MyCup o' Joe is the weekly communiqué from Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Joe Quesada to the legion of Mighty Marvelites Assembled! Every Friday, Joe will sit down with journalist Jim McLauchlin to answer questions on the pressing issues of the day at Marvel and throughout comics. And you get to chip in as well. Joe will be answering YOUR quesions every week! To get in on the fun, post your questions in the MySpace Comic Book forums
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JM: So…what are we doing here, again?
JQ- Last I heard, we're here to talk comics. But I can be had for the right price. What do you want to talk about?
Actually, never mind—I don't think people have come here to watch us exchange recipes. Lets talk Marvel and lets talk comics.
JM: Too bad. I could let you in on my marinade secrets.
Okay. So, it's been about eight months since you've done one of these, and people are buzzing with conspiracy theories. So I think the first thing people are going to want to know is…why the switch to MySpace? You did very similar to this via Newsarama.com, which to my mind is a damn solid all-around comics site. Why do you want to switch this over?
JQ- You're right, I've heard a few conspiracy theories floating out there. But then again, what is the internet without its conspiracies? So, let's get into this once and for all so that all this speculation can stop.
To start with, let me take this moment to thank Newsarama in general and Matt Brady in particular. We had a great run, and it was a blast to do. I think everyone got a lot out of it, from the fans of Newsarama to fans of Marvel, to even me. Matt has always been great to work with, and he's one of the good guys. So everyone go check out Newsarama.com if you get the chance.
Now, for those who want to believe that there was some sort of rift between myself and Newsarama, sorry, but that's not what happened. The story is much simpler and considerably less scandalous.
Marvel has been working behind the scenes on doing some stuff with MySpace in a very significant way. The reason for this is that the audience that MySpace reaches is huge and very mainstream, and MySpace has been getting more and more into comics as we become more and more mainstream as well. It just seemed like a perfect match, for a huge community like MySpace to join forces with the biggest and best comics company in the world. What's not to like? Anyway, several months ago, I had to bow out of doing my weekly Joe Fridays column on Newsarama because I was just inundated with drawing and working on "One More Day," the Spider-Man story. I just couldn't devote the time that the column needed, so I took a leave of absence. At that time, my intentions were to return to Joe Fridays. But during my absence, the pieces of the deal with MySpace were starting to fall into place. Once I was free and clear to come back, it was just more prudent to relaunch on MySpace. So in no way is this a slight against Newsarama. It's simply a move based upon reaching the widest possible audience, which is what MySpace offers us. As most people know, while I love shilling our Marvel books, my ultimate desire is to bring comics to the masses, whether it's Marvel or otherwise, and in my world, coming to MySpace offers an even greater opportunity to do that.
JM: How important do you think is it for Marvel and/or you, Joe, to have a "voice" for regular and weekly communications like this?
JQ- To me, it's all-important. Over eight years ago, when I took this job—has it been more than eight years?—I made a very conscious decision that I was going to put myself out there and be as public an EIC as I could be. One of the things about Marvel that always made it a compelling place for me when I was a fan was the element of inclusion. Stan Lee made us all feel like we were insiders and part of the club. Marvel wasn't set up to be this exclusive or reclusive place that you should feel privileged to be a part of. It's for everyone. Stan made Marvel and the inside goings-on accessible to everyone. When I took over, it felt to me like that spirit had been missing from Marvel for a very long time, and I wanted to bring it back. I felt it was incredibly important to get our fans involved and engaged again and to get people talking.
It's for that same reason that I wanted to get the Marvel vs. DC rivalry going again. I wanted fans to start feeling passionate about their favorite companies and creators, so if that meant poking a little fun, then lets go! But again, this isn't reinventing the wheel. It's stuff that had been done in the past with great success, but that over the years had been lost.
JM: Can anyone say "Not Brand Echh?"
JQ- Exactly! So, yeah, to answer your question more directly, it's incredibly important for me on many levels to get out there and start kicking some cans. Sure it gets some people riled up, sure it makes me a target, but it gets people excited, passionate and engaged and it's also a heck of a lot of fun.
JM: Okay. So to what extent is the voice you're speaking with here "Marvel"? To what extent is it you? How much of these weekly gabs are gonna be marketing-speak, and how much—not to get too hoity-toity—introspection or opinion?
