"Marvel: Infinity and Beyond" panel hit Fan Expo in Toronto last Friday, featuring Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort, editor Ellie Pyle, "Journey Into Mystery" writer Kathryn Immonen and "All-New X-Men" artist Stuart Immonen answering audience questions about not only the "Infinity" event series, but numerous other monthlies currently hitting store shelves.
A common thread of questioning throughout the hour concerned Marvel movie news, or comics work related to the big screen. For example, Brevoort explained to a fan that Marvel has no plans for "Star Wars" comics, as the license to the newly Disney-owned property remains at Dark Horse Comics. Meanwhile, the panel had some fun at the anticipatory joke that "Daredevil will play Batman," as the Ben Affleck casting news remained a hot-button topic throughout the con.
But for the majority of the panel, comic news ruled, including a tease of a December project celebrating the holidays. "David [LaFuente] and I are doing the 'Avengers Christmas Annual' which is going to be an awfully, awfully good time," Pyle revealed.
The recently announced "X-Men Gold Anniversary One-Shot" was also discussed, a 50th anniversary celebration will scheduled for September. The issue features a story by writer Fabian Nicieza -- known for his past work on "X-Men," "X-Force" and more X-titles -- plus contributions, Brevoort noted, "from Stan [Lee], Walter and Louise Simonson and a few other folks."
On the Avengers front, it was noted that "There's more Thor/ Asgardian-based stuff to come that you'll hear about very soon," Brevoort teased the audience without letting too much out.
"In terms of the 'New Universe' characters and introducing the Marvel Universe integrations of them, it's certainly possible that we will do 'DP7,' I don't know that there is a specific plan for it, but there is some other new universe stuff coming up," Brevoort offered up on the '80s Marvel characters enjoying a new time in the spotlight thanks to writer Jonathan Hickman's work on the Avengers franchise. "Obviously Jonathan has a love of the characters and particularly the work that Warren [Ellis] did with them in 'newuniversal.' And they play a pretty significant role not just in 'Infinity' but in 'Avengers' and 'New Avengers' moving ahead. So I think we will see an expansion of those characters and concepts as time goes on and maybe we will get to a point with DP7 stuff happening."
With the release of "Amazing Spider-Man" #700 this year and the death of Peter Parker, audience members wanted to know how panelists keep major storylines secret, and what kind of balance is needed between teasing readers and spoiling the story for them.
"I had a chance to interview Jane Espenson at C2E2 this year, which was pretty cool, and she said Joss Whedon used to say on 'Buffy' that if the Internet figures out what you're planning to do you probably got the story right," Pyle said. "I think that's pretty cool. You can't keep going back and changing the story because somebody figured it out.
"As far as keeping things secret, I worked on 'Amazing Spider-Man' #700, and that was one of the hardest secrets to keep because everything gets solicited pretty much a month ahead of time and we really did have to have a game plan of how are we going to phrase things in such a way that we are going to talk about six issues of 'Superior Spider-Man' without revealing who's dead," Pyle added. "It is hard because on the one hand you want to get information out there in the world because you want to let people know that something important is happening. But how do you tell people how important this is without spoiling the story? I was very impressed with the whole 'Dying Wish' arc that the story did stay secret until like two days before #698 went on sale and someone posted a page on the internet, which isn't fun for the fans. Before you go and post spoilers on the Internet, think about the people who don't want to know."
"The other tricky part about it is deciding what needs to be a surprise," Pyle added. "There are some big things where you are better off saying that this is the issue were something is going to happen and the issue itself can still be enjoyed, and that's something we're thinking about when we are doing solicits."
"All-New X-Men" artist Stuart Immonen also chimed in on the discussion about spoilers and the fine line between enough information and too much information, playing devil's advocate to Pyle's statements. "There is another side of it, too. I can't count the number of times I've submitted a page to the 'All-New X-Men' group, of which Brian Bendis is a member. And then Brian, I don't know what kind of pull he's got with the marketing, but he somehow gets permission to put things on his Tumblr, like the next day after it's done," Immonen said smiling wryly.
"It's just a way that if it's not a huge ordeal, it's a way to generate interest in the title even though people won't be able to see it in context potentially for three or four months," he added. "So, it can be advantageous too to get some information out that doesn't ruin the experience."
