Word Balloon: Ask Jonathan Hickman!

It's that time again. Jonathan Hickman has started the new FF – The Future Foundation, and is still making us scratch our heads as we put the pices together of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Secret Warriors.

Now Hickman is ready to face the Word Balloon and iFanboy public, so start asking questions and we'll answer them next week on Word Balloon.

Please limit yourself to one question per post. You have until noon CST on Thursday March 31 to submit your question. There will be plenty of competition, so make them good! Fire away! 


  1. How much did it cost to buy off iFanboy’s pick of the week? (JOKING)

    Real question:

    Spider-Man is in so many books these days. What approach are you taking to the character to make it so he’s different and refreshing in FF? As opposed to the same character in ASM, USM, New Avengers, and however many countless Marvel books.

  2. I’ll give this a try.

    I’m a graphic designer by trade and have always admired your work Jonathan. I learned a lot about design from reading your creator owned stuff. Now if I may get personal, I consider myself a graphic designer with skill and great potential but feel I’m having a hard time getting that potential recognized by local firms despite having been a production designer for a few years now. My portfolio is small but solid and my reputation in the workplace is good. With that in mind, what would you say has been key to advancing your career to a more fulfilling and creative level?

    Thanks for the brilliant work Jonathan and thanks to you Mr. Siuntres for the great content.

  3. To what degree was the plot and overall tone of S.H.I.E.L.D. affected by the move from Image to Marvel with its much tighter editorial style?

  4. How soon can you get the Avengers gig from Bendis?  You strike me as the Conan to his Leno in regards to your potential to take that franchise into a whole other stratosphere.  I would even pay $3.99 for it, and if you knew me, you would know that is a significant concession on my part for a comic.

  5. So at one point you assert that Hydra created SHield now in Shield – it was created by ancient figure of science and philosophy how do you resolve this rather large contradiciton?

  6. Does the acient history of Hydra seen in Captain America: Hail Hydra have any connection to the ancient history of SHIELD seen in SHIELD? 

  7. Is there any particular thing you learned or took from your experience in advertising that gives you an advantage as a comic creator?

  8. What is the title of Jonathan Hickman’s next creator owned project?? Thanks! 

  9. Your books are a great combination of intricate plot and unique character.  My question is which one to you work on first?  Do you outline the plot, and then find a way to make the characters relatable.  Or do you find something special about the characters, and then find interesing things to happen to them?

  10. What do you feel is your greatest weakness as a writer, and do you look to the artists you work with to shore that up, or work around it?

    BTW, I’m a huge fan, so this is a genuine “I-want-to-understand-creative-dynamics” question rather than a “tell-me-how-bad-you-suck” kind of question. I loved FF#1! (Though I’m still craziest about your opening arc on FF, that killed me) 

  11. What are some of your personal favorite Fantastic Four runs or stories and how have they informed or influenced your current run?

  12. I’m very excited by the direction of the title just now.

    Can we look forward to a story drawn by you for one of the big milestone issues coming up? 

  13. You Have given a much needed boost of energy to the FF series, What other Marvel Iconic creation would you be interested in writing for? ( hint they have mutant powers)

  14. I’m a proffessional graphic designer, and was immediately drawn to your creator owned work such as Pax Romana and The Nightly News because of how different and well designed they were. It was a fresh take on lettering, typography and sequential storytelling that i’ve never seen before in comics. Do you view those things as one off experiments or do you think that other comics can be designed more in that vein as opposed to the panel-panel-word balloon format that we’ve always had? 

    Sub Question: What role do you see Graphic Design having in the future of comics? 

  15. Hey Jonathan , i am a huge fan of your run on the Fantastic Four (now called the Future Foundation), i would like to know if you ever think marvel will print your Fantastic Four stuff into an omnibus,

    Another question I would like to ask, Is if you have any other marvel projects coming up in the future

    Love the show and both of you keep up the good work!

