Baltimore Comic Con 2016: The Marvel Panel Part 1: History of Character and Politicization of World Events

Marvel Panel Baltimore Comic Con 2016

On Saturday at the Baltimore Comic Con, Charles Soule, Mark Waid, Greg Pak, and Barry Kitson discussed a number of subjects at the Marvel Panel including respecting the history of characters, how the comics relate to the cinematic universe, the influence of artists on stories, how they write scripts, and a little bit of insight into the future of Marvel.

One of the biggest concerns with Marvel Comics right now is the idea that Marvel isn’t respecting the history of their characters. This was seen during the massive outrage about Captain America where he Hailed Hydra! While Cap has done similar things in his past, this issue gained prominence due to Nick Spencer’s political past, his recent issues in Captain America: Sam Wilson where he attacked libertarian and conservative principles, and his statements after the issue was released, noting this wasn’t any kind of mind control or other type of environmental effect (which turned out to be a lie). Mark Waid made a pretty hard statement when it came to respecting the history of the character. He emphasized that anyone who doesn’t respect the history of the characters isn’t working at Marvel anymore. He did make sure to clarify they aren’t directly pushed out, but the fans do get their say and Waid implied sales numbers speak.

Ri Ri Williams

What made this more interesting was the question from the crowd regarding the death of the Hulk and why the more prominent characters like Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor are seemingly getting the ax. The question was dodged expertly by Soule with an answer that the idea came from a Marvel summit. Pak tried to smooth things over by noting that “crazy things happen all the time” and after those things happen you get to tell the stories of those left behind. It didn’t seem to assuage the crowd’s fears of seeing a growing pattern of their favorite characters being relegated to the sidelines in favor of newer seemingly more politically correct versions.

This fear was seen in another question about the reduced role of the X-Men in the Marvel Universe. Soule tried to quell the fear by noting the number of books the X-Men have in comparison to the Inhumans. He relied heavily on his numbers by including all of the Deadpool books as mutant books. However, this avoided the heart of the question where the X-Men have seen a reduced role in Marvel’s event books which have heavily favored the Inhumans, especially the most recent Civil War II event. The X-Men were relegated to a stand alone mini series outside of the main event book.

Champions #1

Cover by Humberto Ramos

Not only is the history of the character a very important topic, but the politicization of comics has also become a hot button issue at Marvel with the announcement of a new Iron Man, having Jane Foster become Thor, and even the Spider-Woman variant cover controversy from a couple of years ago. In what I consider a groundbreaking revelation and admittance of the truth, Waid confirmed that EVERYONE at Marvel looks for ways to Marvelize hot button social issues. He reinforced this when he mentioned that he didn’t know anybody at Marvel who isn’t interested in pulling world events into comics. He even went on to give an example from his own past where he used the George Zimmerman story in one of his Daredevil stories. He also looks for ways to use Hydra and AIM to push gun control narratives. To add on to this, he revealed that he specifically hopes to be able to address real world problems with Marvel’s new team book, Champions. He will be looking for a way to create analogies and metaphors to capture the emotions of real world events.

The cinematic universe has been able to find an expert blend of bringing world events and hot button issues to the forefront without alienating a significant core of its readers one way or another. This was expertly done in both Captain America: Winter Solider and Captain America: Civil War. They were able to address the increased surveillance state as well as the core idea of innocent until proven guilty. With this in mind, Troy-David Phillips, the store manager at my very own comic book shop, Flashback Comics, asked about how the cinematic universe is influencing the comics. All of the panelists universally noted they receive little pressure to jive with the cinematic universe. In fact, Charles Soule was even brought on board to consult with Agents of SHIELD regarding the role of the Inhumans. Pak and Waid have also consulted but more on the animated level rather than the cinematic universe. The answers were a little disappointing as I was hoping to hear a little bit more about how the two bounce ideas off each other and are possibly even inspired by each other. It seems they are missing a pretty big opportunity to get really creative.

Be sure to check back later this week for Part 2.

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