Bright and early on Friday morning at Comic-Con International in San Diego, eager Marvel fans lined up en masse to get into the company's "Secret Wars" panel. This panel would prove to be massively informative since it included "Secret Wars" architect Jonathan Hickman on the lineup. Hickman, who writes the event's main series and built towards the universe shattering series through his work on "Avengers" and "New Avengers," was joined by Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, editors Sana Amanat and Will Moss, "Inhumans: Attilan Rising" writer Charles Soule and "Red Skull" writer Joshua Williamson.
The panel started off with a featurette for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." featuring Marvel head of TV Jeph Loeb interviewing Clark Gregg about the series. With the video done, moderator Jake Friedfeld introduced the panelists to the audience. "Secret Wars" #5 kicked off the presentation, with Brevoort noting that the August 12th release date for the issue is a suggested date. Hickman talked about the issue briefly, saying that the issue will show how the Battleworld was formed and, as Hickman said, "Shit goes wrong.
"Red Skull" #2 will arrive on August 5th and writer Williamson ran through the premise of the book, which sees a team of mercenaries sent out into the Deadlands to make sure that the Red Skull is dead. "How good you are doesn't matter, once you're in the Deadlands and near the Red Skull, he changes you," said Williamson.
"Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows" #4 will come out near the suggested date of August 19th, Brevoort said. "Peter Parker and Mary Jane are still married and have a daughter and he has put the costume aside to live a normal life and now events are drawing together around him like a web to pull him back into the fold," said Brevoort. "That's the story being told.
Soule said a bit about "Civil War," saying that the series "takes the big last battle in which Captain America surrendered to Iron Man and we say that didn't happen. Something terrible and tragic happens that splits America down the middle, creating the Divide. I thought that was an obvious metaphor to use, the country split down the middle. Captain America runs the West, the Blue, and Tony Stark has the East, called the Iron. Things have gotten big and crazy; people have changed their looks and outlooks. Spider-Man is also wearing the Falcon's wings, She-Hulk is a part of it. It's very exciting. After issue #1, we learn that Captain America may have been working on something to end the war, something Manhattan Project-esque."
The next batch of books focused on things that will stick around after "Secret Wars," like "Weirdworld" which earned high praise from the panel. "It's Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo telling the story of Arkon on a search to find his homeland in this crazy hodge podge world of sky sharks and aquatic apes and crazy sword and sorcery stuff. It's batshit insane and Jason Aaron doing the type of blood and thunder series he does so well."
"Old Man Logan" will stick around after "Secret Wars," as Brevoort noted. "In the story Brian Michael Bendis is telling, Old Man Logan is traveling through Battleworld and journeying to figure out this new world that he finds himself in."
"A-Force" #3, which arrives on August 12th, was discussed next, with Brevoort calling it the "top-flight superhero team of a particular slice of Battleworld. It's entirely a team of women, which is not as novel today as it might have been years ago." Soule discussed his Inhuman book "Attilan Rising," which focuses on a resistance within Battleworld. "Black Bolt and a group of heroes including '1602' Daredevil and a new Hulk I named Mega Rad are trying to help out," said Soule. "Medusa has been charged with squashing this resistance and kill Black Bolt. By issue #3 and #4, things start to go crazy. The two sides have found each other and intense fighting starts to happen."
Brevoort spoke about "1872," calling it "super fun." "It's a full on western featuring analogues of the various Marvel characters," said Brevoort. "Circumstances arise where he and the folks around him have to deal with a threat to their world. I like it a lot."
"Tom Brevoort saying he likes it a lot is a huge compliment," said Amanat. "When we get our lettering passes back, he'll say, 'That was... okay.'" Brevoort noted that the series was originally titled "1862" but they had to change the title because of, you know, a real Civil War going on at that time in history. Hickman noted that at the initial "Secret Wars" retreat, they came up with a book called "The Good, the Bad and the Angry" which was a series about Hulk as a gun fighter -- a premise that Hickman was surprised didn't make it to series stage.
Friedfeld moved the presentation into the new #1s territory, starting with "Hank Johnson, Agent of HYDRA." "He's a guy with a wife and kids and has a day job, puts in his eight hours a day which is being an agent of HYDRA," said Brevoort. "This is the story of what it's like to be one of those HYDRA dudes that gets punched in the head by Nick Fury."
