Marvel editor Tom Brevoort opened the Marvel: Your Universe panel at Wizard World Philadelphia by telling us about wandering into the Sunday Conversation with Dan Didio panel a few months ago at New York Con. DC's DiDio Immediately invited him to join in, and Brevoort enjoyed the panel so much he thought "Wow, this is a good idea. Let's steal this!"
Before the panel opened, Marvel writer Dan Slott entertained us with an impromptu game of Marvel Hangman on the video screen. The category was "Marvel Villains." We were able to spell out "Ulik the Troll" without hanging.
Brevoort led the discussion, with Dan Slott and C.B. Cebulski occasionally chiming in. Instead of "What do you love about comics?" the topic was "What are we doing right or wrong at Marvel?"
The first questioner mentioned that Quesada had said in an earlier panel he wasn't into the big cosmic stories. Since the questioner loves that stuff, he was concerned that he wouldn't be seeing more of it from Marvel. Brevoort assured him that they tried to do stuff for every taste. Someone then asked for more Silver Surfer. Brevoort said that the Silver Surfer used to have a specific place in Marvel; he was the noble alien trapped on Earth. Once that was resolved and he got off Earth, no one has had a good handle on what to do with him. His identity isn't defined: what makes the Silver Surfer the Silver Surfer now? They're still struggling with that.
Some fans took the opportunity to pitch stories, or to request the return of a favorite character. One fan was confused about the events of Spider-Man's "Brand New Day." Did the wedding never happen or did it happen and no one remembers? Slott pointed out that if the wedding had happened, every time Spider-Man was with a woman, it would be adultery. We can't have the guy in the Sony movies committing adultery all the time in the comics!
This led into a discussion of continuity. Brevoort said it seems important to fans that the books they read fit in with the overall Marvel universe, but that isn't always easy when you've got superstar writers like Joss Whedon writing books. It can be hard to time things so they fit together. Cebulski explained that "Astonishing X-Men" is actually in-continuity, but the events occur over a very brief time, even though the books come out over a long period. One thing you can do to maintain continuity, explained Brevoort, is to fight to keep a creative team together, but that sometimes leads to late books. They try to avoid that, but it's a tradeoff. "Ultimates" I and II were a good example - they kept getting delayed, and meanwhile "Ultimate Spider-Man" writer Brian Bendis keeps calling up and asking when he can start talking about events in "Ultimates" in his book!
He argued that even though everyone hates late books, they're not as bad as they used to be, because once the story is complete it's collected in a trade paperback. People can enjoy the story in that form for years.
Someone said he stopped reading comics for a while because he got turned off by the proliferation of X-books. "X-Factor, X-Force, X-lax, whatever!" he said. "At least X-Lax came out regularly!" quipped Slott. Brevoort explained that popular characters tend to get more books, and it's hard to say when demand for a given concept is saturated. "Do you put out another Wolverine book, or do you take a chance on Darkhawk?"
Slott said he read his first comics at his cousin's house, and for a long time he thought that's where comics came from - his cousin's basement! Then one day he saw a poster saying Spider-Man was going to be at the 7-11. That was the first time he noticed that you could actually buy comics. When the day of Spider-Man's personal appearance arrived, Dan got there really early because he wanted to see Spider-Man swing in.
Someone reported he'd recently returned to X-men after a long absence, and was confused about how the characters had changed. Brevoort said that one of the things that bring people into the comics shops every Wednesday is to find out what happens next. With that going on, it's inevitable that the characters will change over time. On the other hand, the essence of the characters isn't going to change. They may stray, but they'll always return to that core.
Toward the end of the panel, Brevoort asked the audience a series of rapid-fire questions:
How do we feel about the Ultimate titles? Should we keep doing them or phase them out? The consensus seemed to be that Marvel should keep doing Ultimate books, but only a few every month.
"Marvel Zombies." Like? Don't like? Should it connect to the Marvel Universe? Only a small number of fans responded, but they were wildly enthusiastic.
Have you ever had a letter printed? Should we bring back the letters page? A fan said if it's a choice between a letters page or a hype page, give us the letters page. We have other ways of finding out what books are coming out! This statement was greeted by enthusiastic applause.
We hear a lot about event fatigue, but every time we do one it sells. How tired of these events are you really? What works and what doesn't? This question elicited a lot of advice, sometimes contradictory. It's a waste of time when one event negates the effects of the previous one. There should be an overall road map guiding the event. Writers should have free rein to take the event where they want in their own books. Readers shouldn't have to buy a different book just to find out how the story in a book you read ends. Brevoort responded that they take pains to not force creative teams to tie in to big events if they don't want to. Some books do benefit from crossovers. "Captain Britain and MI 13" got a big boost, he said, thanks to crossover exposure.
A conversation broke out about intelligent characters like Reed Richards and how they keep getting outsmarted by supposedly less intelligent villains, but the panel was already running long, and Brevoort had to call it to a halt.
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