Over the weekend, Chicago's McCormick Place played host to the third annual Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, one of the country's largest comic/geek culture conventions. The MindHut was around all weekend to catch the biggest comic news and most entertaining events. Want the skinny from major publishers DC and Marvel on their latest offerings? Look no further!
-One of DC's biggest focuses was, unsurprisingly, its flagship book, Justice League. Writer and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns made much ado of the League-centric New 52 Free Comic Book Day edition, with art by Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, Gene Ha and Joe Prado. Johns and DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio called the book "essential" and mentioned that it'll introduce a lot of new characters. They even let a younger fan read it at the panel, and her report was very positive. While they wouldn't reveal any plot details, Johns did tease a pretty impressive-looking four-page vertical fold-out (centerfold? But with less nudity) from Jim Lee.
-Speaking of Justice League, the second major story arc of the book—which begins next month— is called "The Villain's Journey," and it'll be a dark parody of the Carl Jung "hero's myth" you might have learned about in English class. The arc will show the League getting their first major villains and will end with some major changes. Says Johns, it's a "pretty brutal wake-up" for the team.
-The DC guys spent a good deal of time talking about Cyborg, the newest member of the "Big Seven" that makes up the Justice League. Johns and Didio mentioned that he'll get his own book after all the groundwork's been laid and the timing is right. They also teased an upcoming Justice League plot in which Cyborg's technological parts will cause some trouble for the team.
-Probably the biggest crowd favorite was writer Scott Snyder, especially his Batman series… which is no surprise, because it's excellent. Snyder mentioned that the second year of his Batman stories will be "bigger and darker" than even the current "Night of the Owls" crossover. He also teased an upcoming Batman annual which brings Mr. Freeze into the New 52 with an updated origin, and mentioned that at some point we will see the villain Hush return. For now, though, readers can look forward to the end of "Night of the Owls," which Snyder called a "giant battle royale" featuring "bone-crushing vengeance." Ouch.
-There was a lot of love to go around for other books, as well. Geoff Johns thanked "everyone who made Aquaman outsell X-Men and Avengers" and noted the character's new prominence: "Aquaman will be a force to be reckoned with throughout the whole DC Universe. That's not going to change. But people will still say to you 'he talks to fish.'" Johns also reported that longtime Aquaman villain Black Manta will be coming to the title. "It's like Boba Fett underwater."
-As for other books: Johns' Green Lantern is "selling better than it ever has," and he promises that at the end of his next arc on the book things will be "totally different." All-Star Western was acknowledged as one of the "surprise break-out books of the New 52," and writer Jimmy Palmiotti thanked those in attendance for giving it a chance. Scott Snyder said of his Swamp Thing crossover with Animal Man that it's "the biggest, most twisted thing [the creative teams] could draw or write."
-In general, Dan Didio and other editors note that the second year of the New 52 is "all about world-building." The goal right now is "to give each character time to establish themselves." As beginning story arcs wrap up and characters find their place in the world, they'll start to interact with each other and develop richer environments to cohabitate.
-That is, within reason. One fan asked if the Wonder Twins (from the classic Superfriends cartoon) would ever make it in the New 52. One creator responded "There's always a chance," to which another replied "That's being generous. No way."
-Of interest to aspiring writers out there, one younger girl asked about how to break into writing. Here was the response from some of the pros: Get to know people, be patient, prove you're better than what we already have, make your own comic, practice, and value your own unique perspective/voice. Legendary writer J. Michael Stracyznski perhaps said it best: "Writing classes teach you to write like everybody else. [DC editors] already have everybody else."
-Probably Marvel's biggest news was the announcement of a new Gambit series, which will bring an X-Man favorite back to prominence. This book, says writer James Asmus, will "focus on the two biggest aspects of Gambit: number one, he's sexy. Number two, he's the preeminent bad-ass thief of the Marvel Universe." Pitching it as Indiana Jones meets Mission Impossible, Asmus notes that this book will take Gambit away from the X-Men and integrate him more fully with other Marvel characters (although Rogue will still be around; "I would be an idiot if I didn't bring Rogue into this" Asmus says). We'll see Gambit in space, alongside monsters and more. Asmus calls the book "over-the-top;" it's an "endless series of events that keep pulling him deeper and deeper into an endless world of mixed morality" and features its hero trying to solve "impossible riddles." It's meant for "new and lapsed Gambit fans," like folks who watched the cartoons or read comics in the '90s. Asmus pointed out that it does feature a slightly redesigned costume (no more head sock), so heads up to people who fully love his old look.
-At his own panel Sunday morning, legendary artist Neal Adams (responsible for defining the look of DC Comics in the '70s) announced that he'd soon be working on a new X-Men title… MAYBE. "Sort of new X-Men," he said. "Before the X-Men. Maybe. Possibly." Which realistically means "yes but I'm not allowed to say."
-Marvel proudly promoted a new Captain Marvel series starring Carol Danvers, the ex-Ms. Marvel, who now has access to cosmic powers. Editors compared it to Daredevil, noting that next year "everyone will be talking about it." The series debuts in July.
-This year is the 50th anniversary of the Thor character, and to mark it Marvel will cross over Thor's two comics, Mighty Thor and Journey into Mystery, beginning in August with a story entitled "Everything Burns." This features the return of the Norse devil Surtur and will reveal "the truth about the women of Asgard," which sounds really menacing and also like a tease for an episode of Maury.
-Starting this month Captain America will become a book featuring a rotating co-star; first up is Hawkeye. Writer Cullen Bunn refers to this team as "the Tango and Cash of the Marvel Universe."
-One fan asked a question about Runaways, a dormant but popular Marvel project from Lost writer Brian K Vaughn. A Marvel editor noted that it's "one of the most-pitched books," and they're waiting until the exact right moment to bring it back. As of now there are no current plans, but next year is the property's 10th anniversary, so we might see something then.
-In close, Marvel suggests you watch these series over the next year: Captain Marvel, Gambit, X-treme X-Men and Captain America.