"It's a full house in here! Fan Expo, bigger and better than ever, huh?" Marvel Comics Vice President of International Business Development & Brand Management C.B. Cebulski exclaimed at the start of the publisher's post-"Secret Wars" themed panel. "If anyone needs a place to sit, we can ask the Batman and Harley Quinn up here to leave," Cebulski added with a chuckle.
Fans lined up for hours and packed the room to capacity for the Marvel event, and before he and writer Charles Soule really dived into things, Cebulski laid out a few ground rules about questions he couldn't answer over the next hour.
"Wolverine is still dead. Who knows when or if he is coming back? We can't tell you the end of 'Secret Wars,' and unfortunately, I have nothing to announce about 'Alpha Flight.'" As you might expect, the final bit disappointed quite a few members of the heavily Canadian crowd.
The first order of business was discussing Charles Soule's much anticipated run on "Daredevil," which finds him and artist Ron Garney taking the costumed hero in a rather different direction than the previous creative team of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee.
"I'm sure you've all read Mark Waid's fantastic run on the book, so there's no pressure for me at all right?" Soule joked. "This is my version of Daredevil. I made sure to stay respectful to the character, but I also made some things my own. Daredevil is back in New York City, working as a prosecutor as opposed to a defense attorney. Instead of defending people, he's trying to put them away. For once, his day job aligns with his night job. His secret identity is also back, so no one knows that Daredevil and Murdock are the same person. He has an apprentice -- I don't want to say a sidekick, but someone he's taken under his wing. He is based in Chinatown, and is basically an undocumented immigrant. He's super-cool, and we're all really excited about him."
Asked about the future of X-Men in the Marvel Universe, Cebulski briefly touched on what we can expect in the months ahead.
"X-Men will be relaunching after 'Secret Wars,' with Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos... A couple surprise characters are coming in the first couple of issues that will make old school X-Men fans very happy," Cebulski teased. "The scripts I've read so far really have that classic X-Men feel. It's the team of heroes that are just as much a family as they are banding together to fight towards a common goal. Great characters, great relationships -- the romance that X-Men fans love is definitely there in spades through the first arc. Humberto is doing an amazing job of knocking this out of the park. He wanted to stay on Spider-Man -- he was born to draw Spider-Man -- but after he read Jeff's script, he just had to do it. He thought it was so cool."
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the panel came when Cebulski was asked about the future of some major Marvel characters.
"Loki will play a huge role in the Marvel Universe after 'Secret Wars,' but we can't say if it's a He-Loki... or a She-Loki," Cebulski said, a tease that resulted in massive buzz amongst those in attendance.
Asked about the future of Peter Parker and Mary Jane's relationship, Cebulski responded with caution, "I guess the last issue [of 'Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows'] hasn't come out yet, so you'll have to wait and see."
One fan had a question stemming back to the end of "Original Sin," and what could have been whispered in Thor's ear to make him unworthy.
"That is the best kept secret in the Marvel Universe," Cebulski admitted. "Only Jason Aaron and his editor know, and he won't tell any of us. You know, we've taken a lot of heat about Thor being a woman, and people keep asking if we're going to change things with the ['Captain America:] Civil War' movie coming out. But we are sticking to our guns, and Thor will remain woman through 'Civil War.'" Cebulski's statement was met with thunderous applause.
Another fan asked about the upcoming "Spider-Man/Deadpool" team-up book written by Joe Kelly and drawn by Ed McGuiness.
"Ed loves to talk about Deadpool. This is an idea that came from Ed, and he's the one that got Joe on board to tell this story. It is fantastic. It is what you know and love from their original run, with a lot of breaking the fourth wall, the Merc with the mouth, that kind of humor. Then, you throw Spider-Man into that mix -- it is a very volatile and funny combination."
"There was that period of Marvel that was very dark and gritty, and everyone was angry at each other, and knew each other's secret identities," Cebulski said, diving into some comments and hints as to where the Marvel Universe is currently heading. "A lot of clenched teeth and grim faces. The Marvel Universe post-'Secret Wars' will be a very interesting place. There will still be those dark elements in some books, of course. But there will be so much youth and energy in it. The Avengers will have Nova, Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales on them."
"It will be very interesting for fans to explore."