Friday's "The X-Files" panel was a smaller affair than the previous day's event that saw a massive crowd line up for one of Comic-Con International's biggest rooms to see stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reunited on stage. But IDW Publishing Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall kicked thing with an announcement that could only be made at this panel, in a smaller venue.
"And now this couldn't happen yesterday -- because there was too much media, it was too big, there was just too much going on around it, so I know there were some questions about 'X-Files 3,'" began Ryall, winding the audience up by seemingly hinting at another movie. "Nobody could say anything. But here, in a room that doesn't have the thousands it did yesterday, I want to lead off by announcing 'X-Files 3'" he said, holding for the audience's applause.
"Let me finish that sentence: It's coming next month," Ryall said, referring to the third issue of IDW's "X-Files: Season 10" ongoing comic book series. There was applause, but also more than a few groans.
"That was a bad joke," said Gillian Anderson, who was on hand for the panel that celebrated the 20-year history of "The X-Files" and the arrival of the ongoing comic series. "That wasn't funny. Revolt," she advised the audience, garnering plenty of laughs.
Ryall then introduced the rest of the panel, including the creator of the celebrated sci-fi show, Chris Carter, who was flanked by Anderson, as well as "X-Files: Season 10" writer Joe Harris and series editor Denton Tipton. Dean Haglund -- who played long-haired, thick-glasses-wearing Lone Gunmen Langly -- was also on hand, and moderated the panel.
His first question was for Carter, asking if the new comic series was canon. "That's what they're calling it. It's a comic book, so it's got its own comic book life and it's got its own mythology, and Joe here -- I'll let him speak for himself -- has come up with great ideas and great twists and turns for the characters," explained Carter. "He's bringing a lot of characters back. So I really have to say, it's Joe taking the lead."
"Joe's taking the lead, but is this still the official 'X-Files' canon?" pressed Haglund, to which Carter confirmed, yes, the comic is indeed canon.
Haglund was excited to reveal some details of a just-released issue. "And what happens in the second issue is that the Gunmen are back in it," he said to cheers, as a slide for the second issue cover featuring the nerdy trio came on screen. The Lone Gunmen suffered a seemingly noble death after a run-in with a deadly gas in the show's ninth season on television.
Haglund told of traveling the sci-fi convention circuit, and telling people his own conspiracy theory about the Gunmen's fate over the years. "I kept saying, 'yeah, but you didn't see our bodies in the coffins,'" he explained. "We died off-screen and then you see these hermetically-sealed steel coffins that if you -- like the Gunmen did -- caught a super-rare virus -- the coffins are supposed to be the size of the person, so there's no air space. Yet at the funeral, every coffin was the same size. Yet out of the gunmen, one of us is shorter than the other two," he said, referring to Frohike, the noticeably shorter member of Gunmen.
"And one of them has a bigger mouth," shot back Carter.
"Yeah, Byers. What a loudmouth that guy is," joked Haglund.
Haglund asked Harris to talk about why he wanted to include the Lone Gunmen in the new series. "I'm a comic book guy, so anybody who dies off-screen, off-panel in a comic, is still alive," said Harris. "It seems like in a post-Wikileaks world, there's such relevancy to the Lone Gunmen that they needed to be part of the story."
When asked how far the comic will go, Harris revealed he's outlined a couple years worth of plot.
Ryall asked Anderson if she had her own theories as to what Mulder and Scully would currently be up to. Carter said they mused over this in yesterday's panel, and Anderson jumped in, summing up the previous panel in one word: "sex" -- getting a roar of approval from the audience.
"I'm quite upset that Mulder and Scully got back together," said Haglund. "I'm just letting you know, Chris, where I stand," he added, asking if anyone else in the audience wasn't a supporter of the Mulder-Scully romance. Only a few claps responded. "Three of us," said Haglund, defeated.
"Like the Gunmen, no romance lives forever." said Carter.
Harris then talked about his approach to telling new stories out of the nine season TV series that ended 11 years ago. He said he started with extrapolating unanswered questions from Season 9 and the elements that had been driving the show forward up to that point. Harris is also trying to tap into what made him love the show as a teenager, and finding a balance for the show; tying it to the past, while bringing it to the future -- without making it feel retro.
The panel was then opened up for questions, and a fan asked Carter if he had any guest stars he couldn't get on the show. He said Drew Barrymore, but also mentioned two more.
