On Sunday afternoon at Atlantic City Boardwalk Con, members of Marvel’s comic streaming service — Marvel Unlimited — filed into a top secret-ish panel room for a top secret-ish panel. Moderator Executive Editorial Director of Digital Ryan “Agent M” Penagos was joined by Content Development Director Sana Amanat and “Secret Wars 2099” writer Peter David to give Marvel Unlimited members an exclusive convention experience.
Penagos greeted the crowd by telling everyone gathered to put away all their devices — go-pros, tablets, everything — lest the legitimate S.H.I.E.L.D. agents patrolling the room be forced to leap into action. “This is just for you guys,” said Penagos. “We’re going to look at some stuff and then go into a Q and A. I feel like we’re in a really good place right now!”
After introductions were made, Sana Amanat began speaking about her upcoming “Secret Wars” series, “Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps.” The editor showed off a few pages of art from David Lopez, including illustrations of a training exercise rendered in Lopez’s new ’50s inspired style. The series is set on Halafield and stars a group of fighter pilot women nicknamed the Carol Corps. “The entire series is based on Captain Marvel as she starts to question what it means to believe in what you’ve been told for so long,” said Amanat. “Doom has told the inhabitants of Battleworld that certain things are true, and the Corps will go on a mission to uncover the truth.”
Amanat’s other book, “Daredevil,” came up next. The editor showed off Chris Samnee’s art from “Daredevil” #16 featuring a negotiation between Daredevil and Kingpin. “Matt has no choice but to go to Kingpin because things are going down that are threatening everything he’s built in San Francisco for the past year,” said Amanat. “This is a very important story. It kicked off in issue #15, but #16 is where the stakes get heightened.”
The cover for “Hawkeye” #22 was then showed off, with the slide revealing it’s release date: July 15th. “David Aja has actually finished all the pages,” said Amanat. “It’s very exciting! ‘Hawkeye’ #22 is the final act of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s run. It’s an over-sized issue that follows the final climax of Clint as he faces off against the Tracksuits and the bad guys and we’re revealing who is behind the Tracksuits.” Never before seen pages were shown off, including Kate’s return to New York City from Los Angeles. “She comes back to help her boy out and clean up his mess, as usual,” said Amanat, praising David Aja’s work.
Interior artwork from “Ms. Marvel” #16 was shown next, featuring Adrian Alphona’s depiction of Kamala looking up at the impending incursion. Editor Amanat discussed how the series’ upcoming “Last Days” arc will take her to the next level. Another page showing off Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers standing next to each other peering off of a rooftop was shown. “This story is small and loud at the same time, and very much what we’ve been building towards.”
Penagos tossed things over to Peter David to talk about his “Secret Wars” series, “Future Imperfect.” David ran through the plot of the original mini-series from the early ’90s, which found the Hulk traveling to the future to take on his evil future self, the Maestro. “The Maestro has come back and will be a regular presence in the Marvel Universe, even after the ‘Secret Wars’ event is done,” said David. “A group of rebels are going to be endeavoring to get him out of there and live in a world without the Maestro. His game plan is to take down Doom and become the new god of Battleworld. Greg Land is the artist. There are some people that crab about Greg for whatever reason, but his art in this book looks fantastic. He’s doing a terrific job with everybody. There are characters from other future-set stories I’ve written that will be in the series including Ruby Summers from ‘X-Factor.'”
When discussing “Secret Wars 2099,” Peter David praised his artist Will Sliney. “He’s Irish,” said David. “When he got the job of ‘2099,’ he mentioned to a reporter that Miguel O’Hara is half-Irish and half-Mexican.” The reporter was so surprised and pleased by this — a half-Irish superhero — that Sliney became a celebrity in Ireland, even going so far as to have dinner with the president of Ireland.
