Marvel's "Fear Itself" panel focusing on the upcoming event miniseries by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen, as well as tie-in titles at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo saw the announcement of a new "Ghost Rider" title and "Fear Itself: The Deep." On hand for the panel were Mike Pasciullo, C.B. Cebulski, Fred Van Lente, Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, and Nick Spencer.
As the introductions began, a cartoon of Cebulski drinking from a pitcher appeared on the screen. "I was doing a lot of that last night," Cebulski remarked, with Pasciullo chiming in that "that's root beer." A young fan yelled, "Yay, I love root beer!" to everyone's amusement.
"The story of 'Fear Itself' is pretty simple: the Red Skull discovers that Odin may not be the All-Father," Fraction said, which leads Skull to resurrect an ancient deity, leading to a worldwide war. "It is a capital-E event. The whole story will be told in the main series, you will not be penalized for not reading 72 books a week," he said. And, "when it is done, you will not believe they let one guy get away with it all."
Complimenting his artists, Fraction said, "I am incredibly fortunate to have my name on something that looks this good."
Fraction said that Thor and Captain America are in the series and joked, "Marvel went to the trouble of creating two movies to help promote our book."
The Iron Man tie-in issue, written by Fraction, will see what happens when a man of science is confronted with a miracle—"it's a horrific, destructive miracle, but it can only be described as a miracle."
The "Thor" ongoing will not tie into "Fear Itself," but Kieron Gillen's "Journey Into Mystery" will.
Bendis then spoke on "Avengers" #13, which ties into the event. "This is the biggest roster change since I came onto the book," Bendis said. He added that there will be "a surprising wartime romance" and "a huge change to the Avengers itself—coming in to do a couple issues is Chris Bachalo." This is because "what Johnny [Romita] has to draw is huge."
"By the end of it, you'll be ready to kill me," Bendis concluded.
Spencer's "Secret Avengers" will focus on how "Fear Itself" impacts Beast, Valkyrie, and Black Widow. "We're going to look at the human perspective and how it's affecting these characters individually." The writer's "Iron Man 2.0" will also tie in with #5.
Van Lente is co-writing "Alpha Flight" with Greg Pak, which will feature the original team "who are back and not dead" and tie into "Fear Itself."
Cebulski announced "Fear Itself: The Deep" by Cullen Bunn and Lee Gerbett, which will feature Namor, Doctor Strange, "and a couple heroes we don't want to reveal yet."
The creative team "Hell on Wheels" was then announced as Rob Williams and Matt Clark, though the series will actually be called "Ghost Rider" and launch with a 0.1 issue in June.
Cebulski then opened the floor to questions.
Fraction said the series will see "bad guys turning good, bad guys turning worse, and villains realizing they've wasted their lives" in response to what looks like the end of the world, answering a lengthy fan query.
A fan spoke about getting her comics via subscriptions and how readers who only get ongoing series would be affected. Bendis said that the stories would still be "a thing onto itself" and fans who only read "Avengers" or "Iron Man" would still be able to enjoy the issues in context. Fraction added that, much like "Secret Invasion," reading all of the major series would give a bigger picture but reading only certain books would still tell a complete story.
Pasciullo mentioned that Howard the Duck will appear in "Fear Itself: Fearsome Four," which excited fans.
There are no plans for "Runaways" at present, Cebulski said.
A fan asked "how someone like me can meet Stan Lee." "We can't advocate stalking," Pasciullo said, adding that Lee usually appears at San Diego's Comic-Con International. He also posts regularly on Twitter about his upcoming appearances, Cebulski added.
Fraction said that "Fear Itself" "resonates like 'Civil War'" but "it feels bigger to me." "It is a worldwide catastrophe, whereas 'Civil War' seemed to take place in a 4x4 block of Manhattan until the end."
The Avengers will be the team most affected by the event, while "Cap and Thor" will be the characters most changed, Fraction said. As to which Captain America he means, Fraction said, "Yes."
Fraction added that part of the story is "about the legacy of Cap, and the meaning of Cap, and Steve and Bucky and what they mean to each other."