  16. Could the robot Human Torch, or maybe a Human Torch, come into the lives of the Future Foundation?

  17. The idea of Pax Romana alone would have made it a favorite for me. Add to that the brilliantly experimental execution and it’s on a whole other level. I read somewhere you had said there’d be other stories in this universe, not necessarily sequels. Are we any closer to this? I want more. Oh. yeah, SHIELD is cool too, but come on.

  18. I really enjoyed the political philosophy you espoused in Pax Romana (now very timely with all the revolution in the Arab world) as well as the choice of setting. What inspired these ideas and what makes this particular time period a good place to explore them?

  19. There is a jonathanhickman.com blog on the web.  Please tell me that’s not you, because that guy is freaking annoying…

  20. When you got hired at Marvel how long did it take for you to connect three titles together? (I.E.: SHIELD, Fantastic Four, and Secret Warriors)

  21. The death of the Human Torch is just one piece of a much larger story. Was the plan for marvel to hype it so heavily in place from the beginning, or did they see what you were building and jump on board later? Do you feel like they derailed things by announcing the big news early? I purposefully avoided the internet so I wouldn’t be apoiled, but one of my coworkers saw it on the news and ruined it for me. Either way, FF is on the top of my stack whenever it comes out. Keep up the great work.

  22. First of all, I wanted to tell you that Fantastic Four 587 was the first comic to ever make me cry, I’ve seen many characters I care about die over the years and not shed a tear, but you made me cry over a character I never particularly cared for.

    Now for the question:
    When you get the really cool over-the-top high concepts like S.H.I.E.L.D. or Pax Romana, how do you go about plotting the issues and compartmentalizing? As a frustrated writer I find this one of the hardest parts of the writing process.

    Thanks for the comics! 

  23. though i’ve enjoyed the whole series thus far, s.h.i.e.ld. #5 was the one that truly blew my mind, with the eight page sequence of splashes tracing the changing of hydrogen to oxygen and juxtaposing that with the evolution of the ideas of fate and choice. my question is, how much scientific research do you do beforehand, and how does it inform your writing? is it as simple as looking at the periodic table and being struck with an idea, or is it a more complex process than that?

    thanks to both of you gents for fine work you do!  

  24. Hi Jonathan. Thanks for a great few years of Marvel storytelling!

    After reading the Fantasic Four silent issue, I was curious about the state of the Richards family.  There was a lot of really strong imagery in that issue like Sue’s force shield to keep Reed away. Or Valeria’s call for Annihilus’s head. Those eyes were fucked. up. They have been through a lot and some of there behavior is extreme.    How are they doing? Do they each occupy their traditional roles? Or are they changed?

  25. Will any of your Image books be moved to the Icon imprint at Marvel anytime soon? Plus looking forward to seeing how Secret Warriors ends.

  26. To what degree are you allowed to choose your artist when working at Marvel?
    What do you look for when looking for an artist, either for your Marvel or independant work? Is it someone who ‘gets’ what your trying to do with the book and will try to adapt to better tell that story, or do you find someone whose style fits what your trying to tell? Or do you write stories to fit your artists?

    As someone who has done some art yourself I’m sure you would have an interesting perspective on the process

  27. Like yourself, I am interested in stories exploring humanity’s future.  What skill set do you draw on and what techniques do you use to make sure these stories stay relatable to readers? 

  28. Do you have any plans/ambitions to try your hand at another medium? We’ve seen a lot of writers and artists in comics do work on TV (Kirkman doing some episodes of Walking Dead, Bendis prepping for Powers etc), in games (Remender on Bulletstorm, Fraction on Iron Man, Jim Lee on DCUO etc), film (with Gab Hardman storyboarding, Mark Millar doing some directing), would you want to try one of these and what kind of thing would you like to do?

    Cheers John and Jonathan.

  29. When it comes to the narrative, family has always been the driving force of these characters. Without opening any closets; what aspects of your own family have you brought into this book?  

