Jonathan Hickman is the most rock-solid superstar working in comics today. He is the mastermind behind arguably the best Marvel crossover of all time in Secret Wars. His splashy return to Marvel from a post-Secret Wars creator-owned break was the biggest event in superhero books in the last half-decade, relaunching a stagnant X-Men line with a monster hit in House of X and Powers of X. But X-Men wasn’t his only pitch when he came back to Marvel: he also had a big cosmic idea that Marvel greenlit alongside HoX/PoX: G.O.D.S., a sweeping new series revamping the cosmology of the Marvel Universe and reimagining how cosmic entities like Eternity or the Living Tribunal interact with the heroes we see every day. We talked with Hickman about his big idea and just how small it can be.
You’re well-known for being a very meticulous writer, but some of your success stems from how much heart you pack into the stories. What can you share about the heart at the core of G.O.D.S.?
G.O.D.S. is constructed on the spine of a traditional romantic drama, so I guess it’s built in there. People will get lost in the scale of the story and how it really jumps around from issue to issue, but there are basically four main characters who have no business being in each other’s lives but are forced to. That kind of scenario always lends itself to emotional hooks for both the characters and the readers.
You’ve talked a lot about how work done in shared universes should be additive and not destructive. You’re building a new mythology for the Marvel Universe here, using some characters and concepts from existing Marvel cosmology. How do you square the cosmic subject matter and the ground-level viewpoint?
I think that if we do the job correctly, that other creators will have a bit more access to using the Marvel cosmology in a way that is both more relatable and more mythological than what currently exists.
I obviously love that stuff, but it’s really hard for it to function in NYC unless you’re on Bleecker St., or you fall down a hole in Central Park, which rules it out for a good eighty percent of Marvel comics. And I always want things I love to be more popular and not less, so here we go.
You’ve mentioned that you want this to be a spectacle, and you’re someone who’s done more with the cosmology of the Marvel multiverse than probably anyone since Starlin. How hard do you have to work to not get lost in the breadth of this subject matter?
Well, getting lost in the breadth of this stuff is kind of the point. I mean, it’s why I tell stories. I want them to be big and expansive and immersive and, like you said, a spectacle.
So, again, I want to get lost in it. The trick is getting everyone else to come along for the ride. That takes a certain amount of luck (telling the right story at the right time), but it also takes a perfect entry (or reentry) point for the audience. It’s one of the reasons we did such a big first issue.
Which of the abstract entities were you most excited to play with, and which one was the most frustrating to translate into this story?
I really like the Inbetweener. That’s fun. Chaos and Order are fun. Because of how we’re constructing some of this, I’ve found Eternity and Infinity more difficult to use because they’re so “on the nose.” But they look super cool, so that helps.
Valerio Schiti (artist of G.O.D.S.) is the latest in a long line of stunningly talented artists you’ve worked with. What does he do better than anyone you’ve worked with before, and how are you writing into that strength?
Valerio is super talented, just a hell of an artist, but I’ve known that for a while. I think the thing that he’s done better than most people I’ve worked with is how good he’s been on the conceptual side. He always brings a different but complementary perspective to mine. Which has proven to be pivotal to how well G.O.D.S. is coming together.
My rule with him is the same as any great artist: try as hard as you can to get out of the way when they’re really cooking.
G.O.D.S. 2 is out now; 3 is out Dec. 20