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! To get in on the fun, post your questions at the bottom of this page!
JM: Okay, it's two freakin' weeks after the New York Comic Con, and I'm scarcely recovered. I think you are scarcely recovered. I've never had a post-convention case of the "fan funk" this bad. You?
I don't know, man. But it was definitely pretty bad. It wasn't just me, I think we had about a dozen people in the office who got the funk, the Fan Flu, the Convention Crud, call it what you will. The "Convention Croup," maybe. That's the best way to describe it.
JM: Very 19th century of you. What's next? Whooping cough?
Actually, it's more like International Comic SARS. So much of our talent that came in from the West Coast and Europe brought it back home with 'em as well. So we're affecting other continents, other countries. "Viral marketing" at its best. Or worst.
JM: What can be done, man? It seems like it's getting worse! You shake a million hands at these things, you pick something up. It seems inevitable. Remember those high school chemistry class emergency showers? Maybe we fill those with Purel, and you can douse yourself with 20 gallons.
I think creators are going to have to wrap themselves in polyurethane. It's the only way. But…it's just what happens when you come into contact with that many human beings in one place in such a short period of time, and especially with people coming in from all parts of the world. You get sick. Take your vitamin C, I guess. Wash your hands.
JM: Last year, after the New York Comic Con, you called it "the blog con." Suddenly everyone had a blog. What was the trend you spotted this year?
Last year, it seemed like everybody and their mother had a new blog. There seemed less of that this year. It seemed most of the interview requests I got were from the major comics news outlets. This year…it seems like our culture has become so much more instantaneous. There's so much Twittering going on, and people writing about panels as they happen. It was the lack-of-eye-contact con. It was odd, almost surreal, to be in a big panel room with maybe 1000 or more people, and it seemed like half of them had their heads down, on their phones or in their laptops. They were live blogging, Twittering, and so on. Seriously, it was hard to make eye contact with people!
JM: Just a little fan service here: If Joe BlogBoy wants runs in to you at a convention or similar venue and wants to do an interview or somesuch, should they just approach you there? Or do they need to go through a Marvel PR channel?
If it's a quick question and I can give a quick answer, it's usually not a problem at all. If it's any extended interview or anything, because my time is always so rigidly scheduled at these things, they're better off putting in a request with one of the Marvel press guys. It's usually hard to do, 'cause I'm usually booked solid at these things, but that would be the proper way to do it. Talk to the press guys at the booth. But a quick question, that's usually never a problem.
JM: Ever on the cutting edge and forward-looking, Marvel just reached 200 years into the past to do an Abraham Lincoln comic via Digital Comics Unlimited. Now everything presidential seems to be big bank these days, but why'd you choose to use the Web to publish this instead of a traditional print comic?
This story was a direct reaction to the buzz generated around Amazing Spider-Man #583 showed us that folks were not only excited about Obama but they were also excited and interested in the office of the Presidency. So we sat around to discuss what we could do around President's Day because we felt it we could generate a great deal of traffic for Marvel.com. I believe Steve Wacker mentioned it was Lincoln's 200th B-Day so we said let's put something together that would bring some fun attention to Honest Abe.
JM: Is the story going to see light of day in print as well?
I imagine so….not sure when yet.
JM: Now you said something interesting the other day that popped up in a panel about the "ghettoizing" of comics…
Right. And it's really caused me to think a little bit. And I think it caused the audience to scratch their heads and put some thought into it as well. The question that was posed by a fan at a panel was about the price of comics, and what goes into the thinking behind pricing and how we wind up with a cover price. It wasn't an angry question at all. It was more of a "thought process" question and what goes into these decisions. While it's understandable why these questions are coming up now people have been asking this since comics went from 10 cents to 12 cents.
We discussed many of the obvious reasons why comics cost what they do today. You know, the nuts and bolts expenditures of hard costs. And as we were going over it I brought up the idea that one of the things that while comics for so many years lived with this perception by the mainstream that we were nothing but a children's medium and dumbed down literature, we as an industry, internally ghettoize ourselves with this nostalgic belief that, "Oh, they used to cost 10 cents. They used to cost 25 cents. That's what they should cost." That somehow we are a cheap and in many cases, not very valued commodity. Quite frankly, I don't want to believe that or think that way. Yet we cling to it and in today's modern world, it sets up what could be unreasonable expectations. So, is it possible that as a whole comic's really are underpriced ?
Now, before anyone jumps out of their chair, I am in no way saying that they should be priced higher, this is me merely posing a question and trying to look at it analytically sans my own nostalgic feelings about the whole thing.
Seriously, we work very hard, every day to keep the price of comics where they are. And by asking this question, all I'm trying to do is to highlight how hard we do work and what we have to go through—and that's Marvel, or DC, or Image or anyone—to keep the prices as low as they are.