JQ- Ha! Funny you should ask…
MyCup o' Joe will operate in the exact same way that Joe Fridays did. Yes, we'll talk a bit about upcoming stuff because that's what I like to do—and lets face it, I want to sell some books. But anyone who's familiar with Joe Fridays knows that this is ultimately all me.
Now, I've heard some people say that since this isn't going through Newsarama that it won't be as hard-hitting and I won't get the tough questions and I understand that concern completely, but that's why MySpace brought in you, Jim.
Jim, I'm going to talk about you as if you weren't here, so just go away and entertain yourself for a bit.
[Is he gone? Okay, good. So it's just you and me, gang…
When the idea of doing this weekly column through MySpace came up, we knew that we needed a firewall, or the column would just be perceived as nothing but one big love-fest, even though that was the last thing in our intentions. So MySpace was kind enough to bring in an outside journalist to do the job, hence Jim McLauchlin.
Now some may say that it doesn't matter since Jim and I are pals. Well, here's the thing: Matt Brady and I are pals as well, but it never influenced our Joe Fridays column. Jim is well-credentialed, and doing this gig with his journalist's hat fully on. Like Matt, when he has that hat on, that's what he does, and he does it well, and in an unbiased fashion. Also, much like we did on Joe Fridays, everyone has the ability to post their questions and have them answered right here, so we'll take all comers.
We good? Cool.
Okay, Jim, you can come back in.]
JM: Chee, tanks. Keeping with the sorta introductory note I wanna hit here, how do you view your role in running publishing at Marvel, especially vis-à-vis a weekly interview like this? Is it just a job? Or do you see being Marvel's editor in chief as access to a Bully Pulpit? If so, do you see—again, not to get too hokey—a "social responsibility" in that?
JQ- Well, as I always mention, I think Marvel is at its best when we reach out to our fans and let them peek through the doors and into the inner workings of what's going on here. That's one reason I like this weekly interview format. I think it also lets everyone know that we don't take ourselves too seriously. We're always the first ones to poke fun at ourselves, and it makes producing our comics that much more enjoyable because we know that our fans are involved in what we do for a living. The comics industry is a fun place to work. I see no reason why everyone shouldn't get a little exposure to that.
Another part of it—and this probably the main reason I like doing this sort of thing and my Cup o' Joe panels at conventions—is that I really see this is a small way I can "give back." Everyone out there who is reading this column and/or reading our books helps pay my rent. The fans who read our stuff allow people like myself to work in this amazing industry and do what we love. Back during my days as a reader and fan, I often wished I had the opportunity to sit with the Editor in Chief of Marvel or whomever was running DC at the time, just to ask questions about the books and the industry. Now that I find myself in this position, I'd like to give a bit of that opportunity to everyone. Of course it would be impossible to sit with everyone individually, but I do have ways of chatting with people. I answer nearly every bit of fan e-mail that I get, I'll do this weekly column, I do my panels at conventions and on occasion, along with the Hero Initiative, we auction off private lunches that are always a blast. Speaking of which, I need to set up a lunch for the upcoming New York Comic Con.
JM: We can swing that.
JQ- Good, Maybe a seafood place this time.
But yeah, doing this kind of stuff is definitely something that I see as my job, but it's also something that I see as a responsibility to the fans that have been so supportive of me and my career, and of Marvel in general.
JM: Okay. So we've started the Great and Dreaded Convention Season again. I got to see you at the Orlando MegaCon, and dammit—you sneaked outta Wizard World L.A. duty. It seems like these things come faster and more furious than ever. How do you pick which of these you go to?
JQ- There are certain shows that I just have to do because they're incredibly important to our business and outreach. But outside of those three or four big-market shows, I try to alternate between the others. For example, I went to MegaCon this year because it's been a few years since I hit that part of the country and also because Beth [Widera, MegaCon owner] and company throw a fantastic show. HeroesCon in Charlotte is another of those fantastic shows that I wish I could do every year. I'm seriously considering going this year but I haven't committed yet as I find myself out in Los Angeles more and more these days on Marvel business. My fear is that I commit and then will have to bow out at the last minute.
