The big buzz surrounding Comic-Con International in San Diego may be the increasing amount of facts coming to light surrounding Joss Whedon's "Avengers" film, but that doesn't mean the comics side of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes equation is lacking in content or star power. And Friday's "Marvel: The Heroic Age: Avengers" panel certainly brought both as best-selling franchise lead writer Brian Michael Bendis and Marvel CCO/E-i-C Joe Quesada took the stage accompanied by writers Matt Fraction and Jim McCann as well as talent manager C.B. Cebulski to talk up everything from big ticket titles like "Avengers" and "New Avengers" to solo hero series including "Invincible Iron Man" and "Hawkeye & Mockingbird."
Quesada kicked things off by getting the crows to hoot and holler. "We'll answer questions about anything and everything Avengers or Rocket Raccoon or Chic Filet...whatever," he joked before introducing the panelists. Bendis talked up "Avengers" first. "This is the gathering of the greatest heroes that ever lived and Spider-Woman," the writer said before praising John Romita, Jr.'s work on the book saying "It's the best Spider-Man artist, the best Iron Man artist and the best Wolverine artist all on once book at the same time."
He soon moved to the news that "New Avengers" would soon move to a storyline delving into the mystical and magical side of Marvel as the team searches for the lost child of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. "This will hopefully shape Marvel magic into something great and conceivable." Not all the heroes will make it out of the first arc, he explained.
McCann spoke to the future of Hawkeye and Mockingbird, saying it's his dream book about "superspys who like to fight each other as much as they do bad guys." The end of the first arc will feature Crossfire and Phantom Rider – two villains who are the first of the married heroes' soon to be grown Rogue's Gallery.
"Widow Maker" is a crossover McCann with do with "Black Widow" and writer Duane Swierczynski. The inclusion of Ronin in the teaser pic even caught Bendis by surprise as McCann explained that this new Ronin is hunting down spys, starting with Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Black Widow. The crossover will effect the course of both books over the next two years, according to McCann.
Issue #4 of "Avengers" will feature Galactus, as Bendis joked that the side of the spread of Romita's art for the issue read "Fuck you, Bendis" as the spread was chock full of visual information. "It looks to me as if the timestream has absolutely broken in half," Bendis said of how Kang's story led to the devourer of worlds before he promised to post his script pages for the sequence online after the book is released so fans can see how Romita took everything thrown at him and put it into one sequence.
The Red Hulk will also join the Avengers team in issue #7 at the start of the second arc. Bendis promised that the character's inclusion would fit well with plans for the "Hulk" series established by Jeph Loeb in the current "World War Hulks" crossover as well as writer Jeff Parker, who's largely believed to be taking over the title.
Quesada showed a new "New Man Without Fear" teaser of Falcon which follows after Nova and Gambit teasers shown earlier in the weekend. The E-i-C said that after "Shadowland" a new Man Without Fear would be established from that group.
Asked why she's a part of the team, Bendis said he thinks Spider-Woman will prove her worth in "Avengers" and he promised he'd get Romita to "stop drawing her with Jersey Girl hair."
Asked about his non-Avengers ongoing, Bendis said "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #16 is the 150th issue of "Ultimate Spider-Man" all together, and Bendis promised the book would be an extra-sized anniversary issue to mark both that occasion and the 10th anniversary of the Ultimate Universe.
Bendis called writer Ed Brubaker after a fan asked what was next for Steve Rogers and Fraction's impersination of the "Secret Avengers" scribe didn't cut the mustard in terms of getting answers. Brubaker tried to speak through the phone and said what sounded like, "The next thing coming up for him would be to find out what happens when he kisses Shang Chi's ass." Later on, Brubaker texted Bendis to say up next for Steve is "A trip to Hong Kong, an ex-girlfriend, an old friend from World War II who's now an enemy, watching Bucky go on trial and way too many mini series because he's got a movie coming out next summer."
Brubaker then texted again to say, "I also thought you were calling me to tell me I won the Eisner."
A fan asked after the question of whether or not Quesada had a moment where the changes of "Spider-Man: One More Day" had "paid off" for the character despite the reaction to that specific story. "Creatively we knew whether it paid off or not, the idea of Spider-Man being single again was the most important goal," he said, adding that he felt it paid off when "Brand New Day" was a few months in and there was a large and expansive supporting cast in "Amazing" to help pay off on that promise.
A reader said that he felt a "Cosmic Avengers" makes the idea of the cosmic books smaller than they should be by tying that whole section of Marvel to a concept from earth. Quesada stressed that judgements should be made only after someone had read the story and that Marvel was not giving up on the cosmic material.
A reader asked if Bendis would craft a moment for Peter Parker to "get back" at Maria Hill after she abused his mind to find the secrets of "House of M." Fraction said there would be some tension and connection between the characters when Spidey appears in "Invincible Iron Man."
Later asked about the future of that book, Fraction said "'Resiliant' keeps telling the story of Tony trying to rebuild his empire from nothing." In building a new car to fund his ideas to adapting to his new armor, the story will present a narrative where "We're going to see how resilient Tony can be – how many wars you can fight on how many fronts." The arc will end in what Fraction felt was his most ambitious action set piece he's ever written featuring the full cast from War Machine to Detroit Steel.
Asked where Marvel will be five years from now in terms of its digital sales, the Editor-in-Cheif admitted that he was unsure. "Digitial is new to all of us, both us and you guys," Quesada said, promising that there may be more day-and-date special releases in the near future, but Marvel would not make full moves to that model anytime soon in deference to the Direct Market retailers.
Fraction was asked whether his new "Thor" run would follow in the footsteps of his previous series set in the hero's Viking past, the writer said it would be "Much more in the sort of Kirby spacey tradition." The book will be "born of the end of Kirby's run where there's a spacey energy and glow...it feels very futurey and far-reaching rather than backwards-looking." Aside from artist Pasqual Ferry contributed to that look, Fraction was also excited for John Workman's letters as the lettered worked on Walt Simonson's run with Thor saying "It just looks right...you'll go 'That's how Thor sounds.'"
When the question of more anthology comics came up, the panel pointed a fan to October's "Strange Tales II" indie anthology.
Asked about how stable the lineups of the Avengers teams would be, Bendis joked, "After issue #5, nothing will happen until #20."
The question of motion comics came up and whether they've proved successful enough to make more. "Stylistically, they're all radically different, but with everyone we do the technology is getting better and better," Quesada said, noting that a "Loki" motion comic was just announced and that it's treatment of Esad Ribic's art is a new step forward for the form and that with luck, in the next five years the motion comics out there would overtake the current crop in every way possible.
The final question was about the future of "Runaways." Cebulski promised that the characters would soon be popping up across the Marvel Universe and that they were building up to something very big for the characters for new of which you'd have to "wait and see."