C2E2: Marvel Ultimate Comics Universe

After a busy C2E2 2012, Marvel Comics began the final day of the convention with a taste of the Ultimate side of comics in a panel for all things Ultimate Comics. Moderated by Director of Communications, Publishing and Digital Media Arune Singh, the panel included Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, Editor Sana Amanat, "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" writer Sam Humphries and special guest Spider-Man from the previous day's "Amazing Spider-Man" panel. The panelists assembled in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd who were eager to discover all the newest announcements and info on the goings-on in the Ultimate U.

After panel introductions, Amanat kicked things off into full gear with "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man."

"It's one of my favorite books to read and to work on," said Amanat. "This is his next stage. He's still trying to become a hero, he's donned the costume, but he's still trying to figure out what that actually means. ... You'll be seeing a few more characters including a love interest."

Alonso spoke about the beginnings and development of the idea of the new Ultimate Spider-Man. "It's been a fascinating ride," said Alonso. "We realized the way it needed to end, the most dramatic end, was Peter dying. ... If you're going to kill this popular character, who are you going to replace him with? ... The response was initially negative, but that's pretty much par for the course when you do something [like this]. That's what happens with change. ... Really at the end of the day, you guys seem to like him, right?" and the crowd applauded.

"I don't want to give away too much because I think the story is something you really need to read to enjoy," said series editor Amanat. "It's going to be really interesting to see those characters interact. ... This is going to be a different version of Peter Parker, this is not the Ultimate version. The way they interact, Peter is going to encounter a world where he's dead and Miles is going to encounter his hero, the reason he became Spider-Man. Sara is kicking butt on it and Brian is bringing his A-Game as usual."

Amanat touched briefly on Brian Wood's "Ultimate Comics X-Men." "It's actually quite exciting," said Amanat. "The cast is going to be tightened significantly. ... Mutants are being killed everywhere and people are somehow okay with this. Kitty Pryde empowers her friends and [decides] to start saving people. It's going to be a mini-track -- they'll be on a journey to the southwest to the mutant camps that are there. You'll start seeing relationships developing between these characters. ... It's a teen story with a little bit of written edge."

Sam Humphries began speaking about his work on "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" with writer Jonathan Hickman. "He constantly wants to know what my favorite font is," joked Humphries. "He had plans for the next decade and a half. He's been so supportive and generous from the start." Humphries also spoke about how Hickman had been helping him develop his own ideas for the direction of the future of the book.

"You've got them on a stage where anything goes," he said. "This is a place where you can really shake these characters up in ways you couldn't do before," noting his first issue had just gone to press.

Singh then announced a story called "Divided We Fall," which brings Captain America back "in a major way" to the Ultimate U in a storyline spanning "Ultimate Comics X-Men" and "Ultimate Comics X-Men." "He's going to make a decision in this story that is something that has never been done in superhero comics before," said Singh. "That's not hyperbole, it's actually never been done before."

"Hickman was very adamant to take Cap off the map. He's been very down and out since the death of Peter Parker," said Amanat. "We haven't seen him on purpose. When he comes back, there's a very important reason why he does. It's a really beautiful moment when it does happen. We'll see the Ultimates do what they do best."

Humphries also noted Hickman's desire to take Cap off the board. "Of course, in my first solo issue, I'm going to bring him back," said Humphries. "In your face, Hickman! ... When Cap comes back, he's going to have to confront a universe that's dramatically changed. [His decision] is going to be something we could only do in the Ultimate Universe."

Humphries clarified "Divided We Fall" "is an event but is not a crossover," saying "Ultimates" would be "the big scope" book and there will be cross-polination of characters, but you can read only one of the books and figure out what's going on.

"You're going to have an Avengers Assemble moment that's going to make you smile ear to ear," said Alonso. "The last time we did an Ultimate event, it ended in the death of Spider-Man. You're not going to want to find out from your buddy."

C.B. Cebulski then joined the panel and spoke a bit about the talent in the Ultimate line of books. "We've always been great about putting the best new writers and best new artists in the Ultimate titles so we can see what they do," said Cebulski, noting creative talent not only got to play with the toys, they got to "break the toys."