JM: On the editorial side, conventions are a double-edged sword. They're great for face-to-face with the fans, and I think it's important for writers and artists to meet that end consumer, and really see what's in their hearts and minds. But there's travel time, and it surely doesn't help with meeting deadlines. How do you strike a proper balance?
JQ- Ha! I think most people will contend that I don't. [Laughs]
It's a very tough thing for me to do, especially since I have many different types of plates that I'm spinning. But at the end of the day, all I can say is that I try to manage as best I can. Some days are better than others.
JM: When you started the gig as Marvel's editor in chief, one of your mandates was to always move publishing forward, and leave the past in the past. But lately we've seen "old" or fill-in-the-blanks stories such as Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin or Spider-Man: With Great Power. It looks like to a certain extent, you guys have turned around on this. Why?
JQ- Actually, I disagree with you. I think you're looking at what I said in an incorrect context. What I was referring to was that there was a time when comics were sinking quickly towards extinction, when I felt that too many of the stories that were being written and drawn were what Brian Bendis has beautifully coined as "Love Letters to Stan." They were stories that hinged on or paid homage to the stuff that came before in very significant ways, and weren't moving our books and characters forward or looking at the modern world. Now, while this is okay to do from time to time, it really seemed to be an epidemic that was running through Marvel, and was too much for my tastes. It was making Marvel Comics insular and completely uninteresting.
To me, what had happened on a global scale was that our writers stopped looking out of their windows and stopped writing stories about the world that is affecting us, right now.
What you're referring to are stories that are set in the past that give us an alternate look or a peek behind a different curtain. I have no problems with stories like that as long as they're well done. I mean, during my Marvel Knights days, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did some incredible stuff telling stories like that. Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Gray and Spider-Man: Blue are some of my all-time favorite books that I've edited. And now that we have Loeb and Sale doing Captain America: White on the horizon, that's a big woo-hoo!
As a footnote to all of this, as we began the turnaround and we started to tell stories that really starting tapping into the current zeitgeist and using the real world as a proper canvas, is it any surprise that we suddenly had a resurgence of popularity in the Marvel Universe? Coincidence? I think not.
Not every story needs to be a real world metaphor, but it's the tonality of our stories that need to keep a real, modern world sensibility to them. And it's more than just modernizing the props or trappings of the modern world. That's the easy stuff to do—"Hey look, Spidey has a cell phone." It's more a shift in attitudes and how characters behave, while still keeping them as close to their original concepts as possible.
JM: Okey-dokey. Looking to your future, you guys had a slew of creator-related and title-related announcements at Wizard World L.A., so addressing a few…
Joe Kelly joining your Spider-Man cabal. What's he bring to the table? And is this a two men enter, one man leaves kinda thing? Is one of the rotating Spidey writers going to the great web in the Spidey sky?
JQ- No, not at all. Joe is an incredible writer and we just think he has a perfect voice for Spidey and the humorous aspects of the character, so he's going to be doing at least one storyarc for us. Also, Joe is a great collaborator, so he's perfect for working with the guys who are already on the title. There are lots more Spidey creative announcements coming down the road, so keep your Spider-Sense tuned carefully.
JM: Matt Fraction on Uncanny X-Men seems like a guy graduating high school, and immediately quarterbacking the New England Patriots. Why him, and why so "fast"?
JQ- I wouldn't say it's been that fast. Matt has been working in the trenches for us for some time now and he's also been an indy guy and has paid his dues three times over. But also, Matt has come to Marvel and has hit the ground running. It seems like almost everything he takes on is met with tremendous success and accolades by the Marvel faithful. Sometimes you get very lucky with a creator and their incubation time is less than most people, Matt just happens to be on fire!
JM: You ever read Last of the Independents, that crazy one-shot bank robbery graphic novel he did with Kieron Dwyer a few years ago?
JQ- Absolutely, that's the title that first got me turned on to "The Fraction!"
JM: Speaking of up and comers like Fraction, who's the biggest off-the-radar talent on YOUR radar right now? Who's the next writer or artist who you think is gonna pop?
JQ- There are a bunch of guys who I think are really on the cusp of making a splash, but I think two to keep in mind right at this moment are Khoi Pham, who is an amazing artist, and Jason Aaron, who I really think is a writer people are going to start talking about a lot.
