The Marvel Comics Universe may be decimated by robots, but the Marvel staff was ready to roll on Saturday morning at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (better known as C2E2) for their "Age of Ultron" panel focusing on the Brian Michael Bendis-written event which will soon wrap with a supposed "ending no one can guess."
Director of Communications Arune Singh led the panel which included "Age of Ultron" artist Brandon Peterson, Editor Ellie Pyle, writer Rick Remender and SVP Executive Editor Tom Brevoort.
The talk started with Brevoort's overview of the story on the whole "In the method confusing to many readers but as straight ahead as it can be on the page, Ultron has attacked and decimated the human race," he explained detailing how the surviving heroes used Nick Fury's documents to find Doctor Doom's time machine where half use it to travel forward to fight the killer robot while Wolverine travels to the past to kill its chances of birth at the hands of Hank Pym.
Remender talked about "Uncanny Avengers" #8A.U. – his tie-in to the story. "I think the responsibility was to do something that furthered the overall story," he said, noting that the book was about Kang taking the Apocalypse Twins out for their first kill. "It's something that we wanted to make sure fit into the event as well as standing as a one off story as well as fitting into the regular Apocalypse Twins stories."
Brevoort said that the plan of attack for tie-ins was to be limited and focused on books that fit into the story. "Superior Spider-Man" and "Fantastic Four's" tie-ins were meant to explain the disconnect between the event and the continuity of Marvel NOW!
Pyle discusses tie-in "Fearless Defenders" #4A.U. saying that it would revolve around Warrior Woman. "This does take place in the alternate Ultron universe...we'll see some things that are different in this world, but also things that are not so different in this world." The goal was to share some secrets that applied to the core title especially involving the series ongoing villain. Phil Jimenez came on to draw the book and give Warrior Woman Hippolyta a new design in the Marvel U.
The final issue of the event, #10 will feature an art lineup including Bryan Hitch, Butch Guice, Carlos Pacheco, Alex Maleev, Peterson, David Marquez and Marvel CCO Joe Quesada. "I'd been doing more big tech action, and I think this book has a lot of big tech action," Peterson said of his part, nothing that those visuals would explode in issue #8. "I think they were looking for someone where they could go, 'Who wouldn't go insane drawing all of this?'" The artist called his pages the best he'd ever done for Marvel. The artist went on to explain his history in comics, saying the whole visual appeal of the medium and the superhero genre drew him in so he's never had one character he needed to draw. Instead, he focuses on working with writers he admires and trying to tell engaging stories. "As long as I'm engaged, I'm pretty happy, and I've been pretty engaged at Marvel."
Brevoort spoke to the amount of people drawing the finale of the event, saying, "It looks kind of like a car crash when you see all those names up there," but ultimately all the story beats are divided by artist. For example, Peterson is drawing all the scenes in the future while Pacheco is drawing everything in the past. "Everybody is there for a reason, and they'll be doing specific sequences in 'Age of Ultron' #10 based on what happens in the story.
The editor reminded fans that the character Angels – whom he cheekily referred to as "Neil Gaiman's Angela who appeared in some other comic I don't know anything about" – would appear in the finale before Gaimain joins Bendis to shape the character's future in the pages of "Guardians of the Galaxy" starting with issue #5.
Following the event will be "Age of Ultron" #10A.I by Mark Waid and Andre Araujo focusing on Hank Pym. "There's not too much I can tell you about the content of the story other than that during the course of the story Hank goes through some fairly significant changes...considering that he's DEAD!" said Brevoort. The book will lead in to Sam Humphries incoming "Avengers A.I." with Araujo. The executive editor said that series would platform the Vision back into the Marvel Universe in a significant way along with a lot of other robotic characters as they engage the idea of a singularity that allows machines to think on their own.
Aside from Waid's "Age of Ultron" #10A.I, there will be a mystery issue #10U.C which features a logo of the word "Hunger" written in purple. The panel said that the tease may be drawing fans in one direction – i.e. Galactus – but that they may swerve in a different direction. Meanwhile, Singh said that the issue was not teasing the introduction of Gundam characters into the Marvel U as some online conspiracy theorists have proposed.
When it came time for fan questions, a reader asked why the first issues of the event took such a slow build to the big action. "Brian's plan for building this story from stage one was doing something different from other events," Brevoort said, nothing that the writer wanted to move past Ultron attacking and taking over the world. Instead, they went with an opening of Ultron already having one. "It throws you into sort of the same disorienting state that the characters are in." Beyond that, Bendis' interest in character work over action led to more scenes between the people in the book rather than with big, bombastic cliffhangers.
Brevoort told another fan that Bendis and Maleev's "Moon Knight" story was meant as a sly prelude to the event. "Will we see Moon Knight again? Let's wait and see. Certainly the end of issue #6 didn't end so well for him," the editor said.
There are no plans for a story showing the decimation of New York in the future, but Brevoort said the issues of "Avengers Assemble" that tie into the story show essentially what the invasion was like everywhere including San Francisco and the UK.
A fan asked whether Marvel would have to rewrite the history of Hank Pym if he dies in the past, and Brevoort pointed him towards Waid's #10 A.I one-shot. Remender admitted to being a huge fan of the character from his early "Tales To Astonish" stories. "Even though you can feel some choices where they were trying to say 'How do we make him interesting?' it all works," the writer said. "At the retreats, there's no shortage of Pym ideas. I've got a big Pym story I want to do at some point in the future."
The death of Taskmaster came up as a kind of dead end story point, to which Brevoort said, "It was a bad day to be Taskmaster. It was a worse day before we colored that panel. The first version Hitch drew was REALLY insane, and you will never see it."
The death of Hank Pym in the book was discussed, and Brevoort explained that Wolverine did the dirty deed because "Wolverine is the ultimate pragmatist of the Marvel Universe" who will always do a gruesome task in the name of the greater good. One of the discussions around the story was that it would be too much like "House of M" where Wolverine was the only character who remembered what the world was like before the alternate universe change. Ultimately, they felt adding Sue Storm to the mix helped differentiate the tone and relationships in this story.
Remender told a fan that at some point he will get Wonder Man back into his '70s leisure suit look as a throwback to the character's past solo adventures.
A fan asked since the movies are influencing the comics so much whether the reverse would happen and we'd soon see Ultron in a movie. Brevoort said the possibility was out there for more and more characters to make it into the films. "We write and draw the best stories we can, and then at some point they announce 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier.'" The hope is that as much of the current comics work their way into films, but there are no guarantees.
Asked if there was any talk of bringing back Ares or the Sentry, Brevoort mocked asked Remennder, "Hey Rick, is there any interest in Ares or The Sentry?" to which the writer rubbed his chin mischievously before confirming that the Sentry at least would be one of the "Deaths" resurrected in a foursome by the Apocalypse Twins in "Uncanny Avengers."
A fan asked if this story would lead into Jonathan Hickman's "Infinity." Brevoort said there would be no explicit connection, but the impact of "Age of Ultron" will have an immediate effect on the Marvel U and in fact sets up some longer form stories, but those stories won't fit into "Infinity."
The proceedings wrapped with someone wondering if more tie-ins would exist between the comics and things like the "Avengers Alliance" flash game, and Brevoort said that more of those connections are on their way as Marvel's interactive division takes a stronger role in development.