Joe Quesada speaks at Megacon. Quotes shamelessly lifted from the report filed at CBR, which you should read first before coming back to my vented spleen. Reprinted without permission, and they’re well within their rights to ask me to take the whole thing down, as it’s way past fair use. Mr. Quesada’s comments are in bold.
“We know that Ragnarok has happened, the Gods are dead and the cycle has to begin again.”
Of course it has. Because you can’t just y’know, move things forward, can you? Like a dog to vomit, you just gotta come back to it and take a couple a big hits, huh?
“There is a good possibility that She-Hulk will be paused, not cancelled,”
Possibility? I thought that had already been set? At least that’s the word I’m getting on it, and pretty much the line that’s been floating around ye olde blogosphere. Of course, this is the same company that solicited how many issues of Warlock?
Quesada also spoke on the near future of Marvel’s flagship character. “There will be big changes to the status quo of Spider-Man. All fun stuff, less tragic. It’s going to be a whole new world for him. I will be meeting with the writers in two weeks to iron out plans.”
Hey look, CHANGES! More changes to the status quo! We’re talking BIG FUN CHANGES! Everything you know is wrong all over again, only this time it won’t be weeping and gnashing of teeth! A whole new world of FUN! Well, praise Cthulhu for that. ‘Cause if there’s one thing that Spiderman needs right now, it’s a big fat dose of fun. I’m talking an elephant-choking dose. Dude dresses up in spider-themed spandex and it’s all one horrible things after another. Who can take that seriously?
“Why restart the ‘Avengers’ with the title ‘New Avengers?’” asked one convention-goer. “So, I can release an ‘Avengers’ #1, next year.”
Well fucking duh. He jests, in truth, you see.
Quesada hastened to add, “I’m kidding!” He went on to say, “It’s something we did with the X-Men. It’s just a word the way I see it. We want to be respectful of what came before, but this is a new take on the Avengers.”
Because that old take was so damn…old. Besides, once you’ve burned the fucker down, pissed and danced on the ashes, you pretty much need to start it all over again. It’s just a word, but then again so is “boneheaded.”
The topic stayed with Marvel’s new hit as one attendee asked about the selection of New Avengers members, saying the initial core cast was decided when a bunch of Marvel creators go together to discuss the future of the title.
“We really are very much a family, especially a lot of the core creators here. A lot of us started out at the same time. We will sit around and it’s like fantasy baseball or fantasy editor-in-chief and in the middle of that some cool stuff gets accepted and some crazy stuff get rejected. [Brian Michael Bendis] then selects the characters he needs. As writer he needs to figure out the cast he needs to tell the story.”
You heard it here first folks. It’s a geekfest. A geekfest gone horribly, horribly wrong. They all sit around jacked up on Red Vines and hard liquor and talk up a bunch of who’d win scenarios and pick out the victors. Remember, you just fucking need Wolverine to tell some stories. Speedball just wouldn’t work in his place, but you know, Sentry might…
Quesada added, “I had an incredible amount of passion and glee when I saw the Sentry join the Avengers. The time is right, now, for the Sentry. That’s my favorite part of the New Avengers.”
See! I told you!
The next topic of discussion was the rumors surrounding the delay of “Wha huh…?,” the parody version of the “What If…?” books/ “The delay on ‘Wha’ huh…?’ has nothing to do with Marvel and DC,” Quesada remarked, addressing rumors that some pokes at DC may have been too much for DC’s legal department. “This is one of those things I can’t comment on. It is an internal issue, but it will be out soon. Anything you see poking fun at something outside of Marvel — we sent the scripts out, made calls, and got 100 percent approval.”
So, it’s an internal issue. What? Making fun of Marvel characters makes the baby Jesus cry? Someone just leak this bad boy already, okay?
The next topic was that of the Marvel’s MAX mature readers line. “I think it is a great imprint,” said Quesada. “People see Marvel do something like the MAX line as an answer to Vertigo. That’s not what it is…it is there to give creators the opportunity to tell the kinds of stories that can not have the Marvel slug on it.”
Oh yes, and SHITFUCKCOCKSUCKERTITTYBOOKHEADSEXPLODINGLIKEBALLOONSFILLEDWITHREDPAINT, too. Note, you can have Marvel characters, but not the Marvel slug on it.
Marvel slug. That’s got a ring to it, doesn’t it?
Also on the topic of marvel’s imprints, Quesada mentioned that there would be two new titles coming from Marvel’s Icon line which provides a creator-owned outlet for Marvel’s established creators.
I sure hope that Ed Brubaker gets a slice of that action, because his creator-owned stuff beats the stuffings out of his franchise stuff (though Sleeper is a little bit of both, isn’t it?).
A question was raised about the rise and return of variant covers, both at Marvel and elsewhere, and if Quesada was concerned about their proliferation.
“Yes, I am very concerned,” he responded. “We just had a strategy meeting about that. We have a chart that shows where we can have variant covers and where we shouldn’t. We are being very judicious in deciding where to do this, but we have no control over what happens at other publishers.”
Quesada continued, “I am not a great fan of variant covers, but I am a business man at the same time. The fans are saying they want this and will spend money on this. Am I gonna cut my nose off to spite my face and leave that money on the table?”
Remember kids, “Other publishers” are going to ruin the whole damn industry with their evil variant covers. But Marvel’s variant covers are carefully selected and designed as to elicit maximum reading enjoyment and would never be used to artifically inflate a book’s numbers in any given month. And hey, you only do it because the fans love them so much. It’s like a little thank you to all those kids (er, thirty-year-olds), like chocolates on a hotel pillow. They want, no, they NEED an excuse to buy a second copy of a comic book that they already have, because those damn things are so irresistable. They’re like baby kittens, they are.
