Anyone who's ever been to the bar with Marvel Comics writer and talent scout C.B. Cebulski ("The Loners") knows the man can drink, and in honor of his powerful socializing and mighty liver, Cebulski's Marvel-centric panel at last Saturday afternoon's Toronto's Fan Expo was rechristened Mug O' C.B. -- complete with a caricature of Cebulski enjoying a frosty mug of Canadian beer.
As Cebulski temporarily assumed the role of Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada at the podium, the panel serving as a fill-in for the convention staple "Cup O' Joe," he was joined by Marvel's Manager of Sales Communication Arune Singh as well as writers Dan Slott ("Amazing Spider-Man"), who rocked a newly grown beard, and Matt Fraction ("Invincible Iron Man") who was unusually clean shaven. "He sent it to me in the mail, and I pasted it on," joked Slott of the beard switcheroo.
Announcements kicked off the panel, including word of a special "Iron Man: The End" one-shot by the classic Iron Man team of writer David Michelinie and cover artist and inker Bob Layton with interiors by Bernard Chang. "He's taking the armor off because it's 'The End,' see? He's not putting it on," joked Fraction of the teaser art. The six-issue "Marvels: Eye of the Camera" -- the long-awaited sequel to the acclaimed "Marvels" -- will see print in December with a script by Kurt Busiek and art by Jay Anacleto. Perhaps echoing the reaction of many fans to the news, Fraction asked, "Is this for real?" Finally, Cebulski gave word of a "Hulk Family" one-shot that will feature a wide variety of the characters related to the green goliath.
After that, the Cebulski again teased a new "Alpha Flight" series before again showing artwork of the bloodied superteam from Steve McNiven's "New Avengers" with the caption, "Alpha Flight...is really still dead." However, once the Q&A got underway, discussion swung to the serious possibility of Marvel publishing Canadian-exclusive comics as they have in the past in the UK, India and Italy. When a fan asked whether or not Marvel would consider such a program in the Great White North, Cebulski said that it was possible but not without help.
"The thing [with those other initiatives] is that we have a publishing partner or a partner in the business community that helps contribute to the distribution, getting the artists and the financing of the project," Cebulski explained. "So it's not outside the realm of possibility that Marvel could do something like that [in Canada], but what is necessary is to find a Canadian partner up here be it a distributor or a financial or business partner."
Slott mentioned that a future arc of his on "Amazing Spider-Man" will feature a new team-up with Spidey and Human Torch, but readers will have to wait a piece as that arc will be "the story after the story after 'New Ways To Die.'"
A fan asked who in the company decides how and when characters aged. While certain segments of fandom became upset or confused at different stories declaring specific ages and timelines for characters -- including Fraction's explanation that Iron Fist is 33, Slott's declaring that the Fantastic Four gained their powers 13 years ago in "The Thing" or Cebulski's introduction of a 16-year-old Julie Power -- the panel agreed that in the end, it was impossible to map out an exact timeline of how characters age or how old they are as the pacing and publishing of comic books makes real time comparisons moot.
"Franklin [Richards] has been aged and de-aged and futurized and alternized and Heroes Rebornerized so many times that you can never tell how old Franklin is, so it's subjective," remarked Cebulski. Fraction agreed, noting that "consistency is more important than continuity" when it came to how characters are portrayed on the page, and when the writer attempted to sum up the feelings of everyone, all he could say was, "Real time and comics cause brain hurt."
The somewhat hot topic of panels at Fan Expo was Robert Kirkman's recent CBR video editorial, in which he declared his intentions to produce only creator-owned work, was inquired about by one audience member at Mug O C.B., and the panelists all agreed the idea of going all-independent works in a practical sense for just very few creators, and very rarely for artists who can only work on one book at a time.
"[Kirkman] breathes a very rarified air," explained Fraction, who noted that he had spoken with the writer about the video. "Through a combination of talent, hard work and luck, he's found success in the independent market, and that's great, but he's the exception to the rule."
On the fun side of questioning, one fan asked the panelists which of Marvel's B and C-list characters were their favorite. Singh noted Iron Fist, a character who inspired one of his tattoos. Fraction explained that since writing "Punisher War Journal" he's fallen in love with the Rhino, and teasing that with December's issue #26, his last issue of the series, he wrote in a special scene between the massive mountain of a villain and the Gibbon to say goodbye. Slott claimed all B-listers as his favorite, noting "I've tricked everyone into reading 'Initiative' to see my B-lister dream list." Slott added that one minor character coup he hasn't been able to perform is to "bring back the D-Man in the wrestling suit." Cebulski cited Cloak and Dagger as characters with great supporting cast potential.
When a fan dressed as Gwen Stacey asked a question, Slott began his answer by saying, "I want to apologize to you. I kept you dead." The writer then explained that a debate broke out early in the planning for Brand New Day with some creators and staff at the Marvel Summit championing resurrecting the fallen Spider-Man flame before being shot down on the idea.
When asked what their ideal Marvel event would be from a creative standpoint, Cebulski said his love of teenage heroes would lend itself to a Marvel U story called "Teen Riot" that would feature all the company's younger characters stepping up after the adults mysteriously disappeared. The Canadian native Singh joked that he just wanted a crossover that would introduce the NHL Superpro. Fraction said he has a pitch that somewhat fits the bill of a crossover or event, and if fans see an announcement concerning himself and artist David Aja within the next year, they'll know the pitch went through.
Slott took the opportunity to mention that everything he's written for Marvel except "The Thing" holds teases for an event called "The Reckoning War," a cosmic epic whose hook came to Slott when he was a kid reading Marvel books, and one that was visually teased in "She-Hulk" #100.