The current "Punisher" comics series will be coming to a close and relaunching, with new numbering, as a MAX title. "MAX" being the name for Marvel titles that get a little more graphical with hardcore violence and sexual situations. Said Quesada, "We dis
Marvel ran a very casual panel Sunday afternoon at WizardWorld Chicago to talk about new projects and announce some changes to existing titles.

Chuck Austen was on hand to confirm rumors that he will be taking over the writing chores on "Avengers" following the exit of current writer Geoff Johns. Current artist Oliver Copiel will continue as one of two regular "Avengers" artists. He will be joined by Scott Kolins, who recently joined Marvel under an exclusive contract. Kolins will begin with Austen's second story arc. (See full story for more details.)

Writer Mark Waid was present to announce that, while his tenure on the "Fantastic Four "series is coming to a close, he isn't quite done with that super-team.

"We're not going to get specific yet," said Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada. "This may morph into something larger."

The announcement follows recent controversy concerning the removal of Waid from the ongoing FF series.

"Joe's done a lot to make right what has been an unfortunate situation," Waid said. "Not only is there no bad blood, but the door is open for me at Marvel and in some form or another, there is more Fantastic Four in my future."

Quesada also announced that the current "Punisher" series will be coming to a close and relaunching, with new numbering, as a MAX title.

"We discussed this for the last six months," he said. "[Garth] feels that he needs to shift the tone of the book and he needs the leeway that MAX affords him."

Next year is really the 'Year of the Punisher,' he continued, referring also to the release of the film starring Thomas Jane.

"It's really going to be a special book."

Editor Tom Brevoort was on hand to talk about the stabilization of the "Captain America," "Iron Man," and "Thor" creative teams.

John Jackson Miller will become the new writer of "Iron Man" with issue #73 and will be joined by artist Jorge Lucas.

"Jorge is drawing in a very high-tech style," Miller said. "If you like Tom Clancy kind of stuff, this is going to be up your alley."

Writer Dan Jurgens will remain on the "Thor" series along with new regular artist Scot Eaton.

"Captain America" gets a new creative team in the form of "Truth" writer Bob Morales and current "X-Men" artist Chris Bachalo. Marvel representative Michael Doran promised further announcements on this title in the near future.

Doran also talked about some upcoming reprint books, announcing that the next "Masterworks" book would be volume six in the Amazing Spider-Man series, collecting issues #51-61 and annual #4. A new Essential Spider-Man volume is coming as is the first volume of Essential Punisher.

Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' "Marvels" will be collected in a new hardcover that will feature "pretty much very extra that exists," Doran said. This will serve as companion to the previously announced sequel, "Eye of the Camera."

The first two books to come out of the open submissions phase of Epic Comics will be a fantasy book called "The Northwood Saga" by writer Mark Campbell and a one-shot featuring Spider-Man by Heath Amodio. Amodio's book will explore the question "What if Uncle Ben hadn't died?"

October will see a five-issue Doctor Octopus mini-series by Brian K. Vaughn in which he said he'll attempt the definitive Doc Ock story. It will feature art and a redesigned Doc Ock by Humberto Ramos.

"It has a 'Matrix' flavor," Ramos said of the new costume.

Marvel closed out the panel with some rapid fire question-and-answer in which Brevoort confirmed that Marvel is working on a new Ghost Rider book.
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