Saturday evening at Fan Expo Canada convention in Toronto during Marvel Comics’ Pint O’ CB panel, with Marvel SVP, Creator and Content Development C.B Cebulski and guests Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman, Jason Aaron, Frank Van Lente, Marvel Director of Communications Arune Singh and account manager, Mike Buechele, it was announced that “Alpha Flight” has been upgraded from a miniseries to an ongoing.
The panel was one of the busiest of the weekend as fans lined up an hour before it even started. Excitement was in the air as fans waited to have questions answered, Cup O’ Joe style.
Cebulski was enthusiastic from the start. This was his fourteenth year hosting at Fan Expo and he thanked the audience for showing up. In a very casual way, he said this was the time for fans to bring their questions to the creators — but first, he had a few announcements.
“We’ve been leaking these teaser promos online, and one of them is the ‘Destroy’ teaser. Who are these characters? The Destroyers,” Cebulski said. The title, from the creative team of Fred Van Lente and Kyle Hotz, is a five-issue miniseries launching in 2012.
Van Lente said simply, “It’s about giant monsters punching each other in the face. We finally learn what happened to dinosaurs — and it’s coming back for us.” The team will have to figure out how the planet survives the ancient menace.
Cebulski next discussed the news about “Alpha Flight.” He asked the audience how many were Canadian and then, upon asking who actually read the title, half the hands went down. After a brief scolding for not supporting the title, he told the audience it was going to be cancelled.
“I’m just going to lie down under the table,” Van Lente said. “I’ll just clutch my monsters, in the corner, in the dark.”
“Sales and Responses to Alpha Flight have been phenomenal,” Cebulski said. This fact contributed to the decision to run with the series on an ongoing basis with Van Lente, Dale Eaglesham and Greg Pak continuing on as the creative team.
Matt Fraction then addressed the audience about the recent death of Bucky, saying “Captain America” writer Ed Brubaker saw an opportunity for the character’s death in “Fear Itself” and handed the character’s fate over to Fraction. “I am so grateful for that,” he said.
The panel then turned to the topic of Marvel movies as a gateway to the books for a lot of new fans just learning about some of these characters. Buechele called Marvel a small, big company. “We are walking in step with the movies,” he said.
Marvel movies usually come with a multi-million dollar marketing campaign which makes comics ultimately more accessible to people. Buechele said events that reboot the superhero universe are a natural jumping on point for readers who have drifted or all together stopped reading.
“We don’t really want you to have a PhD in comic books to pick up a big event,” Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso said.
The panel was asked about their favorite superhero movie of the summer and most of them responded with “Thor.” Fraction cited “X-Men: First Class” as a pleasant surprise.
“It’s been a really great summer for Marvel heroes,” Fraction said, telling the audience he got to visit the set of the new Joss Whedon written and directed “Avengers” film even before “Captain America” was released.
Everyone on the panel lit up at the mention of the upcoming “Avengers” film. Alonso recalled a time they never thought they were going to see these characters individually on the small screen, let alone all together.
The panel called Whedon’s script unbelievable and agreed May 2012 couldn’t come soon enough. “Especially for Joss,” Fraction said.
Next, the panelists moved on to discussing digital piracy with all contributors speaking out strongly against piracy on internet websites like Tumblr.
“When you post and read a full comic like that, you’re helping that book get cancelled,” Alonso said. He also indicated that Marvel was consistently working on expanding their digital offerings but that they were going to navigate that area very slowly.
“The numbers are there. The value and the numbers of books being downloaded are there,” Fraction said about buying digital comics. “But, I believe most people who read comics want physical editions.”
The audience also questioned writer Jason Aaron about his and Marc Silvestri’s upcoming “Incredible Hulk” relaunch. The Hulk and Bruce Banner’s physical bodies will be separated, driving Banner mad. “I like the idea of playing up the tension between the two sides and what a better way to do that than to have them square off,” Aaron said about the central story line.
A fan asked Aaron if he gave Hulk a beard because he sports one himself. “I’ve made a pledge that every book I work on at least one character has to have a beard,” Aaron replied.