The Never-Told Secret Origin of Marvel Zombies, Revealed

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Writer Mark Millar reveals the secret origin of the Marvel Zombies’ first appearance in Ultimate Fantastic Four and why it almost didn’t happen.

Writer Mark Millar revealed the secret origin of the Marvel Zombies and why they almost never saw the light of day.

Speaking to his fans through his newsletter, Millar opened up about the process surrounding the first appearance of the Marvel Zombies in Ultimate Fantastic Four. “I remember telling the guys I had this idea on the plane from Scotland about a superhero arriving from another dimension with a zombie plague and biting the Avengers when they showed up to contain the problem,” he wrote. He then went on to explain that he drew a loose sketch of zombified Mr. Fantastic and used that as a catalyst to explore how it could impact the rest of Marvel’s heroes.


RELATED: Spider-Man: How Marvel Zombies Tore Peter Parker’s World Apart

Unfortunately for Millar, the idea was not well-received by his peers. When he pitched the idea at one of Marvel’s quarterly retreats, they found it repulsive. “But everyone hated it,” he explained. “I remember it was so universally loathed and everyone thought I was kidding when I suggested it. I just smiled and took it on the chin.” However, a separate conversation with then-editor-in-chief Joe Quesada gave Millar an opportunity to repurpose the idea as a storyline for Ultimate Fantastic Four. The series was in need of a new writer after the departure of Warren Ellis, so Millar was brought in and he used the Marvel Zombies as his first storyline, titled “Frightful.” The Ultimate Universe had many differences from the 616 Universe, which extended to the younger and more powerful Fantastic Four. Millar knew that fans wanted to see the worlds meet, so he teased readers with a storyline that would have them crossover. Ultimately, the meeting was little more than a bait-and-switch, as young Reed was lured into the Marvel Zombies universe by his evil counterpart.

Despite the trepidation of Marvel’s writers room when Marvel Zombies was first presented, the concept proved to be a hit with fans. When it became clear that other creators could use the characters in between the arcs that Millar needed them for, Marvel greenlit a five-issue Marvel Zombies miniseries by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and artist Sean Phillips. The story continued to explore the Marvel Zombies universe after the departure of their Fantastic Four and had Magneto fighting as humanity’s last hope against the plague, an idea that came from Millar’s initial pitch.

RELATED: Before What If: Black Panther’s Fate Was Worse in the First Marvel Zombies

Recently, the Marvel Zombies were brought back for the fifth episode of Disney+’s What If…? animated series. The episode featured notable changes from Millar’s story, including a zombified Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet. However, there may be even bigger things in store for the franchise. Millar also teased that a live-action Marvel Zombies project is currently in development. As the writer himself put it, “zombies never stay dead.”

Source: Mark Millar

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