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 questions every week!
JM: So your January solicits were just released, and you've got a whopping 98 books. Now granted, a couple are "easy," such as a Secret Invasion Poster Book, but…that's a lotta product! When you started as Marvel's editor in chief, Marvel was doing maybe 60-odd books a month. Has the ramp-up been conscious? Or has it just grown by little tack-on by tack-on?
Don't forget, on top of those 98 titles, we also have a boatload of collected editions today which we didn't have back then. It's certainly been a conscious effort, because as the business improved, title count naturally increased. With sales increasing and the overall economics of comics improving over the years, it's given us the ability to launch many more titles, and it has also allowed us to support titles that eight-plus years ago, we wouldn't have been able to keep afloat due to low circulation. We've also been able to branch out of the superhero genre, which, if you look at the solicits from back in 2000…well, I'm not sure, I bet we weren't doing a single comic that wasn't about a superhero.
JM: One example of that would be the Marvel Illustrated line, which obviously doesn't set the woods on fire in comic stores, but may be important in other markets to you. What is the raison d'etre, such as it is, for Marvel Illustrated? What's its mission statement?
Its mission statement is to be a type of comic that, either through tone or genre, reaches out to readers that we may not previously have had access to. More and more these days, comics are being accepted by schools as a good thing, and in many cases used as a reading tool. So, what better way to tap into that than by creating a product that can be used for both?
JM: One thing that springs to mind when you see solicits with all their shiny new listings and accompanying price tags is…those price tags. The world economy has been taking a beating over the last several months—or longer. How do you think comics weather the storm?
Honestly…I don't know. There's an old adage that has circulated around the comics industry for many years that I've heard from many creators and editors that comics do their best during economic hard times. I'll be honest with you: I have no empirical evidence that that is indeed true. I certainly hope so, but your guess is as good as mine. I've heard a lot of old adages about comics that weren't even close to being true, some of which I've helped disprove myself. The one thing that I know about comics is that our fan base is ravenous. and they'll do whatever they can to get their fix. But who knows how bad our economy will actually get? That's the great unknown.
JM: Many smaller publishers have already moved off a standard $2.99 cover price into $3.50 or $3.99. Marvel and DC seem to be holding the line pretty well at $2.99. How inevitable is the bump up, and the death of the $2.99 comic? I know the standard answer is always "we hold the line as long as we can," but what kind of thought process goes into making cover price determinations? How much are you involved on an editorial end? Or is it solely a business/sales concern?
I think it's safe to say that the rising costs of everything everywhere
are forcing us to evaluate pricing on a series-by-series basis. There are many things that go into the pricing of the book, but the ultimate driving force is cost. This can come from many places, from the physical material of the comic, to the shipping and distribution, to the price of talent on a book.
JM: Right now, it seems like pretty much all your limited series—MARVEL ZOMBIES 3, BIG HERO 6, the Noir books—are at $3.99. Is this a planned "hedge" against a general price increase? Maybe you make a couple extra nickels here and can stave off bumping up AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and the like?
Let me leave it at this, Jim: We're doing everything we can to insure that the largest number of customers and retailers can continue to get a large majority of Marvel Comics at the standard $2.99 price.
JM: Speaking of January solicits themselves, there's a new PUNISHER series. The movie tie-in is an obvious prompt, but what else makes you want to start this new book?
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In 2009, the Marvel Universe is going to become a very, very scary place. It will be the type of place that's begging for a guy like Frank Castle. With PUNISHER #1, we're throwing Frank Castle right into center ring, hunting Big Game like only he can. It all starts with him standing on the edge of the Jersey shore with a Skrull rifle, his sights trained on the head of a major Marvel Universe player. You'll have to wait and see who he's aiming at, but suffice it to say, not since Civil War has Frank Castle been so affected by the ripple effects of the Marvel Universe—and never has it more needed his unique brand of justice. What's the old saying? "One man with one bullet, in the right place, at the right time, can change the world?" Well, just imagine what Frank can do with a million bullets.
