WONDERCON: "Marvel: Next Big Thing" with Bendis, Soule and More

On Friday afternoon at WonderCon in Los Angeles, top comics talent gathered downtown to talk the latest from Marvel publishing. Writers Brian Michael Bendis, Charles Soule, David Walker and James Asmus were all in attendance, along with Marvel editor Wil Moss, serving as panel moderator.

Bendis started by talking about his current slate of books, and teased that he'll reveal some of the first "Civil War II" interior artwork at the convention on Saturday at his spotlight panel.

"Kieron Gillen left the book with this amazing egg that he planted, that Tony Stark's biological parents are not his biological parents," Bendis said of the "International Iron Man" concept. "I couldn't believe this was handed to me, this amazing thing I never would have done with a character, but now I'm free to show you who his biological parents were. No, they are not who they think you are -- they are not Agent Carter and Captain America. We tried, but the math doesn't work."

"They're Thomas and Martha Wayne," Bendis joked. "They didn't really die in the alley, they were just sick of that whiny kid. I'm sorry, I actually lot Batman a lot."

Of "Spider-Man," Bendis reminded the crowd that Miles Morales is now in the mainstream Marvel Universe, and said that readers will see what, "the Latino side of his family is like, and how that informs him as a young man."

"We'll see Ms. Marvel coming in --Sara [Pichelli] draws the best Ms. Marvel," Bendis added, also teasing that a character will join Miles at school, someone who readers haven't seen in school with him before.

In "Guardians of the Galaxy," Thing will get a new love interest, and a major character will return.

Of "Civil War II," Bendis said that the story wasn't originally developed with that name, but Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley suggested it -- because if Marvel didn't call it that, everyone else would anyway.

"I know it's scary, but we love these characters so much," Bendis said of the event, and added that it's an exciting story to write because so many of the main Marvel characters are in very different places -- some have completely different identities -- than they were 10 years ago for the original "Civil War" by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven.

"I think we have something legitimately unique," Bendis said. The writer teased the "Civil War II" Free Comic Book Day story and the #0 issue, both scheduled for May, as important parts of the overall event.

"The train is on time," Bendis said of the "Civil War II" schedule. "Talk to me in three months, I might have a different answer, but right now, the train is on time."

Walker was up next, calling working on "Power Man and Iron Fist" with Sanford Greene an "amazing experience." "Nighthawk," drawn by Ramon Villalobos, debuts in May, and Walker said he can't believe what they're getting away with in the book.

Walker -- and Soule -- are both contributing to "Deadpool" #13, which is effectively a four-part crossover between "Daredevil," "Power Man and Iron Fist" and "Deadpool," all contained within one issue. Walker shared his enthusiasm in writing Luke Cage with the crowd: "Every morning I wake up and pinch myself, it's amazing."

"We're going to see them become both the best and the worst of who they are," Walker said of upcoming issues of "Power Man and Iron Fist." "When Brian [Bendis] was writing Luke in 'New Avengers,' you get the feeling that Luke is one of the most-loved of all the superheroes [among Marvel characters], and I'm kind of running with that."

Of the "Nighthawk" premise, Walker said, he's "a character who even the Punisher would look at and go, 'Dude, slow down.'" Much of the series, Walker explained, involves his city -- Chicago -- coming to grips with Nighthawk as more than an urban myth.

Asmus talked "All-New Inhumans," saying a central dilemma is, "Do you betray your ideal morality sometimes to protect your people in the sense of a greater good?" The writer said the series combines "real-world issues with sci-fi majesty."

"The story we're doing right now is a two-part with Spider-Man," Asmus continued. "That has been a ball to write. A lot of my background is in comedy, and I failed to put a jokester on the team. Also, the mysterious sky spheres have crashed onto Earth in the [eight-month gap after 'Secret Wars.']"

"The reason that happened is connected to the Inhumans," Soule added. "There's a lot of long-term planning going on with the Inhumans. We really wanted to give you guys some payoffs. 'Civil War II' is going to be a part of that. It's going to be cool."

Turning to "Uncanny Inhumans," Soule said, "One of the main things about these characters is they're a royal lineage that's been around thousands of years. There are a lot of neat issues you can get into with that. As part of 'Civil War II,' they're very deeply involved in the ongoing plot of that."

Soule said events are where you can put some "lasting change on the Marvel Universe," and is looking forward to talking more about how "Civil War II" will affect the Inhumans soon. Soule also told the crowd the in "Uncanny Inhumans" #8 and #9, readers will find out how Johnny Storm and Medusa got together.

Next subject was "Daredevil," also written by Soule. The writer discussed newly introduced character Blindspot, who is an undocumented Chinese immigrant: "The issues he's facing as an 18-year-old kid in New York City are, I think, different from what we've seen in the Marvel Universe before."

"There's a lot of cool stuff coming up," Soule said. "Right now we're finishing up the first arc, then we'll hit a story with Elektra. Then a story I haven't quite figured out yet -- then after that, a story introducing another new villain, who is something of a serial killer. You guys ever see that 'Hannibal' show? You know how he did those horrible murder tableaus? This guy does something like that."

Soule also talked his two current Star Wars comics: "Obi-Wan and Anakin" and "Poe Dameron." Of the latter, Soule said, "It is very cool, it is beautiful, Phil [Noto] has done amazing work as always. We really want to make it feel how the movie felt. There's a great new bad guy in it who has a very unique role in the First Order. He has a great mustache."

Bendis interjected with a joke based on Oscar Isaac's other big franchise role: "Do we find out in your 'Poe' comic how he turns into Apocalypse?"

Next up: Fan Q&A. The first asked about Marvel pushing for more female characters, mentioning the current, female Thor. Moss told the fan that writer Jason Aaron wasn't pushed to introduce a female Thor, it's where he wanted to go with the story and it made sense. Asmus pointed out that the lead characters of both "Uncanny Inhumans" and "All-New Inhumans" are female (Medusa and Crystal, respectively). Walker said there's a female character in "Nighthawk" that he plans to have become the lead character eventually (though he said Marvel editorial doesn't necessarily know about that yet).

"I want to bring in some new female villains, because I think villains are so much more complex, and more fun to play with," Walker continued.

Bendis explained to a fan how the "Civil War II" sides were chosen. He said that the concept of Iron Man and Captain Marvel would each be leading a side was established early, and he then wrote a sample draft of an issue and brought it to a retreat, where the writers of the individual characters picked who would end up where.

"It locked in, almost in the first draft, pretty even," Bendis said. "That made us feel pretty good about the direction of the story. If everyone was on one side, then there's something wrong with this story."

Another fan asked if Bendis objected to Daredevil's secret identity no longer being public knowledge, given that he was the writer who introduced that twist. "It's the deal," Bendis said. "As our buddy Matt Fraction said, it's a relay race -- you hold the baton as long as you can, but you know you'll pass the baton. I passed the baton to Ed [Brubaker]. Beyond that, so you don't start turning into crappy Alan Moore, you've go to let it go. You see our elders -- some of them, they let it go, they're happy they put some toys in the toy box, and they're zen. Other get angrier and angrier, and it's a waste of time."

"I'm happy they let me out him," Bendis said. "I'm happy it lasted that long -- I thought it'd be a year or two later. Charles has to have the freedom to tell his story the same way I had freedom to tell mine." Soule said that as a lawyer, he personally had a problem with the idea of a vigilante being allowed into a court room, which is part of what prompted him to again establish a secret identity for Matt Murdock.

"Everything that happened, happened," Bendis said of Miles Morales' current status, clarifying that his pre-"Secret Wars" history remains. "Now he's here, and that's happening."

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