Sana Amanat, Katie Kubert, and Judy Stephens headlined the Women of Marvel panel at Atlantic City Boardwalk Con today, and though the con numbers being a little low meant the room wasn't packed, it was a fair-sized assemblage of devoted fans. I heard some discussing how excited they were just to have the chance to attend such a panel, and in truth I recall being shut out of the New York Comic Con 2014 version because there was a no clearing the room between panels policy and an Avatar animated series panel following the Women of Marvel had filled at least 2/3 of the room with Avatar fans. Here no such suffering and everyone who wanted to could get into the panel and share their enthusiasm. This panel was recorded and will be streamed live on Marvel.com next Friday, Stephens said.
The panelists were introduced, and Sana Amanat's long title was discussed, "directing what people have to do". Katie Kubert had recently come from a curling iron station near the candy station at the convention, and was sporting some lavender locks.
The discussion kicked off with Ms. Marvel and Secret Wars, and the "Last Days" storyline of what's happening when the world gets destroyed, and in this case it's a "small story" told through the eyes of Kamala Khan. Amanat said they wanted the perspective of "the person on the street", including their initial suggestion of a hotdog vendor. This story is about "testing Kamala as a superhero", Amanat said, and Captain Marvel seeks her out in these last days of the Marvel universe to tell her what to "expect". It's an "intimate story" of the two of them kicking off in June.
Years of Future Past, a Secret Wars mini, written by Marguerite Bennett with art by Mike Norton, with Art Adams covers takes place in the Days of Future Past world following Kitty Pryde. In the original comic she mentions having a child, and Krissy Pride, her daughter is a main character. Wolverine's son also features. There'll be "an intense family dynamic", Kubert said.
A-Force arriving in stores this coming week is the "Women of Marvel book", including a long list of characters from She Hulk to Dazzler to America Chavez and Lady Loki. They will be fighting a shark in the first issue, Kubert laughed. Kubert said they will be introducing a new character who has impact on this story and also stuff that comes post-Secret Wars.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl brings "happiness and laughter" to life, Stephens said, and discussing 6, and 7, said it's the beginning of a new story arc. Squirrel Girl and her roommate meet Chimpmunk Hunk and Koi Boy. By the end, she'll meet another her, Girl Squirrel, an actual girl who's a superhero. Amanat said that if you're trying to bring more people into the comics fold, especially younger women, this is a great entry point. She urged people to "hand this comic over" to siblings and friends.
Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1 on sale June 10th featured the Banshee Squad, led by Carol Danvers, who's the only one with "powers" in the group. Others are told this is because she's a "gift" from Lord Doom to take care of them, which is misleading. They discover there's a "star in the sky" so the fighter pilot women discover that there could be "even more" beyond what they know. This comic is about "believing what you've been told" and going against that, Amanat said. Written by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Kelly Thompson, with 50's period accented artwork by David Lopez is coming up.
Silk #5 is coming on June 10th, and it's a "big showdown" with Black Hat. This issue leads up to the "Last Days" story where Moon will start looking for her family.
Spider-Gwen is arriving for issue 5 on June 10th, and in this universe Matt Murdoch is the King Pin, and in a takedown, Spider-Gwen will be put in the middle. Amanat pointed out the amazing books all coming out June 10th.
1602: Witch Hunter Angela also arrives the same day. It's a love story to Neil Gaiman, since it features a character he created in a world he created. Angela and her friend Sarah are Witchhunters for King James. In Issue #2, we'll have the 1602 Guardians of the Galaxy. Rocket is "like an organ grinder monkey who's been set free", Amanat said, and he's quite upset about his previous job. Kieron Gillen will be writing some of the shorts in this series.
James Patterson's Max Ride: First Flight is coming up working with the celebrated novel series. Marguerite Bennett is writing this story about teenagers who become an adoptive family and have wings and can fly. Their origin is a mystery, and they come from horrible beginnings at "the school" where they were experimented upon, Amanat explained. They are on the run from bad guys known as The Erasers. Max and her friends in this adventure story may well simply be facing a "test", but the story is very much about family. Issue #3 comes out June 3rd.
