Audience members were given a look at the Marvel Comics creative process Saturday afternoon, as the Mondo Marvel at HeroesCon 2010 panel turned into a question and answer session about how the company's books are put together and what impact the new bosses at Disney will have.
Concerned that the tone of all of Marvel's books would have to meet that of a Disney movie, fans asked if the concept of the Heroic Age was something that came down from the new bosses (In 2009, Disney acquired the comics giant for $4 billion). Marvel editor Bill Rosemann reminded fans, however, that Disney owns quite a few companies, none of which changed their content after they were bought by the entertainment giant.
"ESPN doesn't do Mickey Mouse sports, ABC doesn't have to just run cartoons," said Rosemann. "Disney owns a lot of things. From everything we've been told, there's not going to be any impact."
At the same time, writer Christos Gage pointed out that fans shouldn't expect Disney's Punisher to hit the big screen anytime soon. Members of the audience also lamented that a Frank Castle/Pocahontas book would most likely never happen.
As for the Heroic Age, Rosemann said that it wasn't created as a way of simplifying stories or making everything bright and shiny.
"The Heroic Age isn't about Hawkeye shooting bubbles," Rosemann told the crowd. "It's about heroes being heroes and villains being villains. There will be dark things happening."
Another way of looking at it, added Hawkeye and Mockingbird writer Jim McCann, is that the Heroic Age is about looking at what makes a hero.
"We're showing what it means to be a hero," said McCann. "There are lines that could be crossed or shouldn't be crossed. What makes someone heroic?"
The panel also talked about why new characters are created for some books, such as "Avengers Academy," rather than simply incorporating ones already in existence. Series writer Christos Gage joked that it was purely a sales ploy, as new characters have such a great track record these days. Getting more serious, for "Avengers Academy," it was a story driven decision, Gage said.
"There is a twist at the end of the first issue that (shows) why new characters were used," said Gage. "Me being me, I wanted to put in Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy." Instead, Gage said that he was challenged to create new characters to use in the book. As inspiration, he turned toward another recent book of high powered teenagers.
"In Brian Vaughn's 'Runaways' series, you knew those characters from the very first issue," said Gage. Just given one panel to focus on each character, readers walked away having an idea of who they were. That's something the writer hoped to repeat with "Avengers Academy."
The concept of the series itself was put together during a creator's summit last year, Rosemann said, in response to a question about how books are created.
"It really varies, some projects are pitched and others come out of these meetings," Rosemann answered.
"Fantastic Four" writer Jonathan Hickman told the audience that as a rule of thumb, the larger the project or event, the more collaboration goes into the creation process, and the team knows that when they take on a book.
"I'd been working on the idea of ['Shield'] for a year as a creator owned project," Hickman revealed. Then, one day he went by the Marvel offices to talk about "Fantastic Four" plans and got into a discussion with editor Nick Lowe, who mentioned that the company wanted to do something with Da Vinci. That helped turn a creator owned book into a pitch for "Shield" #1.
As for bad ideas that never made it past the pitch stage, the group shared a few, including plans for Nazi romance in "Avengers: The Initiative." Gage mentioned how he had a plan to do a flashback issue for Baron von Blitzkrieg, touching on how he and Warrior Woman were in love, but Hitler ordered her to marry Master Man. McCann meanwhile explained that his original plan for "Hawkeye and Mockingbird" #1 was to have every West Coast Avenger make a cameo appearance. As it didn't make sense with the story, McCann's idea got shot down.
Wrapping up the panel, audience members asked about the future of their favorite characters and books.
Rosemann said that while he couldn't get into specifics, fans of "Nova" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" should be happy after the end of "Thanos Imperative."
"More cosmic goodness is not only happening, but will continue to happen," said Rosemann.
Fans asking about Dr. Strange and Marvelman were told to wait and see, as there were plans in the works for both characters.