With Further Ado #289: SXSW – X: “South By” + The X-Men (From the Ashes)

The annual South by Southwest Festival is usually written as SXSW and folk typically refer to it as ‘South By”. I tend to describe it to industry friends as “San Diego Comic-Con without the comics”, but that doesn’t really capture the essence of this sprawling and wonderfully bloated event. It’s more like the answer to a riddle along the lines of “What if a business conference, with a focus on technology, media and start-ups had a baby with a Music Festival?”

Last year there was only one comic industry panel. Vault Comics made some cool announcements and leveraged a celebrity collaboration they had just inked.

This year, Marvel Comics (not Marvel Studios) was at the main convention hall (there are SXSW events and panels all over Austin, TX) with a panel that pulled back the curtain on a new X-Men initiatives and talked about a collab with new technology startup.

The panel was initially led by Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, C.B. Cebulski. Also onstage were Executive Editor Tom Breevort and writers Gail Simone and Jed MacKay.

Tom Brevoort, after editing the Avengers for years, has been now working with writers Jed MacKay, Gail Simone and Eve L. Ewing to create a new status quo for Marvel’s mutants. The conclusion of the Krakoan saga will find Marvel’s mutants weary and bruised, as three different groups, without any formal organization or collaboration, each try to jump start the X-Men.

The three initial series will be:

X-Men by Jed MacKay and Ryan Stegman follows the adventures of Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Juggernaut as they reluctantly seek to fulfill the X-Men’s mission. The public is especially suspicious of this team as a creepier-than-ever Magneto seems to be the man in charge. During the panel, they revealed he is essentially “Professor M.” This one debuts in July.

Uncanny X-Men by Gail Simone and David Marquez focuses on Rogue and Gambit’s romance and new lives in New Orleans. Rogue is a reluctant leader in this one, but essential the senior ‘adult in room’. Simone explained how the X-Men, after several years of being insular and associating only with one another, now seek to integrate into society. This team of Uncanny X-Men also includes Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Jubilee and will kick off this August.

Exceptional X-Men by Eve L. Ewing and Carmen Canaro is set in Chicago. A world-weary Kate Pryde (following the as-yet-undisclosed events concluding the Age of Krakoa) faces off against Emma Frost as they both seek to train, in their own styles, a new band of recruits: Bronze, Axo. and Melee .

I had the pleasure of briefly chatting up Gail Simone before this panel. She was, as she always is, extraordinarily gracious and genuinely excited. You didn’t have to be a fan of her impressive career to quickly understand that she was clearly enjoying writing the new Uncanny X-Men series and being a part of the team re-inventing this franchise.

Simone would explain how much fun it was to write the X-Men and how there are so many stories to tell. “You can tell a huge action thing, and you can tell a tiny emotional thing,” she explained.

Tom Brevoort explained that the teams working plans are to honor the past, but to also tell stories that anyone can pick up and enjoy.

The X-Men portion ended with a slide that teased future titles; Phoenix, X-Factor, Storm, NYX, X-Force, and Wolverine.

The New ComiXology?

VeVe is a start-up in the digital collectible space. Although this young start-up has been working with Marvel for a while, the two companies used this SXSW panel to formally make the announcement about their big collaboration.

C.B. Cebulski and VeVe chairman David Crothers spoke about need that exists in the industry since the demise of ComiXology, and about how the platform was created with “real” comic collectors in mind.

Giveaway Time

There was a clever bit of audience interaction, as C.B. Cebulski asked what was the first issue that Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost appeared in,  and the winning fan won an X-Men shirt.

And everyone who attended received a low print run comic – a variant issue of Avengers #11 with a special X-Men cover and a code for a digital collectible on Veve.

SXSW is filled with brilliant, ambitious people doing brilliant ambitious things. I wish the event had more panels like this one.