfect” imagined a future world where an ancient Hulk called The Maestro ruled a nuclear-irradiated world with an iron fist. That is represented by a tract of land on Battleworld called “Dystopia.”
The two Iron Man stories called “Armor Wars,” where Tony Stark flew around the world illegally destroying his technology wherever it was being used by bad guys, is represented by “Technopolis.” And so forth. (An interactive map of Battleworld can be found HERE.)
Secret Wars will run eight issues, but with the old Marvel Universe gone, what else will Marvel publish? A lot, as it turns out, in three umbrella categories:
Last Days: Books with this trade dress will focus on what certain characters – some of whom will probably not survive the transition – do in the last eight hours before the end of the world.
Battleworld: These books are a macro look at the new reality, with stories covering how the zones deal with each other, who’s in charge of what, and overarching issues of that nature.
Warzones: These books will be smaller, human-level stories about individual characters or opponents.
And after that? Marvel’s mum, but we must assume they’ll keep the characters or story arcs that are popular and jettison the ones that aren’t. So expect Wolverine to return (he’s currently dead), and for that Ultimate Spider-Man guy to hang around, as he seems to have a lot fans.
And that’s not all. Alonso said the stories created during Secret Wars will “have legs” and continue into the new Marvel Universe, whatever that will look like.
“If we wanted to resurrect Gwen Stacy, this would be the place to do it,” Alonso said, referring to Spider-Man’s first serious girlfriend, who died in 1972 (in the comics) and in 2014 (in the movies).
“Or if we wanted four Gwen Stacys …” Brevoort joked. Or is it a joke?
Of course, with the popularity of the Marvel movies, one must wonder why they’re rocking the boat. Why do all this? And the answer is the same one it always is: To sell a lot of comic books. Oh, wait, I meant to say “to tell a good story.” Because, in the end, those two goals usually overlap.
But it’s certain to cause a lot of controversy, especially among older fans who will feel dissed. Do their favorite stories no longer matter?
And then there’s the pride Marvel has always taken in never rebooting its superhero books, as arch-rival DC Comics has done a number of times (the last time in 2011). While they’re not calling “Secret Wars” a reboot, it surely looks like one.
And what about the movies and TV shows? Will they continue to adapt the old favorites, or will they change to reflect this new reality?
The only answers are to be found by reading the comics themselves, beginning with Secret Wars #0, a prologue to the whole magilla which will be one of Marvel’s offerings on Free Comic Book Day 2015, which falls on May 2. (The other is The All-New, All-Different Avengers #1, and who or what that book will feature is anyone’s guess.) After that, both Secret Wars #1 and 2 ship the same month, with the second issue extra-sized to explain what the heck is going on.
As if it could. The Marvel Universe may be shrinking, but it the questions have just gotten bigger.
Reach Captain Comics by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Internet (comicsroundtable.com), Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or Twitter (@CaptainComics).
Ron M. said:
I think I saw him once somewhere in the 90s before Onslaught.
Imagery of a shirtless Thor appeared in the final issues of the original volume of Thor, which came out in that period, but on the covers he has metallic wrist-pieces, a beard and no upper-armband. Thor also lost his shirt fighting the celestials around Thor #389, but on that issue's cover he has no wrist-pieces or armband. I wondered if the image was supposed to depict Thor getting the hammer for the first time - he's possibly meant to be staring at it - but young Thor wore his Kirby costume in the Silver Age "Tales of Asgard" stories that showed how he won the hammer.
Thor had to ask Loki's permission to help Venus? From Loki's response it sounds like Thor wasn't about to interfere as long as Loki's demons were lurking about. What were they even doing in a series with Venus, Jupiter, and Apollo?
The Satanic Loki looks just like Kirby's Pluto in Mercury. Having Pluto attack Jupiter would have made a lot more sense. But clearly somebody at Marvel (Loki's first appearance didn't have a writer listed, but it was before Bill Everett took over the series) wanted Loki, at least, in the comics long before Stan and Jack came in. Maybe Stan and Jack decided to make Loki a villain first and then decided to use Thor so he'd have somebody to fight. Funny Venus didn't show up again until Everett finally got Namor back years later. Just how long was Everett asking to be put back on Namor? Did he agree to write Hulk in Astonish because Namor was in the same book and he was hoping to get transferred?
I did read one book in the 70s that said Thor was blond and his hammer was made of stone. In all other book versions I've seen he had red hair and his hammer was iron. In the Bronze Age an iron weapon would have been a big deal.
SECRET WARS’ BATTLEWORLD EXPANDS!
Marvel.com Focuses on the Worlds that are Forging the New Marvel Universe
New York, NY — February 3rd, 2015 — The Marvel Universe is no more. There is now only Battleworld and Marvel.com is the only place where you will be able to learn about the building blocks of the new Marvel Universe.
Welcome to the Secret Wars Interactive Battleworld Map! Strange and Mysterious worlds from Marvel’s deep history continue to forge into the new landscape of the Marvel Universe – Battleworld – and Marvel’s Interactive map will guide fans through this strange new land.
Updated continuously until the start of Secret Wars, the interactive map features the most recent details of where these new dominions of Battleworld originated from.
Today’s update includes the following new dominions of Battleworld:
New Quack City
Stay tuned to Marvel.com/secretwars as the new Marvel Universe continues to be forged. Follow Marvel on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marvel and be sure to join the conversation on Twitter with #Marvel and don’t forget to follow us at @Marvel.
SECRET WARS’ BATTLEWORLD UNLEASHES MASTER OF KUNG-FU #1!
