NYCC: Marvel's Avengers Assemble

As arguably the #1 franchise in modern superhero comics, Marvel's "Avengers" franchise drew an early and sizable crowd for its Saturday afternoon panel at 2010's New York Comic Con. As the capacity crowd filed in, they were greeted on stage by a large gathering of Marvel staff and talent including line mastermind Brian Michael Bendis, writers Sean McKeever, Jim McCann, Paul Tobin, Jonathan Hickman and Christos Gage along with editors Tom Brevoort and Bill Rosemann.

And from here on out, CBR was there live with all the action.

Sales and communications manager Arune Singh MC'd the panel, and started the conversation on "Avengers" stating that "every storyline is an event" before showing a new promotional video featuring John Romita, Jr.'s art which saw the old Tony Stark of the current arc catching readers up on the book in advance of the Red Hulk's debut on the team in issue #7.

The timeline of the future of the Marvel Universe from the series came up then as Bendis joked, "The Avengers are going to join DC's '52,'" to laughter before saying his inspiration for the image came from "Back to The Future" as he described as "Doc Brown's timeline times a thousand."

Brevoort noted that the timeline teases many plot threads of upcoming Marvel books thanks to editorial's help. The editor then spoke to the next "Secret Avengers" storyline featuring Shang-Chi as the Prince of Orphans attempts to resurrect Shang's "evil but unnamable father."

Bendis addressed the question of "Who is the nanny?" of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones' baby in "New Avengers" joking that it had to be someone new because "Agatha Harkness is dead." He then revealed that after much debate, Squirrel Girl won out. "This isn't a joke," the writer said. "I wrote my Squirrel Girl issue. She has a hidden past with some members of the group...she's one of dozens of people who auditioned for the job, and you'll meet all the applicants in the book."

The panel announced that Gage has gone exclusive, and he promised coming up "Avengers Academy" issues will focus on Striker and then Reptil (with "gratuitous Devil Dinosaur cameo") leading up to the return of Hank Pym where he'll fight the Absorbing Man. Also coming up is a Tigra-focused storyline of which Rosemann said "In 'Avengers Academy' #8, the tape [of Tigra being attacked by the Hood's men from Bendis' 'New Avengers'] leaks online, and a sleazy company is behind it." Since the book's focus is whether the young characters will become heroes or villains, this release causes conflict in how they respond to their teacher. Gage also promised an upcoming "teen hero prom" issue.

Rosemann said of Giant Man's return, part of the inspiration was the idea of Hank Pym reclaiming something to be proud of as he made a good example for the kids he's overseeing. The general popularity of that version of the hero also played in as Gage added, "[Giant-Man] seems to be the most iconic version...it's the version I respond to most...we're not going back to the Silver Age with the character" though.

"Arcade: Death Game" by Tobin will be about the constant failures of the villains, and "the theme of this book is Arcade getting his groove back" by attacking young heroes he can beat like the Young Allies and Academy Avengers.

McCann spoke about the upcoming "Widowmaker" mini series. "This was originally going to be between the two books, but we have so many things planned...that it's its own event now," he said. "The high concept is that there's a new Ronin in town, and spies are being killed all over the world without rhyme or reason." It will explain the background of the Ronin identity before Echo took it over in "New Avengers." McCann added that what comes out of the series will revolve into another story and project he can't mention.

"Secret Warriors" will end with issue #27 in April just after a double-sized issue #25 that will unveil the entire background Hickman planned from the start. "We've always ahd an ending, and it's nice when Marvel let's you tell a story with a beginning, middle and end, and I think you're going to like where it ends up...it's been a slow burn as we've gone on, but the pace really picks up" in the final issues.

Brevoort called the upcoming "Trial of Captain America" arc in that hero's ongoing an inevitable story he and Ed Brubaker had been discussing for a long while. When Baron Zemo reveals the hero of America is a former Soviet assassin. As Bucky turns himself in, the new Red Skill (AKA Sin) makes a move towards causing havoc. March's issue will be the 70th Anniversary issue of "Captain America," and Brevoort said the issue will be "phone-book sized" as a joke to the extra content the creators will fit in.

The topic of Bucky Cap's survival came up next. "This was a character and a situation that should not have worked. Before Ed did it, we'd have arguments that you could not bring Bucky back," the editor said.

Brevoort went on to praise the just-announced "Astonishing Captain America" by Andy Diggle and Adi Granov saying the book will make the artist be viewed as a classic Cap artist the same way he's currently viewed in regards to Iron Man.

Moving on to Iron Man, Singh explained that the poster revealed above by Marko Djurdjevic will be broken up into covers for Iron Man-related books in 2011. "Iron Man" #500 will involve Spider-Man and the Mandarin. "This is the kick off of Matt's next big chapter in Iron Man," Brevoort said of the issue. "It will give you a glimpse of the future of Iron Man in a very tangible way." Bendis added "This is one of my favorite ideas any of my friends has ever told me about one of their books...I would buy this."

Nick Spencer was called onstage for the announcement of "Iron Man 2.0" with Barry Kitson. He said that the book - focusing on James Rhodes - will redefine what it means to be War Machine with a focus on new warfare that doesn't revolve around Rhodey's guns as much as his brains. "He's going to have to evolve or die...this book is going to feel the same as ['Invincible Iron Man']...a lot of big thinking about what the future of war is."

The panel then teased a February event called "Onslaught Unleashed" by McKeever who joked, "I was wondering why I was on this panel...when he arrived on the scene in the '90s, Onslaught was the big threat. He's been trapped in the Negative Zone where time moves differently, so he's been waiting a long, long time for his revenge."

Fan questions started up in earnest, with the first fan - someone who appreciates an expanded role for female characters at Marvel - asked if Jessica Jones would get more of a spotlight soon. Bendis confirmed that aside from the nanny issue in the incoming "New Avengers" #7, Jones would be asking herself big questions regarding "if she will be an Avengers, what kind of superhero is she, what kind of superhero will she be." The character will be in a different place by the end of the second arc on the series.

Asked if the Marvel movies influence how the writers create comics, Bendis said that certain things like Robert Downey, Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark hit very hard with creators. He also said that seeing the movies come together as a part of the Marvel Creative Committee emboldens him to nail the characters as best he can since the films get them so right.

Asked about how Norman Osborn's impact will be felt on the Marvel Universe since the questioner liked "Dark Avengers," Bendis said the upcoming "Osborn" series will be a vital part of the villain's story and may leak into other books moving forward. The Sentry, however, will remain dead.

Bendis stayed on the mic when a fan asked how he personally divided the tones of "Avengers" and "New Avengers." The writer said that the tone for each book will shift with each arc for now, but in terms of the characters, the former book focuses on the big action lineup of famous characters while the latter focuses on characters who are "Avengers by lifestyle" and will let their lives in the mansion and as a team who is always together will begin to start in issue #7.

McCann promised a fan that he has plans for the tease of a mystery behind Mockingbird's father, though he won't be able to let that seed grow just yet.

The connection between the X-Men and the Avengers in terms of X-Characters coming onto the Avengers was told by Brevoort that while Cyclops or his other team members may not play a strong role in "Avengers" just yet, but after that relationship is strengthened by the next "X-Men" story arc, anything is possible.

Bendis confirmed that more new characters will play into the team beyond Red Hulk, especially as Bucky steps away for a few issues for a trial. New female members are in the works as well.

The question of more stories set in the WW2 era like "The Marvels Project" was met with a tease from Brevoort of a Captain America project set for March that cannot be announced yet.

Taskmaster will appear in issue #9 of "Avengers Academy." Spider-Man will also play into an Avengers title more in the future.

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