Paniccia Sets Hulk & Iron Man Loose in Marvel NOW!

Fridays on CBR mean Axel's In Charge.

Except for this week! Welcome to MARVEL A-I-C: AXEL-IN-CHARGE, CBR's regular interview feature with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso! This week, with the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy taking a toll on New York City, Marvel Senior Editor Mark Paniccia is stepping up to the plate to make this PANIC-IN-CHARGE!

An editor who's been at the helm of some of the biggest franchises at Marvel including serving as the captain of the Hulks ship from its "Planet Hulk" era all the way though the rise of the Red Hulk, the man known as Panic is no stranger to shaking up his books. Currently, the Editor is overseeing Marvel NOW! launches including "Indestructible Hulk" and "Iron Man" as well as continuing his stewardship of the Ultimate line as "Divided We Fall" continues to rock the Ultimate U.

This week, Panic tackles all of those comics and more, discussing exactly what that little robot is hanging around Mark Waid and Leinil Yu's Hulk, how the events of "Avengers Vs. X-Men" will impact Tony Stark, where fans can see the Mandarin next, what the future holds for Miles Morales and Ultimate Venom and much, much more. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Mark, welcome to A-i-C...or I guess I should be calling it P-i-C! And thanks for stepping in during a harried week for New Yorkers. You're well known to Marvel readers as the editor behind series like "Hulk" and the Ultimate line, but I think a lot of people don't realize that you've been working on Iron Man in recent months as well. Do you have a personal take on what Tony Stark is supposed to mean or what you try to pull out of his adventures most in the same way you've brought that big "Smash" feel to Hulk for so long?

Mark Paniccia: Kiel, before I jump in, I just wanted to give props to all the people in production, manufacturing and editorial who worked through an insanely stressful and surreal week as Hurricane Sandy stormed into the region. At the risk of sounding like I'm running for office, I'm very proud and thankful to work with such a great and dedicated group of people.

On a lighter note, here's a picture of a refugee I found in our tub. I don't think I've ever seen a lizard here in New York. I thought it was a toy at first, and then a baby alligator, but I believe it's a gecko. God knows where the winds swept it from but it's kind of a cool little symbol of survival.

In response to your question about Iron Man, while I look at Hulk as the noble monster, I see Iron Man as the flawed nobleman-a hero on a constant journey to make the world a better place while knowing he's far from perfect. When I talked to Kieron about approach, we both gravitated towards the idea of a heroic quest but with a rapid, frenetic pace. We wanted to hit the ground running with something that was familiar to long-time readers but accessible to people fascinated with the character they've seen in the movies. Our first five-issue arc hits those notes with single issue stories tied together by a larger theme...the threat of the ever-evolving techno-virus known as Extremis. It's a poison chalice Tony feels responsible for finding and destroying before it takes mankind down a dangerous evolutionary path.

And may I just say that Greg Land and the coloring geniuses at Guru eFX are doing brilliant work on the series. It really is a dream team for me.

The other big aspect of Iron Man in the Marvel NOW! era is how he's been changed by "AvX" to be a bit more of a spiritual Tony Stark than we've seen before. How does this change how he interacts with his supporting cast in the new series and with the villains you'll be bringing in over the first six months?

Paniccia: While "Avengers Vs. X-Men" gives Tony a "you don't know everything you thought you did" slap in the face, Extremis presents a more complex conflict to him. It challenges him on a very fundamental level. Here's something that was created to cure disease and it's been turned into a weapon...and who knows more about weapons than a military contractor? Underneath his cool façade, he's tortured by the potential of this twisted technology. Keiron understands this dynamic and is writing some of the strongest stuff of his career with it.

And wait till you see what happens in issue 6. There's a price for his role in "AvX."

And after that? Wow. The surprises we have in store. The family secrets! When you look back at it all...what is it they say about hindsight?

Like I said, you've definitely helped build up a specific feel for the Hulk (or Hulks) as you've been working on his book over the years with the likes of Greg Pak, Jeph Loeb and Jeff Parker. I always think of it as "Smash" comics first. In what ways does Mark Waid and Leinil Yu's tenure with the character fit that bombastic style fans have already seen in the series. How will it differ from that tone that's been running for years now?

Paniccia: Smash Comics? I can see the variant cover now! Waid and Leinil's run will still have plenty of "smash" in it but also "smarts." The thing I love about this take is a very clear acceptance by Bruce that he's the Hulk. Period. And he's moving on. He's tired of the other Marvel geniuses like Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four or Tony Stark saving the day with their brains. He looks at his legacy and it's destruction. He wants to change that. He wants to do something that will change people's perception. He's not stupid. He knows he needs to earn it. And this is his chance. He joins S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rest will be history.

I think probably the #1 question I've seen about the new "Indestructible Hulk" series is just who exactly is that little robot dude we've been seeing in the promo art, and what's his role in the book. Any light you can shed there?