"Yes, I totally agree with that," Pyle said. "Don't ruin the experience. I think it's that fine line that we walk across. [Marvel senior editor] Stephen Wacker tweets pictures all the time to get people really excited about what we're doing, but it is a question you have to ask yourself: 'At what point are you diminishing the story by giving people a head's up?'"
Brevoort let it slip to an audience member that Baron Zemo will be coming back. "Zemo is showing up in a book soon to be released. I starts with H or maybe I," he said, the audience laughing. Pyle tried to guess herself aloud as the audience grumbled. "All right, all right, It's Hulk," Brevoort said laughing. "He's in 'Indestructible Hulk'…Okay, I've spoiled the story for everyone now."
Discussion swung back around to movies: specifically the Marvel Studios films and their impact on the comic books and visa versa. For the most part the panelists agreed that while they strive to keep the two cohesive, it's just not always possible.
"It isn't a matter of trying to match up the comics and the movies. It's more a matter for trying to tell the best stories that we possibly can," Pyle said. "Certainly it would be great for Marvel on the whole if the money from those movies was coming to this company. But terms of the actual stories and the comic books we are sill trying to tell the coolest stories we possibly we can and whether we have the movie rights doesn't impact that specifically."
"But you do try and take advantage of the potential expanded audience that see a movie and want to see more comics," Brevoort said. Later Brevoort talked about the "Avengers" movie version of Nick Fury and how he was integrated into the storytelling of the comic books. "We are intending to achieve a nice synergy in all areas… If you get down to the actual nuts and bolts of the Marvel universe we introduced a character who was that character [with the Marcus Johnson take on the Fury role]. The original still exists. [He] is still in Marvel books. He was in an issue that I sent out this week. So, he's still in play. But, as we were talking about, there's always going to be a back and forth between what we do in other areas and what we do in publishing because our guys are influenced by it as much as anything else.
"The plain fact of it is that after being in 'Iron Man' and 'Iron Man 2' and 'Thor' and 'Captain America' and 'Avengers,' more people in the world know Nick Fury as Sam Jackson," Brevoot said. "So, having a model in the Marvel Universe that worked like that just kind of made sense."
The panel ended on a high note with a fan asking if the panelists disliked Canadian superhero teams. The room rolled with hearty laughter, and Brevoort said, "I guess it's no surprise that this is the show in which we get more Alpha Flight questions than any other."
"No there's no dislike for Canadian super teams or for Alpha Flight in particular," Brevoort explained. "What there is unfortunately though is a difficulty that we've had in keeping Alpha Flight viable as a series for the long term. We've tried a bunch of times now, and every time it could just be that we didn't hit it right. We didn't have the right creators. We didn't have the right idea. We didn't market it effectively. For one reason or another we've just not had any success at making a long term go function with Alpha Flight, but we love the characters."
"It's not impossible that we would do another Alpha Flight series," he added. "I tend to think myself that I would be more likely to try and do something else. I'd be more likely to try some other character in Canada or another character that comes out of Canada rather than trying to do the same thing again that I haven't been able to make work three or four times already. I don't think the reason Alpha Flight didn't work is because it was a Canadian team. I just think there has been something about it that hasn't caught, and it's not the only Marvel thing that hasn't caught. We just have to hit on the right kind of thing."
Of course, no Marvel panel at this point in the calendar would be complete without at least a few teasers regarding the new television series "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Would we see a comic book component to the series? Brevoort said, "It's too soon to tell. We don't even have the show on the air quite yet! At the moment we've got 'Secret Avengers' which is effectively an 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' series. In fact, it's really kind of likely that once the show gets up and running we'll be doing something with it." Whether it will be in the vein of the "Once Upon a Time" and "Castle" comic books set in the world of the comic series or Marvel Universe stuff that does more S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff, Brevoort said fans will have to wait and see.
"The team that's working with Joss [Whedon] is still building and putting together the show. So they need to build their show first so we can figure out what makes sense to bounce off, and extrapolate off into the Marvel Universe," he concluded. He also noted staff at the Marvel offices will be watching the series with the same excitement as audience members.