Marvel held their hotly anticipated “Next Big Thing” panel at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The publisher had been teasing big X-Men news related to writer Jonathan Hickman’s upcoming relaunch of the franchise, and a cipher shared by Hickman on Friday seemed to reveal at least the titles of the forthcoming books. Hickman was on hand at the panel along with Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski and X-Men editors Jordan D. White and Nick Lowe to reveal everything about the upcoming slate of X-related books.

Before getting to the X-Men, Cebulski plugged a few ongoing titles like Venom and Immortal Hulk before getting into details on the newly-announced Ghost Rider series. The title will be by Ed Brisson and Aaron Kuder, and will feature two past Ghost Riders, Danny Ketch and Johnny Blaze. Blaze was last seen as the king of Hell, which is where the new series picks up. Ketch is described as hating being Ghost Rider and wanting to get away from it. White praised Kuder for his design work for the series, and Cebulski said the series reexamines the entire concept of the Spirits of Vengeance and why these characters were chosen to wield them. White said what’s revealed in the series will tie in to other things happening around the Marvel Universe down the line.

Absolute Carnage is next. Lowe called it one of the biggest Spidey stories ever both figuratively and literally, as the first issue is sixty pages of story and art. Lowe said readers are not ready for it, and joked that between the symbiotes and the blood other publishers are not allowed to use the color red in their books for the months that the series is coming out. Cebulski brought series writer Donny Cates in on FaceTime, and Cates reiterated what Lowe said about readers not being ready for what was to come in the series. He called Absolute Carnage the culmination of his and artist Ryan Stegmans year-long Venom arc. He said every issue would feature something “colossal and brutal” happening to characters across the Marvel U that would affect them going forward.

The JJ Abrams Spider-Man book came up next. Lowe said he started emailing  Abrams about working together fifteen years ago. He was a fan of Alias and got Abrams’s email address from Stuart Immonen, who had done some development art for Abrams’s aborted Superman script. He joked that he’d been emailing Abrams monthly to try to get him to do something for Marvel, and that eventually Abrams and his son, who Lowe knew was a big comics fan, came to Marvel with a Spider-Man pitch. He says the pitch blew his mind and the series has been a year in the making. What new villain Cadaverous does to Spidey in the book is “very, very damaging,” Lowe promised.

Marvel Comics #1000 starts in 1939 in the first panel of Marvel Comics #1, and traces the origins of all of the major Marvel characters, before revealing a new character at the end. Hickman and artist Dustin Weaver will be doing a story for the issue about Apocalypse. Hickman joked that Weaver is his ‘favorite person to turn in stuff late with.’ Additional creative teams include Kieron Gillen and Doug Braithwaite on a Loki story, Saladin Ahmed and Steve Rude on The Thing, Priest and Brian Stelfreeze tackling a T’Challa story, Ryan North and James Harren with a Thanos tale, and the issue’s architect, Al Ewing, and artist Cafu on a story about a mystery character. The story will continue in Marvel Comics #1001, which will feature the story of the new character introduced at the end of #1000.

Marvel's "Next Big Thing": House of X #1 interior art by Pepe Larraz
Marvel’s “Next Big Thing”: House of X #1 interior art by Pepe Larraz
Marvel's "Next Big Thing": Powers of X #1 interior art by R.B. Silva
Marvel’s “Next Big Thing”: Powers of X #1 interior art by R.B. Silva

Cebulski waved a physical copy of House of X #1, which comes out on Wednesday. White said House of X focuses on the changes in the present for the X-Men as a result of Professor Xavier’s ‘giant plan.’ A few Pepe Larraz pages were shown, and Hickman praised the artist’s work and his world-building abilities. Powers of X will look at the past, present, and future of mutantkind. Hickman said everyone should read House of X #5 because ‘that’s the good one.’ The main covers for every issue of each series were shown, as well as a few pages each of interior art for the first issues of the two series. Hickman said the covers are great, but wishes the writing was good, too.

Dawn of X at the Marvel Next Big Thing panel
Marvel’s “Next Big Thing”: Dawn of X teaser art

After House of X and Powers of X, the “Dawn of X” reveals began. Hickman said that if he had his way he would do no PR, and they would just release the books and people would be surprised. He said they have lied a lot about what’s coming, only telling the truth sometimes, and White joked that when he’s talking it’s the truth.

White said that Hickman is planning to work on the X-Men for the foreseeable future, and that the writer has been involved in everything that’s coming for the X-Men. House of X and Powers of X set up the new status quo, and “Dawn of X” will feature six books that reflect those changes. He said fans would not really understand right now how perfectly the new titles work with the new status quo because they’re not actually going to talk about what the books are about.

At this point the panelists kicked off an audience-involvement game in which they would announce the title and creative team of each book, and two audience members would guess which characters were part of each team. As they game commenced, details were revealed on each title (you can see full details on each book here).

The new titles include:

  • Marauders by Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli
    • Hickman said Marauders is a good example of what they’re doing, taking a traditional name and putting in characters you wouldn’t expect, and it just looks like nonsense, but it will all make sense after House of X and Powers of X.
  • Excalibur by Tini Howard and Marcus To
    • The series will see Betsy Braddock ascend into the role of  Captain Britain, which Cebulski likened to Carol Danvers becoming Captain Marvel. 
  • X-Force by Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara
    • Hickman said X-Force is good. This one is predictable, he said. ‘They’re gonna throw parties and dance a lot.’
  • Fallen Angels by Bryan Edward Hill and Szymon Kudranski
    • This team will feature Psylocke, but White said it’s not Betsy.
  • New Mutants by Hickman, Ed Brisson, and Rod Reis
    • Hickman will write the first arc of the New Mutants book before handing it over to Ed Brisson. Hickman said that he’s a big New Mutants fan, and that he’s trying to set things up that will resonate for years to come
X-Men at Marvel's Next Big Thing
Marvel’s “Next Big Thing”: X-Men
  • X-Men by Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu
    • This book will feature every mutant in the Marvel Universe. Hickman calls it a ‘tour de force of the X-Men world.’

White said they were already working on wave 2 of the books, which they’re working on with some new creators who haven’t worked on the books before. Hickman said Leah Williams, Brisson, and Vita Ayala would be working on wave 2 books, which they’ll be talking about ‘not long from now.’

Fan Q&A began with a fan asking about Iceman being gay and a fan theory about Jean Grey brainwashing him into being gay. Hickman joked that all answers about Bobby can be found in Heroes in Crisis #8, before saying Bobby is in Marauders.

Will there be anything about the Weapon X program in the new titles? The Weapon Plus one-shot that just came out revealed some things about the program. White said there might be more development based on that one-shot, and Hickman said sarcastically that they may even do a Wolverine book some day.

Asked which X-Men the panelists see themselves in, Cypher, Nightcrawler, and Dani Moonstar were all named.

How connected will the six titles be? White and Hickman both said the connection would come primarily from the world that Hickman is setting up.

The final question asked White which team would take Gwenpool’s pet Jeff the Land Shark. White joked Brute Force, and Cebulski said that Jeff would return in a major book later this year.

As the panel closed, Cebulski praised the late Stan Lee and announced an upcoming televised special celebrating the life of ‘Stan the Man.’

— with photos by Zack Quaintance

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