Talking Ultimate X-Men With Robert Kirkman

Robert Kirkman may need to get new business cards printed. Recently named by Marvel has one of their “Ten Terrific” (writers Marvel has designated as their next wave of stars), Kirkman will expand his growing Marvel Q in early 2006 when he forays into the Ultimate line as writer of Ultimate X-Men.

Kirkman spent a few minutes with Newsarama for our second conversation in as many days (the first about his upcoming Marvel Zombies limited series) to briefly talk about his first Ultimate assignment, how long he’ll be sticking around, and an early preview of some of this plans…

Newsarama: Robert, starting with the broader view, how did this particular assignment come about? Was being part of the Ultimate line something you pursued, or did Marvel come to you with the idea?

If the former, why? If the latter, what was your feelings on the Ultimate line before the invite and why’d you decide to take the plunge?

Robert Kirkman: It's no secret that I love the Ultimate line. I'm constantly dropping hints about how I'd like to take over Ultimate Spider-Man when they finally fire Brian off the book ten years from now. I don't know if people know just how much I like the Ultimate line. I love all the books. The Ultimates, Ultimate FF, and Ultimate Spider-Man are all top-notch books. I'm a continuity nut. I really dig the stuff. I really like that (for the most part) Ultimate Marvel is a tight knit little universe that ties together pretty nicely. There have been so few captains steering the ship it all stays together really well. I plan on keeping that tradition.

NRAMA: We’ll get to that in a moment, but before moving on, let’s do a little fact gathering… Can you say exactly how long your run will be? Is it a finite arc? Or open-ended? And if we’re discussing the future of the title we have to ask about Bryan Singer and if/how his previous announced run fits into this?

RK: What I've been told is that the esteemed Mister Singer's arc has been pushed back a bit and I'm filling in until he's ready, same as [Brian] Vaughan was when he started his run. I'm currently signed on for nine issues, and I'd happily do more if they'll allow it. I'm really excited to be working on The X-Men.

NRAMA: What many of the more vocal fans of Marvel Team-Up and even Invincible enjoy is it has a certain style and energy that maybe isn’t found in a lot of Marvel titles these days [and we hope you appreciate how hard we’re trying to avoid saying “old school”]…but that’s not really been the vibe of the Ultimate Universe, particularly X-Men (so far).

So do you find yourself bringing some of that fun “Kirkman-style” with you to the title, or do you find yourself adapting to the tone that has already been established?

RK: I write the way I write. I don't think people would say that The Walking Dead employs a fun "old school" writing style, and yet, to my mind, I write that exactly like I would write anything else. I will say that Ultimate X-Men will be closer in tone to The Walking Dead than anything else I've done. It's a group, unlike my other stuff that has mostly been one character stuff.

Also, I think X-Men is as much about the interactions between the team members as it is about who's going to attack them this week. It always has been. So I plan to keep that tradition going. I recently re-read the full run of Ultimate X-Men in preparation for my run and I don't think my stuff is going to be jarring at all. It'll fit in nicely with what's come before and it should be entertaining as hell, at least, that's what I'm going for.

NRAMA: Can you give readers a sense of what the essential ingredients of Ultimate X-Men are in your opinion? The unique thing or things about the title that you want to hold onto?

RK: This sort of works for the Ultimate line in general but I think it's really relevant for The X-Men. I think it's important to realize that this is a different Universe, and things are very different here. I think a lot of times fans are sitting around saying "When is apocalypse going to come along and turn Angel into Archangel?!" I don't think that's what the book should be about. The Ultimate line should be a new and different exploration of the Marvel Universe, not a new and different way for the Ultimate Universe to eventually become exactly like the Marvel Universe. If we do “The Phoenix Saga”... and it's different but ends in the same resolution who does that really serve? In my run I plan on making the Ultimate X-Men more different than they already are.

NRAMA: So there are "new or different" things coming to make your run uniquely yours?

RK: I don't want to give anything away, but yeah, there is. Lot's of stuff. I'm also going to cut back on introducing new characters in the Ultimate Universe. I think in my nine issues I plan to introduce exactly one character from the Marvel Universe that hasn't appeared in the Ultimate Universe yet. That's it. I want to spend my time exploring the characters we've already got here. I want to give them more time to shine before the team gets to have 400 members. I think the Ultimate Universe as a whole is strong enough to just tell stories now without having to rely on the gimmick of "who's getting Ultimatized this week."

NRAMA: Well, on that note, after five years you’d think this question would be irrelevant, but we’re going to ask it anyways.... What do you see as the main differences between the Marvel Universe X-Men (some of whom you’ve written for/about) and the Ultimate X-Men?

RK: Even after five years these guys are still the younger, less experienced X-Men. They're the X-Men we're getting to know instead of the X-Men we know and love. They all have very different characteristics than their Marvel Universe counterparts. Wolverine in particular is much darker and less friendly (if that's even possible). I plan to explore those differences in my run and bring them to the forefront. There's a lot of interesting stuff to touch on that has been set up or hinted at by the other writers of this series.

NRAMA: In addition to Wolverine, what particular characters do you find yourself responding to and looking forward to exploring in particular?

RK: I really like Iceman and what Brian K. Vaughan has done with Rogue. I think I'm going to have some fun with them. I think Mark Millar's Charles Xavier is the most interesting character in the Ultimate Universe. He's got so much going on under the surface, I'm going to have lots of fun with him. I'm also very fond of the relationship between Wolverine and Storm that has been set up. It's nice to have characters be friends and not have them become romantic just for the sake of the story. Ultimate Colossus is also another I think I'm going to have fun with.

NRAMA: How about new characters? Any brand new, or new to the Ultimate Universe characters you plan on introducing?

RK: Like I say, there will be one character that I'm bringing over from the Marvel Universe. I'll also be introducing a completely new character that has not been in the Marvel Universe. I'm not going to say anything about this character, other than the fact that I can assure you they will be at least one-thousand times cooler than Geldhoff.

NRAMA: Hey, we believe you on that count. Okay, so wrapping up our brief chat, what can you tell us about your first story arc, “Date Night”?

RK: The X-Men have just been through a lot. It's pretty much been non-stop since the beginning, really. So I'm giving them the night off. “Date Night” is a three-part storyline where the X-Men all go out and have fun for a night. It's going to be a lot of fun... but y'know, things never really go all that smoothly for the X-Men so there will be some bumps in the road along the way.

Also, I'll be setting up a log of stuff for future issues, so really - everyone needs to pay attention or they'll miss something! Tom Raney is doing an excellent job so I think everyone will want to check this out.

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