JM: Where do you think the break-in talent is coming from? Is it the ranks of the artist alley guys? The Webcomics guys? TV writers looking to moonlight?
JQ- They're coming from all over, Jim. Go to the conventions and you'll see them. There are some amazing talents out there just waiting to be discovered. You just have to hope that you have the wherewithal to spot them when you see them, and that you're lucky enough to get them before anyone else does. I think we do a great job at that. I'll gladly stack up Marvel's record as having the best talent scouting and career development system in comics. Look at our talent liaison department right now. I think it's the best in the history of the industry.
JM: Switching from new to established talent, do you think, in a general sense, certain creators get to pee wherever they want? I look at the All-Star Batman book DC is doing and think, "It's gibberish. There's no way they do that except for the fact that Frank Miller is Frank Miller in their minds, and they'll let him do what he wants." Does that phenomenon exist, or is it my imagination? More directly, does it exist at Marvel? Do you have different "rules" for, say, just to pick a name, Joss Whedon?
JQ- Of course that phenomenon exists at Marvel. It exists everywhere. There are just some talents that are 800 pound gorillas, and that's cool. These are the prime movers, the people that drive our business at the end of the day, and mind you, I don't see anything wrong with it. In most cases, these guys have earned that kind of respect to do their thing. A guy like Frank has a lot of credit in the bank. He's done some amazing things, especially at DC, so in my book, Frank gets to do what Frank gets to do. It's Frank, and it's going to sell like hotcakes. But as I said, this isn't just a DC thing. We do it at Marvel as well, and lets face it, in most of these cases, the creators knock it out of the park. Sure, sometimes they don't, but you run that risk with anyone. Where you mitigate your risk is by targeting the big name creator who puts asses in the seats AND has a track record of bringing their A-game all the time. Just to pick a name, yeah, I think Joss Whedon does that every time.
And let me add, in my experience, it's rare when the big-name guys don't deliver a home run. In the few cases where I've had to be straight up and tell a creator that their story or art was falling off the tracks, I have rarely encountered any sort of diva-ish behavior. It's almost always been collaborative and workable, especially if you give the creator sound reasoning, and don't dance around the issues. I've always found that when you just get to the point, people can smell that you're being honest and working towards the same goal as they are—which is to put out the best story possible.
Truth be told, while I have encountered the occasional diva in comics, creators like that typically don't last long at Marvel, or in the industry in general. Life is too short, and comics are supposed to be fun.
JM: So Red Auerbach was right when he used to say, "We have two sets of rules on the Celtics. One for Bill Russell, and one for everyone else"?
JQ- I wouldn't say there are two sets of rules, as we try very hard to keep the playing as field level as possible. But I'll admit that when we look to cast certain projects, we look very carefully at our lineup of creators. We look at the creators who have vested with us, who have been in the trenches and who have become part of this dysfunctional family. That has a lot to do with it. You just know who the people are that are team players, and that goes a very long way. I would be lying to you if I said that the big A-list creator doesn't get considered first when we start looking to cast the big universe-spanning stories. But is isn't always that guy who gets the job. Sometimes you'll see an up-and-comer—as he was at that time—like Greg Pak get a shot at something like World War Hulk. And Greg is a great guy, a great team player who really earned his shot. And he knocked it out of the park.
JM: Since we're on the subject of name creators, Final Crisis Grant Morrison recently said the following in Wizard as regards your upcoming summer event, Secret Invasion:
"We're going to kick their ass so hard. [Laughs] Marvel had its big year last year with Civil War, which was an amazing event and really changed the Marvel landscape. With Secret Invasion, we've seen the Skrull thing before. We've seen it in the Kree-Skrull War, again in series like the Fantastic Four. They're kind of resting this year. [Laughs] So if you're a Marvel fan, come over here. There's only one book to read this summer. It's simple."
What do you think about Grant's remarks?
JQ- In the immortal words of Roy Batty, "That's the spirit!"
I thought it was great because for the longest time I've been wondering if those guys across town had a pulse. [Laughs] Seriously, at least Grant is trying to stir it up and make some noise, which I think is very healthy for our industry. I love mixing it up with DC, so let's get in the trenches, let's get muddy, let's have some fun, and let's sell some books! Everyone wins!
