ACBC: Women Of Marvel Enter "Secret Wars"

As Saturday at Atlantic City Boardwalk Con came to a close, Marvel held its Women of Marvel panel -- an event that has become a staple of convention culture over the past half decade. Representing the Women of Marvel at ACBC were Content Development Director Sana Amanat, editor Katie Kubert, producer and photographer Judy Stephens and host of "Marvel's The Watcher" web series Lorraine Cink.

Amanat started the panel by asking those in attendance if they wanted to start a semi-circle and hold hands -- to which one young attendee named Jake jumped at the idea. While no semi-circle was formed, Amanat invited Jake to sit on the panel and "laugh the loudest" at all their funny jokes. "The honorary Woman of Marvel is Jake," said Amanat. Stephens mentioned that this panel is being recorded for the Women of Marvel podast, to which Amanat urged everyone to make sure they clap and cheer really loud.

Introductions were made, which included Kubert discussing her new hairstyle -- one that she accrued in between this panel and the last one. "I just wanted to look really nice for all of you," said Kubert, explaining how she found a curling iron station on the show floor. "It's their second show, they were at Philly and now they're here." Cink, who is also co-hosting Marvel's livestream at ACBC, made a surprise appearance on the panel.

Stephens kicked off the presentation with "Ms. Marvel," which received applause from the crowd. Amanat discussed the series' upcoming "Secret Wars" event, which "Ms. Marvel" will be tying into. "This is the 'Last Days,' which is sort of a smaller story about what happens when the world gets destroyed," said Amanat. "That story is best told through the eyes of Kamala Khan. [Writer] Willow [Wilson] pitched at the Marvel summit that she wants to know what the hot dog vendor is thinking about the end of the world. The first page of issue #16 is Kamala talking to her hot dog vendor about life. My food vendors are definitely my therapists. This entire story is about testing Kamal as superhero. This is the next level of her becoming Ms. Marvel, which means Captain Marvel is going to come in."

"Years of Future Past" popped up in the presentation, with editor Kubert sharing insight on the "Secret Wars" series. "It takes place in the 'Days of Future Past' world and it follows Kitty Pryde," said Kubert. "In the original 'Days of Future Past,' Kitty mentioned she had a child, so one of the main characters is her daughter Chrissie Pryde. We're going to follow her and her daughter and Wolverine and his son. You get to see Kitty growing up a bit and Chrissie Pryde living in this world and not knowing anything else, where mutants are hunted. It's Chrissie rising to the occasion and learning how to be her mother's daughter."

When "A-Force" appeared, the audience cheered with anticipation. "As you guys have heard, this is a women of Marvel book," said Kubert. "It's a great group of characters. She-Hulk, Medusa, Nico, Dazzler, America Chavez and Loki." Amanat then told those in attendance that she will have an issue of "A-Force" at the Make Mine Marvel panel for someone -- whoever asks a great question -- to read during the panel. Stephens previewed some art from the first issue, featuring a double page spread by Jorge Molina of the cast flying over a city.

Kubert enthused about "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" next, telling people to "enjoy having happiness and laughter in your life" by picking up the series. Kubert said that issues #6-8 will be a new storyarc, and therefore a good jumping on point. The arc will guest star Chipmunk Hunk and Coy Boy, two characters that can talk to their respective heroes. Another hero, Girl Squirrel, will be arriving -- which is actually a squirrel with superhero aspirations.

Amanat mentioned that Marvel is trying to get more women into the comics fold and said that "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" is a great book for newcomers to the universe. "If you have young brothers or sisters, hand this over to them. It's a great way to get into comics."

"Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps" editor Amanat said that she loves "Secret Wars" because it lets creators do stories they've always wanted to do and do stories fans have wanted for a while. "This is our way of honoring the fans, all of you guys who supported Captain Marvel, to say that we've heard you and support you and we want to tell a story about what it is to have a Carol Corps," said Amanat. She continued to explain that in the series, Carol Danvers is the only hero with powers and she is viewed as a gift from Doom, the overlord of Battleworld. Their status quo is disturbed when they discover a star in the sky and begin to question Doom's rule and wonder what exists outside of Battleworld.

Amanat then teased "Silk's" upcoming arc guest-starring Spider-Man, which will feature a showdown with Black Cat. "[Silk] will prove once again why she's better than Spider-Man -- or at least she thinks," says Amanat. Marvel's other Spider-series, "Spider-Gwen," came up next, with Amanat revealing that "Spider-Gwen" #5 will feature a battle of the bands pitting the Mary Janes against the Black Cats. "This storyline, Matt Murdock -- in this universe he's the Kingpin -- this story follows Felicia Hardy discovering that Murdock is responsible for killing her father," said Amanat. "This happens in the middle of the battle of the bands and Spider-Gwen is put in the middle."

