ECCC: Marvel: Next Big Thing with Soule, Hopeless, Walker and Zub

Marvel joins the fray at this year's Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, with writers Charles Soule ("Daredevil," "Poe Dameron"), David Walker ("Occupy Avengers," "Luke Cage"), Dennis Hopeless ("Doctor Strange," "Jean Grey") and Jim Zub ("Thunderbolts," and freshly announced as the new writer of "Uncanny Avengers"), all talking their latest work at the House of Ideas.

CBR is there live, so keep hitting refresh for the very latest details.

First topic of discussion: Zub taking over "Uncanny Avengers." "It's really unique," Zub said of the "Uncanny Avengers" concept. "It's like the connective tissue of the Marvel Universe."

Walker was next up, discussing "Occupy Avengers." "Occupy Avengers' is rolling along," Walker said. "Issue #5 comes out this month, and the art team switches -- it's Gabriel Walta and Jordie Bellaire."

"It's essentially Hawkeye wandering the United States, having an existential crisis, trying to redeem himself," Walker said of the book's premise. "Right now, it's him and Red World and Tilda Johnson. Issue #5 we bring in the latest member -- I can't tell you, it's a big surprise. And only about three of you will know who it is."

Walker said an upcoming development in "Occupy Avengers" may make readers think that it's a statement about current events -- but it was written before the election.

"'Luke Cage' debuts in May," Walker said of his other current Marvel series. "That is Luke on his own." "It's sort of a mystery," Marvel editor Jake Thomas, serving as moderator of the panel, added. Walker said it's going to be darker and more noir-influenced than the soon-to-wrap "Power Man and Iron Fist." "It's going to be awesome, the art is by Nelson Blake. I'm excited."

Hopeless declined to discuss his upcoming run on "Doctor Strange," not wanting to step on the conclusion to Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo's run, but did talk "Jean Grey." Hopeless said that the time-displaced, teenage Jean Grey at the center of the series knows all the things that happened to her as an adult, and it "keeps her up at night" -- so she's training to prepare herself to confront the Phoenix. Hopeless promised "lots of done-in-one crazy action and lots of guest stars," including Namor.

Soule told the crowd that "Daredevil" will soon tell the story of how his identity once again became secret, which was established at the start of his run. "It's a four-issue arc called 'Purple,' which may be a little clue," Soule said. "The incredible Ron Garney is back drawing it."

Starting in "Daredevil" #21, real-life immigration attorney Soule is "calling on all [his] lawyer powers" for a courtroom drama arc titled "Supreme," which, as he said, "maybe gives you some hints as to where that goes."

Turning to audience Q&A, the first fan at the microphone asked about the status of Blindspot in "Daredevil." "Blindspot is [in] the arc after 'Surpeme' is done," Soule answered. "I am trying to write his next thing in issue #25, somewhere around there."

Next question was for Zub on "Thunderbolts," and whether more prior team members would show up. Zub mentioned the upcoming 20th anniversary, and Baron Zemo forcing the Thunderbolts to choose between himself and Winter Soldier. "You'd think that would be an easy choice, but it is not," Zub said. "I don't want to do that hyperbolic, 'it will never be the same!' but we've got some interesting stuff that's going to dig into 'Secret Empire.'"

A fan asked about if the Netflix show affects comics writers at all, like Walker on "Iron Fist." "They don't give us any marching orders, we do our own thing," Walker said, but said there's a "loose-knit discussion" between himself and Soule, the writer of "Daredevil," and Brian Michael Bendis, writer of "Jessica Jones" and "Defenders."

"I'll watch 'Defenders,' but I don't want the comics to be like the shows," Walker said. Zub made it clear there's no "top-down" orders to make comics resemble live action -- specifically joking they don't get directions via a phone call from Mickey Mouse.

A young fan asked if there would ever be a crossover between Marvel and DC. Soule informed him that there have been multiple ones in the past, and specifically talked about the Amalgam one-shots from the '90s, and "JLA/Avengers." Thomas told the fan not to expect it to happen again any time in the near future (as has been status quo for years). "If it did happen, I know what would happen," Walker said. "Marvel would win."

CBR Contributing Writer Meg Downey asked about the status of Bucky in "Thunderbolts." "Things go horribly wrong in issue #10, and Bucky is almost killed," Zub recapped for the crowd. "Kobik freezes crime for a minute, and then they vanish, and at the end of the issue, Bucky wakes up and he's James Buchanan Barnes, back in World War II, with all his memories as the Winter Soldier, and he's going to get a chance to do it again."

