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ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Marvel Comics opened its programming at Chicago-Con on Friday with a panel devoted to its Ultimate Comics imprint.

Panelists included writer Mark Millar, editors Mark Paniccia and Lauren Sankovitch and marketing's Jim McCann.

Following are highlights:

* McCann said the panel was the first public opportunity to talk about Ultimate Comics.

Sankovitch said "a lot of people are irreovcably changed" after Ultimatum and that the bar is now set "sky high." She there are "huge surprises" the first issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.

* Ultimate Mysterio was then shown "This guy is mean, bad and he dresses real nice. There's some big action with him in the first issue," Sankovitch said.

* Paniccia added that writer Brian Michael Bendis is building up Mysterio to be a big villain for Spider-Man.

* Steve Kurth's art for Ultimate Comics Armor Wars was shown. Paniccia called it "four issues of Warren Ellis craziness" and it introduces "a suprise villain."

* Millar said returning for Ultimate Comics Avengers was like "making up with a bunch of old friends."

* A villain variant showcased the Red Skull.

"The character is freaking extreme," Paniccia said.

Millar said that the Red Skull is Captain America's illegitimate son. He explained that Captain America had sex the night before he went off to war and his death. "Then Cap dies and she's left with Captain America's baby," he said. "She has to give up the baby to S.HI.E.L.D. And the story deals with who this guy is, and he's got some major daddy issues."

MIllar noted he likes writing Ultimate Captain America because he hates the French and there is an extended insult to the French in #5.

* Millar said Carlos Pacheco will draw the entire . The second art will be Leinil Francis Yu for #7-12 and "the biggest selling guy" doing the next arc.

* Millar said the Ultimate line is all "A-plus" now, without any weaker titles.

* Millar said there will be a new Wasp, a new War Machine, a character called The Spider and an African-America Hulk. He said that the Ultimate Universe is meant to be set in tone five years of the Marvel Universe.

Millar said he loved the fact that Jeph Loeb went crazy in Ultimatum. "It got everyone talking and it sold real well," Millar said.

* Millar said he has plans for Ultimate Ghost Rider and Ultimatum Blade as Ultimate Comics Avengers will deal with some darker characters.

* In terms of writing Spider-Man, Millar said he has a plan despite Bendis' territorial nature with the character. "My Spider-Man plan only works for one arc, and it's not quite what it seems," he said.

* Ultimate Avengers lineup? Millar said the initial lineup will include Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, War Machine, Wasp and Nick Fury.

* Paniccia on Ultimatum: "Love it or hate it, it was necessary to get the message across to the people: anything can happen in this universe."

Millar said the Ultimate Universe is "the Marvel Universe on botox."

* McCann said Bendis is excited about creating characters that don't have equivalents in the Marvel Universe.

* Millar said he, Loeb and Bendis are "quite competitive" when it comes to sale figures.

* McCann said he couldn't explain the $3.99 price of the Ultimate Comics titles, referring to previous comments from publisher Dan Buckley and editor-in-chief Joe Quesada.

Millar said as a kid he thought it was really weird that good books cost the same as "rubbish books."

* Millar said Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk was his favorite Marvel comic of the decade.

* Asked about Thor, Millar said it was giving a realistic take on unrealistic characters. "We had 26 issues of 'is he or isn't he?' and we couldn't continue it forever," he said, noting that he tried to replicate the street-level approach that Jack Kirby took.

* Millar said the entire origin of the Red Skull will be shown in Ultimate Comics Avengers #2.

* Sankovitch said repercussions of the fallout for mutants will be shown in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.

* Millar said that, in addition to Christopher Reeve's cape, he bought the cat -- now stuffed -- that Superman saved in the first movie.

* How dead are the dead Ultimate characters? "They're dead," Paniccia said.

"There's nobody that great that anyone's going to miss," Millar added.

* Millar said there was never a plan for the Ultimate books to be incorporated into Marvel movies. "It was very flattering that the Marvel movie guys liked the version of the Avengers we put together," Millar said.

* Millar said he has loved Blade since he was 9-10, and he encouraged the ice cream man to paint Blade on his truck.

He said he will incorporate movie continuity. "I love that his first name is Eric," he said.

* McCann said there probably won't be any cosmic stories in the Ultimate line soon.

* Millar said he is ignoring Nick Fury's healing factor, but not contradicting it.

* Millar said the ideas he had for Ultimate Defenders will be used in the third volume of Kick-Ass.

* Asked about Carol Danvers and the possibility of becoming Ms. Marvel, Sankovitch said, "She's the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and she's putting pieces back together,and she has some fun stuff ahead of her with the return of Nick Fury."

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