JM: DARK AVENGERS #1 also hits in January. I know 99.44% of this is predicated on the end of Secret Invasion, so it's largely under wraps. But what can you say about this book? Other than "it's dark"?
How about if I answer that question with a question: who is the Iron Patriot?
JM: And no BLACK PANTHER in January? What gives? I love that book!
Who is the
Well, unless you've been hiding under a rock, which I know you're prone to do from time to time, Jim, a new BLACK PANTHER #1 launches in February. It's written by Reggie Hudlin, who's been doing the existing PANTHER series for the past several years, with art by Ken Lashley. It spins directly out of the events of Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, and introduces the new female
Black Panther. While I can't reveal who's under the mask, let's just say that these issues are going to fly like the wind off of retailer's shelves!
JM: On a final economic note, it looks like you guys may have achieved something that's never been done since the advent of the direct market, at least as near as I can tell—you achieved 50% market share for the month of September.
Oh, that little thing?
JM: Is this a natural occurrence, or does this have something to do with that deal that you brokered with Mephisto?
While Mephisto had something
to do with it, I can assure you that nothing has changed in our current timeline except for the fact that my ousting Paul Levitz and becoming head of DC has now NEVER happened.
JM: Okay. Anything else you want to brag on before we bolt?
Yeah, I'd like to let everyone know about a very cool Michael Turner tribute comic that's being released by our great pals at Aspen. The book will be 80 pages with a cover penciled by Michael and colored by Alex Ross. It will include both words of remembrance and beautiful pieces of art as tribute. The book includes a large collection of writers and artists including Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell, Gary Frank, Marc Silvestri, Jeph Loeb, Joe Madureira and many more, as well as a foreword by Michael's mother, Grace Crick, and special tributes from the Aspen Comics staff. The book will be available in stores on November 5, so don't miss out. Speaking of which, here's the piece I did.
JM: Looking forward to it. And on that note, we are on to reader questioning…
Do you know if Marvel has any plans for another ChesterQuest, or any event or contest that might lead to a penciling job at The House of Ideas? I have no means to get to conventions to show sample pages, so help me out here, Joe!
the Michael Turner
Jason, here's the best news in the world for you: You don't have to go to a convention to have your worked looked at by Marvel. Today we live in this new-fangled digital world, in which we're all connected instantaneously. What I find that a lot of young artists are doing is simply sending in their work digitally, via e-mail or by posting it on websites such as Deviantart.com. You would be surprised at how many incredibly talented people we've discovered this way. But on the matter of ChesterQuest, it just so happens that C.B. Cebulski—whose actual name is "Chester," pass it on!—is sitting right outside my office door. Why don't we ask him?
While the original ChesterQuest was quite a success, with over 20 artists who submitted their artwork now drawing comics here at Marvel, I'm not planning a follow-up talent search just yet. However, I will be making stops at the Dublin City Comic Con and Thought Bubble convention in Leeds, England this November, and hitting up Comiket in Tokyo in December to look for artists in those countries. We'll have to wait and see what 2009 holds!
Mr. Phillips sez:
I am a comic lover who is currently student teaching. I recently picked up the first two issues of X-MEN: MAGNETO TESTAMENT and was absolutely floored. I have not cried so much while reading a comic since the excellent 9/11 tribute, MOMENT OF SILENCE. Given the quality and relative accuracy of this story, I think that X-MEN: MAGNETO TESTAMENT would be a wonderful educational text. Are there any plans to put this out in an educationally annotated edition specifically for school use? Given that the ending is still a bit off, could Marvel make plans to do this? I think that the students of many generations could benefit by seeing the Holocaust in such a light. One of my favorite sayings as a teacher is "interest transcends ability." I would love to see kids hooked with this one.
Thanks for the great work.
Mr. Phillips, while there are no current plans, this is a great idea and we feel the same way about the story. Thanks for this great suggestion, and we'll look into doing an annotated edition and see if it's possible.
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HxC Scarecrow (spider) asks:
I have a business composition paper to write based on comic book store advertisements. What is the best promotion you've seen a comic store use?
