Wizard World Philly: Avengers Panel Report

The team that's taken over the Marvel Universe took center stage in Philadelphia on Sunday for Wizard World's Avengers panel. On hand to discuss the teams' future were Jim McCann, Brian Bendis, Bill Rosemann, CB Cebulski, and Molly Lazer.

The slideshow presentation featured covers from forthcoming Avengers books, including "Avengers: The Initiative," "Captain America," "House of M: Avengers," "Mighty Avengers," "Ms. Marvel," "The Order," "Sub-Mariner," "Thunderbolts," and "Thor."

A few of the upcoming developments in "Avengers: The Initiative" were discussed, with roster changes being especially highlighted. In response to a question about disabled heroes, editor Molly Lazer mentioned that readers should look for former New Warriors member Silhouette in forthcoming issues, as well as Triathlon (formerly of the Avengers). There was also discussion of the person (or persons) wearing the Spider-armor on covers of upcoming issues, and Lazer referred to the character several times as "The Scarlet Spider," borrowing the name of the cult not-so-favorite Spider-Man clone. Initiative drill sergeant the Gauntlet was also shown in rather bad shape, and the panel suggested his time might be up.

Discussion of Captain America began with the blunt statement from Lazer that the Winter Soldier is now out to kill Tony Stark, whom he blames for the death of Cap. Lazer also said that Sharon Carter's arc has not yet been resolved, as she is still plagued with guilt over her actions that contributed to Cap's murder. It was also revealed that the Red Skull's daughter, Sin, will be leading an all-new Serpent Squad comprised of the Cobra, Eel, and a new Viper.

Bill Rosemann noted the success of the ongoing "Ms. Marvel" series, especially since the Civil War crossover issues, and explained that Ms. Marvel's ongoing mission is to become "the best of the best" when it comes to superheroes. Her formidable skills led Tony Stark to request she lead the "Mighty Avengers" team, but as Rosemann explained it, Ms. Marvel used this leverage to demand that Stark grant her a few Initiative members for her own personal missions. Former SHIELD director Maria Hill, never a friend of superheroes, managed to assign to Ms. Marvel's detail two heroes who some might not consider to be "the best of the best," namely the drunken robot known as Machine Man and the hero who only functions when he's out cold, Sleepwalker.

Still, Rosemann says, Ms. Marvel is determined to take up the challenge of making these also-rans live up to her standards. One of the "Ms. Marvel" covers previewed depicted her wrestling with feline fatale Tigra, which prompted Bendis to yell, "Cat fight!" which in turn drew bawdy speculation from the panel members and the audience, with McCann pausing to say, "I hope this doesn't get us in trouble with the bloggers!"

Several "New Avengers" covers were also shown, including one displaying Brian K. Vaughan's the Hood as the new Kingpin of supervillains. Bendis revealed the identities of each of the villains on the cover, including Madame Masque, The Owl, The Wizard, and Dr. Jonas Harrow.

Covers were also shown for Marvel's newly renamed series "The Order," which will be written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Barry Kitson. Bendis had high praise for Fraction's work, and Rosemann noted that because he shares an office with "The Order" editor Warren Simons, he is always anxious to see what Fraction has come up with next.

One fan asked why the name of the series had been changed from the originally slated name of "Champions," and McCann explained that another company (Heroic Publishing, though not identified by name during the panel) owns the trademark to that title. This led to a discussion of just how difficult it is to come up with original names for superhero teams. Tongue-in-cheek, McCann asked the audience to convey to one particular message board poster, who had become incensed that his suggestion of "The Olympians" wasn't used, that the name was also taken.

Two covers featuring the Sub-Mariner were shown, one from his own series, depicting a face-off with Wolverine, and another other pitting him against Venom in "Thunderbolts." Of note was the fact that Venom was wearing his classic costume rather than the newly redesigned one, suggesting possible changes for the character. Discussion had earlier been raised of where the "Sub-Mariner" series fit into continuity relative to World War Hulk, and one clue the panel pointed out was that the Sub-Mariner's series features the destruction of Atlantis.

Finally, the cover to "Thor" #3, featuring Thor vs. Iron Man, was shown again and McCann confirmed that this would indeed be a battle and not simply a "heated discussion." Interior pages were also shown featuring classic Thor characters such as the Warriors Three, but only in flashback. When asked if Loki would play an important role in the Marvel Universe going forward, the panelists were tight-lipped, responding with their infamous admonition to "Wait and see."

After the slideshow, the panel was opened to questions, and a bulk of them centered on the Skrull revelations in "New Avengers" #31, which Bendis, almost apologetically, reminded people had a long way to play out and as such he could not say much about it.

Questions were raised about Lyja, Johnny Storm's Skrull wife, the Skrull saucer explosion Hawkeye had apparently died in, and the possibilities that Jessica Jones' baby was being weaned on milk from the Skrull cows seen in "Fantastic Four" #2. All the questions met with the same non-response, but they kept coming, showing extreme fan interest in the storyline.

The panel ended with a lightning round of questions in which McCann allowed anyone to ask a yes or no question. One such question was posed to the famously verbose Bill Rosemann, whose panel speeches had been the basis of a running joke from his fellow panelists throughout the convention. Rosemann did not disappoint, and the panel concluded with his lengthy and well thought-out answer to the simple yes or no question.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Avengers forum.

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