The crowd marveled over the covers of "1602: Witch Hunter Angela." Kubert said this book is a love story for Neil Gaiman as it stars a character he co-created in a world he created. She explained that in the book, Angela is a witch hunter for King James and that the second issue will feature the 1602 versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy -- including 1602 Rocket Raccoon who Kubert described as an organ grinder monkey set loose. "Marguerite Bennett is writing and Stephanie Hans is doing the covers," she said. "Each series will have a five-page story by Kieron Gillen and rotating artists."

Bennett will also be writing "Max Ride: First Flight," a series based on James Patterson's novel series. "We were lucky enough to do an adaptation of this series," said Amanat. "He's amazing. He's just no-nonsense. He came in and was like, 'This is a best seller and has been read all over the world and I want this to be a Marvel interpretation of these characters. Do whatever you want.' That's very daunting! 'Max Ride' is a story about teens who come together mysteriously and become an adopted family and the twist is they have these wings and can fly. How they got those wings, that's what they're trying to discover. They come from a place called the School, which is a horrible place, where they were experimented on and trained. They were able to escape from the School and at some point they're discovered. This is them on the run."

It was then announced that "Silk" will be receiving a "Last Days" tie-in that will feature Cindy Moon finding her family. The tie-in will be written by Robbie Thompson with art by Stacey Lee, who Amanat says is experimenting with her style. Additionally, "Spider-Woman" will be getting a "Last Days" treatment that will find her on a road trip with Porcupine and Ben Urich. "This story is a lot of fun," said Amanat. "It's also dramatic and serious because it deals with a serious issue -- domestic violence. Ben Urich has discovered that certain super villain wives have been victims of domestic abuse and he's trying to find her and protect her. This is something we've tried to do tactfully and carefully, and it hits home with Spider-Woman. That's why she tags along with Ben Urich to help him."

Stephens turned the floor over to Cink, who walked them through her Marvel role. She said she got her job by being a nerdy comedian in New York City, and that she gets to go to comic cons and cover the shows live. "Part of my job is to interact with you guys," said Cink. "If you send us your stuff on social media, we listen and we react. So if you want something, just ask for it."

"Keep asking for that Squirrel Girl Netflix series!" said Kubert. "We're listening!"

Amanat noted that the Women of Marvel podcast came about because of the fan support for the panels. "That's an expansion of the Women of Marvel experience if you can't come to the panels," said Amanat. With that, Cink had to duck out to get back to the Marvel livestream and Amanat opened the floor to questions.

The first question came from an aspiring writer who is struggling with an origin story for her female character that includes things like rape and abuse -- things she acknowledges are tropes but wants to include. Kubert asked if it would be possible to reveal these tough issues slowly, so as to not overwhelm the reader all at once.

Amanat asked how these particular devices relate to the character. "Ask how she is on a day to day basis and how it informs how she orders breakfast, how she talks to men, women; I would say slow it down and focus on those elements -- the after effects," said Amanat. "It's really about trauma and how people deal with trauma. If we focus on the act of rape itself, we aren't focusing on the human being. Talk to people, do your research."

"Also congratulations for actually sitting down and writing!" said Kubert, which caused the panel room to applaud.

A fan wanted to ask about Singularity, the new character to be introduced in "A-Force," specifically about her gender presentation. Kubert said that she can't speak directly to it, but to check out the series. Amanat confirmed that "A-Force" will continue after "Secret Wars," so there will be plenty of time to get to know Singularity.

When asked how they got started in the business, Kubert revealed that she actually didn't grow up reading comics and initially pursued a career in special effects makeup and film. After being turned off by some of the aspects of that field, she felt the desire to create art and work with living artists -- which led to her getting a career in the production department of DC Comics. When DC announced their move to Los Angeles, Kubert interviewed for a position at Marvel, leading to where she is today.

Amanat also didn't grow up reading comics but was a big science fiction person. She did love the characters and cartoons, like "X-Men," "Batman" and "Justice League." "I was a huge 'X-Men' fan so I went into political science," said Amanat. She said she tried being a journalist but found it boring and switched to publishing. After working in magazine publishing, she got a job at Virgin Comics and made connections in the industry. "You see them at conventions, you say hey," said Amanat. "Act cool, don't sweat too much. Eventually there's a job opening and I got my job at Marvel. It's been an amazing experience. I've witnessed a transformation in the books we're doing and the people reading our comics, and I'm excited to have been a part of that -- and I only started six years ago at Marvel."

Stephens interned at Marvel in college nine years ago, and agreed that she's seen a transformation of the brand. She loved Power Rangers, Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles as a kid and got into anime and video games in college. Stephens went to school for photography and moved to New York, hoping to be a fashion photographer. "I got to New York and I hated it," said Stephens. "I hated the people, the models, the agents... I panicked and decided to be a graphic designer. I was able to get an internship at Marvel for web design. At the time, Marvel.com was two guys in a closet and an intern, in spring 2006." She mentioned that Marvel has internship opportunities for all departments. She went from temping to working full time at Marvel after graduating.

Amanat turned to Honorary Woman of Marvel Jake, who has been nodding along this whole time, and asked if he had a question. "How did you all get so amazing?" asked Jake, earnestly. The panel was touched by this and joked that they needed to bring Jake along to every convention.

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