Friday afternoon the This Week in Marvel podcast hosted a panel at C2E2. But this was no ordinary panel. This was the Tournament of the Hunted.
As people were filing in for the panel, Ryan Penagos (known to all and sundry as Agent M) began calling for sixteen volunteers to enter the tournament for a chance to win prizes. Though I was there to cover the panel for Bleeding Cool, I decided to forgo any reporting obligations and volunteer. I ended up near the back of the line, which proved to be fortunate for me.
The Tournament of the Hunted turned out to be a 16-character tournament set up with brackets like the NCAA basketball tourney. Contestants were given a choice of characters based on where they were in the bracket. The people picking early couldn't jump ahead to a bracket near the end of the tourney, they could only choose among the first bracket. The characters in the tourney were all animal-based characters that have been captured by Kraven for the Hunted currently running in Amazing Spider-Man.
As I mentioned, I picked near the end of the participants. I had the choice between Kangaroo and Black Cat. I didn't regard this as a choice at all and immediately picked Black Cat. After the three people after me picked, the tournament got underway.
C.B. Cebulski, Marvel Editor-in-Chief, was the judge of the first round, wearing a referee jersey for the occasion, The first round matches were White Rabbit vs Toad, Vulture vs Stegron, Tarantula vs Owl, King Cobra vs Iguana, Scorpion vs the new Beetle, Kangaroo vs Rhino, the Lizard vs the Black Cat, and Puma vs the Gibbon. Each contestant was paired with either writer Nick Spencer or artist Humberto Ramos. First round winners were awarded a freshly-drawn Spider-Man sketch from Ramos. Match losers got a comic, including the issue of Amazing that will be released next Wednesday. The winner was determined by who could make the most convincing case for their character.
White Rabbit won by pointing out that the Toad used to be a janitor. Stegron won by pointing out that Stegron was a talking dinosaur. Owl was represented by a grade-school aged girl and her father, with the girl charming everyone by her knowledge of the character. King Cobra, Kangaroo, and Puma were also winners, as was the Scorpion, who won by talking about how awesome his tail was. But the match I was most concerned about was my own, the Lizard vs the Black Cat. The Lizard's representative was paired with Nick Spencer, I was paired with Humberto Ramos.
It was quickly pointed out that Curt Connors was a brilliant professor, who as the Lizard actually ate his son. This got the audience laughing and applauding. I countered by pointing out that the Lizard may have been Peter's professor, but the Black Cat was his lover, and lovers beat professors any day. I also mentioned how prominent a role Black Cat has in the Hunted storyline and that she was getting her own book out of the event. C.B. decided he wasn't able to decide and through the match to the audience to decide. It wasn't close – Black Cat won the audience vote easily.
It was time for the second round matches. Both winners and losers from this round won various comics. From this point on, all winners were determined by audience vote. The White Rabbit topped Stegron, the Owl again won on the strength of the charm of the little girl representing him. Scorpion beat the Kangaroo, once again mentioning the tail. The final match was the Black Cat vs. the Puma. This time I was paired with Spencer, who pointed out that the Black Cat dumped the Puma. I added that the Black Cat plays a prominent role in Marvel comics and the Puma sits at home waiting for people to call. The Puma representative tried their best, but when it came time for the audience vote not one audience member chose Puma. My efforts earned me a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #16, which was released a couple of weeks ago.
We then moved to the semifinals. The White Rabbit didn't put up much of a fight, suggesting that the Owl and the White Rabbit team up to beat the other side. The little girl representing the Owl continued charming the audience with facts about the Owl, winning easily and getting a Funko Pop Spider-Man. It was time for the Black Cat vs the Scorpion. Once again I was paired with Ramos, and though the Scorpion once again mentioned his tail, the Black Cat won when I once again pointed out the popularity of the character. My prize for this round was a Marvel Legends Thor figure. The losers each received an Into the Spider-Verse toy.
Then the finals. me with Ramos, the Owl with Spencer. I knew this would be my toughest match, and made a simple appeal to the audience. "You love the Black Cat" I said. "You don't love the Owl. You love the little girl, but you don't love the Owl." This earned laughter and applause. The Owl made another case based on the character's history. The audience was close enough to cause C.B. to redo the vote, but on the second call it was clear the Black Cat had barely won. I felt a momentary bit of regret, wondering how I would have felt if one of my sons had lost a contest like this to a much older fan, but in the end my regret didn't stop me from claiming the grand prize, a Samurai Spider-Man figure from Bandai. Afterwards I recorded an intro with Agent M and C.B. that will play before the panel airs on the This Week in Marvel podcast next week. Be sure to tune in for that to hear the fine job I did, and to be charmed by the little girl representing the Owl.