The Hulk will "very much" be a part of "Fear Itself," Fraction said, while Bendis added that there will be a storyline coming after the event about the quest for the new Sorcerer Supreme. "Doctor Voodoo's brother is pretty pissed off and he has the ability to enter anybody's body and mess up the team," Bendis said.
Fraction said 'Fear Itself" stemmed from a discussion with editor Tom Brevoort about doing a Captain America/Thor story in time for the movies, which led him to discuss the possibilities with Ed Brubaker.
After an odd bell noise peeled through the room—which has happened at a number of panels so far—Fraction recoiled, joking, "Did I just have a stroke? I'm tasting pennies, is that weird?"
Fraction said that not every book would be about a literal fear—"Wolverine's afraid of badgers!" but fear will be a theme. "What does it mean for Captain America if no one believes in America?"
Asked about event fatigue, Cebulski said that their events are story-driven first, and that after giving the characters some time to build individually, "and what that built toward was 'Fear Itself.'" Fraction added that it's "lousy events that people are tired of."
"I'd be hard pressed to find anyone at this convention who doesn't want cool shit to happen in their comics," Bendis added. "And this is really cool."
A fan suggested that wiping Tony Stark's memory was a "quick fix" to the character's conflicts, but Fraction explained that he felt doing so made Tony's situation worse. "Cap doesn't say, 'oh, you don't remember, so it's okay—you scalawag!" Fraction said, and "he doesn't remember who he's slept with, so Pepper's pissed off at him, Maria Hill has left the book—if it read as an easy fix, I blew it."
Speaking about Iron Man's previous experiences with gods like Thor, Fraction said that while working on the "Iron Man 2" film, he discussed with producer Kevin Feige that "we've got to come up with a Thor story so, when Iron Man and Thor are sitting on the couch together, it's not like pickles and peanut butter." In "Fear Itself," though, "he has to sit down and think about this."
After a lengthy question about possible Marvel/DC crossovers, Pasciullo said "there are many past DC/Marvel crossovers that can be read over and over again." Bendis recounted "the time I embarrassed myself trying to get DC to do a Batman/Daredevil crossover" at a Chicago Wizard convention.
Part of the Odin concept takes into account the inconsistencies in Norse mythology. "Maybe it's because we don't know the whole story."
Bendis said, "Thor fans: I've seen the movie, and it is awesome."
He also confirmed that "both Avengers and New Avengers will have severe roster changes."
A fan asked, "is Thor really a momma's boy or a daddy's boy," referring to his duality on Earth and Asgard. "Odin literally asks him that question in the first issue," Fraction said, "Are you a god or are you a man?'
A fan complained that the 25th anniversary of Spider-Ham only got "a cameo and a lousy graphic novel." Bendis said, "It's almost like he's a one-note joke," with Fraction adding, "I'm sorry, if I had a tumbleweed I would have just rolled it across the stage." The fan persisted, which led Bendis to joke, "Look, most of us are Jewish—we don't like him!"
There was a question about Disney "inserting themselves" into Marvel's operations since the buyout. Cebulski and the panel confirmed that there was "none of this." "If you look at it from the perspective of Disney, they were acquiring a successful company—the last thing you want to do is change it." He added that, "as passionate as comic book fans are, Disney fans are worse—we had people coming up to us saying, 'you better not put Spider-Man in that parade!'"
Fraction said "I want this book to have a seven-month sales cycle rather than a seven-day sales cycle; when you hear about issue 3—and you will hear about issue 3—I want those guys in Red Lantern t-shirts who maybe didn't read issues 1 and 2 to go back and pick those up."
Spencer clarified that he is only writing "Secret Avengers" for #12.1 and the "Fear Itself" issues. "When you hear who's coming next, you will forget I was ever on this book."
A fan asked when Iron Fist would go back to the green suit, because "the white suit is soft." Bendis said some of the other editors and writers didn't like the white costume, but said that Immonen had designed it and he's come to love it. "But the white costume gets dirty really quickly."