Lets just look at it from the penciller's point of view. The sheer man hours. Don't even think about an editor, an inker, a colorist, a writer, any of those other essential people for now. Just a penciler. Think about the hours he or she puts in per day, just to do a single page—they're all highly skilled professionals, and the work and the thought process that goes in—just think about that. It can easily be 10, 12, maybe 14 hours a day just to complete one page, that people hopefully will love. ONE page. Not a 22-page book, just one page. Now start multiplying that by the 22 pages and the hours and the days. Now multiply that by the writer, inker, colorist, on down the line. And add on to that the editorial man-hours, production staff, marketing people and materials that go into it. And you have to start thinking about just how much value there is within a single comic. Quite personally, I think we (ecery publisher) give a tremendous value and bang for the buck, but living against the specter of 10 cents an issue makes it very hard to get that feeling across.
Lets also look at it from another point of view. There are many more things pulling at our incredibly skilled talent pool these days than ever before. Today, comic talents have many more places where they can earn a living, and sometimes a better one, than in comics. You take any artist who sits in his room for 10, 12, 14 hours a day to do one page and ask him, "Hey, do you think those 22 pages, that month of your life, do you think $2.99 to $3.99 is a fair price for your artwork?" They'd probably have to really think about it for a bit, especially when they know they could probably get more in other industries. For so many of them, they do this because they love it. But for us, we have to compete and do whatever it is that we have to do to keep our great talents right here in this industry.
JM: I know what you mean. We both know many artists who can take six months doing design work for some movie or a video game and get paid significantly more than they would in comics.
Right. And yet we in comics continue to ghettoize ourselves, and those industries don't. I don't think anyone in the video game industry sits there and waxes nostalgic about when video games were $19.95. Look, as a consumer myself, I'd love it if somehow comics cost 25 cents. Love it. But that's not going to happen anymore, especially with the production costs, the better paper, the amazing coloring we do today. You can't argue that comics today look far superior than they did when they were 25 cents. It's just not realistic in 2009. It's like going to a $100 million-budgeted movie with all amazing special effects and wondering why movie tickets don't cost two bucks anymore? And while some would like to argue that we should print on cheaper paper and use cheaper coloring, it doesn't wash, because the minute we do that, we'll notice a significant decline in readership and interest in comics. Lets be real, your video games are not Pong anymore either You can't move backwards. And realistically, nobody, truly, wants to move backwards. Sure, I bet Hollywood could go back to doing nothing but black and white non special effects movies, but lets see where that gets us. Like anything, in our hearts, we want to see comics look as great and spectacular as they can, but to do that, we have to remain competitive not just with other comic companies, but with other mediums and in this changing world, everything is costing more. Just ask your local retailer who has to wrestle with their rent or the possibility that their rent will be going up.
JM: And, I think if there's one thing that's borne out in American culture in the last decade, it's that people want higher production values. To be frank, American Idol is just kind of a souped-up karaoke bar. But it's on a really shiny stage.
Good point. Seriously, we struggle every day with fixed costs like ink and paper, our editorial man-hours, creative costs, the whole gamut. And I think it's also important for folks to remember that on a $2.99 or $3.99 cover price, it's not like any publisher is just pocketing all that money. There are the costs I just mentioned, plus our retail partners get their share, the distributors, everyone.
JM: Just blue skies, man, perfect world—and I know you work for a publishing company—what SHOULD a new comic book cost, assuming standard 32-page, 22-story page format, and the paper, print, and production readers are accustomed to seeing these days?
I think we are priced accordingly and if I'm really honest, I think comics, based upon the value we give, are an incredible bargain, and that's because we have worked very, very hard to keep it that way. So, all in all, I think we're in line with where we need to be. But also, lets be very clear, there's a lot of misinformation out there. The first thing everyone thought was that every single book in our line was going to $3.99. Not true. It's only four of our main titles. Most Marvel mainline titles are still at $2.99, very reasonably priced, pretty much across the line.
But the thing I keep coming back to, and what really, really drove it home for me, was talking to a friend of mine who doesn't work in comics. He's from a business background, not from the comics world at all, but still a creative person. And I was showing him one of our comics. He was flipping through a "modern comic book" for the very first time, and noting the production values, the quality of the art. And when he was done paging through it, he turned to me and said, "You're only charging $3.99 for this? How are you able to do this? How are you able to keep the price so low with the quality so high?" It was very interesting to me to see that from the perspective of the uninitiated. He actually thought it should cost more.
And yeah, as a consumer myself, and especially in these economic times, I get it. I absolutely see how fans can get upset at a price increase. I totally relate. It makes perfect sense. I just want everyone to know we don't put anything out there at any price without a great deal of thinking going into it. I am not advocating for higher prices in any way, shape, or form, we held the $2.99 cover price for several years. What I'm saying is that we do work very hard to keep the prices where they are and to keep the top talent here at Marvel and in comics. We could just let these people move to other industries but then where would we all be. You said it yourself—some of these guys could easily be making two or three times what they make in comics by working elsewhere.
Again, it was a great question by a fan, and a great discussion we had about it. I'm glad we get to share part of it here.
JM: Nice discourse. Anything else before we break?
Yeah, just off the top of my head, I want to direct everyone to Marvel.com and http://marvel.com/news/comicstories.6766
to see the little bit of MODOK animation we did. It's a precursor to more video content we'll be doing under the heading of "What The--?" bringing the old What The--? Comic into our Web world.
