As Chris Claremont walked into the panel room with Peter David, Claremont announced to the crowd, "Okay folks, pay attention, the old farts are here!" to applause.
Senior Editor Nick Lowe welcomed fans to the panel and introduced the pair of writers. Bob McLeod is also scheduled to be on the panel later, Lowe announced. "I am so glad to stand on the shoulders of Stan, Jack, and Steve, and all the creators who have come including these two amazing creators here."
Lowe talked about the Marvel 75th Anniversary Omnibus, noting that fans can tell them what they want to see there by emailing Marvel Comics. Paolo Rivera also painted a cover to a 75th Anniversary special that hasn't been announced yet.
Alex Ross has a 75th Anniversary Variant for Death of Wolverine #1 as well as other series.
The Marvel 100th Anniversary event, imagining the Marvel Universe of 2061 (100 years after Fantastic Four #1) also got a brief mention, showing off each of the five one-shots that will come out in July 2014.
"Okay, we're through all the stuff I'm trying to sell you. Now let's just talk to these two guys up here."
Starting with Claremont, Lowe asked the creator what his first Marvel experience was.
"The first two Marvel experiences were picking up Fantastic Four #48, seeing Stan and Jack at the height of their ability and the Watcher announcing the coming of Galactus, saying this was really cool stuff - then three years later working the first time for Marvel!
"That was cool. It was brilliant storytelling, an exciting adventure. The most outrageous thing about it that I've tried to emulate to this day, is that you can introduce the Watcher and Silver Surfer in 48, have Galactus come in 49, then in 50 they defeat him and introduce the next story. They did this in 38 pages. That's why Days of Future Past only runs two issues, that's all it needed," Claremont said.
Claremont later got to play with Silver Surfer a bit, though he said Galactus was "above [his] paygrade!" Instead, he invented a lot of their own "deities" in the X-Men books. He also definitively said the M'Kraan crystal is pronounced "Mc-Kron," so now you know.
David told a story about convincing a kid that the character Moon Knight is pronounced Moon Kaniggit, to many laughs.
David's first Marvel experience was next. "When I was a kid I was reading comic books, but I started with DC Comics, because I was watching George Reeve Superman and would read the comics from that. I saw Marvel books on the rack too, but my father wouldn't buy them for me because he didn't like the look of the characters, he thought they were ugly.
"Then I was at a cousin's house, and he had a bunch of Marvel Comics there. I read Fantastic Four Annual #2, the marriage of Reed and Sue. It featured virtually every character in the Marvel Universe, where every hero showed up to attend the wedding, and then basically every villain showed up. It was this massive battle between a bunch of characters I knew nothing about, and by the end I knew everything about every character in the Marvel Universe.
"Because Stan and Jack were so meticulous, and they really wanted to believe every comic book could be someone's first. So I wound up buying Marvel Comics and hid them from my father! But that was my first Marvel experience."
David said that concept was a great one to learn early in life. He has tried to carry that throughout his writing career. "The other side of it is that you want to write a story that the artist will think 'woah! this is cool!'" added Claremont, because that means the reader will think it's cool too.
"Do you have a favorite Marvel character that you haven't created yourself?" Lowe asked, which Claremont deadpanned "Well that leaves me out of this conversation!"
David said "The Hulk, based on my association with him. I wrote him for 12 years! And he never wrote back..." to laughs. He said that it was interesting, that the trip the Hulk went on "continually surprised me. He wound up going off in different directions from what I expected."
David noted that Chris Claremont has created 703 characters, and again deadpanned "as of last issue!"
Claremont said, "Yes, Fox owes me a lot." Claremont and Len Wein both had cameos in Days of Future Past, as Senators during the early Senate hearing scene. David then turned it back to Claremont.
"I'm just awesomely impressed that you talk more than I do!" the writer said to David. He started to answer the question, and David interrupted him again to talk about a previous panel the pair had been at together, where every question was about X-Men for Chris.
Claremont finally answered, "Willie Lumpkin is a fun one. Um... I'm still thinking."
The lively panel continued with Lowe asking for the favorite artist they've ever worked with.
David: "George Perez. Unquestionably."
Claremont: "You really expect me to choose? Okay, this is the list: Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, John Romita Jr, John Romita Sr, Herb Trimpe, Alan Davis, John Buscema, John Bolton - there's the league of infinite Johns. Andy Kubert, Marie Sevrin, I would've liked to work with Jack Kirby. Barry Windsor Smith, Walter Simonson..."
Lowe: "You gotta pick one!"
Claremont: "No! You know, the cheap but real answer is the one I haven't worked with yet. I didn't know Todd Nauck until Nightcrawler, and through about half dozen issues on that book, he is just brilliant!"
David actually helped get Todd Nauck into Marvel Comics with Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. The editor was shocked by how fast and good the art was from the artist.
"So yeah, that's the answer to the question, the artist I haven't worked with yet," Claremont said.
Moving to current work, Claremont is currently writing the Nightcrawler ongoing series.
"Nightcrawler is back from the dead, which almost never happens," he joked. "He's dealing with the repercussions. He is renewing his age-old best friendship with Logan. It's great living with someone you know is gonna live forever, because he's never going to die" with which he gave a cockeyed look at Lowe. "He has renewed a friendship with his ex-girlfriend, which you'll have to read to see how that turns out.