"One of them was Roseanne Barr -- and Cher. I think you probably know the episode I'm talking about. It was the black and white episode with a Cher impersonator [Season 5's "The Post-Modern Prometheus"], Carter said. "It actually worked out better with the impersonator."
Carter was also asked about "Fencewalker," the mysterious project that was rumored to be in-development years ago, and the creator revealed he has put it aside. Carter was also asked if he'd be up for revisiting two of his other TV series, "Harsh Realm" and "Millennium," in comic books, from a fan who concluded: "I want to believe that Frank Black will be back."
"There's actually a little movement to bring Frank Black in 'Millennium' back," said Carter of the FBI profiler played by Lance Henriksen. "I don't know if it will ever happen, but it would be great to do it in comic book form. And 'Harsh Realm' is a perfect comic book concept," he said of the series that was loosely based on a comic book of the same name to begin with. "So will it happen, I don't know. Could it happen? The truth is out there," he said to laughter and applause.
A slide featuring The Smoking Man came up on the screen next, prompting Haglund to ask: "Joe, is everybody coming back to life from this show?"
"Lots of people are coming back in some way, shape or form," Harris said cryptically. "There's going to be a little bit of an explanation. It's not as cut and dry as it seems, but for all intents and purposes, yeah."
"That's one of my favorite things about what Joe's doing," Carter said. "You can't take anything at face value. It makes the comics that much more interesting for me."
"Yeah well, we don't just want to retcon everything," Harris added. "As much as we want to see these characters again -- I think you want to see these characters again -- it's about finding creative ways to do that, without undoing everything that's been undone."
Anderson was asked what it was like seeing herself portrayed by artists, in both the IDW series as well as the Topps comic book series that predated it in the '90s.
"It's a little odd, I have to say, just because I feel quite removed from the process, and I'm not really part of it other than just saying; 'yes, this drawing looks OK,' 'no, make those eyes a little smaller,'" she said. "It's funny because on the first one, I was approving the head of Scully -- I didn't realize the rest of her was in a slinky dress with exposed boobs," she said, getting laughs. "But that's OK -- I would have liked to have approved the breasts, though."
"I approved the dress," said Carter.
The next question asked about the controversial fate of Mulder, and Carter explained the nature of long-term plotting and storytelling in television: "I tell people this because it's the truth. When you do a TV show, you expect, and you're expected to fail. Most things fail," explained Carter. "If you actually make it through Season 5, it's a miracle. To do nine seasons, it's epic and preparing for that, so you have to keep your characters and your story growing, and fresh," he said. "So the story that happened to Mulder actually grew through the experience of the show and working on that character and that storyline. It wasn't set in stone."
Talk shifted back to the appearance of the characters in licensed books, with Anderson asking, "How come the characters look like they're 12 sometimes?"
Ryall told her that he was "told by an actress a long time ago, doing comics, always make sure everybody no matter what age they are now looks like they did in college, in comics," jokingly adding that the Smoking Man will now look like a teen.
Discussion turned back to Topps' "The X-Files" comic from the '90s, with someone asking if they'd overlap at all. "Those weren't canon," said Ryall. "Chris had no involvement in those," but added IDW will be reprinting them, primarily because of the Charlie Adlard art featured in them.
The panel was asked for each of their opinions on paranormal activity.
"I thought it was a good movie," Carter replied, to laughs. "I liked 2, 3, and 4," adding that he'd never had a paranormal experience.
Anderson answered next, cryptically. "The thing is, I actually have had experiences, but if I talk about them, that will be the only thing that is printed in the press about this panel today."
Carter was asked if he thought there'd ever be a formal disclosure in our lifetime from the military about extraterrestrial life.
"Here's what I think on this. When Clinton took office, he went to his military brass and said I want to two questions answered, and one was about the existence of aliens, and even he couldn't get a straight answer. So my feeling is that we'll never know," Carter said.
On whether "The X-Files" would get re-mastered and released on Blu-ray, Carter was almost "Yes, I am working on something new, and with any luck it will be announced soon," he said. "And secondly, I just had a conservation yesterday with a guy from FOX who said they're pushing for a release on that, but it hasn't been formalized."
Another fan wondered if Scully would reunite with her son in the comics. "That's not a question I can answer fully," said Harris. "Other than, just keep reading."
The panel concluded with an impromptu auction for Anderson's t-shirt -- something she does at every convention.