Something jumped out at me from yesterday’s interview with outgoing Ultimates writer Sam Humphries and incoming replacement, Joshua Hale Fialkov on the main site. Namely, this explanation from Humphries about why he was leaving the book a year into his run:
It’s not easy for me to leave the Ultimates. I love this book and I love these characters — they have been a special home to me since the dawn of my days at Marvel. But was offered another project I couldn’t pass up, and something on my schedule had to give.
Anyone else remember what Jonathan Hickman said when he passed the book to Humphries, back in February 2012?
I never planned on leaving The Ultimates, and when I got offered the Ultimate Thor gig, I took that job because it came with the understanding that I was going to get The Ultimates after that. When I first got in the door at Marvel, that was the book I wanted to do more than any other. When I came on the book, I think [editors Mark Paniccia and Sana Amanat] would agree, we’re doing very special stuff there. But I got a job offer that I couldn’t refuse, so I’m taking it.
Firstly: Marvel, stop offering better jobs to your Ultimates writers.
Secondly: Is it just me, or do two outgoing writers in a row both saying “I was offered something I couldn’t refuse” weirdly underscore how oddly unimportant the Ultimate line has become at Marvel these days? Admittedly, it’s been some time since the line was the jewel in Marvel’s crown – I don’t think that’s been true since the early days, with Bendis/Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man and Millar/Hitch on Ultimates (Ultimate X-Men has, let’s be honest, always been a problem child for the imprint) – but there was still a time when the line had some level of prestige to it. With both Hickman and Humphries jumping ship mid-storyline because of better offers, and saying so, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s become more of a second tier thing at best, a training ground or metaphorical albatross that needs to be lugged around.
There are still rumors around that the Ultimate line is headed towards closure at some point this year. Maybe that would be a good thing, at this point, at least temporarily. If nothing else, we’d be spared the interview – inevitably at some point in the next twelve months – where Fialkov tells us that he, too, is sad to leave the book but someone offered him an opportunity he just couldn’t turn down.