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Scarecrow, one store that has recently been doing some amazing, off-the-wall promotion is A Comic Shop out of Orlando Florida. These guys are brilliant. Check out their website
and take a look. Currently they're getting ready for the Zombie Dance Party, but over the last couple of years they've done some wacky stuff like picketing along the side of the roadway with employees and fans dressed as superheroes protesting superhero registration, and most recently they've protested the Skrull
invasion on planet earth. Another store to note is Atomic Comics
. The folks at Atomic do a brilliant job cross-promoting when major movie releases are out, and they send out what is without a doubt the best and funniest e-mailer in the business. And over here on my side of the world, Midtown Comics is arguably the best store in the country and does a tremendous job promoting and marketing book signings, such as our Stephen King midnight book events.
Dead On Arrival asks:
As a comic fan, whenever a hero or villain gets a new costume or similar visual upgrade, I love it! My question is: What goes into creating a new costume for the characters? With the recent redesign of the X-costumes, Captain America, and even the Scorpion and Venom in Amazing Spider-Man, can we expect any other visual changes? Maybe even a Spidey update? I loved the Scarlet Spider. And is there a dark closet somewhere with a filing cabinet that houses all the failed character designs?
DOA, new costumes and costume redesign requires a unique skill set. Some creators do it better than others. Exactly what goes into designing them changes from project to project and story to story, and the motivation for a redesign can vary as well. Redesigns can happen because a story calls for it and it's part of a character's story arc, or a character can be reinterpreted in order to bring renewed interest and spike sales on a title. Sometimes it can come from a creator who simply has a fresh new take, and convinces their editor to let them take a shot at it. What I find interesting is how these days, costumes have taken on a more real-world sensibility and functionality.
Can you expect any new visual representations of some of your favorites? Oh, you better believe it. There's some crazy stuff coming up next year that you're not going to want to miss.
Lord Celsius says:
Joe, thanks for that crazy Jonathan Hickman flow chart from SECRET WARRIORS in last week's MyCup! It's awesome! I've gone over with a fine-tooth comb and am going nuts trying to figure it all out. Is SECRET WARRIROS going to feel like a good old-fashioned spy book? And any chance we can get a hint on what all those "events" are from the chart you showed us? Or maybe what the rings in the chart mean?
Why don't we ask Jonathan?
Glad you're excited…And YES! One of the first things writer Brian Bendis and I agreed on is that SECRET WARRIORS should be a superhero spy book. As for the information released last week, you'll have to hang on to find out what most of that means, but I would be careful not to get too
invested in everything you see on those charts. Some of it may be true, some of it may be false. It's a spy book, right? Why in the world would you trust us?
And how about this. Here's another page from the extensive SECRET WARRIORS bible that Jonathan wrote up that gives you a sense of the series.
What's with no Ultimate Spider-Man on the ULTIMATUM covers? Is he going to be missing from the book?
He dies and we cancel the book.
But, y'all knew that already, right?
Is there any chance that Bryan Hitch will be the artist when Mark Millar's ULTIMATE AVENGERS comes out next year?
No, Bryan is still hard at work on FANTASTIC FOUR, so I don't believe the timing will work out. Also, we already have an artist assigned, so stay tuned and hold on to your seat for the announcement—it's going to be a good one.
Bernard Murnane asks:
Can we get some yummy nuggets of info on writer Dan Slott's MIGHTY AVENGERS?
How about the plot to the first page!
MIGHTY AVENGERS #21
"Earth's Mightiest Part 1 of 3"
"The Smartest Man in the Room"
Plot for 32pgs.
We open on a "worm's eye view" of the FOUNDERS STATUE outside of AVENGERS MANSION (see ref). We don't need to see the mansion in this panel because we're going to pull back to a proper establishing shot in Panel Two.
