A lighter day of attendance on Sunday at the Baltimore Comic-Con allowed for the Marvel Comics hosted Marvel: Your Universe panel to be a relaxed event. Without the ambient noise that plagued the paper thin panel rooms a day earlier, numerous questions were fielded by the panelists while Brain Michael Bendis casually signed comics for a few of the fans who posed questions to the assembled talent.
On hand for the panel with Bendis were “Invincible Iron Man” writer Matt Fraction, Marvel Assistant Editor Lauren Sankovitch, Marvel’s Manager of Sales David Gabriel and Marvel Marketing Manager Arune Singh, who hosted the event. After introductions and a brief chat about what draws fans to a book – to which creator promotion, draw of the creator and a new spin on characters were cited as reasons from the audience – attendees were invited to walk up to the stage and ask questions to any and all of the panelists.
The first question directed to the group asked how much the upcoming Marvel movies would intertwine with each other. Bendis recapped that “Thor” would be coming out first in May of 2011, with “The First Avenger: Captain America” movie hitting theaters the following June or July. He also confirmed again that all of the movies would have certain threads that run through them for those excited to see connections.
“I’m Thor. A Jewy Thor,” Bendis said when asked about casting for the flicks. On a morer serious note, the “New Avengers” writer added, “I was reading the new script just last night. Very, very good.”
A fan explained that the current Deadpool craze had him very curious for what was coming up for the merc with a mouth.
“Deadpool is going to have a sort of Obama moment as he sees what Scott Summers has done with Utopia and be inspired,” Fraction said. “He is going to feel a surge of mutant pride, and he’s going to want to come to the island. And Scott’s gonna have to realize, ‘Well, we threw our doors open – are we gonna have to help everybody?’ [Deadpool] is going to get wrapped up in the X-Men stuff for a minute, and it’s going to send him off to a new, weird place.”
Gabriel then announced that Monday night’s Diamond Retailer Summit would feature some big Deadpool announcements.
The next question came from an “Alias” fan and was directed at Bendis, inquiring whether the character Malcolm Powder was a Skrull, as he had hinted to the invasion years before it occurred.
“No. He was just a pain in the ass,” Bendis explained before revealing that Malcolm would be back in a year and a half for further explanation of his character, but that it would not reveal any secret Skrulliness.
Continuing with the Skrull inquiries, the next questioner asked whether Captain Marvel would be returning “for real” anytime soon. Gabriel said that there would be some big announcements about the character next year, before Bendis teased that fans should keep an eye out for the Marvel Boy-centric “Dark Avengers Annual” #1, coming out in December.
Citing the lack of Baron Zemo appearances in the Marvel Universe after Fabian Nicieza left “New Thunderbolts,” the next fan asked whether characters get locked away for a period of time to lay in wait for certain creators with plans, or if they are just kept off the table for a while in order to respect stories that have been told.
“I think story is the ultimate winner. If somebody comes up with a great story, that trumps everything else,” Fraction said. “It just has to make sense for the character and just be something good and useful, especially if it is after an important run or a big arc or a big story. It doesn’t make sense to bring Kitty Pryde back the month after Joss (Whedon) and John (Cassaday)’s run on ‘Astonishing’ ended.”
Bendis agreed with Fraction, saying that he thought some of the best stuff from “Crisis on Infinte Earths” was undone shortly after the event, to detrimental results. Bendis indicated that not stepping on another creator’s toes was a big reason as well. Gabriel chimed in by saying he thinks the recent decision to initially withhold many classic Spidey villains from “Amazing Spider-Man” was a prime example of this strategy against overuse of characters working well.
In a bit of conversation about who exactly may be the man “reborn” in “Captain America Reborn,” Singh announced that a big Cap announcement would come at the Diamond Retailer Summit.
“December and January are very big months for such machinations, if there are any,” Bendis teased.
When a fan asked about the permission process involved in killing a character, the simple answer was that it depends on the character and story. Matt Fraction revealed one of his initial ideas for his “Punisher: War Journal” run.
“When I got on ‘War Journal,’ it was spinning out of ‘Civil War.’ One of the things I actually came up with when I was putting my pitch together was what if he [Frank Castle] dies in ‘Civil War’ and we introduce a new character out of the events of ‘Civil War’ – his family dies in Stamford, and then that’s his mission, and then [that] Punisher becomes the new Microchip. I think this speaks volumes about how naÃ¯ve I was with my first idea, but to his eternal credit, [editor] Axel Alonso was like ‘Oh, that’s really interesting.’ We talked about it for about two weeks, just the two of us, me and my editor trying to make sure this story was right. But, in the end, we didn’t have the story.”
Bendis concurred that the story must be sound to bring back a character, explaining that the big question a honcho like Joe Quesada would ask when faced with a character’s death is “Then what happens?” Fraction explained that Ed Brubaker did this when he wanted to resurrect Bucky in “Captain America.”
“Wait till we bring Uncle Ben back next year. It will blow your mind,” Fraction joked.
“He’s the new Carnage,” Bendis added.
The green eyes of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s baby was the focus of the next fan question.
“We call that, in literature, a red herring,” Bendis said. “Anytime a character actually looks at you in the book, that’s the writers fucking with you.”
Bendis then explained that the rest of the Skrulls left, which is not many, will be dealt with in “Spider-Woman,” his newest comic book project with artist Alex Maleev.
“It’s a solid ‘B’ from you,” Fraction said to Bendis of “Spider-Woman.” “But it’s an ‘A+’ from Maleev.”
Fraction was then asked how dumb Tony Stark will get in the current “Invincible Iron Man” arc, where the hero has been seen losing his intelligence a little more in every issue. After an incorrect guess at the arc’s end from the questioner, the writer explained that there will be a twist on the last two pages of issue #19, available in 2 weeks, that will explain it all. Fraction said it features “a line of dialogue I’ve waited two years to write.”
A DC fan took the mic next, and asked the panelists for suggestions as to which Marvel books he should try. Fraction suggested Kathryn Immonen’s “Runaways” before mentioning her upcoming Pixie-centric miniseries, “X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back.”
“I’m giddy like a teenage girl waiting for a new Beatles album,” Fraction said of Immonen’s book.
Fraction also recommended Jonathan Hickman’s “Fantastic Four.” Sankovitich suggested the upcoming Doctor Strange miniseries, “Strange,” by Mark Waid and Emma Rios. Singh raved about Jason Aaron’s “Ghost Riders: Heaven On Fire,” and Gabriel pimped Rick Remender’s new “Doctor Voodoo.”
Another question revolved around the Infinity Gems and when they would return. After being informed that they had come back in “Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers,” Bendis said that the demise of the Illuminati – who had the Infinity Gems divided up amongst them before they became property of the Inhumans’ dog – would be a big part of the Avengers next year.
When asked for his best new music picks, Matt Fraction named the new Mike Doughty and new Mountain Goats, said the new Flaming Lips album was “assaultive and weird,” and said that about half of Lady Gaga’s album was “the best pop album since ‘Purple Rain.'” After that statement about Lady Gaga, a disbelieving Bendis countered with his music pick: Regina Spektor.
Bendis and Fraction were then asked about whether taking on many assignments bogs them down, specifically inquiring about Fraction’s Image title, “Casanova.” “Having to write to deadline makes you more creative,” Fraction said. “Writing more makes you write more, I find.”
When asked what he does when he isn’t writing comics, Fraction said, “Other stuff. I listen to my Lady Gaga album.”