At a press conference yesterday at the Midtown Comics Times Square New York City location, Marvel Comics unveiled its big publishing event for 2011: Fear Itself, written by Matt Fraction with pencils by Stuart Immonen. Fear Itself is slated to hit in April and run seven issues. Fraction will maintain his current duties on Invincible Iron Man and Thor through the Fear Itself run, but will be toning down his involvement on Uncanny X-Men. Immonen is dropping his role as artist of Brian Bendis’ New Avengers to focus solely on the event.
Last week, Marvel began a new teaser campaign depicting its most popular heroes facing their various fears alongside which are written ominous taglines like “Do You Fear Tomorrow?” and “Do You Fear What You’ve Become?” Today, all of those images came to a head. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada opened things up by describing a world that sounds eerily familiar: “All you need to do really is turn on a TV, a computer, a radio, and you’re sure to find a pundit, a politician, a prophet out there ready to tell you what you should be afraid of, who’s responsible and why you should be afraid of them. It’s a world divided. At the end of the day, you’ve got to ask yourself who should you trust? Who do you trust? 24 hour news cycles, weather change, WikiLeaks, depression, recession, bailouts, bankers.”
Despite how close to reality it sounds, Quesada assured attendees he was referring to the Marvel Universe. A trailer was then queued up that essentially cut together the previously seen teasers with the hypnotic, legendary speech of Franklin D. Roosevelt as he addressed an America on the cusp of war.
Quesada followed up the trailer by noting, “From World War II to Apollo 11 to September 11; the events that shaped our world have shaped the Marvel Universe.”
Not many details about the series were revealed, but it’s clear that Marvel is intent on telling a story based within a real world context but through the eyes of its superheroes… not unlike the approach they took with the immensely successful Civil War. Quesada left his pitch to the crowd on a very mysterious note asking, “Who will be the eight most worthy on the planet?”
Fittingly, Quesada then led the attendees to a rather amusing video of Fraction pitching the series to the audience from his “bunker at an undisclosed location”. The writer spoke in a hurry and with paranoid excitement, saying that Fear Itself is “the biggest story [Marvel] has ever told” and that fans should expect an “extinction-grade threat.”
“Everyone is afraid of something right now,” said Fraction. “And if you doubt me and you’re getting on an airplane in the next few days, enjoy that guy who touches your business.” He also teased the involvement of the gods in the story saying, “the Marvel heroes versus the god of Fear. The more you fear him, the stronger he gets.” Perhaps the god of Fear is… Fear Itself?
Afterwards, Quesada was joined by Vice President – Executive Editors Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso to field some questions from the attendees. Brevoort stated that Fear Itself will be comparable to Civil War in its scope, but more akin to Secret Invasion in the way they handle the tie-in series and crossovers. Brevoort and Alonso also confirmed that the seeds for Fear Itself have been planted over the last year, and that readers should have a good time going back to find them all. A central idea of Fear Itself will revolve around a long-hidden event that occurred at some point in the past that, when revealed, will change the way we look at the Marvel heroes.
Fear Itself hits in April 2011, proceeded by a prelude issue written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Scot Eaton. After enduring the relatively low-key Heroic Age, it seems the time has come for the Marvel Universe to face their greatest threat in years. It’ll be interesting to see if Marvel is able to capitalize on the fear and paranoia running rampant in the news to create a socially relevant but tried-and-true superhero epic.