"You're not here for the DC 52, are you?" joked Marvel Director of Communications Arune Singh at the outset of the publisher's X-Men Regenisis panel at Fan Expo in Toronto this past weekend. The crowd laughed as C.B. Cebulski, Axel Alonso, Jason Aaron and Jeanine Schaefer took their seats to address the changes occurring in the Marvel Universe this fall, beginning with the events of "X-Men Schism."
"It really is the biggest thing to happen to the X-Men in a very long time" Alonso told the assembled crowd. "[We're] taking X-Men to a place most people thought they'd never go and really dividing them." Aaron revealed that issue four of the series "ends with the first round of the biggest, nastiest, gnarliest Cyclops vs Wolverine fight we've ever seen. We've seen these guys butt heads before over the years and tussle a little bit, but never anything like this. That carries over to issue five, and the fallout from that really redefines the X-Men universe for the foreseeable future. It creates new dynamics…to play out across the Marvel Universe." Singh asked where the idea for the new Hellfire club came from, and Aaron joked, "I'm just terrified of children, I guess. I say that as a father." He also promised the audience that the newly-introduced characters would stick around beyond the event.
Singh explained that Regenesis will revolve around the X-Men being divided into two camps, "one with Wolverine in charge and the other, I think we can say now, with Cyclops," citing the "X-Men Regenesis" one-shot in October as an ideal jumping-on point for new readers. "That's where we see the guys choosing sides," Aaron clarified.
"Both sides have equally valid perspectives, so it wouldn't surprise me if you guys in the audience, after you understand what the Schism is about, have to decide which sides of the battle lines you fall on," Alonso added. "We were talking about this, and I know who I stand with -- and it wasn't the same person Nick (Lowe) did. It'll be very interesting. Many years ago, when people took sides, either Cap or Tony, this is a very similar thing." Later in the panel, these divides were further clarified, with Cebulski and Aaron siding with Wolverine, Alonso and Schaefer choosing Cyclops and Singh waffling between the two.
"I was on the CBR X-Men message boards reading about Schism and who's right, and there was, like, seventy-five pages of arguments -- which I thought was awesome," Aaron said with a smile. "It's exactly what we wanted, 'cause that's what we were doing in the room that day when we were talking about it."
Singh proceeded to show the audience covers of the upcoming issues. Cyclops and Emma Frost (on the cover of "Uncanny X-Men" #1) will be joined by X-Man in the pages of "New Mutants" #33, which forms an interlocking cover with "X-Men" #20 (featuring Jubilee at the forefront) and "Generation Hope" #13 (with Sebastian Shaw).
Aaron spoke about the October launch of "Wolverine and the X-Men," calling the experience "the most fun I've had since I came to Marvel. I love it. If you read 'Schism,' if you read my 'Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine' stuff, this is kind-of in that vein. It's dark at times, it's crazy, it's emotional, but at the end of the day, hopefully, it's just flat-out fun." The book will feature new characters in addition to "characters from pretty much every era of X-Men history." Having never worked on a team book before, Aaron suggested his page rate be re-evaluated as Singh showed the covers to "X-Men Legacy" #259 (with Rogue), "X-Factor" #230 (with Havok) and "Uncanny X-Force" #19 (with Nightcrawler), taunting the audience to speculate on the characters still left in silhouette.
The conversation then took an unexpected turn towards the topic of crying. "Jeanine cries at the drop of a hat," Alonso deadpanned. "She holds the record in the X-office. I think the worst moment was when we were doing 'Second Coming' and we realized that we were going to be killing Cable. It was a necessary part of the story. He was sacrificed to save Hope. I looked across the table and I saw a little tear in Jason's eye. So I quickly fastened onto his weakness and pointed out, 'He's crying, he's crying!' In turn, I wiped my eyes clear."
