Marvel Comics editor-in-chief and Big Apple Comic-Con guest of honor Joe Quesada hosted his very own question-and-answer panel at the New York City-based convention this past weekend, with Wizard Magazine’s managing editor Casey Seijas assisting the discussion.
“I love doing these Q&A’s,” Quesada said at the panel’s outset. “This is your time to ask questions about what it’s like working at Marvel and what it’s like to be editor-in-chief–all that sort of stuff. This is as good a time as you guys make it.”
Given the vast amount of con-goers in attendance at the panel, a good time was all but a certainty. But the first fan question, which dealt with the subject of Disney’s pending purchase of Marvel Entertainment, unfortunately required a firm “no comment.” Quesada took the opportunity to say that while he couldn’t discuss any aspects of the possible merger, interested fans should check out the recent Cup O’ Joe column where he discussed the Disney deal in as much detail as legally possible.
The next string of questions touched on another topic that Quesada couldn’t speak to, but not for any particular legal reasons. A fan wanted to know if Quesada could give an update on “Spider-Man 4,” but as Sony and not Marvel Studios handles that film franchise, Quesada had no insight to share except for a show of support: “I’m the biggest Sam Raimi fan in the world, so I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll be damn good.”
Sticking with Hollywood, Quesada offered a brief update on “The First Avenger: Captain America,” with which he’s had some involvement. “I’ve seen a couple of outlines and an initial screenplay, and it’s going to rock everyone’s socks off,” he said. “It’s very unexpected, the kind of movie it is.” Quesada added that “Captain America” sets up “The Avengers” in “a fantastic way” and also mentioned that there is an undisclosed wish list of actors to play the star-spangled superhero.
In a similar realm to film, a fan wanted to learn more about Quesada’s thoughts on Marvel’s non-comic book projects, such as the recently launched “Super Hero Squad” television series. Quesada pointed to his eight-year-old daughter as an example of a younger audience latching onto cartoons and age-appropriate books as a gateway into Marvel’s main comic book universe. “I think [that approach to attaining new comics readers] will increase the more that Marvel gets into the mainstream,” he said.
Finally delving into the actual comics themselves, a fan wanted to know why Marvel seems to continually reinvent Doctor Strange, using as an example his recent loss of the Sorcerer Supreme moniker. “The honest answer is that Doctor Strange is one of a small handful of characters that whenever you see them guest star, you go, ‘Oh! Doctor Strange! I wish he had his own series,'” Quesada answered. “Then we launch a series, and nobody buys it.”
Marvel’s current plan for Stephen Strange–aside from the upcoming “Strange” miniseries by Mark Waid and Emma Rios–is to re-spin the character in a way that would eventually support an ongoing series. Quesada argued that Marvel still hasn’t figured out the perfect recipe for the former Master of the Mystic Arts. Still, he suggested, Iron Man’s current success is proof that a lesser-known character could eventually become a household name, which should provide some hope that Doctor Strange will eventually attain A-list status.
Asked to elaborate on the upcoming “DoomWars” event, Quesada said: “They’re coming. That’s about it.”
A young fan wanted to know why Deadpool is suddenly so prominent in Marvel Comics. “People want to read about him,” Quesada said. “He’s incredibly popular right now. Deadpool is going through a renaissance!”
Another audience member wanted to know if Marvel would pursue any future manga projects, but Quesada said that traditional manga readers haven’t fully embraced manga versions of the Marvel characters. He mentioned the upcoming “Iron Man” and “Wolverine” anime features written by Warren Ellis as something that manga and anime fans should enjoy.
Back on the subject of film, Quesada was asked if some Marvel characters work better on film than others. He used Blade as an example of a character that works very well on film but not as well in comic books. The same fan asked Quesada if he believed that continuity could truly be established from film to film, prompting the editor-in-chief to identify Marvel Studios’ current lead-up to “The Avengers” as proof that it’s possible. “It won’t be the same exact continuity from the comics, but it’ll feel very much like the Marvel continuity,” he said.
Regarding motion comic books, Quesada said he felt very proud of the success of “Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D.” and the upcoming “Astonishing X-Men” motion comic. He informed audience members that there would be a special screening of “Astonishing X-Men” in New York City’s Union Square on October 28, 2009. As far as future motion comics go, Quesada said they already have an idea for a couple of other projects.
Quesada was asked to describe the difference between Marvel Comics and rival publishers. “The way we differentiate ourselves is by not sucking,” he said to laughter. On a serious note, he suggested that Marvel’s greatest triumph over other companies lies in the publisher’s relationship with the fan community. “We consider our fans part of the universe and we’re constantly communicating with you guys,” he said.
A fan wondered if Marvel would ever consider applying “The Amazing Spider-Man’s” thrice-monthly publishing schedule to other books. “The only other ones it might work with are X-Men and the Avengers,” he said, “just because there are so many characters involved and so many stories to be told.”
A hypothetical battle royal was posed to Quesada: if all of the superheroes and villains of the Marvel Universe fought each other at the same exact time, who would win the battle? “The fans would win,” he answered.
Asked why Marvel decided to renumber certain comic books such as “Daredevil” with issue #500, Quesada joked: “We’re whores, quite frankly.” He said that Marvel decided it would be cool to change the numbering as certain titles approached major legacy issues.
An audience member asked Quesada what he thought was the next major revolution in comic book storytelling following the introduction of motion comics. “I think so much of that is going to depend on technology,” he said. “If [Apple] announces a Mac tablet, that’s a game changer for a lot of publishers and people. You’ve got to start thinking about those things.”
Quesada was asked about Marvel’s process in creating iconic characters like Spider-Man. The editor-in-chief suggested that Spider-Man’s success lies in the fact that his stories aren’t about Spider-Man the superhero, but Peter Parker the man. Relating it to the upcoming “Thor” film, Quesada said that the film isn’t about Thor’s hammer or costume, it’s about nailing the human aspect of the character.
In terms of the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe coming earthbound, Quesada said there were no such plans in the immediate future. “We’re maybe a year or year and a half before we can even consider it,” he said, due to Marvel’s immediate plans for 2010.
A fan wondered if Marvel was planning on creating any more minority heroes to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Spider-Man and other iconic characters. Quesada said that in his experience, the best way to create such a character is to just let them be created, rather than specifically trying to come up with an ethnically diverse hero. He pointed to Araña as an ideal example of a Hispanic character that was devised without the express purpose of creating a Hispanic superhero. Quesada said: “If we do this stuff organically, the characters are met with a better reaction from fans.”
Quesada said that there are plans for new projects from “Old Man Logan” artist Steve McNiven in the near future, but wouldn’t elaborate any further than that. As for his own artistic plans in the near future, he said that he’ll be supplying interior art for a secret project coming out in 2010, but would only wind up doing a quarter of the title’s interiors due to his commitments as editor-in-chief. “You’ll like the rest of it,” he told fans.
A fan of the Garth Ennis-penned “Punisher” series for Marvel’s MAX line expressed skepticism about the upcoming re-launch from Jason Aaron. “It will be fantastic,” Quesada reassured him.
Towards the panel’s conclusion, Quesada was asked to describe the atmosphere when professionals from DC Comics and Marvel are together in the same room. “We get drunk,” he joked. “Outside of that, we’re very competitive–or at least I’m pretty competitive. But there are a lot of people at DC that are good pals and great people. At the end of the day, we’re all in the trenches making funny books. That’s the one common denominator–that, and beer.”