With the comic portion over, Penagos transitioned into the animated series section of the panel and showed off clips from Marvel’s slate of animated series. Spider-Man and Amadeus Cho came into conflict with Arnim Zola — voiced by Mark Hamill — in a clip from “Spider-Man: Web-Warriors,” and then Penagos began to talk a little about the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy” cartoon. The new clip, titled “Rocket Raccoon: Part 2,” featured Rocket working alongside Groot to steal a spaceship. Rocket, piloting the ship, took on a group of guards and eventually took flight on his own rocket. The action-packed clip was filled with one-liners and heavy artillery, and ended with a touching moment between Rocket and Groot as they stepped foot out of the prison. Penagos explained that the clip is part of a series of shorts designed to introduce the Guardians into Marvel’s animated universe.
The floor opened up for questions, including one about Marvel events. The fan asked how event tie-ins interfere with longterm planning, specifically citing the “Magneto” tie-in issues with “AXIS.” Amanat answered, saying that they don’t tell the writers what to write. “A lot of our responsibilities as editors and writers is being a brand manage for these characters that have been around for seventy years. It’s a big toy box and you have to understand that you’re interacting in the larger Marvel landscape. It makes things interesting if you start playing with the other toys, so a lot of our writers are used to that type of left turn at times. That said, we do plan far ahead so it’s not out of nowhere. We also try to make it organic and it also does help the sales of some of our Marvel properties. While it might seem like suddenly these two issues are dedicated to an event storyline, it’s just showing that this character is one of the bigger power players in the larger Marvel landscape. Marvel retreats are for this, for people to get inspired by people’s ideas.”
A little girl named Vanessa asked if there were any Marvel characters named Vanessa, to which Penagos name-dropped Deadpool affiliate Copycat and David mentioned Wilson Fisk’s wife. In both instances, Penagos and David clarified that the six-year-old fan should wait a while before reading those “Deadpool” comics or watching Netflix’s “Daredevil.”
Amanat then discussed how Kamala Khan’s introduction into the Marvel Universe has diversified Marvel’s offering, citing the fact that the series is female-led and set outside of New York City. “When I started at Marvel we had one female-led title and it was canceled six months later,” said Amanat. “Now we have so many more. We don’t have to play in the grid like we used to. I’m grateful for how things have been opened up.”
“I’m pleased with Ms. Marvel being Muslim,” said David, citing his decision a few years ago to reveal that Monet in “X-Factor” is Muslim. “I got a lot of people who were really getting in my face. They thought I decided to reveal M to be a Muslim so that we would accept Muslims, and I thought, ‘Yeah… is that a problem?’ They thought if you were a Muslim you must be an enemy. It was the dumbest-ass attitude I had ever seen, ever since I had Rictor kiss Shatterstar — which that was at least revealed as positive. The Monet reveal got a lot of blowback for a while, so the fact that they accept Ms. Marvel and it’s not that big a deal shows the attitude is starting to shift.”
“That being said, people did think I was trying to convert the country to being Muslim with ‘Ms. Marvel,'” said Amanat.
A fan asked how long “Secret Wars” has been in the works, to which Penagos revealed that writer Jonathan Hickman has had this planned out for around six years. He recalled that at a Marvel retreat years ago that Hickman had a notebook filled with his outline to launch “New Avengers” and “Avengers” and take it to “Secret Wars.”
“What’s great is because we’ve planned it out so far ahead,” said Amanat, “is that you’re actually able to plan how these stories are going to come together and that’s awesome. That’s what really makes us feel like we’re doing something special and important.”
The recent reveal of the new Thor came up next, with the question focusing on how her identity was revealed. Penagos said that Marvel wanted this reveal to be so secret that “Thor” #8 was not included in the staff’s Friday stack of upcoming comics. Even with that precaution, the issue still found it’s way online before it went on sale. He then talked about the “hard balance” between promoting books and avoiding advance spoilers. Amanat added that Jason Aaron’s story actually flipped the origin, because you got to see the hero in action before learning who she is.
After asking questions, Amanat allowed panel attendees to flip through a not-yet-released comic, which she pulled from a stack next to her on the table. Readers eagerly picked out titles to look through, to get a sneak peek at the books before they hit stores on Wednesday.
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