Singh took a moment to acknowledge writer Mike Carey, who will be ending his run on "X-Men Legacy" before showing the cover to "Astonishing X-Men" #44, where Storm and Cyclops are portrayed in the midst of a passionate kiss, apparently in the process of cheating on their respective partners Black Panther and Emma Frost.
Discussion of Aaron's run on Wolverine resulted in a few chuckles from the crowd. "No one does violence like Jason Aaron!" Singh declared, as the writer broke down a madcap, "palate-cleansing" plot, featuring dragons and kung-fu. "Wolverine's gotta leave town. First, he wants his money, which he left in Chinatown. And somebody took it. It guest-stars Gorilla Man and Fat Cobra."
Schaeffer touched on the X-23's quest for a soul and team-up with FF and Daken's move to LA before Singh explained the idea behind Evil Deadpool. "I knew nothing about it until after I asked Daniel Way at Comic-Con [International], and he explained it to everyone this simply and I'll tell you all you need to know. Over the years, Deadpool had been cut up, chopped up, beaten to pieces -- those random parts of his body were thrown in a dumpster somewhere and came together to form Evil Deadpool. If I have to say anything else to you to make you buy this comic, you are not the right audience. So, please buy Evil Deadpool, because that is the coolest idea ever. And if someone cosplays as Evil Deadpool here next year, I promise to give you something really cool."
He then teased something called "Dead," which Alonso refused to elaborate on, and "Magneto: Not a Hero" by Skottie Young and Clay Mann, before offering a limited edition Archangel X-Force figure -- signed by the panel -- to the audience member with the best question.
A fan asked if Aaron's beard ever influenced his writing, prompting the admission that "pretty much every book I take over now has a character with a beard." Quite a few "wait and see's" were thrown around, but it was confirmed that Northstar will be a "dual resident" of both the X-Men and Alpha Flight.
"It's my feeling that DC's reboot of their titles has antagonized a lot of long-time DC readers," an audience member suggested. "Has Marvel marketing and Marvel editorial thought about reaching out to DC readers who'd like to read a comic book that's other than issue number one?" Singh, calling himself a DC fan -- especially of Stephanie Brown's Batgirl -- replied, "We create enough jumping on points with our number ones. We don't throw out 52 in one month. With our .1 issues, with very accessible events, we create a lot of good entry points for readers, whether they're DC readers, Image readers, Oni readers -- whatever they are."
Alonso added, "DC will do what it needs to do, and quite frankly, we hope DC does well. We respond better to good competition, and we're all in this together despite the snipes we do back and forth for theater and what-not. We want DC to be healthy. If they can take September, more power to 'em. It just inspires us to up our game the other eleven months, you follow me?"
It was also asked which of the 52 new DC titles the panelists were most excited to check out. Singh went with "Voodoo" and Schaefer chose "Wonder Woman" ("I prefer no pants!") while Cebulski said "anything Scott Snyder does."
A fan asked if Jubilee's loyalty to Wolverine would prompt her to act as a mole within Team Cyclops. Schaefer responded, "Jubilee has been through a lot lately. She's one of my favorite characters, so I'm really happy that she's back on the board and stepping up. Obviously, I'm not going to tell you what happens in the book, but she has her reasons, and they are her reasons. So if you like Jubilee, pick up 'X-Men,' because she's a huge part of it." Another fan asked if certain characters would be lost in the shuffle, leading Shaeffer to reassure the audience that the Marvel team had gone over an extensive character list, ensuring that "everyone has picked a side."
Jean Grey's death was brought up, prompting a round of applause from the audience in favor of the character's retirement. Cebulski reiterated that he was not involved in the "X-Men: Origins Wolverine" movie. Then, a woman asked which Marvel characters the panelists most identified with. The breakdown was as follows: Cebulski as Danny Moonstar, Alonso as "tortured" Scott, Aaron as Wolverine, Schaefer as Jubilee and Singh as Thunderbird 3. For her original inquiry, she won the Archangel figure.
The panel wrapped with a slide announcing Brian Wood as "coming in 2012."