This past weekend, the entire crew of Marvel Comics' fan favorite monthly title, "Spider Girl" graced the Pittsburgh Comicon. Sal Buscema, Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, and Pat Olliffe were also kind enough to take some time out at the convention to sit down and chat with fans of "Spider-Girl" and the MC2 line of comics as a whole.
Though scheduled for one o'clock, the Fan Appreciation Panel got off to a slightly late start. Frenz and Olliffe showed up on time, but Buscema and DeFalco were among the missing, not an uncommon thing for anyone ever treated to the chaos of a convention. Frenz, however, assured the assembled fans that his cohorts would be there soon, citing that "they're probably being hand-fed shrimp by some Hooters Girls."
While everyone waited, Frenz and Olliffe fielded a question from the crowd about just when the heck is "Spider-Girl" supposed to be set in Marvel's ever-loosening continuity. Frenz jumped on board for this question, explaining that, for simplicity's sake, Pete and Mary Jane, those kids kissing in that movie everyone went to see, got married and had a kid. This story is her story, and takes place sometime in the future. Frenz said that he had heard dissertations about when "Spider-Girl" is supposed to be set, but in the end, it's just the near future.
Olliffe jumped in at that point, explaining how there had been many the discussion around the office about how "the future" should look, whether they should go more technologically advanced or not. But even from taking today as a jumping off point, explained Olliffe, 15 years probably wouldn't bring that excessive a change to the world, so the world became slightly futuristic but immediately recognizable, allowing a greater sense of immersion for the readers.
By this time, DeFalco and Buscema had arrived. After a rousing introduction from Frenz for the two, which Buscema immediately ribbed Frenz for, the gang (all wearing "Spider-Girl: Back in Black" t-shirts) got settled in and began telling the story of how "Spider-Girl," both comic and character, came to be.
"Spider-Girl" had initially began with a single issue of "What if…" and there was so interest about the idea that the editors at Marvel pinned down the crew and asked for more, with Spider-Girl leading the charge on a whole new imprint. This imprint, which came to be known as MC2, featured future versions of a number of heroes. "A-Next" and "The Fantastic Five" were developed along with "Spider-Girl," but as many fans already know, the future FF got put on the backburner in favor of "J2," the son of the Juggernaut. What many folks didn't know (and were privy to at the panel) was how "J2" came to be. DeFalco and Frenz laughingly explained that "J2" was born of a mistake on the part of the editorial staff. One of the initial outlines for the future Avengers had Carnage and Kaine, the mutated clone of Peter Parker, on the roster, and somehow, the editorial translated Kaine into something entirely different.
"The guys in editorial said, 'Yeah we really like that Son of Juggernaut character in there,'" said DeFalco. "I didn't know what they were talking about, but I said, Yeah, we do, too!"
From there, the waters became decidedly muddier as the path to MC2 became even more convoluted. Many writers and editors questioned DeFalco and Frenz about whether or not they would be forced to adhere to the continuity that the MC2 crew would be setting up. While defusing these situations wasn't easy, DeFalco and Frenz both commented on how comical it was that such arguments happened when it wasn't too much longer before Marvel editorial made the wonderful statement that "We won't let continuity get in the way of telling a good story." As Frenz put it, "we're still waiting for the good stories," but it was clear that "Spider-Girl" would never walk an easy road.
One thing was certain, though: the fans wanted more "Spider-Girl," and the book became the only survivor of the attempted imprint, due more to limited runs of the books than cancellations, though. However, DeFalco and Frenz spoke at length about the number of times "Spider-Girl" was nearly cancelled, a victim of alleged poor numbers as gathered by the business department at Marvel. In one such story, DeFalco related how he was certain that his career at Marvel was over, and he said good-bye to everyone after "Spider-Girl" was cancelled yet again. Then, on April Fool's Day, of all times, DeFalco got the call that "Spider-Girl" was back on and they needed a script by that Friday. DeFalco, king of the April Fool's Day gag himself, told everyone that called where they could stick the script. Finally, however, the message got through, and "Spider-Girl" was back on. Many more attempted cancellations ensued (DeFalco said you can go back through all the issues and see when they were about to be cancelled, because those issues always ended on a splash page), but thanks to the fans, "Spider-Girl" was saved from the axe every time.
Everyone at the panel thanked those fans for pitching in their two cents and keeping "Spider-Girl" afloat. It was thanks to them that Sal Buscema got his one wish for retirement, to ink one good book a month, and "I've got that," he said, gesturing to the crowd and his cohorts at the table with him. It was also thanks to those fans that MC2 gets to see a resurgence in the next couple of months. After a question from the crowd and a quick huddle to see if they were allowed to talk about the project, the "Spider-Girl" crew talked for a few minutes about "Last Hero Standing," a fifth-week event from Marvel that breaks out many of the previous MC2 characters and even a few new ones. Frenz said that the event would show off a lot of the MC2 universe, as well as drag someone from the regular Marvel universe into the mix, someone that has already been mentioned in the MC2 books. All Frenz would say beyond that was this hero "will never be the same." "Last Hero Standing" is available for solicitation through Previews now.
Also of note, Frenz stated that the former MC2 properties will more than likely be reprinted in digest form following "Last Hero Standing." It was a hope of those that attended the panel, both at the table and in the audience, that these reprints will also contain the "lost" issues of "The Fantastic Five" and possibly "J2."
In the end though, the panel was about the fans and fun. The "Spider-Girl" team thanked the fans many times throughout the panel, and expressed great joy in having people who wanted to see fun comics out there. DeFalco put it best when he said, "We need more fun comics. Why pay three bucks to get depressed when you can watch the news for free?" As this statement was echoed throughout the panel and over the course of the weekend, DeFalco drew a round of applause from the audience. As a final note, the panel mentioned that "Spider-Girl" has been guaranteed through issue 100, which gives the team 40 issues without threat of cancellation. This, of course, drew a few chuckles from the team as one of them muttered, "Gee, they're going to get out of the habit soon, aren't they?"