Marvel began their trio of "Secret Wars"-centric panels on Saturday with a spotlight on the titles falling under the event's "Last Days" banner. Creators and editors of the involved series gathered onstage to discuss -- and reveal new information about -- the series heading into the event. Included on the panel was editor Nick Lowe and Dan Slott (writer, "Silver Surfer"), Al Ewing (writer, "Loki: Agent of Asgard") and Ryan Stegman (artist, "Inhuman"), Dennis Hopeless (writer, "Inferno") and Charles Soule (writer, "Inhuman").
Moderator Nick Lowe kicked off the panel by introducing the panel to rounds of applause. Editors Jon Moisan and Jake Thomas are running late because they are conducting portfolio reviews. Lowe revealed that he gave Stegman a portfolio review at Chicago nine years ago, that didn't go well. "Neither of us were very happy about how it went," said Stegman, laughing.
"I think it was probably my first or second year as an assistant editor at Marvel so I knew nothing," said Lowe. "I apologize to Ryan regularly about the horrible advice I gave him."
Lowe gave a quick intro to the "Last Days" concept and showed the cover of "Ms. Marvel" #16, the first part of the title's "Secret Wars" tie-in. Lowe commended the series for its multiple Eisner Award nominations and praised the character as "one of the best new characters" at Marvel. Lowe then gave a rundown of the "Secret Wars" event, saying that the events of this story come from the pages of Jonathan Hickman's "Avengers" books.
"In 'Secret Wars' #1, you are going to see the last two remaining universes -- the Marvel Universe and Ultimate Universe -- collide in one of the craziest comics I've ever read," said Lowe. "No character is untouched by what is going on."
Next up came covers for "Magneto's" "Last Days" tie-in, one of which includes a favorite character of Lowe's -- Sugar Man. "Black Widow's" "Last Days" cover for issue #19 came up next. Series editor Jake Thomas spoke about the story, saying that writer Nathan Edmondson has been interested in Natasha Romanoff's guilt. "He's really invested in finding out her history and it's all culminated to this 'Last Days' story. Nathan wants to look at where Natasha is in the present, which is a very bad place, but he's also going back to the very beginning of her story. He wanted to find the worst thing that Natasha ever did during her Red Room days and it is a story that is incredibly emotional and instrumental towards understanding who she is. It's going to be very exciting."
"Punisher" came up next, and editor Thomas continued to talk about Nathan Edmondson's other street-level Marvel series. "He's been building up to these issues his whole run. It's going to be a cathartic moment for Frank and Frank's fans," said Thomas. The editor revealed that the last two issues are going to be "balls to the wall, crazy Punisher action."
Al Ewing then talked about "Captain America and the Mighty Avengers," saying he's aiming to "break as many hearts as possible" with this story. "Just generally, they're reacting to the news of what's happening," said Ewing. "And issue #9 will tell their last hours, what they do in their last hours. I wanted to include the regular people [in this story], the phone operators and regular people that lend a hand and turn up and do what they can. It's the story of what the ordinary people in New York do in their last days. This is a comic that will actually have you in it!"
Lowe asked the crowd if they all knew that they were mighty Avengers. "Your card is in the mail," he joked. "The world dying is all on your watch, so thanks a lot!"
Ewing's corner of the Marvel Universe continued to be explored with talk of his other series, "Loki: Agent of Asgard." "We're going out with a bang," said Ewing. "What's basically happening is the gods of Asgard being gods, they can sense the end of everything and they've got a lot of scores to settle. So massive total war breaks out in Asgard. The fuse is lit by King Loki as part of a plan to try to survive, because that's all he cares about... It's Loki vs. Loki."
"Silver Surfer" #13 took the spotlight next, to a round of applause. Slott shouted out his art team, Mike and Laura Allred, who just received an Eisner nomination. "Issue #11 is one of the craziest comics I've ever read," said Lowe of the next issue.
Slott said that "Surfer" doesn't fit into any "Secret Wars" category, they're just calling the book "Last Days." Slott asked Lowe if he could talk about the cosmos vs. Battleworld. "You're going to be left with Battleworld and there's nothing else in the rest of the Marvel Universe," said Slott, specifying that the Kree, Skrulls, Spartax, everything cosmic is gone. "In the 'Battleworld' and 'War Zones' books, all our cosmic characters were lucky to get back to Earth just in time. Silver Surfer is the one character not on Earth who survives out there in the void. He's been giving Herald powers to recreate the universe," said Slott. "And something else survived too."
