Marvel kicked off day two of San Diego’s Comic-Con International with a panel focused on the event that’s currently dividing their superhero line: “Civil War II.” With the event now at its halfway mark, the impact its having on Marvel’s heroes is becoming more and more clear. To shed some light on what’s to come in the remaining “Civil War II” battles, editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, director of content & character development Sana Amanat, and Marvel talent scout Rickey Purdin assembled on stage in San Diego and were joined by writer Marc Guggenheim (“Civil War II: The Accused”), writer Matthew Rosenberg (“Civil War II: Kingpin”), writer David Walker (“Power Man and Iron Fist”) and writer G. Willow Wilson (“Ms. Marvel”).
Alonso kicked off the panel by giving an overview of “Civil War II,” saying that the event has split the heroes into Team Tony and Team Carol. “We’ve had some twists and turns and some major deaths, maybe even more coming,” said Alonso. “It will change the Marvel Universe when it ends.” Moderator Rickey Purdin showed off the covers for “Civil War II” #6 and 7.
Rosenberg then talked about his Kingpin “Civil War II” tie-in, saying that Wilson Fisk sees the infighting as a way for the villain to rise in power again. “‘Civil War’ is a backdrop to him plan and ties into how he works. Every villain is terrified of Kingpin and he finds a way to operate that that gets him everything he wants,” said Rosenberg. Alonso added that Kingpin is going to be a huge character over the next few years, “so keep an eye on him.”
“Kingpin” #1 will launch in January, written by Rosenberg with art by Keron Grant. “Spins out of his return to New York and ‘Civil War’ brings him back to the city,” said Rosenberg. “This is the beginning of his play for New York. It’s a dark and nasty and fun book. He doesn’t see himself as a villain. He wants to Make America…New York great again. He’s making plays to make New York great again.” The audience laughed at that sly Trump reference.
Wilson talked about “Ms. Marvel’s” “Civil War II” arc. “She immediately sided with Carol because she knew Carol would do the best for the people she loves, but during her run in Avengers she’s gotten close with Tony Stark,” said Wilson. “We’ve been teasing that tension in her series, and she’s torn because of her loyalties. She’s only now discovering her own ideas about the big picture and how you get justice and how you act on information about the future. It’s having a devastating impact on her life, and that’s bleeding over from her life as Ms. Marvel to her life as Kamala Khan. The next issue has a couple of big twists in it, so it’s been a really tense and exciting thing to write.”
Amanat added that the storyline dives into Kamala’s past a bit. “There are a couple of pages that go into her history and the generation of women that came before,” said the editor. “You get the history of where her bangles came from, it’s really beautiful and my mother cried when she read it.”
“Power Man and Iron Fist” also has ties to “Civil War II.” Writer David Walker talked about how the war broke out just as the series started; “It was like well, it almost felt like the obvious choice would be to have them split. Then I thought, let’s not go the obvious route. Let’s have it split them up, not on different sides but as a team. In issue #6, you see them reacting to what’s happening, and it’s them going, ‘We’re tired of this. We’re constantly fighting with our friends. We’re heroes.’ So they decide to sit it out and remain neutral. So a lot of it’s my take on neutrality and how you can’t be that way. We get so tired seeing things in the news and want to tune out, but at the end of the day, if you tune out you get sucked in anyway. It’s about how Luke and Danny get sucked in anyway and how it destroys their lives. At the end of issue #6, Danny is arrested and Luke is on the run. They’ll spend most of the arc split up.”
A book titled “Civil War II: The Fallen” will arrive in August and show the fallout of Bruce Banner’s death, written by Greg Pak with art by Mark Bagley. Alonso talked about it, saying it will focus on all the Hulk family characters and their reaction to Hulk’s death. “The Accused” one-shot will follow Hawkeye’s trial after he killed Banner, and be written by Marc Guggenheim — who was previously a lawyer. “The way this came about was, I’m also writing ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and we’re tying in with ‘Civil War II,’ so I get to read the scripts. I read Brian Bendis’ script, and I read it and thought that Banner’s video diary was hearsay and how could it be admitted into evidence,” said Guggenheim. “When I got to issue #4 and saw the verdict, I realized I wanted to see more of this trial. I get ideas from asking these questions, and I thought there was a story to be told about Matt Murdock prosecuting Clint Barton for murder — and we do address the hearsay issue. And we get to explore Matt prosecuting a fellow hero, and learn what Matt’s doing now that he’s a city prosecutor working on a federal case. Is he fully doing it of his own accord or is he following orders? It gets into questions of ethics.”
The “Choosing Sides” series came up next, which is an anthology series about how characters on the periphery chose their “Civil War II” sides. Amanat then spoke about “Captain Marvel,” saying it’s a “big moment” for her. “In ‘Civil War,’ Tony Stark had a way of proving his point. Carol is not that kind of character. She’s going about promoting predictive justice in an analytical way and wants to make sure she has evidence. This story is about her recruiting heroes to her side and also how she proves these predictions will come true,” said Amanat. “The balance between serving justice and also serving and saving humanity is Carol’s journey and she loses some people along the way. But it’s a great political thriller. I’m actually excited that she’s been thrust in the spotlight in this way, and it shows how much we believe in her as Captain Marvel. We’ll have extremely important ramifications for her down the road.”
Alonso then did an informal poll of the audience, and learned that the attendees were almost 50/50 split between Carol and Tony’s sides.
The panelists then talked about “Totally Awesome HUlk,” which continues its tie-in in issue #11 and features an appearance from Black Panther and new regular artist Mahmud Asrar. Alonso said that after Banner’s death, the new Hulk Amadeus Cho has every reason to be mad at Hawkeye and that a “reckoning” may be coming.