Brevoort also spoke about "House of M," noting that this panel is turning into "all me, all the time." "In this series, humans are downtrodden and underfoot and we get to see the court and family shenanigans between Magneto and his children Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Polaris." A new series, "Howard the Human," followed, with Moss saying that the series is "set in a world that is the reverse of 'Howard the Duck.' It's a really bad day in the life of this guy, who is the only human in a world of ducks. It's a hilarious one-shot from Skottie Young and Jim Mahfood."
Moss also talked about "Ant-Man: Last Days," saying that the series will follow Ant-Man performing a favor on the last days of Earth. "It's a lot of fun to find out what she has him go do," said Moss. "It's a unique look at the last day before everything blows up. Ramon Rosanas does the art and there's a lot of fun detail."
"Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas" is coming out in October, from writer Tom Taylor and artist Steve Pugh. Brevoort didn't know much about the series, saying that it's the world of Agents of Atlas...but set in Battleworld.
With the floor opened up to questions, Hickman addressed why we haven't seen major Avengers characters like Iron Man and Captain America in "Secret Wars" yet. Hickman stated that things will start to "open up" in issue #6 -- but he also said that those characters are dead. Brevoort interjected, saying, "We dropped a helicarrier on their heads!"
Brevoort then spoke to how they chose the series and domains of "Secret Wars," saying "everybody came up with the craziest, most ridiculous ideas" at a Marvel story retreat. A lot of writers had six or seven great ideas, but Brevoort said they had a reality check and had to scale back to just the stories that contribute to what Marvel will be doing after "Secret Wars." "We easily could have done twice as many books," said Brevoort.
"I'm most happy that the 'X-Men '92' came from that conversation," said Moss. "I love that comic, the cartoon is fantastic."
When asked if there were any "Secret Wars" ideas that got shot down, Hickman jokingly gave the advice that "if you turn in your scripts really really late, it's hard to get anything shot down."
An attendee asked about Cyclops and the Phoenix Egg, asking if there was "some other Avengers book he should have been reading, or what's going on?" Hickman joked that the Cyclops/Phoenix book got cut.
"Some of the stuff you're talking about got set up in 'Avengers' and 'New Avengers' along the way, which boils down to that Cyclops just has a Phoenix Egg," said Brevoort.
When asked if there were any other Marvel characters he wants to write after lengthy runs on "Fantastic Four" and "Avengers," Hickman said that he's "heavily invested" in a new character called "Vacation." Brevoort, after some cajoling, revealed that Hickman wants to do stuff with the Eternals.
"It's already on the internet!" said Brevoort, who then asked the crowd, "Who's drawing this book?" Someone yelled out, "Skottie Young," thus cementing that Hickman is now beholden to doing an "Eternals" book with Skottie Young.
"I got a pretty good idea for an X-Book, too, but nobody seems to like Cyclops/Phoenix Egg, so..." joked Hickman.
A fan asked about how they chose the Marvel heroes that ended up on the raft, and Hickman said that some of it was his choice. "Other stuff was characters that we were interested in pushing or that we thought had an important role to play going forward," said Hickman. "That's what we try to do during an event, push the characters we want to push. The list of characters on the raft was long, and I got to pick. The cool thing is you get to write new characters, like Star-Lord, and find out they're pretty cool."
Williamson spoke about his upcoming "Illuminati" book, saying that his post-"Secret Wars" book will feature the Hood putting together an army of villains. "He's building this army to protect villains because nobody is looking out for them and he thinks he can do that," said Williamson.
The panel was asked what comics brought them back after stretches away from the medium. Soule said that Bendis' "Ultimate Spider-Man" brought him back to comics and helped entertain him during his first year as a lawyer. Williamson admitted that he's never not read comics, starting with early "Fantastic Four" issues. "I feel like I was born to do this," said Williamson. "This became a lifestyle choice early on. I have a Batman tattoo."
Amanat cited "Runaways," which was met with applause. "I love books that center around younger characters, and I started following Brian K. Vaughan after that. And now I get to work with Adrian Alphona on 'Ms. Marvel.'"
Moss said that Warren Ellis' "Planetary," "Authority" and "Transmetropolitan" got him back in. Brevoort said that he's out of comics three times a week and then a new script shows up and he's back in. Hickman said that he quit reading comics for eight years and then, years later, he picked up Ellis' "Authority."
"Ellis when I quit comics was doing crappy 'Excalibur' books," said Hickman. "Then I read this and it was amazing. I read it all and saw he'd become the most amazing writer ever in that period of time. Since I'd been gone so long I missed things like 'Hellboy' and I decided I just had to do it -- had to make some comics. So I did."