FAN EXPO: Marvel Looks to the X-Men's Future

As 2012's Fan Expo Canada came to a wrap Sunday afternoon, Marvel Comics held its final panel as Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and SVP of Creative and Creative Development C.B Cebulski joined X-Men Senior Editor Nick Lowe, artist Leonard Kirk and Director of Communications Arune Singh to discuss the fate of the X-Men teams in the wake of the coming "Avengers vs. X-Men" finale. To the panel's delight, the entire first and second row of seats were filled with audience members cosplaying various X-Men.

The first announcement set the tone for the cheerful mood of the panel -- "A-Babies vs. X-Babies," which will be released in October. The cover, by the book's writer, Eisner Award winning artist Skottie Young, features the superheroes on both teams pantsing each other. "Skottie unfortunately couldn't draw it because he was still drawing 'Wizard of Oz,' so we got Guruhiru," Cebulski said. "They were kind enough to come over, and things are so incredibly cute inside."

"You will cry rainbows in this story," Lowe added.

On a more serious note, "AvX: Consequences" also debuts in October, written by Kieron Gillen with a roster of artists on board throughout. The title is designed to explore the major shake-ups brought on by "AvX" events. "The final issue [of 'AvX] is so huge, both in its importance and in its girth," Lowe said "There is a ton of fallout, and we wanted a place to encapsulate that fallout."

"AvX: Consequences" is the bridge between "AvX" and a lot of the Marvel NOW! books, Lowe explained. "You're going to see a lot of the thought processes on both the sides of the Avengers and the X-Men."

Marvel NOW! is being promoted as the re-evolution of a number of major Marvel titles, all relaunching with new number ones. The first is "Uncanny Avengers" by Rick Remender and John Cassaday, featuring Captain America and Wolverine both in the midst of putting together new teams to fight the Red Skull.

"This is a book that couldn't have happened without 'Avengers vs. X-Men,'" Alsonso said. "It offers a snapshot of the Marvel Universe after the conclusion of 'Avengers vs. X-Men.' It's a huge book. I'm really happy we've lured John Cassaday out of semi-retirement."

Alonso said the book is not only going to be a staple in the Marvel Universe but is also great eye candy.

"This book really embodies Marvel NOW!. It is great creators, with a great story, launching a new book," Lowe said.

"One thing this book makes certainly clear is [Marvel NOW!] is not a re-boot. Our universe is not broke, we don't need to fix it." Lowe assured fans that all Marvl NOW! storylines are firmly entrenched within the continuity of the last 50 years.

"You were quick to say that 'AvX: Consequences' had girth. Would you say that 'Uncanny X-Men' has both length and girth?" Alonso said, teasing Lowe.

"It has more girth, metaphorically," Lowe said, stumbling a little bit. "How dare you, Axel Alonso, attack my vocabulary!"

In addition to the new Marvel NOW! launches, October also marks the end of some titles, namely "Uncanny X-Men," the current iteration of which started with the extinction team, which followed Cyclops' most powerful team. Now, thanks to the events of "AvX," that team can no longer exist. "I can't say much more about that because it has to do with the end of 'AvX,'" Lowe said. "But that era is coming to an end."

With an ending comes a new beginning in "All-New X-Men" #1 which will feature work by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen. "'All-New X-Men' is going to be the new flagship X-Men book," Lowe declared, adding that the Bendis and Immonen partnership has produced a crazy story. "Charles Xavier's original five X-Men get plucked out from the past and put smack dab right in the present day Marvel Universe."

Professor X and his school had a very defined ideology in the past, so to the original five, this present is startlingly different. "To them, this is like their 'Days of Future Past,'" Lowe explained. "What they thought the future would be has not happened. It's kind of ceased to be, and it's going to cause them to do some soul searching."

During the question and answer portion of the panel, Lowe admitted the events of the "AvX" conclusion are directly responsible for the original X-Men's return. In fact, it's Beast who pulls the team to the present.

Lowe also takes time to differentiate between the original Jean Grey and the Jean Grey currently residing in the White Hot Room. "We're not really going to see her. But the original Jean Grey who is coming back, is going to be very central to the All-New X-Men," he said.

The big news to come out of the panel was the announcement of Eisner Award-winning artist Ramón Perez joining the "Wolverine & the X-Men" creative team.