Paniccia: Ha! Readers are going to love him/them. And he/they are going to drive Hulk crazy! It'll be fun to watch. Look out for his unforgettable first appearance in "Indestructible Hulk" #3 on sale in January.It's going to be Waid-tastic!

Meanwhile, "Red She Hulk" is both a continuation of some of the tone Jeff Parker has been rocking in the Hulk world for years while also providing some new points of departure. I get the feeling that this book's prominence has a lot to do both with Jeff's strong take on female superheroes and the fan reaction to that idea. As the editor of the series, do those social discussions around the character impact your job at all?

Paniccia: Jeff has always written great female heroes. He's done so with respect and tact. But this was a character we've both wanted to explore for a while. As a key player in one of Marvel's longest running franchises, Jeff saw great potential in Betty Ross and an opportunity to tell a classic Hulk story from a different perspective...from the eyes of someone whose life has been affected by anger around her and - surprise - is angry too.

In any instance where a character is stepping into a solo book for the first time, one of the biggest questions is how a world will be built around them. What do you guys have in store for Red She-Hulk from cast to setting to villains that will cast Betty in a different light than we've seen her before in the Hulk books?

Paniccia: She's seen the future of a new super soldier serum. She believes it will lead to the end of the human race and she wants to stop that. So right off the bat we have a very proactive hero who is willing to go to great lengths to save humanity. The end of "Red She-Hulk" #58 really shocked people. They didn't know we'd go that far. Who's the villain? In a way it's Red She-Hulk.

And we tap into some of the mythos that Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver created in S.H.I.E.L.D. as Tesla plays an important role in the mysteries unfolding in the series. There's some impressive long-form storytelling here with cool Easter eggs and touchstones to Marvel continuity.

Lastly, I couldn't chat you up without talking briefly about the Ultimate U. Everyone knows by now about Sam Humphies plans to make Captain America president in "Ultimates," and while that certainly changes the landscape in that series, I was wondering how it might impact a book like "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" which is so much oriented on Miles' personal story?

Paniccia: Elements of "Divided We Fall" and "United We Stand" impact the world of Miles Morales in some pretty significant ways. Brian Bendis writes his characters in a very human light and the way that Hydra affects his father is chilling. Miles won't go untouched by the experience either. Some of this will stay with him for a long time.

As always, we've got a few fan questions to round the week out, starting with MagnaInferno who wondered, "Any chance of seeing a fourth ongoing in the Ultimate Comics line or will you just continue to have a mini run along side the three titles. Also, will we see The Ultimates get an ongoing artist soon, rather than just having them stay on for a small arc?"

Paniccia: Scot Eaton is working on three issues of the arc following "United We Stand" in a story called "Reconstruction," the conspiracy story that he was born to draw. After that we've got an exciting name to announce for the next three issues with Scot planned to come return for another arc.

Let's keep it rolling with a trio of Ultimate Spidey questions from SpiderX. First he wanted to know, "How does Miles' Venom Blast work? We saw him blow up a lego ship, stun people, send it through web in Spider-Men and it doesn't play well with electronics. Is it tactile only?"

Paniccia: The way I've looked at it is as a neurotoxin that Miles is learning how to control as he gains more experience. Depending on threat level or emotional state, the chemical combination gets more volatile and can disrupt the target on a molecular level. No? Okay, I tried.

He followed up asking, "I'm also very excited to see Venom appear again. I always enjoy the Ultimate Universe takes on 616 Spider-Man villains. Any plans for an Ultimate version of the Queen?"

Paniccia: Nothing in the immediate future.

Lastly from SpiderX, he wondered "Seeing as Miles is such an original character any plans for completely original villains to compliment him?"

Paniccia: There are some new characters on the horizon but I do love to see the Ultimate twist on classics. On that note, wait till you see Ultimate Venom. This will rock Miles' world!

Meanwhile, back to Iron Man action, Spidey616 asked, "I know Fraction just finished his giant Mandarin epic in Invincible Iron, but can we expect to see some Mandarin related storylines, projects, trades around the release of Iron Man 3 in the summer?"

Paniccia: What a timely question, Spidey616. Ultimate Mandarin debuts in the new "Ultimate Comics Iron Man" mini-series written by Nathan Edmondson And Matteo Buffagni with stunning colors by Andy Troy. It's a great action thriller that reveals some shocking truths about Tony Stark's past and his father's legacy.

He follows up with a Hulk-specific query asking, "The recent announcement of Seth Green voicing Rick Jones/A-Bomb in the upcoming Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. cartoon has me wondering where next we should expect to see the character?"

Paniccia: A-Bomb's most recent appearance can be seen in the just-released collection of "Hulk: Mayan Rule" which pits a plethora of Hulks against power-mad Mayan gods. And I've heard the character's name come up in a number of conversations in the office. Keep your ears to the ground.

Have some questions for Marvel's AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It's now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

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