Friday night at Fan Expo in Toronto, Senior Vice President Creator and Content Development C.B. Cebulski, "Amazing Spider-Man" Senior Editor Stephen Wacker, X-Men Senior Editor Nick Lowe, "Amazing Spider-Man" writer Dan Slott, and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso sat down in a no-holds-barred question and answer session with fans. The panel revealed "Astonishing Captain America" will eventually come to fruition, "Runaways" won't get a regular title -- but there will be upcoming "Runaways" characters featured in current storylines -- Marvel's recent discussion to bring back "What If…?" and developments following "Avengers Vs. X-Men," including the return of the original Jean Grey.
The annual panel was full as audience members lined up in advance to have their burning questions answered. At last minute, Dan Slott was added to the panel line up, and his presence was jovial. Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso also joined the panel to chat about upcoming developments.
"We can talk about anything you want to talk about," said Cebulski. "But the thing is -- Dan, you're here now, so you're a part of this -- we will answer every question you ask one hundred per cent truthfully --"
"Saving all Spider-Man questions for the Spider-Man panel tomorrow," Slott interjected, laughing.
"But we can each pass on three questions, the only other stipulation is no spoilers," Cebulski said, priming the audience.
"But our opinions, our emotions and our tattoos will all be revealed," Slott said jokingly before the Q&A session kicked off into full gear.
Audience members immediately had questions about "Uncanny Avengers," one of the flagship Marvel NOW! books by Rick Remender and John Cassaday, curious about what direction these characters are headed in after the events of "Avengers vs. X-Men."
"We like to avoid tension in all of our books at all times," Nick Lowe said, joking. "With the characters we can't say too much about the end of 'Avengers vs. X-Men,' but Rick Remender is writing 'Uncanny Avengers' and Rick loves drama and character soap opera. He does a ton of it in 'Uncanny X-Force' and he will continue to do that in 'Uncanny Avengers' -- there is going to be romance, there's going to be fighting, both fisticuffs and yelling at each other."
When asked about the process of laying a story arc out and choosing writers and artists, Axel Alonso was quick to discuss the frequent Marvel summits the team arranges a few times a year.
"There are no rules," Alonso said. "What we do at these retreats is get as many creative and editorial minds we can together and throw around ideas." He described the process as if they were making a quilt of the Marvel Universe, where everyone is working away at their own pieces.
"People forget we're the biggest fans of comics out there," Cebulski said. "We're just in the lucky position that we get to play the game that everyone already plays online -- 'Who would be cool to write this book?'" According to Cebulski, the difference is the editorial staff can sometimes make that fantasy a reality.
"I think there are a lot of good people out there making really good comics right now," Wacker said. "I think it's the best time to be a comic book fan, I think it's the best time in the history of the medium right now to be reading comics."
One fan was curious regarding the panellist's feelings towards the recent "Amazing Spider-Man" film starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
"I'll be completely honest -- as I was watching it with my son, I loved it because he liked it but as I got away from it and I thought about the story a little more I was struggling with some bits," Wacker said. "Particularly, how he is the same person after Ben dies as he is before? That sort of crux, that sort of change, I thought wasn't part of the film.
"I had the same problem with the Broadway musical," Wacker said of "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark." "Any time someone retells that story and they don't use that as the hinge of what changes for Peter Parker's life, I kind of flinch at that."
Alonso admits his viewing of "Amazing Spider-Man" was cut short after his son ate a hamburger, pizza and popcorn, turned to him and said "Poppa, I'm going to puke."
"Five minutes, we're in a cab and he turns to me and says ‘Poppa, I'm completely fine, can we watch TSN now?'" Alonso said as the audience laughed.
Slott, on the other hand, admits he saw the film twice at two different Marvel screenings. "I double dipped."
With Marvel NOW! on the horizon, audience members also attempted to see what breadcrumbs they could get from editors, asking about whether or not they were concerned big events like Marvel NOW! might cause them to loose readers, no matter how well they are done, particularly when multiple titles are shipped on the same week.
"It's a balancing act," Alonso said. "Some events are big some are popcorn movie events and despite Internet reports they suck, people still come en mass to see them. With 'AvX,' I think we've put together some of our biggest and best work.
"We will continue to do summer events because they bring people in. People are so excited about 'Avengers vs. X-Men,' they notice other books on the shelf because they are paying attention," he said. "When I was younger, I used to go to the five and dime with my grandmother and buy two or three comics. What was cool to me was that each comic book was its own flavor it was its own thing. Everything had a unique flavour and that's what I like about Marvel NOW! and it's the first time we've done this since Joe [Quesada] and I came to Marvel many, many years ago."
Fans are also curious about the fate of "Runaways." Wacker admitted con after con, the publisher gets tons of "Runaways" questions.
"What's tough about 'Runaways' is that it's such a high concept and whether or not that story finished," Alonso said. "We love the characters and we think the world of most of them and we do have plans for them. You will be hearing announcements in the future and some of these characters will come back."
Finally, one audience member really perked the panel's attention by asking if there was any chance Marvel Comics would revive the popular, retro "What If…?" title. Wacker immediately came to life, stating they were just talking about this concept the other day.
"We don't have any announcements yet," said Wacker.
"Since we're speaking truthfully, I don't know how much traction those books will get because they are also high concept," Alonso said. "I'm a fan of big high concept stories, whether they count or not. But we've gone through a period in comics were the fans respond to the stuff they feel counts. If they feel it doesn't count, maybe not so much."
Recent events have caused huge shake ups in the X-Men universe and fans want to know if it will cause a void in the west coast. Nick Lowe, senior editor of the X-titles confirmed "Uncanny X-Men" #20 will be the last issue of the series.
"'All-New X-Men' is going to be huge, a big shake up in all things X-Men," Lowe said. "Brian [Bendis'] scripts for that book are out of this world. But completely honestly, the Cyclops side of things, you're going to have to read 'AvX' to get a bit more of a handle on that. I'd like to be more honest with you, but I'm treading into spoiler territory then."
"There's a long line of people who have been disappointed by Nick Lowe," jokes Wacker, clearly identifying the editorial team over at Marvel as one big happy family that thrives on teasing its members directly or using little details to tease fans.
To wrap the panel, Lowe waxed eloquent on the upcoming developments of "All-New X-Men" and how the original five X-Men will react to seeing their present-day counterparts.
"In 'All-New X-Men,' one thing we talked about is that the original five X-Men come back to the present," said Lowe. "For me it's more of a thematic thing, but when those five X-Men come and see what has become of the world -- Beast, young Hank McCoy sees himself as this blue animalistic guy. Cyclops sees what he see's after 'AvX,' whatever that is. Angel, young Warren Worthington, sees this guy with crazy metal wings, and kind of lunatic stuff going on with Wolverine and the X-Men. And Jean Grey comes back and sees she's dead. Iceman sees that he hasn't really changed at all.
"But this world, they see it kind of is their world gone mad," Lowe continued. "This is like what we saw in 'Days of Future Past.' It's some thematic ties there. I think Kitty is going to be pleased with how much younger she looks in 2013 than in 'Days of Future Past.' Wolverine's going to be glad he doesn't have the Reed Richards/Nick Fury temples."