WC11: Welcome To The X-Men

With more characters and more soap operatics than any other property in their pantheon, Marvel Comics' X-Men line is jam-packed with comics and fans who have strong opinions on said comics. So for their "Welcome To The X-Men" panel at WonderCon 2011 in San Francisco, the publisher looked to engender some local love with an X-Men variant cover draping the heroes in the colors of hometown heroes the San Francisco Giants. Although more than just opening day fever was expected at the event Saturday afternoon, and CBR News was on hand for all the action.

Marvel staffers including Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso took the stage, as Marvel Talent Coordiantor C.B.Cebulski welcomed the room by declaring the panel one that was slightly hungover but excited to be in San Fran for a fourth year straight of X-Men news. "Wolverine" writer Jason Aaron and "Uncanny X-Force" writer Rick Remender rounded out the group.

Cebulksi ran through a series of slides showing covers for the upcoming X-Men comics including "X-Men First To Last," "New Mutants" and "X-Factor" with much of the information already being public knowledge. The panelists were able to speak to the particulars of their own books. "'What is Archangel?' is the question, and why did Apocalypse put him in Warren Worthington?" Remender said about the incoming arc of of "X-Force" which he said will expand the Apocalypse mythology in terms of the winged character leading to more stories later in the year. "We're going to end up in the Age of Apocalypse [world] as the team tracks something down that's important for [Warren.]"

Aaron spoke "One of the first Wolverine things I did was 'Get Mystique'...and this is pretty much a sequel to that with a huge turning point in the Wolverine/Mystique relationship," said Aaron, promising that after this story fans can expect more stabbing in the book.

The full details of the main book in the "X-Men: Schism" event were then announced - written by Aaron with art over the five issues by Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Adam Kubert, Alan Davis and Daniel Acuña. "Scott Summers coming into his role as leader of the X-Men, and Wolverine as his first officer..when 'Schism' opens, we see these guys as Butch and Sundance, as close as they've been in their long history together. Then something happens...giant robots are involved...and there's a lot of hugging," Aaron said, with the final comment being a gag.

"We've been building to this for years now. Scott has carried a huge burden bringing the mutant race back from the brink of extinction, and there's a huge price to pay for that," said Alonso saying the story would be built upon the increasing militarization of the team over the past several years of stories.

The panel then announced a one-shot called "Wolverine: The Fifth Quarter" written by Food Network star and San Fran native Chef Chris Cosentino and drawn by Tim Seeley. The book will take place in the city with the writer saying, "This will be very food-centric and very much about San Francisco...it's an honor to me being able to actually write a comic book. I loved Wolverine as a kid and would just sit there staring at my hands."

The floor opened to fan questions then with a man wondering if a new X-Men animated series was in the works. Cebulski said there were plans, but more info would be coming at the Marvel Animation panel later in the weekend.

Shifting gears, one reader asked if original Venom Eddie Brock would appear in Remender's "Venom" comic, to which the writer replied. "Yes, there's a lot of connectivity between 'Venom' and upcoming Spider-Man stories...the way that we find Eddie will be surprising."

Some questions about specific characters hit including Bobby Drake and Gambit. "You will most definitely see Iceman in a significant role in the X-Universe in the near future," Aaron said, adding that the plans for the character will explore his past. Remender and Aaron have spent a lot of time talking about the character and how to incorporate him into the line. Cebulski said that Gambit will appear in "X-Men Legacy" as well as Marjorie Liu's "X-23" series.

Local concerns came up with a reader requesting more of San Francisco in the X-Men books since the team is now located in the city. "I want to see my house on panel," he joked with Alonso promising him that he's constantly bugging Nick Lowe to incorporate more of the locales of his hometown into the books.

The characters involved with "Schism" were asked after. "Hope and the Five Lights are a big part of ['Schism'] as well as may of the other students," Aaron said, though the panel confirmed that Jean Grey would not return in the books, though Phoenix fans could see an alternate Jean in the "Age of Apocalypse" arc of "Uncanny X-Force."

"The running theme through all of these characters is that they're damaged...so what they do, they do so their friends don't have to. But there are some membership changes coming up you should look out for," Remender said about the makeup of "Uncanny X-Force."

Alonso spoke to his frequent discussion point of the desire for fans to have stories that count. He said that over the past few years, they've grown the X-Men line more into one major epic that has big twists and turns every few years. "Back when we were planning 'Messiah CompleX,' we kind of sort of saw 'Schism' coming," he explained, noting that characters including Hope, Cable and Bishop will continue to see their interpersonal storylines reverberate throughout the whole X-Men line.

A fan dressed as the villain Stryfe came up asking about Cable's arm that survived the final battle of "Second Coming" and wondering if it portended a return of the character. "Yeah, there's an arm...but we don't bring back characters that much," laughed Alonso, giving a special shout out to a fan dressed as Nightcrawler.

A discussion broke out about how editorial went about bringing back certain characters including the Exiles cast. Cebulski said that there are characters with their fan at Marvel, however the company was loath to just release books with characters fans want if they haven't found a writer with a compelling pitch to make the book work for a broad audience. "Runaways" is a classic example of this, he said.

"The fact of the matter is that the X-Men have had to put their own house in order...struggling for the survival of their species while waiting for this Messiah child to appear," Alonso said, noting that with the "X-Men" monthly was an "exploratory jab" to the fans to see how an X-Men universe working closer to the Marvel U would go over. "We want the X-Men Universe and the Marvel Universe to overlap, and we've wanted that for a while...'Schism' is a first step [in that direction]," the E-i-C later explained.

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