C2E2: Marvel Opens the Doors On Its House of Ideas

Marvel kicked things off at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo [C2E2] with their House of Ideas panel, a staple of every convention the publisher attends. In attendance, along with a crowd of fans that lined up first thing in the morning for the info session, were moderator Ryan "Agent M" Penagos, senior editor Nick Lowe and Marvel talent scout C.B. Cebulski. Penagos started things off by applauding Marvel's professionalism -- and then jokingly admitted that their computer and presentation had not yet arrived.

While waiting for the computer to arrive, Penagos asked Cebulski about his new endeavor, Three Course Comics. "It combines two of my passions in life," Cebulski explained. "We get a couple guests -- artistic guests and editorial guests -- and I cook a theme dinner tied to something Marvel-related that we can promote." The first installment, a Spider-Man tie-in, is online now.

"It was delicious," "Amazing Spider-Man" editor Nick Lowe exclaimed. Cebulski teased upcoming installments, one of which will be "Star Wars"-themed and feature the book's creative team of Jason Aaron and John Cassaday. Cebulski remained tight-lipped about the menu, though he did say "John Cassaday wanted me to cook 'Jabba ghanoush.'"

The computer now up and running, Penagos fired up the House of Ideas presentation. First was a run through of Marvel's overall digital presence, which includes everything from digital comics to games and original videos. Penagos described Marvel Unlimited as "Netflix for comics. [The content] goes back 76 years, now. We have stuff from possibly every character, and we're adding stuff all the time." Penagos noted that Star Wars comics are now on Marvel Unlimited, prompting Nick Lowe to hum the film's iconic theme.

"I suggest taking a month sabbatical from work," said Lowe. "Read as much as you can, and if you haven't finished everything , then stick with Marvel Unlimited."

Cebulski then jumped in to discuss the Star Wars comics Marvel is currently publishing, clarifying that they are part of the official new canon being established by Lucasfilm. The Legends line of Star Wars comics, Cebulski added, includes all the content from Dark Horse Comics, the previous holder of the license. The panelists let fans know that the current Marvel "Star Wars" comics will arrive on Marvel Unlimited in the summer.

Penagos then talked about the Marvel Unlimited Plus program, noting that members of which got to attend the "Avengers: Age of Ultron" event on "Good Morning America" just a few hours prior to this panel. Members of the program get exclusive toys and other merchandise and get to attend special convention panels, including one at C2E2 that featured Marvel creators and exclusive videos.

Penagos then transitioned into the world of Infinite Comics, Marvel's line of digital-first comics, by showing a slide of "X-Men '92." The series, from writers Chris Sims and Chad Bowers and artist Scott Koblish, spins out of this summer's "Secret Wars" event and stars the cast and status quo depicted in the early '90s "X-Men" animated series.

"It will bring you the X-Men that was the seminal X-Men experience for a lot of you out there," said Lowe. "This experience brought millions of X-Men fans into the fold." Lowe explained the idea behind Infinite Comics, noting that they are created specifically for the digital format. "We try to make a unique experience, things like different transitions in panels, surprises. Sometimes when you turn a page [in a physical comic], sometimes you get ahead of yourself and you spoil a little moment. In Infinite Comics, we can control that and make bigger surprises and huge moments. It's something we've really been working hard on for years."

"I hope we just get Scott yelling, 'Jean!'" said Penagos, referencing one of the many running features of the classic cartoon.

The presentation then shifted to Marvel's game offerings with a "Contest of Champions" trailer, featuring a jazzy score and footage of the Collector strolling through his collection. Gamora, Hulk, Wolverine, Deadpool -- complete with toilet paper roll -- were all shown in the video, as well as opponents like Kang the Conqueror, Ronan, and Punisher. The beat 'em up footage continued, with Wolverine squaring off against the Hulk, and Gamora slicing her way through Ronan. The footage concluded with Thanos interrupting the battle. Penagos said the graphics, which look like a console game, look that good on phones and tablets, where the game is available. More art from the game was shown, featuring "Age of Ultron" designs and images of Hulk fighting Hulkbuster and Black Widow battling Ultron.

"Spider-Man Unlimited" was next, much to Lowe's delight. The presentation included art from the recent "Spider-Verse" event. "This is a game that I play on the subway in the morning, on my commute," said Lowe, an admitted novice gamer. "The amount of content tied into the comics is insane. Now the Inheritors, the big bad guys from our big 'Spider-Verse' event, are in there. It's super cool."

Marvel Puzzle Quest then appeared, drawing wows from the crowd. "It's like Candy Crush, but so much bigger, better and marvelous," said Penagos. "It's just a delightful game."

