SDCC: Marvel's "Infinity"

After the reveal of Thanos at the end of last year's "The Avengers" movie, fans have been waiting for a resurgence of the Mad Titan in comics. At Comic-Con International 2013, Marvel Comics set up a panel to tease its upcoming "Infinity" event. The panel included Marvel E-i-C Axel Alonso, artist Mike McKone, and writers Sam Humphries, Frank Tieri, Rick Remender, Charles Soule, Zeb Wells and Nick Spencer, who teased individual tie-ins and the future of the Marvel Universe during the Jonathan Hickman event.

After panelist introductions, moderator and Marvel Senior Editor Nick Lowe (accompanied by tech expert and Marvel Senior Editor Steve Wacker) started things off with the elevator pitch of "Infinity" -- that the Avengers head off-world to fight the Builders and Thanos comes calling to Earth.

"As you know, Jonathan is an insane person. He plans everything," said Lowe. "He has things planned out to the panel and the page."

Charles Soule discussed his current run on "Thunderbolts" and what's coming for "Infinity" tie-in issues.

"The dynamic of the book starting with 14 is they're trading missions with each other," said Soule, who said the Thunderbolts would help one another get things done."The Punisher goes first and he wants to take out a Mob family in New York," he said, which leads directly in to the epicenter of "Infinity."

Wells recently took over "Nova," which will also have a big role in "Infinity."

"It's a lot of fun writing a character trying to figure out how to be a superhero," said Wells. "I came on on issue #6, so we had a couple issues of Nova trying to figure out how to be a hero in the Marvel Universe, and now we have Thanos running into town. The last time he encountered a Nova, it was Richard Ryder. ... This is the arc where Nova has to stop being a kid and deal with some real dangers -- the responsibilities of that helmet."

Spencer's "Secret Avengers" has a big focus on S.H.I.E.L.D., with Daisy Johnson out and Maria Hill back in charge with a huge conflict on A.I.M. island. "By issue #6, you're going to see the team in a very different place than they were when they arrived on the island," said Spencer. Ed Brisson will take over during "Infinity," and Spencer will pick back up after the event.

The recently announced "Inhumanity" mini-event, which spins out of the events of "Infinity," will launch the new book "Inhuman" by Matt Fraction, which will play a big role in the Marvel U going forward.

"A year ago we came to San Diego and we told you to keep an eye on Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova," said Alonso. "I'm saying the same thing about the Inhumans. They're going to be relevant to the Marvel Universe in the future. They predate superheroes. Superheroes can take comfort in the fact that they're humans and they got their powers through science. Mutants can take comfort in the fact that they're the next step of evolution." The Inhumans can't take comfort in any of that due to them being a genetic experiment of the Kree.

Remender discussed his current work on "Uncanny Avengers," which will see the Apocalypse Twins enact a mutant rapture. "The mutants and the humans have found it difficult to co-habitate and work together as heroes," said Remender. "The consequences of that is very much what the series is about. ... It's going to be large in scope, the things that are happening to them."

Lowe stated a new artist will join the "Uncanny Avengers" team: Steve McNiven.

"The story that we're telling and because it has so many connective points [to 'Civil War'], it was wonderful that Steve could come in and do this," said Remender. "While the heroes have been dealing with their own issues, the villains have been planning things. This is going to be a big story that revolves around the Red Skull with a wide scope through time and space and there's going to be a large body count. The heroes are going to start paying for what they've done."

Humphries' "Avengers A.I." recently launched, and the second issue will introduce Dimitrius, who is the main antagonist of the series. "He's got a very distinctive message for humanity, which is, 'You stink,'" he said. "If he was here right now, he would tell you to really enjoy Comic-Con this year because next year, the entire world is going to be rule by machines."

"Of course, the Avengers aren't going to let this happen," he continued. "But Hank Pym and Monica Chang and Vision all have different ideas of how to go about that. ... Vision will be taking a journey to the place called the Diamond, which is the heart of AI in the Marvel Universe. ... The danger here is that we've already handed them the tools to take over the Earth. We're all addicts to our devices. As far as they're concerned, we're low hanging fruit to be harvested and squashed."

McKone and Warren Ellis' "Avengers: Endless War" was up next, and McKone said the process was similar to monthly work.

"It's pretty much the same as working on a monthly book, except we have one deadline," said McKone. "It wasn't too much different, really."

Frank Tieri's big tie-in, "Infinity: Heist" is more of a crime noir. "What I pictured was 'Ocean's Eleven' with Iron Man villains," he said. "It's more 'Usual Suspects' than your typical comic book fare. Spymaster acts as Danny Ocean and while Iron Man is off fighting Thanos -- he figures the ultimate get in the Marvel Universe is Stark Enterprises. Like all good heist movies, something goes terribly wrong and things hit the fan from there."

