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Interview with Mike Carey

By JENNIFER M. CONTINO     November 25, 2006


Cover to Ultimate Fantastic Four #13
© Marvel

Writer Mike Carey is getting all technical on us, through his work with the Ultimate Universe's version of The Vision.  Carey and artist Brandon Peterson have got five issues to further her story and we've got a few details from Carey on what that story entails, as well as information on what's next for his X-Men and the Ultimate Fantastic Four. 

MANIA: Does it kind of feel like these past few years has been a whirlwind for you in terms of your comic career?   

MIKE CAREY: Man, it's been crazy - wonderfully crazy.  I look back on what's happened just in these last twelve months, since I got a certain call from Mister Michael Marts of the X-office, and I really can't believe it.  Can't get used to something so right, as Paul Simon said.

 

MANIA: This year you seem to really be involved in a ton of high profile projects - just about one after another ... X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four and now Ultimate Vision, which spins off from the Ultimate Extinction as well as your Vertigo work.  How tough is it for you, when you're working on a handful of projects, to keep everything straight and get what you need to get done each month completed?

 

CAREY: I manage pretty well most of the time, because I have one huge advantage.  I'm paranoid.  Fear drives me on.  Seriously, it's almost unheard of for me to miss a deadline because the thought of losing control, not being on top of things, scares me so much.   

Also, being an ex-teacher, I laugh in the face of eighty-hour weeks.  I work long hours without really being aware of it or worrying about it.  Although having said that, I'm not that good at doing without sleep any more.  After a while your body starts to resent the liberties you're taking and it gets its own back.  Damn body.  I'd get a lot more work done if I was just a brain in a jar. 

MANIA: How is working on the team dynamics of X-Men different from the team dynamics of Ultimate Fantastic Four?

 

CAREY: Bigger core cast, for one thing, so you've got to handle the character beats in a different way.  You need to create sub-groups that form and dissolve - have characters interacting with each other in clusters.  With the Fantastic Four you don't have to worry about that stuff - but with both teams, obviously, you have to make sure that everyone gets their fair share of panel-time.

 

Also with the FF, although there are tensions from time to time, the underlying vibe is a very positive one: they're a family and they watch out for each other.  United, they can stand against anything.  My X-Men team is a lot more dysfunctional than that: it has strong and positive friendships and partnerships within it, but it's under a lot of stress from the inside out.  That's a big difference.  It's always a case of keeping relationships moving and hitting the beats, but they're very different beats. 

MANIA: Speaking of "Ultimate," how'd you come to write the new Ultimate Vision limited series making its debut in December?

 

CAREY: I pitched for it, and I got it!  I had what I thought was a great idea for a story that would make a lot of use of the Vision's particular skills and functions.  She was designed as the perfect communicator, and we have a villain who really needs to use that talent.  In a way the basic set-up owes a lot to that classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Fantastic Four story in which Doom deceives and imprisons the Silver Surfer and steals his power.  The Vision gets tricked in a similar way here - but by a different bad guy with a different agenda. 

MANIA: For those who missed the recent miniseries that introduced her, who is this Vision? What sets it apart from the red, green and yellow version mainstream Marvel fans might be familiar with?

 

CAREY: Well, he's a she - that's one thing.  This is the Vision that we were introduced to in Warren Ellis's Ultimate Galactus trilogy - an android construct designed and built to run ahead of the Gah-Lak-Tus swarm and spread the word of its coming to sentient races across the universe.  She has some of the same powers as the regular Vision, but she's also got this immense, all-encompassing sense of mission.  She's not free to decide her own course of action: she has to do what she was designed to do. 

MANIA: How did you get to know this character? How tough was it for you to get in the mind of it over some of the others you've worked with in the past few years?

 

CAREY: The biggest challenge, as I think was probably the case with the original Vision, was to make her sympathetic and interesting despite her emotional coldness and the stilted way she talks and acts.  You've got to play by the rules - making her incapable of human emotional responses - and yet still give her a personality which is in some ways sympathetic.   

The key with this Vision was to play on the fact that she's been designed for a very narrow function.  Her makers' requirements have become her obsessions, so she's a very driven character and this makes her blind to some of the things that are going on around her.  And that vulnerability I think makes us more inclined to like her.  She's a machine but she's not perfect.  And of course we use her as a narrator, which allows us to do some interesting things with her point of view. 

MANIA: This story is supposed to pick up directly after events in Ultimate Extinction, for readers who might not be familiar with that event, catch us up and tell us what the Ultimate universe is like when the story begins. 

 

CAREY: Ultimate Extinction was the climax of a three-part work by Warren Ellis in which humankind comes face-to-face with what is arguably the most terrifying threat in the universe - Gah-Lak-Tus, a fleet or swarm of sentient spaceships designed and equipped with the sole purpose of expunging all organic life.   

