Earlier this year, Marvel Comics labeled a group of its top-tier creators as "The Architects;" this included Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Jason Aaron. These individuals were given this unique moniker by the publisher as they were "the writers and artists telling the most exciting and impactful stories that rock the Marvel Universe to its very core every month."
On Saturday at the 2011 Emerald City Comicon, these Architects appeared at a packed panel to discuss their plans for the Marvel U. The only creator from the group that wasn't able to attend was Jason Aaron, but a panelist drew a picture of the writer so his 2D presence could be felt. Joining this "brain trust" for Marvel were Editor Lauren Sankovitch and SVP Creator & Content Development C.B. Cebulski, who served as a moderator (when the ebullient writers allowed him the chance to speak).
After an introduction of all the panelists, attendees quickly lined up behind a microphone on the floor to ask questions of the group. The first fan to speak indicated that he was a huge fan of "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" artists David Lafuente and Sara Pichelli, and wanted to know where he could see more of their work when original "Ultimate Spider-Man" artist Mark Bagley takes over art chores during the "Death of Spider-Man" arc.
"Both of them are brilliant," Bendis responded. "I think Sara Pichelli is the find of the year. Me and Sara have a very, very large project coming out in the fall, and we're hard at work at it right now.
"David Lafuente and I will be doing some annuals and specials coming up over the next year or two. David is an amazing artist; he just isn't -- right now -- a monthly artist with the style he does. I want him on special projects so he shines like he did on that first annual he drew."
Cebulski quickly added, "In the meantime, not to give too much away, David Lafuente is working on something new and mutanty."
The next question concerned a trend that's been growing in the Pacific Northwest: real-life superheroes -- everyday people dressing up as superheroes and fighting real crime. Several of these "heroes" were at the convention this weekend, and the fan at the microphone heard Bendis had the opportunity to meet one of the bigger celebrity heroes from Seattle, Phoenix Jones.
Bendis did confirm that there was a run-in… sort of. "It was just me and my daughter, and Phoenix Jones was standing there," Bendis explained. "I was torn between really wanting to meet him and realizing that there's a crazy person in a costume with weapons standing near my kid. So I just wanted to protect my kid and left."
Attendees laughed and clapped at this reaction. Bendis continued, "I did meet the Portland real superheroes today, and the Seattle real superheroes are here, and if me and Ed don't walk out of here creating a real-life superhero Civil War, then we haven't done our job."
More laughter ensued, while the next fan took his turn at the mic. He wanted to know more about the X-Men's future plans. As the team has been through so much over the past year, he was wondering what new direction the X-books could possibly take.
Fraction smiled at this and replied, "Boy, 2012 is a great year to answer that question. We have a really big idea that ate up two and a half days of our lives recently. It's the whole murder-marriage-death-birth cycle/saga, yet bigger and better and onwards and upwards.
"With all the [X-Men] storylines in the next twelve months, you'll start to see that they're all converging towards a single point. You'll see… we're getting there. Almost all the pieces are on the board."
With that, the talk moved from mutants to monsters and magic. An attendee asked if readers could hope to see more monsters and Dr. Strange, especially with regard to the upcoming "Fear Itself" event.
Fraction answered that the odds of Dr. Strange appearing in the event were "very good," and while he couldn't promise monsters, he did say, "I think there's a great Man-Thing story waiting to happen in all of this."
Bendis also aimed to please the fan, and said that Dr. Strange "is a big part of 'New Avengers' and there's been a lot of magic going on, particularly in the first arc. We're going to return to that down the line."
And if that wasn't enough, Cebulski chimed in, "If you're a fan of Monster Island, the current arc of 'Astonishing X-Men' by Daniel Way and Jason Pearson is called 'Monsters,' and that's exactly where it takes place."
The discussion then veered from monsters and the astral plane to the Milky Way and beyond, as the next questioner wanted to know about the status of Marvel's Cosmic Universe. Sankovitch fielded this one and said, "Right now we have the 'Annihilators' miniseries out with a nice little back-up featuring Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Any fans out there?"
The audience applauded, with several fans shouting out "Rocket Raccoon!"
