Heroes Con '09: Marvel's DARK REIGN Panel

 C.B. Cebulski once again chaired, as Marvel presented its “Dark Reign” panel at Heroes Con 2009 in Charlotte on Saturday. Joining Cebulski on the panel were writers Brian Bendis and Matt Fraction, editor Jeanine Schaffer and writer Jonathan Hickman.

The slides were having technical issues, so Cebulski moved directly to a question and answer period, promising that the slides and announcements would be coming as soon as his computer could be hooked into the projector.

Noting that Marvel's events have catches that tend to divide sides, a fan asked if Dark Reign has a question such as “Whose Side Are you On?” Bendis joked that the question of Dark Reign was “What the Hell?” but is really more along the lines of “When Will Norman Lose His Shit?”

Is there a “magic war” coming at Marvel? A fan asked, noting that many titles have magical characters playing larger roles. Bendis said that the question would be addressed in part in the next issue of New Avengers, which feature the passing of the Eye of Agomotto from Doctor Strange to Brother Voodoo. Bendis said that he and Remender have been talking about what this means for magic, adding that there's a new Wanda (Scarlet Witch) story coming next year, and Mark Waid's Strange miniseries will follow Stephen Strange's life without the “Doctor” moniker.

Cebulski noted that there just may be something to the fan's observation that magic has a growing presence in the Marvel Universe.

Asked about Powers at FX, Bendis said that things are going smoothly, and they should find out in a couple of weeks what’s going to happen with it. He added that casting will be a tricky part of the process, as both Deena and Walker are unique, meaty roles.

Will there be repercussions of Norman Osborn’s killing of Swordsman? The killing of Swordsman showed that Osborn isn’t in total control of himself, Bendis said, adding that, “as soon as he got the job, the clock for Norman started ticking.”

At that point, the slides were shown, prompting Cebulski to roll out the slides and announcements, including:

The single character covers with a frame made up of all the Marvel characters will be coming back in August with a new frame drawn by Jimmy Cheung.

Dark Reign: The List - a series of one-shots starting in September, and featuring Osborn taking on the heroes from the “Iron Patriot Acts” teaser image. The eight specials announced at Heroes Con and simultaneously at Wizard World: Philly are:

Avengers - by Brian Bendis and Marko Djurdjevic

Uncanny X-Men - by Matt Fraction and Alan Davis

Secret Warriors - by Jonathan Hickman and Ed McGuniness

Punisher - by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr.

Daredevil - by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan

Wolverine - by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

Hulk - by Greg Pak and Ben Oliver

Amazing Spider-Man - by Dan Slott and Adam Kubert

This is Norman fresh from the end of X-Men/Dark Avengers, Bendis said.

“He’s energized,” Fraction said, “To put it mildly, and he says to Hawkeye/Bullseye and says, ‘We’re just getting started.’

Bendis added that the specials kick off when Osborn takes a hard look at the Marvel Universe and questions why certain heroes are still alive and operating. The story of the specials kicks off in Avengers, which features the climax of the Clint Barton/Osborn story when Barton makes a decision to take care of Norman Osborn, and it’s “pretty rough,” Bendis said, noting, “It goes a lot farther than you may think  it will.”

Bendis continued that the idea was brought to Marvel by Fraction and him as an opportunity for the writers to pair with artists that they may not normally work with to tell an important chapter in the larger Dark Reign saga.

Cebulski also announced Dark Avengers: Ares by Keiron Gillen and Cary Nord. Click here for Newsarama's interview with Gillen about the miniseries.

Cebulski then moved back to questions from the audience.

Asked about Namor's future, Fraction said: “Read X-Men/Dark Avengers: Utopia. I love Namor, and am psyched that we've found a place for him in the Marvel Universe. He's going to be present in places that he hasn't been present before.” Fraction added that he has no idea if a new series for the character is on the books.

Asked about plans for Red Hulk, Bendis joked, “Nothing would make me happier than spoiling Jeph Loeb's plans,” and he pulled out his phone to call the writer and ask him the question if he could reveal what's coming up. Loeb didn't answer, so Bendis left a message.

Why does Norman Osborn look like Tommy Lee Jones? “Why does Tommy Lee Jones look like Norman Osborn?” Fraction quipped back.

Hickman said that he's thinking about doing backmatter in the Fantastic Four when he takes over that book, but will do it if it feels right, rather than just do it to do it.

Asked about the future for The Sentry, Bendis said that next week's Dark Avengers #6 will feature the character.

Who was the shadow in the Dark Reign one shot which featured the meeting of Osborn and the other villains? Bendis promised that readers will find out in December.

Will Echo return soon? Bendis said that she will be featured in Spider-Woman

Asked if the return of Steve Rogers will play into Dark Reign, Bendis and Fraction joked that it would seem like Captain America returning to life with Norman Osborn in charge would be a large part of a story. “It’s almost as if there’s a road map or something…” Fraction joked. “Or a plot…” Bendis added, later saying that it would be cool if Iron Man, Captain America and Thor all “kind of got back together to fight…as…one unit…or something.”

Are there chances for a Thor vs. Sentry fight? “If Thor was on one team,” Fraction said “And the Sentry was on another…”

“I feel like my computer’s been hacked,” Bendis joked.

Is Fraction trying to make everyone like Pixie, a fan asked, given that she gets her ass kicked every other issue? “All the X-Men get their ass kicked every other issue,” Fraction said, adding that there are great “hero moments” coming up with Pixie soon, starting in Dark Avengers/X-Men.

Might Havok and Polaris return to the X-Men? Fraction said that while he doesn’t have any specific designs for them, others might.

Asked if Wonder Man will get any love soon, Bendis said that he will appear soon, and he's not very happy about how things have gone, which is something that will permeate all the Avengers books.

The upcoming Sentry story will involve what happened when The Sentry flew into space in Secret Invasion, Bendis said, adding that Osborn may very well be underestimating how dangerous the Sentry really may be.

Nick Fury's training of Alexander, Ares' son will be addressed in Dark Avengers #9 and Secret Warriors #10. “Ares and Nick Fury have some words,” Bendis said.

Speaking about The Initiative, Schaffer said that starting in issue #26, Osborn will be taking more direct control of the Avengers' training program, turning it into something which suits his needs, rather than what Tony Stark left behind. 

Asked about Loki's motivation in Dark Reign, Bendis stressed that he/she is not Osborn's lackey, and there will be several plot points dealing with Loki coming up in quick order that will make this clear.

Stephen Strange will still have his powers after Brother Voodoo is named Sorcerer Supreme, Bendis said in answer to a question about the Doctor, "And maybe the mustache won't be so cool anymore."

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