Secret Wars Last Days Silk and Secret Wars Last Days: Spider-Woman were also discussed. The latter deals with domestic violence featuring the wives of super-villains. This is something the creative team are handling carefully but take quite seriously as a topic.
They noted that Womenof@marvel.com is the email fielded by Stephens and others to handle questions about all things Marvel including internships and the like.
Amanat said they are delighted to have a Women of Marvel panel at ACBC, and having podcasts and shows is an "expansion of the fan experience" for those who can't make it to conventions as well.
Q&A from the floor started off with a young woman writing a comic who's aware that including rape and trauma in the first issue may put readers off. She asked how they'd approach it. Kubert said maybe not to include all of the trauma in the first issue but maybe spread it out through different parts of the comic in retrospect or in explanation. Amanat said you have to be "tough and tactful" and make sure you're doing it "for a purpose". What is it saying about the character, Amanat asked? How does it affect the character on a daily basis? Amanat advises to "slow it down" and look at the "after-affects" and "trauma" rather than the event itself to keep from detracting from the "human being'. Amanat said you have to really "dig in" to handle these themes.
A fan asked about Singularity's gender presentation. Kubert said there's not much she can say right now. As of right now, she's a woman, but a lot of her backstory will be revealed over the sequence of the story and possibly afterwards. Amanat reminded that they've just announced that A-Force will be continuing after Secret Wars.
When asked about their background, Katie Kubert said she wanted to go into film and TV and worked on monster special effects. She had bad experiences working in that field, and after meeting "unsavory people", she left to work in an art gallery. She saw Rembrandts and Picassos, but working with only dead artists got her down. She wanted to "leave her mark" on the current art world and build something of her own. Comics were an "amalgamation" of her skills in film and the artworld, she said, and led her to apply for a production position at DC Comics. She wanted to know how comics were made. After working there for a year, she decided she wanted to go into editorial. She worked on the Batman titles for 4 years, but wasn't willing to move to LA with DC. After meeting with Marvel, she was able to talk about the stories she wanted to tell, and that's how she landed in her current role.
Amanat said she didn't grow up reading superhero comics, but was a sci-fi person, however, knew and liked all the characters through cartoons, and her brothers' comics were "around". She feels that the X-Men actually influenced her to become a political science major. She went into journalism, but found it boring, and went into publishing. She worked at Virgin Comics, and from there got to know people. She met all the people she currently knows 4 years before the case from working in the industry. She started 6 years ago, and feels her trajectory has been "amazing".
Stephens has been working for Marvel for 9 years, from an internship in college, and says she's seen the "transformation of a brand" over that time. She was into anime and video games in college, and was going to college for photography. She took those skills to conventions and applied them to cosplay, which she posts on Instagram. She tried to go into fashion photography but hated it, including the people, agencies, and models, she declared, to laughter from the audience. She panicked and decided to be a graphic designer, taking more college classes. She took an internship for webdesign for Marvel.com. She got a temp gig, which she said are still possible, and encouraged people to look into internships. She recalls the moment when Robert Downey Jr. was cast, making Marvel a "different world". She describes her experience of being like a "family" who go out together, whether on the East or West Coast.
When asked how they approve and create new characters, Amanat said that Ms. Marvel was really "Spider-Man" and it wasn't really about her being Muslim or being from New Jersey, but about her desires and fears and what makes her "universal". It happened to work, and that was the lightning in the bottle of creating a character that is "authentic".
When a male prospective comic creator asked how to write a female hero "correctly", Amanat said "No, no, no. Take all that away". She encouraged him to make her a person, take away gender, religion, everything, and simply write her based on her likes, dislikes, motivation. Kubert agreed that's the only way to write correctly, to write "true to character" and make sure decisions play into that. The only way to go wrong is to "go against" what's been established.