Marvel's “Incredible Ultimate Panel,” described as the place to be for all things Ultimate Universe and Hulk, started off with some technical difficulties. It took a few minutes for the projector to work, so instead of promotional images or cover art, director of communications Arune Singh instead pantomimed Spider-Man, Iron Man and Captain America with high-pitched whines not unlike the “I'm Thor!” skits on recent episodes of Conan. For a gallery of images from the panel, click here.
With the technical problems dispelled and artwork beaming onto the projection screen, Singh went on to introduce the rest of the panel to talk about the reborn Ultimate Universe, including Ultimates writer Jonathan Hickman. Fellow Ultimate line scribes Nick Spencer and Brian Michael Bendis weren't in attendance, but joining the discussion were Alpha Flight and Herc co-writer Fred Van Lente, Incredible Hulk writer Jason Aaron, associate editor Sana Amanat, editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and Marvel talent liaison C.B. Cebulski.
Hickman described Ultimates #1 as the world-book of the Ultimate relaunch. “Everything that happens here sets the environment. In the first issue everything pretty much goes wrong, and the heroes have to deal with it.”
Hickman was rather vague with just what that means, but used it as a segue to discuss his Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye miniseries, which will take place at around the same in-continuity time as Ultimates' first arc.
Ultimate Comics: X-Men sees the most radically changed lineup, with the new Wolverine, Jimmy Hudson, at the forefront of a group of mutants coming to terms with their newly-revealed origin as failed experiments of the American government.
“When how you came into creation is not what you were told; what happens to you and what decisions will you make?” asked Amanat. “It's a beautiful story, and it's also exciting that we're going to see a lot of new characters.” She noted that Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and Kitty Pryde will be “going on an adventure of pretty massive heights,” at least partially spurred by Peter Parker's death.
Parker's death in the Ultimate universe attracted immense media attention, including feature interviews with Singh and Amanat for Canada's CBC, and for the most part everyone at the panel expressed excitement at the buzz surrounding Miles Morales, the first permanent Spider-Man since Parker.
“Personally I'm thrilled to piss off Glenn Beck,” said Alonso, referring to the former Fox News personality's diatribe on the half-black, half-Puerto Rican Morales. Beck connected the new Spider-Man's ethnicity to comments by US first lady Michelle Obama, then dismissed the story because “it's just a stupid comic book.”
"What's said about it is relevant,” said Alonso. “It's an inherently political thing and we were well aware of it.” But he reiterated that Miles should appeal to readers just like as Peter Parker, in all his incarnations, has for the past nearly 50 years.
Singh said that he had to stop answering his phone the week Morales was introduced because of a stream of hateful, racist comments. “I'm sure some of them were Klansmen,” he said. But he also got calls from parents of mixed-race kids. “They feel like [Morales] is a character they want to show them, because he's just like them. So that's been a really positive thing.”
As for Morales himself, Amanat said that readers “will see him grow into the hero he's meant to be,” while they learn what makes the 13-year-old tick. He's a normal boy with loving parents and dreams of being placed in a good school, but clearly that will change in the first story arc. Singh praised the story, and promised an immediate cash refund for any reader dissatisfied with Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1, clearly not expecting many to take him up on the offer.
The panel didn't restrict themselves to the Ultimate universe, happy to dip into news about the 616. An animated promotional video showed off Jason Aaron and Marc Silvestri's Incredible Hulk #1, coming in October, and Aaron spoke a bit about the conflict between the newly separated Bruce Banner and a very beardy Hulk.
“We've always seen them fight in their mind, but now they're ripped apart but we don't know who did it or how it happened," Aaron said. Marvel also mentioned Jeff Parker's upcoming Red Hulk storyline, "Hulk of Arabia," which begins in Julk #42 and will feature the Secret Avengers. (More on that story here.)
Some questions from the audience probed the Marvel high council's innermost dreams and desires. When asked what character they would love to write or draw that they haven't yet touched, Cebulski said he'd love to tackle Cloak and Dagger. Aaron claimed The Thing, and Hickman named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to applause from the audience and a cocked eyebrow from Alonso. Van Lente said the character he's most excited about is the focus of a new project he's unable to announce yet.
When asked about what video game characters they'd like to write comics for, Aaron claimed Sonic the Hedgehog (“with a beard!”), Alonso joked with Baby Peach from Mario Kart, and Singh said if he ever got the chance he'd like to try writing for Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. Van Lente won significant gamer points by saying he'd love to one day write a Fallout comic.More Fan Expo coverage:
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