Humphries also announced Billy Tan is going to be taking over art on "Ultimates" starting on issue 13. "I'm so excited to have him on the book," said Humphries. "He specializes in this big, action-packed, blockbuster storytelling and that's exactly what we're going to need to pull off 'Divided We Fall.'"

Singh noted fans would see new designs for new costumes for the Ultimate X-Men "very soon" online.

The panel opened up for questions and the audience was happy to oblige.

Alonso first expounded about the upcoming "Spider-Men" series. "Bendis pitched us and we had been very reluctant to break that wall, but the idea had legs. We also realized it's a great time for Miles to meet Peter. He's at a very key moment in his development. ... It seemed like it was the right time."

"Dead is dead in the Ultimate Universe," said Alonso. "That's our pledge. Miles is Spider-Man.

"Peter Parker's been around for 50 years because he was embraced by everybody. ... At the end of the day, people are loving Miles the way they loved Peter and that's the goal."

"I was tearing when I read the 'Death of Spider-Man' script," said Amanat. "Once these stories comes out, you realize the impact that it has. It's really the most organic story you can tell. We're not telling it because we want to make an extra buck. These are the stories we want to tell. ... Meeting Peter Parker will have an impact on [Miles] right now."

Humphries expressed his excitement at the permanence of the decisions in the Ultimate Universe. "The finality of the Ultimate Universe is my favorite thing about the Ultimate Universe," said Humphries. "We're going to do big things that's going to change the status quo forever. You're going to see at the end of issue #9, Hickman does something that just has us racing down a cliff ... and there's no turning back."

Humphries also spoke about his plans to bring in some new blood for the upcoming event. "Something I'm really excited about 'The Ultimates' is that anybody can be an Ultimate," said Humphries, who said he plans to bring some characters who have been on the fringe of the Ultimate U for a while in for "Divided We Fall."

One fan asked about the many versions of Ultimate Hulk and Humphries expressed affection for the character. "[The Hulk] is a game-changer, but largely a game-changer for other people's interest," he said. "Without saying too much, Hulk has been promised a lot, Bruce has been promised a lot. A lot of those promises have been broken." The writer further noted that when promises are broken, you push back and when you're the Hulk, "you push back hard."

Amanat once again mentioned more about Miles Morales' reaction to meeting Peter Parker in "Spider-Men." "Everyone wants to meet their hero," she said. "Even if it's not the exact same guy, they're still going out there and saving people. ... I think it's important for that to happen. I think it's going to take Miles to the next level."

"Peter Parker is the closest thing to his hero, but not his hero," said Alonso. "That's a big part of the story."

The panel also had a discussion about Ultimate Spider-Woman, prompted by a question from the audience. "The interaction with Miles and Spider-Woman is something we're going to be [exploring.]" said Amanat. "She's also going to be in the Ultimates."

"She is going to be the Ultimates," said Humphries.

Humphries had a tough time narrowing his favorite Ultimate down to one, but he did finally decide on the Ultimate Black Widow. "I will say the character that has surprised me the most is Monica Chang, the Black Widow," he said. "Love that character, we're going to do a lot with her. She just came up organically in these stories we're telling. It's definitely about time for her to steal some spotlight."

Amanat teased Miles' ability to shoot webs may occur in the "next few issues" of "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man."

The panel was asked whether they would consider telling pre-"Ultimatum" stories in the Ultimate books moving forward. "Those were great stories back then, but we're so focused on the future and looking at these characters in new ways," said Humphries.

With an appropriate final question, an audience member asked about the death of characters in the Ultimate Universe.

"In the Ultimate Universe, we set up a set of rules and one someone's dead, they're dead," said Alonso.

"We might have killed Wolverine, but we have Jimmy Hudson," said Amanat. "Even though we kill characters that are familiar to you from the 616, we create these new characters."

Amanat also spoke about the direction of Jimmy Hudson. "He's going to have to explore what his relationship with his father could have been," she said. "I wouldn't say it's going to be a Daken type character, but it's definitely going to be interesting."

With that, the panel wrapped. Stay tuned to CBR for more C2E2 2012 coverage.

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