New York Comic Con, Day Three: Marvel's "Ultimate" Treatment

Sun, February 26th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Adi Tantimedh, Guest Writer

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At today's "Ultimate Marvel" panel, Joe Quesada, Marvel EiC, maintained the party atmosphere to a packed crowd as he introduced Brian Michael Bendis, Assistant Editor John Barber, Jim McCann and artists Mark Bagley and Tom Raney.

Quesada hosted a 15 minutes slide show before throwing the panel open to questions from the audience, narrating as the pictures popped up in rapid succession.

"Ultimate Fantastic Four" – They showed the Marvel zombies teaming up with Doctor Doom. Then Mike Carey and Pasqual Ferry take over in August.

There were slides of Ultimate Thanos and Ultimate Ronan.

The Ultimate Annuals will be back in July. Mark Brooks will pencil "Ultimate Spider-Man Annual," where the Kingpin and Detective de Wolff will manipulate Spidey into doing something that unknowingly benefits Kingpin. This will bring him into conflict with Daredevil and the Punisher, and Ultimate Moon Knight will return.

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width="127" height="190" alt="" align="left" border="0">Charlie Huston will be writing the Ultimates Annual.

"Ultimate Extinction #5" reaches its conclusion.

"Ultimates 2" reaches its conclusion with the heading, "On time and under budget!"

"Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine"continues.

"Ultimate X-Men" continues with Robert Kirkman and Tom Raney, with Ben Oliver drawing an arc.

Ultimate Spider-Woman will make her debut in "Ultimate Spider-Man #92", as does Ultimate Ringer, followed by the Ultimate Morbius arc. This brings them closer to #100, and to beating Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's 100+ run on "Fantastic Four".

When asked if Kirkman would ever take over the writing of "Ultimate Spider-Man", Bendis screamed, "NEVER! He'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands! He calls me up a lot to see if I'm okay or if I'm gonna die soon, and believe me he's like the 9th on my list of replacements."

A fan asked if the Ultimate Universe would ever take over as the predominant Marvel universe. Quesada replied that the Ultimate Universe is fine the way it is. "It's good because we keep it small. It's only six books a month, and that way, we have a better grip on quality control."

Bendis added that "Readers don't care about universes, they just want good stories. We shouldn't get too marred in universes or we'll end up in a CRISIS!" , a none-too-subtle dig at a certain rival company's current crossover event, drawing laughter and applause.

One fan asked whether there would be more minority heroes and villains. Quesada replied that Marvel was always the more ethnically diverse company. Having grown up Latino, he was always conscious of this. "We thought the Black Panther was the coolest hero." He felt that ethnic heroes and villains should grow organically out of the stories and the world. Grant Morrison created a Muslim girl for the X-Men, after all. "There's not a demand, but we make sure we're sensitive to reflect what's going on."

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Another fan asked how much continuity carries over into the Ultimate Universe from the Ultimate Team-Up stories, and where the issue with Fantastic Four drawn by Jim Mahfood fit in.

Bendis said that version of the Fantastic Four definitely wasn't part of the continuity. The book was a mish-mash that tried out ideas, and most of it stuck, but that FF issue was definitely a joke. "Bill Jemas is NOT a Skrull, right?" Silence around the room. "Right…?" Bendis continued "That FF was just a sketch to Ultimate FF, but 90% of it stuck and became continuity."

Ultimate Deadpool would be a complete reinvention from the original 616 version. He's more X-Men oriented and would tangle with both Spidey and the X-Men. There would also be a milestone for Peter and Kitty Pryde which he won't spoil here.

"Ultimate Clone Saga" begins in #97, and Kitty and MJ feature prominently in it. Scorpion, Tarantula and Ultimate Spider-Woman will turn up as well.

Quesada stated there are no current plans to have Ultimate Ghost Rider.

There will be a crossover with the 616 universe, which will affect the Ultimates deeply.

A fan asked why Bendis killed Gwen Stacy. Bendis said he wanted to explore the idea that a superhero should never reveal his secret identity to girlfriends or family, and show how it was a mistake for Peter to tell MJ. Fury had warned Peter that he shouldn't have done it, and Bendis wanted to show why. Gwen died in Peter's backyard, and the trauma broke Peter and MJ up.

A fan debated that there wasn't anything Peter could have done to save Gwen and nothing he could actually learn from her death, while Uncle Ben's death had a real lesson about consequences for Peter.

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Bendis replied that he wanted to explore random violence and how kids deal with it and have to grow up fast. "I wanted to send Peter on this downward spiral to see where he came out." He knows killing Gwen off still pisses people off, but Kitty Pryde would never have come along without that happening. And fans love Kitty.

When asked how Mark Millar's "Ultimates" story impacted on his plans for his own books, Bendis said that he would just let Millar tell his story, since he thought this was the best story Millar ever wrote, and he himself would deal with the fallout.

Bendis singled artist Mark Bagley for praise. "There's nothing he can't draw, whether it's a fight scene or a scene with two people talking in a room. He just makes it fascinating."

Bagley himself said he always found something in Bendis' scripts he couldn't wait to draw. Ron Garney praised him recently, which he found particularly heartening, especially when a fellow pro appreciated his work.

"I'm just really discipline," said Bagley. "It's about the storytelling and not the minutiae of the artwork. I know discipline. I know what it's like to have a job you really hate, and this is a job I love. If a book is late, it hurts the book, no matter how great the art is. When a book is on-time, you still remember the last issue clearly and you don't have to go back to read it to remember what happened at the end last time."

Bendis added, "I worked at McDonald's, which I hated. When I left to go to art college, the manager put his hand on my shoulder and said, "You'll always have a place at McDonald's." That haunts me. I mean, he was being nice, but I don't wanna be back working at McDonald's. That's why we work."

Quesada was asked how often he turned down awesome pitches from great creators, and he replied, "All the time. I want to avoid overextending and too much expansion." Back when he and Bill Jemas launched the Marvel Knights line, they had to literally stop a Marvel Knights Moon Knight title. This turned out to be a leftover miniseries that the old management at Marvel tried to trot out under the Marvel Knights imprint in the hopes that it might sell a few more copies. Quesada and Jemas successfully argued that to do this would end up diluting the imprint and eventually ruin it. They were backed up by the Marketing Department, who agreed with them. "Keep it small" was the motto. That way, you can maintain great quality.

Examples of great pitches Quesada turned down included Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider.

In closing, Quesada threw out other tidbits: Blade would appear in the Morbius arc. Ultimate Thor will go back and appear in the Ultimate version of Asgard next year. Dale Lindelof loved the original Hulk-Wolverine fight, which is why he came to write "Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine". They're scheduling the book to fit his schedule on "Lost", and he wants to do more "versus" miniseries in the future.

When asked if Bendis ever worried that what he did made the characters too different from the 616 universe, he said, "I've done stuff where I think "I'm gonna get the shit kicked out of me for this!" But I can't worry too much. The priority is not to suck. You have to keep writing good stories."

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