While Penagos didn't have any new announcements, he did discuss a recent development in the world of Marvel gaming. "I was visiting Marvel Studios this week, and there are new games they're developing that we didn't get a chance to add into the presentation. But we announced that we are doing a project with Telltale Games; they make the 'Fables' and 'Game of Thrones' and 'Borderlands' and 'Walking Dead' games. We're teaming up with them for a game in 2017 that should be pretty amazing. I've been hearing about it for quite a long time. It's insane. "

Next up came Marvel AR -- Augmented Reality -- which allows readers to, upon placing the app over the AR logo on a comic page, get behind the scenes information about the artwork, story or series. To tease what's available on Marvel AR, an animated piece from the recent "Death of Wolverine" series played, featuring behind the scenes commentary from penciler Steve McNiven and inker Jay Leisten.

After the video, Penagos turned to Nick Lowe and slyly asked, "Whose idea was it to kill Wolverine?"
"It was me," said Lowe. "I got sick of him. I was like, I got out of the X-Men books, I'm talking Wolverine with me."

Next up was the Marvel Original Video segment, which started with a mysterious trailer showing news footage, interviews with Joss Whedon, MSNBC's Chris Hayes, and Stan Lee among others. The trailer featured images from "Civil War," with animated art from the series leading up to the title card: "Marvel Tales to Astonish." The short form documentary about "Civil War" is the first in a new film series. "I really want that thing to be shown wide, "said Penagos of "Tales to Astonish." "I've seen the full show. We're hoping to do more and get it out to you guys. I think it's going to be pretty neat."

Penagos then plugged "Marvel Super Heroes What The?!" and "Marvel's The Watcher." The "Zemo's Roadhouse" episode, a play on the recent events of the "AXIS" crossover, was screened. The video closes with a cameo from Thanos and a reference to the Mad Titan's goofy Thanos-copter. "I will confirm that there will be a Thanos-copter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe," said Penagos. "That's a lie. Someone's' going to quote me on that, and that's a lie."

The last thing on the docket was podcasts: "This Week In Marvel," "Women of Marvel" and "This Week In Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Penagos teased big things to come on the latter podcast, saying, "Marc [Strom], on my team, who hosts that show, is going to be doing a bunch of interviews with the people that make ['Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.']." 
The floor then opened up for questions. "You can ask us about anything," said Lowe. While talking briefly about "Secret Wars" with the audience, Lowe admitted that he has read the first two issues and praised artists Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina. "Their art will melt your eyeballs," said Lowe.

"But also bring tissues," added Penagos, indicating that either way, "Secret Wars" is going to mess with your eyes.

After Cebluksi brought up Netflix's "Daredevil" series, Penagos recalled where he was when the announcement was made regarding the show's second season. "I was at a 29-hour Marvel movie marathon in LA this week. I stayed for all 29 hours and 11 movies. While there, I was on emails between Netflix and Marvel, with people trying to figure out when we were going to announce it. Deborah Ann Woll, who plays Karen Page on the show, came out to talk to the fans and I'm reading this email saying we should announce it real soon. A fan asks her when season two was coming, but she couldn't say it then! We announced it 90 minutes later." He then said "Daredevil" season two will arrive in 2016.

A fan requested that Daredevil fight "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s" Agent May. "I don't' know if I want to see them fight," Penagos replied." I want to see them team up and beat the crap out of someone. Daredevil's gotten beat up so much already -- because my money is on May."

A fan asked if there were any parallel Spider-Men Lowe regretted killing in "Spider-Verse." "When we started, I had to pull Dan Slott back from killing to many, but then I was like, 'We have to kill some.' As you saw, Kaine died -- the Scarlet Spider died in it. But if you read to the end, out of the husk [of Kaine], something came out. That was Dan's idea. I let him have that. If you're going to have these multi-dimensional guys who feast on spiders, you have to have a body count."

Another attendee asked the panel about their downtime and what they do on the weekend. The panelists all seemed puzzled by the term "weekend." Lowe noted that with all the comic book material out there, it's hard keeping up to date. "At this point, it is amazing thinking about how, when I was a kid, how little stories there were out in non-comic book form," said Lowe. "I'm trying to find time. I just had my second kid two and a half weeks ago, and I'm trying to carve out time to finish 'Daredevil.' Trying to catch up on 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' And we've got 'Avengers: Age of Ultron,' all this stuff -- I enjoy reading the comics and watching the shows."

"I end up reading comics in my free time," said Cebulski. "Reading comics for work or pleasure are different. We know what's happening in the Marvel Universe for 18 months [ahead] at some times, and sometimes you read comics as a fan and it's like you're a kid again. We can put aside the professional side, that's the kind of fun of it, becoming that fan again, enjoying fruits of our labor like we were kids again."

"Free time for me is hanging out with my wife and having fun," Penangos added. "I have five cats -- I want to hug them all the time."

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