C2E2: Marvel's Next Big Thing Panel

Marvel Comics capped off a weekend of news at the Chicago Comics And Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2) with the Next Big Thing panel as talent coordination C.B. Cebulski led writers Brian Michael Bendis, Fred Van Lente and David Liss and editors Tom Brennan to cover news and events, and CBR News is on hand LIVE! with all the action, so continue to update your browswers as we go!

The panel started by discussing the current "Death of Spider-Man" story in the Ultimate world. "If you're half as invested in this book as a reader as I am as a writer, you'll be a basketcase by the end," said Bendis, noting that Mark Bagley makes his return to the Ultimate world on the book along with "Probably the best selection of variant covers I've ever seen...it's a heart-wrenching story, and it'll change the book forever if not kill it."

Van Lente described the new "Herc" book as "urban Conan" and reminded fans that a preview was available for free on the show floor.

In other news, a new Black Panther arc was explained. "We wanted to do something a little different for the second [arc] and a lot of Black Panther fans have asked 'Where is Storm?'" Liss explained of the incoming "Storm Hunter" arc of "Black Panther: Man Without Fear." He promised an appearance by Kraven and action where Storm would "kick ass and get her ass kicked."

Cebulski then revealed that David Liss and Patrick Zircher would launch "Mystery Men" which had been fortold by Marvel teasers. "We're pushing back the origins of superheroes in the Marvel Universe about seven years to 1935." The book features the first ever costume heroes in the Marvel U who decide to take to the streets. "Our editor Bill Rosemann wants me to emphasize that it is done, so it will ship on time...this book is a 'pulp-a-thon' so if you like pulp in your superheroes, this is your book." The book begins in June and will double-ship that month.

Cebulski said that with the upcoming "Heart of the Monster" arc in "Incredible Hulks" writer Greg Pak would wrap his many years run with the character. All threads and emotional themes from Paks run would be wrapped up there.

Brennan spoke on the just announced "Iron Age" mini series by Rob Williams which sees an old Iron Man foe take the power of the Dark Phoenix and destroy the earth. The even sends Iron Man into the past where he needs to fight his way back to the future in order to save the Marvel U from its cataclysmic fate.

Up and coming writer Kyle Higgins stepped up to announce an incoming four-issue "Supreme Power" series. "I know like a lot of you, I'm a big fan of the book from the Grunewald 'Squadron Supreme' through JMS's run," he said saying that "Supreme Power" works because it's "real people in the real world with the power of gods" and that he wants to bring a tone of accessibility back to the book. Check to CBR tomorrow for an interview on the comic.

Liss explained that "Mystery Men" will contain "references to names and concepts you're familiar with, but nobody you know already will just walk into the book" from the Marvel U. Asked about any similarities to the movie and the Bob Burden comic of the same name, Liss said this was much different in tone and execution and that they were keeping the name as titles aren't copywrite-able. Bendis joked that his next book would be called "Star Wars."

Bendis then spoke to the future of new characters since the launch of his OGN "Takio." "The people at Marvel are paying attention to the response," he said. "All you can do is support what you like...it might embolden the publishers to try new stuff. As far as original graphic novels at Marvel, it's really about getting the creators everything they deserve for their hard work." Cebulski added that in their main line, the OGN was not "a financially viable publishing format."

With the change in jobs at Marvel that saw with Axel Alonso as the new Editor-in-Chief, Bendis explained that not much has changed in how they create the books thanks to a shared vision for the line by the senior staff at Marvel. "Of course, we have to hear about how great 'Messiah CompleX' was every ten minutes," he joked.

A fan asked when news on the launch of new "Marvelman" material would happen with the answer from Cebulski being "We can't say anything yet, but we're working on it. Thanks for your patience" with Bendis adding "But he does kill Spider-Man in 'Death of Spider-Man.'" Bendis then had to split from the panel to catch a flight home.

Phil Hester will draw an issue of "Black Panther" for Liss featuring Spider-Man as lead artist Francesco Francavilla works on the future of the series.

"Herc" is a solo book focusing on Hercules without Amadeus Cho, but the boy genius will continue in the Marvel Universe in a "Fear Itself" tie-in that Van Lente will write which will be announced soon.

The controversial question of comic pricing came up, with Cebulski saying that moving forward all Marvel books currently at $3.99 will continue that way but that the publisher is working hard to introduce as many new projects as possible at a lower price point.

Cebulski spoke on perpetually asked after book "Runaways" by saying that Marvel loves the book and even though no new book is on the late at this moments, some of the characters would be showing up on their own in various places in the Marvel U, and when the team does finally return, the big questions about Gert and other dangling plot threads will be explained.

Iron Fist will be playing a big role in the upcoming "Fear Itself" event including the main book and Nick Spencer's "Iron Man 2.0" title, and the new Power Man will take a part in Van Lente's tie-in book that features Amadeus Cho.

Liss ensured fans that "Black Panther: Man Without Fear" would not be going away with the return of "Dardevil" by Mark Waid. The creative team has plans for T'Challa in Hells Kitchen to go through the end of 2011 and beyond if fans continue to support the book. Cebulski commented on the strategy of giving a new book the number of an established series. He said it seemed to work well, but Marvel didn't want to do it for no reason. They take many factors into consideration when deciding how to launch a series, including any anniversary issues a long-running book may potentially have on the horizon.

Higgins returned to the panel to speak on "Supreme Power" saying that while he is a major fan of Mark Gruenwald's work on the character, this continues in the world of JMS' relaunch of the comics and will be a MAX book complete with the requisite adult language.

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