For the purpose of this shot, we don't even get a full view of the FOUNDERS STATUE. HULK, IRON MAN, CAP, and THOR should be cropped so that only parts of them are in frame. The FOCUS of the panel is firmly on the GIANT MAN part of the statue, heroically pointing forward, with a tiny statue of the WASP poised on his finger.
In the sky above, dark clouds are brewing. And through a gap in the sky we can see a small, green figure flying through the air, with a large yellow cape unfurled behind them. (This is VISION from the YOUNG AVENGERS, but he's too far away to make out.)
We pull back to see a proper shot of the FOUNDERS STATUE, with the wrecked AVENGERS MANSION behind it. There are other statues of AVENGERS as well (please, no statues of JACK OF HEARTS or any version of ANT-MAN)-but none of them are nearly as large or prominently placed as the FOUNDERS STATUE.
THE VISION comes in for a landing feet first, his yellow cape flapping behind him. On his shoulder is a shrunk-down STATURE (a.k.a. CASSIE LANG, the VISION'S girlfriend and fellow YOUNG AVENGER).
The VISION and CASSIE are having a conversation that quickly fills us in on a few things…They're here because WICCAN called for an emergency meeting of the YOUNG AVENGERS. He's detected a major magical threat-on a global level.
CASSIE isn't too sure about any of this. WICCAN is relatively new to his powers.
VISION points out that with DOCTOR STRANGE missing, WICCAN is now one of Earth's most powerful magic users. They shouldn't take this lightly.
As CASSIE jumps off of VISION'S shoulder and grows back to her normal height, the VISION says that he's getting a bad feeling-as far as android feelings go. His communications systems are acting up-and his WiFi is down.
This amuses CASSIE. She never thought of VISION as having WiFi capabilities. But it only makes sense. After all, iPhones have it, and
VIZH is wayyyy bigger than an iPhone.
"Say," she asks him, "do you have an MP3 player in there too?"
The VISION admits that-yes, he HAS a built-in MP3 player. CASSIE raises an eyebrow and playfully asks him what music he has downloaded inside him.
As the VISION lists some bands, CASSIE says that those are all of HER
"Of course," the VISION tells her, "that's why they're in there."
The two of them are obviously in love. Silent panel as CASSIE does that cute thing that girls do when they slightly bite down on their lower lip and try not to smile. (Khoi, this should be one of those isn't-Kitty-Pryde-adorable-and-don't-we-just-love-her moments.)
In [Jobs] We Trust says:
I don't know if you know, but there's a site dedicated to the Sentry's demise. Well, I'm a Sentry fan, and I see the subtleties that make the Sentry such an awesome and compelling character. The new Sentry series, while a lot of fun, isn't the powerhouse, ass-kicking fest that it could be. Surely there has to be something more planned for him. Anything?
Jobs, I think I can say unequivocally that yes, we have some very big things planned for the Sentry and they do involve a lot of powerhouse ass-kicking.
And who says AGE OF THE SENTRY
isn't ass-kicking already? Why, just last week it was called "The new apex of the art form, to which all others must be compared and, almost inevitably, fall short."
I'm wondering when the writers of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN are going to address some of the events of the Clone Saga and how they pertain to Spidey as he is now post "One More Day." In particular, was Mary Jane ever pregnant? I know that "everything that happened before still happened, they just weren't married." But I'm not sure if this bit would be changed, as that would imply Peter having premarital sex, and a potential child to be born out of wedlock. This was a very important event in Peter and Mary Jane's lives.
THE AGE OF
THE SENTRY #1
THE AGE OF
THE SENTRY #2
Well, Chris, for the first part of your question, I think it's worth mentioning that we'll be seeing Ben Reilly in X-MEN/SPIDER-MAN #3. See? We haven't forgotten about him. As for your other question. Let me send this over to Tom Brevoort simply because I love seeing his head explode. Be warned, he kind of bites.
Arrgh! I just did seven days' worth of answering Spidey-related questions over on my Marvel.com blog, and still they come!
Chris, going forward, we're going to be dealing with Mary Jane's pregnancy exactly as much and as often as we have for the ten years or so of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issues before "One More Day!"
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