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FAN EXPO: Marvel – Your Universe

by  in Comic News Comment
FAN EXPO: Marvel – Your Universe
“Chaos War: Alpha Flight” one-shot on sale in November

Apart from the usual questions surrounding “One More Day” and “Clone Wars” (which don’t seem to be losing steam anytime soon), the “Marvel: Your Universe” panel was a chance for fans to grill the Marvel Comics crew on past, present, and future happenings in the venerable superhero universe.

At Marvel’s final panel discussion of this year’s Fan Expo, fans were greeted by Senior Vice President – Brand Planning and Communications, Mike Pascuillo; Manager of Sales/Communications, Arune Singh; Senior Vice President – Creator and Content Development, C.B. Cebulski; Senior Editor Steve Wacker; and Marvel’s Chief Operating Officer, Jim Sokolowski (or “Ski,” as he is known).

Throwing tradition to the wind, the Marvel gang opted to do away with panel formalities and sat on the edge of the stage. The more casual setting allowed for an informal feel to the discussion.

“At heart we’re all just fans. That’s what this panel’s about: sharing our love of fandom and comics,” said Cebulski.

In true Fan Expo fashion, there was a question about the state of bringing Canadian heroes Alpha Flight back into the Marvel Universe. While Singh teased fans with a variant of the upcoming Alpha Flight one-shot earlier this weekend, creatively, Marvel hasn’t figured out a means of bringing back the Canadian heroes in a way that would be fresh and interesting to fans.

“At the retreat just yesterday, we were talking about Alpha Flight. We haven’t forgotten but it’s one of those things… you want to do right,” said Singh.

Wacker explained the issue of jumping the gun on reviving the team by stating that they don’t want to simply rehash the same formulas. A Wolverine-sounding Pasciullo (having lost his voice) then claimed his love of the Canadian favorites’ original run. “If you haven’t read ‘Alpha Fligh’t #1-12, issue 12 is probably one of the greatest comic books ever written,” he said.

The “Alpha Flight” one-shot is set to hit shelves in November.

Continuing with questions from the crowd, a Ben Reilly-era Spider-Man cosplayer caught the attention of the panelists. Fittingly, the clone costumed reader asked if the recent Marvel miniseries revisiting the “Clone Wars” was testing the waters for a possible return of Reilly.

“Break his heart, Steve,” said Singh.

“We’re not bringing Ben Reilly back. His story is told, he turned to dust,” said Wacker to the noticeably hurt fan.

The Clone Saga is done. No more, says Wacker.

Taking the time to divulge further on the controversial Spider-Man era, Wacker explained that, initially, the idea of bringing a clone into the series was an attempt to get rid of the marriage between Mary Jane and Peter. After editorial cold feet — and not to mention bringing in different artists, writers, editors — the story took a turn for the convoluted. “People who worked on the books will tell you, they were grasping for something. It was not a strong story but I felt there were elements of that which were great. I like Peter to have those memories and to be inspired by that stuff,” said Wacker.

Staying with the Spider-theme, Dan Slott’s much anticipated follow-up to the “Brand New Day” era of “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Big Time,” will come with plenty of new technology and toys for the web-slinger. “Ben Reilly is the inspiration for that. He’s not forgotten,” said Singh.

A devoted fan of the “Exiles” series inquired whether there was any future for the team; particularly the status of Blink, who remains lost in the multiverse.

“‘Exiles’ is one of those series we constantly struggle with because it ran its course,” said Cebulski.

Speaking to the short-lived relaunch of the series (lasting only six issues), Cebulski felt fans of the original series weren’t interested in a new incarnation of the team. However, with a big demand for Blink to return from Marvel fans, the panel said it is definitely an issue to figure out in the future.

The next question asked certainly raised some comment: “Is Deadpool Canadian?” Bringing some debate between Wacker and Singh, who referenced the Merc with a Mouth’s recent run in with Ghost Rider, the question remained unanswered.

Good news for fans of the critically acclaimed “Runaways” series, as the beloved title is currently in development for a live-action with director Peter Sollett (“Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist”). Currently holding auditions, casting, and a promise of bigger announcements coming soon, Cebulski is excited for the Marvel Studios project. “We’re heavily involved with the production, we’re doing it ourselves,” said Cebulski.

From the animation side of Marvel, there isn’t a new “X-Men” cartoon currently in the works. However, Pascuillo assured fans that when it comes to anything X-related, the wait isn’t too long before a new project comes along.

The next question was related to the “Dark X-Men” miniseries and where the characters will be seen next. “Dark Beast will be showing up again, I can’t say where but he’ll be showing up,” said Singh.

Blink of the Exiles: lost but not forgotten

Concerning the teasers of Wolverine becoming a vampire in the upcoming issues of “X-Men,” Cebulski and Singh assured the crowd that all questions will be answered in issues four and five.

With the “Heroic Age” in full swing, one fan questioned where former head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury, will fit into the post-“Dark Reign” universe. The panelists recommended fans keep an eye on Ed Brubaker’s “Secret Avengers,” where issue six will focus on Fury’s recent happenings. In related Fury news, Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors” will be coming to a close with issue #27.

Asked about the state of Marvel’s work in digital comics, the panel agreed that the launch of the Marvel iPhone/iPad application, as well as the ever-expanding digital team at the Marvel offices, is an exciting venture for the company.

“It’s really an amazing time to be in comics,” said Wacker.

With regards to the strange miniseries, “Spider-Man: Fever,” and the decision to publish the psychedelic story, Wacker spoke to the work Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada has done with expanding the company’s breadth of writers, artists, and overall style. “‘Fever’ allowed me to use a different part of my editorial brain and stretch what we were doing artistically. It made me feel like I was in college again, if you know what I mean?” said Wacker to a wink-and-nod.

Ending the panel with a question focused on Gwen Stacy’s role in “Brand New Day,” Wacker was always adamant about keeping the character dead. Although the BND era brought back the likes of Harry Osborn, it was never a question of bringing back Ben Parker or Gwen. “There are two defining moments in Peter’s life: the Uncle Ben death and the Gwen Stacy death. Undoing the Gwen death would take so much away from the lessons Peter had learned. That one felt like a bridge too far,” said Wacker.

With plenty of teasers and hints of major changes on the horizon for the Marvel Universe, the panel closed leaving fans to wonder just what the coming months will bring to their favorite reads.

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