C2E2: Marvel's Next Big Thing

Marvel Comics wrapped its weekend of news and discussion at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2) with a Next Big Thing panel revealing some new projects and digging in to already known works. The weekend's perpetual panel MC Director of Communications Arune Singh introduced staffers including Talent Manager C.B. Cebulski, Ultimate Editor Sana Amanat and X-Editor Daniel Ketchum as well as writers Dennis Hopeless, Kelly Sue DeConnick, James Asmus and Cullen Bunn.

The panel started discussing DeConnick's incoming "Captain Marvel" book which redesigns and renames Ms. Marvel for a new era. "My pitch was 'Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager,'" the writer explained, saying they wanted to move the heroine away from her recent law & order actions and back to her military roots to update her iconic status as THE female superhero of the Marvel U. "If it flies, she can fly it," the writer added of her actions in the book. Cebulski noted that artist Dexter Soy was one of the few people who came to him to get a job at Marvel who was hired on the spot to work for the publisher.

The new Captain Marvel will also appear in July's "Avenging Spider-Man" #9 as drawn by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson. "I'm running out of superlatives," DeConnick said of the artists work on the book, and adding that when the pair gave her the original art for the issue, she cried "because I'm a dork." DeConnick also had a moment of realization on how Carol would really work when she saw a page from the issue where the heroine was introduced walking across an airport tarmac.

Artist Jamie McKelvie will become the regular artist on "Defenders" with July's issue #8 teaming with writer Matt Fraction.

Fraction will also work up a big story with friend and former "Uncanny X-Men" co-writer Kieron Gillen in a crossover between "Mighty Thor" and "Journey Into Mystery" called "Everything Burns." The story features the return of Surtur, the betrayal of Loki and a "huge status quo shift" for the sons of Odin, according to Singh who said the writers have been planning this story for a while to meet with Thor's 50th Anniversary. Alan Davis and Carmine DiGiandamenica will be working on the art for the books.

Bunn will take on "Captain America And..." with his first four-part arc featuring Hawkeye in an adventure he pitched as "Captain America and Hawkeye as the Tango and Cash of the Marvel Universe" and as "They fight dinosaurs." Though Bunn admitted that it's not really dinosaurs in the story but "two kinds of creatures that haven't been active in the Marvel Universe for years."

The writer went on to say of his incoming "Wolverine" arc that he wanted to be as terrible to the character as he possibly could, which leads to the return of villain Dr. Rott. "What [Wolverine] finds out is that Dr. Rott is not alone. He has a family of his own, and it's going to be a brutal, BRUTAL four issues for Wolverine." He said that when he sent in his scripts, the #1 note from his editors was "What's wrong with you?" "It's a pretty twisted situation, and these characters are going to have their way with Wolverine."

Finally, Bunn spoke to his work on Marvel's just released "Spider-Man: Season One" graphic novel saying that it's been "unbelievable" to go from having a day job this time last year to doing such iconic characters. He said retelling Spider-Man's early ear was a difficult story to write, but he tried to focus on the sense of adventure inherit in the character and how he went from being a guy who dressed up to get girls and money to being a real hero.

Hopeless kept the "Season One" discussion going talking about his "X-Men" graphic novel and saying that all he needed to update the story was in the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby issues of the book where the heroes acted like teens, fighting and falling in love, in between fighting Magneto.

Asmus will write the teased "Gambit" ongoing series with artist Clay Mann starting in August. "This book focuses on the two most important aspects of Gambit: #1 that he's sexy, and #2 that he's the preeminent bad ass thief of the Marvel Universe," the writer said. He explained that the book will feature Gambit broken away from the X-Men, stealing wild items from across the Marvel U in locations like space, places with Kirby monsters and more. "It lets us refresh and do new things with the crime capers involving our classic bad ass." He also joked that "We got rid of the head sock" in describing Mann's art as "Sexy."