Guess what? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either you like alternate covers and the tall dollars they rake in or you don’t do them. It’s that simple. Let books stand on their own merits, and hey, maybe it wouldn’t fucking kill you to push the ones that get good buzz but don’t do gangbuster numbers. Save the inventory and print costs for other books that are right on the edge and just need a little hand to stay afloat.
Or yeah, you could do the brainless thing and just put out another cover with Wolverine on it. Speaking of which…
Another concern brought up by fans was that of stretching characters too thin. Wolverine’s regular appearance in several ongoing monthlies was cited as an example.
“There are certain characters that drive publishers’ business,” Quesada answered. “We are taking a good, hard look at it and we are going to review some of that. The Marvel line is getting so strong that we can pull Spider-Man and Wolverine back a little bit. ‘Young Avengers,’ ‘She-Hulk’ and ‘Black Panther’ are getting hot and that relieves tension on the remainder of the Marvel cast.”
Oh, Joe, you’re killing me here. No, really, I’ve just spent the last minute sucking oxygen because I nearly laughed myself to death. “Taking a good hard look at it.” Please. We both know that this is just like the alternate cover issue. There’s too much cash involved for you to get off that dime. Put Wolverine on the cover and bump your units shipped by a couple thousand. It’s like printing money!
And the Young Avengers are a hot book? Black Panther is getting hot and relieving some tension on poor ‘ol Wolverine?
Well, if you say so. No, really, I believe you.
One attendee brought up the death of Gwen Stacy in the “Ultimate Spider-Man” title and if Mary Jane was ever a target for death as many readers had suspected.
“If there hadn’t been this kazillion dollar ‘Spider-Man’ movie…” Quesada continued that “there was no way MJ was going to get it. I was surprised when Brian killed Gwen, though.”
I wasn’t. Hell, most of the guys who read about Gwen in the original Spider-Man book are senile or dead already, so it’s not like you’re gonna alienate them. Killing Mary Jane might have actually shook up the status quo and been a tad unpredictable and actually might have served to differentiate Ultimate Spider-Man from the original.
But that’s not really what you’re after with that line, is it?
On the topic of attracting younger readers, Quesada said “…if we don’t start cultivating young readers, we will have stretched the direct market as far as it will go.” He went on to say “We have some stuff going, but it is pretty hush hush right now.”
And you’re reviewing your alternate cover policy, too. Don’t get me wrong, my son loves the Marvel Age (or whatever they’re called today) Spider-Man books. Even if the thought behind them is a little wrongheaded (compress a 1963 story into a 2005 storytelling mode? Why not just tell some new stories?). But the sad truth of it is that your big talent doesn’t want to sell books to kids (just ask Mark Millar). They don’t want to go to the effort to tell an engaging story that works as simply an engaging story and doesn’t rely on cheap shock or knowledge of arcane facts about the character to deliver its impact.
When the topic of how to compete with video games was raised, Quesada responded, “Someone has to create a compelling book that kids want to read before they get to their video game.” He added, “We recently did some market research, one of the things that was very evident…if a kid hasn’t picked up a comic at around eight or ten [years of age], chances are by the time they are 12, they aren’t going to be interested. It takes a compelling book. If we can do that, there will be a huge influx of readers coming in.”
Of course, videogames are immediately inversive and responsive and take a hell of a lot less direct mental effort than comics. I’m not saying that text or even text and image juxtaposed are going to go the way of the dinosaur sooner rather than later, but you’re going to need one hell of a engaging book to prevent that from happening. You’re also going to need to tell people that it exists. And where to get it. And why they should read it.
All of which Marvel has so excelled at in the last few years, don’t you think?
Yeah, me too.
What you’ve just described is basically Bizarro Marvel. I don’t see it happening anytime in the next couple of years. Marvel today is a climax predator, hyperevolved over the last market cycle to do one thing really, really well (though there’s some question as to if it actually does that). I’m heartened to see that you understand Marvel has to change or die, but I see one of those outcomes as far less likely than the other.
“Original graphic novels are a weird thing,” Quesada said when the topic was raised. “They don’t make fiscal sense for us at Marvel. Let’s say Joe Straczynski has a 200-page story. We could put it out as a graphic novel and it will only sell limited numbers, but if we have broken it down to singles over six to eight months, we would make a significant amount of money and we put it out as a trade and make money from it again, then as a hardcover and we make money again. Also, not everyone can afford 50 bucks and then the work is not getting exposed, only people with enough bank can get the thing.”
I can’t disagree with this assessment. It’s certainly a lot cheaper to put out serials that the market is geared for and then collect it out of the extra guts that you’ve printed up and put it in a paperback or hardback collection. What would be nice is a consistent trade policy that didn’t cannibalize monthly sales, as well as an effort to put out material that isn’t as dependent on franchise-owned characters that might actually have a shot in the larger marketplace of booksellers. You can call Black Widow a spy book all you want, but it still reads like a superhero book and isn’t ever going to appeal to the average reader of Tom Clancy novels, no matter how much you and I fervently hope for that to happen.
Lastly, on the subject of one of Marvel’s newest characters, Quesada remarked “I have not gotten the kind of media response [before] that I have gotten for Arana,” referring to the teen girl with a Spider-Man flavor. “This little Latin girl hero has touched a nerve. This has been non-stop. Then, when the American press is done with it, the Latin American press wants to know more about it.”
Just like the Black Panther? Hells, yeah.
But hey, I’m just another internet pundit, right? Nothing to see here folks, move along, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.