Welcome to day 2 of CBR’s live reporting from the New York Comic Con. We now join Saturday’s Make Mine Marvel panel. The panel is moderated by editor Nick Lowe, with novelist Jonathan Lethem (“Fortress of Solitude,” Marvel’s “Omega the Unknown”) as the first guest. Dwayne Swierczynski (“Cable”) followed, with Bryan Hitch after. Orson Scott Card has just taken the stage.
Lethem began by saying that he had always intended “Omega the Unknown” to run monthly, although the original series was bimonthly.
“‘Omega’ came out right around the time I realized Marvel was launching new superheroes,” Lethem said, after explaining that readers come to understand comics gradually. “THis one had a character who was a kid who went to public school in a tough neighborhood,” he said, adding that he identified with the Omega characters to a strong degree.
Lethem noted that “Omega” set up long-running mysteries, which were unusual for the time. “Today it’s normal.”
“That it was unresolved [issue to issue] kept haunting me,” Lethem said. “It forced my imagination to fill in the blanks.”
“With ‘Omega,’ when I had the chance to do this comic, what can I do leaping in cold, that will be new, and justify the hoopla of someone like me jumping over into comics,” Lethem said, noting that he’s a novice comics writers. He said there’s a perception that novelists doing comics will be “huge” or dark. His goal with ‘Omega’ was to “slow it down, explore the places in betweeen.” He described the book as a “pensive comic… where the characters aren’t doing a lot, so you can just be with the characters.”
Lethem said that, when looking for an artist for “Omega,” he found a lot of artists he like but that these were all in some way making the super-heroes bigger. He wanted “Omega” to be down to earth, somewhat “homely.” Farel Dalrymple was chosen for his work on “Pop Gun War,” and his talent with cityscapes.
Lowe asked Lethem about his obsession with Bob Dylan, and when his cover album would come out. “I’d have to get someone else to sing the covers,” Lethem joked, saying he had no talent for music.
Following Lethem, Dwayne Swierczynski came on stage to talk about “Cable” and “Immortal Iron Fist.”
Lowe spoke with Swierczynski about his crime novels, asking “Did you ever steal anything?”
“I was raised as a good Catholic boy,” Swierczynski said. “I was too afraid to steal. Plus, the pope’s here.”
“He’s our special guest!” Lowe joked.
Swierczynski said the “Cable” series was offered to him when Alonso said, “How do you feel about a series featuring a giant mutant and baby?” “What do you mean, Mr. ALonso sir?” Swierczynski said he replied.
They then discussed the “armor-plated bjorn,” with Swierczynski quipping that it was a popular accessory in Philadelphia.
Getting into Cable’s complicated history, Swierczynski said that Cable is “basically a messiah figure, protecting a messiah baby.”
“As the series goes on, the daughter will grow, and as a tempermental four year old, you know, she’ll say “Dad you’re an idiot. But if you call Cable an idiot, usually he’ll shoot you.”
He compared following Matt Fraction on “Iron Fist” to following Bob Dylan with his guitar, but hoped fans would like it. Swierczynski indicated that Fraction recommended him for the book.
“You’ve written an entire book about beer,” Lowe said, to which the audience applauded. “How did I not know this?”
“I’ve also written a book about cocktails,” Swierczynski said. “But what do you drink when you’re on a panel with Nick Lowe? Grain alcohol.” He said that while he was doing “research” for the books, his wife was pregnant and couldn’t drink at all.
Swierczynski talked about his time at a men’s health magazine and Philadelphia’s City Paper. Philly also got applause.
“Another book was about office espionage… have you ever done any of the things in that books?” Swierczynski joked that his co-author was the mastermind, who “wore a mask.”
Issue #6 of “Cable” will “touch back with the present.” “The story plays out in the future, but it’s also tied in heavily with the X-Men in the present.” Issue #6 will check in with Cyclops’s perception of Cable’s recent actions.
“Matt Fraction, whose last issue [of ‘Iron Fist’] is #16, has set up something really cool that I can’t reveal,” that looks at the hero in a new way.
Bryan Hitch represented the first artist to come on stage, and he and Lowe bantered about water cups on stage.
“Authority” was “definitely where the career began,” Hitch said. “It was the first series that I could really be me,” he said, and that this was part of Warren Ellis’s intent.
“The ‘Ultimates’, we knew the story from the very start,” Hitch said, and it was “set up within an hour of talking to each other.” He said Mark Millar had intended the book to run two years.
“Fantastic Four is more of a rolling thing, which allows me to be a bit more productive,” Hitch said.
Lowe asked Hitch about a scene in “Ultimates” involving Iron Man pushing a kid into a ditch. He said that was his addition.
“You kind of imagine how you want it to feel when you read it,” Hitch said, referring to his new border and color techniques in “FF.”
Hitch insisted that he really did hurt his back lifting a piano, which led to delays. And flooding in northern England led to further “Ultimates” delays.
Regarding “Fantastic Four:” “Everything’s there for a reason,” including the giant Cap robot. He also said that Millar’s “Wolverine” run will tie in to what’s going on now in “FF.”
Orson Scott Card, author of “Enders Game” and “Ultimate Iron Man,” said that dinner last night included one to many dishes. “They kept offering me food, and I don’t know how to say no,” he said.
“I quit my dayjob on January 1st 1978,” he said, and he’s been a freelancer ever since, with one exception.
“I’m not a guy who takes orders well,” Card said.
“The truth is I write really really fast,” he said, which is why he has been able to write in so many different media.
“The thinking time is the important thing,” Card said, “and between thinking time, time is spent playing the nuisance games on the computer.” He cited Tetris and Civilization II as major influences.
Card discussed a character in a book he’s writing for Del Rey, whose origins he is now fleshing out. It involves a boy who is buried under a tree, who is eventually absorbed into the tree to emerge 1500 years later.
“Me writing comics was entirely your doing,” Card said to Lowe. He mentioned that a lot of editors approach him for projects but do not follow through. Card said he himself did not have much follow through either, but Lowe kept on him.
“As a playwright, I realized that what you see in comics are plays with really, really expensive sets.”
When approached about Iron Man, Card said that, not reading a lot of comics himself, he thought Iron Man sounded like “the stupidest character that I’ve ever seen.” But Lowe told him about the Ultimates concept, so Card thought about why Tony Stark would wear the armor himself. “Once I found that, I liked the story, and once I liked it I could write the story.”
Card said the sample script Lowe sent him was “apparently by an eccentric weirdo, since now my scripts don’t look like anybody else’s.” He uses minimal description, and thought about the differences between a writer’s role in comics, theatre, and film.
“Ender’s Game” and “Ender’s Shadow” will be published by Marvel, illustrated by Pascual Ferry. Chris Yost is scripting, with Jake Black as story consultant.. Each will be six issues. “Marvel does terrific work,” Card said, and that when a movie eventually comes out it will be based on Marvel’s vision.
Addressing the history of Ender’s Game as a short story and novel, Card said the novel “exists only to set up ‘Speaker for the Dead,’ the Nebula Award winner nobody reads.”
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