Marvel Comics’s first panel of this year’s virtual SDCC was made available to view today. The “Next Big Thing” panel featured discussion of current event Empyre, the upcoming X-Men crossover X of Swords, the current goings-on in Amazing Spider-Man leading up to that series’ 850th issue, and the Werewolf By Night series that’s coming later this fall.

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Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebuslki

Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski welcomed fans to Hall M, before passing things over to executive editor Tom Brevoort to talk about Empyre. Al Ewing and Dan Slott, writers of Empyre, joined him to talk about the event. Two issues of Empyre have released already, and Ewing quickly recapped what’s happened in the series so far.

Ewing raised the question of whether Hulkling is just a figurehead for the Kree and Skrulls, or if he’s an actual leader. He also teased how the Cotati had “succumbed to some new violent thoughts” that have led them to take their revenge on all fleshy ones. Slott next talked about the introduction of Jo-Venn, the Kree Chronicle of Blood, and N’Kala, the Skrull Reqiuem of the Shapeless soul, in Empyre: Fantastic Four #0. He called the characters “insanely important” to the future of the FF and to Empyre.

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Al Ewing, Tom Brevoort, and Dan Slott

Brevoort, Ewing, and Slott all praised artists Valerio Schiti and Marte Gracia for their incredible work on Empyre. “I have not been easy on him,” Ewing said of Schiti before elaborating on the artist’s work both on the large-scale scenes and the smaller emotional moments, and that Gracia’s work leaps off the page. Slott also praised Schiti’s design work on the series, and Ewing teased a new Iron Man suit that Schiti has designed for the series. Brevoort said Schiti’s design work has been so strong that they decided to include those images in each issue. He said that the first Marvel comic Schiti read was one that introduced key Kree and Skrull characters.

Brevoort mentioned The Immortal She-Hulk epilogue for Empyre, and invited Ewing to tease that issue. “How does all of the stuff we’ve been doing in Immortal Hulk […] tie in to Jennifer Walters? How does what she goes through in Empyre tie in?” He described the one-shot answering questions readers of Empyre may have about Immortal Hulk coming out of the event.

Slott then talked about introducing a new elder of the universe, The Profiteer, in the aforementioned Empyre: FF #0 one-shot. Slott said “everything that happens in Empyre is going to have a big effect on her,” as her main means of profit is selling arms to the Kree and Skrull. He teased her future appearances in the Marvel cosmic books, and said that the end of the Empyre: Fantastic Four Fallout one-shot would have “major ramifications” for the “entire Marvel Universe.”

Brevoort asked Ewing and Slott what they want people to take from Empyre. Ewing said he’s looking forward to readers’ reactions to the ending of Empyre #4, and Slott said the Avengers and Fantastic Four are both going to change as a result of the story. “This is when an event means something,” he said. “Stuff happens, things change.” He also pointed out that all three of them have glasses and beards, though that is apparently unrelated to Empyre. With that, Brevoort sent viewers back to Cebulski.

Cebulski next threw things to the X-family. Editor Jordan White took the floor and introduced Excalibur writer Tini Howard and Marauders and Cable writer Gerry Duggan to talk about X of Swords. White described the event as having had ‘track laid down’ in the previous X-titles, particularly Excalibur. Howard called the story close to her heart, and said they’ve worked hard to make sure the story is both exciting and “a natural extension of Dawn of X.” She said she and Hickman both realized they were telling similar stories, which is how the event came together, and that the story came out of a lot of the things that she loves about the mythology of Excalibur.

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Tini Howard, Jordan White, and Gerry Duggan

White clarified that X of Swords is a true crossover, with the events touching every one of the X-books. Duggan described the process as “very collaborative,” and said he’s excited to have worked so closely with the other X-writers. “You’re going not just see some of the X-Men in new writers hands, you’re also gonna see new names on books,” he said, with a lot of co-writing involved in the event.

Asked about the tarot origins of Ten of Swords, Howard said she was “tickled” by how Hickman has leaned in to X being the Roman numeral for 10. She said early on she became attached to characters who are now a big part of X of Swords, and said that in tarot the 10 of Swords is the end of that suit, and that it typically does not end well.