The Vision was created by a race that already encountered Gah-Lak-Tus, many millions of years ago: they decided that although they couldn't save themselves, they could at least pass on the warning and give other civilised races more time to prepare, so that perhaps somewhere along the line someone might be able to stop this space plague or at least withstand it.  In the end, humanity couldn't defeat Gah-Lak-Tus, even with all of Earth's heroes united to fight it - but armed with information from the Vision and other sources we were able to inflict enough damage on the swarm to make it retreat.

 

MANIA:  What's your story about?  Where does it take place in the grand scheme of things ...?

 

CAREY: My story is very much a "what happens next".  In fact it starts while the parties to celebrate the defeat of the swarm are still going on.  The Vision's task on Earth is done, and it's more urgent than ever that she resumes her journey and carries the news to other races: because that news now includes the vital information that Gah-Lak-Tus can be stopped.  But as she's about to leave Earth's orbit, she receives what seems to be a transmission from one of the ships in the Gah-Lak-Tus horde: so she stops to investigate, thinking that perhaps that the threat is still extant and that another warning might need to be delivered to the peoples of Earth.  But what she discovers is something entirely different - and she gets sucked into a horrific and amoral plot by a completely different adversary. 

MANIA: In Ultimate Extinction, there were dozens of guest stars ... who are some of the Ultimate familiars who might appear in these pages ...?

 

CAREY: We don't have a cast of thousands here - this is the Vision's story, first and foremost.  But it revisits her relationship with Sam Wilson - the Falcon - and it has cameos from Nick Fury and others along the way.  It also has the first Ultimate appearance of a favourite Marvel villain of mine - George Tarleton, who in 616 continuity is MODOK. 

MANIA: What's it like working with Brandon Peterson on this story?

 

CAREY: Is that a trick question?  Brandon is an awesome machine - a behemoth - and his art is a thing of strange beauty.  I'm really happy to be teamed up with him. 

MANIA: What's the collaboration like - are you two working in close contact? What kind of input does he have on this?

 

CAREY: Well don't forget that he was the artist on Ultimate Extinction too, and in fact he was drawing that book while I was writing Ultimate Vision - so he was able to step in with detailed, up-to-the-minute information about designs and about how certain sequences had been choreographed, all of which had implications for our story here.  He's been very much an active participant in all stages of the planning. 

MANIA: How does knowing you're working with an artist like Brandon Peterson - who seems to be able to do just about anything and everything - give you carte blanche when deciding what to do on the printed page?

 

CAREY: You're just gonna keep on throwing me these easy ones, aren't you, Jen?  It's always great when you've got an artist who you know is not going to blink at or back away from anything - from the most colossal space battles down to the most intimate character moments.  Brandon's got the range, so I know that I can go anywhere and do anything without worrying about whether or not he can roll with it.  If you've seen the preview pages that have already been released, you'll know what I mean.  The epic grandeur is there, straight out of the gate, but the human scale is there too and it's just as real. 

MANIA: What's next for the Vision after these five issues?  Do you have any plans with her?

 

CAREY: I honestly don't know.  No plans as yet.  But she's too strong and well defined a character to gather dust on the shelf.  She'll be back. 

MANIA: What's coming up in the pages of your other Marvel Comics books, X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four?

 

CAREY: In X-Men we're building to the big showdown with the Children of the Vault, which is going to be a lot of hardcore fun.  And I'm currently writing the second arc, Primary Infection, where we get to find out who Pan is and what exactly was going on at the Fordyce clinic.  That story leaves Rogue in a very dark place.  And of course after that we're building towards the anniversary issue, #200, which will bring some further changes into the X-Men's lives.

 

In Ultimate Fantastic Four, the God War arc is well underway now and the FF have been sucked into a conflict in another universe between beings who are punching in a different weight category altogether.  That's been huge fun to write.  Then after that we're back on Earth for a couple of shorter arcs, back-to-back, each of which will center on a classic FF villain - while at the same time the consequences of the God War for the FF, and especially for Reed, will continue to play themselves out. 

MANIA: Why is now a great time to be working in the comics industry?

 

CAREY: For me personally?  Because suddenly here I am right in the middle of it, without much idea of how I got here.

 

In more general terms, because it's hard to remember a time - since the early eighties, anyway - when there's been more diversity and more sheer quality in the majors and in the indies than there is at the moment.  There's some amazing stuff coming out, some amazing stuff planned, and a lot of people are feeling less and less nostalgic for the good old days as they realise how good they've got it here and now. 
 

*****

The first issue of Ultimate Vision is due in stores in December.  

***** 

Jennifer M. Contino is a lifelong comic book fan who writes about the comic book industry daily at THE PULSE. 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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Korinthian 11/26/2006 2:33:51 AM
The Ultimate Universe has really disappointed me, lately, especially U-FF and that whole Gah-Lak-Tus let-down.
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