"There's some pretty wild stuff coming up with the cosmic universe, though it may take a little more time to come out, but have no fear, there are some really big plans in the mix," Sankovitch replied. "If you've been following 'Fantastic Four,' there's many things that Jonathan [Hickman] has set in play. Some of them have come to fruition, and there are still many more surprises on the way… and some things in store for the Inhumans, so keep your eyes open"
"In the first arc of 'Mighty Thor' that starts in April -- which is me, Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales and Laura Martin -- Galactus comes to Asgard," said Fraction. "So…Silver Surfer, Galactus, Thor and Asgardians!"
The cosmic query was followed by a fan asking if Iron Fist would return to the mystical side of kung fu, along the lines of the stories that Fraction and Brubaker wrote together. Fraction responded, "Read 'Fear Itself' #4 and stay tuned."
On the topic of writing partnerships, a request was made of Brubaker to re-team with Greg Rucka and co-write another "Daredevil" story as they did in the past. Brubaker responded as if he were game: "That'd be awesome at some point. I just ran into him this morning. What do you want? I'm an architect. I can build it."
This drew laughs from the audience, and the writer further explained, "The 'Daredevil' thing was really just because artist Michael [Lark] and I were doing it and I thought how cool it would be since Greg was off his DC exclusive -- 'Hey, let's do a 'Gotham Central' reunion on 'Daredevil.'' So we did."
Suddenly, Fraction grinned and looked over to Brubaker. "Hey, would it be a stupid idea to do a Hell's Kitchen precinct-type book?"
"I would totally do that in a heartbeat," Brubaker quickly replied.
Fraction looked to the audience and asked, "What do you say -- 'Hell's Precinct?'" The crowd applauded loudly. Things went no further than this, but fans can always hope…
Next was an attendee who brought up the fact that Hickman's "Secret Warriors" would soon be ending. He wanted to know if there would be another book focusing on espionage and intrigue which would take its place.
While Hickman couldn't think of any, Bendis did have an answer that attempted to satisfy: "In 'New Avengers' #10 that's out this week, we see a big secret chapter in the history of Nick Fury -- what Nick Fury was doing just before S.H.I.E.L.D. came and got him and put him in place. And he was Nazi-hunting, and he was putting together an Avengers Initiative. We're going to meet with those Avengers, and you can see what they were doing that's super-secret and how it affects the Avengers today. It's awesome."
After this, a fan wanted clarification on the impact of the mutant Hope to the X-Men's universe and asked if the character would reverse what the Scarlet Witch had done and "power-up" depowered mutants.
"Well, she did reverse what the Scarlet Witch had done, she just didn't reverse continuity," Fraction explained. "The Scarlet Witch said, 'No more mutants.' Hope said, 'Mutants.' So now there are new mutants being born again. As for the old de-powered mutants coming back? Um, no. But there are mutant births again."
The questioner also asked if Scarlet Witch would be interacting with the X-Men universe soon, to which Fraction answered, "Yeah, that is happening in June in 'Children's Crusade,' and it is absolutely worth the wait."
Daredevil was the next topic on the docket, with a fan asking if Daredevil will ever join the "New Avengers."
Bendis cryptically said, "That's a very good question." The writer then followed up by saying there would be a big announcement involving Moon Knight, Daredevil, and the Punisher at C2E2. Whether this announcement was one news item concerning all three characters or separate announcements regarding each individually was unclear.
The writer also assured the crowd that he was still working on "Daredevil: End of Days" with David Mack, Bill Sienkiewicz and Klaus Janson. He promised the book "will be happening sometime in our lives."
Fraction jokingly added, "It's not just a title, it's a shipping date."
Speaking of projects Bendis is working on, a reader who was somewhat new to comics wanted to know more about the writer's upcoming "Moon Knight" series. Since he wasn't extremely familiar with the character, he wanted to know what he could expect from the series. Bendis was happy to oblige with details.
"Alex [Maleev] and I are debuting a brand-new 'Moon Knight' series in May. The first issue is double-sized, and it's beautiful. The storyline will involve Moon Knight reinventing himself. He'll be setting up shop in L.A., using his Moon Knight stories to create a Xena-like… syndicated show, where he's pretty much telling everyone his secrets under the guise of making a fortune off of it, and using that fortune to battle the new Kingpin of Los Angeles.
