On Saturday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Marvel fans files into a massive panel room for something that’s become a tradition for the publisher: the “Cup O’Joe” panel. This time around the panel — which also focuses on Marvel’s line of “Star Wars” comics, featured its namesake Marvel’s chief creative officer Joe Quesada, editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, VP of international development C.B. Cebulski, director of content & character development Sana Amanat, Nick Spencer (writer, “Captain America: Sam Wilson,” “Captain America: Steve Rogers”), Jason Aaron (writer, “Star Wars,” “Doctor Strange”) and Kieron Gillen (writer, “Darth Vader”).
Quesada took the stage, running through what’s in store for the panel which will include a presentation followed by a question and answer session between the audience and panelists. Quesada congratulated Jason Aaron on his Eisner award wins, and even ribbed him a bit for getting “weepy” on stage. For Spencer, Quesada joked that the audiences “knows and loves him from Twitter.” After the panelists were introduced, Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb excitedly rushed the stage and asked if they could reveal something now – but Quesada said it wasn’t time yet.
Aaron began talking about “Star Wars,” the newest issue of which introduced a new group of villains – a stormtrooper unit called the Scar Troopers. “We wanted some stormtroopers that were actually effective and could shoot the things they fire at,” said Aaron. “The next big arc starts in issue #22 and features the Rebels trying to steal a Star Destroyer, and they steal a shitty one and they have to fly it with a skeleton crew. They’re piloting this ragtag Star Destroyer across the galaxy to save the day, and that’s when our stormtroopers show up and you see them butt heads with the cast.”
Gillen said that his “Darth Vader” series was like a novel, a set period in his life. “We could pad it out but why, so we brought it to this ludicrous conclusion,” said Gillen. “Issue #24, it’s probably the weirdest issue of the series and it’s the one I’m worried about. It’s his Dagobah moment, real Dark Side of the Force stuff.”
Leaving the galaxy far far away, Nick Spencer talked about “Captain America: Sam Wilson’s” “Civil War II” tie-in. The arc stars the AmeriCops, a group of cops charged with profiling and brutality. “New Warriors character Rage is fighting the AmeriCops while Sam Wilson is trying to build a case against them. And now U.S. Agent is going to find himself in the mix with them.” Spencer talked about the other Cap book, “Steve Rogers.” “Our ‘Civil War II’ tie-ins for ‘Steve Rogers: Captain America,’ for those of you who havent’ heard somehow, he’s an agent of HYDRA. He’s not who he appears to be, only we know the truth. That plays a major role in the story. He’s an integral character in Brian’s story coming up. There are things you’ve seen in ‘Civil War II’ already that Steve might have his fingerprints on more than you know. There are more big reveals in issue #5.”
Spencer announced “Civil War II: The Oath,” which is the epilogue of the event series. “As soon as ‘Civil War II’ was in the making, I begged people to let me write the epilogue. This is an examination of where both Carol and Tony are after this event, and they turn to the person they can both lean on the most – and that happens to be Steve Rogers. They’re turning to the exact wrong person in their darkest hour, and that’s going to have major consequences.” The art on the story is by Rod Reis.
A new book, “Black Panther: World of Wakanda,” is on the way, from writers Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey, and artists Altiha Martinez and Afua Richardson. Ta-Nehisi Coates will be co-writing the lead story with Gay, and Martinez will focus on the Midnight Angels. The back-up story is by Harvey and Richardson.
Aaron spoke about the upcoming changes in “Doctor Strange,” which will see him changed after a battle with the Empirical, and then a “murderer’s row” of his villains will come and attack him while he’s at a low point. Alonso spoke about the Doctor Strange team-up book, “Sorcerers Supreme.”
Then a big announcement came: “Inhumans vs. X-Men.” “We’ve been building to this moment for some time,” said Alonso. “In Winter, we’ll do this story co-written by Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule, with art by Leinil Yu. The Terrigen Mist has a detrimental effect to mutants but it sustains the Inhumans, so there are natural antagonism. You have two species fighting for survival, and maybe only one can win.”
Amanat spoke about a new series, “Good Night, Groot,” a children’s book written by Brendan Deneen and drawn by Cale Atkinson. “It’s a simple adventure story about Rocket and Groot going on their space adventures,” said Amanat. “It’s a great story that you can read to your kids and read on your spare time if you want to laugh and have a good time. It’s in the vein of ‘Good Night Moon’ and that series. A great way to introduce your young ones to the Marvel Universe. It’s awesome.”
Jason Reynolds will also write a Miles Morales novel. “He’s so incredibly smart and talented, he signed on to do ‘MIles Morales’ for us,” said Amanat. “It’s a YA series. This is Miles Morales as Spider-Man, and his journey to better understand his relationship with his family. This is another way for you guys to experience another adventure of Miles’. Whether superhero fan or not, you’ll love this story. And we are doing a bunch of YA novels, with DPW [Disney Publishing Worldwide]. We have Captain Marvel, Black Widow, a middlegrade series with Squirrel Girl. This is a great entry point. We’ll have more information on it tomorrow during the ‘Women of Marvel’ panel.”
