Marvel exposes the 'Original Sin' of the 'Fantastic Four'
(CBR) In 1963's "Fantastic Four" #13, legendary Marvel Comics creative team Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the titular team to Uatu. A representative of the alien race know as the Watchers, Uatu was tasked with observing the events of Earth and other nearby planets, physically appearing to observe events of great consequence, though he is able to witness everything that transpires on Earth.
Of course, this means that along with watching Earth's heroes' greatest triumphs, he has also witnessed their secret shames. This summer, Uatu's wealth of knowledge haunts the First Family of the Marvel Universe just as the ties the bind them begin to crumble. In "Original Sin," the Watcher is found murdered, and every dark secret he witnessed begin to come to light. CBR News spoke with writer James Robinson and artist Leonard Kirk, about their plans for "Fantastic Four's" "Original Sin" tie-in arc, which begins in July's Issue #6, and finds the Thing uncovering a dark secret his family has been keeping from him.
CBR News: "Fantastic Four" is about to tie into "Original Sin," but in talking with other creators, I get the impression that this event allows for a different kind of tie-in in that it enables you tell a story you were going to tell anyway. Is that the case with "Fantastic Four?"
James Robinson: I think that's not completely true in that the "Original Sin" stories I've written both for "Fantastic Four" and for "Invaders" are definitely stories I may not have thought of had the books not been involved in "Original Sin. But what is fair to say is, as opposed to tie-ins where you really are part of the big story, like "Fear Itself," where everything involved the ongoing attacks of the Serpent and the Worthy, with this, once the characters have learned what their particular "original sins" are, the book goes off in it's own direction and you can tell that story. So while they do tie in to "Original Sin," these are definitely very reader friendly crossovers in that they're not really crossovers. They're specific to each title, character and book.
As a whole, the "Original Sin" tie-ins deal with dark secrets of the past coming to light in the present. What can you tell us about the secret that returns to haunt "Fantastic Four?"
Robinson: Basically, the Thing, who is at ground zero when the event that kicks off "Original Sin" happens, learns that his one chance of being cured was inadvertently destroyed by Johnny. It's a secret that Johnny has kept from Ben, and that Reed has helped keep from Ben. So although it's a tie-in to "Original Sin," it will help to estrange the group even more, in the way that I'm doing at the moment. It's a story in itself, but it will also add the bigger picture of the Fantastic Four as they go their separate ways
So it's a way to escalate the story you guys kicked off in Issue #1 of this new volume, with the familial bonds that hold the FF together under clandestine assault by an unknown force.
Leonard Kirk: Yes -- stuff really starts to hit the fan around this time. It's already building up. We have some pretty big hits coming up for the FF in Issues #3 and #4. That's when things also start to crumble on a personal level for the family. By the time you get to Issues #6 and #7, that's where the rifts in the group really start to explode.
Ben and Johnny's friendship is one of the core relationships of the Fantastic Four. What's your sense of that friendship? Why do you think Ben and Johnny ended up being so close?
Robinson: When you have a dynamic where there's a little brother or big brother that's pestering you, there's always love there, and that's what these two are.
I was speaking with someone in another interview and they were trying to quantify what the Fantastic Four were. They were saying things like Reed Richards is the brain of the team, and I remember them saying that Sue was the heart of the team. I don't agree with that. I think Ben Grimm is the heart of the team. He certainly has the biggest heart. He really is a gentle giant; we've always known that about him. Of course he's going to care about this young hotshot and perhaps see a little bit of himself in him when he was younger, before he became the Thing. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the sense of betrayal he feels after learning what Johnny did, and where that takes him and the future of the Fantastic Four.
This information is coming to light at a bad time for both Johnny, who has lost his powers, and Reed, who's started to doubt himself.
Robinson: Yes, absolutely. Then, bad things are going to happen to Ben almost immediately. When the secret comes out, everybody is in a bad place.
Will Sue have a significant role to play in this story?
Robinson: Everyone has roles to play in this larger story. Her's is not necessarily in "Original Sin," although she will be in those issues.
Is the revelation that comes to light the central plot and conflict of the story, or is it just the latest bombshell in a series of revelations?
Robinson: There's a ground zero event that kicks off "Original Sin," and the Thing is present at it. We pick up almost immediately afterwards in "Fantastic Four." Like we discussed, this story is part of our big story. The thing about "Fantastic Four" is, we have multiple plots going on all at once. The "Original Sin" stuff is one of the plots. There are other plots involving other characters, and other villains as well.
Is this a story that happens strictly in the present? Or will we get a flashback that shows exactly what happened with Johnny and what he destroyed?
Robinson: Oh, yeah. There will be flashback images of the FF, in their original blue costumes. Fans who don't like the red costumes will have a moment's reward for sticking with the book.
Leonard, stylistically speaking, what are some of the ways you like to handle flashbacks?
Kirk: It depends. There's a flashback in Issue #3 of Johnny thinking back to a time when he was battling Asbestos Man and sort of chuckling to himself about how ridiculous some of his adventures were.
It really depends, though, on how the flashback is supposed to fit into the story. If it's a basic, simple narrative, I might draw it the same way I draw anything else, but maybe set it apart in terms of how I draw the edges and borders of the panels. If it's something else that blends directly into what somebody is thinking at the moment, I might bring that character into the flashback or make the scene look a bit more ethereal and dreamy. It really depends on how it's written. I try to make it fit whatever the writer wants to put in there.
Let's talk a little bit about your takes on the main cast, starting with the Thing. Which aspects of the character do you really want to emphasize and capture in your depictions of him?
Kirk: Ben is one of those characters that's the most fun to draw, but at times the most difficult, just because you want to be able to get expression from him and you also want to keep a certain level of consistency. So Ben is a bit tricky.
I focus on making him big and lumbering. I've noticed that some other artists have tendency to give Ben average height; somewhere in the neighborhood of six feet. I've decided that I like the idea of making him a bit bigger than that, keeping him huge and broad. I've carried that over to things like the redesign of the Fantasticar, where if you look closely at Ben's section, you'll notice the controls and the seat are giant-sized to accommodate his proportions.
In terms of the character of Ben himself, I wanted place some emphasis on him as a pilot. Everybody goes on and on about him being a big bruiser that clobbers stuff, but before the incident that turned him into the Thing, he was an ace fighter and test pilot. I mentioned to James that maybe when the Fantasticar separates, his section is purposefully designed to look more like a fighter plane than any other segment of the car.
I was telling James that I would like to focus some on that, and asked if he could write some scenes at some point in story where Ben pulls some "Top Gun"-style flying stunts. I always liked that aspect of the character in addition to everything else, but we don't see a lot of focus on that in a lot of the other series.
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