(Gavok note: Since I’m still working on the annotations for New Ultimate Edit, I thought I’d have Nick “ManiacClown” Zachariasen write down his own thoughts on the experience. The guy never really gets to speak his mind outside of a couple comments here and there, so I thought he should get in his final word.)
I’d like to say that’s it’s been a pleasure to collaborate with Gavok on this project of ours. First we started with Ultimates 3. Then, when we thought the morning sun of the volume’s end had vanquished the horrible night that was Loeb’s first stab into the heart of the Ultimate Universe, Ultimatum came along and we knew that we were needed once again. Before Beast/Nightcrawler/Daredevil/Cyclops/Xavier/Cannonball/MultipleMan/Hank Pym/Doctor Strange/Wasp/Wolverine/[O.K., that’s enough, I think they get it by now]’s body was cold, we learned of New Ultimates and what was sure to be yet more crap. Now, I have to admit that with New Ultimates, Loeb’s dreck wasn’t quite so bad and was in a couple places kind of neat, as with the parachuting machine gun scene. Of course, to counterbalance that, there were also bits like the fact that on top of not having read the Ultimate Universe before writing it, he’d also not read Norse myth. Valhalla and Hel are two different places, Jeph. Granted, I may be seeing New Ultimates a bit differently because of the fact that I had perhaps a greater-than-normal amount of creative input given the heavy use of the Asgardian cast, which brought to bear my skill in writing in godspeak. I guess that year of Master’s studies in English was good for something after all!
One thing that the Ultimate Edit saga has — along with my tendency to heckle bad movies — helped show me is that even badly-executed entertainment has its value in some form. For instance, take Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. No, not the album. That wasn’t bad. I’m talking about the movie. It was kind of a cinematic equivalent of Jeph Loeb’s work in the UU in that it was a horribly jumbled mess that really didn’t make a whole Hell of a lot of sense. However, the music in it was, for the most part, actually enjoyable on some level and I — perhaps somewhat blasphemously — actually prefer Billy Preston’s rendition of Get Back at the end of the movie to the original. Similarly, in addition to knowing how to write a shut-your-mind-off action sequence, Loeb actually had an awesome idea in using Multiple Man as a reusable suicide bomber, which by definition is typically impossible. Overall, though, Loeb did help jar the UU out of what Marvel had seemingly been beginning to fall into, where they’d typically introduce a 616 character with a slightly redesigned costume and a modernized background and BOOM! they had their newest Ultimatized character. No longer can they rely on just rehashing 616 now that numerous key characters are dead, even if they have a replacement Wolverine who can make his sharp bits shiny or not shiny as the situation warrants.
What this bring me to is that bad entertainment is like why I realized why pants are funny. See, Wakko and Dot Warner don’t have pants but Yakko does and this is funny. This made me realize that pants are funny. However, until several years later when I had a 103 degree; fever from a sinus infection, I realized that the image of a man whose pants are around his ankles — exposing his heart-strewn boxer shorts — is funny because it isn’t the normal state. If pants didn’t exist, it would be the normal state, and therefore not funny at all. However, because pants exist they create the possibility of a lack of pants, which is funny. Therefore, pants are funny because lack of pants is funny — inherent humor value by proxy, if you will. The point is that, much like Heaven and Hell, without the bad the good is meaningless because there’s nothing to compare it to. If you don’t have Ultimatum, you can’t appreciate Ultimate Thor as much. It’s kind of like that part in The Dark Knight Strikes Again when Luthor’s pounding Batman in the face repeatedly until Green Lantern pulls his planet-saving stunt. We just sat there and took it from Loeb because we know the payoffs are coming. We know Loeb’s not going to stick around forever. We just know we have to outlast him. It’s a sort of faith that has its reward in the here-and-now, even if you have to be patient for three years.
The other bright side of the last three years (which I still can’t believe has gone by this quickly) is that I’ve gotten to know Gavok. Before, I just knew him as the Ruin the Moment guy in Batman’s Shameful Secret on the Something Awful forums. However, after I said the magical words “I want in” I gained a friend and writing partner. I found someone to help me be creative in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. During this process Gavok’s essentially been the head writer of our team, ultimately deciding which jokes get included and which don’t while sometimes indulging my insistence on certain gags that I thought were too good to not do. One good example of this was continuing the Twinkies gag. While certainly not as prominent as Thor being Santa — which has unexpectedly had legs like mighty Sleipnir, the eight-hooved steed of Odin — that joke’s been a nice little undercurrent to the Editverse, popping up when both you and we least expect it. While it kind of sucked getting some of what I thought were good jokes left on the cutting room floor sometimes, most of the time I think what Gavok did in that respect was simply good editing, which had I been doing this alone may well have ended up leaving me as a sort of Jeph Loeb of funnybook mockery. We weren’t just one writer with seniority over another — we were and I dare say still are a team.
I think Gavok and I mesh very well together in our senses of humor. I think some of that is our mutual interests, which include comics (obviously) and professional wrestling. We did, though, also make a good team because of our differences. Sometimes Gavok would toss out a reference that I would have absolutely zero clue about or perhaps a choice in diction which was probably a regional difference. He lives in New Jersey and I live in South Dakota, so in one joke he suggested that Multiple Man “ask off for Saturday” when I’d never heard that particular arrangement before. Out here, we always say “ask for Saturday off.” That difference in perspectives is part of what made us write so well together in addition to simply coming up with things that would make people laugh.
Of all we accomplished in this collaboration, I’m personally proud of the fact that I either came up with some of the best joke ideas, or at least refined them like the sugar in a Twinkie from Gavok’s brainstorming or one-off gags. Santa Thor, of course, is the prime example of this, without which the entire Ultimate Edit trilogy would have been wildly different. It ended up being a unifying element, tying everything together and ultimately (no pun intended for once) came together in New Ultimates as Loeb had the volume centered on Thor and company. Little did we know when we whimsically tried to think of a reason for Valkyrie to be on the team that we’d sown the seeds for what New Ultimates has been. That’s some of the magic of working like this, where we’re not completely in control of what we’re doing. Even though somebody else is sort of controlling what we do, it just feels natural once we get going and — at least for me — there’s a certain magic to that.
Finally, I’d like to give my thanks. Thanks to all of you readers who’ve stuck with us for the last three years. Thanks to Jeph Loeb for giving us material to work with. Thanks especially to Frank Cho, who seems to have been — at least incidentally — one of our readers with the Waldo sight gag, which he seemed to have acknowledged by actually inserting Waldo into a published scene in the issue after we made the joke. Obviously, I should thank Marvel Comics for being good sports about this whole affair. I don’t think they can have not known about this because doubtlessly somebody there’s read our updates. I think the aforementioned Waldo incident shows that and while I seriously think that if legal push came to litigious shove we’d have plenty of support (as fair-use parody) under Campbell vs. Acuff-Rose and its progeny, that Marvel didn’t even try to stop 4thletter from letting us put these up this whole time. I’d like to thank David Brothers for facilitating our four-color frippery through his blog. Last — and of coursenot least — I want to thank my writing partner Gavok, without whose perhaps-passing musing on an edit of Ultimates 3 I’d not have had the opportunity to do all this. It’s been a great run and I’m immensely proud of having made so many people I can’t quantify laugh at a bunch of Twinkie jokes and Christmas puns. To quote the Animaniacs whenever they’d been written into a corner: Goodnight, folks.