White asked which character has “the best moment” in the story so far; Duggan said he was excited by Storm’s part in the event, and showed a cover from an upcoming issue of Marauders by Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson (seen above). Howard said she was pleased with how Doug Ramsey’s story has developed, and teased that there are characters she’s writing that haven’t been revealed yet. “Cypher fans are gonna have a great time,” she said. White said he’s excited about “something with Captain Britain,” and they teased some art White had sent Howard that she described as “even better than I imagined it.”

The team continued to gush over the collaborative process for the story, both among the writers and among the many artists working on the story, including Stefano Casselli, Phil Noto, Pepe Larraz, and R.B. Silva. “We gave Pepe a huge challenge,” Howard said of Larraz’s work on the first dozen pages of the first issue, and said he took what was inside her head and made it better. “He has birthed galaxies for us.” With that, White wrapped up the discussion and sent things back to Cebulski.

Cebulski next introduced Spider-books editor Nick Lowe to talk about the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man #850, “and the return of one of Peter’s greatest arch-rivals.” Lowe introduced Amazing Spider-Man writer Nick Spencer and longtime Spider-Man artist Mark Bagley, before providing a quick recap of what’s been happening in ASM. Peter’s back together with Mary Jane Watson, and he’s back in school at Empire State University studying under Curt “The Lizard” Conners. The Kingpin is the Mayor of New York City, and wants to kill Boomerang, who happens to be Peter’s roommate.

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Nick Spencer, Nick Lowe, and Mark Bagley

Lowe teased new villain Kindred, and said information about him would be coming out of the “Sins Rising” storyline. Spencer described the story as the “escalation” of the Kindred story, and described the return of the Sin-Eater, who he called one of his favorite Spider-Man villains from the Spectacular Spider-Man series. Spencer also teased Norman Osborn’s return as the Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #850, and said that Osborn is “a major player” in the overall Kindred storyline.

The return of the Green Goblin is coming in Amazing Spider-Man #850

Lowe next addressed Bagley, teasing the artist for how long he’s been working on Spider-Man. Bagley will draw Amazing Spider-Man #850 along with Humberto Ramos and Ryan Ottley. Bagley joked that it’s been “amazing” to be back on the series, and said it’s been around 20 years since he drew the character regularly. He said he never felt like his work lived up to Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr., but that he feels like he’s “there” now, and that he’s having a great time working on the series. Spencer called working with Bagley “one of the best thrills of my career.” Bagley said he’s excited to be working with Ramos and Ottley, and said he’s tweaked some of his own work after seeing the work they’re doing on the series.

After ASM #850, Lowe teased an upcoming storyline called “Last Remains,” which he said they can’t talk about yet. In closing, Spencer thanks the fans for supporting him, and Bagley called working on Spidey “the icing on the cake” of his dream job.

Ben Jackendoff, Lowe, and Taboo

With the Spider-segment ended, Lowe threw it to…himself, to talk about the upcoming Werewolf by Night series. He welcomed Ben Jackendoff to talk about the series, which he’s working on with Taboo. Jackendoff said the character Red Wolf was what brought he and Taboo to the series, as an opportunity to continue working on the character following their one-page Marvel Comics #1000 story.

Lowe praised the action in the series, which is drawn by Scot Eaton & Scott Hanna, and asked Jackendoff about the villains in the series. Jackendoff described the opposition of nature vs. digital, with native cultures being tied to nature, and developing a villain who’s tied to machinery and cybernetics. “How do we live in balance with these new technologies that are being created […] versus how do we stay in touch with nature?”

Lowe praised the unique flavor of Werewolf by Night, with its integration of body horror and other scary elements. At that point Taboo joined the call as well, and said he’s a fan of horror films from the ‘70s and ‘80s. He said the horror of the series isn’t “over the top,” and that he’s trying to make the book as “PG-13” as he can so that his own kids can read it and relate to it. He said he wants the book to be inclusive for everyone, and described the ‘hormone monster’ of growing up as a metaphor for becoming a werewolf.

With that, Lowe passed things back to Cebulski, who teased other new Marvel Comics projects including Captain America #25, Fantastic Four: Antithesis, and more before wrapping up the SDCC video panel.

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