Panel attendees were treated to a catalogue of available books, a Spider-Man mask and a fold-out Avengers poster
If a panel starts out with a father explaining Doc Samson to his ten-year old son, then you know it's going to be mighty fun. That's exactly how the Disney/Marvel Kids panel kicked off, as the next generation of true believers filed into the presentation room with parents in tow. The attendees were greeted with cardboard Spider-Man masks and a guidebook to Disney's current line of Marvel storybooks that featured a foldout Avengers poster. Moderator Tomas Palacios then introduced the all-ages crowd to the panel, including Senior Editor of Disney Publishing Michael Siglain, Disney's Director of School & Library Marketing Dina Sherman, writer Rich Thomas, artists Val Semeiks and Craig Rousseau, Editor of Disney Publishing Nachie Castro and Senior Vice President of Marvel Ruwan Jayatilleke.
The new line of hardcover storybooks retell the origins of popular Marvel heroes for younger readers. "We went back to classic picture books like 'Curious George' and Maurice Sendak to try and get the pacing of a storybook and translate these classic Marvel Comics tales into picture books," explained writer Rich Thomas. "We hope these storybooks can be an entry point for kids."
Two of the artists, Val Semeiks ("The Incredible Hulk: An Origin Story") and Craig Rousseau ("The Invincible Iron Man: An Origin Story), both comic book veterans, were on hand to discuss the journey they took from drawing traditional comics to these storybooks "There are only one or two panels per page," said Semeiks. "The dynamic is completely different because it's entirely splash pages." Working on the line of books was a natural progression for Rousseau, who has spent the last several years illustrating titles for the Marvel Adventures line of kids comics. Rousseau also has a personal stake in the line, telling the audience, "My 7-year old read the Iron Man book as soon as it came in and made me promise that I'd return from the con with the Hulk one."
Much like recent Marvel films have led up to next summer's Avengers movie, this initial line of storybooks leads up to, in a sense, an Avengers origin storybook being released next April. "The story of the Avengers is more about teamwork and coming together, acknowledging that sometimes things can be too difficult for you to handle on your own," said Avengers storybook writer Rich Thomas. The Avengers origin proved so epic that they had to split the story up into two books; the first one focusing on the initial line-up (Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Wasp and Ant-Man) while the second storybook adds Captain America to the roster. Both Avengers storybooks feature art by Pat Olliffe.
With Spider-Man, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America all receiving the storybook treatment, there was one Marvel megastar noticeably absent. Hint: he's the best at what he does, but what he does isn't kid friendly. Berserker rages aside, Wolverine will be getting a storybook by the end of 2012. "Even though Wolverine skews a bit older, at his core is a really good story about growth, discovery and fitting into the world," explained Thomas, who added that tackling a more mature character like Wolverine paralleled the work done to translate the more intense aspects of Spider-Man's origin into storybook language. "Both the teams at Marvel and Disney discussed the fact that Uncle Ben dies in Spider-Man's origin story. We had to leave it in because he wouldn't be Spider-Man if Uncle Ben wasn't murdered. We had to find a way to make that plot point known without being disturbing to kids, who are probably being read this story at bedtime."
Kids can expect to see more offerings from Disney and Marvel besides origin storybooks. A hardcover book called "Meet the Marvel Superheroes" will contain information and fun facts for over 100 different heroic citizens of the Marvel Universe. Marvel staffer Ruwan Jayatilleke said that they thought very hard about which of Marvel's over 9,000 characters to include, making sure to focus on accessible characters void of continuity baggage. They also made sure to include characters pegged to play pivotal roles in upcoming Marvel films and animated series.
Interior pages from the first wave of books
Nachie Castro introduced the crowd to the "Amazing Spider-Man Storybook Collection," a giant 320-page hardcover book coming out in 2012 and packed to the brim with wall-crawler goodness. The hardcover contains a number of short stories, including initial run-ins with most of his major villains as well as stories that focus on the Peter Parker side of his life. The stories in the collection will be illustrated by Rousseau and Todd Nauck. "My daughter loves the Disney Princess storybook collection, and this Spider-Man one is aimed right at my son," admitted Rousseau.
Disney and Marvel will continue their line of tie-in picture books with a series adapting episodes of the "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" cartoon. The picture books will retell key episodes from the series and be packaged with trading cards that, when combined, form a mighty poster.