"What you're going to see is that there's been a large migration of criminals coming to the west coast, because… why on earth would you do anything in New York? There's seven thousand superheroes there. Why on earth would you try to make a living as a crook there? So there's a new Kingpin that will be unveiled.
"Also, Moon Knight will be reinventing his personality disorder, because now that he's more a part of the Marvel Universe -- he's been an Avenger, a Secret Avenger and a West Coast Avenger -- his personalities will take on that of Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wolverine, and he'll be using their personalities to kind of become a one-man Avengers team and go out and drive criminals insane with his insaneness. And I'm very excited about the book… but if you really want to be entertained, go online and watch Moon Knight fans rip me a new a-hole."
As Moon Knight was moving to L.A., another fan asked if he would be bumping into the Runaways team. Bendis replied, "Not right away, only because there's some Runaways plans that I don't want to get in the way of. I'm a huge Runaways fan, and I want them to sing their song. So once that's all set up and established, that would be a lot of fun, because who doesn't want little kids around a crazy person?"
One panelist who was neglected during all this was the two-dimensional drawing of Jason Aaron, so one fan took it upon himself to ask Aaron a question. The query turned out to be somewhat involved and lengthy, which prompted Fraction to ask, "Is anybody else getting scared?"
To assist the attendee, however, Fraction did try to call Jason Aaron with his cell phone. He didn't reach the writer, but did receive a text message from him after a few minutes. Fraction announced that the text said the "Wolverine" writer was in the middle of a screening of "Rango."
This moment of brevity was followed by a question regarding one of Fraction's older series -- "Dark X-Men." A fan mentioned that Nate Grey (X-Man) was taken away at the end of the book's story and hadn't been seen since. They wanted to know if they could hope for another appearance from the character. Fraction told them to read "X-Men: Legacy."
Another X-Universe devotee wanted to know what was in store for "X-Factor." While writer Peter David wasn't in attendance at the panel, Cebulski did his best to answer. He explained that David has been on the book for quite awhile, has done some crazy and great stories, and still has a lot more planned.
"Spider-Man is going to be coming into the book for a short period of time, so you're going to see X-Factor playing a bigger role in the Marvel Universe," Cebulski said. "I know Peter really tries to keep the book grounded in the real world and deal with real-life issues, and there are a couple things that we've been debating coming up in the book whether he can do them or not -- it's some pretty controversial stuff, but Marvel's always been known to address real issues in the real world and we're hoping that, with a writer of Peter's caliber, he's going to tell some very powerful stories that are going to be moving to a lot of different people."
With the mention of Spider-Man appearing in "X-Factor," the next fan to the mic had a good segue for his question: "Will you ever address how Spider-Man can be on so many teams in so many different books?" Without skipping a beat, Bendis jumped forth with a response. "I'll tell you right now -- it's our big event for next year. We're going to reveal that the clone saga never ended."
The audience howled with laughter as the attendee that followed made a plea which seems to come with every comic convention – will the licensed character Rom ever be seen in a Marvel comic again?
Bendis was the panelist who would also tackle this, albeit a bit more seriously than the previous inquiry. "I'll tell you this: In 'Avengers' #12.1 drawn by Bryan Hitch -- it's almost double-sized for $2.99 coming out in April… Space Knight." Fans looked at one another in a surprised fashion, but the architect wouldn't expand on that answer.
The final question of the day was a cute one, and came from a young child who was no older than twelve. They wanted to know why Ed Brubaker killed Captain America "when every hero who dies just ends up coming back."
The audience and panelists enjoyed the kid's perspective. Fraction responded first in saying, "It's because Ed Brubaker hates America."
Bendis laughed and commented, "It's like young Brubaker has traveled forward in time to talk to old Brubaker."
Brubaker realized he couldn't escape this fan without a response and said, "Why did we kill Captain America? I just couldn't figure out what to do with him after 'Civil War.'"
The child didn't seem quite satisfied with any of the answers, but was still pleased with the attention his query received. Attendees to the panel, however, appeared very satisfied with this extremely entertaining chat with Marvel's Architects as the panel concluded.