That said, the one place where I would take exception to Grant's comments were when he tried to downplay Secret Invasion and it's importance simply because it's a story with Skrulls in it and we've seen Skrulls before. This kind of comment is a bit hard to swallow from a guy who's writing an event with the word "Crisis" in it—I kid, I kid!
We've seen DC's universes split and reunite before, haven't we? Do you think we might just see different versions of our DC favorite characters? Will there be a key life-and/or-death moment with the Flash? The answer is probably "yes" to all those questions. But I don't believe that Grant's Final Crisis will be redundant simply because it has the word "Crisis" in it and "promises to change everything." I give Grant a lot more credit than that, and expect that he'll blow everyone away and not give us something we've seen before, or at least take what's happened before and turn it totally on its ear to give us a new take on it. He also has the brilliant J.G. Jones doing the art, so it's going to look fantastic.
I'll give Grant a lot of credit in all that. I just wish he would have given [Secret Invasion writer and artist] Brian Bendis and Leinil Yu the same courtesy with his comments.
But that aside, I love the trash talk. It's been a bit quiet out there lately, so it's time to light up the boards and get things rolling again. Summer is almost here and fans and retailers are waiting to rock 'n' roll! And I'm back on Fridays!
And as a final personal addendum, let me add that I'm really looking forward to…what's it called? Crisis on Infi…? No, Infinite Cr--? Which one are we on now? Oh, yeah—Final Crisis! Seriously. And I hope it sells like hotcakes because it's never better than when Marvel and DC are going head-to-head with our A-games. Oh, and while I'm at it, while I know Grant thinks (wishes) we were taking the year off, I guess he hasn't seen the monthly sales figures over the last year and a half, has he? [Laughs]
So let the games begin.
JM: O-tay. As threatened, reader mail. We spent a lot of time on setup and into stuff for this first column, so we'll just take a couple questions here. More in weeks to come, I promise.
Being a graduate of the High School of Art and Design (founded as the School of Industrial Art in 1936), I'm aware of how many alumni from the school are in the comic book industry. Among the many are John Romita, Dick Giordano, Neal Adams, Joe Jusko, Denys Cowan, Mark Texeira and Joe Madureira, just to name a few.
I understand you studied at the School of Visual Arts, where you received your BFA in illustration. What high school did you attend? And what advice do you have for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
By the way, we missed you and are glad to see you're back!
Art and Design Alumni Association
JQ- Yvonne, how's it going! I went to Newtown High School in Queens, New York, home of such fabled graduates as Don Rickles, Carroll O'Connor, Gene Simmons and Omar Minaya to name a few. The single most important piece of advice I would give any artist is to simply draw and learn your craft. To me, it's really quite simple. If you want to be a professional baseball player, you'd practice for several hours every day, hitting the batting cages and weight room, and working on the specialized skills that it takes to become a professional ballplayer. It's no different becoming a professional artist, and there's no substitute for getting in the work in that will become the base for all you do in the future. I could give you more specifics and direct you to certain books and classes, but at the end of the day, there's no thing more important than just drawing as much as possible. See the ball, draw the ball.
Phillip and Valerie write:
So now that Thor is bigger and badder than before when you powered him down and punked him out, when will we see a Thor vs. Hulk battle again?
Posted by Phillip & Valerie
JQ- Hey, Phillip and Valerie. We might someday see this fight come to fruition…but not before depower Hulk and punk him out.
Should I grow back my hair?
Posted by BENDIS!
JQ- Oh please, for the love of god, YES!!!! Nothing would give me greater joy, laughter, and blackmail material than to see you with hair. I know there are a few scattered shots of you with hair on the 'net, but if there's anyone out there, ANYONE, with pictures of a Bendis with hair that we HAVEN'T seen before, send them to me. I'll send you some autographed stuff! Promise!
What can you tell us about the project named "1603," which Richard Isanove spoke about on his blog? Is it different than "1602: The Web Complete" by Jeff Parker?
JQ- Softverre, I'll be honest with you, I have no idea what you're talking about.
JM: Guess you'll have to write back next week!
That's all for this week folks. We'll be back next Friday with exclusive art, answers to more of your questions and a few surprises too!
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