The last Marvel Comics panel of the 2013 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2) gave a workout to the core of the Marvel U as the Next Big Thing gathering looked after a wide range of superhero topics.
Running the show as always was Marvel Director of Communications Arune Singh who was ably joined by writers Joshua Fialkov and Kieron Gillen, editors Tom Brevoort, Ellie Pyle and Jordan White and artist David Marquez.
The panel kicked off with some news in the form of Jason Aaron continuing his run on "Thor: God of Thunder" by reuniting with former "Wolverine" collaborator Ron Garney in a story called "The Accursed" which will focus on the release of Malekith, ruler of the Dark Elves. Brevoort said, "I think what Jason, Esad [Ribic] and Ron are doing are basically these big, sweeping science fiction fantasy epics." This story will be a manhunt take on that idea as Thor chases the Dark Elf through all of the Nine Realms and helps redefine what they are for readers before the book shifts back to including stories of old Thor and young Thor as well.
As a tie-in of sorts to the incoming "Iron Man 3" – which most of the Marvel staff is apparently seeing tomorrow – the "Secret Origin of Tony Stark" was talked up with more teases of major national news coming out of the end of the run. "The one good thing about this particular story is that it's all very secret, so I have to be very careful about what I say." Gillen said, calling the story the biggest thing he's ever done in the Marvel Universe. The tale will "reach back to the very firmament of Tony" and dig into his parents lives over its first four issues. Particularly, readers will see the era in which Tony Stark was conceived in a thread the writer said was "like 'Ocean's Eleven' meets 'The X-Files.'" The writer added, "I kept seeing Dan Slott get screamed at, and I thought 'I want some of that.'"
Art of the "Stark Seven" in the past was shown from artist Dale Eaglesham, and Gillen said he was looking forward to playing the glitz and glamour of the Vegas locale amongst espionage action. "The thing about Dale is that he's completely modern while also having this classical style," the writer said.
Next on the Marvel NOW! docket was "Indestructible Hulk" by Mark Waid and new artist Mateo Scalera starting with July's issue #11. The panel showed off some designs for Hulk's new armor that have not been released online.
Brevoort teased the "final showdown between Cap and Arnim Zola in Dimension Z" coming soon in Rick Remender and John Romita, Jr.'s "Captain America." By the end of the arc, the editor promised that the timeline of the series would match up with the rest of Marvel now before moving on to stories featuring the villain Nuke and the mysterious "Weapon Minus" program.
Pyle then revealed that in issue #8 of "Fearless Defenders" would feature a new costume for Valkryie since the second arc on the book would involve pulling her into Misty Knight's world just as the first one put Misty in hers.
As Sara Picchelli leaves to work on "Guardians of the Galaxy," Marquez will become the ongoing artist for "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" and the artist said he wanted to "keep the same level of dynamism and emotional purity to the book...we're seeing Miles in a very, very different dark place, and I've wanted to sell the idea that the loss of a parent is an identity shattering idea." He said the story will focus on Miles and his friends working through the death to find a way to move forward in life.
The artist will also design a new Cloak and Dagger for the Ultimate U. "When I first saw those guys in the '80s, it blew my freaking mind," he said. "Drawing them on the page in action is really exciting."
Meanwhile in Fialkov's "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" series, the writer and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico are trying to work some big ideas into the series. "Page one of my first issue is Ultimate Hulk with two Infinity Gauntlets," the writer laughed before saying he really wanted to hit the characters hard even as he introduced new Ultimate Marvel characters and brought back some old ones including "the combo hero and villain of the book is Reed Richards...it's just about the idea of 'How good are the Ultimates? Who is the real good guy and who is the real bad guy of the story?'"
The first fan question was about the most emotionally impactful book the panel had ever read from Marvel with many answers skewing modern like Marquez saying the work Bendis has been writing for "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" and Fialkov saying the current "Daredevil" run. Brevoort went old school with the original death of Jean Grey while Singh picked Mark Waid's "Kazar." Gillen, after a moment of thought, said "NextWave."
Following up on his Infinity Gauntlet tease, Fialkov said he was picking up on some ideas sewn by outgoing "Ultimates" writer Sam Humphries explaining that in the Ultimate U, there are two more Infinity Gems than in the traditional Marvel U.
Another full panel question on their favorite and least favorite comic book movies with responses ranging from Gillen's endorsement of "Ichi The Killer" and White's distaste for "Watchmen." Fialkov backed "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" while Brevoort got theoretical naming "Spider-Man 2" as the best crafted film while "Superman The Movie" had the most emotional draw, but he also said he couldn't name a best without mentioning the 1966 "Batman" movie.
The future of Bucky Barnes came up with "The Winter Soldier" being cancelled but the character headed to the big screen. Brevoort said he'd show up in both "Secret Avengers" and "Captain America" soon, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that a Marvel NOW! relaunch of "Winter Solider" could be in the works.
Speaking of "Scott Pilgrim," the company has been trying to gauge Bryan Lee O'Malley's interest in doing more variant covers. Meanwhile, Milo Manara is doing a cover a month for the publisher.
Some X-Men talk came up with a fan wondering whether there would be any good news for the former members of Generation X as it seems that each character seems to only find pain in the Marvel U now. White joked that there will definitely be some happiness for them "because we need something to crush." In seriousness, Chris Bachalo has been bugging editorial to do something focused with the team.
The inclusion of Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane's Angela at the end of "Age of Ultron" came up, and a bit of an origin was revealed. "It came up because we were talking to Neil about Marvelman and what could eventually happen with him in the future," Brevoort said. "The situation with Angela is a lot less complicated than with Marvelman, so we ended up seeing her soon." The editor added that this is a rare occurrence for Marvel, but Angela would play a big role at Marvel moving forward.
A "Young Avengers" fan wanted to know whether Patriot would show up in the book, and Gillen very cautiously said that there is some Patriot-related stuff going on, but he didn't want to confirm anything specific.
Villainous Summers brother Vulcan came up, and Brevoort said there are three places he could show up: "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Uncanny Avengers" and "New Avengers." But that was not an endorsement of any specific plans for the character's return.
The panel ended with a repeat performance of White's rendition of the '90s "X-Men" cartoon theme song.