Always a fan-favorite during the large comic and pop culture shows like San Diego or New York Comic Con’s and C2E2 is Marvel’s Cup O’ Joe panel featuring Marvel Comics CCO Joe Quesada. Quesada frequently hosts these panels alongside other Marvel creators as a way to announce new projects and create an interactive experience to share with fans. This past weekend’s Cup O’ Joe panel during New York Comic Con had the normal mix of announcements and talent, if not a little weak on the spectacle.
Last year’s panel at New York featured a surprise appearance by Clark Gregg, the actor who plays Agent Coulson on the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Surprises like this are what drive fans to these panels. Fans have an expectation of being a part of something, or being given an exclusive look into the future. Trailers for upcoming films, sneak peeks at projects in the works and special guests touting their brands or characters are essential parts of the buzz-generating marketing machine that is the panel. San Diego is the big convention, so naturally their attendees reap the most benefits from the exclusivity. In some respects, it seems like New York gets the industries sloppy seconds and lower tier announcements behind San Diego. Marvel’s Cup O’ Joe panel this past weekend, while not without some great moments, made this notion seem all that more plausible.
Marvel’s most unexpected announcement at this weekend’s panel came when Quesada brought Juliet Feld with Feld Entertainment on stage. Introducing Feld Entertainment as the group behind live arena events such as Monster Jam and Ringling Brothers Circus, a sense of dread washed over the room. Was Marvel about to dive headfirst into the cheap side of Disney entertainment? Were Juliet Feld and Joe Quesada about to announce Marvel on Ice?! Thankfully, no.
What they did announce was a new live event, Marvel Universe Live, which is coming to arenas in summer 2014. Marvel Universe Live is a live performance based show featuring actors, acrobats and stunt-people playing over 25 heroes and villains plucked from the Marvel Universe. A behind the scenes video showed an incredibly ambitious project that is backed by some of the most innovative Imagineers (Disney owns Marvel, so that word can apply) in performance art. New technologies and on-the-scene special effects allow creators to tailor unique movements and effects to each hero or villains individual powers. This isn’t like a Cirque show, and even with sure-to-be incredible Spiderman stunts, it’s not Spiderman the Musical either. Marvel Universe Live is something new, and something superhero fans everywhere should look forward to experiencing next summer.
Speaking of Disney Imagineers, because Disney now owns Marvel, it’s about time they announced a new Disney themed comic series with broad audience appeal. Putting aside princesses and Pixar, Marvel announced Disney Kingdoms, a new comic series merging together original stories sparked from collaborations between Marvel artists and Disney Imagineers. Each arc of the series will stem from the lore of the Disney Parks. The first arc, Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird, is due out in January. Legendary Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump originally designed a companion exhibit to go along with Walt Disney World’s popular Haunted Mansion attraction. He called the exhibit the Museum of the Weird. The museum never came to be, but now, writer Brandon Seifert and artist Karl Moline have taken Crump’s ideas and built an entire story around them. Guillermo del Toro has said that he plans to make a film (not to be confused with the terrible 2003 Eddie Murphy film) based on Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction, so until that happens, fans of Disney, Disney World and classic comic anthologies like Weird Tales, will at least have the Disney Kingdoms series to look forward to.
For the other big announcement of the panel, Quesada brought out a very special guest, legendary director and the man responsible for zombies as we know them, George Romero. Romero was on hand to announce Empire of the Dead, a new zombie comic series he describes as too epic for film. Romero is writing the story with art by Alex Maleev. Empire of Dead will have stiff competition (pun intended) from Image Comics’ Walking Dead series which has been going strong now for ten years. Asked to describe what’s different about Empire, Romero explained that in the world he’s created there are “two kinds of living dead, zombies and vampires trying to survive.” Empire of the Dead is also coming in January.
Other notable announcements and moments from the panel included a video featuring Neil Gaiman introducing Marvel’s re-release of his famous MiracleMan series. In the video, Gaiman revels in the chance to finally be able to complete a story he describes as the “great incomplete thing” of his life. The MiracleMan re-launch also begins in January. Spiderman writer Dan Slott also sat in on the panel, hilariously avoiding jabs about Peter Parker from a much divided room. For those unfamiliar, Slott famously killed off the beloved Spiderman character (Parker) earlier this year. Slott also announced that he and Mike Allred are launching a new Silver Surfer series for Marvel Now!
Touting the panel’s Q&A session with fans as a unique opportunity to pick the brains of Marvel’s creators, Quesada ended the hour long session by inviting a barrage of questions from the audience. Annoyingly, these Q&A sessions are often like attending a political rally, with Quesada half-answering or avoiding the majority of the good inquiries. Nearly every question about Marvel films, TV and even future comics were responded to with non-answers and cop-out responses like “you know I can’t answer that.” That can be a bit frustrating on a panel for a company with some of the biggest film releases on their horizon. There wasn’t even a NYCC teaser of the new Guardians of the Galaxy film, which was a bit of a shock seeing as how they played it for the audience at San Diego Comic Con this past July. In the end, there wasn’t much exclusive excitement for fans to get behind at this year’s Cup O’ Joe. Marvel did show a diverse lineup of projects, but nothing big enough to garner the fever pitch excitement that the die-hard Marvel fans at the second largest comics convention in the world deserve.