Saturday’s Mondo Marvel panel at the Baltimore Comic-Con had no slides, no video and no hype, just pros and fans talking comics. Marvel Executive editor Tom Brevoort, joined by writers Jonathan Hickman (“Fantastic Four,” “S.H.I.E.L.D.”) and Jeff Parker (“Hulk,” “Thunderbolts”), spent a genial hour answering questions, telling stories and sharing the philosophy behind their books.
“I think in general we have a pretty simple philosophy at Marvel,” said Brevoort. “We want to sell comics, that’s our business, but our belief where everything comes from is ‘People like good stuff.’ People want good stories, people like things that are well done. ‘Good material equals good sales’ is the fundamental underlying premise that underlies everything we do.”
Before beginning his acclaimed run on “Fantastic Four,” Hickman had never read the long-running series. To prepare for the assignment, he read every issue. “It’s the really crappy part of the job,” he said, “where we have to read a lot of comics.” Asked how long he planned to stay on the book, he said “Until I get fired by Tom!”
Brevoort pointed out that Hickman pitched a “broad strokes” outline running through issue 600 and beyond. In fact, “I think we can even say, safely, that he’ll be on ‘Fantastic Four’ beyond the point where there’s a ‘Fantastic Four!'” he said, teasing Hickman’s upcoming “Three” storyline. “We’re going to use every trick possible to get people to check out what’s going on there.” If we do a good job, people won’t feel they’re being tricked, they’ll actually like it!”
“Marvel’s really good now about not forcing a thing if it doesn’t fit,” said Parker. The Thunderbolts’ involvement in “Shadowland” evolved naturally from Luke Cage’s involvement in both “Daredevil” and the recently reconfigured “Thunderbolts.” Luke had this fighting force, and he didn’t hesitate to deploy them. There was some editorial dispute over who would lead the team. Parker wanted Cage, but Brevoort wanted Hawkeye. “Thank God it landed on Luke!” said Parker. Asked about lineup changes, he revealed that we’ll soon be seeing more characters, and they won’t be going away.
A fan pointed out that “Avengers: The Initiative” seemed to be leading up to reuniting the New Warriors. “I’m not certain,” Brevoort said regarding prospects for a new series. Various characters have turned up in other books and taken on other roles, and it may not make sense right now to take those characters and bring them back to the past.
Marvel is looking into new digital formats for comics, but there are a lot of questions to be answered before anything concrete happens. “We just aren’t there yet.” said Hickman.
Another fan lamented the number of deaths that have taken place in the Marvel Universe lately. “Have you guys talked about ways to make death a little more permanent?”
“We are in the realm of Fiction,” said Brevoort, “One of the great things about the realm of fiction is that the rules that apply to us every day do not apply to these characters. The other thing is, every character has their fans.” For every dead character, Brevoort explained, there’s someone who wants them back. “We could never promise you that there’s no way ever that anybody’s going to come back from the dead… That’s just the nature of the fiction that we do.”
“Will there be more ‘Ultimates?’ Yes!” said Brevoort in response to a fan question. Exactly what shape the team would take or what the new book will be called is not yet determined.
Another fan asked about the 2099 line. Outside of the “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” game, which has a 2099 component, there’s nothing on the horizon, Brevoort said, with the caveat that someone could pitch a brilliant 2099 idea.
In what was for some could be the most shattering revelation of the convention season, Parker revealed that the name of Wolverine’s son is pronounced “Dokken, just like the band.”
Asked how he balances writing stories to please himself and writing what he thinks the audience wants, Parker said, “Never second-guess what the audience wants. That’s a real chump’s game that will get you down the hole real fast.” The key is to follow the muse to what leads to the most interesting story. Brevoort echoed that it’s important to understand what makes a character work and what people respond to, even if it’s not what works for the writer or editor.
Asked about plans for Exiles, Parker said “They’re still fixing the multiverse that we can’t see right now.”
Asked about his plans for the Hulk, Parker compared General Ross to any retired career military personnel. He’s used to structure and missions and a chain of command, and now he’s at a crossroads. Ross isn’t weak and retired, “He’s stronger than he’s ever been because he’s a Hulk!” Parker further explained that Banner tries to find a place for him by bringing in Steve Rogers, an authority figure everyone respects, and probably the only one General Ross respects. The first storyline is called “Scorched Earth,” which will see that Modok and the Leader had contingency plan in case they didn’t end up ruling the world-now that it’s kicked in, Red Hulk has to stop it. But because Banner and the former Captain America don’t really trust Ross yet, they also bring in Thor and some others, so “there’s a lot of hitting Red Hulk in the head with a hammer.”
A female fan complimented the recent “Women of Marvel” books, prompting Brevoort to say that Marvel would be doing more with their female characters in the future.
A fan noted that he and others didn’t like the current “Punisher” arc “Franken-Castle” at all. Hickman said that they’d thought it would be a really cool idea. “Sometimes,” he said, “we drink.”
Will there be more Power Pack in Fantastic Four? “Yes.”
With Iron Fist being featured more prominently, and will he be getting another book? There is more Iron Fist on the horizon, said Brevoort, but whether that includes a new regular series remains to be seen.
Finally, a fan praised Norman Osborne’s Cabal, as well as the Illuminati, and asked if they’d be appearing again. The Cabal broke up over the course of “Siege,” but the Illuminati will play a major role in the second “Avengers” arc, starting in issue seven, which will also bring in Red Hulk.