The Mondo Marvel panel at this weekend’s Baltimore Comic-Con was populated by several different Marvel notables including Chris Claremont (“X-Men Forever”), Brian Michael Bendis (“New Avengers”), Jeff Parker (“Agents of Atlas”), Lauren Sankovitch (editor, “Dark Avengers”), Jason Aaron (“Wolverine: Weapon X”) and Matt Fraction (“Invincible Iron Man”). Marvel’s Manager of Sales Communications Arune Singh moderated the panel, asking each of the writers to discuss their future plans.
Claremont said that he had plenty of plans for “X-Men Forever,” but the immediate future involved the fallout of Wolverine’s recent death. He also said that he’d be focusing on Storm’s recently discovered nefarious intentions, Colossus’s newfound status as the leader of the Winter Guard and more revelations involving Nightcrawler. Additionally, Claremont said the new Sentinels would be dealt with, adding: “If any of the X-men are alive after, we’ll move onto year two–and you think I’m kidding!”
Bendis’ future plans mostly involve death, including the deaths of Luke Cage in “New Avengers” #60 and the Sentry in “Dark Avengers” #13–though his comment that Spider-Woman would die in the fifth issue of her own series made it pretty clear that he was kidding about these plans.
Parker reminded the audience that beyond working on “Agents of Atlas,” he’d be taking over the monthly “Thunderbolts” title from newly appointed “Daredevil” writer Andy Diggle.
Sankovitch, the only non-writer on the panel, stressed that readers should look into two of the books she’s currently editing: the “Nomad: Girl Without a World” miniseries written by Sean McKeever, and the upcoming “Strange” by Mark Waid and Emma Rios. “These are some of the most beautiful pages I’ve seen in a long time,” she said of Stephen Strange’s upcoming miniseries. “If you love Dr. Strange and need some Dr. Strange loving, this is the book for you.”
Aaron revealed that “Wolverine: Weapon X” would introduce a new villain in an upcoming arc that is essentially Wolverine’s version of the Joker, “in that he likes to cut people’s brains out and do weird things with them.” He also promoted his upcoming work on “PunisherMAX” alongside artist Steve Dillon.
Fraction is in the process of wrapping up the “World’s Most Wanted” storyline in “Invincible Iron Man.” The new arc, titled “Stark: Disassembled,” features the much-discussed new trade dress designed by Rian Hughes. As for “Uncanny X-Men,” the writer revealed that Magneto would be returning and has “an awful lot to say” about the current status quo of mutantkind.
After Fraction finished, the panel was turned over to the audience for questions. An inquiry into Steve Rogers’ fate beyond “Captain America: Reborn” kicked off the proceedings. “There are big events cooking with Steve, so keep your eyes peeled,” said Sankovitch. “Your Captain America has big things ahead of him.”
Singh was asked about Marvel’s future plans for motion comics and publishing on digital devices such as the iPhone. “We have big stuff to announce, but we can’t announce it quite yet,” said Singh. “Stay tuned–it’s not as much of a BS answer as you think it sounds like.”
One fan asked about the future of “Dark Avengers” once “Dark Reign” is concluded. “All I can say right now–because [Arune] will slap the shit out of me if I say anything else–is that ‘Siege: The Cabal’ #1 is in December,” said Bendis. “It’s a very big chapter in the ending arc of ‘Dark Reign,’ then ‘Siege’ #1 comes out in January. There’s going to be a big announcement on Monday [about ‘Siege’] and it will be the biggest seismic change to the Avengers franchise since ‘Avengers: Disassembled.'”
The writers were asked about how difficult it is to find a character’s voice rather than using their own voice, to which Bendis joked: “The physical differences between myself and Spider-Woman is… really not much, if you look closely.”
“It’s a writer’s job to find that voice,” he clarified. “What you find is that the voice takes over–it’s not your voice, it’s theirs. I think David Mamet said that everybody has voices that talk to each other, a writer just writes them down.”
Given the recent crossover between the X-Men and the Dark Avengers, one fan wanted to know if we’d see the New Avengers and the Uncanny X-Men in the same book anytime soon. “Soon like in a cosmic heat death of the universe sense? Maybe,” answered Fraction. “There’s kind of a dangling thread that needs to be snipped at some point that we’ve batted around recently.”
Another panel attendee wondered whether or not the Fantastic Four and the Avengers should be legitimately scared by the powerhouse team-up of Doctor Doom and Loki. “They should be very scared,” Bendis said. “That sounds like a very good story…”
“As if they’re about to come under siege,” Fraction added.
When asked why Marvel’s big announcements for “Siege” and other comics would take place at the Diamond Retailer Summit as opposed to BCC for the fans, Singh simply answered that Marvel wanted the chance to honor comic book retailers and give them a special night, considering their enormous contributions to the comic book industry.
A fan asked whether magic would become more prominent in the Marvel universe as has been hinted at lately, and whether or not the Son of Satan would have more of a role to play in future books. Sankovitch said that the Son of Satan would have a role in Rick Remender’s upcoming “Doctor Voodoo” series, and Bendis added that there’s definitely a plan for the magic side of the Marvel universe.
As for future plans with the “New Warriors,” Sankovitch suggested that fans should “keep your eyes peeled. You will see some New Warriors characters–some have come to prominence in ‘Avengers Initiative,’ and they still have surprises up their sleeves in the months to come.”
