Wizard World LA, Day 2: Marvel Universe Panel

Unlike the panel featuring their Distinguished Competition in the same room, the Marvel 2005 panel started late due to technical difficulties at Wizard World Los Angeles Saturday afternoon. While a planned, computer run slide show was postponed until the technical problems could be dealt with, Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada officially started the panel discussion. The crowd wasn't initially happy with what was happening, but Joe Q worked the crowd into the mood. In addition to Quesada, the panel was attended by Paul Jenkins, Allan Heinberg, editors Tom Brevoort, CB Cebulski, and Axel Alonso, as well as Marketing Director John Dokes.

Then Quesada opened the floor to questions, by getting the obvious ones out of the way first: he didn't know when the next issues of "Spiderman/Black Cat" would ship; "Daredevil: Father" would ship on time; the scheduling missteps with "Iron Man" were both Marvel's and the artist's fault. From there, other questions were handled.

Asked about the new 7-11 initiative, bring Marvel comics back in to 7-11 convenience stores, Joe Quesada expressed a wish for millions of sales through 7-11. More realistically, he hopes this will be a new avenue for younger kids to start reading comics, especially Marvel comics. There is a strategy in place for 7-11, but it was more of Dan Buckley's territory than his.

The subject of webcomics brought a definite no answer from Quesada, but that more experiments with DVD and CD-Rom comics would be happening. To his way of thinking, Quesada supports the idea of comics as a physical collectible, asking for hands of those who throw their comics away (there were none). He followed this up by saying that any comics the audience may have thrown away were probably those of the Distinguished Competition anyway.

Since the idea of webcomics spun out of ideas as to how to bring comics to new audiences, especially children, Quesada mentioned that all that was needed was something compelling to get the kids into comics. And Marvel hopes they can do just that, create compelling books.

Paul Jenkins fielded a question about "Origin 2." He said there would be no "Origin 2" this year. He knows what the story is. The plan is to do the story when the time is right. As far as he was concerned, "Origin" helped to revitalize Wolverine's mythos. (More on the subject of mythos later.) Quesada added there is no rush to do "Origin 2," that the best work would happen in the best possible time frame.

The subject of variants and the fear of repeating the mistakes of the recent past came up. Quesada mentioned it was walking a tightrope from the past. John Dokes said he doesn't want to see Marvel repeat all of the past (chromium covers, die-cut covers, etc.). He wants Marvel to rely on quality content to do the work of selling the books. Quesada came back into the conversation and talked about the big button named greed which did revitalize the industry because of variant covers. The fans vote on these things with their dollars. He personally hates variant covers, but as a businessman, he wants to keep the fans happy by giving them what they want. Which for now is variant covers.

After another company's recent attempts this past summer, the question of TV ads came up. Quesada's main problem with doing ads on television is the accessibility of comics to the general public. With the general public currently unable to go out their front door and buy comics the same way they can milk or toilet paper, why bother with TV commercials. Getting the comics back into 7-11 will help, but there is no big reason to pursue TV advertisements because the money simply ain't there yet.

From Quesada's perspective, all the recent initiatives (like Free Comic Book Day, movies, a return to the bookstores, and others) have helped boost the comics business. He is looking to do more as business grows.

A question was asked about doing more storytelling covers, rather than iconic image covers. In his response, Quesada said he was trying to find a balance between doing iconic and storytelling covers, but that iconic images do attract the eyes more. From a certain standpoint, storytelling covers are nostalgic, harkening back to the 50s and 60s for comics. Times have changed and comics have to be modern, to continue to grow and reach a modern, broader audience.

Quesada had no answer for a question as to why Marvel's stock hasn't gone up in price. John Dokes had an answer, "No comment."

Quesada went on to say that for many people, their first time comics are often those featuring the iconic characters. In Marvel's case, that is Spiderman and X-Men, the franchise books for the company.

Asked about his upcoming plans, Paul Jenkins said it was time for him to take a break from Spider-man. He feels that his last issue of "Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-man" is his best story, which he feels is fitting. He is working on a new "Sentry" series, set for eight issues, spinning out of "New Avengers;" the artist is the seemingly ubiquitous John Romita, Jr., according to Joe Quesada. Also Jenkins is in the early stages of working with Tom Brevoort on a series of fully painted books a la "Origin," where he will mix the stories from the comics with the lore of the films, for many of Marvel's heroes. Pablo Rivera will be painting the series, with the title of Mythos at this time.

About this time, the slide show was up and running, about twenty minutes into the program. Some of the highlights:

  • JMS and Mike McKone start their run on the "Fantastic Four" with #527. As the tag line goes, as an old era ends, a new era begins. The cover to "Fantastic Four" #528 by McKone was shown, featuring the Thing in a tuxedo, looking sharp as ever.
  • Brian Michael Bendis deals with the mystery of Sentry in "New Avengers" #7-9; according to Paul Jenkins, something shocking is coming.
  • "Astonishing X-Men" will take a break (about four months or so) after issue #12 ships, allowing both Joss Whedon and John Cassaday to catch up on other commitments, then they will return with #13 to finish up their story.
  • A "Kitty Pryde" mini series is coming up, with Kitty and Lockheed heading to Japan, done by Akira Yoshida and Paul Smith.
  • "Nightcrawler" returns in June.
  • Paul Pelletier joins "Exiles" as artist.
  • "NYX" #6 will ship in July and the script for #7 is done; the artist keeps having bad luck and bad things happen to him which delays the book.
  • A new member joins the team in "X-Men" #171.
  • "Weapon X" returns in July.
  • The killer will be revealed in "Captain America" #6. This killer will become a new major villain in the Marvel Universe.
  • "Last Hero Standing," an MC2 event, will ship weekly this summer. Featuring MC2 favorites such as A-Next, Spidergirl, and J-2, Last Hero Standing acts as almost a Secret Wars type event for the MC2 Universe.
  • "House of M," the upcoming X-Men/Avengers crossover, will change the Marvel Universe forever (hopefully in ways the fans like, according to Joe Q; Tom Brevoort said this is the jump off point for plans coming to fruition in 2006). The creative team is Bendis, whose new Internet nickname is Patches, and Olivier Coipel. Tom Brevoort mentions that many books will crossover into "House of M."
  • Trevor Hairsine will step in as fill-in artist on "Black Panther," starting with #7. Joe Quesada pumped up the Panther, saying it's a good book, and that it will help set up plans for the next year of the Marvel Universe.
  • "Iron Man: House of M," a mini series, is by Greg Pak and Pat Lee.
  • The Hulk's "House of M" crossover will take place in the regular, brought to us by Peter David and Jorges Lucas.
  • The "Black Panther" crosses over with the X-Men, written by Peter Milligan. This led to another mention of how important a player the Panther will become in the Marvel Universe.
  • Plans for "Young Avengers," as told to the crowd by Allen Heinburg, include big surprises in every issue, the lineup finalized in issues #6 and #7, but there is a shocking death in #5.
  • Tom Brevoort informed the audience that Dan Slott will continue on "She-Hulk" when it returns. Also in the works is a "Thing" solo title, spinning out of JMS' run on FF. And the "Great Lakes Avengers," with Paul Pelletier, will arrive soon. At this point, Brevoort was reminded of his promise to dance in the streets (the Robot was mentioned as the dance in question) in front of Marvel the day the GLA ships.

It was here where the slide show stopped again, with the computer jammed. So it was time for Stump The T-Voort, the game where Tom Brevoort gets to show his knowledge of Marvel comics lore. The prizes up for grabs were two FF hardcovers and a Marvel Wolverine print. The area of questioning was limited to Fantastic Four comics of the 1980s. After easily handling the first question (when did Attuma first appear? FF #33), the T-voort went 0 for 3, and the game was over.

And it was back to the announcements and questions.

  • "Secret War" #4 is done and #5 is being worked on now.
  • "The Abomination" mini series will come out next year.
  • Marvel is still trying to figure if Peter David will stay on "Hulk," following his current story arcs, but he does have other work coming from the House of Ideas.
  • Mark Waid, along with Mike Wieringo, on "Spider-Man" in October. The plans are being kept under wraps for now. But between Waid, JMS, and Reggie Hudlin, there are two years worth of plans mapped out for Spidey.
  • When asked about it, Axel Alonso said Marvel is carefully planning where X-23 appears next, but those plans are under wraps for now. Joe Quesada added that the gaps in X-23's past, like what was she doing before showing up in "NYX," will be filled in time.
  • Switching gears, Quesada mentioned that the MAX line continues with the "Punisher," that the movie reenergized Garth Ennis. But Quesada pointed out, MAX really isn't a line per se, but an initiative allowing creators to handle more adult oriented stories featuring Marvel characters. There is no rush to expand the number of titles put out by MAX, but there are a few in the works.
  • Quesada, when asked, in turn asked every one to be patient when it comes to Thor. There are projects in the planning stages. Tom Brevoort mentioned the classic Thor mini series by Mike Oeming and Scott Kolins, which will fill the gap before something new is done with the thunder god.
  • According to Quesada, there are big plans for "Supreme Power" in the works. He also said there is no real end in sight for "Supreme Power," that JMS has a big story to tell here. Axel Alonso said the book would be coming out on a more regular schedule.
  • According to Brevoort, there are plans for Spider Woman and Cage, but will be talked about when the time comes.
  • Quesada is working with the creative team who will take over "Wolverine" after Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. leave, but stay tuned to learn who they are. Axel Alonso added this team needs to have their stories fit into plot elements Millar and JRJR leave behind.
  • John Dokes mentioned a new "Ghost Rider" series is coming, the artist is Clayton Crain, working with writer Garth Ennis for six issues.
  • The subject of why Photon changed her name from Captain Marvel is handled is "Thunderbolts" #9.
  • According to Tom Brevoort, there will be more Maddrox.
  • Quesada took on the question about Warren Ellis' new team book for Marvel. All that he would confirm is it will have a mix of old and new characters. But, just as he said about "Young Avengers" in early 2004, Quesada says this Ellis book will be the best new team book of 2006.
  • Tom Brevoort handled a question about the Marvel Age line, saying it's doing well. But that "Runaways" is no longer part of that line, that it's a regular Marvel Universe book.
  • And finally Breevort said "Cable/Deadpool" will run for another year.

With that, the panel was brought to a close, the future of Marvel revealed yet still hidden from full view.

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