By Joe Grunenwald
Today’s “Make Mine Marvel” panel was Marvel’s second panel of ECCC. Moderated by Marvel Talent Manager Ricky Purdin, the panelists included X-Men editor Darren Shan, and writers Ryan North (Unbeatable Squirrel Girl), Margarot Stohl (Captain Marvel), Jim Zub (Avengers: No Surrender, upcoming on Champions), and Jeremy Whitley (Unstoppable Wasp). The panel kicked off with a brief mention by Purdin of the “Fresh Start” announcements made by Marvel in the past week. Stohl will be writing The Life of Captain Marvel, which she described as a “new look” at Carol Danvers and Captain Marvel’s existing origin stories that will provide new context for the things that have already happened. Stohl described a summit that was held for Captain Marvel, and called the new series “a very human story.” In expressing pride about the series, Stohl joked that she told North, “I finally wrote something good for Marvel,” to laughter from the audience. Carol’s straightforward origin story has never been told properly in the past, Stohl said, and she is excited to present it for the first time.
Next up, North was jokingly lauded as the “longest-running” Squirrel Girl writer. He described the arc that just wrapped up in the title, and said that the next issue is a stand-alone story in which Doreen and Nancy get frozen in a single moment in time and have to figure out how to escape. The following arc has Squirrel Girl and Kraven doing an escape room together, which North described as feeling like a culmination of everything that has come before in regards to the friendship that Squirrel Girl and Kraven have.
Zub revealed that, thus far in the weekly “Avengers: No Surrender” storyline, the Avengers have not yet surrendered. Twenty-six different Avengers are part of the storyline, including Voyager, a founder of the team who no one remembers, as they try to save the Earth after it’s theft as part of a game being played between the Grandmaster and an unseen opponent. Zub said that this storyline will mark the end of this era of The Avengers, and will see the return of Bruce Banner as The Hulk. He said that Tom Brevoort asked him, Mark Waid, and Al Ewing to write an Avengers comics with an infinite budget, and that they’re really proud of what’s been done with it.
Purdin asked Whitley about the work he did on the Comixology-first crossover between Thor and Hulk. Whitley said that Marvel wanted to do something with the two characters competing against each other as a thematic tie-in to Thor: Ragnarok. The story sees a new Elder of the Universe called The Promoter putting Thor and Hulk through a series of challenges in order to determine who is the toughest character in the Marvel Universe. Whitley describes the Thor in this series as being fun and goofy, similar to the version in the movie, while Hulk is the classic version of the character. A physical collection of the series will be released this month, and the whole series is also available for free via Comixology Unlimited.
Next, Shan talked about what’s happening in the X-men titles. X-Men Blue has had the team off in space, with upcoming issues addressing what has been happening back on Earth while the team is away. X-Men Gold has the forthcoming marriage of Kitty Pryde and Colossus, including a 30-page wedding special featuring ten-page stories by Marc Guggenheim, Kelly Thompson, and Chris Claremont. He described the Claremont story as “a nice love letter” to the characters. Shan also talked about the current Rogue & Gambit miniseries written by Kelly Thompson, who Shan described as the biggest Rogue and Gambit fan ever. He said that the central question of the series, based on the history between the characters, is “where do we go from here,” and said that that question would be answered by the last panel of the last page of the series.
Purdin then asked the panelists who their favorite X-Men are. North said, perhaps jokingly and perhaps not, that the correct answer is Jubilee, which Stohl agreed with. Whitley chimed in that his favorite depends on decade. As a kid his favorite was Gambit, and he says Gambit may still be his overall favorite, though his current ongoing favorite is Laura Kinney. Zub cited Storm as his favorite X-Men, saying she’s the moral core of the team. Shan said in seriousness that Jubilee was his favorite, and that he’s excited that she’s recently become not a vampire anymore.
An audience member who is a teen librarian asked about the proliferation of novelists coming in to write comics and the difference between writing a novel versus writing comics. Stohl fielded the question, having written two Black Widow novels, which were her first Marvel jobs. Novelists, she said, write way too much of everything when they sit down to write a comic script, which is then stripped down by the editor. North compared the page-turn kicker in comics to the chapter kicker in novels. All of the panelists then described how they have to remember to adhere to the visual language of comics. Stohl said she is still working on fine-tuning her visual thinking, and that Joe Quesada has been very helpful for her in doing that. Whitley talked about moving from creator-owned work in which he could set the length of the story himself, and how working for Marvel was an adjustment in that respect – his first few assignments were eight-page stories. Stohl said that Rainbow Rowell has expressed similar sentiments about wanting to showcase the art and not cover it all up with words.
Responding to another audience question about creating new side characters for the main title characters, Stohl described her proudest achievement: the creation of an alternate universe carrot version of Groot called Root. North talked about initially forgetting to include a supporting cast in his pitch for Squirrel Girl, and how editor Wil Moss had to remind him to add some. Whitley said that he got to create a large supporting cast in Unstoppable Wasp, and that he particularly enjoys when Jarvis interacts with them. Avengers: No Surrender involved Zub co-creating a new team of villains called the Lethal Legion and not wanting every villain to be humanoid, ultimately leading to the creation between he, Waid, and Ewing of a tentacle with telepathic powers called Mentacle. Whitley also expressed pride at having created what he described as an evil Guy Fieri as part of the Freelancers.
An audience member in a flawless Squirrel Girl costume asked about creating all-ages comics and making sure they are appealing for everyone. North described his secret for writing all-ages comics as “everyone keeps their clothes on and nobody swears”. He also said that his secret for writing comedy is to write until he makes himself laugh. Stohl praised North for having an “all-ages heart.”
An audience member asked how North got his start at Marvel. He said that his webcomic Dinosaur Comics was his gateway, after he worked on it for ten years and one of his readers grew up, got a job for a comic book company, and offered him a job writing Adventure Time comics.
The final audience question was for Whitley, who was asked who in the Marvel Universe he would kill off if he had the opportunity and how he would kill them off. Whitley joked that he wanted to say Jubilee. Stohl asked for clarification about whether the question was about who is the most annoying character in the Marvel U, or if it’s about who would have the best death. Whitley side-stepped the question, saying that there are more interesting and more terrible things to do to characters than killing them. Failing can be much worse than dying, he explained. He then joked that he wanted to kill the evil Guy Fieri with mental tentacles. Zub also talked about the other characters reacting to the death of a character as being the interesting part of the story, citing an instance in a recent Avengers: No Surrender issue in which the Human Torch appeared to die. Comic readers know not to expect these characters to die at this point, he said, but the characters don’t know that, and how they react to those events is where the drama comes from.