Just because this panel was meant for kids doesn't mean that the parents in attendance wore kids gloves when it came time for questions. Several parents noted that the initial line of books contain nothing but white men and wondered if there were plans to diversify the line. Thomas agreed with their point and explained the line's lack of diversity by stating, "Unfortunately, the most famous Marvel heroes are white males and we have to start with the best known to ensure we can do more storybooks in the future." He added, "We've been talking to Marvel about diversity from day one, and there is a plan to include more women and minorities in the book." They did mention that Black Widow (along with Hawkeye) would be receiving a 24-page storybook tying into the upcoming Avengers film.
A father asked about how to bring these books to libraries and get them integrated into the classroom, which Disney's Director of School & Library Marketing Dina Sherman jumped into action to answer. "We are going to create guides for teachers, showing them how to use these books in the classroom by applying their overarching themes of teamwork and self-realization."
Things temporarily heated up when a father asked the panel to settle a bet he had going with his young son. When asked who was stronger, Thor or the Hulk, "Hulk" artist Semeiks emphatically supported the jade giant. Upon hearing this, the father took a five dollar bill out of his wallet and put it in his son's tiny hand. You win some, you lose some.
Throughout the panel, the extremely gracious speakers gave away the Marvel Origin Storybooks on display to kids who were either dressed like or asked a question about one of the depicted heroes. Heck, one kid got a book just for nervously forgetting his question and being downright adorable. One thing's for sure: all of the kids were genuinely excited to get their hands on these beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully prepared epic tales. With both Disney and Marvel putting their best efforts into producing a product that excites new readers, the future looks bright.
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quarta-feira, 19 de outubro de 2011
"We're all floating around in the Negative Zone," joked Jeff Parker at the start of Marvel Comics latest NEXT BIG THING conference call as this time around, the purpose of the conference remained secret until everyone had arrived. Joining press for the event were writers Rick Remender, Jeff Parker, Rob Williams along with artist Tony Moore and editor Jeanine Schafer.
The group revealed that this coming February, a crossover is in the offing for Marvel characters including the leads of "Venom," "Ghost Rider," "Hulk" and "X-23." However, the story will technically all take place within the pages of "Venom" with issues being labeled #13, 13.1, 13.2, 13.3, 13.4 and finally concluding in #14. The announcement was accompanied by some early art from "Venom" #13 by artist Stedano Caselli, which can be seen at right.
"The origin of the thing is a little crazy," Remender said, noting that the story started between him and Jason Aaron proposing Wolverine could be a part of the action. "One of the big ideas was finding a way to freshen up that idea that Walt Simonson and Art Adams did when they made Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange The Fantastic Four."
The story turned to a new take on the "New FF" idea with X-23, Ghost Rider and Red Hulk joining Venom on a new team. Schafer said all the characters here have been searching to find themselves as heroes and are all in need of support on that quest as the story starts.
"They're all second generation characters in a lot of ways," Williams added, noting the attraction was that "They're going into this thing as one version of themselves, and by the time it's over they'll all be changed. The plot breakdown we've got is pretty exciting in that regard." The participants said that the story will hold impacts for all the books the characters star in full time. "As we've been talking about this back and forth, we've been finding the way these characters intertwine without even trying," Schafer said.
"Plus, you don't want to undersell the fact that they look really, really cool together," laughed Williams.
Remender said they'd keep the big bad of the book quiet for now, but he did reveal where the story starts as he writes #13. "The character is trying to bring something from another dimension to earth...and the villain is succeeding in doing this," the writer said, noting the action takes place in a Las Vegas casino. Captain America sends the Red Hulk out to investigate on behalf of the Avengers, and soon Hulk and Venom clash along with the other two characters unknowing of what awaits them in Sin City. "The events that take place in Las Vegas won't be completely resolved after this, and there will be an interesting new tone for the next few years in that dirty city."
While separate issues of the event will be written by the writers solo, the group said they're highly coordinating the event as a whole together via conference calls and e-mails. "It's fascinating for me to see how the other writers work," Williams said as Remender added "We end up going long [on the phone] and I think that's a good sign...everybody has a really positive attitude, and what we've come up with here is so incredibly creative and exciting...this is the crazy soup that you want."