Dennis Hopeless' "Spider-Woman" series came up next, which features art from Javier Rodriguez. Lowe tossed it to Hopeless, who talked about Jessica Drew's new status quo, saying that she wanted to go back to street level. "It's the opposite of what Dan was just describing," said Hopeless. "It's very '80s Daredevil, her running around and punching people in the face. Now the world's going to end and we're taking that away from her." Hopeless praised Rodriguez's art, saying that people should at least buy it just for the art.
Marvel then announced a new one-shot, "Last Days of Ant-Man" by Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas. Editor Jon Moisan was on-hand to talk about the new one-shot, which arrives on August 5th. "We are exploring how Ant-Man reacts to the world ending," said Moisan. "We see a retirement home of Golden Age superheroes. I know that sounds super thrilling! So this is going to be filling in the Ant-Man universe and him in Miami. He'll be teaming up with a Golden Age hero that we've already seen in the story, but you don't know who it is yet. The cover is a big hint. It's a ton of fun."
While it's not a "Last Days" tie-in, the panel talked about "Inhuman Annual" #1 since Soule and Stegman were present. Soule jokingly asked Stegman if he was reading the scripts. "I feel like I have to just draw a bunch of people all the time," responded Stegman.
Soule then talked about the issue, which the ongoing series has been building towards. "We've been telling a sprawling story involving these new guys and classic Inhuman characters," said Soule. "Everything is going to start humming in the annual. A new guy, Lineage, a bad guy, his power is that he can speak to and access anyone who is in his ancestral line. He can have secret historical knowledge of the Inhumans, and he's been using that against the Royal Family for the whole story and now they've found out what he's trying to do. Ryan was thrilled to find out that I've written a huge battle sequence."
"It's thirty pages of mind-blowing action-packed insanity fest that's the best work of Ryan's career," said Lowe. The editor then turned the conversation to "Uncanny Inhumans" #0, an "unofficial" "Last Days" issue. The issue focuses on Black Bolt, Medusa's husband, and Soule said that the issue finds him trying to redeem himself to Medusa by finding their lost son.
"He's trying to reunite with his son before the world ends," said Soule. "Unfortunately he finds out that Kang the Conqueror has him. You have one of the most powerful characters fighting another one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe." Soule then praised "Uncanny Inhumans'" artist, Steve McNiven. Stegman talked about his writing debut, which happens in the backup of "Uncanny Inhumans."
"I sat there and pounded the story out over a couple hours and went to Nick and he helped out with some ideas," said Stegman. "It was very nerve-wracking, that blank screen."
The "Secret Wars" series "Inhumans: Attilan Rising" came up next, with pages shown from the first issue. "The main concept of the series is a resistance movement," said Soule. "They're lead by Black Bolt and Medusa is the top cop assigned to take them down." The cast will include a classic Ghost Rider previously used in Jason Aaron's run with the character and a new version of Hulk, as well as the Inhuman Naja and Flint, a character that can manipulate rocks.
The floor opened up to questions from fans. When asked how they have gone about saying goodbye to characters with "Secret Wars," editor Nick Lowe said that very question is why "Last Days" exists -- to give these characters a chance to grapple with the end of the world.
The conversation shifted slightly to ask how this ending differs from ending an arc, specifically with the relatively new "Spider-Woman." "Our story takes place right before she has to run off and deal with everything," said Hopeless. "She's just built a new life and her old one comes crashing down to kill everything. We're dealing with that. It's a human thing. You just gotta roll with it."
"One of the things that's different at Marvel is that you could tell 'Secret Wars' was going to happen when Hickman started his Avengers run," said Slott. "We've known this was coming for a long time. It's always been on the map and we've all been thinking about it for a long time."
A fan then asked how Spider-Man will be spending his last days, to which Lowe responded that will be answered in "Secret Wars" #1.
Soule was asked how he handled taking on "Inhuman" given the increased prominence and popularity of the characters. "The point of the series was introducing these characters to new readers," said Soule. "There was a lot of pressure. I know that appealed to Ryan, about working on 'Inhuman.' All of us like a challenge. I'd rather push myself. We're trying to do our best work and hopefully we're pleasing you guys."
"It was pretty intimidating just in general, just the idea of the job," said Stegman, who cited the opportunity to create new characters appealed to him. "I spent so much time on the designs of these characters because I wanted them to be classic so they'd be around a long time."
A fan worried about apparently low-selling series, like "Captain Marvel" and "Ms. Marvel," asked about sales numbers and if Marvel ever planned on releasing digital sales numbers, to which Nick Lowe responded that the numbers online are generally wrong and very low. All their book sales are private, but he assured the fan that "Ms. Marvel" is in no danger of cancellation, citing how well the trade paperbacks for that series, "Hawkeye" and "Captain Marvel" sell. Lowe assured the fan that those books are in no danger of being canceled. "We've got really big Captain Marvel plans for years to come that I can't wait to share with you," said Lowe.