Zub said he was encouraged by Marvel Senior VP of Publishing Tom Brevoort encouraged Zub to pitch big ideas. "I fought for that plotline, because I thought it was pretty cool," Zub said. "Issue #11 is in World War II, but it's not what Bucky remembers. It's Kobik's World War II, it's Steve's World War II, it's dark and twisted. It's gun-wrenching stuff."

A fan -- in a Captain America hoodie -- asked about Captain America, natch, specifically if Kobik actually changed history with Steve Rogers, or changed memories. "That is absolutely at the heart of the 'Steve Rogers' book right now, and it's been purposefully danced around," Zub answered. "It's not been avoided by accident. It's all in the web that Nick [Spencer]'s weaving." "And you probably know more than you think you do," Thomas added.

An audience member asked about conitnuity, and Soule explained his approach, saying he sees the major points of continuity as "the skeleton of the entire building of the Marvel Universe." "But the truth is, that building that is the Marvel Universe are a ton of different rooms," he continued. "The way I approach continuity is, 'Don't bring the building down.' But if there's a door nobody's looked at for a long time, don't worry about it. Continity is a tool, it's not a rule."

Hopeless addressed the end of "Spider-Woman." "Our current run ends with issue #17, which was always the plan," Hopeless said. "It's my favorite thing I've ever done, it was really emotional to end it. But I think we told the story we wanted to tell. In our final issue we give her a little bit of peace and happiness, before we hit her in the face with something else."

"I actually have another thing with Jess in it, so she's not going away," Hopeless added.

Walker differentiated between "Luke Cage" and "Power Man and Iron Fist." "I'm focusing on Luke Cage," Walker told the fan. "I'm not going to be focusing on Luke Cage's relationship with everybody -- that's not going to be first and foremost." Walker said that it was his hope, as it is for many writers taking on long-running characters, to "put some fingerprints on [the character] that might last for a little while."

"This is how moment really to shine in the spotlight," he added. "I'm just having fun with it."

A fan asked how Marvel plans to balance newer versions of characters that represent greater diversity -- like the Jane Foster Thor or Miles Morales Spider-Man -- along with the older, white male versions of the characters. "There are a lot of people out there who will say that we have some kind of an agenda to push," Thomas said. "But as was said earlier, we don't get calls from Mickey Mouse telling us what we must do, nor do we get together in a little cabal deciding we need to push forward X or Y ideology."

"I love that people think that we are smart, and organized, and forward thinking enough that we put together all of these on our own," Thomas said. "No, comics are insane, and they happen so fast -- sometimes this stuff just sort of erupts. But we've always represented the world outside our window."

"We're basically just trying to tell the best stories we can," Thomas continued. "If you have any doubt in your mind that Brian Michael Bendis isn't so devoted and in love with Miles Morales, you're fooling yourselves. Why would we ever want to stop that?"

"That being said, everyone up here is working for this company because they love those original characters," Thomas said. "If anyone ever thinks that any of those characters are going to be eclipsed or disappeared, I think they're also going to be surprised. We love them, and we're going to take care of them the best we can, and sometimes the best way is to push them off the table. We're always exploring every opportunity to tell the wildest, craziest and best stories."

Zub said he likes how Marvel has much more of a sense of legacy now than before, when there always was just, for example, one Spider-Man, which opens up more storytelling possibilities. "That's really what this is all about, telling stories that compel people," he said.

"I love Peter Parker, but I love Miles Morales more, and I'm in my 40s, Walker added. "I read every issue that Brian writes, and I think there's a space for everybody. I don't think there's a problem for there to be more than one Thor, or more than one Captain America.

A fan asked how much characters in the Marvel Universe remember from "Secret Wars." Zub pointed out that it's something being touched on in "Jessica Jones." "I think the eight-month gap was designed to allow writers to tell stories they wanted to without being too beholden," Soule added. Thomas said that Jonathan Hickman had told his fellow writers that they were free to have their characters remember "whatever they want" after "Secret Wars."

Last question: "Will we see the Fantastic Four again?" "I think that's a fight every writer at Marvel is having, we all want to bring back the Fantastic Four," Walker said. "We have some basic ideas of what we would like to happen with the Fantastic Four," Thomas added. "We don't have anything concrete. We know we want it to be, we want it to be meaningful, there is an idea of what Reed, and Sue, and the kids are up to. But we don't want to look at a clock and say, 'Oh, it's Fantastic Four o'clock, time to bring them back.' When they come back, they're going to come back."

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