Marvel launched its new comic The Unbeatables at MCM Comic Con in London at the end of October.
The Unbeatables is a collaboration with Marvel Comics and Takeda Pharmaceuticals about a new group of superheroes who, as well as battling their foes, struggle daily with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Writer Fabian Nicieza was given the task of writing the story for The Unbeatables, and BCP were lucky enough to have a chat with him about his new comic and some of his other work.
BIG COMIC PAGE: The idea for your new comic The Unbeatables is a great one, raising awareness for IBD, but what made you want to get involved with this project?
FABIAN NICIEZA: I don’t do a lot of comic book writing now. I’ve been doing a lot of non-comics work over the past 10 to 15 years that just grew larger and larger in terms of the workload. I do comics if someone asks me to do something interesting or different or challenging. When I got a call from Darren, who is the editor of the project, it was an absolute challenge. Books like this are a big challenge and editors like to work with writers that have a lot of experience. Darren called me up and needed help on this project, and I saw it as an exciting, creative challenge.
BCP: Marvel are known for giving some of their biggest character’s disabilities, such as Daredevil being blind and Hawkeye being deaf. How difficult was it to write a story for what is a serious, but to many an invisible condition?
FN: The key was trying to understand how the condition affects people that have it and what challenges they face on a daily basis, and then marrying that to what is a traditional standard superhero adventure. For instance, if Spiderman’s conflict is he has to stop Dr Octopus from robbing that bank, but also has to get Aunt may her medicine because she needs it, he must then choose between those two things and figure out how to juggle that in 22 pages of a comic book story. The challenges that the characters in The Unbeatables face is the difficulty and requirements it takes to manage IBD day to day, on top of the responsibility they face confronting the villain, knowing that they may be the only ones that can do it. It highlights their daily challenges through the context of a much bigger story. There are several people with IBD that have had important input into the development of the characters, and their feedback about the challenges they face is important to help plot a superhero story.
BCP: What are you, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Marvel hoping to achieve with the new comic The Unbeatables?
FN: Marvel gets involved with companies like Takeda because they have a communications desire. They want to reach a large audience and the IBD community with a project that will provide them with information in an entertaining fashion, that doesn’t come across as a pharmaceutical brochure. If their communication goals can be incorporated into a fictional story, then that message becomes absorbed in an easier and more comfortable manner by the intended audience. From Marvel and my standpoint, it’s always about creating an interesting and exciting story about interesting and conflicted characters, and putting real human emotions and conflicts into a grand scale adventure story. As a writer, I’m approaching this as nothing more than a big, interesting, exciting story about characters that are faced with a tremendous challenge. IBD happens to be a part of that challenge, but the real challenge is am I capable of stopping that bad guy who might take over the world. The characters are interesting, fascinating people and I like writing about them.
BCP: The Unbeatables is another story that incorporates a whole team of characters. How difficult is it to write a story for an entire team of characters, rather than one that focusses on individuals?
FN: It’s the difference between wanting to have an orange or an apple; they’re both fruits and it depends on what you’re in the mood for. I love writing team books because I find the interaction between multiple characters enjoyable to write, and often it helps propel story decisions forward. Multiple points of view help you get different aspects of your story. Writing solo stories, you have to have a strong, solo point of view to help drive the story. I often find writing solo stories to be more of a challenge, but others feel the opposite. I’ve written so many team comic books that I feel comfortable flipping back into that multiple character dynamic.
BCP: You have worked on a lot of big story-lines throughout your career. Do you have a particular favourite story-line?
FN: That’s a tough one, but looking back over my 30 year career, I really feel my favourite story-line to this day is a story-line in a book I wrote called New Warriors, issues 18-25 called ‘Nothing but the Truth’. It was my first big superhero story for Marvel and it was two years’ worth of planning for the book that still holds up today.
BCP: You have written stories for some of Marvel’s biggest characters. Who was your favourite character to write a story for?
FN: I like whichever character I’m writing at the time the most, but right now I’d say any time I got to write Cable and Deadpool together was an absolute pleasure for me because it worked both sides of my brain. It worked the super ego to perfection, and I loved the dynamic between those two characters. I wrote 50 issues of that ongoing book and think it holds up very well 10 years later. I like writing that combination of characters together because of what each of them brings to the table.
BCP: After the massive success of Deadpool and X-Force, do you have any plans to work with Liefeld again in the future?
FN: No plans but Rob and I are always friendly and always talk to each other. If something of interest was to come up I would probably be interested in doing it, but I’d be less interested in visiting something from the past. I’d be less interested in doing an X-Force series, but he is still a mountain of ideas and a tsunami of energy. It’s always fun to get caught up in that whirlwind because he’s so dynamic and so excited about comics all the time, which is always fun because it makes me feel young again!
BCP: Did you expect the Deadpool film to be as successful as it was, and is there anything you can tell us about the sequel?
FN: I totally expected it to be successful but I didn’t expect it to succeed at the level it did. I knew based on its budget and the character’s popularity that if they made a good movie. it was going to make a very good box office return, but I didn’t expect that it was going to explode as much as it did globally. It’s testament to how well known the character is globally. As far as the sequel is concerned I know nothing that you don’t know.
BCP: Cable and Domino are both rumoured to be in the Deadpool sequel. Do you think with the success of Deadpool, fans will finally get the X-Force film they have been waiting years for?
FN: I would imagine, call it a gut feeling based on how Hollywood works, that if Cable and Domino are in a Deadpool 2 movie and if that movie does well, that there is a strong likelihood that you will see an X-Force movie in the not too distant future. If the movie doesn’t succeed, Hollywood maths says they’re less likely to want to do an X-Force movie, but we’ll see how it does. I have a lot a lot of faith in the writers and Ryan who understand these characters and this property. I have a lot of faith that they understand the Cable and Deadpool dynamic, because I know they read the Cable and Deadpool book, which is the best showcase Marvel has of the two characters interacting with each other. I am confident that they will do a very good job, and I’m confident that it will be successful, which means I am confident that there will be an X-Force film at some point.
BCP: What plans do you have lined up for the future that you can tell us about?
FN: Nothing comics wise that I can talk about. I’m doing a lot of custom comic work for Marvel and DC that I can’t talk about yet, stuff like The Unbeatables that editors want to work with veteran talent because of the professionalism and experience we bring to the table. The majority of my work is non-comics work. I do a lot of intellectual property franchise management for Hollywood studios and video games companies which takes up a huge chunk of my time.