Lowe kicked off the question and answer period following Tieri's "Heist" synopsis, which began with a query about the dense nature of Jonathan Hickman's story.

"When we did Marvel NOW!, the goal was the writers would come in with making their books accessible," said Alonso. "When you pick up Jonathan's first issue, he does a great job introducing the cast. If you come in issue #4, #5 or #6, it's like coming in in the middle of the 'Avengers' movie. ... I don't think Jonathan's demographic is a 6 or 7 year old, but we do put out books that [are for that demographic.]"

Alonso also spoke to how editorial coordinates the Marvel Universe as a whole. "The main thing is that we have a universe with these characters, so we have to have a level of coordination," he said. "We do summits where we map out where we're going. What makes our medium unique is that ... we're going in 50 years strong. It's like we're managing multiple universe. We have to make sure what's happening in 'Seinfeld' affects what's happening in 'The Wire.' At the end of the day, we try to put stock in our writers. ... We believe what they're going to bring to the title."

Speaking to the format of "Inhuman," Alonso describe the plan as "complex." "We want it to unfold slowly, it's going to be a slowly creeping phenomenon," he said. "We'll reintroduce you to the characters you know and love already, and we'll reveal new pockets of their relationships that you maybe didn't see. There may be a 'Game of Thrones' element in this, but that will come to a slow boil."

"I would have Peter Parker marry Mary Jane," said Wacker.

"I'd probably just kill a lot of people," said Remender. "I'm hacky like that."

"Luke Cage, Hero for Hire would be the number one selling book in the industry," said Alonso.

"It would be a universe dominated by Rogue," said Humphries.

"The entire universe would be written by me," said Tieri.

"I would have the entire universe written by Frank," said Wells.

Spencer would do a storyline where the villains swapped places with the heroes for a year.

"I would answer the mystery of where Thunderbolt Ross' mustache goes when he transforms into Red Hulk," said Soule.

Lowe would arrange things so that every comic cover would contain two characters kissing. Wacker stated all those ideas would be combined into the next event.

One question come up about when Marvel chooses to definitively end the event. "In comics, a story is never over. Whenever we do an event, we're mindful of what you the fans want is a ripple in the Marvel Universe," said Alonso. "Good stories lead to little threads. Cyclops' story was complete in ['AvX'] but there are more stories to be told. The story's never over in comics. Once it is, we won't have another panel."

A question about "Cataclysm" came up and whether Hickman's "New Avengers" might tie into it. "Read 'Cataclysm' and 'Infinity,'" said Alonso. "Love the way you're thinking. We've had a long-term gameplay for a while, and you're making the right connections. ... There is something in the air, it seems."

A fan dressed as Tron Deadpool asked if the cast of "Uncanny Avengers" would be getting larger. "The cast will be getting smaller soon," said Remender. "When we get to issue #22, we'll see a shift and some new characters will be coming in, but not until then."

Another question came up about events, this time involving what the questioner called a "lackluster" quality to some events. "We're aware sometimes stories aren't everyone's cup of tea," said Alonso. "I think 'Age of Ultron' has sparked some controversy out there, but I love the ripple effect across the Marvel Universe. We're getting so many things out of it and we find out how Angela was hiding in plain sight in the Marvel Universe. It's complicated what we do. We have people screaming about 'Superior Spider-Man,' but sales of Spider-Man have never been higher."

Wacker confirmed readers would get a chance to see how Thanos got out of the Cancerverse -- "Read 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' read 'Nova.'"

Zeb Wells stated he has plans for the New Warriors in the future.

Remender's "Uncanny Avengers" team is undergoing some turmoil, which the writer was happy to clarify. "In this squad, you've finally seen Captain America after discovering what Wolverine was doing in X-Force," said Remender. "An ideological war like that makes a lot of sense, and they do divide, but their inability to work that out are going to have consequences -- and large ones. As for how they get back together or when, that's the purpose of this book -- to have the Avengers and X-Men earn coming back together."

Doctor Doom 2099 is playing "a big role" in "Uncanny Avengers" coming up.

Humphries got an opportunity to expand on the premise of "Avengers A.I," clarifying that there will be a number of different situations addressed in the book. "Just because the Vision is an AI doesn't mean he's going to agree with their points of view and methodology," said Humphries, also noting that humans might also find a reason to side with AI. "The inherent wisdom of fighting fire with fire and contrasting the basic nature of life and artificial, machine-based lie."

A fan asked about why readers love to read stories about superheroes, which Humphries gave a detailed answer to. "I think it's comforting to see characters that represent the best within us," said Humphries. "It's inspiring to read stories that remind us we live in a world where any of us can step up and make the world a better place."

After a brief, but funny, discussion about creators' favorite characters and what they would do in an old folks' home, the panel wrapped up.

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