Quesada moved onto “Daredevil” and the street level corner of the MU. Alonso said “don’t be surprised” if “Punisher” interacts with “Daredevil” soon. “Jessica Jones” #1 from Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos will launch in the Fall. Ed BRisson and Guillermo Sanna will launch “Bullseye,” and Matthew Rosenberg and Ben Torres will continue working on “Kingpin.” “Keep your eye on Kingpin, he’s going to be a major character in the Marvel Universe,” said Alonso.
Kaare Andrews will return to write “Iron Fists” #1, starring Danny Rand and a young Iron Fist named Pei. Genndy Tartakovsky will return Luke Cage to his original uniform for a new series called “Cage.”
The floor opened up for questions, with the panel being asked if the Fantastic Four will return. Alonso said there aren’t plans for them right now, but you can see two of them in other books. “We love those characters as much as you,” Alonso added. Then Jeph Loeb returned once again to ask if we could watch the mystery video, but Quesada told him to wait.
A fan asked if any more classic “Doctor Strange” artists would come back, like Kevin Nowlan. “I was super thrilled to be working with him,” said Aaron. “He’s not doing a whole issue, but he’s doing half of issue #11. We continue to talk to him to do more stuff. I’d love to write an annual for him that he could take his time on.”
A more combative fan said he had two complaints, focusing on the lack of focus on the original Guardians of the Galaxy team and the disappearance of Isaiah Bradley and Josiah X. “There’s a place for Isaiah Bradley in the Marvel Universe, I love him more than you do,” said Alonso. “Just because you don’t see them right now doesn’t mean they won’t be around soon.” Cebulski chimed in to say that people forget that the creators love the characters as much as everyone else, and that it’s just a matter of time before they come back again.
While all these questions were being asked, Jeph Loeb lurked off stage next to a speaker, waiting…
In the middle of asking a question, a fan was interrupted by Loeb making a call to Quesada on stage. Loeb pretended to be publisher Dan Buckley but not even that could sway Quesada to make the mystery announcement. The fan asked his question, asking Aaron and Gillen how hard it was to work with Lucasfilm on the Star Wars books. Gillen said it was “easier than you think. We can say what we want, and they understand why we want something. The problem with ‘Darth Vader’ you want lightsaber fights, but the problem is that if you do that it’s just him killing people easily. But there aren’t jedis in that period, so we have to work out what makes sense. I do something that I never do in Marvel scripts; I try to tie in with continuity, like if I want to use a gangster organization, I check to see if there’s already one that I could use. But they also encourage us to make up our own characters and populate the universe.”
“We came out of the gate and wanted to grab for big moments,” said Aaron. “By the end of ‘Star Wars’ #1, we end with Darth Vader and Luke face to face. When we started this, we went out to Lucasfilm and had a meeting. We were at a bar one night and we realized that both our first arcs would end with Vader hearing the name of the pilot that blew up the Death Star. I’ve been blown away with what they let us do.”
Cebulski said he ran into George Lucas recently and, after he worked up his nerve, he said Lucas loves the “Star Wars” comics and reads them as soon as he gets his hands on them. “But has he won any Eisners?” joked Jason Aaron.
A fan asked Gillen and Aaron if writing the Star Wars characters has changed how they view the characters. “I still get a thrill when I get to sit down and right Spider-Man, it never gets old,” said Aaron. “I literally did put the John Williams score on and made Artoo and Threepio droid noises. I do the job in the same way.”
“I haven’t gotten over the childish glee of it,” said Gillen. ” This is the same as writing Marvel characters. You internalize them better. The more you write them the more you really get into them. When I was writing Loki, the early stuff was fine but there was a point around ‘Siege: Loki’ that he really clicked. When I got to write Han, Luke and Leia in ‘Vader Down,’ Han was easy, Leia was hard and Luke was okay. But by the end of the crossover, it was easier.”
With the audience out of questions, they started chanting for Jeph Loeb to finally show “the thing.” Quesada introduced Jeph Loeb to the audience. Loeb said he loves “Cup O’Joe” because it gives fans the opportunity to talk directly to Marvel. Loeb said that he has heard people saying that “we don’t talk about the X-Men,” and laid out that Fox makes the X-Men movies. “What’s happened is that people like Peter Reis and John Landrath who are the heads at Fox Television and FX, and David Madden at Fox TV, have been working very closely with the people at FX Marvel Television to bring you, this, the world premiere of the teaser trailer for ‘Legion.'”
The trailer shows Legion talking with a psychiatrist, and in a psych ward. Aubrey Plaza could be seen in the psych ward. Dan Stevens’ Legion may be “mentally lll, but he’s the most powerful mutant we’ve ever encountered.” The trailer then burst into a dance scene – that was then interrupted by the analysis scene again. The show included tons of trippy visuals and special effects, but no mention of a connection with Charles Xavier (Legion’s father in the comics) or the X-Men films.
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