New York, NY — February 2nd, 2015 — Can one man defeat an entire empire? Find out this May, as fists fly on the surface of BATTLEWORLD and a victor will be crowned in MASTER OF KUNG-FU #1, a new 4-issue limited series launching during Secret Wars! Fan-favorite creators Haden Blackman (Elektra) and Dalibor Talajic (Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe) team to take you inside the mystical land of K’un Lun for a series of brutal trials by combat!
Welcome to K’un Lun, a land where the study of martial arts reigns supreme. In a world where everyone is a master of their craft, what becomes of the drunken, drop-out failure? Shang-Chi was the most prized student at the most prestigious of K’un Lun’s many martial arts schools. Now he’s a washed up has-been living on the streets.
Cast out and forsaken by society, Shang-Chi will join other outcasts like him in a bid to dethrone the harsh and evil Emperor Zu. One problem – Zu is Shang-Chi’s father! Things are going to get messy.
“I’m really looking forward to portraying Shang-Chi in ways that we haven’t seen before,” says Haden Blackman in an interview with Marvel.com. “He begins the story very down and out, an exile and an outcast himself, which was very fun to write. I’m also hopeful that the interactions with some of the supporting cast will show us different sides of Shang-Chi, who finds himself a reluctant mentor.”
This May, can one beaten-down man become a MASTER? As Secret Wars begins, step in to the arena and prepare to find out in MASTER OF KUNG-FU #1!
MASTER OF KUNG-FU #1
Written by HADEN BLACKMAN
Art by DALIBOR TALAJIC
Cover by FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA
Coming May 2015!
WARZONE! Rages on with SECRET WARS 2099!
New York, NY—February 3rd, 2015— This May, when everything ends, it’s time to go back to the future! Behold Secret Wars’ WARZONE! and prepare for the ride of your life in SECRET WARS 2099 #1 – the newest Secret Wars series from the acclaimed Spider-Man 2099 creative team of Peter David and Will Sliney!
The patch-work surface of Marvel’s Secret Wars has now merged with Marvel 2099 and a new landscape has emerged as futuristic versions of your favorite characters, never-before-seen, make their first appearance and fold into the oncoming battle! Prepare to meet – the AVENGERS 2099 – Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Hercules! But in a world where megacorporations rule with an iron fist – what room is there for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?
“2099 has always been a bit dystopian, with corporate America out of control and heroes few and far between. For the first time, we’re going to see how that affects the Avengers,” says series Editor Devin Lewis. “What do the Avengers look like and stand for in a world where greed is the accepted ‘good’? How will that affect their values or outlooks? And, is there anyone left from the old days who still believe in the ideals of the Heroic Age?
The future stage has been forged and the Avengers are set to defend those who cannot protect themselves. But just who is the mysterious force opposing 2099’s Mightiest Heroes? “The group that chooses to stand against the Avengers is made up of the last people anyone would expect,” proclaims Lewis.
This May, jump back to the year 2099 as Marvel’s Secret Wars incorporates the cyber punk dystopia in SECRET WARS 2099!
SECRET WARS 2099 #1
Written by PETER DAVID
Art by WILL SLINEY
Cover by DAVE RAPOZA
Coming in May!
Did I get it?
Luke Blanchard said:
Ron M. said:
I think I saw him once somewhere in the 90s before Onslaught.
Imagery of a shirtless Thor appeared in the final issues of the original volume of Thor, which came out in that period, but on the covers he has metallic wrist-pieces, a beard and no upper-armband.
To my shame, I'm flatly wrong about Thor wearing a beard in this period (during the Warren Ellis and William Messner-Loebs runs, c. Thor #500). My apologies for the error, Ron. But in all the images I can find he has metallic wristpieces. So the Thor of that period nearly matches what I've come to think of as surfer dude Thor, but not quite.
His previous costume, the one he was wearing at the start of Ellis's run, had upper-armbands that were sometimes coloured red, but not of the same kind as surfer dude's.
The panels with Christian Thor can be seen here.
Surfer dude Thor stands apart from all the others, as he's not looking the same way and doing whatever all the others are doing (repowering the sun with their hammers?) Ultraforce Thor doesn't seem to be looking up either, but he is up to whatever the other Thors are up to. Old Thor is looking at surfer dude Thor; perhaps he's telling him he should get with the program. So my guess is the cover depicts a scene from the story, and surfer dude is either current Thor in an outfit he'll wear in the story, or a new Thor or related character (such as a Thor son) discovering what the hammer can do for the first time.
Thor was the father of sons Magni and Modi, and daughter Thrud, so it could be one of the boys. They have appeared in Marvel Comics somewhere, but I don't remember where.
This Marvel Wikia (which I found very, very useful) lists a version of Magni who played a prominent role in Dan Jurgens's Asgard-takes-over-Earth storyline, and a version of Modi from the Ultimate continuity. There were also shots of versions of Magni and Modi among the Asgardian survivors in Thor #293-#294 (1979-80), in which Odin's eye told Thor that there has been a previous Ragnarok which destroyed the Asgardians of its cycle.
Other Marvel Thor kids are Woden, a son from the 90s version of Guardians of the Galaxy; Thena, a daughter from the MC2 continuity; Bravado, a son from the final issue of the second volume of What If...? (which was about the next generation in a world where the heroes never got back from Battleworld); and Torunn, a daughter who first appeared in the 2008 cartoon Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, and afterwards in a couple of the futures depicted in the opening storyline from the 2010 volume of The Avengers.
You have to expect an immortal to have a lot of kids.