Overall, the book will build a "dangerous series of events" that pull Gambit into a "territory of mixed morality." Asmus also noted that he wanted to make the book as accessible for everyone including fans of the '90s "X-Men" cartoon and longtime readers who have been asking for Gambit to return in a major way.

Editor Ketchum said that he didn't want to revisit the same stories that have been told with Gambit a thousand times with Bella Donna and the Thieves Guild in New Orleans. Instead, this will be like a Gambit movie that reintroduces the character in an all-new way.

Singh noted that books like "Gambit" and the new "Hawkeye" series announced yesterday are the publisher's answer to calls for more new books and that the goal is to make sure a new book has a solid creative team with an approach that can make for long term success.

Fan questions started with a fan asking if Jubilee will be showing up anywhere as she's soon leaving the adjective-less "X-Men" title. Ketchum said that the character was one who, like many X-characters in the past, Marvel was taking off the table for a short time to find a place to let them come back with a bigger impact. As usual, the final word was "Stay tuned."

The perpetual "What's next for the Runaways?" question came up, and Cebulski noted that a fan recently pointed out to him that we're on the verge of the 10th anniversary of the character's launch, to which he was surprised it'd been that long. Aside from appearances in book's like "Daken" and "Avengers Academy," there are no major plans for them just yet, but there may be something to celebrate the 10-year mark. Ketchum compared the group to Moon Knight in that Axel Alonso was looking for the right pitch to bring back the vigilante character for years and only when he had the perfect pitch did he greenlight it. Creators pitch on the Runaways often, and the Editorial staff loves the team, he said, but so far the perfect idea hasn't landed yet.

The origins of "Captain Marvel" were asked after, and DeConnick said that she had pitched to make the book happen and found an ally in Editor Steve Wacer. "I opened the folder for this conversation in May, 2010," she said, noting that when Wacker called her to tell her the book was greenlight, he said, "Okay dude, you're not writing 'Ms. Marvel'" and as she started to cope with what she thought was a failed pitch, he added "BECAUSE YOU'RE WRITING 'CAPTAIN MARVEL!'" She said the Editor is one of the biggest supporters of the book anywhere.

DeConnick then took a quick moment to ask fans to pre-order even though that process is "weird and embarrassing" to consumers in some ways, but for now fans had to do that because "I do not have a better idea" on how to get the numbers for new series high. "The retailer is our customer, and the retailer will order low on this book [unless we let them know we want it.]"

Following up on the "characters on the shelf" idea brought up with Jubilee, a fan asked if any characters are soon coming off the shelf fans haven't seen in a while. Cebulski noted he was glad to hear Cloak and Dagger would play a role in Jeph Loeb "Sabertooth Reborn" arc of "Wolverine." Amanat spoke to the importance of Captain America's return to the Ultimate U. Singh said that more things will change and more characters will appear in the wake of the current "Avengers Vs. X-Men" event.

On the Gambit book, Asmus responded to questions of X-23 or Rogue appearing by saying that "We'll be building a supporting cast around him" again highlighting the idea that this is new-reader friendly so all elements must be introduced in their own time so anyone can follow them, but that Rogue will appear over the course of the story, of course.

Asked whether Brian K. Vaughn or Joss Whedon will work for Marvel anytime soon, Cebulski said that they reach back out to those creators every six or seven months to see if they've got time or interest in new Marvel books. Nothing has come through yet, though he's hopeful that both will do new comics with the company in the future.

Asked if Mystique would appear soon, DeConnick said "I LOVE MYSTIQUE SO MUCH." The writer said she had ideas for characters like her and Monica Rambeau that she'd love to get to either in "Captain Marvel" or, in the case of the mutant shape-shifter, maybe even her own book.

Newsarama reporter Albert Ching took the mic to ask who wore the head sock better: Gambit or Havok? Asmus responded, "Havok because Gambit wore it in New Orleans because I don't know if you've ever been there, but it's not the place you'd want to wear something that keep the sweat in your head!"

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