WC: Marvel's Ultimate Comics Panel

Marvel held its Ultimate Comics panel Friday evening at WonderCon, and CBR was on hand to bring you the latest announcements. Senior Editor Mark Paniccia led the presentation, joined moments later by Art Adams.

Paniccia began by announcing that Art Adams is now Marvel-exclusive, at which time Adams ascended the stage. His first project will be with Jeph Loeb, though the nature of the series is still "top secret." Adams protested that he had to tell people something about it.

"Somehow Marvel has actually acquired the rights to the Adam West 'Batman' series, the Lynda Carter 'Wonder Woman' series, and the 'Power of Shazam' TV series, and we'll be doing that!" Adams joked.

"Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine" is "completely almost done," Paniccia joked. "We are going to come amazingly close to those deadlines!" He then showed a few slides from the series, including Leinil Yu's pencilled pages. Images of Nick Fury's ping-pong match and Wolverine versus a panda bear were favorites.

In discussing the death of Ultimate Professor X, Paniccia revealed that he pronounces the X-villain's name "Mag-NET-o," rather than "Mag-NEET-o," but that he often gets in trouble for this.

"Ultimate Requiem" issues will follow the end of the various current "Ultimate" series. "Between one and three of these characters won't be around," he said of an X-Men slide featuring Wolverine, Cyclops, and Jean Grey. "One of these characters, we can always bring back."

Mark Bagley will return to "Ultimate Spider-Man" for the "Requiem" two-parter. The new "Ultimate Spider-Man" is written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Dave Lafuente; "Ultimate Avengers" is by Mark Millar and Carlos Pacheco, with the second arc by Yu; and "New Ultimates" is by Jeph Loeb and Frank Cho.

The next slide was of character sketches by Art Adams, but neither Adams nor Paniccia would comment on who the character (or characters) might be.

Paniccia opened the floor to questions, though fans were reluctant because, as the editor said, "I can't tell you who survives 'Ultimatum.'"

Is Ultimate Comics a continuation of the Ultimate Universe? Paniccia said it's a matter of rebranding, and the new series will pick up after "Ultimatum." "'Ultimatum' is one of the greatest catastrophes to hit a comic book universe," he said, adding that there will be unexpected deaths that do carry over.

He also described the new start as an effort to clear away some of the baggage that the Ultimate Universe had accumulated, noting that part of what made it work in the beginning was that there was very little past continuity. "We're trying to return it to the 'Gold Standard,'" Paniccia said. He later clarified that the new Ultimate Comics would be much more new-reader friendly and lighter on continuity than has been the case for Ultimate Universe in recent years.

On the subject of why Ultimate characters began to more closely resemble the regular Marvel characters, Paniccia asked, "Do you feel that way because the 616 characters have started to more resemble their alternate counterparts?" He noted that the Marvel Universe had in many ways begun to mirror the Ultimate Universe, and that this led to competing versions, which had not been intended.

"There are plans for Captain America post-'Ultimatum' -- not a solo book," Paniccia said, though he did mention that this might change further down the line.

A fan asked whether the new "Exiles" series will play a role in the new Ultimate Universe. "Before being involved in the Ultimate Universe, I always looked at it as a re-interpretation of the Marvel Universe, and not something you could cross over to," Paniccia said. "But 'Ultimate Power' changed all that." Paniccia, who also edits "Exiles," said that he and series writer Jeff Parker have discussed the possibility, but that he would be cautious about pursuing such a story.

"What do you guys have against Wasp, anyway?" a fan asked, noting that she has now died in both Marvel Universes. Paniccia said he liked Wasp, so he had no reply. "I just signed," Adams added, "I had nothing to do with it, either."

In response to a fan saying he wanted creators to just be able to do their thing, Adams said, "You will love what Jeph Loeb and I are doing."

Paniccia added that there are less editorial and corporate restrictions on their Ultimate characters, giving them the chance to reinvent-or permanently kill-characters, even if such would not be possible in the Marvel Universe proper.

Is 616 pronounced "six-one-six" or "six-sixteen?" "The correct term is Marvel Proper," Paniccia said. "Every time I call it six-one-six, I get a dirty look from Joe Quesada."

A fan asked why all of the Ultimate series, notably the long-running "Ultimate Spider-Man," had to be cancelled for the re-branding. "We just wanted to give it a fresh look, and let people know that it's a new direction." He said cancelled titles like "Ultimate Fantastic Four" would be reconsidered for later in the line.

Will there ever be another Marvel or Ultimate Marvel crossover with DC? "I'd love that. I've got five ideas for that right now," Adams said. Paniccia said he'd like it, but that it wasn't under his control.

A fan expressed appreciation for the Peter Parker/Kitty Pryde relationship, but said she felt their breakup was forced. She then asked whether Ultimate characters, then, could really develop in a way different from their Marvel Proper counterparts. "I think there's actually more of a move towards getting rid of the 'illusion of change,' these days," Paniccia said. "The last few meetings I've been at, some really radical stuff has been thrown out there."

Why start "Incredible Hercules" off the Hulk numbering rather than with a #1? Paniccia said several possibilities, including starting Hercules with a #1 and doing a Champions series. He said that, ultimately, past Hercules titles have not launched well, but this idea came up from the bygone practice of retaining numbering while changing the title. "It was an experiment, and it turned out really well," the editor said.

Another fan said that, as a family man himself, he would like to see married characters in comics. Adams said he enjoyed Walt Simonson's "happy family" approach to the Fantastic Four, and that he wouldn't mind seeing more of this. "It won't be in my book."

Paniccia agreed that "there is something interesting about a married superhero," but that some editors feel that this ages the characters.

The panel ended with a question about the possibility of a "Marvel vs. Capcom 3" video game, with Adams joking that this was his secret project.

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