San Diego may be buzzing on the Hollywood tip with a weekend appearance of the "Amazing Spider-Man" film crew at Comic-Con International 2011, but Friday afternoon Marvel Comics Spider-Line took center stage at the Amazing Spider-Man and His Avenging Friends panel. Spidey Senior Editor Steve Wacker led all the attendees behind the comics of his New York-centric office, including Zeb Wells, Rick Remender, Mark Waid, Greg Rucka, Humberto Ramos and Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso.
Things got started as Marvel Communications Director Arune Singh introduced the full lineup of panelists including writers Nick Spencer and Antony Johnston. A presently absent Humberto Ramos prompted Alonso to say, "He's finishing a page! He'll be here just after!"
Official news started with a video message from "Amazing Spider-Man" writer Dan Slott pitching the core plot of "Spider-Island" as the eight-issue stories – "like the legs of a spider" – sees Manhattan overrun by Spider-Powered citizens starting in next week's "Amazing" #666. "Characters you know and love from Spider-Man's history are going to find themselves with the same powers as Peter Parker," the writer said, noting that will all that power draws questions of who has responsibility while Spidey will fight Shang-Chi Master of Kung Fu in the series.
Wacker produced a copy of "Amazing" #666 which will be given away at the panel's end along with a Waid-autographed "Daredevil" issue "signed in brail." Wacker promised at the revelation of a cover with J. Jonah Jameson swinging with Spider-Man's powers "It absolutely happens." Some revealing covers of Mary Jane Watson prompted the Senior Editor to say, "It was all Dan's idea!"
Spencer spoke to his "Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger" series saying that he'd been wanting to write those characters from the moment he came to Marvel, and that "It's about a couple" where whatever the relationship between Cloak and Dagger would be explored for all its quirks and turns. "The love between them is fascinating to watch," Wacker said.
"Part of her past is coming back, not really to haunt her but to viciously attack her," Wacker said of "Spider-Island: Spider-Girl" which he said picks up directly after the scene at the end of the heroine's solo series finale.
Johnston said the "Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" tie-in mini starts with a nightmare for Shang-Chi which portents awful things for the growing friendship between the Kung Fu hero and the wall-crawler. "Axel is a big fan of this character too, and it really appeals to lovers of violence," Wacker joked as Johnston promised "More kicks per page than any Spider-Man book."
The "Deadly Foes" one-shot splits time between the villains of Spider-Island including the new Phil Urich incarnation of the Hobgoblin and '70s Spidey mainstay The Jackal who is behind the entire plot. Similarly, the "Avengers" tie-in to the series will be a fun, crazy twist on the team concept as Wacker said, "I just wanted a story where Frog-Man showed up and declared himself an Avenger." The Fred Van Lente-written "Spider-Woman" story features the Thing and the editor expressed surprise at how well the two played off each other.
The digital-only "I Love New York City" comic features short stories focusing on New Yorkers who get Spider Powers including a cat (as drawn by Skottie Young," a mother by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Greg Rucka writing a legitimate comedy tale.
Remender brings the action of his "Venom" series to the crossover but also character work as the story will work out Flash Thompson's rough relationship with his hospitalized, alcoholic father while also serving up some fights with Eddie "Anti-Venom" Brock. "These 'Venom' issues feel very important to the main storyline. Everybody who's reading 'Spider-Island' will want to check these books out...to see a characters emotions really explored in this book is amazing," said Wacker of the tie-in issue starting with #8 in October (as drawn by Tom Fowler) while Lan Medina takes over fulltime art duties with issue #9 taking the series in a new direction.
Wells' new series "Avenging Spider-Man" was up next as the writer joked, "The story is obviously what will sell this book" as pages by Joe Madureira. "I missed the first wave of Joe Madureira madness in the '90s, but this guy can draw," Wacker said. "With these guys, I'm a lucky editor."
