CCI: Marvel's Fear Itself Panel

Comic-Con International 2011 is almost one for the books, but before the sun sets on San Diego, there are a few more panels full of comic news and opinions. Sunday, Marvel wrapped their weekend of programming with a "Fear Itself" presentation anchored by Senior Editor Steve Wacker along with writers Chris Yost and Nick Spencer as well as SVP of Talent Management C.B. Cebulski to look inside the best-selling event and its many tie-ins.

Marvel Communications director Arune Singh took some time at the start to congratulate Marvel's Eisner winners including Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's "Oz" comics and Jim McCann for Archaia's "Return of the Dapper Men" before launching into some "Fear Itself" teasers including the final issue's cover featuring Captain America fighting the new Red Skull and "Somebody is fighting a giant serpent...I wonder what that could mean?"

When looking over upcoming covers for Spencer's tie-in issues of "Iron Man 2.0," Cebulski asked "Is that Niko's staff?" hinting a return of the Runaways magician character. Spencer then spoke to the story's broader impact. "We just wrapped our Fear Itself story which was a fun Iron Man vs. Iron Fist story." he said. "We found out some things abotu where Danny is and why his costume has changed...the Immortal Weapons are some of my favorite characters at Marvel, so this was a blast to work on."

The panel then announced "Battle Scars" - the new post-event branding for the Marvel U much like Dark Reign and The Heroic Age brought books together thematically. Wacker spoke to what the branding mean, saying it would focus in on the after-effects of the momentous battle that is "Fear Itself." "To use a historical example from World War II, qfter VE Day, after VJ Day...what was the world like for those soldiers?" the editor noted. "After putting our heroes through that gauntlet in 'Fear Itself'...we didn't want to just go 'And now it's superhero time again!'"

The branding will have a number of one-shots called "Shattered Heroes" which will focus on where Captain America, Iron Man and Thor go next.

The panel moved to the core Marvel U to talk up the new "Incredible Hulk" series on its way from Jason Aaron and Marc Silverstri which starts in October. After showing a trailer, a special video message from Aaron was shown where the writer explained his first arc would be called "Hulk Assunder" where the personalities of Bruce Banner and the Hulk will be at war in a very external way and "explode out into the Marvel Universe." Singh described the book as "very visceral and in your face."

The official announcement of "The Fearless" - a bi-weekly series by Matt Fraction, Chris Yost, Cullen Bunn, Mark Bagley and Paul Pelletier. The book will focus on the fate of the powerful hammers introduced in "Fear Itself." Yost said "This is Matt Fraction, Cullen Bunn and myself sitting in a room and saying, 'What happens next?'" before adding. "Bunn is really doing the heavy lifting on this series...it's like a world tour of the Marvel Universe post-Fear Itself."

Singh then teased a new character coming in the wake of "Fear Itself" who will first appear in the series "Fear Itself Aftermath: Battle Scars" which will be written by Fraction, Yost and Bunn and be drawn by Scott Eaton. "There's a good reason everybody's after this guy, but I can't talk about it yet," Yost said. "It kicks off with a giant fight...it's one of those series where there's a big secret at the core of it, so it's always tricky to talk about, but it's big." Wacker added, "If you guys knew the secret at the heart of this series right now, you'd be lining up to the mic to talk about it." Singh said that every fan will instantly recognize the character's significance when he or she is revealed.

Matt Fraction's new "Defenders" series which has been teased in typographically ambitious images all week found its official announcement as Terry Dodson joins his former "Uncanny X-Men" partner on the book. Singh declared that the characters seen in the teasers - Red She-Hulk, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer and Iron Fist - were not the only team members coming to the title. "What Matt has built here is a book about the nature of heroism," Wacker said, saying the Defenders are tasked at taking on all the big threats from mystical threats to medical ones. "There's something about these characters, whether they're confronted by fury or evil, continue to put one foot in front of the other...and if you can put one foot in front of the other, you can live forever." The panel promised that the cast would show why Defenders is a unique and special team in the Marvel U with their own reason for taking on a mission.

Read CBR's EXCLUSIVE first interview with Fraction on the book here.

Fan questions soon opened up, and one reader asked after the future of Bucky Barnes. The fallout from the characters death will be seen across the Battle Scars books and specifically in the "Shattered Heroes" issue focusing on Captain America. Iron Man's personal story will also work its way into "Shattered Heroes" as Tony Stark's alcoholism will rear its head in new ways.

Thor also came up with a particular focus on how much the hero has lost and been beaten down by of late. The road will get no better for the hero moving forward, Singh said, "If you know your mythology, [the cover of 'Shattered Heroes'] will show you where he's going next...Matt Fraction is not going to go easy on him." Yost added that more is on the way for the citizens of Brockton, OK and how they as a part of the Asgard community and humanity respond to everything that's happened.

Wacker took up the cause of "Avengers Academy" saying that it was a favorite of people across the Marvel staff. "Just pick up one issue of that book," he said. "That's all you need [to get hooked.]"

"Defenders" member Doctor Strange sparked some chat from a fan who wondered whether Marvel really meant to run with Doctor Voodoo as the Sorcerer Supreme. Singh said that Brian Michael Bendis has plans to continue that plot thread in terms of his brother Daniel coming back to haunt the Avengers. As to whether Marvel really meant to leave Voodoo with the powers of Doctor Strange, Wacker said that he wasn't directly involved with that book, but that he felt if nothing else, it helped shine the biggest spotlight on that character in years, which was a welcome turn of events regardless of the full scope of the plans.

Spencer spoke to the mythology that played in with the character of The Monkey King appearing in "Iron Man 2.0" saying that all his inspiration came from "Journey To The West." The writer then reminded that Joshua Hale Fialkov will be continuing the character's story in a one-shot coming out soon from Marvel.

The disparity between the teasers for "Fear Itself" and the book itself came up as Wacker joked, "Whatever happened to Spider-Man standing in front of a bunch of TVs?" Singh explained that the marketing department put the ideas for many of those teasers together and that some of them were literal while others were figurative. All of them, he said, would make more sense once the entire core series has wrapped.

Wacker confirmed that Doc Ock and the Sinister Six will appear in "Amazing Spider-Man" after "Spider-Island." "Dan's doing some kick-butt work building the Sinister Six up...we want to take the Sinister Six someplace huge. They're headed up by Doctor Octopus now since issue #600...issue #700 comes out next year, and we're building a bridge to something huge."

A fan appreciative of Matt Fraction's "Fear Itself" work as a good change up from events by Brian Bendis and Mark Millar wondered how Marvel picked their event writers each year and hoping Ed Brubaker would be up next. "The core of 'Fear Itself' started with Matt and Ed talking some stuff out," Wacker said. "Ed wrote the 'Book of the Skull' lead-in, and it sort of just happens organically. About two or three times a year, the Marvel writers and editors meet together to discuss stories, and you can see in those meetings who's going to be taking lead on the event."

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