He noted that Tony Moore will draw the initial, 30-page special issue that is "Venom" #13. "It's been a similar process to how Rick and I have worked for a long time," Moore said about the long calls to break the story. "We knock some ideas around and try to find that one missing puzzle piece, or he'll brainstorm with me on an action set piece that'll be fun for me to draw...as far as the characters, I love drawing Venom, and I'm excited to see other people try my design. I'm also excited to draw Ghost Rider again...and I think I've been waiting to draw the Hulk my whole career." The artist added at Williams question that making the female Ghost Rider feel more feminine was a challenge he was looking forward to meeting.
Remender said he was excited to bring the flavor and feel of their longtime collaboration to a larger group of people. That process has made the story have more impact on the ongoing "Venom" series. "I think when people see the villain and how we've handled it...I think in conversations we've had with Jeff, Rob and Jeanine, I've aleady had some ideas for where to take all this next," he said, noting the team just found the ending of their story this week.
Making the characters clash on the page is a big part of what's in store for the book. "The reality is that these characters came together as an offshoot of that Walt Simonson/Art Adams run," Remender said, adding "But since then...we've worked really hard to make sure this is a character story. In fact, Jeff's entire issue is a character story where he's defining one of these characters in a major way for one story."
Williams added, "I think obviously people have got individual ownership of their character, but everybody's been completely cool...I'm not going to run off and say 'I'm going to write Red Hulk this way for ten pages."
The dynamic of the team will be shakier even than the original New Fantastic Four as Williams joked, "You've heard stories about rock bands where all the members have to take separate tour buses." Remender noted that "Hulk is on a manhunt for Venom...but everything changes as a good story always does, so they've got to high five and try to be friends."
Artists for the issues past #13 will remain under wraps for now, but Caselli will draw all the covers. "X-23" writer Marjorie Lieu has been consulted on that character's part of the story, but as the monthly title has taken the lead character off to Madripoor on a solo run, the writer is focusing on that for now.
The choice to keep the story technically in "Venom" instead of crossing over into other series came mostly because the idea started with Remender and his plans for that title. "Flash is at his lowest point, and I think he maybe has the most throughline for this story and is the lynchpin for all these characters to come together and learn that they do have more in common with other characters and don't have to stand on their own," Schafer said.
"I like it in one book," Remender said, noting that if the story exists in one title, the chance for fans to be able to find all of them in their local comic shops will work. "I think it was a decision for clarity's sake as well." The event will also run as a "fifth week" event of sorts of February and early March.
Looking at what characters have been the most surprising, Remender said despite some solid stories, X-23 "never really clicked" for him until he got the chance to get into her own head. "Marjorie was really cool in letting us...dig into her conflicts," he said, saying her quest was "Do I have a soul?" Parker spent time putting himself into the minds of his other writers, saying he wanted to "So slavishly imitate Rob that he'll get freaked out by it." Williams agreed that X-23's journey "is a fascinating one...and again, X-23 isn't a character I'd say I had a great amount of feelings for...but as we've been talking about her journey, it's created a real resonance."
Remender added that the fact that the characters were legacy characters made you realize "You're not confined by constraints...you can tell stories that really unearth their characters." The writer noted that the entire "Venom" series to date will come to a head in this story and that the team can do things with the cast that they could never do with Bruce Banner or Wolverine.
As for a reference to the original New FF, even though Ghost Rider was supposed to be the only character who remembered the events of the first story, but they didn't want to try to untangle it all on the page lest they send readers into "a continuity stupor."
"Look, we just want to see four people cosplay these characters...is that too much to ask?" Parker joked, to which Williams replied "I thought we were going to cosplay them." Parker replied, "Okay, you're the girl."
Ultimately, the draw of the series for the writers was that because these heroes are largely solo concerns who don't have to get sucked up into every major Marvel event, this Venom event will have real dramatic impact on the heroes' ongoing series. Asked whether the story is optional for the fans who have been following the solo books, Remender said, "It's 100% not optional if you've been reading 'Venom,'" adding that fans who love the characters wouldn't want to miss this. "I think readers get mad when some other unsympathetic team gets handed their favorite characters," Parker added, but since these writers are on their own characters here, it should be an easy pick-up for readers of the monthly titles.
"For me, the thing about the Marvel Universe I want to do is explore new places," Remender said when asked about the Vegas piece of the story. "When we were talking about where to tell this particular story...Sin City was the right place for it. It's visually spectacular." The writer gave Moore credit for making the setting sing as part of the story and as pure eye-candy. "It's always nice when you can get something that's visual and serves a role in the story, and that's what Vegas does here."
Marvel's Venom Event starts in February's "Venom" #13 before continuing throughout the month.
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