Singh was effusive with praise for Waid, Paolo Rivera and Marco Martin's work on "Daredevil" prompting Waid to go, "The response to issue #1 has been so good that I'm just done. There will be no #2." The writer said that the long shadow of Frank Miller's defining "Daredevil" run made the character tough to tackle, but "We said, 'Let's roll the dice'...it's clear that we're not doing goofy or retro or Silver Age. It's very modern, but you don't have to go have a drink after every issue...I don't know how you could tighten the noose around Matt [Murdock's] neck anymore. Maybe if you made him deaf too." Instead, the team tried to find a new point of view for the blind lawyer to take on his crime-fighting.
Rucka was promoted as "the scariest man in comics" due to the grim knowledge of violence he's bringing to his "Punisher" scripts. The writer described the best way to slit a throat saying, "I've had a lot of late nights going out and shooting people" for preparation before adding in seriousness, "Frank is very straightforward. He wants to go out and kill bad people, and you don't get in his way when he's doing it...the thing that fascinates me along with that drive is how it affects everybody around him." When Singh said "This is the 'Gotham Central,' 'Queen & Country' Greg Rucka" Alonso chimed in joking, "This is not the 'OMAC' Greg Rucka."
Fan questions started with a request for Lee Weeks to do more Spider-Man work as Wacker explained that right now, Weeks has been working on a Daredevil project as well as "The Iron Age" but he's always welcome back. The editor also said, "Johnny Romita, Jr. was just asking about doing more Spider-Man today. He's always ready for some Spider-Man."
Rucka said that "Punisher" starts with a gangland slaying in a wedding reception which should echo the death of Frank Castle's family. To the writer, Castle died with his family, and since then, only the Punisher exists. This Punisher will be very quite in his manner and all action in his crime fighting. "The challenge for any writer doing the Punisher in the Marvel Universe is that there's a 'PunisherMAX' book," said Alonso, and Rucka promised the challenge of integrating the anti-hero into the Marvel U will take a central place in his new book.
Wacker promised that the course of "Spider-Island" will place Peter Parker in a commanding role as the city turns into him in many ways. "This is his hero moment," the editor said. In the wake of the event, "Amazing Spider-Man" will continue to ship twice a month.
The editor took a moment away from Marvel hype to send fans to "Fairy Quest" the just released Humberto Ramos/Paul Jenkins graphic novel. "If you like fairies and you like quests..." which brought laughter after he intentionally trailed off.
Wacker said that there are no plans to bring back Ben Reilly. "It was a great character and a fun story, but I think it's been told. Unless I'm lying to you and he shows up in 'Spider-Island'...but he doesn't."
A fan wanted to know more about Well's "Carnage USA" starting early next year, and the writer said, "We just wanted to keep having fun with that character...I like trying to capture the vibe of 'Maximum Carnage' without capturing how terrible it could be." The writer didn't mean to dispariage the story, but he said re-reading the massive '90s crossover showed how it didn't hold up, but the goal of the new books was to reestablish Cassidy as Carnage in a major way. "I was not a symbiote guy when I was reading 'Spider-Man,'" Wacker said, nothing that Wells and Remender convinced him on the worthiness of "Carnage" and "Venom" series and that the two would be having lunch this weekend to talk about both characters.
The Jackal's status as a somewhat lame Spider-Man villain came up with Wacker said, "I hate him and the Puma!" but ultimately the editor said he thought the talent in his line was so strong that they could take any character in the Spider-Man continuity and "make you love them." Remender said, "Dan's told me some of his plans, and the fact that there were these characters in college with the guy, and this Jackal has been cloning them and perverting them...he's a truly grotesque human being." Wacker compared the process of redoing the Jackal to how Frank Miller turned Bullseye from a joke character into a Marvel heavyweight.
The questions wrapped with a young lady winning the "Amazing" #666 by asking about the supposed death and resurrection of Kane in "Grim Hunt." Wacker handed over the prize saying, "Remember that scene coming up!" The panel then showed a mystery image of a hoodie with the Spider-Man symbol on fire.