We're looking at the possibility that this program will be growing more and more, and by next year, we'll have a significant amount of video programming on our site, most of it home-grown by our own guys.
JM: Good news: Through the miracle of email, the fan questions are sanitized for your protection. Let's hit 'em.
Sweet, I can take off my rubber suit now!
Hi Joe! I love your artwork and can never seem to get enough of it. I read, perhaps in the "One More Day" sketchbook, that you use computer software to render some of the backgrounds in your work. Is this true, and if so, and what programs do you use?
Yeah, on occasion, I use a 3D program called Sketchup, which can be downloaded for free at sketchup.google.com. You can download it now, and start playing around with it immediately. It's a remarkable tool, because it seems like most 3D programs require a degree in engineering to understand and operate, but this one is very, very user-friendly. I think their motto is "3D for everyone," and it's true. It's easy to grasp and start using right away.
And one of the additional cool things is that if you don't want to build your own models, there's a "Google 3D Warehouse," which is best described as fan art or fan fiction for 3D. People will build 3D models and put them on the Warehouse, again for free, and you can download them and start customizing for your needs.
But like with every good tool, using Sketchup is a matter of knowing how and when to use it, and knowing how to appropriately incorporate into your art. I've used it on occasion, and it's worked well for me.
Did you see the new footage of the Wolverine: Origins film that was released last week? What did you think of it? Are you involved with the movie like you were on the Iron Man film and the upcoming Thor movie?
No, I'm not involved in Wolverine at all. That's a 20th Century Fox film, not one of the Marvel-slated films. I've seen the recent trailer, and it looks good. It looks kind of like they're using bits and pieces of Wolverine: Origin that we did back in the day. But beyond that, I have no idea what's in the movie. It looks great from what I've seen, but after that, I'm just like you—I'm a fan, and I know just as much as any other fan does.
I have the perfect book for you guys to publish! Joe Kelly writes and Reilly Brown draws a six-issue Deadpool mini. Marvel will make millions!
Great idea, Ever. Millions sounds great. Problem is, Joe Kelly and Reilly Brown don't even get out of bed for less than a kazillion dollars, but still…not a bad idea!
That said, a lot of folks seem to be enjoying the work of writer Daniel Way and artist Paco Medina on the monthly Deadpool series. And keep your eyes peeled for two stories by Mike Benson: "Game$ of Death" (in the Deadpool Annual in March) and Deadpool: Suicide Kings (a limited series launching in May).
What is going on with Runaways? I know writer Terry Moore leaves at #9, so who is the next creative team after them? Any hints you could give us?
You'll be hearing a lot more about this VERY soon. We've got some awesome things lined up.
The Mighty Mutt asks:
What will be the difference between writer Mark Millar's Ultimate Avengers, and writer Jeph Loeb's New Ultimates?
As this is probably best answered by the writers in their own words, hey—let's ask 'em!
Mark Millar says:
"New Ultimates is to Ultimate Avengers what Marvel Universe Avengers was to Civil War and Secret Invasion. It's one of the books we'll be drawing characters from to tell these big, world-spanning events in the Ultimate Universe. Nick Fury is no longer leader of The Ultimates, but he IS the leader of Project Avengers where big, covert teams are assembled for big, secret missions. The first story is centered around Ultimate Cap, but these events can be about anyone."
Jeph Loeb says:
"New Ultimates comes in the aftermath of Ultimatum. Just as New Avengers rose out of "Avengers Disassembled," the New Ultimates team is the public face to Mark's covert ops. We can't yet reveal who is on the team because some of the original Ultimates may or may not make it out of Ultimatum, but they still will be the mightiest kick-ass group in the Ultimate U. They'll have a new leader and a new base of operations, all of which will both hamper and help their rebirth. Their first adventure begins with an all-out war with Asgard as Loki takes his revenge now that Thor is…well, that would be telling. All this and Frank Cho doing spectacular artwork on the first volume."
Will Micromax appear in Captain Britain and MI:13? Thanks in advance.
He can get pretty small, Steven, so who says he hasn't been in the book already?
1) I've enjoyed "New Ways to Die," and Joe Kelly's Hammerhead story in Amazing Spider-Man. But writer Zeb Wells' issues seem to be my favorites. Zeb seems to really understands Spidey. I know Zeb is too busy with Robot Chicken to be a regular Spider-Man writer, but can we have him do some more single issue Spidey stories?
2) Mark Millar said in an interview a year ago that he had an idea for a Blade story. Any chance of putting Millar and John Romita Jr. on a Blade book once Kick-Ass finishes?
1) Zeb is never too far from Spidey's world. He just couldn't commit to anything too regular due to his TV work. He has plenty of work coming up in the Spidey neck of the woods, including the recently announced Dark Reign: Anti-Venom mini-series. He's also coming to the next Spidey retreat, so he's bound to continue to be a part of the Spidey plans.
2) I hope not.
Is it just me, or does the girl that Cable is protecting look a lot like Jean Grey? I mean, if she's coming back, this is a hell of a way to be reborn.
Wait a second, WHAT?!? You're right! She DOES have red hair and green eyes. Who knew?
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