It's a big year for Spider-Man as he turns 50. The Marvel Spider-Man panel at Fan Expo Canada gave fans a glimpse into where the character is going next.
Axel Alonso, Marvel editor in chief; Steve Wacker, senior editor; Dan Slott, "Amazing Spider-Man" writer; Ryan Stegman, "Scarlet Spider" artist; and Arune Singh, director of communications shared the latest Spider-Man news and answered burning Spidey questions from fans. The panel covered everything Spider-Man, including his new sidekick, issue #700, the Minimum Carnage event and a new "Morbius: The Living Vampire" title.
Almost immediately Slott jumped into details about a new character who debuted in "Amazing Spider-Man" #692, Alpha.
"Do you guys hate him yet? Isn't he annoying? Don't you just wish he were dead?" Slott said, laughing. "Then we've done our job right."
"He has gotten his powers the same way Peter did, where there was a science experiment, but this time Peter is the scientist leading it for Horizon Labs for his old school, Midtown High, and the most obnoxious kind in the school get's zapped," Slott said. "So, this kid Andy has all this incredible power, but still on some level he's Peter Parker's responsibility."
In some ways, Slott said, fans feel the same way about Alpha as the other villains and superheroes in the Marvel universe feel about Spider-Man. All of this, of course ,is leading up to issue #700, and into 2013, which is going to see a major turning point for the Spider-Man title.
"There are all kinds of things that will be building up to #700," Slott said. "Did you guys read the Lizard arc? Do you remember who showed up at the end of the Lizard arc? How many of you thought, when they were reading the opening of 'Big Time,' we killed Roderick Kingsley?" Slott said jovially, trying to get a show of hands. "What we did was we cut off the head of someone wearing a mask."
Now the real Roderick Kingsley is back, the original Hobgoblin. Kingsley's not happy he's not the only Hobgoblin anymore. "There's going to be a goblin war," said Slott.
By this time next month, Slott said Wacker will have edited 150 issues of "Amazing Spider-Man," which is more than any other editor in the history of the character.
"Suck it, Alonso!" Wacker said jokingly, causing the room to burst out in laughter.
"I edit maybe nine a year," replied Alonso.
"You guys know in issue #600, Doc Ock had months left to live," Slott said, explaining the issue #698 cover. "By 'Ends of the Earth,' he had only months to live. And by 698 he has hours left to live. He has no master plan. All he has is vengeance in his heart, and he now knows Peter Parker's secret."
"When Amazing Spider-Man #700 comes out, well, you guys may love Dan Slott now, but he's going to have to go into hiding," Singh said. "Right Steve?"
"Yes, we have a safe room set up for him filled with 'Doctor Who' and jelly beans," Wacker said.
"Spider-hole," Slott chimes in, the audience laughing.
Singh moves the panel on toward a selection of variant covers celebrating issue #700. One will be a wrap-around cover done by Humberto Ramos and the other lists the names of creators who worked on the Spider-Man title, designed by Marcos Martin.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #700 will also feature a collage art cover by a French artist named Mr Garcin, Wacker said.
"What happened was sort of a weird thing," said Wacker. "I was on the train in the morning checking out other comic sites and someone had posted this collage of cool Spidey art. I saw it, and I loved it, finally got to my office and like 75 people had emailed me asking if I'd seen this."
Wacker said Mr Garcin has a whole bunch of comic book-inspired collages for Marvel, including a Daredevil one, coming up.
The panel also let fans know that December is a quiet time in the comic book industry with a limited number of books released the week after Christmas. They confirmed the only two comics to be released by Marvel that week will be "Amazing Spider-Man" #700 and "Avenging Spider-Man" #15.1
"I would say one more thing about issue #700," Wacker said. "I worked with Stan Lee on a few stories for a few years. ... when we talked about #700, he had this great idea, but there wasn't enough time to execute, so we came up with something else. There's going to be an official announcement next week about how we are going to do it. But we're going to take 10 letters from Spidey fans, and he's going to do the letter column that issue."
"Am I ineligible?" asks Slott.
"You're ineligible," Wacker response laughing. "Anybody but Dan Slott!"
The creators also discussed the Venom and Scarlet Spider team-up, "Minimum Carnage," in which Venom and Scarlet Spider are tasked with battling Carnage.
"The best part about this job is you can make a joke, and then six months later you give it to some writers and you've got a story," Wacker said, playing on the wordplay between "Maximum Carnage" and "Minimum Carnage."
Panelist Ryan Stegman was tasked with re-inventing Scarlet Spider, not unlike Jonathan Hickman was tasked with reinventing the Fantastic Four. Stegman said work on the title is gratifying. He said he didn't think the book would be so successful, as it continues to carry on with Christopher Yost.
Another title launching in October 2012 is "Punisher War Zone."
"Frank Castle does something that kind of puts him at odds with the Avengers," Wacker said of the storyline. "They have to take him down, and Frank knows it. I don't even know that Frank disagrees, but he's not going to give up, and it's going to be a pretty brutal fight."
Alonso said story arcs like "Punisher War Zone" will become more popular as Marvel NOW changes the face of the Avengers as well as the X-Men. Characters will be facing challenges, both ideologically and physically.
"Daredevil: End of Days" is another book coming this year and is written by fan-favorite Brian Michael Bendis. When asked if they could tease the storyline, Wacker responded, "No, absolutely not. He's blind, and that's going to continue." At this time Wacker presented a fan in the audience with an un-corrected copy of the first issue.
"Brian and David have been working on this project for years," Wacker said. "It's gone through two different editors, and it's really some stunning work." After reading the chosen fan agreed that the developments are epic.
Another hot topic on panel was the "Hawkeye" series by Matt Fraction and David Aja. "This first issue was one of the best first issues in comics in years," Singh said.
"How Matt and David approached this book was to keep it simple, keep it straight forward, and to give Barton some swagger, to steal Axel's term," Wacker added. "And that's what they've done. We've got stories that are complete in the issue but help build Hawkeye's world. We have some great artists coming in and some room for other artists to do some really cool Hawkeye stuff too."
"Right down to the cover this is one of my favorite books," Alonso said. "I think these two have incredible chemistry. We've had arguments up and down the hall that you can't sell a Hawkeye book, and this is proof that you can if you have the right people on it." Alonso admits, he loves the covers so much he's put them on his wall.
With that, Singh opened the panel up to questions. A young boy asked the panel if there were any plans to put the symbiote on Scarlet Spider.
"Wow," responded Wacker. "Do you want a job? I will make sure that happens for you. That's brilliant. You're smart."
Singh admits there's not much they can say before "Amazing Spider-Man" #700 comes out. "But we should actually tell them something about what's happening in January." They showed a slide featuring the cover to "Amazing Spider-Man" #699.1. The cover features Morbius throwing Spider-Man to the ground.
"Morbius was recently seen in the 'No Turning Back' arc, and his story is not done," Wacker said. "'Morbius: The Living Vampire' #1 will be out in January as an ongoing series." The book will be written by Joe Keatinge ("Hell Yeah, "Glory") and drawn by Richard Elson ("Journey Into Mystery").
"It's a story of redemption, it's a story of power," said Wacker. "It's good stuff, and we've had fans clamoring for a Morbius book for a long time here, but I think Rick and Joe have found the secret recipe."
As the question-and-answer session wrapped up, it was meekly asked if it's possible for Todd McFarlane to come back for a cover, Wacker responded, coyly, "Crystal ball is unclear, crystal ball is unclear."