“Uncanny Avengers” #14 will see Cable fight Captain America. “Invincible Iron Man” #12 will see Tony Stark meet Riri Williams. Alonso said that they discussed this larger story over many writers’ summits. “Brian Bendis had already created Riri and his plans were ambitious, but we doubled down and she became our Iron Man,” said Alonso. “Whether she takes the name, though, you have to wait and find out. We have a new character in the Marvel Universe and Brian’s writing her, but I can’t wait to see who else writes her down the road.”
Purdin opened the floor to questions, with a fan asking how they go about coordinating so many tie-ins within the event. “It’s like a TV writers’ room,” said Alonso. “Everyone’s involved, it’s like a gauntlet. Along the way you pencil some things in and ink some things in. Other writers that aren’t in the room we report back to them. With our events, writers opt-in or opt-out. If you have a story going, like Ta-Nehisi Coates who has a 12-issue story on ‘Black Panther,’ you don’t have to tie-in.” Bu other series, like “Captain Marvel,” made sense to tie-in, so they did.
The panelists talked about their favorite “Civil War II” moments so far, with Walker and Guggenheim both singling out “Civil War II” #3; Walker spoke about David Marquez’s illustration of the issue, specifically. “That was an incredible issue,” said Walker, then jokingly adding “and all of ‘Power Man and Iron Fist’ are my favorites too.” Rosenberg praised Bendis’ emotional writing, specifically when Tony Stark found out about War Machine’s death. “I just trusted Brian to give that moment the weight it needs. Tony just breaking down and everyone not knowing how to deal with him was a gut punch that I loved.”
Alonso said the Carol and Banner conflict, and Amanat said that the Rhodey and Carol makeout scene was “beautiful. They’re two hot people making out! But it was important to us to show their relationship, and the way she responds to his death is very Carol Danvers. That’s in issue #7. It’s so well done. Carol mourning someone she loves and mourning a soldier is very similar. The way she goes about honoring his memory all has to do with her journey and mission.”
Walker said he likes seeing how the storyline deals with how people grieve. “Everyone’s going through this really personal stuff, and that’s at the heart of it,” he said, explaining how characters are all dealing with the deaths differently.
Alonso spoke about why they chose to select Hawkeye to kill Banner. “We didn’t go into the story saying we wanted to kill the Hulk, but we talked about the story and that’s where we landed. But there’s a lot to be revealed about why Clint did what he did, and you have only seen a fragment of the story,” said Alonso. Purdin added that during the summit, the big idea came during a lunch break. Bendis approached Alonso privately after lunch and proposed the idea to him. They then brought it to the group, slept on it a night, and then walked through the idea. Even though the room was immediately surprised by the idea of having Hawkeye kill Hulk, the story slowly came together after the writers’ room discussed it at length.
An art teacher that uses comics as educational tools in his classroom asked if creators considered that when making comics. Alonso said this teacher was “his hero” and he talked about how Marvel is trying to cast the widest net with characters and creators, even if they “stumble” they try to course correct and move forward. “We’re trying to create different books for different people and talk about the real world,” said Alonso. “When we heard about someone like you that’s using books to teach, it’s the inverse of what we get on the internet.”
Amanat said hearing that comment made her day. “We have to much content out there, but at the end of the day these heroes are aspirational and the job of telling stories about these heroes, it’s important. When Willow and I was talking about Ms. Marvel years ago, we were talking about who out there was representing young girls that don’t feel comfortable in their own skin and how can we tell a story that’s uplifting. Five or six years ago we couldn’t sell a book like that, but now fans are supporting us. We’re able to continue to tell those kinds of stories, and you’re bringing in a new generation of comic fans.”
Walker asked all the librarians and teachers in attendance to raise their hands, to a round of applause. Willow said she gets a lot of requests on Twitter from kids writing papers about comics and looking for quotes.
The panel talked about how they decide who lives and dies, and if it’s the decision of one writer, revealing that these decisions are collaborative and — in the case of “Civil War II” — come out of big story summits. “It’s always a negotiation. There’s a lot of yelling sometimes, which is a lot of fun,” said Amanat. “Hulked out Axel’s pretty awesome. I think that’s sort of what’s so great about the experience is that it’s truly collaborative. It’s not just one writer figuring things out. We put a lot of thought in the stories and it comes down to what’s best for the story we want to tell. We have conversations. We definitely went back and forth on Rhodes multiple times, but it was the best thing for the story and his particular storyline as well. We don’t take these things lightly.”
Purdin asked which side each panelist was on. Guggenheim was on Tony’s side, and Wilson said she’s on Team Tony but made a serious effort to understand Carol. Walker is also on Team Tony, and said he had trouble writing Carol until he spent more time thinking about her team. Rosenberg and Alonso also sided with Tony, but Alonso said that he respects Carol’s decision. Amanat said she’s Team Carol because, she joked, “everyone’s throwing her under the bus!” Amanat said she’s not for profiling, but that Carol’s story is about the difficulties of having to protect people. “I’ve also worked with that character for four or five years now and I’m real protective.”
Walker added that when he thinks of Carol as a soldier and her dedication to her duty, “she stops being crazy. Some of it makes sense, and then it’s harder to write and she’s not the villain. So many of her arguments are valid. I like Carol and sometimes I wasn’t liking the Carol I was writing. We went through 50,000 drafts until we got to a Carol that made the readers see where she split [from Tony].”
Wilson said that both Tony and Carol want the same thing, to protect people. “They want the same thing but they want different ways of getting there.” Rosenberg said he initially was on Carol’s side just because of the teasers that were released, because “she’s awesome,” but reading the story made him team Tony.
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