"Wolverine is Canadian, right?" Singh asked, teasingly. "I wonder, if there was a Canadian who just won an Eisner Award, would he be perfect for the series? Maybe it's Ramón Perez," Singh said, bringing the artist out of the audience and up to the panel.

"When we were planning the next year of 'Wolverine & the X-Men,' I was talking to [writer] Jason Aaron about it, and he said, 'Can we talk artists for a second? I would really like to work with Ramón Perez,'" Lowe said. Aaron was really impressed with Perez's work on "Tales of Sand" and really wanted to work with him.

"I jumped on the private jet that I own, flew up to Canada, came to Ramón's apartment and hung him up from his ankles, threatening him that if he didn't jump on this book, terrible things would happen," Lowe said, a wide grin spread across his face.

"Yes, it was really creepy," Perez confirmed. "I was in my boxer shorts and it was 2 AM when it happened."

Perez said he has joined the title for a five-issue arc which takes place in the Savage Land. "I grew up on the X-Men and all my favorite adventures were like the Annual where they go to the Savage Land and bizarre shit would happen."

Perez followed Aaron's work on "Wolverine and the X-Men" and was honored to sign onto this book with him. "To me, the book encapsulates a lot of the 'Uncanny X-Men' that I grew up on with Chris Claremont, so it will be fun," Perez said.

"X-Men Legacy" is another book taking a different direction come October when the relaunched series' focus shifts from Rogue's character to Legion, the son of Professor X. Writer Simon Spurrier and artist Tan Eng Huat are attached to the project. Lowe said Marvel NOW! presented a unique opportunity to shake things up, and one of the books in particular they wanted to do it with was "X-Men Legacy." The creators felt it was time to put the spotlight of 'X-Men Legacy' on another character. We chose Legion, who is the son of Professor X and Gabrielle Haller," Lowe said. "He is a lunatic. He is crazy, he has multiple personalities in his head and every single one of those personalities has superpowers of it's own." Ultimately, Lowe said, in this book you get to get into the shoes of one of the most powerful characters, as well as one of the most psychotic.

In November, "Deadpool" #63 will close the popular mercenary's current series and the "Dead Presidents" story arc written by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan and featuring art by Tony Moore launches the new series in November.

"Brian Posehn is one of the most respected stand-up comics out there," Alonso said. "You're going to have the best comedy balanced by drama in a comic book. Deadpool is tasked by S.H.I.E.L.D. to take on a huge problem -- someone has resurrected all of the dead presidents and brought them back as evil [zombies]. It's Deadpool's job to kill them all. Again."

Currently being published is "The First X-Men" by Christos Cage and Neal Adams. The miniseries focuses on the first mutant team gathered by Wolverine, filling in some of the holes in the Marvel Universe.

"When 'X-Men' first started, mutants were already hated and feared for the most part. But how did they get that way, where did that come from?" Lowe asked. "There are all kinds of mysteries we're going to answer in this book, like the mystery of the genesis of the Sentinel program."

"Nick, correct me if I'm wrong, I think one important thing is that it really clarifies is the relationship between Logan and Sabertooth," Alonso interjected.

"Absolutely," Lowe replied. "Right at the start, you get to see them working together. They are friends and you get to see, really for the first time, why they hate each other so much."

"New Mutants" also ends in October, but Lowe promises it isn't the end for these particular characters."I'll just go ahead and spoil it since we're in an X-Men panel -- a couple of characters are going to be in Jonathan Hickman's 'Avengers.'"

Fans were please to hear "X-Factor" will continue to have a lot of interesting developments in its future. Singh attributes the title's longevity to the unwavering devotion of the team's fan base. Artist Leonard Kirk said working on the series has been a blast. "Those five issues coming up, they do get a little creepy. It is intense."

"They are pretty much the most important issues since Peter (David) re-launched X-Factor," Lowe stated.

"I'm in the middle of actually drawing issue #245 right now. I am really looking forward to getting through the rest of that one because it does get quite wacky," Kirk said, admitting that the most difficult character to draw is Guido because of his bulk.

Ending the panel, Alsono reiterated once again "AvX's" importance as the endcap to the stories that started in "House of M" and moved forward in "Messiah Complex" and "Second Coming." "You will have some sense of closure for that story, but what that closure is, I'm not going to tell you."

The Worst Guardian of the Galaxy Killed Marvel's Biggest Bad With [SPOILER]

More in Comics