  30. Did you kill the Human Torch because you though kids would try to light themselves on fire? 

  31. Mr. Hickman, I truly enjoy your Marvel works. While Millar and Hitch’s run on the For made me care about the title, your run made me care about the characters for the first time in a long time. I love what you’ve done with Nick Fury and the Secret Warriors in that title, as well as it’s feel as a true spy/intrigue war Marvel book. And the best part of your SHIELD title (in my opinion) was the Richards/Stark relationship and their adventure. I swear, I could read that kind of story every day for the rest of my life, and never get sick of it. However, my questionis about your Ultimate Thor series. I really enjoyed this book, and welcomed your cleaning-up of the Ultimate Thor mythology. So my question is, what’s next? Is there any other Ultimate characters you would like to (or are going to) take on? I would love to see you do an Ultimate Hawkeye mini…

  32. Mr. Hickman,
    I’m really happy to say I’ve gotten a lot of my new college friends who’ve never read comics before to become regular readers using your run on the Fantastic Four and now the FF. Your peers often compliment and talk about your ability to plan things out years in advance issue by issue I was hoping that you could share this process with us. I’m an aspiring comic writer and the answer would mean a lot to me.

    Thanks for the show guys good luck with everything!

  33. You’ve used silence brilliantly during your Fantastic Four run. First, with the 11-page silent underwater sequence in FF #576, and then, the audacious issue dealing with the loss of Johnny Storm. How did these sequences evolve from inspiration to execution?
  34. Hi Mr.Hickman,
    I’ve really enjoyed Secret Warriors…however (sorry) as the series speeds to its end, alot of the characters we followed in the first few arcs have taken a back seat. Honestly, everything seems to be going a little too fast. Magadan is killed before we even know who/what/why, Yo-Yo is sudddenly bald while Daisy now has long hair, the black and grey teams were teased for issues, then are taken out in an issue. Is this acclerated pace due to the impending end of the series? I hope there are plans for Daisy’s team (if they survive) beyond this series. Sorry for the minutia, I only ask cause you’ve made me care about the characters.

  35. Dear Mr. Hickman,

    I’m just curious on how you schedule your days when it comes to writing several titles every month.
    How do you work things out with your editor? Are you expected to deliver the scripts for each book at the end of the month? Or do you have set deadline for submitting the script for each title? Just wondering how you juggle all that work. Thanks!

    Love your work on SHIELD and you got me collecting FF again!

    –budjette tan

    p.s. Hey John! Many thanks for another great show! This is the closest we’ll ever get to having one-on-one conversations with our favorite comic book creators.

  36. Mr. Hickman,

    What influence did the “higher ups” at Marvel have on your Johnny Storm dealth issue. Where your hands tied in any way and is there anything you woud’ve changed?

    — Rob

    P.S. Great seeing you in Phoenix last week.

  37. Do you have an end point in mind for S.H.I.E.L.D. like you do for Secret Warriors?

  38. After acheiving such success with your current titles, what would you consider to be a dream project, and would it be a creator owned property, or another big 2 project?

  39. Secret Warriors is my favorite monthly book and I hope there is an omnibus edition in the future.

    I really love how you portray Nick Fury in the book.  Can you give hints if you’ll be using the character in the future?

  40. Hey Mr. Hickman,

    I just wanted what were the obastacles and lessons you’ve learned from while writing Fantastic Four? 

  41. Hi Jonathan and Jon, its a pleasure to ask you a question.
     I wanted to know if we’re going to return to Leonid in S.H.I.E.L.D. I really this perspective character and wanted to know if his larger purpose to the organization will be revisited.
    And I wanted to shout-out how glad I get to see Christina Strain doing the coloring. I really find her to be a really nice person, and I’m really amazed in the tonal shifts that she is able to achieve with Dustin.

  42. Hey John S., I love Word Balloon, and I’ve found the quality and intellectual dialogue is on par with my other favorite podcasts, such as BBC’s In Our Time and the Bob Edwards Show.

