Even more than "House of M' and "Infinite Crisis" or even the Kubert brothers' move to DC, the buzz at Wizard World Philly centered on rumors of a crossover between Marvels Ultimate universe and their regular "616" universe.
At their Ultimate Line panel Sunday, Ultimate editors John Barber and Nick Lowe, accompanied by Marvel marketing manager John Dokes, added fuel to the fire, unveiling a cover to "Ultimate Fantastic Four" #21, which appears to show Ultimate Reed Richards' encounter with 616 Reed Richards. While they pretended to be surprised to see the slide in their presentation, nobody made a move to get rid of it. Barber predicted that "Ultimate Fantastic Four" numbers 21 to 23 will be the most talked-about story of the year, "but I can't tell you why."
The story, entitled "Crossover," will also involve a trip back in time to prevent terrorists from killing the first animal to emerge from the sea, altering the Earth's destiny for all time, but it may all be just an excuse to show the Thing going toe-to-toe with a T-Rex.
The other big announcement is that there will be Ultimate Annuals this year. Annuals used to be the place for really special events. Barber mentioned Reed and Sue's wedding as an example.
"There's no reason to do them if they're not going to be special," Barber said.
In "Ultimate Spider-Man Annual," Spider-Man gets a new girlfriend. Her identity remains a mystery, but she's appeared in the book before, and is the last person fans would expect to return and become Peter's girlfriend.
"Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual" will introduce the Ultimate Inhumans. It will be written by Mark Millar, who will also be writing the main book.
"Ultimates Annual" will introduce the OTHER superhero team Nick Fury has been putting together. The Ultimate Defenders will also appear.
Ultimate X-Men will star Gambit and Rogue, and will also feature the return of Juggernaut.
"Ultimate Spider-Man" will soon begin a seven-part story arc entitled "Warriors," which will introduce Ultimate versions of Moon Knight, Iron Fist and Shang-Chi, with an appearance by Elektra as well.
Issues 61 to 65 of "Ultimate X-Men" will be entitled "Magnetic North" and feature the return of Magneto and Polaris. This arc will be Brian Vaughn's last as sole writer. Afterwards, Bryan Singer will join him as co-writer. Barber hinted that an Ultimate version of Apocalypse may appear during Vaughn and Singer's run.
Asked whether an Ultimate Ultron would be appearing, Barber and Lowe acknowledged that Hank Pym is now designing robots. He back-engineered Vision II from the first Ultimate version of the Vision, who was Herald to Galactus. When Hank Pym builds a robot, it can't go well.
"Ultimate Iron Man" will consist of two five-issue miniseries written by Orson Scott Card. When one fan appeared disappointed that Tony Stark had changed so radically in his Ultimate version, Barber said "Wait until you see the implications. It'll blow your mind, and it's heartbreaking in a lot of ways."
On the business end, John Dokes confirmed that a Barnes and Noble "Ultimate X-Men" volume is in preparation, similar to the nearly 1,000-page "Ultimate Spider-Man" volume published by B&N. However, he had no news about a rumored Ultimates animated DVD.