I had seen chef Chris Cosentino (of Bay Area offal ground zero Incanto , also a The Next Iron Chef contestant and host of the Food Network's Chef Vs. City) in person for the first time a few weeks ago – he'd just made an incredible multi-course meal for a bunch of beer journalists at Anchor Brewery and was racing around, saying hi to people and describing his thought process on the various beer-food pairings. My tablemates, friends of Cosentino, told me he had a comic coming out at WonderCon, or something. So I gave him a shout – hey, dope local angle on the convention, since I knew I was going anyway.
Maybe I should have known when I saw the massive poster of Cosentino in the Ferry Building at the stand of his other business, Boccolone Tasty Salted Pig Parts  (signed by the man himself, “pork is the new vegetable,”), a few days later that this was going to be no mere small press comic release.
Perhaps a nice interview about his project for some pre-event coverage? -- I inquired of the king of offal. “You have to speak with Marvel first before anything can be written sorry it's their protocol,” he replied. Marvel!  At which point I embarked on the epic voyage that is reporting on Marvel Comics, much of which involves intriguing email exchanges with C.B. Cebulski, senior V.P. of "creator and content development." Marvel, like most of the major comic labels, luxuriates in a cycle of suspense and sneak peeks. So are Cebulski's emails: vague, then bombshell! Damn, they're good at what they do.
Which is to say, the convention approached and I still had no idea what the hell Chris Cosentino had to do with WonderCon, or Marvel at all for that matter. I dug out of C.B. that he was indeed, going to be the special guest at Marvel's “Welcome to the X-Men” panel, so that at least I would be present for when the bomb was detonated. Still, Chris -- are you going to be an X-Man? "No I'm not an X-Man," is all his email in return said. So what the hell -- ? Suspense!
On Friday Cebulski sent me the artwork of the upcoming Cosentino Marvel appearance, which was probably a big deal that I should have tweeted about immediately: Wolverine and the chef in a meat locker poised for battle, Wolverine with his metal alloy adamantium claws, Cosentino brandishing a pair of shiny butcher knives. Best friends!
I was hooked. Thusly, I ferreted out said Marvel presentation on Saturday, the first WonderCon event I attended and the only time I would attend a major label event this weekend, I think. I saw Cebulski and Cosentino enter, was briefly and glancingly greeted by the two, watched Cebulski assume a spot at the panel table, Cosentino grab a seat towards the back of the conference room with a friend, and then the panel began discussing upcoming X-Men releases to a rapt audience, who cheered when individual series (there are many within the X-Men universe, of course): suspense, sneak peek!
“I can't say a lot about what's involved -- but there are lots of giant robots involved,” said a much-loved Marvel artist on the panel. And on: "something drastic will be happening in the X-Men universe -- I don't think I can say much more about it." Suspense, sneak peek!
And then, the artwork I'd been sent earlier flashed on screen, with Cosentino's figure replaced with a black shape with a question mark in the middle. And then, Cosentino! I think it'll be bigger news on Chowhound, judging from the lukewarm WonderCon entusiasm levels expressed upon his introduction. He arose from his seat towards the back of the room and assumed a spot at the panel table.
“It'll be very food centric, very San Francisco-located,” Cosentino announces of his impending dance with the X-Men universe. “We're gonna have fun with this one.”
“I grew up being infatuated with Wolverine. As a little kid, I used to sit there and stare at my hands,” he says, the best line of the panel: the audience chuckles, remembering their own metal alloy adamantium dreams. Cebulski, panel moderating, asks what Wolverine's favorite restaurant is.
“He has so many food loves,” Cosentino replies, unwilling to pigeonhole his childhood hero. “Japan, Germany.” Which is to say: read the comic book! You can, it comes out in June exclusively in digital form. I for one, will be stoked to see where Cosentino takes Wolverine on whatever shredding and stabbing mayhem ensues – North Beach for cioppino? Nobu's late night meaty buffet?
Anyway, the audience members that surfaced for the post-panel Q&A was less intrigued with these culinary concerns. The closest ask came from a young man from the South Bay. When, he wondered, will the X-Men be spending some time on the peninsula? He sees them in San Francisco, Oakland, and Marin all the time, so he'd like to know. “I want to see X-Men on my street!”
“You want to see X-Men destroy your house and your street,” a panelist says, by way of very inconclusive response, albeit one that incites much enthusiasm from the questioner and the rest of the audience. Seeing one's house destroyed by ones heroes being the ultimate honorific here in this crowd of Marvel enthusiasts, save becoming a character oneself.
Anyways, now our chefs are cartoon characters. What's next, the anime version of the Tamale Lady? Alice Waters vs. Godzilla?
More WonderCon tidings are on their way, later this week. Ziggy Marley will be involved. How's that for a tease, Marvel?