By Ruth Johnson
The Women of Marvel panel was a lively and inspiring discussion, highlighting the upward progress women have made, not just at Marvel Comics, but throughout the entire industry. There were only a few announcements, but the panelists did go into detail on some of upcoming projects. The biggest announcement seemed minor, but it was significant: Javier Pina will illustrate the upcoming Star comic mini-series. The rest of the panel was dedicated to discussing the new Marvels podcast, Loki: Where Mischief Lies, Morbius, and even the upcoming Avengers Campus section of Disney’s California Adventure.
The panelists were Judy Stephens, the co-host of the Women of Marvel podcast and a producer at Marvel; Marvel Comics VP Content and Character Development Sana Amanat, one of the creators of Ms. Marvel herself, Kamala Khan; Lauren Shippen, the writer of the new podcast Marvels; Mackenzi Lee, writer of the new YA novel Loki: Where Mischief Lies; Vita Ayala, current writer on Morbius; Beth Bryson, project manager of parks and resort at Marvel; Marsha Griffin, the VP of animation for current series and development; and Sandra Saad, the actress who plays the recently announced Kamala Khan in the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers game.
The first thing the panelists and the audience reveled in was just how many female-led comics there are now in Marvel’s catalog. They showed the Ms. Marvel character trailer again, and then asked Saad what it means to her to be Kamala Khan. Saad says that she has a close connection to Kamala because they’re both first generation Americans and they come from immigrant families. She spoke to how, when she was growing up, she didn’t have heroes who looked like her… let alone video game characters who looked like her! She noted that Kamala is a character who “overcomes feeling like the other.”
Shippen was asked what it’s like to write a podcast for Marvel; she said that it is a dream to work for Marvel, even if having to translate the comic into a medium with no images was really scary. She also expressed enthusiasm for how grounded in reality Marvel characters are.
Lee told the audience that she was excited about writing for Loki because she would be writing about an anti-hero in a historical context. However, bringing Loki into young adult fiction was more challenging than she initially thought it would be due to the nature of his character.
She also said that she started writing in her teens with fanfiction, so when being given Loki, she felt like she was writing fanfiction professionally. Lee noted that she had to discover that her Loki would be different from all of the other Lokis.
Ayala said their writing process is intense. They also said there’s something very singular about Marvel characters compared to other superheroes they’ve written. Ayala also says they like to ask what is relevant to the characters they write into today’s world, and told the audience that they created a character who is a foil to Morbius who is nothing like him, but they feared incurring the wrath of Marvel should they say anything else. Morbius #1 is coming out November 13, 2019.
Bryson was excited to join a Comic Con panel for the first time; she was also excited about creating the real-life Marvel. During her talk about Avengers Campus, she discussed the new Spider-Man ride, where fans will get to sling webs alongside our favorite web shooter. She said that Disneyland Paris will have Avengers Campus, as well. There is a real focus, she said, on “heroic encounters,” which both she and Saad are both excited about. Bryson also spoke briefly about the Pym Test Kitchen experience, which will play with the scale of food…somehow. She did not elaborate too much on that front.
Finally, Griffin talked about two new animated series that will be released in 2020. The first is the previously announced Spidey and His Amazing Friends, Marvel’s full-length preschool series. She highlighted the adorable 3D designs and animation, and the wide appeal the series will have. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur was also highlighted, with Griffin noting that it looks very different from any of Marvel’s other animated series. She also talked about how Marvel is taking a quantum leap in animation with female-forward projects; she wants to take characters of all genders out of the boxes that they are usually assigned and really explore them. Griffin told the audience that the animation department at Marvel is now two-thirds women, to cheers and applause.
After the discussion concluded, an exclusive screening of Marvel Rising: Operation Shuri was held; it will premiere on the Marvel HQ YouTube channel on October 11, 2019. Check out the trailer below.