C2E2: Avengers Assemble Panel

It's unarguably Marvel Comics' biggest franchise in comics and soon to be in film, and Satuday at the Chicago Comics And Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2), the Avengers descended on a crowd of fans as "Avengers" and "New Avengers" writer Brian Michael Bendis was joined by incoming "Secret Avengers" writer Nick Spencer, "Fear Itself" writer Matt Fraction, "Widowmaker" scribe jim McCann, editor Tom Brennan and talent coordinator/host C.B. Cebulski lead a discussion about the future of the core superteam of the Marvel U.

Getting into the upcoming books, Bendis spoke on "Avengers" issue #12.1 of which he said "since Bryan Hitch is a lunatic, it's almost double-sized at no extra cost to you." The story is a self-contained prologue to "a very large story the pair will do in the future which the writer described as "the Avengers Vs. The Intelligencia over the fallen body of a Spaceknight." The story will tie in with the Ultron story Bendis has been building to.

After that, Bendis and Chris Bachelo will work on "Avengers" #13, which is the first part of a "Fear Itself" tie in. "These are pretty important tie-ins to what Matt Fraction is working on," Bendis said, noting that John Romita, Jr. is hard at work on some forthcoming stories that are also big and potentially double-sized.

Soon in "New Avengers" - a book that Bendis knew may be confusing to some fans at the moment - the story of the original Avengers team Nick Fury put together in the late 1950s featuring people like Sabertooth and Kraven the Hunter which involves "The Infinity Formula and the Super Soldier formula" will clash with a modern story of the new Norman Osborn-less "H.A.M.M.E.R." and the fate of Mockingbird as that organization makes their move.

"Each one is a character story, and each [character] is going to be a little different by the end of the 22 pages than they were at the beginning," Spencer said of his "Secret Avengers" three-part "Fear Itself" tie-in arc.

Cebulski revealed covers for the next arc of "Avengers Academy" which he praised for introducing new characters into the Marvel U as well as Ed Brubaker's incoming "Red Room" arc of "Captain America" which reveals more about how Bucky's status as the Winter Soldier impacts his life and legacy.

Fraction then spoke on his upcoming one-two punch of "The Mighty Thor" and "The Invincible Iron Man." The former book sees the return of Olivier Coipel who the writer said is competing with both Pasqual Ferry and his past run on "Thor" for bragging rights over killer Norse action as Galactus tries to eat the Asgardian's living in Oklahoma. Fraction said that "Iron Man" will deal with Tony Stark's trouble as a man of logic and science dealing with miraculous happenings in "Fear Itself" and more. "Between this and what happens in 'Fear Itself,' somehow it's going to get even worse for Tony,"

For Spencer, the "Fear Itself" arc of "Iron Man 2.0" will not only further the story of James Rhodes as well as the Iron Fist of whom the writer said he'll explore "the fallout from what happened to Danny in 'New Avengers' and the change in his mind." McCann promised harrowing adventures for the Avengers resident archer in "Hawkeye Blindspot" before he returns to the team.

The floor opened up to fan questions, and a reader asked how Marvel could get "Thor" comics into the hands of the audience for the upcoming movie. While the creative talent had very little control over marketing for Marvel Studios, Fraction expressed an interest in getting Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth in costume as Cap and Thor to shoot a special photo cover for "Fear Itself" though he was uncertain it could get done. Bendis joked that they would be able to get himself and Cebulski in costume for the cover for sure.

"I didn't mean for it to be such a sausage-fest," Bendis said of his Avengers team, promising more diversity throughout the "Fear Itself" tie-in arc and moving forward. He also promised that the oral histories he's writing for the back of the book will play into upcoming stories rather than only provide backup info.

A fan asked after the Spaceknight tease in "Avengers" and Bendis ephatically noted that it would not be the classic character ROM Spaceknight in the series as Marvel doesn't own the hero. "The day Marvel gets its hands on ROM, in the middle of the story no matter what I'm writing, he'll show up."

A fan wondered if Moon Knight will stay a part of the Secret Avengers now that he has his own series by Bendis and Alex Maleev, and Bendis said that the writer who takes over the team book after Spencer's arc is "in cahoots" with him on this topic. "We're doing a lot of world-building around Moon Knight...he's in LA specifically because a lot of villains have left New York because after 35 years, they've started to realize that it's not the best to be where all the superheroes live." Moon Knight will absorb the personalities of Spider-Man, Wolverine and other heroes as "A one-man lunatic Avengers team that can not be beat."

"What I'm going to get away from is Moon Knight being tortured in his house popping pills. That stuff worked, but I thought it was time for him to get our there and enjoy his madness," the writer added.

Asked via Twitter proxy by a fan from Ireland whether the Avengers would ever start to include more heroes who weren't of American origin, Bendis said "Yes!" before Cebulski said, "Tell your friend Brian Bendis just said 'Shamrock.'"

The relationship between the original Captain American and Iron Man will be a key factor in many books coming up. "A lot of the Steve/Tony relationship will be going on" coming up, said Bendis, with Fraction adding that Rogers makes a choice in "Fear Itself" that affects the relationship in a big way as he viewed the connection between the two "a gift" as a writer.

Bendis has been re-reading many original prints of the original Avengers issues and is learning all sorts of things about how comic fans have always been the same with the letters page containing complaints the Jack Kirby was lazy for dropping from three monthly titles to two and anger over the inclusion of Hawkeye on the team. He just made it up to the issues of Avengers he started at as a kid around #149 and #150 with the introduction of Hellcat, which is particularly fun for him.

Many fans asked after the Scarlet Witch or the Young Avengers and whether they'll impact incoming events with Fraction taking point on saying that all the Marvel writers are patiently allowing Allan Heinberg to do what he wants on "Avengers: Children's Crusade" before moving those plotlines further. "No one wants to compete by doing [a book like a 'Young Avengers: Fear Itself' tie-in] when the actual Young Avengers are coming out," he said. "It'd be like being a Beatles cover band that opens for the Beatles."

Since Bendis is such a fan of George Perez's classic "Avengers" run, a reader wanted to know will the artist ever work on a book. Bendis related a story of how he met the artist as a young man when he was hired to be the artist for a Superman parade in his hometown of Cleveland, and Perez gave him some great advice. For now though, the writer explained that Perez is DC exclusive but when that wraps up, Marvel writers are waiting to pounce on him for a book as well as artists like Walt Simonson.

Perpetual fan favorite Squirrel Girl was asked after, and Bendis said she'll play a role in the run of Avengers annuals he's about to write for artist Gabrielle Del'Otto.

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