Sweet Fifteen: Pannicia talk "Amazing Fantasy" #15

Over forty years ago, Marvel Comics "Amazing Fantasy" #15 introduced the world to a character who would become a comic book icon, the Amazing Spider-Man. Now in 2005 it just might happen again, because in November, Marvel's latest volume of "Amazing Fantasy" reaches issue #15 and will celebrate this milestone with a special issue packed with a number of stories by top flight Marvel creators re-imagining some more obscure Marvel characters. CBR News spoke with Mark Pannicia, the editor of "Amazing Fantasy," about the series, issue #15, and the future of the title.

Unlike many comics on the racks today "Amazing Fantasy" is a comic with a mission statement. "'Amazing Fantasy' exists so that Marvel readers are exposed to something new, whether it's an old concept turned upside down or something entirely fresh," Pannicia told CBR News. "The new Scorpion's a prime example. It just so happened that fans picked that character out of four options for a complete makeover in our first online poll. And I have to say; she's turned out to be a really great character with a lot of positive buzz. I run into people all the time who tell me that it wasn't what they were expecting and that new Marvel writer Fred Van Lente really surprised them with a cool, spy thriller and a great story arc. That's what we wanted to do. Not give readers a Scorpion with a silver suit or a new-and-improved stinging tale. We wanted to show people another side to that name. And I'm happy with the results."

The Scorpion arc concluded in "Amazing Fantasy" issue #12 and issues #13-14 feature a character named Vegas in a modern day super powered Western. When it came time to plan November's issue #15, Marvel knew they had to do something special. "So we gathered together some of the greatest new minds in comics and gave them a list of idle Marvel characters to do with what they pleased," said Pannicia. "Want to tell a new story with the old character? Cool with us. Want to just use the name and come up with something entirely new? Go for it. Just run free. Show us what you've got.

"On the art side, some writers requested certain people and some stories demanded certain styles. An artist I'd been watching for a while was Kristian Donaldson. When I saw his stuff I sent it to Sean McKeever and begged him to be part of this. He loved Kristian's stuff and it really added to the diversity of this issue."

Each creative team was given eight pages to tell their story, which means "Amazing Fantasy" #15 will be bigger than the average sized issue, which normally runs 30 pages of story. "I don't want to give too much away, but I think fans will enjoy researching all the original versions online and comparing the differences to the new," Pannicia stated.

"From the list of idle characters, Greg Pak took the name Mastermind Excello and, with Takeshi Miyazawa, provided a kid who's the champion of an online game show that's really a recruitment tool for a secret organization Conspiracies abound!"

Dan Slott chose to revamp the character Black Jack by turning him into two characters. "Ace and One-Eyed Jackie, the Emma Peal and Steed of the Marvel U. Plus, he decided to split his eight pages into four two-page stories," Pannicia explained. "They're brilliant and fun! And artist extraordinaire Pete Woods jumped in and gave them life and an amazing level of coolness.

"Robert Kirkman introduces the new Monstro (who originally just happened to be a giant squid-- oh how I wish I saw his face when he realized that)," Pannicia continued. "Kirkman's got this endearing big guy with a past that hooks us into wanting more. He's a hero at heart, but there's something under his thick skin he's not sharing. Khari Randolph provides the striking visuals.

"Daniel Way-- for some reason-- gravitated towards The Great Video (check that one out online). It's pure insanity as you might expect. Nick Dragotta stepped up to the plate to give you something just disturbing enough to go home and try to think about something else (but dang his art is good!)."

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa ties his story into the original "Amazing Fantasy" #15 by telling the tale of the return of the Heartbreak kid. "It's a poignant tale co-starring Peter Parker, illustrated by one of my favorite people, "Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four" writer Jeff Parker (not related to Peter) and embellished by Sal Buscema," Pannicia stated. "And by the way...pick up 'Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four!' It's good stuff.

"Rounding off the book was the previously unannounced Sean McKeever who we felt really deserved a place in this book," Pannicia explained. "Oddly enough, he picked Positron, a quasi sci-fi tale illustrated by the aforementioned Kristian Donaldson.

"And last, but not least, is a surprise two-page story that I couldn't resist having told. One of Marvel's most recognizable cover characters gets his day in the sun…finally," Pannicia said. "Dan Slott got suckered by some clever reverse psychology and 'Marvel Adventures Spider-Man' artist, Patrick Scherberger, illustrates. Go pick up 'Marvel Adventures Spider-Man!'"

It will be the readers of "Amazing Fantasy" #15 that determine which new characters appear again. "We're thinking of putting up a poll the week this streets to see who fans want to see more of," Pannicia said. "Where, when and (obviously) who I can't say yet. But I like that the fans are part of the process with this book. It gives it a certain unpredictability and it's fun to watch the polls."

"Amazing Fantasy" continues to give readers diverse stories with December's issue #16, a science fiction story that stars the latest winner of an online character revamp poll, Death's Head 3.0. Pannicia wasn't able to give details about the story but did say it ties into previous "Amazing Fantasy" lore and guaranteed the story will knock readers socks off.

As an anthology series dedicated to giving readers a variety of different genres and stories, "Amazing Fantasy" is one of Marvel's most unique books and Pannicia is grateful to the readers who pick up the title. "I'd like to thank everyone who supports the book. It's not a top-tener by any means, but I think fans deserve something like this," he said. "You hear a lot of grumblings about how Marvel doesn't do anthologies and here's this little book in the corner that rotates main features and has an extra eight-page story in every issue. It's great to hear that some people really appreciate it."

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