Oh yeah, cons are also about comic books! This unsurprising revelation was brought home at Marvel’s All Access panel Saturday at the National Fan Expo in Toronto where some of the publisher’s roster of talent took part in a friendly Q&A with fans. Artists Adam Kubert, Mahmud A. Asrar and Ryan Stegman, writers Greg Pak and Charles Soule and editors C.B. Cebulski and Jeanine Schaefer were all on hand to discuss what was in the works at Marvel Comics, that diversity is working for the publisher, and what they’re looking for in their artists.
The panel began with a brief round of what everyone was working. For Stegman, the experience was special because his first issue as the new regular penciller for All New X-Men, was released just a few days earlier. He said that he signed a few copies, but hasn’t yet had a chance to read it himself. He is having a good time working on the book though. “It’s amazing drawing the original X-Men,” he said. “I’ve been a fan of Jean Grey all my life and now she’s back.”
Meanwhile Soule and Asrar have their hands full with Inhuman, a new series meant to shake up the characters originally created by Jack Kirby. “It’s about new concepts and expanding the universe,” said Soule, “we’re getting to take a corner of the universe that’s been on its own and expanding it.
“A lot of the book is about what it would be like if it happened to you,” he said referring to the book’s storyline about the Terrigen Mist turning random people into Inhumans. “It’s about making this aspect of the Marvel Universe relatable to everyone.”
Another book that Soule is working is the new She-Hulk, which the team considers a prime example of how Marvel trying to break down the image of how women characters are treated in comics. “It’s great because it’s a book that focuses as much on her life as a woman starting her own business as the superhero stuff,” Schaefer said. She went on to tease issue #10 saying that She-Hulk will face off in court against Daredevil, and the defendant will be no less than Captain America. “It’s kind of dark, and it means a lot for all three characters.”
Soule is also pre-occupied with his biggest challenge yet, killing off the beloved X-Man Wolverine. “I’ve been staring at the Death of Wolverine bag all weekend and it’s not intimidating at all,” said Soule. “I think the work is strong and I think he’s being sent off in a way that does him justice.”
The first question had to do with the new Ms. Marvel comic, which features a young female Muslim in the title role. “First of all, Ms. Marvel is amazing, we’re all proud of it,” said Schaefer. “It’s been really amazing to have those voices out there, but you have to vote with your dollars.”
Ms. Marvel is the highest selling digital comic book outside of North America. Pak said that the success of Ms. Marvel open the door to one his current efforts, the Storm solo book, and it’s part of Marvel’s overall efforts to diversify in front of and behind the scenes.
“I think we’ve taken a huge leap in making these books more accessible to young women and making them look like a million different things,” Schaefer continued. “We’re letting women be power fantasies for women, and men are responding too. I’m really excited because you guys are asking for diversity and you’re following through.”
Then there was the inevitable question about how long Wolverine will stay dead. Soule said that he realizes these are comics, and while it’s safe to assume that Wolverine will be back eventually, it won’t be for the foreseeable future. “I’m very involved in all Wolverine discussions right now” Soule said, adding that there will be two follow-up books to Death of Wolverine including Wolverine Legacy and Death of Wolverine: Weapon X Project. “There are big plans to do everything, except bring him back.”
Someone else asked if Marvel’s pumping up of the Inhumans as a way to usurp the place of the X-Men in the Marvel U in light of the fact that Marvel Studios has the movie rights to the Inhumans and not its merry mutants. “I read a lot of that cynicism online and none of that really matters because we’re just trying to make characters you can latch on to,” Stegman said. “In five years, if this works, I don’t think it’s going to matter.”
One person in attendance was dressed as Beta Ray Bill, and he got up and asked if there are any plans for the alien Thor in the works. “There are some plans for you,” said Cebulski. “If you read Thor and the Thor-related titles, you’ll be back soon.
The panel wrapped up with a discussion of artistic diversity, and how Marvel wants to encourage its roster to push the envelope and not just do what’s popular, or copy whoever’s style is popular at the moment.
“Artistic diversity is something we’re always striving for,” said Cebulski, who used to serve as Marvel’s chief talent scout. “There are so many avenues now for discovering talent, and the talent that’s out there is incredible and there are some many ways to reach out to them.”
Schaefer, who took over Cebulski’s talent scout duties, agrees. “We want artists to stretch their legs and be able to challenge themselves in terms of what’s coming five years from now, or 10 years from now.”