    Jon H., I’ve really enjoyed every book that you’ve written for Marvel. With all of the exploration of Marvel’s history that is going on with your Secret Warriors and Shield; Brian Michael Bendis’s current Nick Fury’s Avengers story arc in New Avengers, and  Ed Brubakers’s Marvel Project and Secret Avengers, how much coordination is going on between the three of you with this enriching of Marvel, and will we see all of these stories weave into each other?

    It would also be interesting to see if and how organizations and societies such as Weapon Plus/ X, the Hellfire Club, Apocalypse’s Akkaba Society and the newly introduced Shadow Council by Brubaker connect with both Leonardo’s and Fury’s SHIELDs.  (not a question, but a comment).

  43. Can you explain just what PLUS! is and what you hope to achieve with it?  Is it like Kirkman’s Skybound imprint or what is it?  

    As a side note, when PLUS! was originally announced, I thought it was the name of Mr. Hickman’s newest creator-owned series.  So, I’m looking for some clarification here.

    Also, Red Wing looks superb. 

  44. You’ve worked with 5 or 6 artists on Secret Warriors and 5 artists on Fantastic Four. How has it been dealing with fill-in or changing artists, and do you think instability from the art team hurts the legacy of a run (in general, I mean, not your runs)? 

  45. Do you have any plans (or even any interest) in doing artwork again

  46. Just wanted to take this chance to thank you for all your great work, and I also wanted to let you know that for every person out there who frets about continuity and accessibility there’s a guy out there like my buddy who saw Secret Warriors 1 sitting in my room read it 5 times over, having never read a comic before. I gave him all my issues for his birthday cause he loved it so much, so i just wanted to thank you for proving to me any book can be somebody’s first, and its quality that matters over anything else.  

  47. John and John, hello this is my first question ever for this podcast. Which character or characters is the real focus of this book? I would say Spidey but that would be too easy! But after reading the first issue it seems that Reed Richards has evolved a bit in his thinking about how he thinks the future of society should work, am I close?

  48. Hello John’s. Thank you very much for doing this. Here’s my question: ¿What’s the atraction towards Nathaniel Richards? you are one of very few writers that’s ever touch him. And you not only have use it quite much, but you are using him in two of the series your writing.

  49. Hey, guys.  Long time listener, first time poster.  Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview.  

    Mr.Hickman, being an artist and a writer, did you ever have a point, earlier in your career ,where you felt a need to focus on one over the other?  With your history in graphic design, I assumed you started with crafting your art before developing your writing skills, but have you always been a writer as well as an artist?

  50. Obviously, there was discussion with Dan Slott over character reactions to Spidey on the new FF team. Is there a particular reason why Ben is cold towards Peter in FF #1 and warm towards him in Amazing Spider-Man #657? The reactions seem contradictory.

    – Dom

  51. Hey Mr. Hickman, big fan. As a Muslim, I was excited to see your use of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) in S.H.I.E.L.D. because the great polymaths (or Hakeems) of the Islamic Golden Age are often overlooked in the West for their contributions to civilization. Because of this, was it a conscious decision for you to include them in this story and will they play a prominent role? Thanks!

  52. Jonathan, I have so many questions I want to ask regarding FF (because I really want it to succeed and see how precisely the FF will honor Johnny’s memory in a lasting and discernable way) that it’s tough choosing a good one. But here goes. You’ve mentioned at Marvel Thursday Q&A that you want to bring characters who made appaearance in the FF’s history back into circulation, and you specifically called out She-Hulk. Then in a recent tweet you said that the number of reoccuring charaters surpasses the Legion. So what is your criteria for selecting those characters that deserve a reappearance; more on familial ties with the FF (Wyatt Wingfoot), power sets (the Futurist formerly Randolph James), crucial location (Hellscout and Lyja in the Negative Zone), or simply because they represent the ordinary human being that the FF strive to improve the world for (Lumpkin, O’Hoolihan)? Thanks.