Welcome back, Ultra-fans! We’re back with the second part of UltramanGalaxy’s interview with the writers of The Rise of Ultraman: Kyle Higgins and Mat Groom! If you’re just joining us, please check out the first half here!
Ultraman Galaxy: How would you define the comic since it’s not a reboot or a retelling? Is your approach similar to recent shows that explore alternate realities for Ultraman?
Kyle: Yeah. I had some experience doing the Power Rangers books at Boom Studios. Part of the attitude from doing those books carries over to Ultraman. It’s not a retelling but a remix. Fans will be familiar with a number of the elements. But it takes place in 2020 Japan.
Mat: There are elements that longtime fans will recognize. But from page 1, there’s a statement made that, if you think you know where things are headed, you don’t. We tried to capture the spirit of Ultraman, but we are blazing a different path.
Kyle: We want this book to be accessible to new readers. We’ve worked to ensure that we are contextualizing when required, but also laying out enough new components that, if you are a fan of the show, you’ll recognize what Mat means. But if you’re not familiar with the original material you won’t be lost whatsoever. And a really cool part of working with Starlight Runner and Tsuburaya is an acceptance for alternate worlds, timelines, and interpretations. There is a multiverse across Ultraman. It’s not to say that things don’t fit, but everyone’s excited about Marvel’s version of Ultraman.
UG: How did you get this assignment?
Kyle: Tom Brevoort was my first editor in comics, but I’d only done a limited amount of work with him. Towards the end of last year, Tom asked if I had any interest in Ultraman. I didn’t know much about him, but I knew enough to be interested. My first question was, “Would he be open to me doing this with a co-writer?” To Tom’s credit, there was no hesitation. Ultimately, if we had turned in something that was completely wrong, then it would have been a different conversation. We worked up a document, revised it over a week and turned it in. [Marvel and Tsuburaya Productions] supported the direction, and we were off to the races.
Mat: We didn’t play it safe by doing something small, simple and easy to get. We had a bold pitch that was big in scale and ambition, and everyone involved got excited by that.
Kyle: I was worried. I thought it was really good, but I’d done enough books at Marvel, DC and Boom to wonder, “Are they really going to go for this?” because this could be incredible. Fortunately, I came to my senses. If we’re not taking big swings, then what are we doing here? Marvel and Tsuburaya were incredibly pleased with our direction.
Mat: The people at Tsuburaya have been so encouraging. They have very strong ideas of what Ultraman should be, but are supportive of new ways of expressing those ideas. They’re embracing new takes as long as it captures the true heart of the mythos.
UG: How does the creative process work with two writers?
Mat: To work in comics, you have to love collaborating with people. The process starts with Kyle and I batting around bigger thematic ideas. When it starts to take a more concrete form we’ll do a draft, then Francesco Manna, the main artist, brings fantastic ideas and energy to it. Next, we’ll go back, review the script, and try and play off that.
Kyle: Mat and I have been creative partners for years. So, when the opportunity came up for Ultraman it was a no-brainer. We’re actually very different writers. When I was doing Rangers, we talked all the time. I like to go, “Is that the best version? What if we did this?” And Mat can talk theme through any permutation. We gel on that level. He’s just faster than me, which is really nice. It’s a true co-writing dynamic.
UG: How much freedom do you have to use characters from the various Ultraman productions?
Kyle: You should take a look at page 1.
Mat: We are painting a big canvas and are using a wide range of colors.
Kyle: In issue #1 alone, we have a main story, a Michael Cho backup story that adds to it, and three smaller stories that exist within that universe. Everything matters. Characters, eras…there’s a lot for us to utilize.
Mat: You won’t have to wait to find out the breadth of what we’re trying to. There is a lot in issue #1, and we did not pad it out.
Kyle: It’s 40 pages of story.
Mat: Once the fan community is exposed to the ambition and scope of the story, they’ll realize what we’re doing. We’re going big. It’ll be exciting.
Kyle: We share the same sentiment. On Rangers, I made it clear I’m not interested in writing a ‘90s nostalgia book. I want a book that takes the spirit and the core ethos and recontextualizes it for our era and medium. We both believe in fully utilizing the medium. There are things in this series that would be different in live action. Storytelling devices, even the backup stories and how we’re telling them is specific to the medium. We’re excited for Ultraman fans to see our interpretation, and what our version looks like in the book.
Mat: This is a unique project. We are building a new world that has its own history and secrets. So, as much as we’re one contained story, we’re also establishing a new universe in a lot of ways.
Kyle: There are three specific years denoted in issue #1. They’re a solid tease without being spoilers: 2020, 1966, and 1954. And I think we can we end on this point: we have plans for the orange suits.
Mat: That was in the pitch. You don’t see orange suits straight away, but we’re not going to leave those on the table.
Be sure to check out The Rise of Ultraman when it hits shelves in September! You can find your local comic book store by using this comicshoplocator, and you’ll be able to find it digitally, as well! Come back to UltramanGalaxy in the meantime as we march toward that date, with more news about Rise and all things Ultraman!