NYCC '09 - Marvel's 'Your Universe' Panel

For the last year or so, Marvel Comics has been holding “Marvel: Your Universe” panels on the closing day of conventions, hosted by Tom Brevoort and giving fans a chance to talk directly to the senior editor without any sales pitches or announcements.

“All throughout the last two or three days, we’ve been set up on the dais trying to sell you stuff,” Brevoort said, explaining the reasons behind the panel. “In the nicest way possible.”

Sunday afternoon at New York Comic Con, Brevoort was joined by Amazing Spider-Man and Mighty Avengers writer Dan Slott and Marvel marketing’s Jim McCann (who’s also writing the upcoming New Avengers: The Reunion mini-series).

As a result of the panel’s informal nature — Brevoort encouraged fans to make a circle with their chairs — conversation flowed much looser than typical convention programming and the talk got fairly spirited, like when an especially passionate audience member criticized Marvel for not doing enough to get into “other markets,” and that their current business model was “not sustainable.”

McCann countered this claim, saying that books like the comic adaptation of Dark Tower address that very issue.

“Every retailer is saying they’ve seen people coming in for that they’ve never seen,” he said.

Brevoort explained that while the days of comics being plentiful at newsstand locations are long over, much is still being done to try and get them into the hands of new readers, such as digital initiatives (like Spider-Woman, announced the day earlier at the con) and Free Comic Book Day.

The fan that brought up the complaint also begrudged what he perceived as a lack of catering to female readers. One such female reader then spoke up, saying that she was introduced to comics through a non-traditional book: the now-defunct Sentinel, written by Sean McKeever and launched as part of the ill-fated Tsunami line, whose goals, in part, included reaching out to new audiences. Though she did admit that it was her boyfriend to introduce her to the title, she offered herself up as evidence that Marvel is broadening its horizons.

“We’re going to be doing more small-scale stuff as we go along,” said Brevoort, in discussing future titles that may be similar in tone to Sentinel.

The increasingly commonplace complaint that Marvel is doing too many “event” comics that cajole the readers into buying multiple books with seemingly no end in sight was raised. Brevoort offering this frank response: “My job is to make you want to read comics every month. Sort of what you’re saying is, ‘You’re making comics too good! They’re too exciting!’ And I feel good about that!”

This led to McCann opining on the literary reasons behind these long events and continuously escalating storylines. “When they do get that win, it wouldn’t mean as much if they hadn’t gone though all that crap,” he said.

Slott compared current Marvel Comics and “Dark Reign” to Sci Fi’s increasingly bleak Battlestar Galactica, and reminded fans that the Marvel Universe is a “big tapestry,” so there really isn’t a beginning or an end.

One fan criticized the work of Jeph Loeb, and stated that he couldn’t see the appeal in his work. Brevoort pointed to a blog written by a young boy called “The Kid,” who reviews comics regularly and frequently praises Hulk. “He loves Jeph’s stuff,” Brevoort said. “There’s something to be said for two big guys in costumes going at it.” (“Going at it” = punching, McCann quickly clarified.

Towards the end of the panel, Brevoort asked the crowd what “the other guys” — which those in the panel room could interpret any way they liked, he said — were doing better currently than Marvel. Naturally, most interpreted “the other guys” as DC Comics, with one fan saying that DC does “a better job at respecting the reader.”

“Except for their massive interspace crossovers, which you do a lot better,” the fan said, “DC stays with their characters and keeps their characters true.”

The fan continued by saying that he didn’t like Spider-Man’s post-”One New Day” status, saying that he preferred the darker direction the character was taking circa “Back in Black,” like when he threatened to kill the Kingpin.

“Taking Spidey apart like that would be as crazy as making Barry Allen Flash again,” quipped Brevoort.

Further points were raised on DC’s edge on original graphic novels (McCann pointed to the Marvel Knights line) and that DC has “stronger female characters,” which the panel didn’t seem to explicitly disagree with, though they added that they are currently working on developing several female characters. Marvel talent liaison and X-Infernus writer C.B. Cebulski piped in to use the return of Illyana Rasputin as evidence of this attempt.

Other issues that came up during the panel, which went over its scheduled hour time slot (nothing else was scheduled for the room afterwards) included the size of Deadpool’s role in the Marvel Universe (he’s going to be involved, but “I don’t know if he’s going to be like Captain America,” Brevoort said), Slott’s dislike of the story where Spider-Man beats up Firelord and Superman 2 and his use of obscure characters like Solo, one fan’s praise of the current Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch run on Fantastic Four (“You’re like the first guy to ever say that to me,” Brevoort said) and how DC characters are like “deities” while Marvel’s are more average joes.

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