CCI: Marvel's Next Big Thing

The House of Ideas took to the stage at Comic-Con International 2011 in San Diego Thursday afternoon as Marvel Comics presented its "Next Big Thing" panel. Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso was joined on stage by talent scout C.B. Cebulski, writers Greg Pak, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer and more faces from Marvel's New York offices.

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Director of Communications Arune Singh introduced panelists which also included Senior Editor Steve Wacker and Sales VP David Gabriel.

Alonso started by hyping "Ultimate Comics Fallout" which he said would be a significant moment in Marvel history that would likely lead to sell outs. The Ultimate U continued as a topic of conversation as Hickman said, "We really want to stress that these are going to be monthly shipping books. You guys deserve and 'Ultimates' book that ships every month, and I want to give you that." Hickman and Esad Ribic's "Ultimates" will form the spine of the new Ultimate line, and the incoming mini "Ultimate Hawkeye," which Hickman described as "probably one of the stronger things I've done at Marvel," will spin out of the main book.

Nick Spencer spoke to his new "Ultimate X-Men" saying that forever the X-Men franchise has been about the argument of whether mutants will work with humanity or enslave it, but this book will take place in a world where both sides of that coin have died. Instead, it will focus on teens fighting for their survival while still exploring the themes of what it takes to grow up as an outsider. Paco Medina will draw the series.

"One of my priorities when I came in as Editor-in-Chief was taking a good, hard look at the Ultimate line," Alonso said, saying this will be a very cohesive universe created by three writers working strongly in concert (the third being Brian Michael Bendis). "You'll have to just buy three books to get one universe and not 52," he added.

Conversation moved to "FF" by Hickman as the writer said the next two arcs will explore a war that's been teased for a long while, yet nothing will be presented in straight linear fashion while the arc after that will help draw his whole run to a close. "If you've been with us since the beginning, I think you'll be pleased as punch," he said.

"The Twelve" came up with Singh promising all scripts from J. Michael Straczynski are in, and Chris Weston is hard at work finishing the series. Issue #9 will ship in February.

Pak spoke to the end of his nearly six-year "Incredible Hulks" run with the current "Heart of the Monster" arc. "It's been about a guy who's insanely angry and says he just wants to be left alone, but in each story he ends up building family," Pak said of his run. "For quite a while, Hulk has been trying to protect the people close to him in his own way. The final story is a wishing well story...everyone gets what they want, but it may not turn out to be what you expect...I kind of fulfilled some of my own wishes here by bringing in classic Hulk villains like the Bi-Beast and Fing Fang Foom. It's a big, crazy story." Artist Paul Pelletier is on his last four pages of the entire series right now, the writer said.

Singh announced "Hulk of Arabia" - a new arc in "Hulk" where Jeff Parker and Patrick Zircher will introduce a new, "Doctor Doom level" villain into the Red Hulk's mythos.

Writer Daniel Way appeared to talk up "Evil Deadpool" - a new story arc where Deadpool is given one last chance to straighten up his act as he takes on Marvel's The Foolkiller. The story will birth "Evil Deadpool" who is a new character made of Deadpool's discarded body parts brought together to be a killer with no consciousness, and the two versions of the anti-hero will fight it out in New York City.

Next up, Singh announced "Villains For Hire" - a new take on the current concept of "Heroes For Hire" by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. The monthly ongoing, which ships in November 2011, will feature Misty Knight gathering a team of villains for a secret project. Look for more on the book this weekend on CBR.

Another announcement was "Avengers Origins" - a series of one-shots focusing on heroes tied to the Mighty Marvel team by various creators. There will be "Ant-Man and Wasp" by Roberto Aguire Sacasa and Stephanie Hans, "Luke Cage" from writers Mike Benson and Adam Glass with artist Dalibor Talajic, "The Vision" by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel with art from Stephane Perger, "Quicksilver & The Scarlet Witch" by Sean McKeever and "Thor" by Katherine Immonen.

Avengers Academy will pull a recruitment drive in the coming months from Chris Gage and Sean Chen which will feature a wide range of teen heroes including Julie Powers and other cast members from books like "Runaways."

November's new arc for "Black Panther" will see the titular hero take on the Kingpin and Lady Bullseye with artist Shawn Martinborough joining writer David Liss.

Fan questions started with Hickman talking to which characters would appear in the new Ultimate U. For now, the core casts of the books will be in the spotlight, but more heroes will show back up as the universe develops. "I want to do the Falcon since we haven't seen him since the 'Nightmare' trilogy Warren Ellis did," Hickman said, noting that there are no plans, for now, for Ultimate Punisher.

Gabriel said that the reason big name Avengers like Captain America aren't part of the "Origins" line was because they felt the focus should be on characters whose origin stories hadn't been retold too many times.

Spencer promised a big cast for "Ultimate X-Men" including Storm, Colossus, Quicksilver and Jimmy Howlett, but at the core the book will remain Kitty and Rogue's story. "They're two characters that I've really fallen in love with writing, but Johnny and Bobby have a big role to play...if you've been following the 'Amazing Friends' you'll dig this." Overall, he promised "If you're a mutant, you'll be in it."

Cebulski took the very frequent question about the status of a "Runaways" series, saying that for now all the plans for the team are individual character plans rather than a new team book. "It's a matter of the right writer coming up with the right pitch with the right artist...'Runaways' is one of those cases where they were running away from something, and that story ran its course." When a creator can find a new direction for the team, a new series will likely emerge.

Jeph Loeb's "Ultimate X" was brought up as that series established that there would be no more X-Men in the Ultimate U. Spencer said that idea would for sure be addressed in the story of "Ultimate X-Men," and fans should bear in mind that not all mutants feel the same way about a lack of a team. Hickman said the writers were working on a completely new argument for who's a mutant and who's not, and all three ongoing Ultimate titles will play with that concept as they build towards more interconnectivity.

The panel announced that the proceedings would wrap with a giveaway of the full first installment of "Hulk of Arabia" in ash-can form, one of a few new ideas Alonso has worked up as E-i-C to thank fans.

"Avengers: The Children's Crusade" came up with Singh noting that the finale of the series will impact the Avengers line in a major way. Alonso said that there's also a very specific reason that "Fear Itself" and "Schism" wrap at the same time. The stories needed to be lined up for the next phase of the Marvel U.

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