"He and I are learning how to delicately step around all the stories in the X-Men Universe, as there are a lot of them. We have a lot of stories ahead, and I assume one day they'll let me in the office and we'll see what else is going on."
Peter David meanwhile has recently relaunched X-Factor as All-New X-Factor. "In my opinion, if superheroes existed in this world, they'd be corporately sponsored. So that's my new take on X-Factor. They work for a company called Serval Industries. The readers have been incredibly supportive. We have a line-up of Polaris, Quicksilver, Gambit, Danger, Warlock, and Cypher. They are now fighting a villain named Memento Mori. Issue 12 will be a press conference - which never goes well for X-Factor. #14 will be a girls' night out with Polaris, Danger, and Scarlet Witch going out. Then we crossover with an X-men storyline I can't talk about yet.
"Spider-Man 2099 meanwhile, I got the job because of the fans who said 'we'll read it if Peter David is writing it,' and they offered me the job! I've been having a lot of fun getting re-acquainted with Miguel O'Hara, a character I created about twenty years ago. It's been really great charting his adventures. His first few issues are kinda fun, setting up his situation in 1-2, then 3-4 will deal with a leftover storyline from Superior Spider-Man, and 5 and beyond will deal with the crossover with Spider-Verse."
With that, the panel turned to fan questions.
Memento Mori's arc lasts the next three issues, ending in #11. "We will probably deal with more iconic villains in the future," David teased.
A young female fan equated Frozen to X-Men and asked if either of the panelists saw the connection.
Claremont said, "it didn't cross my mind when I saw the film. Mind you, it was about three hours into a 14 hour plane ride. But it was a cool movie, and I can't get that stupid song out of my head! The writers of the songs - their kid goes to my kid's school. So they sang at the fundraiser for the school and it was really cool."
Peter David told a fan that Tiberius Stone's backstory will be part of Spider-Man 2099, but part of Miguel's mission is to try to change the way that Tyler is, and that will necessitate more looking at Tiberius."
A fan asked who of Claremont's creations is his favorite, and he asked her, "Who is yours?" She said "Emma Frost," and he said, "There you go!" She then asked, "do you like Cyclops more with Emma or Jean?"
Claremont said, "I have to say, I was on facebook the other night. First thing I saw was a shot of Scott falling from a bit height and saying, 'Jean? Emma? A little help here please?' I thought, 'That's a nice panel, but Scott, you're not 12 years old falling out of your father's plane. Turn yourself around, use your optic blasts, dumbass, and fire them to slow down!' This is what Scott Summers would do. I don't know who you are! That's how you might save yourself and be the hero. But, I never saw the next panel so I don't know what happens next. I'm just saying. So how's that for an answer?"
What has it been like to come back to Nightcrawler?
Claremont responded, "It's a heck of a lot of fun. The beauty of him as a character is that he plays equally well as a serious character, a humorous character, as a dramatic lead. He's been head of Excalibur, part of a team... he's a person of extraordinary emotional depth, trying to be as normal as a person can be. Plus, he has all his silly little Bamfs. Out of sheer persnickitiness, one of them has to be a female - we're trying to pick which one. It's just fun to play in that universe. I have to say for a school only 34 miles from the Empire State Building, it's a pretty interesting design to have in the middle of Westchester."
The next fan asked about Death of Wolverine, and asked about how they think about Death in comics in general?
"It's almost a fictional imperative that dead doesn't mean dead," David said. "Arthur Conan Doyle literally killed Sherlock Holmes because he was sick of writing him - and everyone just started asking him when he was bringing Holmes back. It's hard to have death mean anything in a comic book, but it's the hand we've been dealt with the nature of fiction."
"It would be interesting to have all the characters who have died sit and talk about it," Claremont said. "Yes, it's a far more fluid situation than one is used to finding in the non-publication world."
Have you ever had a piece you wrote that you felt very close to, that really touched you personally?
David said, "When I was working on Hulk, I was kicking around story ideas with Bobbie Chase. She broached a concept with me, 'You always said you would never kill off Betty becasue she's your wife's favorite character.' I said, 'Yeah...' and she said, 'I may be overstepping, but your wife is divorcing you...' I said, 'Are you suggesting I kill off Betty Banner to piss off my wife?' 'Well, it would have a great effect on the Hulk...' and I said, 'Okay, let's ditch the bitch!' However, if I had known that would be the second to last issue of the Hulk that I would write, I never would've killed Betty, because I didn't get to deal with the fall out. My last issue was old Rick Jones talking about his memories of the Hulk, and it was a really emotional issue. So those two issues really hammered at me for a couple of weeks."
What's your favorite Marvel film?
Claremont said, "The one that hasn't been out yet!" then said, "No, I am excited for Guardians of the Galaxy. I had my hands all over Peter Quill too!"
David said, "The first Spider-Man film by Sam Raimi. I did the novelization of that, and I read that script, and it was quite possibly the best Spider-Man film that there will ever be. I think he got every single thing right." He specifically called out JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson there. He said "Number 2 would be Captain America: The First Avenger."
A young fan asked what they think was the reason for the creation of Marvel Comics.
"Before Marvel Comics was a publisher called Timely Comics, they published books like Captain America and Namor the Submariner," David explained. "Marvel was created to compete agains National Comics which eventually became DC Comics. And Stan Lee came up ad worked with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and they pretty much created every character that this guy didn't!"