Bendis was asked if the identity of the person standing behind Norman Osborn in “Dark Reign: The Cabal” would ever be revealed. “Much like we did with ‘Secret Invasion’ where we turned all of our cards, when ‘Siege’ comes to its climax, all secrets will be revealed,” he stated. “That, of course, is a big one.”
After a fan asked about the status of Marvel Knights and the MAX line in light of Disney’s purchase, Singh clarified that neither he nor the panelists could discuss “Disney’s intent to purchase Marvel,” but there are certainly plans in the works for both MAX and Marvel Knights, including Aaron’s upcoming “PunisherMAX” series.
Back on the topic of magic in the Marvel universe, a fan asked what Stephen Strange’s role would be in the future. Sankovitch reminded the audience of “Strange,” the upcoming miniseries that focuses on the former Sorcerer Supreme. He’ll also be seen in “New Avengers” #59 alongside Doctor Voodoo.
A fan asked if Cassandra Nova would reappear in “Astonishing X-Men,” prompting Singh to state that Warren Ellis doesn’t do anything by accident–a charge that Fraction heartily disagreed with, saying: “He did kill that hooker that one time. That was a mishap.”
Bendis was asked if Spider-Man would ever “step up and let Norman perish,” to which the writer replied: “Dark Reign will not end without Spider-Man getting his two cents in.”
The writers were asked if they’d ever had ideas that were shot down for being too dramatic. “There have been a couple of trees barked up for a little while, but they sort of didn’t work,” Fraction said, adding that he can’t think of an instance where an idea was “shot down.” Bendis joked that Loeb’s secret plans for the Green Hulk and the Red Hulk to share the same identity was an idea that had to be shot down.
Singh dashed one fan’s hopes for a return of Rom the Space Knight, saying that there were legal matters involved with the character at the moment. Bendis added, “When Rom comes back, everyone at this table will physically fight each other for [a chance to write him].”
When Jason Aaron was asked whether or not he’d ever write a comic set in the cosmic side of Marvel, Fraction burst out laughing–“After you read ‘PunisherMAX,’ you’ll laugh too,” he explained–but Aaron surprisingly revealed that he’d love to try his hand in Marvel’s space arena, though it’s not in the cards just yet.
One fan stressed his enthusiasm for “Black Panther,” prompting Fraction to state: “There’s a huge year coming up for ‘Black Panther.'”
Somehow, the panel got to the topic of baldness given the shared lack of hair for Singh, Bendis, Claremont and Aaron. “I would trade all of my wealth and power for Matt Fraction’s hair,” declared Bendis.
While there are no immediate plans for the cast of Paul Cornell’s “Captain Britain and MI:13,” Sankovitch suggested that there will be something coming down the pike for those characters.
A fan wondered what would happen to Bucky when and if Steve Rogers returns to the role of Captain America. Sankovitch suggested that December’s “Captain America: Who Will Wield The Shield” will address that very question.
The panel was asked for thoughts on Marvel’s current film success, specifically whether or not it has had an impact on how the comic books get created. “On the contrary,” Fraction suggested. “I was consulted for ‘Iron Man 2’ while the script was being written, so the comics are influencing the movies more. There’s mileage in having a billion dollar blockbuster and the comic that inspired it to be in the same neighborhood–we’re making ‘Iron Man’ accessible to new readers and satisfying old ones.”
Eventually, a large man dressed as Thor arrived with a question, though most attention was paid to the authenticity of his outfit, flowing locks and–most especially–his heavy, heavy hammer. “I just peed,” Bendis gasped. Apparently, the would-be Thor was joined at the convention by a young child in a Captain America costume, which Bendis described as an excellent story idea.
Following Thor was a man dressed as the Punisher, who asked Aaron about his plans for future villains in “PunisherMAX.” “Garth Ennis set the rule that nobody survives two encounters with the Punisher,” said Aaron. “This is the first time we’ll see Punisher facing a villain that’s around for a bit longer. In the first arc we meet Wilson Fisk, and in the second arc we get the MAX version of Bullseye. Those two together represent a bigger challenge than the MAX Punisher has faced before.”
The panelists were asked if they had any plans for Baron Zemo in the future, but there were none to be had. Bendis, however, remarked that he’d heard the character’s name mentioned in connection with a future project, but he couldn’t divulge more information than that.
Fraction was asked if “Uncanny X-Men” would feature a core X-Men team now that Utopia has been established. “There’s an entire line of books, so the cast will be diverse,” he said. “It’s going to stay very much an ensemble book. Obviously there’s a core inner circle. We’ll actually see the deployment of a six-man ‘San Francisco’ squad, so we’ll see how everybody gets arranged.”
Finally, the panelists were asked what would be on their list if they had one along the same lines as Norman Osborn’s list. Claremont said he’d signed a non-disclosure agreement and couldn’t discuss it, while Bendis joked that he’d like the Red Hulk to go away (which Parker said he’d be helping with in a few months.) In the spirit of camaraderie, Aaron said that he’d want everybody to read Rick Remender and Tony Moore’s upcoming ‘Frankencastle’ arc in “Punisher.” As for Fraction, his list included much more sinister plans.
“I want to kill Jason Aaron,” he revealed.