Marvel’s Next Big Thing opened with interviews with the audience about their favorite Marvel character. One fan championed Spider-Man, the hero who taught him to read and helped him survive bullying about his autism. Others supported Black Widow, Thanos, and Black Panther.
At 4:30 sharp, C.B. Cebulski entered to blaring, ominous horns to introduce the rest of the panel. The panelists included Jason Aaron (Thor, Avengers), Donny Cates (Venom, Cosmic Ghost Rider), Gerry Duggan (Infinity Wars), Dan Slott (Fantastic Four, Tony Stark: Iron Man, Amazing Spider-Man), Jim Zub (Champions), Sarah Brunstad (Editor Captain Marvel), and Tom Breevort (Executive Editor).
The panel, appropriately, began with Avengers #700. “You get Namor, you get a talking Russian Bear, there are multiple surprises, multiple returns, and the debut of the newest Avenger.”
Aaron has been writing Thor for six years and now King Thor, Old Man Phoenix (Wolverine as the Phoenix), and a future version of Doctor Doom, a Sorcerer Supreme with all the powers of the Avengers of 1,000,000 BC, will be duking it out. Issue #7 is a young Thor Story and issue #8 will be family drama between Thor and Angela.
Tony Stark: Iron Man has been a series of one-shot stories, but they’re all building to something. Issue # 5 will be special because it has no Tony Stark and no Iron Man. It’s going to be all Arno Stark and it will have big ramifications. Slott reminded the audience that the year 2020 is coming and that there is a long term plan in place. The series is going in some very ‘Black Mirror’ directions and will unsettle you. Issue #6 begins the first huge arc for the book, “Stark Realities”.
Fantastic Four #3 will be the first time that the Four are fully reunited and they’re brining anyone and everyone who has ever been a member of the FF with them. Unfortunately a replacement Fantastic Four are inhabiting the Baxter Building so they’ll have to find a new headquarters.
Fantastic Four #5 will see the marriage of Ben Grim and Alicia Masters. Not an imaginary story, not a fake out: a marriage. The issue has three stories, including how Reed is falling down on the job as best man as envisioned by Aaron Kuder, how Sue Storm set the couple up by Mike Allred, and how Johnny steps up to set up the bachelor party with art by Adam Hughes.
The wedding will be sweet but issue #6 promises DOOM. “Herald of Doom” begins in issue #6.
Cosmic Ghost Rider sees Frank Castle, killed by Thanos, returning as a Ghost Rider for revenge. Empowered by the power cosmic, thrown out of Valhalla, and who knows what else, Frank eventually finds himself face to face with baby Thanos, but he can’t do it. Instead, he decides to raise Thanos.
The symbiote god, Knull, has come to Earth in Venom. Following a battle between Knull and Venom, something is wrong with the symbiote. That will play out in Venom #8-9 with guest artist Iban Coello, before Ryan Stegman returns. The future of the series will introduce more supporting characters but Cates promises that he will honor “every part” of Venom’s history.
“The Best Defense” arrives in December, Four largely unconnected one-shot spotlights on the original Defenders, leading up to Defenders: The Best Defense #1. Jason Latour is the entire creative team for Silver Surfer: The Best Defense. Chip Zdarsky and Carlos Magno will handle Namor: The Best Defense. Gerry Duggan and Greg Smallwood are the creative team on Dr Strange: The Best Defense and Al Ewing will continue to work on the Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense with Simone Di Mio before reteaming with Joe Bennett to pen the final one-shot. Duggan says that he thinks his contribution is something very special, “a story that will live a long time.”
Jason Aaron adores Conan and he’ll be touching on the character’s entire life in the “Life and Death of Conan”, a twelve issue epic in Conan the Barbarian with art by Mahmud Asrar. Aaron apparently landed the assignment by sending Cebulski a picture of the shelf by his desk with all of the ratty, dog-eared Conan paperbacks he read as a kid.
But that’s not all that Marvel has in store for Conan. Gerry Duggan, Ron Garney, and Richard Isenove will relaunch The Savage Sword of Conan in February as the Cimmerian goes hunting for treasure in Stygia. The series will feature covers by Alex Ross.
The Marvel Conan comics will also pay homage to the literary roots of the character by including serialized novellas in the back of the issues. Each issue will provide three pages of prose and the stories will run twelve issues. Cebulski implied that they will fit cleanly into the continuity of the original Robert E. Howard stories, with the first story in Conan the Barbarian fitting between Conan and the Emerald Lotus and Conan and the Living Plague.
Avengers: No Surrender gets a sequel in February with Avengers: No Road Home. Mark Waid, Jim Zub, Al Ewing, Paco Medina, and Sean Izaakse will collaborate on the weekly series. Zub calls it “the biggest craziest Avengers story they can get their hands on”. The series will run weekly for ten weeks and seems to deal with Hercules and the Olympian pantheon. There will be a massive surprise in the middle of the series, promises Brevoort.
Upcoming Captain Marvel artist, and newly renewed Marvel exclusive, Carmen Carnero joined the panel, having flown in from Spain. She promised to do her best for all the fans of the character, calling it a dream come true. The series starts with Carol reestablishing her life after discovering that her powers are natural to her and will reestablish Carol’s relationships with her classic friends.
Jim Zub promises a legion of superheroes in the new Champions #1. This book will be huge, featuring as many teen heroes as Zub can get his hands on. He calls it “a hopeful, exciting, epic adventure” that will change the face of the Marvel universe.
Starting in January a year-long 80th anniversary celebration will be kicking off. Though superheroes will be central, Marvel has a long history of other genres before the Fantastic Four and some of those books will be making a return. Confirmed new series include Crypt of Shadows by Al Ewing; Garry Brown; and more, Journey Into Unknown Worlds by Cullen Bunn; Clay McLeod Chapman; Francesco Manna; and more, and War is Hell by Howard Chaykin; Phillip Kennedy Johnson; and more. We’ll also see Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal, Love Romances, and Gunhawks return as one-shots in February. The anniversary will even extend to licensed products including Hasbro’s Marvel Legends line, which celebrates with famous vehicles and other large props.
2019 also marks the 25th anniversary of Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek’s Marvels. Though not much can be said yet, Busiek and Ross will be returning to celebrate and the panel revealed that a series of Marvels-inspired variant covers will run next year. They also mentioned that it won’t just be seen in publishing.
There are plans for Gwen-Pool, notably in West Coast Avengers, but there are talks of another project…
Asked what book they’d like to work on the panelists answered Moon Knight (Slott), Blade (Zub), and Dr. Strange (Duggan). And when Cates claimed he wanted Thor, Aaron fired back with Guardians of the Galaxy.
One fan asked about the decrease in solo titles led by female heroes. Cebulski gave an answer about Marvel still having a lot of female-led titles. He acknowledged that some titles had been canceled but offered that they would be replaced by books like Captain Marvel and Marvel Rising. His short list and non-canon choices did not immediately instill confidence, but Brevoort did note that some are not ready to be announced yet, specifically saying that there would be an unannounced debut in January.
The panel wrapped up with the reveal of The War of the Realms by Jason Aaron, Rusel Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson. Malekith has been plotting this through all of Aaron’s years on Thor and now he’s reaching Midgard. Brevoort called it the “Sword and Sorcery Marvel story of your dreams…or nightmares”. The book will feature a huge cast of characters, but Brunstad promised that Jane Foster would appear.